More holidaymakers are opting to unplug from the world and recharge themselves with a stay at a yoga retreat. Overwhelmed by long working hours and life's daily stresses, they are attracted to yoga's recuperative powers and health benefits, even if it’s only for a week. Most retreats offer all-inclusive packages with daily yoga sessions, accommodation, and healthful food.
"A retreat gives them a week off to focus on rebalancing their lives. It can have a lasting effect that they can take back home with them, long after the holiday is over," says Lee Onions, the founder of Retreatments (retreatments.com), an online wellness platform for finding and booking handpicked retreats in Thailand.
With its ancient healing traditions, spiritual roots and spectacular scenery, Southeast Asia is a key destination in the wellness boom. From basic beachfront retreats to luxury resorts, there is a retreat to suit any taste or budget. With the subsequent mushrooming of retreats to meet this demand, the choices can be overwhelming. "Understand what your needs and expectations are before doing your research to find the perfect retreat for you," advises Onions.
So pack your bags, switch off your phone and get ready to get your om on.
THE YOGA BARN, BALI
The Yoga Barn in Bali is a highly popular one-stop centre for yoga goers, ranging from complete beginners to experienced practitioners. Created in 2007, the yoga studio, which also doubles as a community centre, has over 100 classes a week in its open-air studios overlooking tranquil rice fields. Styles run the gamut of the practice,from the more traditional Hatha to the physical Vinyasa or the meditative Yoga Nidra.
"The beauty of a yoga retreat is that it allows a practitioner to dive deeper into the practice. They are wonderful opportunities to reflect inward and ask oneself important self-searching questions," says co-founder Charley Patton.
Besides yoga classes, The Yoga Barn also runs a robust Detox & Fasting programme, with an eight-day monthly retreat and individual juice cleanses of up to three days in length. The centre has an Ayurvedic Rejuvenation Centre called KUS and a Holistic Healing Centre, which offers a variety of treatments such as acupuncture, craniosacral therapy, reiki and naturopathy. Practitioners can stay at the 10-room well-kitted guesthouse while engaging in The Yoga Barn's programmes.
BLUE INDIGO COTTAGE, SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA
The charming Blue Indigo Cottage is a new addition to Siem Reap's growing yoga scene. Situated in a quiet area just five minutes from the busy centre, it is an all-inclusive retreat but has classes that are open to the public.
Yoga goers practise in an open-sided sala set in a pleasant garden, which also serves as the dining area for the centre's restorative vegetarian meals. Accommodation is in one of their seven cottages, simple but tastefully furnished.
The retreat runs daily classes, starting with early morning meditation sessions with Theravada monks, followed by various yoga sessions, including styles such as Hatha and Flow, all the way to late evening. For a unique experience, ask about yoga or meditation sessions at an Angkorian temple.
For advanced practitioners, in-house teacher Krishna Raja from Bangalore runs the teacher training programmes and workshops. His teachings are based on a holistic form of yoga, which is an integrated approach to the traditional practice from India.
YOGA NOW, LANGKAWI, MALAYSIA
This intimate retreat in Langkawi offers practitioners a fully immersive yoga experience. Nestled among paddy fields in a rural village near Pantai Cenang, Yoga Now offers three types of retreats that run from four to 14 days, with a minimum of four hours of yoga a day, and a maximum of eight people.
"We don't teach a specific style of popular brand of yoga. If yoga had a flavour, at Yoga Now it would be plain vanilla," says co-founder Lai Meng Foong. The retreats are based on the basic essentials of traditional yoga, including asanas (postures), pranayama (breathing techniques), kriyas (cleansing techniques), philosophy, meditation, and relaxation.
Besides the physical practice, the focus of the retreat is on the philosophical and theoretical underpinnings of yoga. "By the end of a retreat, participants will have learned a few elements of the yoga practice, including breathing, meditation and postures, that they can take away with them and integrate into their daily lives," says Lai.
ORION HEALING, THAILAND
Set on an idyllic beach in Koh Phangan, Thailand, Orion Healing grew from a small bungalow by the sea to a full-service health retreat. Well-known for its yoga retreats, it is also popular for its comprehensive detox programmes that include juice fasting and holistic healing packages. A big plus – Orion Cafe serves the island's best raw and vegan food.
"Our yoga retreat clients join us because they are either beginners looking to start on a new journey of healing through yoga, wanting to learn what all the hype is about. Or, they are experienced practitioners joining our advanced classes, where they will be assisted in deepening their personal practice, allowing them to go further into the yoga tradition," says manager Derek Dickson.
It hosts many different yoga styles and healing modalities such as reiki, Theta healing, chakra balancing and Taoist body work. The centre currently has two yoga salas, one by the beach, the other snuggled amidst jungle to support the growing demand for yoga retreats and yoga teacher trainings.
THE PAVANA, CHIANG MAI, THAILAND
For the casual enthusiast who likes to mix yoga practise with a touch of luxury, The Pavana in Chiang Mai is situated just 30 minutes from the Old City. This upscale resort is set amid the lush, serene scenery of Mae Ann Valley; its handsome hardwood and thatched roofed yoga sala sits on a hillside with spectacular views of the surroundings.
Retreat goers can take advantage of the full range of activities, including daily morning yoga and meditation sessions, while indulging in five-star comfort. Deluxe rooms are available, as well as villas with up to five rooms. The resort runs especially robust detox and fasting programmes, conducted under the supervision of the in-house doctor. To accommodate for different diets, the restaurant offers regular as well as raw food options, including a delicious raw lasagna.
Main Photo © Derek Dickson