‘Habit is a great deadener,’ wrote Samuel Beckett, which is why holidays give us such a lease of life. Out of our usual routine, it’s easy to believe we will carry on swimming every day, eating well or reading more. But my good intentions generally last as long as my tan. Before I’ve even got back to normal, the grind gets me down and my resolutions seem as achievable as wearing my kaftan to do the weekly shop.
That’s why I hoped that spending seven days on Silver Island – a tiny island in the northwest Aegean Sea with no wifi, barely any phone reception and no electricity after 10pm – would cure me of my constant need to stay ‘connected’ to others, and help me become better connected to myself through the medium of yoga.
It’s only on the speedboat when we leave the Greek fishing town of Evia that I realise how marooned I’ll be. I reassure myself that I’m here to do yoga, and I’ll be fine not Instagram-ing every meal. Stepping onto the craggy shore was like stumbling onto a desert island paradise, complete with olive trees, wild flowers, two spartan, white-washed villas and even a tiny 19th-century church.
Lissa Christie, who inherited Silver Island seven years ago with her sister Claire, used to be the creative director of Bestival and two years ago, she roped in her team to help convert the overgrown wilderness into a yoga retreat. Her artistic flair and attention to detail is everywhere – from the tiny shell mobiles hanging in my room to the beautifully restored retro sun-loungers. It is rustic – don’t expect power showers or fresh towels every day – but what you lose in five-star luxury is more than made up for in thoughtful touches like your own personalised water bottle and organic Korres products in the bathrooms. Rooms are shared but spacious enough to maintain your privacy and, if you feel like some alone-time, well, there’s a whole island to explore.
As a group of just 10, all of us solo travellers of mixed nationalities, ages and genders, we quickly got to know each other. Without my phone to rely on as a social crutch (I always get it out when I’m feeling awkward around new people), I actually had to – shock horror – make conversation. And luckily, there’s nothing like buddy-ing up to try out your triangle pose to bring people together.
Our yoga instructor, Rebecca Halls, was able to challenge the entire group, despite mixed abilities, and to bring everyone on in their practice. With two hours of yoga at sunrise and another two hours at dusk, we had the time to go in-depth and break down basic poses like downward dog and also experiment with more advanced techniques such as pranayama breathing. On day four, I actually did a headstand (with a lot of help!), a pose that previously I’d only been able to do in my super-bendy dreams.
I quickly adjusted to island life. By day two, daytime naps were de rigeur and I was shocked at how little I missed my phone. One day, I hiked to an old lighthouse then spent the afternoon sitting on the homemade swing, painting with watercolours with equipment from Lissa’s well-stocked art cupboard. Not exactly the kind of thing my life back home has much room for. The bliss of stumbling across your very own beach, with not so much as another soul to rub sun-cream on your back, never got old.
Meal times were a sociable affair. Breakfast was granola (homemade by Lissa), gluten-free banana pancakes, fresh fruit, natural yogurt and local honey. Evenings were spent drinking wine (everything in moderation here!) around a fire-pit, then sitting down for a candle-lit, family-style supper of delicious vegetarian feasts.
By the week’s end, I felt completely restored. My shoulders were about six inches lower, and for once I felt like I’d really had a break. I realised what a waste of time it is to keep checking my phone religiously. I’ve been back a few months now and use my phone about half as much as I used to. And in place of my digital dependence, I feel a lot more connected with myself, and the not-so-digital people in my life.
Six nights full board plus transfers, four hours of yoga classes per day and activities, costs from £1,100. See silverislandyoga.com
Photograph: Silver Island