Kaliyoga Italy: Diary of Bunny’s One Week Yoga Retreat in Puglia
Bunny enjoyed a wonderful yoga retreat at Kaliyoga Spain in September 2016. A year later, she was ready for another Kaliyoga detox week and decided to try out Kaliyoga’s other property in Puglia, Southern Italy.
Bunny’s week in Italy turned out to be as lovely and relaxing as her previous Kaliyoga experience in the Spanish mountains. Read below for Bunny’s day-by-day description of what actually happens during a week of Kaliyoga bliss.
Day 1 Sunday: Settling in the Trullo Environment
Bunny was picked up from the Bari airport, together with four other yogis with similar flight schedules, around lunch time on Sunday. The drive from the airport to Kaliyoga, in a comfortable van, was approximately 70 minutes. The accompanying soundtrack during the journey was a very loud football match from the car’s radio. This is Italy after all… It did not exactly set the mood but at least Bunny arrived safe and sound.
At Kaliyoga, Bunny was impressed with the tranquil surroundings, the restored old farmhouse (masseria) and cute trullo buildings of the compound. She was shown to her room, which was small but cute. Bunny had opted for a single room with its own bathroom which is a bit of a rarity at Kaliyoga. Bunny feels that she is too old to be sharing a bathroom with strangers, so she was happy to have been able to nab the “luxury” room with its own facilities.
Bunny's room and garden at Kaliyoga
Wi-Fi Free Evenings?
After arrival, Bunny used the time before lunch for unpacking and reading the Kaliyoga instruction booklet in her room. To her horror, she noticed that Wi-Fi at Kaliyoga is switched off every evening at 5pm and not switched back on until the following morning at 10am. How will she survive?!!
Other information in the booklet was more reassuring and Bunny noted with pleasure that there were a lot of animals at Kaliyoga she looked forward to meeting: dogs, cats, a donkey… She was also pleased to notice the options for interesting side trips and bicycles at the guests’ disposal at Kaliyoga. So her first impressions were mostly favourable although she was a little apprehensive about the internet.
Lunch on the first day was served at 2:15pm (15 minutes late but this is Italy so Bunny forgives them…) The lunch consisted of summer soup (a bit thin to Bunny’s taste), with lovely buckwheat bread, excellent cheeses and salads. It was buffet style, as all lunches are at Kaliyoga, so you are can help yourself as may times as you want. And Bunny did just that.
During lunch, Bunny examined her follow yogis. Some early chatting with them revealed three Finnish girls, two Australian friends travelling together in Europe, a German couple, a British couple, a daughter-mother duo from the UK as well as a number of girls from different countries travelling on their own just like Bunny. The yogis seemed to have been on both sides of 40. Bunny was happy because she wasn’t the oldest yogi there.
Afterwards, Bunny digested a bit in her room. The weather was not very nice and the rain earlier in the day meant that the lovely hammocks in the garden were wet. So Bunny got an unexpected burst of energy and decided to go for a run!
There were some suggestions for nearby walks in the guest booklet but Bunny just decided to run 15 minutes in one direction and then turn around. The scenery was quite interesting and reasonably flat, so Bunny could absorb her surroundings, running past quite a few trullis.
Before the first afternoon yoga, the yogis were given a tour of the compound. Bunny discovered quite a few places for relaxation and socialising around the property. A very nice pool stood at one end of the expansive grounds (shame about the weather). There was even a jacuzzi! However, its existence was somehow brushed off quickly, with no mention of how and when it was possible to use. Bunny didn’t see anyone enjoying the jacuzzi during the week as it stayed covered in the remote corner of the Kaliyoga compound. Such a shame.
Bunny also got to meet the two (massive) dogs that live in Kaliyoga (in their pen) as well as the resident donkey, apparently some rare breed of donkey. Cute.
Tranquil environment of Kaliyoga Italy
The Yoga Begins
Then it was off to yoga shale to meet Tashi, “the crazy Australian” who turned out to be perfectly nice, albeit very talkative (Bunny’s opinion of talkative people is well-known). She was a very different type of yoga instructor than Lelly in Kaliyoga Spain but Bunny equally enjoyed yoga classes with them both.
