Ibiza Retreats founder Larah Davis and yoga instructor Susie Howell explain how moving to Ibiza caused them to slow down, go with the flow and embrace a more fluid style of yoga, and pace of life…
How long have you been living in Ibiza full time?
Larah: ‘I fell in love with Ibiza 18 years ago and consummated our relationship five years ago when my suitcases stayed after a vision of creating Ibiza Retreats, a mission that felt RIGHT to come and live here… finally.
Susie: ‘Three years now. I love the way that the island really tests you – to your limits and beyond, but then you really feel like you have gone through a transition be accepted by her!’
What was it that attracted you to the island in the first place?
Larah: ‘That feeling of freedom. The connection with nature. The amazing melting pot of people, quirky gorgeous characters and 70-year old goddesses on the dance floors and naked in the sea. Oh yes – and of course the go-with-your-flow attitude and emerald turquoise waters that I love as a Pisces!
Susie: ‘When I first came, I just loved it. I had this sensation that I was home. It’s welcoming and inspiring and draws the most incredible people with the most incredible energy. It’s a fantastic place to retreat, practice yoga and just be…’
Were you practicing yoga before you got came to the island?
Larah: ‘I’ve been doing yoga since I was 23 – it was my lifesaver! It helped me to manage my back-pain (from an accident), to feel free, lighter and connected in body, mind and soul. It’s been my sanctuary from the 24 /7 of life!’
Susie: ‘Yes, for over 10 years – it began slowly and then once I got the bug, I was hooked! It’s a medicine and it’s seen me through some incredible and challenges times in my life. And taught me so much about myself and the world around me’
How much have you seen/felt your Ibiza yoga practice change over the years you’ve been here?
Larah: ‘I have definitely developed a slower, deeper style. Coming less from the theoretical aspect and changing into a much more intuitive practice. I feel where the energy is – not just in me, but also in the land, the air, the temperature, the season – and what I need to do to ground myself or energise, calm and clear the mind or strengthen and fortify.’
Susie: ‘Gosh, I am muuuch slower than my I was in London! I think here you truly feel more conscious and present. I think in London, I was often ‘ticking boxes’ or my ‘to do’ list. And now things make much more sense… I feel much more. In terms of connection to my body and how my minds works too.’
Can you identify when you started to change, or anything that may have made it happen?
Larah: ‘After the first year of living here, I’d been going at 100 miles an hour to grow Ibiza Retreats, using the same techniques and time-scheduling as I would have in London and NYC too. Ibiza revealed the art of growing and evolving organically, harmoniously, with the community and in divine timing. So many things happened in amazing, surprising sequences. Spontaneous meetings with people that would save me seven weeks of time, things like that. I found the less I did and the more I became present, the more easily things could be achieved. Same with my yoga!’
Susie: ‘I think for me it was seeing the contrast between me and the people from back home. Watching them arrive on the island in that mode and the island working its magic. You see them visibly melt after they begin to relax. I saw the same transition in me and my practice, over time. Not so much rush – rather, feeling every muscle and connection. It’s how I often start my classes now, by asking students to pretend they are doing the postures for the very first time – even if they have been practicing for years. It works!’
What do you think it is about Ibiza that encourages this kind of shift in people? Larah: ‘The energy moves much faster here. A yoga teacher, Samantha, who visited from India as part of the Harmonic Yoga Retreat remarked, “It is like a kind of karmic fast-track”. It’s the community spirit, and the beauty that surrounds us – it encourages you to really dig deep in your inner-resources, to find new strengths, to learn how to become one with the art of manifestation and to be more tuned-in to source energy than you ever have been.’
Susie: ‘I also think it’s so incredibly beautiful! It’s as if she has so many faces – I think many people can find themselves in their own part of Ibiza. They feel this incredible connection to the island – maybe it’s all the quartz in the soil – there is no doubt the island is magical and mystical, that’s for sure.’
When you are hosting retreats for people from London, NY or any city, do you see any elements of your ‘old self’ in them? Is there any advice you can give them to kind of ‘ease’ into the Ibiza style of practice?
Larah: ‘Definitely! Go with the flow. Let go of ideas about what should happen, about how things should be, dare to turn off the phone, even for a day and enjoy the bliss of silence – away from stimulation. Explore “no plans plans” and allow spontaneity to show you the magic of the island. Follow your heart and enjoy a positive flow of energy. Then consider how to bring this balance into your real lifestyle.’
Susie: ‘You can definitely spot the people who have just arrived. I watch them walking down to class, their shoulders by their ears and so literally full of tension and stress-energy – like coiled springs! Often they insist on dynamic power yoga and we like to agree and then gently ease them into a beautiful flow to let go of all that stress! And you see them visibly smile and release – it’s beautiful and the best part of the job in my opinion. Advice? I think just let yourself feel… no judgement, no attachment to whatever comes up – but open your eyes and see. And do it with consciousness and integrity.’
Tell us about the styles of yoga that you practice and teach now, and the benefits of this rather than perhaps a hard core city yoga regime…
Larah: ‘I love to teach Restorative Vinyasa Flow yoga – this enables me to ensure you can work within the possibilities and limits of where your body is at – at that moment – to experience the best and deepest benefits rather than pushing further with the mind.’
Susie: ‘I guess I am practicing and teaching a deep, meditative vinyasa flow. With lots of focus on alignment (for good spine health!) and the breath of course. I have encouraged people to practice much of the class with their eyes closed recently – to enable an inward gaze and no distractions… it’s soooo lovely!’
Where are your favourite places to practice yoga in Ibiza?
Larah: ‘Without a doubt by the water at our favourite secret cove… Also in Atzaro behind the Ayurvedic Temple, every Wednesday morning with the tinkling of the bells of the sheep behind the sleeping Buddha and on the rooftop of Aguas de Ibiza.’
Susie: ‘My back garden which is a mountain top in Benimussa! I LOVE the Rockovery temple at Ibiza Rocks House at Pikes Hotel – it’s so lovely to practise overlooking the lights of San Antonio, but in such peace and quiet.’
What are your favourite things about the island these days, compared to when you first arrived?
Larah: ‘The feeling of Ibiza exhaling, the smell of the figs and red grapes on the vines that you can pick as you drive through the north, the fresh, beautiful waters after the first rains and the scent of the land as the soil comes alive again. It’s challenging at times, yet ultimately the most enriching and beautiful place to live I can imagine.’
Susie: ‘Simple. The sky is just such an amazing colour! Deep deep blue…’