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Moinhos Velhos, Portugal – juice retreat with yoga, meditation and alternative therapies:
Located by the Barragem da Bravura, Algarve, Portugal, Moinhos Velhos is the perfect place to detox the mind, body and spirit. Whatever you seek to achieve, be it rest and relaxation, a complete detox, to heal or to help transform some aspect of your life you can achieve it at this wonderful place. Offering an amazing combination of a yoga retreat and juice detox programme with alternative therapies, right in the heart of the Algarve, this is somewhere to find your inner peace.
Moinhos Velhos was co-founded in 1992 by Frank Jensen and Anne Karine Moss, when 25 years ago they were guided to establish Moinhos Velhos in this beautiful valley in the Algarve and have developed and refined programmes of cleansing and detoxification on all levels, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
I was so fortunate to be able to spend a week here. Quite simply it was life changing and I experienced more benefit than I could have imagined or hoped for. I am so grateful to everyone at Moinhos Velhos and so glad I threw myself into all it had to offer. In order to really understand everything that Moinhos Velhos and the fantastic team have to offer, I will be sharing my personal journey in some detail …warts and all! So brace yourself for the ride.
Table of Contents
Saturday – Arrival Day
My flight into Faro was easy (I flew with EasyJet, which has regular flights to the Algarve from London). There was a cab driver there to meet me at the airport in Faro, providing a seamless and comfortable transfer to the centre, all arranged in advance by Mel from Moinhos Velhos
After reaching what was quite literally the end of the road, we descended a dirt track into Moinhos Velhos. You’d struggle to find this place if you didn’t know it was there, nestled deep in the lush valley of the Algarve countryside.
My first impression of Moinhos Velhos was of the beauty and peace of the setting, enhanced by warm sun and friendly greetings from all. I took a few moments to relax with a drink of infused water on the veranda outside the house, which was adorned with pretty flowers and plants. Rocking gently on the swing seat, I chatted with Jaynee who had also just arrived about what the week would bring, the treatments we were interested in and how we would get on with everyone. Jaynee had specifically come to Moinhos Velhos to try out the Physiospect which turned out to be rare. More of that later…
Mel showed me to my room in the ‘The Mill’ building which comprises two single rooms with ensuite showers. The stone building was at the bottom of the estate next to the fruit and vegetable garden where all produce we would be consuming was grown.
It was quite a walk on an uneven paved path and I was warned that I would need to watch my step, especially in the dark. I didn’t appreciate right then how much of a challenge the walks up to the house would be during the detox process!
The whole retreat is set in a very natural, unspoilt and rustic setting. My room was simple and pretty. Clean, comfortable and relaxing it had everything you needed even down to the adapter plug provided.
Fresh robes, slippers and towels were all laid out on freshly laundered white bedding. Mosquito nets were provided and whilst I tried them out the first night, they were unnecessary at the time of year I was visiting. There was a personal greeting from the owners and an information folder containing a wealth of information together with a daily schedule.
A lovely touch was our own bottle to use for drinking water for the duration of the week. Each was labelled with our name and a little message; mine was Love and Gratitude.
The bottles led to a fun ice-breaking moment when the group met up in the house later. One of the guys (yes there were men in the group) was called Jonathan. On his bottle, his name was spelt JonaCHAN. Was it a Portuguese spelling, a mistake or a joke? It was made rather special when Anna mentioned that when living abroad she had learnt that ‘Chan’ was used for cute little boys as a term of endearment. You guessed it, from then on we referred to Jonathan as JonaCHAN…
After unpacking and getting settled I made my way up to the house for our ‘last supper’ and to meet all the group. There were 8 newcomers plus Jana who was volunteering there for 3 months and undertaking her first fast with us this week. Our meal consisted of a hearty vegetable soup to ease us in gently. We made our introductions, each of us sharing as much as we wanted to about why we were there. I felt very fortunate to have been invited to review the programme and was fully prepared to embrace everything the week had to offer. I was also happy to share that I had been recovering from a period of burn-out and work-related stress symptoms which had reoccurred recently due to issues at work; I was hopeful the week would assist an improvement in my health and consideration of my life and work choices.
