In all my research on Ashtanga yoga holidays and retreats, Purple Valley, nestled in the tropics of Goa kept cropping up as a must-see. So, finding myself with a few weeks spare in November, I booked a plane ticket to check this world-famous retreat for myself!
Read on for my review 🙂
About Purple Valley
Through the months of October to April each year, Purple Valley hosts two-week Ashtanga yoga “intensives” with famous teachers from all over the world. A two-week intensive typically involves morning Mysore-style classes 6 days per week, 3 or 4 afternoon workshops a week and daily meditation sessions…pretty intense for a holiday!
But for die-hard Ashtangis, this is our idea of heaven, especially when mixed with tropical gardens, an abundance of superfoods and like-minded yogis!
And for complete beginners it’s also the perfect way to kick start your practice and join the Ashtanga cult 😉
Location, location, location
Purple Valley is located in the tropical jungle in a quiet part of Goa, India, just outside the town of Mapusa. It takes about an hour to get there from Goa Dabolim airport, costing about 1300 rupees in a taxi. From Purple Valley the nearest beach is Anjuna, which is a 15 minute taxi ride away. It’s a shame the centre isn’t right next to a beach but I guess the beaches tend to be more crowded and noisy so I understand why PV is tucked away from all the raves and beach bars.
You have the option of a shared or private room, but a single occupancy room will cost you about £200 more. I was lucky to have lovely roommates during my stay so it was well worth the saving for me. Though I would probably be singing a different tune if I’d ended up with a chronic snorer…
All the rooms are ensuite and although the term “hot water” was bandied about, I didn’t see much of it! It wouldn’t matter so much during the warmer months, but it was a little chilly during November mornings when the weather is still warming up.
The rooms are basic but they have everything you need – comfy bed, mosquito net, ceiling fan, beach/bath towels. Plus they are cleaned every day which seemed luxurious to me compared to some other places I’ve stayed recently!
There are three main accommodation blocks at Purple Valley and these are my thoughts on each:
- Savasana House: Pretty to look at from the outside but very close to the road – some people asked to switch rooms because the noise was disturbing their sleep.
- Cottages: This is where I stayed for my time at Purple Valley. Lovely spacious rooms and much quieter than Savasana House but still a fair bit of noise: sometimes from wildlife, sometimes rave music (no clue where it was coming from!). I would definitely request this room again though if I were to return as it was the quietest of them all.
- Ganesh House: Just above the kitchen and terrace so very convenient for morning tea and coffee! I still think people were complaining about the noise, although not as much as those in Savasana.
So, even though Purple Valley is supposedly in a remote area, the level of noise wasn’t 100% ideal for a yoga retreat! Still, it wasn’t enough to impact my sleep so the accommodation gets a thumbs up from me.
Food, glorious food
If you opt for the residential package you’ll receive three vegetarian meals a day from Sunday to Friday plus brunch and dinner on Saturday. The food is everything you’d expect from a yoga retreat: fresh, organic, vegetarian and DELICIOUS! I was seriously in foodie heaven every time the staff rang that bell to signal the buffet was ready.
Breakfast was a spread of freshly cut fruit, granola, yoghurt, porridge and bread. Sometimes there was a savoury option such as idli and curry.
For lunch we had a selection of tropical salads, veggies and lentil dishes.
Dinner started with a healthy soup and was followed by a number of curry dishes, sometimes dahl, always chapatti or rotis to mop up the delicious sauces.
On Saturdays we had a brunch buffet from 9-11:30am featuring the most delicious beetroot pancakes!
The staff write the menu up on a blackboard with a code to indicate allergens such as gluten, dairy, nuts etc. They catered really well for my nut allergy, even making separate dishes for me on some occasions if they felt I was missing out. The desserts were mostly nut-based so they often brought me fruit and raw chocolate as an alternative. No complaints here!
(Update – there was one nut-related incident on my final night which almost ruined everything…learn more in my next post…!)
A few of my friends from the retreat went for Ayurvedic consultations and treatments during their free time but I didn’t hear any positive reviews. At 1150 rupees for a consultation and about 2500 rupees for a treatment it is quite expensive compared to clinics you will find outside of the retreat centre, so you would expect very high standards. The general feedback was that the doctors just didn’t give enough detail on the what and the why.
HOWEVER there is another treatment from the centre I can highly recommend. A massage session with Stu Girling, otherwise known as the Ashtanga Yoga Anatomy God. In addition to his 12 years of experience in bodywork for yogis specifically, he’s also a long-time Ashtanga practitioner himself.
Beware: this is not a gentle back rub, it’s a DEEP tissue massage…you may leave with bruises! 50 mins with Stu will set you back 2700 rupees, which is 100% worth it IMHO. Everyone who had a session with Stu came back with glowing reviews – I went twice!
To learn more about Stu go to his very popular website Love Yoga Anatomy – he has tons of useful anatomy videos, articles, blogs etc. up on there.
You can also get gentler massages from the staff at the Ayurvedic centre as well as beauty treatments like manicures/facials/waxing etc. I got a nice Henna tattoo for 400 rupees.
The juice man was waiting for us everyday after class with fresh coconuts and a juice of the day, which was a really nice touch. You have to pay a bit extra for these but only about 130 rupees. The little juice hut was then open all day so you could have a freshly made juice anytime you fancied it. My favourite was an ABCG (apple, beetroot, carrot and ginger).
