When I was asked if I’d be interested in joining a permaculture course for three months in Andalusia, I have to admit I didn’t have a clue what ‘permaculture’ was. I mean sure, I had heard of it but what did it actually mean? And I wasn’t the only clueless one. When I proudly announced to my friends and family I would be going on a ‘permaculture’ course (after of course doing my research), they too were a little jaded on what it meant. So for clarification, allow me to explain in layman terms.
Permaculture is a holistic, living in harmony with nature as well as a technical know-how approach to do so. The principles allow you to learn basic gardening skills, build an eco-building from scratch all the while living amidst amazing surroundings. As an outdoor and adventurous person by nature, it was a no brainer. So, I duly packed to be involved in Danyadara – a non-profit permaculture farm on a mission to reverse desertification and regenerate the land.
During the three-month permaculture and eco-building course, I would be learning how to create an organic veggie garden and build a small cob house on site. And to really get to grips with this way of life, I would be living in an eco-building amidst stunning landscapes, with optional daily yoga sessions, farm-to-table healthy vegetarian food, dips in a salt water pool, and pampering sessions in a wood-fired sauna.
Danyadara meaning blessed land, is the sister project of Suryalila Yoga Retreat Centre and so it was comforting to know that although leaving my cosy familiar life behind for 12 weeks, I would be in the bosom of upbeat positive people. And indeed, I was made to feel welcome from the onset. After a gruelling and lengthy journey to get here (sadly public transport from Seville to the retreat near Villa Martin is not the best), it was lovely to be greeted by a plethora of smiling and beaming faces.
As it was meal time, (I timed that one well), I felt even happier gorging on healthy organic food knowing it had been grown just yards away. After a good night’s rest in temporary accommodation (I would later me moved to a house share with seven others in an eco-building, complete with compostable loo and outdoor showers) I was introduced to the rest of the group.
I must admit, I felt a little out of my depth as the course had begun the week before my arrival and they seemed to know what they were doing. But Glenn, our course leader couldn’t have been more laid back and was able to put any anxiety I had at ease. And it wasn’t long before I was taken under the rest of the groups wing as one of the team and within half an hour or so I was doing my bit of lifting fairly heavy stones, putting them in piles of size and shape ready to be used in erecting the wall.
However, settling in a new environment always takes time and sadly sometimes that can take a toll on the body. By day three I was taken ill and practically bed-bound. A chesty cough, flu, sore throat, I felt I had the lot. It wasn’t the best of start to my new temporary life in the outdoors but I was definitely in the right hands. With plentiful rest and the right food I would make a good recovery – but it came after a full ten days. The constant rain (which is actually much needed in this area) didn’t help my personal cause. Those around me mulled it was possibly because my body had ‘slowed down’ having most likely run down after Christmas and New Year.
That sure is the case with the majority of us. It’s not until we slow down, that our body shuts itself, indicating we need to take it easy. Having said that, I don’t have particularly have a stressful job (I’m a travel writer and it’s the among the best jobs out there) and I feel I have plenty of down time. Still, as a fitness instructor, I do always listen to my body and give it the rest it needs. It also gave me pause for thought to reflect on this place.
Already, I have fallen in love with my surroundings – the landscape is simply stunning, divine and awe-inspiring. The food is seriously delicious and plentiful. I’m not a vegetarian (although I used to be for 14.5 years) and I’m loving the fact I’m getting a good dose of healthiness inside me. And I totally love the yoga sessions here. Despite being ill I have done my best to take part in the daily 90 minute sessions. The morning sessions are more intense and incorporate vinyasa (flow) asanas, while the evening ones are gentler and follow a restorative (yin) yoga sequence designed to prepare your body for rest for the evening.
So yes, with week three drawing to an end and me feeling far better physically I am ready to fully immerse myself into this lifestyle. In fact, the last two days I’ve finally been out in the glorious sunshine and getting knee deep into gardening and grafting on the cob house. And when I say knee deep, I’m not joking either. Mixing sand and clay with a sprinkle of hay with bare feet to be used for building the walls of the cob house is a real skill. And the bonus? You get really soft feet!
Where and how?
For more information on Danyadara and enrol on the course visit, https://danyadara.com/
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