The first yoga session was very gentle, more about breathing and enquiring within your body than anything else. Tashi kept mentioning that everyone was allowed to do exactly what they wanted, they were masters of their week at Kaliyoga. Bunny liked the sound of that. The yoga ended with a nice relaxation, with Bunny nicely curled under the provided blanket as it was getting a bit chilly at that point.
The yoga shale wasn’t quite as stunning as the one in Kaliyoga Spain but it was good enough for Bunny. She also liked the fact that you didn’t have to wear any fancy yoga clothes or be super flexible to fit in. All in all, the yoga was very relaxing as it should be.
After the afternoon yoga session, Kaliyoga offers non-alcoholic aperitifs and nibbles in different locations each time. The aperitivo on the first evening was made of sparkling water, pineapple juice and blueberries and served inside the Masseria. Most yogis came to enjoy it straight after yoga, again no need for fancy outfits here. Bunny likes!
During the general chit-chat, Bunny mentioned the internet issue and learned (much relieved) that the Wi-Fi would stay operational until much later in the evening than mentioned in the booklet. Phew! She was not quite ready for a digital detox after all.
Dinner on Sunday was very good. There was a fresh salad to start with, then “trulli look-alike dish” made of black and red rice, pumpkin pure, caramelised onion and other yummy stuff. While lunch at Kaliyoga is buffet style, dinner is a three-course affair, including dessert. Bunny was the quickest to finish all her plates although she did her bloody best to bite well into each and every piece. Oh well. She was not quite used to drinking water with dinner but this is how it goes at Kaliyoga.
All in all, Bunny was happy with day 1 and spent some of the remaining evening chatting with Mr. Bunny online. Thank god for the Wi-Fi.
Delicious Kaliyoga food and mocktails
Day 2 Monday: Bunny Misses Meditation in the Morning
Bunny slept very well. It was super quiet and the bed was very comfortable. The Wi-Fi worked sporadicly late in the evening and early in the morning (Bunny kept checking compulsively). She had a bit of a sore throat, but hoped that nothing more would come out of it.
The morning yoga session at Kaliyoga starts at 9am. Bunny likes that schedule because she doesn’t have to be up at the crack of dawn. The only problem is that breakfast is served only after the morning yoga, at around 11am. Luckily, the yogis can help themselves to some hot tea with honey and lemon which are available in the communal kitchen all the time. There is also some fruit from Kaliyoga garden for those that are peckish before yoga.
Morning Yoga Class
The morning yoga session was more dynamic than the one the day before. There was a lot of down-dogging and some deep stretches that Bunny enjoyed. Relaxation in the end was luscious, ending with a gentle sound of a Tibetan gong. There had also been a meditation session before the yoga which Bunny completely forgot about. She scrambled towards the yoga shale near the end of the meditation, only to be told to wait outside while all the other yogis finished getting enlightened inside. Good start, Bunny, good start.
Breakfast after yoga was delicious! Fresh fruit, nuts and seeds, yogurt (soya variation for Bunny) and fresh juice. The yoga teacher warned against eating too much as lunch would follow soon afterwards. Bunny was up and helping herself to the second round before most others had gotten half-way through their first (and only) plate. There is just something about these (other) yogis, how they manage to eat so slowly and gracefully while Bunny wolves down her portions, no matter how determined she is to eat slowly and chew properly.
Then a group introductions session followed. Bunny hates these things. It was interesting to hear other yogis’ stories though, many of which were kind of similar to Bunny’s. A lot of disgruntled people seem to come to seek out yoga from development work. Bunny wonders why.
Afterwards, it was relaxation time. Some yogis started with their treatments (more below), but Bunny kept going between her room and the hammock, despairing about the slow Wi-Fi speed. Not perhaps the ideal of a yoga retreat but people (and Bunnies) need their internet fix, goddammit!
