Discovering Eco Yoga in Scotland.
Arriving at Inverliever Lodge, home of ecoYoga, what I expected was a beginner’s course in Ashtanga yoga.
What I didn’t expect was to experience an eco yoga retreat in the truest sense: an inspiring example of sustainability and self sufficiency, in many different ways.
Nestled away in a beautiful corner of Argyll, on the north side of Loch Awe in the Scottish Highlands, I stayed with ecoYoga in Scotland for 4 days. I arrived with muscles that were stiff and aching from a few too many nights on sleeper trains and in hostel beds. By the time I left, I not only had a body that not only felt completely different, but also with a yoga practice to take with me on the road and do on my own.
Despite yoga being my primary motive for visiting and taking up many of the hours of my days, it’s another part of ecoYoga that I’ll remember just as much. The bathing—that often overlooked but wonderful little indulgence—is a major part of the routine here. The ecoYoga retreat offers a sauna, hot tub in a beautiful spa dome (so it can be used in all types of Scottish weather), cold plunge pools, and two amazing outdoor baths next to the river gorge.
Bathing is as much a feature of ecoYoga as the Yoga itself. And for that reason there aren’t showers in your rooms, and bathing becomes an adventure or treat (or both) at one of the above facilities or at indoor rain showers located around the lodge. I found myself waking up early before yoga to nab one of the amazing outdoor baths on more than one occasion.
My favourite was the lower gorge one by the waterfall. A bit of a scramble down muddy hillside is required to get there, but the effort is more than worth it. A huge tub, with solar hot water sits on a wooden decking opposite a plunging waterfall on the river Liever. Secluded amongst the trees and truly in nature, it was possible to lose track of time in this tub, amongst the organic bubbles. For the more adventurous, you can alternate the warm water by plunging into the river pool by the waterfall to savour the fresh and clean water of the highlands. For those who don’t fancy the scramble downhill there’s an ‘upper’ gorge outdoor bath, of similar design, secluded by the top of the river stream.
Got more time on your hands in Scotland? Check out my guide to Scotland by train or about read more things to do in the Scottish Highlands by Travel Hacker Girl.
A Sustainable Yoga Retreat in Scotland
Once I managed to peel myself out of the bath (or hot tub), the real “work” would begin. On the beginners Ashtanga retreat that I stayed at we practised yoga for about 4.5 hours each day. The teacher (and Manager) Laura Grace’s approach is one that really sets this place apart.
I’d been on retreats before that included yoga classes, but this was something a little different.
The approach here is to ensure that attendees have the option of taking the practice of yoga back home with them. Instead of teacher led instruction the whole time, the goal is to allow the creation of an independent practice that can be practised at home (or anywhere really) without the need to have to go to a class to practise yoga. Just as sustainability is taken seriously in the energy and creation of the lodge, so a ‘sustainable’ yoga practise is also created. Something that we can do on our own at home every day, only relying on ourselves.
Over the four days we were taught part of the Ashtanga sequence, and were taught to memorise it.
Personally, I’ve been a part-time yoga practitioner for the last couple of years—attending classes sometimes regularly, sometimes not so regularly. I came back from the ecoYoga retreat just over a week ago. Of the seven mornings, I’ve practised Yoga on five of them. That’s a first for me.
Sustainable Energy and beyond
Beyond the yoga, the commitment to sustainability at the Eco Yoga retreat runs deep. The ecoYoga Centre is run on 100% renewable energy. All of the energy used by the retreat is produced on-site.
During summer months, all hot water is heated by the solar panels that sit atop most of the lodge’s buildings. Beyond summer, the retreat centre runs on energy generated by Inverliever Hydro Power Station, set across the river liver and on the centre’s property. The Power Station harnesses the natural power of the river, and generates enough electricity to power the retreat about five times over. So the centre often sells energy back to the grid to power up to 300 nearby homes as well.
ecoYoga is the creation of owners Nick and Rachel Loaning, as a testimony to sustainable, carbon-neutral living and the mindful practise of yoga. The centre is an example of sustainable living that others can share in and learn yoga at. Much of the retreat has been handcrafted by them personally over the last six years, and the love is evident in the details around the retreat centre: from the hand built Sauna cabin to the back-bender in the yoga studio, to the individually selected luxurious beds with memory foam toppers (I slept like a baby).
Beyond Energy, the retreat centre also has a its own organic vegetable garden, which contributes towards the menu for catered retreats alongside other locally sourced and vegetarian ingredients. The retreat centre also supplies lovely organic soap and body wash products for use in all of the bathing facilities.
And then there’s the natural energy of this place’s surroundings. Nestled at the tip of Loch Awe, the eco yoga retreat is perfectly located for walks and just enjoying the beautiful scenery of this part of the world. I challenge anyone not to sleep well after a long day of baths, yoga, and walking in good clean Scottish air.
Summing up my Experience
What made this place special for me is that it is truly self-sustainable and eco friendly, but without feeling the need to be flashy or pretentious. We see so much marketing around ‘green’ today, that it’s refreshing to experience the real thing.
My stay at the eco yoga retreat was self catered, which worked well. For those travelling by public transport (very much encouraged!) it’s usually possible to arrange a delivery from a local supermarket so that you don’t have to carry food with you. This is a great cost-friendly alternative to the fully catered retreats that the centre also runs throughout the year.
There’s a little sign on entering the lodge’s workshop: enter as strangers, leave as friends. And that is definitely true of ecoYoga. I met many lovely people on this retreat who I will certainly stay in touch with.
At ecoYoga retreat it’s easy to experience the ‘simple’ life and fall in love with Scotland’s peace and quiet and stunning scenery. I think I may have to become what yoga teacher Laura Grace calls a ‘Repeat Offender’.
Editorial disclosure: I’d like to thank ecoYoga for part-hosting me during my stay with them. As always, all opinions expressed here and anywhere on SoulTravelBlog.com are entirely my own.
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ecoYoga runs retreats (catered and self catered) throughout the year. For a full overview and prices see Ecoyoga’s website. When retreats are not running, it is also possible to stay at InverLiever Lodge for a self catering break.
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A Londoner by birth Ellie has lived in the UK, Netherlands, India and now Canada. Prior to blogging, she worked for 12 years in hospitality and online travel. Ellie started this blog during a sabbatical trip in 2015 around South Asia, to help conscious travellers find the best inspiration for their next sustainable trip. When not travelling, she is happiest with wine, pasta and a good (travel) book. Ellie is also Founder of Soul Travel Consulting which helps travel brands communicate their sustainability initiatives.