As a first timer to a yoga retreat and a detox programme, despite looking forward to the week away, I was a little apprehensive. Unlike a few of my fellow juicers, I had read all the information on the website so I was aware of all aspects of the programme…to be revealed. I think some were rather surprised by what it entailed. However, we were reassured that one can do as much or as little as wanted to. A little friendly advice – always read the information on the website! After our soup and a chat about what the next morning would bring we went to the Temple building for some mediation and relaxation. Everyone was quite tired after their journeys so we retired early.
My bed and the room were really comfy but I didn’t sleep well at all. Maybe too much going around in my mind or maybe there were different noises and I was adjusting to a new environment. I got ready for the day which begins in the dining room from 7.30am with a cleansing hot lemon tea. It was sharp and strong – a real wake-up. I often start my day in the UK with lemon tea but it’s definitely not quite up to the freshness and natural intensity of the homegrown lemons.
Sunday – Day one of the fast
The bell rang outside my cottage at 7 am on the first full day of the fast. If you wanted to completely detox from the world this would be the perfect place to do that as there are bells to help keep you on schedule. I needed my phone to keep notes and take photos but planned to limit myself to just doing that. I’ve really noticed in London how much everyone is on their smartphones and suspect that is having an impact on wellbeing. We need a new way of being in this high technological world.
At Moinhos Velhos fresh lemon and cucumber infused water and all kinds of herbal teas and fresh herbs are available to help yourself all day and night. Here’s Jana helping in the kitchen.
Yoga takes place every morning in the Temple from 8 am and lasts for 1 hour 45 minutes so it is unrushed and thorough. During the retreat, every day starts and ends with meditation, either silent or guided. Moinhos Velhos teach classical hatha and raja yoga according to Swami’s Sivananda, Vishnudevanada and Venketesananda.
You do not have to be an expert to participate in the daily yoga, both beginners and advanced are accommodated. We started with sun salutations and breathing exercises (pranayama) to help prepare the body to be fully awake for the asanas (postures) and always finished with some relaxation and meditation. Having taken up Yoga in recent times I was sufficiently accomplished to be able to feel comfortable and familiar with the asanas. I was also very aware of how important the correct breathing is and the week got me back into a good and regular practice of breathing fully and deeply again. All but one of the group had done some yoga before and we were all at different levels of experience. The sessions worked for all of us as yoga is non-competitive ( hence so good for those driven Type A people!) and allows you to work at your own level.
The Temple building is a marvellous space with glass windows all around to let the light flood in and also gives an airy atmosphere. It has pictures of all the Yogi masters all around the room.
The group sitting down to our first juice and an introduction to the week. I’d never seen so much orange juice. Nor would I normally have allowed myself to drink so much so this was a real treat.
Whilst the OJ was indeed welcoming I am not so sure about this ‘stuff’ in the jar. Let me explain.
In the jar is some bentonite clay mixed with a little water. To this, you add some OJ, a few spoonfuls of psyllium husks and give it a good shake. Then you drink it….quickly. I learnt to add the right amount of OJ so it tasted ok. You drink it down quickly. There is no sipping it or leaving it, as we discover, as it turns to a thick slime.
This is repeated three times a day before each juice and helps to cleanse the digestive system and intestines. The clay cannot be absorbed by the body and helps to draw any toxins into it which are then passed out. The husks act as an internal exfoliation to the intestinal walls helping to move any undigested and impacted waste.
I guessed we would all get used to this. We knew it would do us good and that’s why we were here. Everyone took it all week…
After our juice, the supplements were explained. We were each to take a set of supplements four times a day and were provided with little pill pouches to take them away so they could be taken in between the juicing sessions to ensure the clay mix doesn’t stop the nutrient being absorbed. I don’t really like taking pills unless I really have to and I thought it would be a challenge to swallow so many down. They were designed to help us cleanse and to help us fast so it was important to take them. As the week progressed I did find it increasingly hard to take them all.
We listened with interest to the introductory talk and learn lots about the estate, the owners and what would happen. Then a site tour of Moinhos Velhos with Ed, the resident specialist nutritionist.
The greenhouse was full of more plants, vegetables, fruit and herbs.
This is wheatgrass growing – I was convinced it would make an appearance in a shot at some point.