Yoga at Kaliyoga
The Kaliyoga schedule, activities and available treatments had been explained to everyone earlier in the day. The prices for treatments were very reasonable, starting at 50 euros for a 60-minute treatment and 70 euros for 90 mins. The reservations list filled up pretty quickly but Bunny managed to nab a hot stone massage and a deep tissue massage for later in the week. She also signed up for a group cycling trip on Tuesday.
Lunch was served at 2pm again. Bunny ate the most (but who is counting). Some people just don’t seem to eat at all. In the afternoon, Bunny had a nap while it rained outside. She also discovered the guest fridge in the communal kitchen containing some raw food goodies available at all times. Mmmmm.
Evening yoga was nice. There were some elements of self-yoga practice as well as work in pairs to practice breathing. Bunny is not usually too keen on working in pairs (she needs her own space) but she was paired with a very nice Australian lady so it was OK.
It got dark before the yoga ended, but some candles were lit inside the yoga shale and around Kaliyoga in general. In created a nice, soothing atmosphere. Because of the cold, pre-dinner drinks and snacks were served inside in the breakfast area. Bunny enquired about hot water bottles as she felt her room had been a bit chilly the night before. Happy with the day’s progress, she headed to bed early with two hot water bottles in hand.
Day 3 Tuesday: Hot Stones and Cycling a.k.a Fig Eating
Bunny slept almost 9 hours but woke up with a bit of a cold. There was an optional 30-minute breathing exercise before the yoga, but Bunny chose to sleep in a bit longer instead. She was one of few yogis to have done so.
The morning yoga was very nice again. Bunny managed an assisted handstand and felt good about her achievements. However, Tashi kept saying that yoga was not about self-improvement, but about self-acceptance. Well, Bunny has never had any problems on that front…
Another delicious breakfast was served with ginger celery juice, dried figs, nuts and seeds, delicious granola, different kinds of yogurts and fresh fruit followed. Bunny sat alone and leafed through the Kaliyoga cookbook which she intended to buy online. Unfortunately, they were not (yet) available for sale.
After breakfast, Bunny’s frustration with the moody Wi-Fi continued. She understood Kaliyoga’s encouragement for digital detox but for (insert expletive) sake, switch it off completely then, don’t tease the yogis like this. One minute the Wi-Fi worked flawlessly, then it was cut off for 10 minutes, then it worked very slowly for 5 minutes, only the same circle starts to repeat. Sigh.
Hot Stone Massage
To calm her nerves, Bunny enjoyed a lovely hot stone massage before lunch. It was super relaxing and the stones felt lovely in the cold weather. Best of all, the massage was free of charge for Bunny as she had received a treatment voucher from Kaliyoga as a returning guest. Bonus!
After lunch, the planned bike ride was cancelled because the tour guide was not feeling well. Bunny went cycling anyway, together with some other yogis who had also signed up for the organised trip. They cycled to a nearby botanical garden, where various fig trees were bearing fruit, and were given a nice tour by the owner. Bunny ate lots and lots and lots of figs. Delicious! The cycling ended up being only about 3 km in one direction but who cares when you get to eat all the figs.
While Bunny and other yogis were cycling (i.e. eating figs), back at Kaliyoga, an additional yoga class was conducted by one of the trainees for anyone interested. Apparently that was very good and Bunny was a bit sorry for having missed it.
In any case, Bunny got her dose of yoga in the afternoon, including some cool self-massage moves with a tennis ball. She immediately decided to buy one for home as well.
Pre-dinner drinks were served in the gazebo but it soon got too chilly to be outside. Dinner inside the kitchen area was a much cosier affair, particularly as the dessert was (raw) blueberry cheesecake. Bunny had toyed with the idea of participating in one of the raw food weeks at Kaliyoga but with hindsight, she was happy to have chosen a “normal” yoga week. Raw food, combined with the cold weather front the yogis were braving in Puglia, would have been too much of a shock to her delicate system.
Bunny was a bit tired and achy that evening so she retired early again, ready for another round of fighting with the Wi-Fi connection in her room…
Day 4 Wednesday: Visits to Polignano and Alberobello
Bunny missed Wednesday’s morning meditation session (again) because she couldn't get out of bed. She had suffered from nightmares and felt very tired. She also feared she would not get through all the day’s activities with so little sleep.
