Owner, Yoga Teacher and Therapist
, Vonetta's 2017 Retreats: April 23, 30. May 7, 14, 21, June 11. 18, Oct 1, 8
Growing up in the West Indies I became acutely aware of the natural and joyful ways people healed themselves and each other through touch, dance, storytelling, simple local food and a slow soul bolstering approach to life. This initial grounded upbringing was enhanced by the study of Social Anthropology at the London School of Economics, with a particular interest in shamanistic healing. Subsequent study of Community and Youth Work at Goldsmiths and several years working with homeless people, those with mental health difficulties, unemployed and vulnerable young people further fueled my compassion for human life and the desire to assist in a more pragmatic and direct approach.
It was around this period in my life that I became a Mum and suffered greatly with severe back pain and several years of allergic responses to various forms of pain relief. Walking one day with my son Joshua through the local library I found a rather dull looking little book with an unusually skinny big bearded Asian man performing various postures. For over one year this little book of yoga saved both my back and my sanity and therein began the long and as yet unfinished journey into the enquiry on the nature of healing.
With the birth of our youngest Eloise in 1999 I continued for another two years the practice of Astanga yoga and Iyengar before completing teacher training in the Dynamic Yoga Method with Godfrey Devereux in Tuscany, Italy. This method is a complete accessible system for the recovery of disturbed muscle tissue which is immediately accessible requiring no profound flexibility, stability or strength and yet I found that the leaps I made both physically, emotionally and spiritually to be both profound and unsurpassed.
After training for 3 years in Traditional Chinese Medicine at the renowned BodyHarmonics Centre in Cheltenham, I opened a yoga and massage clinic from our London home in 2004. Then in 2007, with the desire to find pastures greener, I closed the clinic, spent time in India and on return went with my family on an adventure around southern Europe in a motorhome to magically find an abandoned farm in the Portuguese mountains that happened to have the same name as my dog. So we stayed to live in the rhythm of remote country life. It has been a joy to teach yoga and provide massage and acupuncture treatments from such a place as this.
I first developed my love affair with food and cooking as a youngster in my family home in London. Even my first job while still at school, was as a chef in a Mexican restaurant for 2 years. After graduating from Leeds University in Sport and Business, I worked a few years in recruitment advertising, after which I set up a small design and advertising agency for charities called Source Communications in 1999. When we decided to leave London for a trip round Europe with Moses and the kids, I gladly took up the role of tour chef and regularly cooked up a storm in the motorhome as we literally tasted our way through France, Italy, Spain and finally Portugal.
A few years ago I discovered the therapeutic approach to food found in Ayurveda philosophy, thanks particularly to a fabulous Ayurveda teacher Liese van Dam. For years great meals were simply about the taste, the texture and the presentation. It was a real eye opener to understand that for a lot of people, food is also about digestion. And how the 6 tastes - sweet, salty, sour, bitter, pungent and astringent - can help us all more easily digest the essential minerals and nutrients our bodies need.
Over the years of running retreats from our home alongside the chefs who have worked with us, we have developed a delicious and balanced Ayurvedic menu that compliments your yoga practice and is very much an integral part of the restorative nourishing process you will experience on retreat.
It's my absolute pleasure to welcome people to our home, and also to lead you on meditation walks through the surrounding forest paths, sharing some of the insights that living in a wilderness environment like this can reveal about our bodies and ourselves.
Dynamic, Ashtanga Yoga and Dance Teacher
Retreat dates 2017: March 19, 26 April 2, 9, 16
Tashidawa practices yoga with complete dedication, she was introduced to Ashtanga yoga in Bali in 1996 and has integrated the methods of Ashtanga Vinyasa, Iyengar and Dynamic yoga into her workshops and retreats around the world. Born on the east coast of Australia, Tashi lives for adventure, love & bliss in equal measures. She travels regularly to Australia, Asia and Europe involved in yoga and creative arts and her interest in dance, arts and theatre have been easily supported by her daily practice of yoga. She firmly believes that a balanced and joyful life is achievable through the effortless effort afforded by a regular yoga practice; peace and happiness arise naturally by living creatively with a willingness to explore and witness the body/mind in the present moment.
Tashidawa is passionate to share her knowledge of yoga and her students agree that it comes as naturally and easily as the river to an ocean. Her classes are creative, sensitive and enjoyable as she invites students to practice a gentle yet invigorating vinyasa flow guided by the dynamic yoga training method. She is an experienced and professional yoga instructor with over 10 years of teaching experience, qualified in Thai Yoga and Ayurvedic massage as well as having a Masters in Community Cultural Development.