We all had individual appointments with Debby (a nurse by background, now a Yoga teacher and therapist) for a medical check-in. After a brief chat about any specific issues and what we hope to achieve during the week, we were weighed and had our blood pressure taken. Whilst weight loss was not the primary goal for me I was quietly hoping to shed some pounds and kick start some better eating habits to aid ongoing health and fitness. I really wanted to experience a total cleanse and detoxification this alongside the yoga and instruction, I hoped, would ease the tensions in my body and mind.
Our second juice was taken at 1 pm. The bell outside the house is rung a few minutes before each ‘meal’ time. Already, I was hoping I wouldn’t turn into a Pavlov’s dog. During the course of the week, we tried many different kinds of juices, each made from the fresh fruit and vegetables from the gardens on site.
The benefits of the contents of each juice were printed and displayed on the table. It was great to try the different combinations – some I really would not have thought of like this tomato, onion and lemon one.
I’m not planning on writing too much about this as it is hard to explain without going into the technical details. Let’s just say it’s like a colonic irrigation just you do it yourself! And as Mel said, you can’t explain this seriously！ Actually, it’s quite simple once you get the hang of it. Now often the relaxation process in yoga is to focus on each part of the body and mentally repeat e.g. “I relax my legs, my legs are relaxed”. During the explanation of how best to manage the clysmatic, some bright spark suddenly said at the appropriate point, “I relax my anus, my anus is relaxed”. How we laughed and it certainly dissipated any tension in the room. Another quote of the day.
How many people can you get in a loo to see how the contraption is fitted in situ?!!
Next the various treatments in the Clinic building at our disposal: the magnetic bed and the ‘zapper’.
Zapping at Moinhos Velhos
Zapping, the passing of a mild electrical current through the body works to get rid of parasites. Nice to know you can be free of any pesky parasites that are draining your health and wellbeing. Shame it doesn’t work on some of those people that contribute to others’ stress!
Here are Marianne and Bobbi with the zappers – it’s a mild tingling that doesn’t hurt, as you can see from their smiles!
The afternoon was spent trying out the magnetic bed, the zappers and a first go, for those brave enough, of the clysmatic. Let’s just say mine was a success. When we re-grouped for our afternoon juice there were some knowing looks and a few giggles. The major topic of conversation soon became ‘our movements’! Gone was that ‘British reserve’. As one of the group said, ” I don’t talk to my husband about this and here I am sharing with people I hardly know”. One thing is sure you bond very quickly when you are in this situation.
At 4 pm we enjoyed more juice while the treatments on offer were explained and we were encouraged to sign up for as many as we want to try. Moinhos Velhos has a wide range of treatments, all are reasonably priced in comparison to the UK. All the therapists are excellent, knowledgeable and very caring. There are numerous types of massage, acupuncture, reiki, and many more.
Sauna, pool dip, hot tub – the evening wind-down
Every evening the sauna is fired up with the idea that the ladies in the group have from 5-6pm after which the men can use it. Our group was not rigid about this though. Using a sauna is important during a detox process as it allows toxins to be sweated out of the skin which is the largest organ in the body. It is also very relaxing. Finally, a dip in the cool pool helps the circulation and cools the body, after which we all indulged in a further relaxation (and putting the world to rights) session in the hot tub.
Evening broth was served at 7 pm. By this stage, my first thoughts were ‘well at least it is warm!’ After a day of cold juices, it felt more like a meal. It’s a thin vegetable broth made from cooking vegetables for several hours and removing all the fibre so it is clear. Whilst not unpleasant it is mild in taste so the addition of some miso soup, garlic oil or hot sauce helps enormously.
Evening relaxation and meditation sessions take place in the temple. With the day drawing to a close I found this a peaceful and beautiful experience. After a full first day, we retired to our rooms with hot herbal teas before 9 pm!
Day two of the fast – Monday Moods:
An exert from my diary notes at the end of the morning says:
I’m laying on my sun lounger in my bikini outside my room. The sun is warm on my body and I feel calm and loved. It’s peaceful and I’m surrounded by lush greenery and bright blue skies. The sound of the birds singing and the insects buzzing around doing their work brings music to the air.
After a more restful night, despite getting up three times to go to the loo, I think I slept from 2:30 until the bell rang at 7 am. Fortunately, this morning’s bell ringer was more enthusiastic or I may not have woken. A headache remained but I felt ok. I quickly got ready and headed up for our lemon tea. Although we’d been told it was quiet time we were chatty mainly to find out how everyone was.