Luckily, there is only one yoga session at Kaliyoga on Wednesdays. Bunny somehow survived that although all her muscles hurt like hell. She was not quite sure why because the yoga so far had not felt so physically demanding to her. Perhaps it was a cold that made her so tired and achy…
The yoga class on Wednesday suited Bunny just fine as Tashi introduced some kriyas in the session. Bunny is familiar with kriyas because of her experience with Kundalini yoga and she welcomed the little breather among the usual yoga flow.
Wednesday morning yoga at Kaliyoga is followed by sumptuous brunch. Bunny loved it! Bigger than the usual breakfast, brunch included carrot soda bread, tahini orange bread, quinoa beet salad, vegetable and sweet potato frittata, local cheeses, tomato, avocado and green salads. There was plenty to it and it was all delicious.
After brunch, it was time for a Kaliyoga-organised (read: free of charge) visit to the nearby beach town of Polignano. It was almost an hour’s drive from Kaliyoga but it was nice to see another part of Puglia. Bunny wandered in the old town on her own, took plenty of pictures, visited the beach (people were still swimming!) and ate some delicious ice-cream. After three days of the healthy, gluten-free, vegetarian diet of Kaliyoga, the proper Italian gelato tasted particularly sinful.
Beautiful scenes of Polignano
After Polignanon, the trip continued to the Unesco World Heritage site of Alberobello, also known as the “trullo town”. Bunny had visited Alberobello before, so she took it easy, hopped around a bit, bought postcards and tried to hide from the annoying rain that had appeared out of nowhere.
Back at Kaliyoga that night, Bunny was super tired. On Wednesdays, the yogis are encouraged to go to the nearby town of Martina Franca for dinner, giving the hard-working kitchen staff of Kaliyoga an afternoon and evening off. Alternatively, some light supper is available for those yogis who don’t want to leave the retreat.
Naturally, Bunny was among the stayers-at-home. She was happy with the brunch leftovers and an early bed with a book and two hot water bottles. She was not too keen on the communal aspect of the dinner outside, and, more importantly, she was sure she would not be able to resist red wine with dinner if she went out. Bunny wanted to finish her detox week in glory (just to show Mr. Bunny that she can do a week without booze, if for no other reason). Kaliyoga itself is an alcohol-free environment and Bunny very much welcomes it that way.
Unesco World Heritage site Alberobello
Day 5 Thursday: The Almost Silent Day (Hurrah!) and a Bit of Drama
Thursday at Kaliyoga is a silent day until lunch. On all the other days, the yogis are encouraged to remain silent from wake-up until the morning yoga lesson but on Thursdays this practice, called Mauna, is extended until lunch.
Bunny, the anti-social animal that she is, very much celebrates that practice. The more silence, the better! Too bad that the proper Mauna practice also shuns all other forms of communication as well as reading, writing and surfing the net…
Morning yoga on Thursday was a bit experimental, with some attempted handstands and other challenging positions. Bunny was happy with the practice. All in all, she found the yoga at Kaliyoga very good. There was always something new and exciting in the practice. None of the lessons were repetitive although Tashi went into great lengths of trying to help build self-practice for everyone during the retreat.
Another Cycling Trip
After breakfast, Bunny decided to go for a solo cycling trip to the nearby town of Locorotondo. The cycling (less than an hour there and back) was good exercise and a nice change. Bunny was very pleased with the fact that Kaliyoga Italy offered bicycles for yogis at no extra charge. Puglia’s landscape might not be the world’s most exciting but it is certainly suitable for some gentle cycling.
After cycling, Bunny lay about the pool with a book in hand for the first time during the retreat. It was sunny but too cold to swim in the (unheated) pool. Bunny was very impressed when she heard later that one of the Australian ladies had been swimming in the pool early every morning that week (while Bunny slept..). Bravo!