The restaurant area is on a big open-air terrace surrounded by the lush green gardens. I spent many a pleasant evening at the dinner table playing card games with my fellow yogis! There’s also a big bookshelf and plenty of seating areas suitable for lounging and escaping the sun.
This is the only spot you have an slim chance of a Wifi connection at Purple Valley, emphasis on the word slim. Checking Whatsapp and emails worked for me but loading anything more than text was problematic!
All meals are served buffet-style from a big counter so technically you can keep going back for more, although we did get told off by one of the staff when some people were caught taking more than their fair share of dessert…
The yoga shala is a lovely big hall at the bottom of the garden. The staff lit candles in the morning ready for our morning meditation, which created a wonderful atmosphere.
They have basic PVC mats available to use if you don’t want to bring your own, although they are a bit flimsy. They are well stocked with all the usual yoga props like straps, blocks and bolsters too.
What better way to relax after practice than whipping out your bikini and relaxing by the pool with a good book?
Here are some ideas on what you can do if you want to escape Purple Valley during your free time:
- Trips to nearby beaches such as Anjuna, Ashvem and Mandrem
- Anjuna flea market
- Dolphin trips from Arambol
- Night market
- Panjim’s Portuguese quarter
- Trip to Natti’s Naturals health food shop and café in Anjuna
- Wildlife sanctuary
- Visit Master Ji the Vedic astrologer
I suspect that every teacher attracts a different crowd of yogis, but speaking for the crowd of Joey Miles November 2016, I couldn’t have hoped for a nicer bunch!
Although we were a very mixed group in terms of yoga ability, nationality and age, we all got along famously and there was no sign of any ego or superiority.
The atmosphere was so sociable that even a loud-mouthed extrovert like me had to sneak off for some silent reading time occasionally. We spent our free time chatting by the pool or going off on group trips to the nearby beaches and markets.
Thanks to this lovely group atmosphere the yoga shala had a great energy, making for a very special experience indeed.
Even the staff felt like part of our squad and would come and sit with us for meals, dress up in lost property garments and generally add to the fun.
Okay, now let’s get to the important bit – the yoga.
When I booked my retreat at Purple Valley I didn’t know much about Joey Miles, but as it turns out I may have just lucked out and ended up choosing the best teacher on their schedule!
Joey has been practicing for about 18 years (18 YEARS!!!!) and was certified to teach the Ashtanga primary series by Guruji himself in 2004. He was also certified to teach the intermediate series by Sharath in 2012.
Our schedule on the retreat with Joey went something like this:
6:30 am – guided meditation
7am – Mysore practice
9am – breakfast
10am – beginners class
1pm – lunch
4pm – workshop
6:30pm – dinner
We started each day in noble silence as we made our way down to the shala for a guided meditation. Joey led us through a lovely mindfulness exercise in the candlelit hall – seriously the best way to start the day.
I never thought I’d see the day that I looked forward to chanting; I always saw it as a “weird / cult-like” part of yoga. But led by Joey’s beautiful voice (with perfect Sanskrit pronunciation I might add), I found myself falling in love with the sound of our group singing the opening chant each morning. It somehow made that time and space even more sacred.
Those of us with an established Mysore practice would then start at 7am, overseen by Joey and his assistant, Rachel. Within just a few days I think Joey and Rachel knew the names of everyone on the retreat! They really took the time to get to know our bodies and limitations, always offering useful advice and additional exercises to help us strengthen our practice. During Savasana, Jane, another fantastic assistant and good friend of Purple Valley, would come round and give us a mini-head massage to help us relax. It felt like the end of the world when her hands left your face and you knew it was over for another 24 hours </3. Don’t you leave me Jane, DON’T DO IT.
For people who had never studied Ashtanga before, there was a separate led class at 10am, which ensured the beginners received a bit more attention.
Joey and Rachel were part of the group from day one and were super fun to be around socially. This just added to the amazing group energy!
The afternoon workshops were varied. Some days we would go through a restorative sequence, other days we would work on arm balances or inversions. No matter what we were doing, Joey always built up from the foundations and offered advanced options to challenge more experienced students.
I learnt so much from his tips and cues, I seriously couldn’t write in my notebook quickly enough.
The workshops often included some sort of reflective activity as well as asana. A favourite of mine was staring into someone’s eyes for TEN MINUTES. Even though we all grumbled about doing it at first (cue awkward British tendency to avoid eye contact), it was such a profound experience. I really recommend you try it yourself!
Overall thoughts on Joey as a teacher: fun, lighthearted, warm, endlessly knowledgable, relatable and just 100% down to earth. I couldn’t imagine a better person to learn from.
Would I study with Joey & Rachel again? 100% yes! I’m going to check out their schedule in the UK and get myself to a workshop or two. If you’re interested in practicing with them, Joey runs a Mysore programme in Leeds.
Would I stay at Purple Valley again? Yes, although I would stay for just one retreat as I did start to feel a little claustrophobic after 4 weeks. (I stayed for two back-to-back retreats…stay tuned for part 2 feat. Laruga Glaser!)
Was it worth the money? Yes – you will struggle to find anywhere with the amazing teaching standards PLUS the awesome facilities for this price. Believe me, I’ve looked!
I’ve received loads of questions on my Instagram about Purple Valley. If I haven’t answered them in this post, please feel free to leave them in the comments 🙂