For those of you who are not familiar with what is involved with a Yoga retreat I am going to try to shed some light on this topic. The idea of limb stretching sessions down at the YMCA couldn’t be further from reality for the dedicated aficionados who are drawn to this taxing and sometimes fairly painful past time. Nay, this is serious business, both for the attendees and the exotic venues that draw them in.
For most of us looking at the options on the many websites promoting such retreats it can appear like a selection between a montage of packaged holidays in idyllic locations, from mountain hideaways in Costa Rica, to sun drenched beaches in Sardinia or tropical islands in Thailand. This is because for most of the attendees willing to shell out the £1500 to £2,000 costs, (not including airfares) its not just about the remedial benefits of Yoga itself, for these benefits are legendary, its about the ‘peak experience’, and the chance to meet, shall we say ‘kindred spirits’.
Its no secret that a good many romances and, brief encounters have been kindled amid the straw mats, ambient music and salubrious locations that are a feature of these rejuvenating, limb-twisting getaways, but more on that later.
The various health benefits of practicing yoga are an improvement in flexibility and body strength. An improvement in general posture and balance. Increased bone health and spinal condition and an improvement in blood flow and the movement of the lymph system, boosting the bodies immunity.
Of interest to the young at heart, yoga also increases body awareness and increases blood flow to the genital area. Men can increase and boost their sexual experience through yoga by engaging their pelvic floor through ‘Mula Bandha’ which is an Indian Sanskrit term meaning ‘root’ and ‘lock’. It is the basis of anchoring body strength in the pelvic region, which also serves to protect the body from the rigours of the yoga workout itself.
But let’s digress, although very fashionable now as a premium getaway activity, Yoga has a long and very serious history. It is one of the six orthodox schools of the Hindu philosophical tradition. Among the best-known types of yoga are Hatha yoga and Rāja yoga which date back to pre-Vedic Indian traditions, around one thousand years ago. The practice was introduced to the west in the late 19th and early 20th century by Indian Yoga gurus, and popularised as a form of physical exercise in the 1970’s and 80’s.
So, back to the retreats themselves. It is wise to prepare yourself in advance by making sure that you are fit and your body is in shape. You don’t want to be the novice moaning in the back of the group, asking for a break to unlock your cramped thigh or subluxated vertebra. This is not going to go down well with your new pals who have forked out to show off their extraordinary flexibility and endurance skills.
So, having thus prepared yourself, and travelled half way around the world to some exotic location to spend a week as a trainee contortionist, it is probably also wise to make sure you give yourself a day or two to get over your jet-lag and be ready to focus 100% on day one.
Most venues will offer Airport transfers and a range of additional treatments and healing consultations. Generally accomodation is based on single rooms with a sensible and spartan appearance. Do not expect in-room jacuzzi and welcome cocktails. The mission is all about improvement of one’s health and well being and calm and peaceful surroundings are the norm. Expect a range of inspired culinary choices however, including vegan and vegetarian delicacies, in keeping with the general health conscious activities of the retreat. Always take care not to over indulge, and avoid dairy products beans and grains, as there is nothing so awkward at a yoga retreat than biliousness and flatulence.
So, to that unexpected encounter that many Yoga Retreat attendees are perhaps inevitably drawn to. Make sure that you project an innate and ambient sense of calmness and poise. It is not advisable to slouch around between sessions, but instead to maintain your body in a graceful and controlled posture at all times. Avoid verbal chatter if at all possible, but rather engage in meaningful eye contact and benign and knowing half smiles. It is not advisable to flirt, but instead to let your body do the talking.