Meet Zarqa and Patricia, our yoga and wellness hosts in Sintra, Portugal
Patricia and Zarqa’s yoga retreat happened quite by serendipity. Despite already being fully committed to a life full of health and wellness, it was a chance encounter that led them to the coastal retreat they now call home.
Just a stone’s throw from the stunning local beach and Portugal’s famous waves, their yoga and meditation retreat (not forgetting surf!) allows them to share their passion to better themselves, the people around them, along with the world they live in.
So what did you do before becoming instructors and hosts?
I spent 6 years in a school of meditation, living a monastic lifestyle and learning how to put spirituality into a living practice. I returned to Portugal 3 years ago.
Before embarking on this journey of self development, I worked in the film and advertising industry for some years before I was introduced to the idea of self-development and spirituality, which gave a lot more meaning to my life.
It was clear to me then that there was much more to life than what I had known. I left the rat race behind and moved down to the Algarve, lived in a yoga centre, and started working on landscaping. It was in this centre that I did my Ayurvedic Massage Training, which helped me realise that consciousness starts with the body and the importance of looking after our body, ultimately creating balance in all aspects of our life.
Before creating this programme with Zarqa, I had been giving Pilates, yoga, personal training and fitness classes for over 25 years, as well as Zen shiatsu treatments for 15 years, throughout Lisbon. I loved leading groups of teachers and managing fitness programmes.
Over the last 15 years, I started to surf myself in the famous surf town of Ericeira and left the big city life to create a more healthy lifestyle around nature. There I began working more with people from the surf community and was eventually invited to teach for the famous surf brand Quiksilver.
And what brought you to where you are now?
I think in the beginning there was a sense of unhappiness – not really finding much meaning in what I was doing, and knowing that there was a pattern of repeatedly making choices that made my life difficult.
Meeting a spiritual master that reflected the potential of human beings gave me endless inspiration and confidence to discover things within myself. I decided to commit to a path of discovery, and with those choices a new world of possibility opened before my eyes. I now believe that we are here to evolve consciously, and work to do so.
The will to be happy, do what I am passionate about, and share it with others.
When I was a teenager I never thought about being a teacher but at the age of 19 life brought me to follow my destiny and I was invited to teach in one of the most famous health clubs in Lisbon. I began as a client, but I loved the classes and ended up there daily. At the time I was recovering from a motorcycle accident so this led me to try restorative and strength/stretch classes, then one day a Brazilian teacher asked me replace him. I was scared, but people loved it and the owner invited me to start giving classes.
Trust me, I know what it is to be new at something, and start from the beginning! But if you truly love something, the rest will take care of itself. Believe in serendipity, it actually happens!
How long have you been running the yoga centre?
We moved here in June, 2017.
What qualifications do you have?
Between us we have…
– Ayurvedic Massage Training
– Fitness Instructor Certification from CEF (2 year course)
– Zen Shiatsu Internacional School (3 years course)
– Pilates instructor certification from Pilates Institute
– 200h Yoga Teacher Training from Swastha Yoga International
How did you come across this excellent location?
Before Patricia and I came to Sintra, we were in Ericeira and started a project there with the owner of a venue, and we worked with him as health experts to create a programme for his space. After 1 month, it was clear that we needed to have our own space to fully take care of guests. My daughters live close to Sintra so I knew this was a good area to have a retreat centre.
One day, as our contract with the venue was coming to an end, we decided to come to this area and find the perfect retreat house (we already had bookings, but not a house!). I randomly remembered a friend who is an architect in the area, as I phoned him for some advice, I saw his car parked at a house.
We went in, called his name, and Patricia found a girl that was the daughter of the owner of this house. We explained our situation and what we were looking for (people are very friendly here!), and 1 day later we had a phone call saying that the architect had the perfect house for us! The second we walked in the house, we knew it was the one for us. The proximity to the ocean is also a very positive point for us, and you! The closest beach is breathtaking. You will love it.
Tell us a bit about the location & local life.
As I was saying, we are just 900 metres from the cliffs and ocean. We are near Fontanelas, situated just next to the seaside town of Azenhas do Mar – the coastal hikes are stunning and the closest beach is quieter than most in the region. If you’re looking for tranquillity – this will be paradise for you. If you want more action, popular surf spots along with other water sports are never far away.
The local town is tranquil and 4km from us we have Praia das Maçãs, the main coastal town that is more lively with restaurants and an amazing organic pizzeria. Fortunately, there is an alternative movement in the area and we have a couple of organic cooperatives where we can find natural products.
How did you integrate with the locals?
We are good neighbours, spreading positive vibes, so it was easy to integrate :-)
Overall, Patricia and I love meeting people and think the locals and this area gives us and our guests a great advantage – we are in a kind, warm community, and this is part of an amazing experience.
What makes your holiday a unique experience?
We are privileged to be within Sintra´s National Park, the proximity to this beautiful landscape and the stunning coastline next door is a unique experience in itself.
Our programme also allows for a deeper immersion into yoga and meditation practice for those looking for more tranquillity and peace and we still have the possibility to help you have a more active holiday with the many activities available like surf, hikes, cycling, etc.
Food is always a highlight to the experience as well, with influences from around the world; offering vegetarian and mostly organic meals which are prepared specifically to nourish, energise and detox the body, mind and soul.
Both Patricia and I created this healthy lifestyle some years ago, this is the way we live and it is our passion to share with others.