It’s three weeks before Christmas and, as the January issue of Juiced! magazine goes to print, it’s customarily the moment to tuck into a glass of celebratory bubbles and a mince pie or two. Except this year, there’s an entirely different agenda for the week ahead, and it involves yoga, hiking, a bevvy of juices and blends – plus some much-needed downtime and treatments in the Eden Spa at Juicy Oasis. It’s the perfect opportunity to draw breath and reset and it can’t come soon enough…
Day 1 – Saturday
Excited and nervous, my husband Matt and I set off in the wee hours to catch a flight to Portugal. At the airport, we grab a cappuccino and croissant for breakfast plus a sandwich for lunch en route – there’s a strong awareness these are ‘the last meals’ before a week of juice, and nothing but pure juice. I’ve always juiced but never taken Jason’s 7-Day Challenge before and Matt is a juicing virgin.
After an easy flight, we meet up with our transfer driver and fellow guests Elle and Bernie, both of whom have been to Juicy Oasis before, and John and Caroline (see page 50 for their story) who are celebrating their 28th anniversary at Juicy Oasis. The drive from Lisbon whizzes by and as we near the retreat we wind down the mountainous route into the valley where Juicy Oasis is nestled. As the name suggests it is indeed an ‘oasis’, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. As the doors slide open we are greeted with a calm, chic interior and a warm welcome from the Juicy Oasis team. After a quick tour, we are shown to our room and open the balcony door to reveal the sheer beauty of Juicy Oasis’ location with a bird’s-eye view over the lake and mountains.
After a quick change into some gym gear – de rigueur at Juicy Oasis – we head down to the café and meet our fellow retreaters. As people arrive, one by one, they join the group and conversations spark up – in just a short while we’re bonding over a glass of Carrot ’n’ Pear juice. We’re here for a variety of reasons – to drop a dress size, to trim back a drinking habit, to ponder a career shift, to quit smoking, to celebrate. There are couples, several sibling sets, a mother and son, and plenty of ladies enjoying some well-earned ‘me-time’. We hang out for most of the afternoon and, before we know it, it’s time to congregate in the café for dinner. As it’s the winter season, our 7-Day Challenge includes a warming soup at the end of the day and, after a
delicious bowl of Courgette, Fennel & Minty Fresh soup, we settle down under a blanket in Juicy Oasis’ cinema to catch a health documentary.
Day 2 – Sunday
Although it’s December we wake up to bright sunshine. Sundays are made for slow starts and gradually guests arrive in the café for a kick-off talk about digestive health by Juicy Oasis’ colonic hydrotherapist Mariana, followed by a gym induction. There is excitement as Jason is in the house and giving the welcome talk over our first morning juice at 10.30am. Curiously, despite usually being an early-morning ‘breakfaster’, I’m not at all hungry.
True to form, Jason appears and is a dynamo of energy, sharing his story and inspiring us to get the most out of the week ahead. He urges us to treat Juicy Oasis as a home from home. With a rapt audience, just like the Pied Piper of Hamlin, we follow him to the fitness platform for a rebounding session. To say it’s high adrenaline is an understatement and we bounce – Jason leaping 6ft in the air – to an uplifting soundtrack of boy bands and belt-em-out tracks including House of Pain’s Jump Around, the ultimate rebounding track. Hot and sweaty at the end of the session, Jason challenges us to take the river jump – it’s December and as I hit the cold water I draw a sharp intake of breath, but as I surface I feel euphoric and not in the slightest bit cold. We celebrate each other’s leap and, as Jason says, once you jump in the river, you know you’ve truly arrived at Juicy Oasis.
We head back to the café for lunch, a Fennel, Spinach, Apple & Lime juice and, while some people head towards fitness and volleyball, I have a hot date with Mariana for my first colonic – read more about it on page 44. Following her advice, I take it easy afterwards, chatting with guests in the lounge before an afternoon Turbo Charge Smoothie.
