It’s all very well treating ourselves to a few days in a stylish boutique hotel in the Caribbean that’ll have us looking and feeling our best. But how many holidays also do good for the local community? The ‘Eco Chic Yoga Retreats’ taking place at Grenada’s most special boutique hotel Laluna not only promise a stylish escape but give guests the chance to help a local charity that works to improve the lives of local children – all while you lie back and say ‘Om’. I’ve been lucky enough to spend a few days here as the guest of the very delightful Wendy and Bernardo Bertucci and meet the founders of these extra-special charity trips, yoga guru, Neo Moreton and Dr Karen Lawson.
How did your charity Reach Grenada and these retreats come about?
‘I was in Long Island New York and I bumped into one of life’s true Mother Teresas, Karen Lawson, in an organic grocery store. Just weeks later we were on a plane to the hurricane-devastated Caribbean island of Grenada to meet with the Prime Minister to discuss plans to create REACH. Our aim is to help connect professional talent, medical supplies and unwanted goods like books and games from around the world to people who need it. In countries like Grenada, resources and training are desperately needed but are in short supply. Recently, we hand-delivered 4,000 used children’s books to a community club and it made me appreciate how one person’s castaway is another’s diamond. Our vision is also to revive the cacao-producing industry and in turn generate profits that will directly benefit the children of Grenada.’
What’s so special about the cocoa there?
‘On our retreats, we use pure raw Grenadian cacao (pictured right), which is the plant before it becomes what we know and love as chocolate. The cocoa produced from the cacao there is some of the highest quality in the world. As well as using it in smoothies and desserts, we follow in Aztec and Mayan traditions and carry out special centuries-old ceremonies involving dance, meditation and emotional liberation’
OK, that sounds a little, well weird…
‘They believed cacao has special powers can evokes ecstatic states and leads to clarity of vision. And for any skeptics, modern science has also found cacao to be packed with antioxidants and have a high concentration of magnesium and sulphur – minerals often desperately lacking in our diets. One of nature’s most potent superfoods it’s also a natural mood enhancer, which I guess explains chocolate’s popularity! Cacao is even better though as it has no sugar and hardly any calories. Each bite of the recipes we make guests tell me are pure bliss.’
Having been at Holly’s cookery demo I know that’s true. But it’s not all been scoffing chocolate on this trip. We’ve done a few downward dogs while we’ve been here.
How has your yoga influenced you in creating these trips and working on this charity?
‘Life circumstance, namely several not-so-perfect relationships compelled me to look deeper inside. Teaching my own retreats and income from CD sales kept me afloat, but I wanted to take my practice out of the yoga studio, and my meditation away from the monastery. My yoga is about loving and liberating yourself to be a vehicle to help, love and inspire others. For me, service is the highest manifestation of yoga. Asana, pranayama, dance, group work, meditation, raw cacao and super-healthy food all play a part in the retreats. And hopefully inspire out-of-the-box philanthropical thinking and inspire greater social activism.’
How can people help?
‘Spread the word, and come join us on an Eco Chic Retreat in Grenada.’
‘Eco Chic Retreat’ holidays at Laluna
• Seven nights in a deluxe suite with a private veranda and plunge pool.
• Daily yoga and meditation and a one-to-one yoga and lifestyle consultation.
• Two massages in the new Balinese spa.
• Half day volunteering as a ‘cacao farmer’ to help local charity.
• A tour of a cacao plantation and processing plant.
• Chocolate workshop.
• A beach and a rainforest walk with swim at the waterfall.
• Catamaran sunset cruise with snorkelling at the marine park museum.
• Full American breakfast each day and lunch and dinner made with organic local ingredients (drinks not included). Return airport transfers
2009 dates: March 5–12 and April 2–9, US$6,560 + 18% tax and service per person. November 12–19 $5,980 per person. Percentage of proceeds go to Reach Grenada; for more information go to www.reachgrenada.org
Virgin Atlantic flies from London Gatwick to Grenada weekly. Fares start from £549 inclusive of taxes and can be booked either online at www.virginatlantic.com or by calling reservations on 08705 747 747.
Photography: Yoga and cocoa images by Derek Pickell.