We learned that one of our group had had a bad night. After developing a bad headache and going to her room early she had become quite nauseous and shivery. She described it as like a bout of the worst flu. While that doesn’t sound very enticing it’s a fairly normal detox state. Different people react differently and at different times. She was much improved by morning.
Yoga felt a little more taxing for me this morning, perhaps due to lack of energy and the detox process. For those of us that had followed the pre-detox preparations, we were already several days into removing toxins from our bodies. Debby, our yoga teacher, is very talented and clearly anticipated or detected how we’d be feeling, so took us through a gentle warm up with lots of breathing practice before our sun salutation and several asanas. We added the tree pose and an inverted triangle today. Relaxation and meditation are always effective for me.
Anna spotted I didn’t look myself this morning. I struggled to climb the steps to the house for juice. They don’t look much but it felt like climbing a mountain.
Not long after we’d done our ‘blessing on the juice’ I started to shiver and had to put my fleece on despite it being a warm morning in the Algarve.
And then it happened….. A strange sensation ran through my body and I put my head in my hands. Then I just started shaking and heard myself let out a cry; it was rather alarming. What followed next was incessant sobbing. I was helped out to the terrace, my legs wobbling beneath me. Mel and Janni were immediately there with their arms around me, supporting me. Janni then sat me down and hugged me till I’d let it all out. She then asked me what was wrong or what was that all about. We chatted. For me, it was more of an emotional release of things I’d kept a lid on. I could have stayed outside but I had nothing to hide. When I felt a little better I re-joined the group who didn’t bat an eye other than to show concern. I think they were more than aware they would have their moments. The detox is a total body and mind process and you can not cleanse your physical system without also being aware of your emotional and mental issues and dealing with those too. Then, thankfully I felt better and got stuck into my clay and juice!
Janni, in the photo above, is an amazing woman, full of love and light, the essence of Moinhos Velhos, and yet realistic, down to earth and fun. Frank, the original founder, and a fascinating man of 88 years joined us to give the Physiospect talk, a technique he developed from a system created by Russian scientists. We each had an individual demo and diagnostic this morning. As she kept telling us, Jaynee came to the retreat just to see Frank and be treated with the Physiospect. It does make Moinhos Velhos special; very few places offer this treatment.
I was advised to take it easy for the day and we changed one of the therapies I’d booked. Acupuncture was recommended to aid my release and open my energy gates. With some downtime before the treatment, I lay in the soothing warm sun.
It’s hard to capture all the wonderful things about this place and the people here but I hope some of what I found is coming through. From the flowers outside our ‘villas’ the peaceful lush surroundings, the warmth of the sun and the people, the little things that are said and shared that have so much significance here at Moinhos Velhos.
My demo of the Physiospect was with Janni up at her cottage. The Physiospect technique used by therapists evolved from a series of scientific experiments where an automatic and information technology independent of any human influence was found to be capable of cellular communication through frequencies. It works by sending an infrared triggering signal to the Bio-field around the brain via specially designed headphones. The principle is based on the fact that every cell tissue and organ has its own unique frequency pattern that varies as it experiences a load or stress. Physiospect can be directed to investigate certain tissues and areas and scans on a cellular level. By directing the correct frequency a skilled therapist can help the body to begin to heal itself.
My analysis showed I had various issues of stress throughout my body. My entire endocrine system was stressed and way below normal function. Apparently not uncommon for people who work in hospitals I had several parasites and dormant viruses that needed addressing. My blood was very low on white blood cells.
Following the treatment, I was told that the system treated and corrected my levels by nearly 50% in just one go.
After the 1 pm juice, I had my acupuncture session. We focused on opening the four gates and stomach digestion. Unlike acupuncture I have had in the past, my pulse was observed at all stages. It started weak and unbalanced. While the needles worked we talked through some issues and health concerns. I had never heard my stomach make so much noise, gurgling when the needle was placed. The result, I felt very light and floaty, my head starting to clear and by the end, my pulse was regular in a good strong beat. Time for more sun and relaxation before the afternoon juice.
