Picture ruggedly stunning Amorgos, the easternmost island of the Cyclades group, known for its cobalt waters, wild nature and blinding-white architecture, its “special energy” and the memorable movie set of Luc Besson’s ‘The Big Blue’. Then add to that a sprawling, elegant, family-run hotel standing on the hillside of sparkling Aegiali Gulf, with a spa called Lalon Idor and a restaurant called Ambrosia and terraces facing the sea. And finally sprinkle that with some of the world’s best, most experienced and scintillating yoga teachers, musicians, holistic practitioners, organisers and participants coming from near and far in pilgrimage-mode and you have the annual Elysia Yoga Convention. Entering its third year as of March 28th and until April 4th, this remains the only event of its kind in Greece.
“Elysia is an event created from the soul,” says Mat Turner, who dreamed up the idea of Elysia several years ago while working at Aegialis Hotel & Spa as a Concierge, after leaving his professional career and life in the UK behind. “I sought for teachers that I felt had a certain essence to them - a realism, humaneness, humility, real skill. While seeking for the right instructors to bring to the event, I wanted to see how they talk, what energy they give out, whether they are authentic.”
Turner’s passion and devotion to yoga are undoubtedly and immovable, as he says it literally saved his life after he suffered from depression for over 25 years before discovering how yoga could transform him. With so many yoga teachers heading to Aegialis Hotel & Spa, it was only a matter of time until he began to practice yoga himself and discover its innumerable health benefits.
The hotel’s co-owner, Irene Iannakopoulos, returned to Amorgos with her husband after a decade in the US, at a time when Aegialis had no electricity, healthcare facilities, shops or telephone connection; a time when reaching Amorgos took 36 hours by boat. Nonetheless, both natives of the island, dedicated themselves to build their holistically-oriented hotel there.
Today Aegialis Hotel & Spa is known as one of Greece’s most splendid and relaxing wellness destinations and has received the Green Leaders Badge on TripAdvisor for its eco-friendly approach and organic-only policy. The award-winning “Ambrosia Gallery” restaurant serves a plentiful breakfast buffet, specialising in flavoursome traditional Greek and island cuisine, which is rich in local herbs and spices. They also offer a great choice of vegetarian and vegan options and cater to specific dietary preferences.
Another added bonus is the hotel’s impressive Lalon Idor Spa facilities, with a hammam, sauna, Jacuzzi and beautiful indoor salt-water pool (with a flowing stream and water cannon), picturesquely surrounded by traditional Cycladic, tiled arches. The spa, which makes the hotel even more visitable throughout the year, has gained a top reputation for its team of skilled and qualified beauty and massage therapists and lavish treatment menu.
“We’ve been hosting yoga retreats since 2011; yoga and wellness are part of our ethos at Aegialis Hotel & Spa philosophy and we’re always coming up with fresh ideas emphasise on this,” says Iannakopoulos. “We have six beautiful yoga shalas and an outdoor rooftop available, all of which come with yoga props and magnificent sea views. Yogis from all over the world love to come here for their retreats because it’s the perfect destination for wellness, tranquillity and luxury at once. Most people who visit Amorgos will tell you that it has a special feel, a calming effect and it is an inspiration for many towards self-discovery, self-development and wellness in general.” The hotel also organizes a variety of other activities for guests - from Greek nights and wine tastings to scenic hikes, cultural visits to villages and cooking classes.
In just a few years, the Elysia Yoga Convention has made Aegialis a key destination for yoga fans because of its very special teachers, programming and ambience at once. “Elysia is not about making money,” Turner says, “it’s not an event that squeezes hundreds of people into a sports hall. Elysia is about creating a community and a beautiful family rapport that exists before, during and after the event.”
When I ask Turner how Elysia has ‘evolved’ since it started off two years ago, he says: “the convention is slightly different each year; it is like an organism that grows and gets richer. This year we have even better facilities, although they were already impressive!” Turner tells Greek City Times how Elysia Yoga Convention 2019 will also include aerial yoga, harp-accompanied yoga, and meditations among the many other types of yoga and other classes. “This year’s schedule is fantastic,” he adds, “with fewer classes and more free time for explorations and rest, but still so much choice. Classes won’t overlap so participants won’t have to decide between one and another experience.