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Thailand yoga retreats
Originally posted on 15th June 2014| Original Link
Thailand is already well known for its wide variety of healthy holiday offerings, and now travellers can add a new category of wellness holiday to the list. Thailand is emerging as a popular destination for yoga holidays, with a number of dedicated yoga resorts gaining increasing popularity among travellers who want to practice in beautiful, relaxing surroundings.
“There is a huge community of international yoga travelers who loyally follow the network of yoga teachers who travel the world teaching,” says Jutima Dallaghan, founder of Yoga Thailand Resort in Koh Samui. “Once they spend their holiday at a yoga retreat, they tend to only spend holidays doing yoga-travel.”
“For the international community, Asia has appeared on the yoga radar in a very pronounced way over the last five years,” says Lori Doyle, manager of Agama Yoga School at Ananda Yoga Resort in Koh Phangan. “The Hong Kong Evolution Conference debuted in 2007 and brought world-renowned yoga luminaries to this region. Enthusiasm for yoga in Asia began to broaden and reach the level of the average person.”
While India remains the birthplace and yoga capital of the world, Thailand is in many ways a much more accessible and appealing destination for various reasons. “Thailand is a naturally spiritual country with a rich Buddhist tradition with temples and meditation centers throughout the country,” says Jutima. One of the aims of yoga is to lead you to a form of meditation. Thai people are very open-minded to spiritual development. So naturally yoga and Thailand are a perfect fit.”
Claire Bostock-Huang, executive director of Absolute Sanctuary Resort in Koh Samui agrees. “Many international yoga teachers are attracted to Thailand because of its tropical paradise nature, Buddhist influence and colorful culture,” she says. And where the teachers go, their students will follow, thus making Thailand a magnet for teachers and students alike.
Yoga resort proprietors stress natural surroundings, fresh food and a welcoming host culture — attributes that can be found all over Thailand. There are dozens of yoga studios and yoga classes peppered across Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket, but it is the neighboring southern islands of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan in the Gulf of Thailand that are home base for serious destination yoga resorts. Koh Samui boasts two of the top international yoga resorts and the smaller island of Koh Phangan features a number of small, highly professional international yoga schools hosted at local beach resorts.
Why Koh Samui and Koh Phangan? To start with, the beach location offers a beautiful holiday setting for rest and relaxation. But fresh air and the sea are only one aspect of these locations.
“More importantly, the energy here is good,” says Absolute Sanctuary founder Benjaporn Karoonkornsakul. “The island has a holistic feel and also attracts a lot of healers, which has made it known as the island of healing. It still has the laid-back small tropical island charm but with easy access through an airport with direct flights from Bangkok, Singapore, and Hong Kong.”
Yoga Thailand founders Jutima and Paul Dallaghan traveled all over Thailand in search of the right energy for spiritual development — which meant a tranquil environment close to nature. They loved Chiang Mai but ultimately wanted a beach setting and chose Koh Samui for its diversity of beaches, mountains and waterfalls in close proximity.
The proprietors of Agama Yoga have striven to cultivate the image of Koh Phangan as a yoga destination.
“We continue to applaud the arrival of more and newer yoga schools on Koh Phangan. As they take root beside us, we can now say that a sturdy reputation for yoga excellence is building up on the island. We would be happy if Koh Phangan’s reputation was based on this positive trend rather than just the somewhat notorious Full Moon Party,” says Lori.
Those on a yoga holiday usually come with specific goals such as learning, improving their health and deepening their personal development, and tend to leave feeling more fulfilled.
“A yoga holiday gives people something to learn and something to take home with them — a healthy new daily routine and tools to change their lives positively,” says Lori. “Hundreds of students have said that our yoga courses changed their lives for the better. For those unfamiliar with yoga, it has the possibility to transform us deeply on many levels — physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.”
“Some may start yoga for physical exercise but soon the inner yoga happens,” says Jutima. “This in turn affects your awareness, consciousness, how you treat yourself and others around you. It’s an investment in body and mind.”
All the resorts offer a variety of attractive package options that include yoga instruction, room and board, professional teacher training courses for international teacher certification, or special retreat programs with visiting experts that allow guests the chance for intensive study with internationally renowned yoga or meditation masters.
Yoga instructors at these resorts go much deeper than simply teaching physical poses. They also offer a total education in yoga. In addition to daily yoga classes, guests can choose to participate in courses on yoga philosophy, pranayama breathing, anatomy, and chanting. Guests are free to structure their stay according to their personal preferences. They can choose to enjoy it simply as a relaxing beach holiday with yoga on the side, or go all the way with a full four-week intensive course.
Agama Yoga, which was established as an international yoga school over ten years ago, has courses that include an intensive 150-hour course for beginners over four weeks with six hours each day, six days a week. This involves a comprehensive introduction to the fundamentals of yoga, and builds a 20-pose asana sequence for a healthy home practice. From there, students are invited to go even deeper into yoga, pranayama, and the study of traditional as well as esoteric subjects in a multi-year, college-level curriculum. Courses at Agama Yoga are structured so that students may study flexibly as their schedules permit. Each course level is four weeks in length and is offered anywhere from twice per year to monthly.
Along with yoga instruction, yoga resorts also offer detox cleansing programs, health cuisines, massage, sauna and steam rooms, so the experience becomes a total holistic health experience. Not all guests come purely for the yoga. Some are more focused on the detox cleansing programs. Absolute Sanctuary offers yoga holiday packages, detox holiday packages, and spa holiday packages. All involve yoga, and the most popular is the detox package followed by the yoga package. Guests also benefit from the experience of doing this in the company of like-minded people from different countries.
The average length of stay at most places tends to be one week. Those who can spare the time stay for two weeks or a month.
“It takes a few days for people to get settled,” says Jutima. “By mid-week, the yoga happens, people’s faces change, they become more relaxed and open. It’s a process. The ideal time to stay is two weeks but it depends why they are there. We encourage people to stay longer as it gives them time to process the change.”
Claire Bostock-Huang is confident that Thailand will become increasingly important as a destination for yoga holidays, yoga retreats and teacher training.
“The main goal of creating a yoga resort was to share our lifestyle and philosophy with others,” says Jutima. “If you are looking for a yoga holiday, take time to research on the philosophy, mission, teaching approach and teacher background of the places you are considering.”
“It is our greatest wish that yoga reaches more and more into the daily life of people everywhere, so they will discover its vast potential as for healing the body and mind, improving energy and vitality, and of course, spiritual development,” says Lori. — TATnews