Lunch on Thursday was burgers Kaliyoga-style. Think healthy, tasty, no steaks, no buns… So not really burgers in anything but name but they received two thumbs up from Bunny anyway. And to top it off, the snacks found in the guest fridge that day were chocolate-covered dates. Yummy!
After lunch, there was time for more relaxation by the pool, taking in some of the available treatments or participating in a cooking course in the Kaliyoga kitchen. Bunny chose the pool option again as she was there to relax after all.
At Kaliyoga, they encourage you to make the retreat your own. Take this advice, don’t feel pressured to be social and active if you are an introvert like Bunny and don’t feel like doing so. You are there for your own wellbeing, after all.
Bunny visiting Locorotondo
Group Therapy Is Not for Bunny
The afternoon yoga session started with Tashi checking in with everyone about their feelings and perceptions of the retreat so far. Bunny hates these kinds of around-the-table (yoga shala) sessions. The other yogis seemed pretty keen though. They were blabbering on and on about their feelings for more than an hour. So instead of yoga, the afternoon session turned into group therapy, with some tears but also a lot of laughter.
Bunny soon grew tired of it all but tried to keep her eye rolls to herself as people seemed sincere. The other yogis seemingly appreciated (and needed) the session but to Bunny (cold-hearted bitch that she is) it was just a missed opportunity of an hour of yoga. Oh well.
After the “group therapy” was finally done, there was only half an hour of yoga time left. Tashi used this for teaching the group some lazy man’s yoga stretches which were actually quite nice. Bunny decided to adopt some of them in her daily yoga self-practice.
Dinner that night was partly cooked by the participants of the cooking lesson earlier in the afternoon. Bunny had skipped the course as she had done something similar in Kaliyoga Spain the year before. Plus she had already secretly stolen (photographed) most of the nice recipes from the Kaliyoga cookbook. Dinner with miso soup, raw sushi and other yummy stuff was quite a success.
After dinner, Tasha invited everyone to a chanting session in the masseria. Bunny decided to skip it. She was still traumatised by the afternoon’s group therapy session and craved some time on her own. Plus, she is definitely not the chanting type.
So instead of partaking in the collective chanting, Bunny retired to her room and looked forward to a quiet night with a book. The gods decided otherwise. They were probably not pleased with Bunny’s tendency to try and wiggle out of all the spiritual stuff and decided to teach her a lesson.
Soon after returning to her room, Bunny noticed that she had somehow gotten trapped inside, with the door locked from the outside. There were no other doors, or even windows big enough for her to crawl out of so she was essentially a prisoner in her own room.
Bunny first tried to gently manoeuvre the door open but when that failed, she resorted to kicking and eventually (this has to be admitted) yelling. No-one heard her. All the other yogis were blissfully chanting the night away somewhere (Bunny couldn’t hear them either) and Bunny was at her wit’s end. She tried calling different Kaliyoga numbers but none of her calls were answered.
Kaliyoga seems like a safe place, so much so that the yogis are not even given keys to the rooms. The compound is secured with an electric gate and it is very peaceful. That said, Bunny was not pleased with the idea of being trapped inside her room for the night, especially with an approaching thunderstorm.
She was just starting to panic when she detected some movement in the courtyard and managed to attract the yogis’ attention by pounding on her door and screaming with all her lung power. Thankfully they heard Bunny and came to her rescue, just before she was about to succumb to a full-blown attack of claustrophobia.
That night, Bunny slept well despite a raging thunderstorm that was wreaking havoc nearby. Kaliyoga also lost electricity for most of that night but thankfully it was swiftly restored the following morning.
Sunset view at Kaliyoga
Day 6 Friday: Chanting Cannot Be Escaped Anymore
On Friday morning, Bunny skipped the morning meditation again… But the yoga afterwards was perhaps the best class so far. It started with self-practice that had been slowly developed during the week. Tashi stressed again the importance of starting as a beginner on each lesson. The yogis also got to try a few new poses, such as the crow (not even close for Bunny) and arm-standing which Bunny managed to do (woohoo!).