At 5.30pm, it’s time for yoga with Kenny, Juicy Oasis’ resident guru. The yoga studio is zen-like and calming, set out with mats, blocks and throws, lit by lanterns and scented with incense. Easing us in, Kenny’s Irish lilt issues calm instructions as we stretch and unwind. We head to the café for soup and then it’s bed at 8.30pm!
Day 3 – Monday
7am and, uncharacteristically, I leap out of bed to head to morning yoga with Kenny, an energetic wake-up session. After a swift wheatgrass shot, the group sets off for a walk in the mizzle to the village spring. It sounds like a gentle jaunt, but my sedentary job quickly reveals my stunningly poor cardio health. The scenery is uplifting and Juicy Oasis’ guest manager Victoria and fitness instructor Natalie keep us going at a fair pace. They spread out to ensure no-one is left behind. As we head back the sun burns through to reveal a glorious day. By the time we reach Juicy Oasis, and a much needed Pure Muscle Builder, it’s as if we’ve known each other for yonks.
Some people head to 80s spin, but I decide to migrate to Juicy Oasis’ Eden Spa with its incredible Epsom salts detox pool, relaxation pods and solarium. Slipping into the warm water, the jets wash over me for ten minutes before I wrap up in a robe to lounge in the warm sunshine. It’s the most relaxed I’ve felt in years and mentally I am a million miles from my usual plate-spinning mindset.
Juices beckon and, after a restorative Beta Carrot juice, I head to a fitness class with Natalie. Resistance bands at the ready she challenges us to a swift, tough 30-minutes, but who could complain about working out with such an incredible view over the lake?
With legitimate excuse, I flunk out of volleyball and head back to the Eden Spa for a Rainforest Massage with Marlene. A signature treatment, there’s only one word to describe it – heavenly! As I lay on the therapy bed, seven jets of warm water wash
over my body as Marlene massages my limbs with an exfoliating salt scrub, followed by warm organic lavender oil. It is exquisite and a truly luxurious experience that leaves my skin silky smooth.
After a restorative glass of water – something we’re encouraged to drink plenty of between juices to support the detox process – a Minty Green Super Blend goes down a treat before early-evening yoga and then, one of the week’s highlights, Hunky Chunky Soup. Jason had warned us about the three-day detox headache and, as the evening progresses, I start to feel mine roll in, bang on schedule.
Day 4 – Tuesday
I wake up with a toxic headache, a bit like a lingering hangover, but push past it – morning yoga awaits! Kenny challenges us with strong warrior poses and miraculously after an hour the brain fog has lifted. A Juice SOS! boost sets us up for the Forest Loop walk and on the way I chat with Kenny about his own juicy journey from football
hopeful to living in an Indian jungle.
Over The Ultimate Veggie Breakfast, Jason treats us to a juicing workshop – who better to learn from than the master himself?! He whizzes us through his kit explaining the pros of super fast and cold-press juicers and which ingredients to
use in a juice or blend. Of course, this being Jason, there’s tons of fun and humour along the way and he mixes us up a shot of his delicious Tahini Choco Beaney Blend.
Afterwards I head to lunchtime yoga, an energetic session which is perfect ahead of a hot date with Juicy Oasis’ cryotherapy chamber. It’s not a dignified look, but wearing just a bikini, I don ski gloves and furry boots to protect my hands and feet as therapist Nélia turns the dial to plunge the temperature to -145°. Jason is a big fan and uses the cryotherapy chamber often. As I feel the temperature drop, I
want the seconds to whizz by but think of the benefits which include a boost to immunity and circulatory health, plus increased weight loss. Afterwards I can feel a noticeable surge of energy.
A celebratory Minty Sunshine is in order and, after evening yoga, we gather in the café to hear Victoria talk us through plans for the next day. She comments on how quickly we’ve bonded and it’s true that we’re hanging like we’ve known each other for years. Although we all have our own reason for being at Juicy Oasis, the camaraderie of detoxing unifies us.
Day 5 – Wednesday
Rise and shine, it’s yoga time. Mid-week and the daily routine is starting to feel very comfortable. Today we take a riverside walk enjoying some stunning scenery as we hike. Although the incline is less steep, we walk at a strident pace which is energising.
