The Benefits of Yoga
As a new (ish) convert to yoga, I have become one of those people who I’ve always been slightly sceptical of. I’ve got my yoga outfit and my yoga mat (purple, 4mm thick), I’ve learnt the relevant phrasing (vinyasa, savasana and the all-important namaste) and I’m well on my way to becoming a fully-fledged yogi. Ashtanga yoga is my practice of choice, an energetic style that has a continuous sequence of poses aimed at building strength and flexibility and concentrating on a different pose after every five in-out breaths.
My classes are 90 minutes long, and I cannot believe how different I feel afterwards. I am physically and mentally lighter, with better energy levels, fewer worries and more confidence. I feel like I am glowing inside and out. As a person who is naturally inclined towards worrying and often find myself experiencing physical manifestations of my anxiety (headaches, stomachaches, insomnia) after a yoga class, I feel infinitely better. I even find myself having more patience and just more time for everything. On my way to yoga, I am always in a rush. After class, I take my time to walk at a comfortable pace and to notice what is going on in the world around me.
Respect for your Body
Apart from the obvious health benefits, yoga helps you to get in tune with your body and your mind. This would have been a concept I found flaky just a few months ago but now that I have seen the results; I feel very different. You get to know your body and to treat it with respect. In fact, after yoga, I no longer crave sugary snacks and chocolate. Instead, I find myself reaching for a piece of fruit and choosing herbal tea over a big cup of builder’s brew.
As a big part of yoga is being aware of your senses, when Barcelona’s spring arrived, and I started to do classes outside, I discovered a whole new sense of rejuvenation. The atmosphere does make a difference as you start to feel the elements of earth and nature. Yoga is as much about your state of mind and being prepared to let your body accept its benefits as it is about your body doing the physical exercise. This is why breathing is such an important part of the practice.
The Wider World
With this in mind, I believe that yoga can be an integral part of any trip abroad. In a place of relaxation, far from home, it can be easier to open your body and mind to the practice. Here are five of some of the most beautiful and atmospheric yoga retreats to practise in and experience the ultimate in barefootchic luxury.
As the birthplace of yoga, India has to be one of the most spiritual and inspiring places to learn about and develop the practice. Yoga originated in ancient India around the 6th and 5th centuries BC; not just as a physical exercise but as a practise with a meditative and spiritual nature at its core. The state of Rajasthan in the north of the country has many traditions embedded in the ancient Indian way of life while many popular modern-day saints are associated with the practice of yoga. Devi Garh is an all-suite luxury hotel located in a palace deep in the valley of Udaipur. In the land where it all began, this serene, private location and luxurious setting make this the ideal yoga retreat to take part in the practice.
While Hinduism and Buddhism–two of the belief systems most closely associated with yoga–remain minority religions in Indonesia, their influence on the culture is widespread, and the practice of yoga is common. The Oberoi, Bali is a breathtaking five-star hotel with a spiritual feel, making it a perfect yoga retreat. Its exquisite tropical gardens are dotted with ancient Balinese temples and guests can enjoy beachfront yoga classes on the white sand beaches facing the Indian Ocean.
Kotugoda, Sri Lanka
In a secluded yet accessible part of Sri Lanka is the Wallawwa – a hotel built within an old colonial manor house and surrounded by lush manicured gardens. It is among the exotic surroundings of these private gardens that guests can enjoy yoga instruction from Maggie, the hotel’s Filipino-born Spa Manager who also practises meditation.
The enchanting city of Marrakech, often called ‘the Rose City’ due to its abundance of pink buildings, always has a feeling of magic and spirituality in the air. The olde worlde charm and bohemian feel bring a heady excitement to this Arabic city treasure, and it is here that you will find Palais Namaskar. This five-star luxury hotel features expansive, pristine gardens and a calming, majestic atmosphere. The complex is entirely designed around the principles of feng shui– to nourish the body and the mind–and there is plentiful opportunity to enjoy yoga with a number of guided classes.
Often called ‘The Land of Yellow Robes’ due to the prominence of the Buddhist faith, it comes as no surprise that yoga retreats in Thailand are popular. On the stunning island of Phuket, the Anantara Phuket Villas offers a tranquil, five-star location and the ideal place to indulge your yoga ambitions. Passionate and knowledgeable instructors are on hand to offer lessons by the pool, in your villa and around the complex, catering for everyone from complete beginners to fully-fledged yoga bunnies who fancy a bit of instruction.