An active wellness vacation helped my daughter and me heal after a family rift

Jo Fernandez and her daughter Maya bonded during an Adventure Yogi retreat

Two years ago, our family imploded after a painful breakup between me and my partner. It sounds dramatic, but it felt a bit like experiencing death. A long and painful estrangement followed, along with a sense of mourning.

We muddled through. His absence was always felt, especially during major life events such as our now 19 year old daughter Maya leaving home for college, as well as birthdays, Christmas and so on.

Our shared love of exercise and being outdoors helped Maya and I get through some difficult days. She has been practicing yoga and meditation for years; I prefer weights and walking. We created great memories of ‘healthy’ trips, such as learning to surf at the Wave man-made surf camp in Bristol while visiting Maya’s grandmother in the city. In fact, that particular trip provided such a feel-good experience that we were eager to repeat it.

When I searched online for something closer to Manchester – surfing in Cornwall was out of the question for a semester weekend – I found a combined yoga and walking tour in the Peak District. We met at Chesterfield Station, an hour’s drive from Manchester, cuddling and excited for the weekend ahead.

Adventurous Yogi Retreat, UKAdventurous Yogi Retreat, UK

The retreat is hosted in the sheep-filled, emerald green Hope Valley

The retreat is hosted in a timber-clad, brick converted cattle barn overlooking the sheep-filled, emerald green Hope Valley. The comfortable living space in which we ate and socialized had wide wooden floorboards, underfloor heating and deep sofas overlooking a wooden balcony; beyond that valley view. If you choose not to walk, you can hang out with a book and a cup of tea, or count the sheep in the fields below.

The weekend from Friday to Monday was booked with yoga classes, 90-minute sessions every morning and evening in the attic of a shed next to the house, along with daily walks of between four and five hours. Nicky, the yoga teacher, took us every evening through yin yoga, a slower style of yoga where postures are held for longer. It sounds easier than ‘normal’ yoga, but is in some ways even harder: you hold each pose for about five minutes.

Towards the end of the session, we were invited to crawl under the covers for savasana (also known as the cheerfully named “corpse pose”) guided relaxation before being left to our thoughts – or in some cases, to go to sleep. This was when I was struggling. My mind was flooded with thoughts I wanted to push away or else a list of things I needed to do. Maya loved it though, which made each of my nervous evening sessions worth it as I watched her bliss.

And so we became institutionalized in a healthy way, settling into a routine of yoga, breakfast, walk, yoga, dinner, sleep, breakfast, yoga… you get the idea. Nicky adapted the yoga to ease the pain after the walk, meaning we could all start again the next day.

Adventurous Yogi Retreat, UKAdventurous Yogi Retreat, UK

The retreat is hosted in a wood-clad, stone-built cattle shed

Morning yoga, with flowing vinyasa poses, gave more energy. Then the two of us rushed to the wooden bar to see what was ready for the self-serve breakfast: some days quinoa porridge, other days oats sprinkled with cinnamon, bowls of nuts and peanut butter, and scrambled eggs. Dinner ranged from pumpkin curry with brown rice and lots of greens to refried beans with kimchi, followed by sticky toffee pudding. Packed lunches were less plentiful – a spicy whole wheat pasta salad with capers and olives or a slice of tortilla and undressed salad (a big no from me).

This was where the cute stone villages we descended into from the peaks came in handy (and were also useful for toilets). After a few hours of walking you will get warm and cool down quickly when you stop. Cafes selling cakes and coffee filled the hunger pangs and warmed us up after we ate our packed lunches outside.

The local landscape varies dramatically, with soft, springy moss (sphagnum moss), exposed heathland laced with clear streams and stark rock formations. Rachel and Richard, the knowledgeable, enthusiastic owners of Peak Walking Adventures ( directed us to local sights along the way.

Adventurous Yogi Retreat, UKAdventurous Yogi Retreat, UK

The local landscape varies dramatically

Above Eyam, a famous plague village in Derbyshire, Riley Graves is the burial place of an entire family – except for the mother – who died in 1666 after the Great Plague arrived from London, carried by fleas in a box of cloth delivered to a local tailor . Isolated, they were given food and drink at a designated boundary stone outside the sandstone-house-lined village; Coins to pay for the goods were dropped into specially drilled holes filled with vinegar to sterilize them.

Every afternoon we returned muddy and tired but in good spirits. Aside from having to share a room with me, Maya loved having us together, even though she occasionally said, “Stop helicopter parenting me!” comment when I dared to ask if she wanted a cup of tea brought smiles among our fellow retreaters. In reality, they loved our mother-daughter dynamic, part loving and tangible, part me getting on her nerves (apparently snoring, getting up at night to go to the bathroom, and revealing embarrassing stories).

A few of us formed a mostly middle-aged “girl gang.” Although we socialized with the others, we were as thick as thieves, sharing meals, life stories, and jokes. Maya has aunts and also enjoys spending time with my friends, so she loved being in the middle of this vibrant group of women.

I enjoyed the combination of exercise and being outside for so long, meeting different people as my running pace put me right next to them. I also liked not having to think much: our daily routine was already set up before we arrived.

Adventurous Yogi Retreat, UKAdventurous Yogi Retreat, UK

The retreat location has a comfortable living area where guests can socialize together

The last evening we lit a fire and a few of us chatted later than usual, realizing that our little Peak District bubble was coming to an end. Maya lay on my lap while I played with her hair (a regular routine at home). A few people commented on how nice it was to see that level of closeness.

Despite the hardships of recent years, I know how fortunate we are to have such a strong relationship. When Nicky invited us to set an intention during our very first yoga session, my thoughts wandered and came to the word “peace.” On the last morning she reminded us of this again, and I decided to change it to “joy.”


Jo Fernández was a guest of Adventure Yogi (01273 782734; which runs 150 retreats a year in the UK and abroad; Three nights cost from £595pp for a twin en-suite and £745pp for a single en-suite, including all meals, yoga and walking. Trainline offers fares from St Pancras International to Chesterfield, from £20.80 one way ( or download the app).

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