We all loved the afternoon pear juice and learnt that pears are very good for your digestion. It’s fair to say that pears do not appear as popular as they probably ought to be. I’ve already changed that and am buying more of them at home. At some juice times, we also had a shot to drink. These were really good and the different combinations kept us guessing, though we all loved the apple and garlic in particular.
I should probably explain about the juice time prayer which is displayed here with the pear juice. I was a little sceptical when I heard we had to ‘pray’ before our ‘food’. Janni said that this was not about being ‘religious’ and explained the significance of the ‘Om’ chanting. After the first couple of times, we all found ourselves singing away and it was more of a joyous sharing together and showing gratitude. You had to be there to hear and feel the strong emphasis and laughter as we said the last “Blessings on the juice”
The Neti Pot
Today’s talk was on the benefits of cleansing the nasal passages by using a device called a neti pot. This is us trying it out. Great fun was had by all and it was much easier than we anticipated. My nose and sinuses felt clearer instantly.
A few of us decided to take a walk to the Barragem da Bravura and explore the lake. The dam and lake were huge and although we walked for quite a while we only made it a fraction of the way around. We’d already we had started to share some very personal matters. We quickly got to learn what health issues we personally had and what we were all hoping to improve. Talking and sharing is all part of the process. Some felt more comfortable than others with this but there was no pressure to talk. For me, the walk did me good and my head felt clear for the first time in a while. Walking in the open, especially in peaceful and beautiful surroundings like those of the Algarve brings great clarity to your mind, that in itself is a good reason to stay at Moinhos Velhos.
By now, we were getting used to the sauna, swim, shower routine followed by evening broth. Although it was only day two, it felt as if we had been there for ages. My headache returned, I was a little shivery and I had to leave the meditation for the loo. I’d lost count of how many times I had visited the loo. I was certainly deep in detox and cleansing now.
The meditation message this second evening was – “May you be loved, may you be happy, may you be healthy, may you have peace”.
Day three – Rest and Relaxation at Moinhos Velhos
I’d had a restless night so although I was woken by the bell ringing I fell straight back to sleep. I just made it for lemon tea.! My overactive bowels of yesterday were calmer this morning, thankfully. I already felt much lighter! I thought yoga would be extra hard today as my energy levels were low. But everything turned out to be fine.
On the schedule for me was a fabulous Thai massage with Ed. Everything felt freer and less painful including my knotty upper back. Yoga and massage are so good for digestion and gets everything moving! And that’s all part of the detox and cleansing.
I decided to mainly chill out today sunbathing and reading by the pool. Why not top up my tan as its a lovely sunny day. We heard it might rain one day in the week. Just like a normal holiday…without the food and booze!
It was stunningly beautiful and peaceful and my head by now was clearer. The clysmatic was doing the trick too, removing impacted waste from my intestines. It was getting more difficult to take the clay shake and all the tablets. We all persevered though. There are different levels of tolerance to the juices and broth so some decide to go without. There is complete flexibility to what you do and not everyone does the clysmatic. One of our group didn’t like massages and so spent some of her time perfecting her yoga practice with private tuition.
There is even a hammock to escape to. And of course, you can take a long soak in the hot tub. A place where many a story was shared on our stay.
The ladies felt like staying up and decided to watch a film in the lounge. We had been asked if we would like to watch an educational film, but all of us just needed a bit of downtime – there is a good selection of DVDs at Moinhos Velhos for these kinds of times. We choose to watch ‘The Good Woman’ and snuggled up in blankets curled up on the comfy sofas with a hot herbal brew. It made a lovely change to take our minds off things.
By almost halfway through the fast, I could really feel the benefits and was excited to see how much better I would feel by the end. Despite detox symptoms, I was having a lovely time.
Do check in for the next part of the experience and to see how I got on with the second part of my stay.
Fact Box – Moinhos Velhos, Portugal
Prices start at Euros 1150 per person for seven days based on two sharing.
The price includes accommodation, juices and supplements, daily meditation and yoga plus use of the pool, hot tub and sauna. Dates and further information from https://www.moinhos-velhos.com/
I flew to Faro with Easy Jet. Moinhos Velhos can arrange transfers from Faro airport
Phone: (351) 282 687 147
I was a guest of Moinhos Velhos, but all content is editorially given.
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