Sonja Lockyer tells us about her Holistic Garden Party

Meditating on a beach, with a dog

It started out as a simple midsummer gathering among friends and acquaintances in a back garden in Mougins. Now in its fourth year, the Holistic Garden Party has flourished into the perfect escape from the treadmill to enjoy nurturing and indulgent treatments in the hands of the Riviera’s most highly regarded complementary practitioners.

This year’s event, to be held over two days on Thursday June 16th and Friday June 17th, 2016, between 9am and 4pm, promises to be the most successful yet. Visitors will have the chance to sample half-hour trial slots of shiatsu, Chinese herbal medicine consultations, shamanic healing, reiki, nutrition advice, reflexology, aromatherapy and Thai massage, facials and acupuncture, as well as hour-long yoga and meditation classes and Speakeasy talks on how to get the most out of your health and lifestyle.

A yoga devotee, teacher Sonja Lockyer, recalls the idea came to her one day during a class. “I was meeting more and more interesting people who were offering alternative and holistic therapies and my yoga clients were constantly asking me for recommendations.

“I realised I had an ability to connect people, so four years ago, I invited them all to meet each other in my garden. I was making smoothies in my kitchen, while friends were selling clothing, jewellery and candles. Around 80 people turned up and it was a lovely day. But by the second year, it was clear that people weren’t coming so much for the shopping opportunities as for the treatments.”

Sonja saw the potential to grow the informal gathering into something more commercial and now rents a beautiful private villa, “Abi’s” in Mougins, as a venue. Last year, over 200 people came from all over the Côte d’Azur and Sonja adds: “I had no idea it would grow this big! It’s a wonderful opportunity to try out therapists that you might be interested in building a relationship with and also to meet people who are of a like mind. It’s a massive icebreaker.”

While many of the treatments take place in the tranquil gardens, some are in private rooms. Yoga classes will run throughout the two days and there will be a peaceful meditation zone. The event will also showcase new ideas including Garuda Movement, as well as more established therapies including the Alexander Technique.

A healthy salad box lunch will be available from Leigh of Fit Nutrition, plus a wide selection of Tea Pigs tea, Be Fresh juices and Scott Bell’s Pure Flow coconut products.

On Thursday evening, Sonja is planning a movie night accompanied by Asian cuisine, where guests can watch One Giant Leap, the inspirational music movie featuring Faithless’s Jamie Catto, who will be available via a live Skype call-in after the screening to answer questions and chat about the project.

Sonja, a former photographer’s agent from Poole, Dorset, was a prime candidate herself for stepping off the merry-go-round of frenetic work assignments paired with a crazy social life. Having strived to create a highly successful career working with London’s premier stylists, fashion photographers and make-up artists on shoots all over the world, she gave it all up 14 years ago to retrain as a yoga instructor.

“I always wanted to be a serene and graceful person but trying to be cool, buying nice stuff and being part of the in-crowd actually turned me into the most stressed out person,” she explains. “The world I was in was very decadent – there wasn’t a lot of nurture or sleep going on!

“I started doing Ashtanga classes at my gym to preserve my sanity and found I really enjoyed them, even though it meant getting up at 5:30am every morning to practise before work. In the end, I walked away from my business, gave away all my belongings and went off to do four years of yoga teacher training.”

She has never looked back and with this year’s event attracting some big name sponsors, Sonja has grand plans for the future of the Holistic Garden Party.

“I would love to develop it into a pop-up event in other parts of the world,” she reveals. “Scandinavia, Australia, the West Coast of America and Canada are all communities that are very open to this kind of thing. The reason it works so well in Mougins is because it appeals to an international community, not just a French one. There’s no reason why it can’t travel and become a global event.

“Health and wellbeing are founded in joy, it’s the most healing state you can be in. These practitioners really take you to a joyful place and I want to share that with as many people as possible.”

Entrance to the Holistic Garden Party is €15 for an early bird ticket (available until the beginning of June) or €20 and includes Speakeasy access, yoga and meditation subject to availability. Treatments last 30 minutes and cost €20 each. Lunch is €15 a head. To find out more, check out www.holisticgardenparty.com

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