Tashidawa means ’happy moon’, this is the name given to her by her parents, it's a common Tibetan name which she finds a great pleasure to wear.
For more info on Tashi visit tashidawa.com
Katherine's 2017 Retreats: May 28, June 4, Aug 13, 20, 27, Sep 3
Kat says yoga is an attitude that arises from consistent practice that helps us to embrace life more fully from moment to moment in all its real, messy, rawness.
Kat teaches yoga with sensitivity and insight. Her classes are playful and purposeful, inviting a healthy amount of curiosity and challenge without heaviness. She provides students with a safe, nourishing space to explore and experience yoga by focusing on personal attention, alignment, adjustments and modifications that make practice available to you in a way that is safe and un-intimidating.
Her own yoga journey began as a way of dealing with the challenges of modern day life with a little more grace and humility. What started as a part-time curiosity developed into the sweetest adventure as it began to make her hungry for something that called from elsewhere.
Kat circled the globe, indulging her love of travel and seeking out new experiences and esteemed teachers, predominately from the Ashtanga Vinyasa tradition, that would later inform the teacher she would become.
It was while she was living in India that she was introduced to Ayurveda and how to use it as a framework for interpreting students individual needs in order to teach them on a more personal, theraputic basis.
Her interest in Ayurveda paved the way to her becoming Vale De Moses’ retreat chef two years running and inspired her to write ‘Nourish; Healing meals from Moses’ the cookbook.
Kat continues to travel, train and teach, splitting her time between Portugal, Italy and Amsterdam, with just enough space in her schedule for the occasional foray into the unknown.
She is also a writer. Find out more on her Katherine Smith Yoga site.
Fleur van Hille
Fleur's 2017 Retreats: July 23, 30, Aug 6, Sep 10, 17, 24
Since childhood music and movement have been Fleur's major passions. And so, it wasn’t a surprise that she became a professional dancer. Throughout her studies she became drawn to Eastern philosophy and way of life, leading her to India where she followed a yoga teacher training course in 2009.
This yoga experience greatly affected her being and mind, helping her to focus and find inner peace, realizing it was a great way to counterbalance her hectic lifestyle as a dancer. As she returned to Amsterdam she followed a one-year course of Ayurvedic Nutrition while at the same time taking classes at Svaha Yoga Shala where yoga is being done to music. The adding of a musical layer to the practice offered her a more intense experience, a sense of wholeness. She continued to deepen her knowledge via a one-year yoga teacher training course at this shala, where she also currently teaches.
Fleur keeps developing and exploring different aspects of yoga. She plays the harmonium (portable Indian organ) and composes her own melodies for mantras. Her passion for travel and idea exchange brings her to participate in various workshops and retreats worldwide both as a teacher and student.
In her classes Fleur emphasizes on flow – how not to get stuck, proposing a way to overpass energetic and physical obstacles. Focusing on the smooth transition from asana to asana, breathing on the rhythm of the music and allowing it to touch the soul, the heart. So let the heart be your guide instead of the chattering mind and come flow with Fleur!
Acupuncture and Thai Massage Therapist
Before discovering Asia and all it has given me, I spent my days doing a host of interesting things to fill this exciting time between birth and death. Landscape gardening, interior design (by which I mean painting and decorating), restaurant work, an environmental science degree and activism, middle management in a blue collar company, a travelling bum, are but a few of my incarnations. But it was in 2000, in the month of my birth that I experienced Thai massage for the first time. That meeting was essentially a home-coming.
I had already started to fall in love with Asia after a Kayaking trip to the Nepalese Himalaya. But the introduction to South-East Asia cemented the relationship, that I believe will never end. I think I must have been an Asian man in a previous life. Thailand and Thai Massage opened the door to a career and lifestyle that I’d been searching for.
Thai massages' wonderful passive stretching, pressing, twisting and opening techniques led me to the robust and vigorous methods of Tui Na. This was shortly followed by the introduction to the remarkable world of needles and acupuncture. The Chinese really have offered the world a wonderful way of observing the human condition and a fascinating method of finding harmony and homeostasis. Mixed with the Thais' approach of trampling and sensitively ironing out the body, you definitely have a high chance of feeling good after these treatments.
I've been fortunate enough to have made repeat visits to Thailand and to China to develop my understanding and passion for these healing arts. The Bodyharmonics Centre in the UK was my first place of study into Traditional Chinese Medicine. Then experiencing acupuncture in the motherland, in Beijing, took me deeper into the applications and possibilities of Chinese medicine. Initially I worked in London with the Pure Medicine Group in Harley Street, London, before moving to Cheltenham and opening my own practice. There I also worked closely with an Osteopath, comparing ideas and case studies to broaden our understanding of the body.
