Mel Lister, manager of Moinhos Velhos, and Yoga teacher Karen Lloyd-Pack

Revitalise your inner spark, fast

Moinhos Velhos detox and fasting retreat will leave you feeling transformed

Would you consider a weeklong stay at a retreat in the Western Algarve? It comes complete with private gardens, treatments to restore inner balance, a saltwater pool, hot tub, and sauna. Now, there is a catch: you won’t eat solid foods during your time there.

This is what detox and juice fasting retreat Moinhos Velhos offers its guests. It has them returning time and again. So, what is its magic? “You see people coming in, straight from somewhere like London, tired and stooped; physically bowing under the pressure and weight they carry within them. They leave transformed, head held high, shoulders back, a sparkle in their eyes, at full power. That’s what I love about my job: I help people. It’s transformative,” says the retreat’s yoga teacher Karen Lloyd-Pack. Mel Lister, manager of Moinhos Velhos, nods in agreement. “It is transformative.”

But, why fast? As Mel pointed out, it’s necessary to maintain our cars annually yet we’re not obliged to do such service for ourselves. It seems poignant that co-founder of Moinhos Velhos, Frank Jensen, is a Sivananda certified yoga instructor. The view of Sivananda is that the body is a vehicle for the soul. With our bodies as vessels, they accumulate memories and experiences, absorbing chemicals that remain within us no matter how healthily we eat. The effects of these toxins can manifest in illness, mood swings, lethargy or other complaints.

To undo all of this, Moinhos Velhos offers juice fasting and a holistic approach to detoxification. Because food is not consumed, fasting causes the body to burn stored deposits, turning them into useful energy. During a stay at Moinhos Velhos, the only substances that enter the body are unprocessed fruit juices and supplements that draw out toxins. This cleansing combined with an extended break for their digestive systems enable guests’ minds and bodies to thrive. The seven- and 10-day programmes include daily yoga to engage the body while meditation brings the mind to peace.

Guests can also choose from a range of treatments to further aid their relaxation and release. While Mel acknowledges that it can “sound a bit hippy”, the theories and practices are based on extensive research. Countless positive testimonials and repeat guests support the retreat’s work.

However, fasting means not eating, so what about grumbling stomachs and hunger pangs? Guests enjoy three fresh fruit juices and a vegetable broth each day. With ingredients sourced from the retreat’s garden or local co-operative, recipes vary according to what’s in season. Mixes include freshly pressed orange juice, tomato and red pepper, then kale, apple and more. All of this, along with the restful atmosphere and gentle activity, ensures energy levels don’t radically dip, maximum build-up gets expelled, and the sensation of hunger remains at bay.

The days are paced to offer an easy routine. Rising to a gentle wake-up call, guests take their lemon tea at the breakfast table under the watchful eye of Ganesh, Hindu deity and remover of obstacles. Here, the group breaks their fast – that is, without solid food – while sharing their experiences. This is an opportunity for staff to check guests’ progress before morning meditation and yoga. With juices and supplements interspersed throughout the day, there is plenty of free time.

Means of relaxation and self-care are abundant. Guests can bask in the quiet reflection that the resort nurtures, thanks, in part, to its energy. Once a site where a river ran through, before the construction of the barragem, today’s purpose-built pathways channel water and the energy it contains around the retreat.

Moving freely, never standing stagnant, this sense of movement mirrors the processes within the guests.

With the outward flow of toxins and the introspection that meditation supports, it’s not uncommon for guests to experience breakthroughs beyond the anticipated cleanse and health benefits. Mel and Karen confirm that guests often experience more than a physical transformation as they gain profound insights that lead them to make positive changes once they leave the retreat.

In the kitchen, with its colourful mosaic tiles and oversized saucepan where vegetable broth simmers, in the closing moments of our visit, the power of the retreat becomes tangible.

Mel and Karen speak with such warmth of the transformations Moinhos Velhos has held not only for the guests but for themselves, too. After an hour in their company, we’d come to understand why The Times named Moinhos Velhos ‘one of the top 10 detox centres in the world’ in 2016. Leaving the retreat, striding its winding entrance road out of the valley, one might feel awakened to the power of fasting, a means to restore equilibrium not only to our bathroom weighing scales but to minds and bodies, too.

By Anna Loewy

Photos: EMMA JERVIS

Accommodation
Moinhos Velhos retreat
Meditation and yoga room
Kitchen
Mel Lister, manager of Moinhos Velhos, and Yoga teacher Karen Lloyd-Pack
Relax in the saltwater pool