Ana Puig is a Barcelona native. After 10 years of working in tech in London, she returned home ready for a new challenge. Together with longtime friend Arlette Amouyan, she brought the idea of retreats into the heart of the city to establish Yoga Weeks. They chose a beautiful modernist building just off La Ramblas as their location and proceeded to carve out a haven of calm.
Visitors wake early with a carefully-designed cleansing routine and are then guided through an hour of asanas in the cozy yoga shala. We sit down together in the airy dining room to enjoy a colorful and inviting vegan brunch that is as delicious as it is healthy. In between mouthfuls of lentil dahl, humus-and-cashew-butter dip and fresh sautéed greens, there is some time to speak with the staff and students about their Yoga Weeks experience.
‘Most of us live in cities, whether it’s by choice or not,’ says Ana. ‘It’s a challenge to have a healthy lifestyle in the city, or to have nature close to us. Our mission at Yoga Weeks is to live in the city and yet have a healthy happy lifestyle and that starts with yoga and good food. Basics.’
‘I taught on many retreats in Ibiza but it’s always this idea of “on a beach, on top of a hill”,’ agrees Arlette. ‘I realized that a lot of people were coming off the plane from London, with a very busy head, and then suddenly they’re in this Zen garden and they actually don’t know what to do with themselves. It took 2 or 3 days for them to land and to be ok that they can’t walk up the street and find a shop, or if they need a cash machine they need to take a taxi… It made the whole thing quite intense. So when Ana told me about this I thought ‘but yes, of course. Why not? We don’t need to be on top of a mountain to do a yoga retreat.’
At the table with us are guests from New York, France and Madrid, but the retreat is also open to people living in Barcelona. ‘In the evenings we have a few more people coming in who are people living in Barcelona, who wanted to do to this detox program, but they live and work here,’ explains Arlette. ‘So they have access to all the recipes and they’re cooking at home. The chef, Ulla, went shopping with them to the funky shops where they could get their stuff and they come to do the evening yoga class.’
Ulla (Ursula Honig) is at the table with us and talks us through the food, pointing out the nutritional and cleansing benefits of the fresh-pressed apple and cucumber juice. The conversation is both lively and relaxed – like a pleasant family meal – and you get a sense that Yoga Weeks is very good at building community. In the afternoon, the guests will be free to explore the city or to take part in organized activities, such as paddle boarding or city tours. One visitor is even enjoying some Spanish classes in her afternoons.
‘I think Barcelona is fantastic for this… It’s got the sea, the mountains, the weather, the culture and also the industry,’ says Ana. ‘Yoga Weeks is a good project and can do good things in the area of impact that it’s got. For me, for Arlette, for Ulla, for everybody that works here and everybody that comes here. In the small area that we have we can do good, and that’s the main thing of Yoga Weeks.’
Yoga Weeks Barcelona, Carrer del Carme 40, Barcelona, Spain, +34 932 807 122