A new wellbeing retreat at Galley Bay in Antigua offers the most effective form of hot yoga, discovers Katie Wright.

Have you ever sat on the floor, slung one leg over your shoulder like a backpack, then crossed your ankles and tried to hoist yourself into the air so that you're balancing only on your hands?

Until recently I had not, but this precarious position is how I find myself one morning not long after dawn, high on a hilltop overlooking the inky blue seas and white-sand beaches of Antigua's northwest coast.

And do you know what, I'm thrilled, because three days into a week-long yoga holiday this attempt at the Astavakrasana pose represents a serious (albeit wobbly) breakthrough.

I'm taking part in the first ever Fat Buddha Yoga trip, held at the all-inclusive Galley Bay Resort & Spa. The six-day trip features twice daily classes led by Fat Buddha founder Jessica Skye, who says she chose the location because there aren't many yoga retreats in the Caribbean.

"It's not a retreat as such," Skye points out, when we chat over breakfast on the final morning, "but a takeover, where we create a bespoke Caribbean yoga holiday."

No previous experience is necessary - our 15-person group ranges from a complete beginner to a trainee yoga teacher (I'm an intermediate) - and Skye makes it easy to take it at your own pace by offering variations of the more difficult poses.

The first 5pm session is immensely satisfying after being cooped up on an eight-hour flight direct from Gatwick, the cacophony of clicks that emanate from my joints confirming that I desperately need to stretch my tense, tired limbs.

Evening classes - which take place in a raised pavilion on the beach, the island breeze keeping us cool and waves crashing beneath us as the sun begins to set - are designed to prepare us for bed, with slower movements and longer holds.

Morning classes are a more energising affair, starting with vinyasa flow sequences and peppered with poses that get more challenging throughout the week.

This 'dawn' and 'dusk' combination is fantastic if you've got niggling sports injuries or chronic aches - and I've got both.

At work, I suffer from near constant neck and shoulder pain when sitting at my desk, but it disappears here, thanks to the daily strengthening and lengthening of muscles that are usually tight and knotty.

Likewise, a bout of plantar fasciitis (pain in the arch of my foot caused by running) is gone within a few days, after Skye incorporates restorative stretches that focus on the IT band (the band of fascia extending from the pelvis to the knee); she's more than happy to take requests.

As the days go by, the yoga starts to get easier. But rather than coasting, I feel excited to push myself deeper into stretches or attempt a pose like the crow, another hand balance where you rest your knees on your elbows with your feet off the floor (yes, it is as tough as it sounds).

I used to find the seemingly simple chair pose (bend your knees and 'sit', arms aloft, as if you're on a chair) a form of torture, but one day it just clicks for me, and another morning I manage my first ever headstand with encouragement and support (literally) from my classmate, Paris.

Plus, I reap more benefits even after class is over.

Firstly, I feel like I've more than earned my brekkie when I've done an hour of vinyasa before 9am, and don't feel guilty about indulging in decadent dinners because the evening class leaves me ravenous.

We breakfast at Ismay's, one of the resort's three restaurants, the wooden beachfront deck cleared to make way for our yoga mats and a long table set for the whole group.

Orders are taken before class so that by the time we're finished, the surface is laden with sweet pastries, platters of melon and pineapple, mounds of crispy bacon and steamed spinach, with our eggs arriving soon after.

Every morning (even when we take a short but steep hike for our hillside yoga session), one of the resort's friendliest faces, Patrick, arrives with a heap of ice-cold green coconuts and a huge knife to hack a hole in the fruits, so we can slake our thirst with the sweet and refreshing juice.

Everyone reports how well they're sleeping - all that exercise plus jet lag is a soporific combination. As a bit of a cardio-addict, I thought I'd miss my usual runs and spin classes, but the dynamic yoga style means it's more than enough to tire me out.

The sessions also give structure to the day and I don't feel restless on my sun lounger like I sometimes do on beach-based holidays. Also, I feel a whole lot better about stripping down to my bikini after doing so much planking and lunging.

That said, this isn't a strict, no-fun-allowed trip. We certainly let loose on a catamaran day trip hosted by hilarious Captain Lincoln ("Antigua has 365 beaches. One for every... girlfriend") and his motley young crew, quaffing rum punch and turning the stern into a dance floor.

It's true they say there are enough beaches on Antigua to visit a different one every day of the year, and I fully intended to explore at least a couple of them, but with soft white sand, palm trees and azure seas on the doorstep of my beachfront room, I honestly didn't feel the need to venture out.

The evening after the boat trip is the only time a class feels significantly depleted (attendance isn't compulsory, of course), so Skye decides we'll do a very chilled 'yin' style session, holding stretches for up to four minutes at a time.

So, I ask on the last day, how did we do as a group?

"I could see this morning the difference in people's practice since the day they got here, and also their knowledge of the poses and the sequences," Skye says.

"I've watched everyone go from strength to strength. You guys smashed it."

How to get there

Elite Islands Resorts (eliteislandholidays.com) offer a yoga retreat with Fat Buddha Yoga founder Jessica Skye at Galley Bay Resort & Spa in Antigua from June 30 - July 5, 2019. Prices from £3,199 per person based on single occupancy in a Deluxe Room, including flights and return transfers. Five and seven night stays are also available.