I use the combination of energetic work with acupuncture with the physical work of massage and manipulation to find a way to optimal health. An acupuncture or massage treatment once a week for the rest of your life is my staple recommendation for everyone. Vale de Moses is a wonderful place to begin that habit if you've not discovered it already.
Sleep and Stress Management Expert
Dr Nerina Ramlakhan is a physiologist, sleep and stress management expert who helps everyone from stressed-out mums to Premiership footballers and MPs improve the quality of their sleep and energy levels. Nerina’s work has been featured in The Times, The Independent, The Sunday Express, The Guardian, New Scientist, The Evening Standard, The London Paper, Woman and Home, Healthy Living, Red and Psychologies Magazines. Most recently she has talked about power napping on the Radio 2 Chris Evans show and has appeared on GMTV and CNN talking about technology addiction. Nerina is also the sleep advisor to the Silent Night bed company.
Nerina has a strong belief that everyone can live a healthy and more fulfilling life by tapping into and nurturing their deepest inner resources – even in these hectic times that we live in. She is also a mother, wife, climber, meditator and compulsive bookworm. Nerina runs sleep and wellness programmes at The Nightingale Hospital and is the author of Tired but Wired (Souvenir Press Ltd, June 2010). She is currently working on her second book Fast Asleep Wide Awake.
Dr Nerina will be running afternoon workshops our Slumber and Restore 2017 retreat, May 14-20.
Ayurvedic Massage Therapist
Elsa comes from a background in Martial Arts, having recently attained her Black Belt in Karate. Elsa’s recent yoga training has been under the tutelage of Usha Devi, LotharHofler and Dr. AbhayKesti.
Elsa’s yoga practice is informed by her Karate experience, the most notable similarities being the use of the Bandahs, the points of the body used to retain and distribute prana in Yoga and used for self-defense in Karate, these disciplines working simultaneously through body, mind and soul.
Elsa has found her vocation in helping others through therapeutic massage, practicing year round in Portugal and India. Her Aryurvedic-based treatments are sought out by a wide range of people and for many different reasons. It is the variety of interactions and approaches required by her practice that Elsa enjoys so much about giving massage as an occupation.
Elsa will be joining our therapy team this summer in August.
Raul grew up surrounded by the Mediterranean cuisine of Southern Andalusia; fresh vegetables daily from his family farm, fish from the local sea, the dining table was always bursting with colour, passion and diversity.
Since completing his MA in Political Anthropology at the University of Granda, Raul has traveled filled with a desire to learn the culture and food of the world. Combining his love of humanity, health and nourishment, he creates multi-lingual dishes that fuse a melting pot of international flavours.
In India, Raul trained in Ayurvedic cooking. He integrates his knowledge of the mental and physical benefits of spices and herbs into all his dishes as well as brining the fresh vivid sharpness of the Vietnamese kitchens he has worked in and the Gastronomic picante fire from the Mexican oven.
Raul is always expanding his interest in the traditional and established culinary methods, yet exploring new dimensions, creating fusions and adding his own big hearted Spanish dynamism to every menu he creates.
Let Raul know when you arrive about any dietary requirements you may have, and he'll do his best to provide tasty alternatives wherever possible.
Yoga and Pilates Teacher
Retreat date: July 3 to 9.
Ali’s passion for movement and mystery began at a young age with ambitions to run away and join the circus as a trapeze artist and become a UFO researcher! Fuelled by a love of learning Ali followed her passions in a more conventional way by going to university to study Psychology and Anthropology whilst teaching aerobics to fellow students. It was here that she discovered her love of teaching and in 2002 went on to become a personal trainer & massage therapist. Loving this, but wanting to understand the body more, to really help her students with pain find relief and get stronger from the inside, Ali decided to learn Pilates and qualified as a Matwork & Equipment teacher through the Pilates Foundation in 2007.
A lifelong curiosity with yoga led Ali to attend regular classes where she was seduced by the physical benefits of the practice. Whilst she found yoga philosophy, pranayama & meditation interesting, it was Vinyasa Flow and Anusara classes that rocked her world and allowed her to discover new strength, power, flexibility and a playfulness on the mat which felt so liberating and uplifting. It wasn’t long before she wanted to learn more and infect her own students with the same enthusiasm and joy of movement that she found on the yoga mat. So, in 2009 she begun her 200hr yoga training, and did just that, teach power packed Pilates classes infused with yoga asana.
