Christa D'Souza investigates the hybrid of hot yoga retreats, Michelle Pernetta's Fierce Grace
So now I’ve been on one yoga retreat, all I want to do is go on another. Which one, though? I’ve done the kind where you sleep in a yurt, and don’t drink any alcohol and do silence at breakfast, and jolly good for me it was too.
But what about the other kind? The kind where you hammer it on the yoga front, yes, but, um, also get to kick back a little in the evening, if you catch my drift? To be honest, that’s my kind of a yoga retreat, the one that will keep me coming back year after year; so how lucky am I that my new favourite type of yoga in the world, a hybrid of Bikram called Fierce Grace, provides them? On the Tuscan/Umbrian border. In an exquisitely renovated farmhouse complete with pool, good strong Italian espresso, delicious food and yes, wine served with dinner.
Fierce Grace? You’ve not heard? Well if you love Bikram, or indeed any sort of hot yoga, then ‘FG’, created by Michelle Pernetta, the lady who first brought Bikram to the UK in 1993, is better, I guarantee it. Similar to Bikram in many ways, it also includes a lot of “proper” yoga poses such as Chattaranga, Crow and Pigeon, and even has some ab work in there too. In short, it’s the best hot yoga method out there at the moment, especially if you’ve got a dodgy lower back - and believe me I’ve tried a few…
So then, back to this wonderful retreat which is run by the leonine Pernetta and her film director husband Terence Gross. It is their home, this super stylish farmhouse and maximum capacity only goes up to about 10, so you really feel like a proper houseguest, rather than some sad-person-who-booked-a-yoga-retreat-online-because-nobody-invited-them-on-holiday, when you are here. Maybe I lucked out, but I loved every single one of our group, all hardcore type-A hot yoga nuts, all, save one (who was pregnant), not exactly averse to a drop or two of vino with their tea.
Classes are held in the beautiful purpose-built shala which is often frequented by Cattiva, their cat (or Yoga Pussy, as we all called her) weaving her way through your legs while you are in the middle of Downward Dog or sprawled out on your mat and purring loudly while you are in the middle of Pigeon.
Bonuses are the spectacular chef, David, whose culinary repertoire included gluten-free chestnut pancakes and truffled gnocchi (I know. We all kept saying that too. How the hell did he do that?); and spectacular treatments from acupuncturist and masseuse Anna Low. I swear, when they dropped us all off at Perugia airport to come home, I almost had a little cry, and then cheered up upon catching a back view of myself in the ladies.
Is it my imagination or can two classes a day of the right kind of yoga lift the butt a couple of millimetres in just a week? And if it’s not my imagination, shouldn’t all yoga retreats come with optional red wine and Prosecco?