If Drac­ula had been a ve­gan

In idyl­lic coun­try­side not far from the cas­tle of Vlad the Im­paler, Jane Dun­ford finds a gen­tle route to well­ness with five days of yoga, med­i­ta­tion and de­li­cious plant-based eat­ing

The Guardian - Travel - - Front Page -

It’s early morn­ing in Tran­syl­va­nia and the sun’s shin­ing on a group of yo­gis mak­ing shapes on the wooden veranda at Akasha Well­ness Re­treat. With pine and beech­cov­ered hills rolling to the hori­zon, snow-capped moun­tain peaks and a sound­track of cow bells and cock­erels, it’s an idyl­lic spot to salute the sun.

Ro­ma­nia may not be the first place that springs to mind for a yoga hol­i­day: it doesn’t have the huge choice of pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tions like Goa, Thai­land, Ibiza or Por­tu­gal. But this new cen­tre in the sleepy vil­lage of Pestera – in Pi­a­tra Craiu­lui na­tional park, a 2½-hour drive north of Bucharest – of­fers some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. Fields of con­i­cal haystacks and wonky wooden houses dot the land­scape, horse-drawn carts wan­der the lanes and it feels as if the clock’s been re­wound a few decades.

Akasha is the pho­netic spelling of acaša, which means “at home” in Ro­ma­nian, and this is a true fam­ily af­fair: a ven­ture be­tween daugh­ter Irina, who runs the yoga, her mother Daniela and aunt Elena (a UK-based doc­tor who ad­vises on nu­tri­tion). After years of liv­ing and work­ing in Lon­don, they felt their home­land call­ing them back and are clearly pas­sion­ate about pro­vid­ing mem­o­rable re­treats, as well as show­ing peo­ple their coun­try.

The nine-bed­room house has the warm vibe of a fam­ily home, and from the first night our di­verse group (all women apart from one cou­ple, with na­tion­al­i­ties from Amer­i­can to Ger­man) falls into easy ca­ma­raderie. Dig­i­tal de­tox is en­cour­aged, so no one is on their phone. Peo­ple chat in­stead (imag­ine!) or find a quiet cor­ner in which to read.

I’ve joined a nu­tri­tion and yoga re­treat – other op­tions in­clude a fun­sound­ing yoga and lo­cal wine tast­ing re­treat – and be­sides twice-daily yoga and med­i­ta­tion, there are talks on plant­based eat­ing and well­be­ing, and cook­ery demon­stra­tions. Nutri­tional ther­a­pist Daniela Ex­ley (a Ro­ma­nian who grew up in the UK, lives in Hast­ings and blogs at beet­spulse­andthyme.co.uk) shows us

Vinyasa vista Great scenery adds to the sense of well­be­ing

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