True to course, the detox headache is a distant memory and while there are no scales at Juicy Oasis (Jason forbids them!) I feel lighter in myself, my skin feels smooth and my hair soft. I’ve interviewed many people for Juiced! magazine who have told me that they have experienced these things, but it feels fabulous to experience them myself.
I’m treated to an afternoon facial, where therapist Marlene spends a blissful 50 minutes massaging and refining my skin. It’s a luxurious treatment with gorgeously scented products that leave me gently glowing. Of course the benefits aren’t purely physical and I can feel my mind as well as my body breathing a sigh of relief as she massages the knots from my shoulders, hands and feet. Bliss!
It’s the last full moon of the year and as Kenny leads our evening-yoga practice I look out at the lake and forest lit up by the night sky. It’s almost mystical and a magical moment to be at Juicy Oasis.
Day 6 – Thursday
As if to remind us that it’s December, the morning is chilly and wet. We routinely file into morning yoga and today Kenny has a new challenge to get us moving – the Five Tibetans, a practice which “fires up the belly”. Across the room, a sea of arms and legs flows as we spin, stretch and arch our bodies through each move, 21 times – “you can complete this in just seven minutes if you push yourselves,” he says.
Today’s ‘walk’ is a 10km hike to the historic village of Dornes. For me, it’s a daunting distance and I have to dig in to climb each incline, one step at a time. One of the group is a runner and zips by on his way back, before I even reach the village outskirts. I plod on, slow and steady, and by the time we reach the steps of Juicy Oasis I feel as strong as a marathon runner. The wonderful thing about being here is no-one is judging, there’s no sergeant major bellowing as at most boot camps.
I’m looking forward to an afternoon colonic with Mariana and my whole system feels so much cleaner and leaner after just a few days of detox. She kindly explains to me how to perform a home colonic, complete with wheatgrass or coffee infusion and, while I think it unlikely I’ll go DIY, I am certainly up for continuing with colonics back home. Mariana recommends a treatment every six months – the perfect excuse for a bi-annual trip to Juicy Oasis.
Day 7 – Friday
Our last full day at Juicy Oasis and I feel sad to be leaving behind this incredible place where I have had the privilege to focus on ‘me’ for a whole seven days. It’s something of a cliché but, like many busy working mums, there’s rarely the moment to focus on just you – Juicy Oasis creates the head space and plan to concentrate on your own physical and mental wellbeing, and I shall miss it.
This morning’s Mile High walk feels relatively swift and afterwards I head to the sports dome for a spirited sleigh ride spin session – as we belt along to an increasing incline, we sing the lyrics of Do They Know It’s Christmas?, a fabulous moment that leaves a lasting memory.
Victoria gives the Going Home talk, a practical session packed with tips to help us transition back to everyday life without losing the momentum of the past seven days’ detox. With ideas for meal planning, what to eat and an explanation of how our bodies may react over the next few days, it’s a genius way to handhold us back into civvy street.
At the end, we are presented with a Life After The Retreat book, signed with a personal message by Jason.
Today we get to make our own ‘ice cream’ using the Juice Master Cold Press Juicer, an entirely healthy mix of frozen bananas and berries which tastes heavenly – we’re even allowed a topping of chopped nuts and, after a purely liquid diet, it’s lovely to use my teeth to eat something. Curiously, the frozen treat tastes incredibly sweet, even though it’s purely fruit-based, and I recall Jason saying how quickly our taste buds adjust once we ditch highly processed foods.
Matt and I are on an early flight home next morning so we spend the afternoon saying goodbye to people and thanking the team. I’ve written about juicing for years, but a week at Juicy Oasis offers a different insight into Jason’s brilliant methodology. Although we’re excited to be heading home to family and Christmas, it’s been a life-changing experience and one I’ll never forget – like many other guests, I’ll be back!
True to Jason’s plan, I lost 7lbs during my week at Juicy Oasis, but more importantly I have continued to blend, hit the yoga mat and eat healthily. What a transformation seven days can make!