After another great breakfast, perhaps Bunny’s favorite meal at Kaliyoga, she decided to go for a short walk although she was still feeling a bit sniffy. She managed 45 minutes of strolling in the sunshine, but was completely knackered afterwards. So she showered and went back to bed for a nap before lunch. The Wi-Fi was still down, following the thunderstorm the previous night, so she thought sleep was the best option in that situation.
After a proper nap, Bunny was ready for her next taxing adventure: a lovely deep tissue massage. She enjoyed it as much as the hot stone massage, despite being a bit sniffy and tired. The therapist took her condition into account and prepared a lovely hot ginger drink for Bunny afterwards.
The Last Yoga Class
Yoga art at Kaliyoga
The last yoga practice on Friday afternoon was used for clarifying any remaining questions, which Bunny found very helpful. Tashi seemed to have been genuinely interested in getting the yogis to continue self-practice at home and went to great lengths to encourage that. The last yoga session also included some interesting stretches that were done in pairs, in all kinds of weird positions. That was fun.
Bunny’s last dinner at Kaliyoga started with gazpacho, followed by some lovely gnocchi with asparagus and delicious sauce and salad. The dessert was a raw food cake. All in all, another great Kaliyoga dinner. Bunny had no complaints whatsoever about the food during the retreat, quite the opposite.
After the dinner, Tashi invited everyone to a goodbye chanting session in one of the trulli. This time there was no escape for Bunny. Skipping this session would have been too rude, even by her own (admittedly) very low standards.
So in she went, standing in the circle with open palms and making appropriate moves with her mouth (with no sound coming out), asking this or that Indian god for this or that. She wasn’t quite sure of what and her legs were getting a bit restless in the process. The acoustics of the trullo were beautiful and Tashi had a very nice singing voice but, all in all, ladies and gentlemen, chanting is definitely not Bunny’s thing.
After the chanting (Bunny thought it’d never end), a compulsory hugging session followed. Picture taking, exchange of emails, prolonged goodbyes, the usual. Bunny hated every minute of that too (perhaps she has issues?) - except the moment when she was stuffing herself with (real! Not the raw kind) chocolate brought to the session by one of the yogis as a farewell gift. May all the Indian gods bless him all eternity!
Bunny was very happy to finally escape to her own room that night. Bunny didn’t remember Kaliyoga Spain having been quite this exhausting in terms of the socialising and communality. Perhaps it is just Bunny who has grown even more anti-social during the year that elapsed between her two Kaliyoga experiences…
Day 7 Saturday: Leaving Kaliyoga Relaxed (and a Bit Sick)
The retreat at Kaliyoga officially ends at 11am on Saturday. There is no yoga class on the last morning but you are encouraged to do some self-practice in the yoga shale. Bunny was, ahem, too busy to do that.
Breakfast on the last day is served at 8am, which felt a bit weird after a week of late breakfasts but somehow Bunny managed to stuff herself regardless…
Bunny had organised her return in such a way that she was collected just before 9am. She felt quite good about her week at Kaliyoga, relaxed and more equipped to continue her yoga explorations at home. She did suffer from a persistent cold (result of too much healthy living, she reckons) but otherwise she felt like the week had been a great success. She had done some wonderful yoga, learnt a lot, eaten delicious healthy food, been booze-free and (mostly) avoided the other yogis in the process. What’s not to like?
Bunny very much enjoys Kaliyoga yoga retreats. She may not be fully on board with all the spiritual stuff but she tries to take it in her stride. Who knows, maybe one day she, too, will become a chanter.
And finally, Bunny’s Wi-Fi rant to Kaliyoga Italy:
Why is the Wi-Fi so bloody slow at Kaliyoga? And why does it work best in the areas where you are not allowed to use your devices i.e. in the common areas? Is this some sort of a test? If so, Bunny failed miserably because she just had to take her phone to the common areas to conduct some life-saving business, such as updating her Instagram account. To avoid this in the future, please do something about the Wi-Fi connection at Kaliyoga. Thank you. End of rant.
Otherwise, it was a near perfect week worth every penny.