A further evolution took place in 2014 during Ali’s 500hr teacher training with Jivani Yoga in Thailand. It was here, under the tutelage of her wonderful teacher Emma Warmington that Ali discovered the beauty that lies in a slow mindful breath initiated practice. Yoga took on a whole new meaning, one that provided her entry into a far deeper and calmer place within herself, and set her on a new path of discovery and teaching.
The most unique quality of Ali’s teaching comes from the influence of Somatics. A thread that runs throughout her classes, enabling her students to experience yoga and Pilates on a completely new level. One that allows them to feel more in control of their bodies and achieve more with greater ease. Ali’s intention is to help her students to build a positive relationship with their body whilst inviting an exploration of the subtler aspects of being.
When not teaching, Ali enjoys dancing salsa, being outdoors, learning to play the harmonium, guitar and ukelele and use her newly discovered singing voice.
Miguel Veiga has been a vegetarian since 1996, for ethical reasons, and vegan for long periods. He decided to turn his know how on cooking into something more professional, so in 2008 went to London to work in different vegetarian and vegan restaurants in the capital including Tibits, Planet Organic, Torrington place and Rootmaster, a Bustaurant in Brick Lane.
In 2010 he returned to Portugal and added to his chef training in 2011 with a course in ESTH Cooking school in Seia. When not cooking at Vale de Moses, Miguel runs a supper club in Guarda, high up in the mountains of Serra da Estrela, an hour and half drive up the road.
Considerable expertise in wild mushrooms, a passion for Asian food, mainly Thai, and always ready to prepare food with the main ingredient all plates need, "love". In the last years Miguel has also became a farmer, because the best way to provide the most energetic and nutritous food is to know where your ingredients come from, how they've been grown and where possible to grow them yourself.
Miguel is looking forward to use the herbs, salads and fresh greens grown in the Vale de Moses kitchen gardens this year in June when he arrives and also for the autumn and winter retreats. If you have any dietary requirements, do let Miguel know on your arrival and he'll do his best to arrange alternatives where possible.
Joshua finished his schooling in Portugal in 2015 and is currently in his year off before heading to Manchester to study Theoretical Physics in September. Since we arrived in Portugal Joshua has helped in all the restoration works and then in hosting retreats whenever he was home from school. Having spent the last 8 years living and working at Vale de Moses, he has met a wide variety of people whose differing views on life have helped him refine his own and have encouraged him to explore his natural interests and capabilities.
This year, he will take on a more significant role in the team, hosting and managing retreats while working closely with our retreat Manager and Groundsman Vitor Gomes with the gardening, forest management, shopping and driving.
Yoga has been a part of Joshua's environment as long as he can remember and had his first full experience of a yoga retreat in 2007 with Godfrey Devereux. Since then yoga has been a way he has found to counterbalance his academic studies and compliment his sporting activities, helping still mind and body alike.
He looks forward to welcoming you to his home this year.
Tânia grew up and still lives in the nearby village of Estreito, a few miles up the road from Amieira. Since leaving school, she has worked in local restaurants, hotels and as a cleaner. Tânia first started working with us in 2014, providing essential help in changing over all the rooms on weekends and aiding the kitchen staff midweek. She has been a constant reliable and cheery presence for us ever since and last season came to our rescue as a volunteer for a month after a last minute cancellation.
This season, we're delighted to have Tânia with us as a full time member of the team, assiting Raul and Miguel in the kitchens and making sure everywhere is as tidy and organised as possible.
TCM Therapist and Tai Chi Teacher
Retreat dates: June 19 to July 30
Hello my name is Sean, I am a Traditional Chinese Therapist practicing Tai Chi, Tui Na, Oil massage and Acupuncture.
I began my journey to becoming a therapist over 25 years ago when I joined a fledgling Tai Chi class in Cardigan and became hooked. I travelled to China twice with my Tai Chi Association to study under Chinese Masters and twice with a voluntary organisation working in a hospital and a school in Xian. During these visits my interest, understanding and insight into the health enhancing benefits of Tai Chi increased. I also witnessed Traditional Chinese Medicine being widely practiced and the inextricable link between Tai Chi and TCM.
I began training to become a Tai Chi teacher which besides seven years of dedicated practice and grading required gaining a basic knowledge of Traditional Chinese Medicine. I began teaching in 2000 and have been running classes ever since.
In the early noughties I was becoming more and more disillusioned with my job, working within the bureaucratic constrains of a county council, and decided to follow my interests and retrain in Traditional Chinese massage, Tui Na, and acupuncture. I was fortunate in come across Maria Mercati (Vonetta and Peter's teacher) and her renowned Traditional Chinese Medicine school, Bodyharmonics, based in Cheltenham. After four years of studying at Bodyharmonics I took the plunge and became a full time therapist, establishing my own practice in West Wales in 2008.
