Yogatone Retreat In Spain – Work On Your Tan And Your Down Dog

Yogatone Retreat - Andalusia, Spain

Yogatone Retreat – Andalusia, Spain

By Regina Winkle-Bryan

I was the only American at the Yogatone Retreat, set deep in the mountains above Málaga in sunny Andalusia, Spain. This fact stands out in my mind, in that I don’t think I’ve ever been in that situation before, that is: the only American surrounded by British folks entirely for four solid days in the middle of nowhere. It is only important in that this somewhat strange situation taught me so much about the UK, its culture, its people, but all the time we were in Spain.

Les' farmhouse and the retreat center

Les’ Farmhouse and Retreat Center

Les Benney runs monthly Yoga retreats in Andalusia at his totally charming renovated farmhouse. I took Vueling Airlines from Barcelona to Málaga, and then drove winding roads for an hour north. Parked, I walked along the goat-path passing the frog pond and orange orchards to get to his slice of Spanish heaven. And it is heaven, if your idea of bliss involves Ashtanga yoga twice daily and long breakfasts involving buttery toast, soft boiled eggs with ‘soldiers’ (that was a new one for me), fresh baked rolls, lemon drizzle cake, bacon, yogurt, local fruit, and all the tea you can drink. Les is a generous host and guests will not go hungry at his retreats. (Can I just say that that stereotype about English people drinking loads of tea was confirmed on this retreat. I’ve never seen so much black tea consumed, with milk and sugar too, of course.)

Frog pond and orange trees

Private cottage for guests

Most who partake in a healthy yoga retreat do it to lose weight or get in shape or whatever. Les’ retreats are about yoga practice, a hard-core practice at that, but are not about going without. As a yogi he is open to everything (smoking, caffeine, alcohol) and puts on quite a spread. Meals are not vegetarian unless you ask (another guest and I did, and it was yummy) and though he does not serve wine or alcohol he doesn’t mind if you bring a bottle of red to the table. We had wine at all three of our communal dinners and ate hearty, healthy, delicious meals cooked by a local Irishwoman, Ester, who has lived in the region for over 20 years.

Les Benney

Les Benney

Dining room for communal dinners at Yogatone

Over these long meals, which were served at 7:00 pm not on the later Spanish schedule, I tried to keep up with the conversation and managed to learn some new British vocabulary words. Even speaking the same language it’s amazing how many little cultural things went right over my head. At one point I was offered (forced?) marmite and felt obliged to eat a bit. It’s not bad. After meals guests sat around chatting, watch yoga videos such as “Enlighten Up! A Skeptic’s Journey into the World of Yoga” (Churchhill), or read from Les’ library which includes gems like Power Yoga for Dummies, Shift Happens!, God on a Harley, and the classic, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus.

Chill out nook for reading or writing at Yogatone

Chill out nook for reading or writing at Yogatone

Doing yoga at Yogatone

Doing yoga at Yogatone

When we were not chilling at the retreat, eating, or doing Tree Pose in Les’ ‘magical cave’ studio, we were off on excursions to nearby villages such as Nerja and Comares. How much you do is up to you, and guests can skip these field trips of they want. Partaking in Les’ retreat gets you way out into the middle of the mountains to a part of Andalusia that I certainly would not have visited otherwise. It’s a special place and deeply peaceful.

Les' Magical Cave Studio

Les’ magical cave studio with a wood-burning stove

View from the retreat center

I should say something about cost and rooms and all that. The retreat has space for eight guests in three twin rooms and one double, though further accommodation can be arranged nearby for larger groups. This small group size keeps the retreat intimate and fun. It also means that if you come alone you’ll be sharing a room with someone (unless you opt to pay more). One of the twin rooms is located in a cottage next to the house which has its own washbasin and toilet. The remaining rooms share showers and WCs (there are two). The retreat rate is £385 per person, which includes everything but airfare. Les will pick you up at the airport if you plan it right, or rent your own car.

Cozy twin rooms


Les runs retreats every month so see upcoming retreat dates here. I would go back to Les’ retreats and many of the other guests said that this was going to be a yearly trip for them. It’s the place, the vibe, the type of yoga, but mostly it’s Les and his incredibly upbeat attitude. ‘Keep smiling’, he’d remind us as we tried to contort into some unnatural position. On the last day he even gave us tiny smiley stickers to put on our fingernails and toes, the idea being that when we looked down to grab our toes to stretch, or up to our hands for a sun salutation, we’d see those smilies and grin, too. I know I did.

More on Les’ retreats and Yogatone plus how to get there:

2 Responses

  1. Linda says:

    Wow! I’ve never read about a yoga retreat that really, whole-heartedly made me want to go before! I’ve always thought “Yoga – great. Tranquility – great. De-stress – great. Get fitter – great. But then wondered about the diet because I do love my food! This, however, seems to add the missing ingredient – total enjoyment! Making a note of the details for when I have some pennies. Oh, and, I hardly ever drink black tea btw!

  2. admin says:

    Haha, ok, good to know that there is at least one of you out there not drinking black tea like there’s a shortage. Maybe it was just the group I was with….probably.


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