I HAD consumed possibly my sixth mince pie of January when, seeing the remainder of the Scottish winter stretch before me, I decided to fulfil a long held unfulfilled resolution to go on a yoga retreat. "India?" my partner suggested. Too far and too much choice, I said. I wanted somewhere closer, where I could feel safe in the knowledge that if downward dog became too taxing, I was only a short flight from home turf. I didn’t have a month spare to find my inner peace, just a week. I wanted sun, sea, sand and somewhere warm.

Three months later here I was, stepping off the plane in Faro, Portugal, freshly delivered from a drizzly Glasgow spring into the blue skies of the Algarve’s capital, my carry-on suitcase bulging with Lycra leggings.

I had booked myself on a four night/five day yoga retreat with Orange Tree Yoga at Monte Na Luz, a yoga centre high up in the hills by Loulé, a small market town just a 30-minute drive from Faro. The retreat is run by Loulé-based, British yoga teacher Rachel Lovegrove who hosts yoga retreats in Portugal and Italy, providing holistic holidays for the time-deprived, sun seeking, re-birth needing yogis from all over Europe. Her speciality is Iyengar Yoga, developed by BKS Iyengar, which focuses on precision, alignment and strength.

The mini-retreat promised to deliver on the sun and warmth and be within a drive of the sea and sand. I was also attracted by the mini in mini-retreat: I wanted to be revived by the discipline and calm of a yoga-focused break, without being overwhelmed by too much yoga, too soon. I was sold – and I managed to sell the idea to my 64-year-old mother, proof if anything that yoga holidays appeal to all ages and abilities.

So here we are, mother and daughter aged 64 and 31 embarking on our first yoga retreat together. Transfers from Faro and the surrounding area are organised by Rachel and the taxi to Loulé takes around 30 minutes. The drive provides a chance to meet two of our fellow retreaters. One, a lawyer – and, reassuringly a return customer – tells me of being lured time and again by the almost immediate sense of relaxation that Monte na Luz gives her. Any apprehensions we might have subside further as we turn off the main road and up a steep valley towards Monte Na Luz – "the Hill of Light".

Monte Na Luz’s stone-built cottages hug the hillside and are surrounded by glorious wild flowers, trees and plants. Stepping out of the taxi, the views stretch far and wide, and I experience my first moment of calm and sense of happy anticipation for the days of relaxation ahead.

Rachel, ageless, lean and glowing – exactly what one might expect of a yoga teacher – welcomes us and gives us a quick tour. Our room, a simple, spotlessly clean twin with jolly primary colours, is one of several dotted across the landscape.

At the centre of the grounds is a large communal building where, in between twice-daily classes, you can go for endless refills of herbal tea and fresh fruit and install yourself on the couch with one of the many yoga books on hand. Further up, past the dinky ice-cold swimming pool, lies the glassy, octagonal yoga studio beaming out its Zen-rays to the surrounding landscape. Oh, and it has a heated floor. No need for new-fangled yoga socks.

Our first class of the retreat begins at 5.30pm – Rachel’s evening class is the softest, gentlest one of the day – intended to be restorative rather than exerting. I quickly learn that there’s a peacefulness in sitting quietly and focusing on movement. I’m not thinking, like I do at home, of whether I need to go to the supermarket, or do another mundane task. My world for these two hours is my mat, the fading light outside the windows and the gentle voice of instruction.

Rachel guides us through a series of postures – sprinkling her sessions with tips and insight gleaned from her long teaching career. I learn how to properly spread my toes out and stand straight, how to breathe deeply and how to move more fluidly from pose to pose. I become more familiar with how my body feels. Her teaching style is clear and demonstrative – she carefully corrects me and others so that I never feel that I run the risk of doing something beyond my capability. Even my mum is enthused as Rachel encourages her to move in a way she says she hasn’t done since she was a child. By the end of the first session we are lying in shavasana, or corpse pose, on pleasantly supportive bolsters, warm and almost sleepy.

Back in the dining room a delicious three-course vegetarian feast is served for our group dinner. There’s a chance to chat and we discover that we’re sharing the experience with management consultants, retirees, doctors and scientists. Most are solo travellers and are happy to have found an experience that offers both company and solitude. Everyone is bed-wards by a very sensible 9pm.

The next day our yoga schedule begins proper with class beginning at 8.30 am. The first session of the day is the most strenuous – designed to awaken the senses and the body. It works – bleary-eyed and blinking, we work through our postures, gradually building towards shoulder stands and headstands over the course of the five days. I enjoy the endorphin-enhancing feeling of beginning the day with exercise. We find muscle groups we didn’t know that we had and flexibility that didn’t seem to exist before.

After class, hungry, we are served a brunch of fresh fruit, yoghurts, cereals and breads and jams – enough to last us until dinner in the evening. Without realising it, we are embarking on a detox of sorts, eating fibre-rich, plant-based food for the whole time that we are here. There’s not a mircrowave in sight.

Our days follow a simple, unhurried pattern – yoga in the morning, brunch, free time, yoga in the early evening and then dinner. There is a kindly rhythm to our days that makes life in drizzly Glasgow seem far away. There’s comfort in this routine.

Afternoons are our own, so depending on energy levels you can either relax or go on one of the walks organised by Rachel. Some of us break off to explore the Ria Formosa national park and the local hills and my mum and I spend a lovely couple of hours walking to local standing stones, or Atlantic Stones as they are better known, admiring the views across the valley.

On our second afternoon we venture into Loulé itself, about a 20-minute walk over some very steep hills. It’s a fairly quiet, pleasant little town, with plenty of cafés and bars if you crave some gastronomic variety from vegetarianism. We walk to its outskirts to visit the Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Piedade, an extraordinary dome-shaped 1960s church, which sits high above the town like a recently landed space ship. It’s an unusual site in a landscape of fincas and green fields.

Another afternoon we manage a brief but rewarding visit to Faro’s old town. We visit its magnificently ornamented 16th-century cathedral, surrounded by scented orange blossom, and visit the informative municipal museum which gives some historical context to Faro and the surrounding area.

There’s just time for one more class and brunch on our last day. Our legs are starting to remember the postures, and my mum and I both agree we look healthier, more rested and more supple. Deposited back in Faro, there’s just time for a custard tart and a glass of Vinho Verde before we fly home.

For my mum, this is just the beginning of her yoga journey and for me it’s been the fulfilment of a long-held ambition. I feel calmer, fitter and, by day five, well and truly relaxed. Am I a convert? Yes.