I am very much looking forward to working for a few weeks in Portugal this summer, meeting, treating and teaching guests in such a stunning wilderness location as Vale de Moses.
Ines Ester Renger
Ashtanga Yoga Teacher
2016 Ashtanga retreat date: October 23 to 29
Ines grew up in a small town in Germany where she took ballet classes from the age of six years. After finishing high school she started a dance career at the Rotterdamse Dance Akadamie in the Netherlands where she made contact with yoga for the first time. Fascinated by the teacher and the beneficial effect of the yoga practice on her dance training, yoga became very much part of her daily life.
After finishing the dance career in London, Ines practiced intensively Shivananda Yoga for half a year. Later working as a dancer in Mexico City and Berlin, different styles of Yoga became a complimentary aspect to the dance training. Also teaching contemporary dance she included a little yoga practice in her classes.
Due to injuries from dancing in her knees and ankles, she shifted focus more and more on Yoga and discovered Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga as a healing and life changing practice. She began practicing at Ashtanga Yoga Berlin and Ashtanga Yoga Siges in Spain 6 years ago. Annual journeys to Mysore deepen her practice and assisting Vijay Kumer after completing his teacher training. Recently she finished a two month adjustment course with Balu in Goa.
During the summer seasons, Ines teaches Ashtanga in Cadaques, Spain. In her classes she focusses on deep smooth breathing as an initiator of movement to create harmony between strength and flexibility. Maintaining the flow throughout the practice establishes meditation in movement.
You can connect with Ines via her Facebook page.
Vítor grew up in Oleiros in the nearby village of Casal Novo. A man of many trades, he spent several years living and working in the Algarve and abroad before tiring of the stress of an urban lifestyle. He recently returned to his home village to start his life afresh and have a more direct relationship with nature and his roots.
Vitor will be working with us this season as our manager and groundsman, using his experience, skill and knowledge of the local region to make sure your retreat runs smoothly and that you feel comfortable in every space. He will also be helping us plant more fruit trees and help us cultivate more of the land to grow herbs, salads and fresh vegetables.
Ashtanga Yoga Teacher
Retreat date: June 12-18
Margarida’s experience began as a 15 year old in Iyengar and Hatha yoga classes. Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga then became her regular and committed practice.
Her body, mind and soul started to change as a result. Life took on a total positive and holistic perspective. She began attending regular Acroyoga and Partner Yoga workshops and implementing this new knowledge in her work with young people with attachment disorders. These sessions empowered body and mind with energising activity, allowing the body to be free and the mind to connect safely with others, developing team work and trust.
During her travel to India for 6 months in 2015, she completed her Teacher Training in the Indian Himalayas on Rajadhiraja Yoga (from Ashtanga lineage but more focused in meditation), among other anatomy and meditation courses. Returning to India in begining 2016, to practice and further her Teacher Training in Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga in Mysore city, staying assisting her teacher for a month.
Margarida has run Acroyoga classes and workshops in Lisbon, London, Kent (UK) and Dharamshala (India). She focusses on bringing groups together in harmony, building trust and playfulness.
Margarida continues to be motivated in the changes she can feel and see in others and the increased sensivity to sensation experienced through Yoga: the ability to create a self-safe space, more confidence, more positive relationships and self-visualizations, more patience, respect and trust in others, the capacity to see the world as a better place, with amazing people and becoming more sensitive to internal and external emotions around all beings.
Margarida chose to change her life to follow the Yoga journey and to dedicate her life to help others along the way. She will be leading her first Self Practice retreat June 12-18 and other weekend workshops later in the year.
Find out more about Margarida and connect via her FB page.
Ashtanga Yoga Teacher
I started practicing Yoga at an early age and began learning under my brother Vinay, an exceptional Yoga practitioner and teacher. After few years of assisting in Vinay's classes. In 2005 as the result of my enthusiasm, I traveled to China and taught at many places for several years. I practice the Advanced ‘B’ series of ashtanga vinyasa, and have a yoga shala in Mysore India where I continue to learn and also share the same.
Vijay will be teaching a special retreat this summer, July 2 to 8.
Find out more abour Vijay on his Ashtanga Saadhana studio website in Mysore, India.
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a set sequence of physical postures codified and popularized by K. Pattabhi Jois during 20th century. Ashtanga Yoga means eight limbs or branches, in which this set sequence of asanas is only 1 of the 8 parts to improve our lives, to live happy and enlightened. There are 2 types of classes: Led classes where the teacher guides all students at the same time and Mysore style classes where the student practices the set sequence at their own pace, individually.