Frazzled? Stressed? Desperate for some ‘me time’? You need something better than a holiday! You need… a Yoga Retreat!
To us Westerners, the word ‘Yoga’ can conjure up many different images: from white-clad hippies, greeting one another with a token ‘namaste’, to the ultra-flexible yogis, diligently forcing their bodies into pretzel-like shapes. In recent years, trends such as Hot Yoga, Rage Yoga, Boxing Yoga and- possibly the best one yet- Beer Yoga have taken our cities by storm and encouraged the publicity and popularity of the practice.
Yoga, however, is something that is much more than a fad or passing craze: it is believed to have begun over 5,000 years ago, making it older than any contemporary religion. With an ancient, deep and complex history, Yoga is the observational study of nature and the human body and mind.
The benefits of this ancient practice are numerous and wide-ranging: from the obvious increase in strength and flexibility to a reduction in stress levels, deeper breathing and relaxation, improved sleep, boosted immune system, decreased depression and improved focus, the list is endless.
With such a long history and so many different schools of thought and practice Yoga can sometimes seem confusing and inaccessible. Don’t worry. Whilst every class is unique and personal to the teacher leading it, the class will always follow one of the various styles of Yoga. To help you choose which style is for you, we’ve listed the main few below, along with a lovely hotel that teaches it:
Simply put, ‘Hatha Yoga’ is the source where all other forms of Yoga originated from. The mothership. In modern terms, Hatha has become to mean a gentler, slower practice. Great for beginners and advanced alike. The beautiful 1711 Ti Sana Detox Retreat in Lombardy, Italy, offers fantastic Hatha Yoga packages. There couldn’t be a better country in which to slow everything down and simply enjoy the pleasure of simply being.
Ashtanga Yoga- which can be traced back to 200BC- is a stronger, faster, more dynamic practice than Hatha and follows a set sequence. Ashtangis believe inner heat and sweat purify and detox the body, so be prepared to work hard. This is the perfect style for the active, gym-lovers amongst us, as strength and stamina are built upon and improved. Pak Made, the resident Yogi at the Anantara Seminyak Resort in Bali is trained in both Hatha and Ashtanga Yoga. His classes range from beginner to intermediate and are open to everyone from 8 years old upwards; perfect if you’ve got some energetic little ones with you!
Vinyasa Flow Yoga can be described as ‘free-style Ashtanga’ and is also more dynamic than Hatha. The movement is one continuous flow and has some links with dance. As there is no set structure, Vinyasa teaches us to be flexible not just in body but also in mind. The teacher creates their own sequence and sets their own pace; therefore, every lesson is very individual. If Vinyasa Flow sounds like it would suit you, then head to the peaceful Shanti Som Resort set in sunny Spain, near Malaga, for a much-needed Yoga fix.
Iyengar is a slower paced practice focused on detail, position and alignment. Its pioneer, Mr B.K.S Iyengar, suffered from a debilitating childhood illness and thus went on to create a type of yoga which was accessible to all. The extensive use of props- such as bricks, blocks and belts- enables even the most inflexible to achieve many positions. The postures are held for longer than in Ashtanga or Vinyasa, increasing strength and flexibility. At Navutu Dreams Resort in Cambodia, teacher Maria Vincent turned to Yoga after suffering chronic back pain- the result of a car crash. Her style focuses on restoration, healing and rejuvenation- complete with a healthy dose of laughter.
Lately, ‘mindfulness’ seems to have become a hot new trend. And there’s good reason for it. One of the foundations of Yoga is mindfulness- which is really another word for awareness and meditation. Keeping your mind healthy and agile is just as important as doing the same for your body. Several recent studies have shown how mindfulness is linked to the increase of grey matter- which is connected to thought processes, self-control and decision making- as well as reduced stress and depression levels.
If you want to take some time out to rejuvenate your mind as well as your body then Epic Sana Hotel, located in the stunning Algarve, offers week-long mindfulness retreats, as well as Yoga and spa treatments. Return feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world.
Whilst not strictly ‘Yoga’, Tai Chi is another form of exercise that connects flowing movement with the breath and relaxation. Tai Chi, short for T‘ai-chi ch‘üan which translates to ‘Ultimate Supreme Boxing’, was initially developed as a martial art in 13th century China. Like Yoga, it is believed to promote health and longevity, mental clarity, stress management, and positive energy flow. Fancy giving it a try? Come to the Banyan Tree Lang Co in exotic Vietnam and truly unwind with one of their de-stress or detox retreat packages, complete with massages and facials as well as daily Yoga, stretching classes or Tai Chi.