Once in a while, it’s good to take a break, and there’s no better way than to go on a retreat.
Not the eat-and-chill kind, but one where you have to work on rejuvenating your body, mind and soul.
If you scout around, weekend yoga retreats are sprouting in popularity, especially in remote locations, which have no or limited Internet connectivity.
Practising yoga sans gadgets in a quiet, natural environment (my preferred location is overlooking or on the beach) allows you to maintain an inner stillness and calm mind that can linger for several days after the completion of the retreat.
Unlike traditional retreats where you have to rise and shine at 4am, chant, meditate, practise asanas (postures), perhaps observe silence (no talking with anyone) and eat only vegan food, retreats these days are more practical.
They are all structured differently and much more laidback than you would think, while still enhancing your health and happiness in a short time.
The average yoga retreat offers two or three yoga sessions daily, giving you plenty of downtime to relax and explore the surroundings.
There’s no compulsion to stick to detox diets or attend classes if you don’t feel like it, although this would defeat the purpose of going on a retreat.
Last month (Oct 2019), I found myself participating in the Sucimurni Retreat, hosted annually by Tanjung Jara Resort in Terengganu.
Led by Upward Yoga studio founder Ninie Ahmad, the 3D2N sold-out event was intended for all levels of practitioners, including beginners.
Almost 90 like-minded people from all age groups, flocked to the award-winning luxury resort, to join Ninie’s programme, now in its third year running.
Even non-practitioners took advantage of the reasonable prices to begin their spiritual journey. Some even brought their families along (grandparents in wheelchairs included) for a short get-together!
And to our delight, the weather was beautiful despite it being the beginning of the monsoon season. Apparently, the rains often came pelting down in previous years, resulting in the sessions having to be moved indoors.
It must be the positive energy generated by the biggest yoga group at the resort thus far, so we thanked our blessings and maximised our time in the sun.
There was almost full attendance on the first day, and the petite, power-packed Ninie was more than thrilled to see the excitement in our faces.
Asana modifications and options were given to cater for all levels, but some found it too difficult and dropped out in subsequent days, preferring to enjoy the tranquil surroundings or explore the town of Dungun a few minutes’ drive from the resort.
Yogis often say saluting the morning sun recharges the body and is a way of thanking the great ball of fire for all it does for the planet.
Just as a bright, sunny day dispels darkness and gloom, performing Sun Salutations – a sequence of 12 linked asanas – balances emotions, removes negativity, and infuses positivity, calmness and hope.
In fact, the sequence is known to effectively heal distorted mental or emotional energies, and is a great destressor.
Even a few rounds of Sun Salutations done consciously with breath awareness will leave you feeling lighter in your heart and peaceful in your mind.
Not a morning person and sleep-starved, I gave the sunrise sessions a skip. I charged myself in bed instead! There were many like me because we all congregated for late breakfast and shared tales.
The sunset session was my favourite – imagine doing yoga on the sand while the wind is blowing on your face.
This gives an added challenge to the balancing poses, making you work harder. We tumbled, we fell and we had sand all over our bodies, but all with a smile on our lips the whole time.
There’s something about falling over a balancing pose – somehow, I have never seen an unhappy face after a fall. Not unless the practitioner suffers a painful injury.
A first-timer in Ninie’s class, I enjoyed her sense of humour and unique approach to giving modifications, although I’d have to say the programme wasn’t suited for beginners.
A session just on breathing techniques (pranayama) would have been beneficial for many, as these are simple tools to learn how to cope with overwhelming situations.
An additional activity this year was a beeswax wrap workshop by The Hive founder Claire Sancelot, who was the first to operate a zero waste store in Kuala Lumpur.
We learnt how to make a natural alternative to plastic wrap to combat the damaging environmental impact that single-use plastics have on our planet.
These wraps, which require a piece of cloth, baking paper, beeswax, coconut oil and an iron to make, can be used to cover food or as a snack storage.
By the final day, we had made new friends, woken up unused muscles and learnt a new or modified yoga pose, but more importantly, we returned to the urban jungle with more peace in our hearts.
I’m waiting for my next retreat.
Revathi Murugappan is a certified fitness trainer who tries to battle gravity and continues to dance to express herself artistically and nourish her soul. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org. The information contained in this column is for general educational purposes only. Neither The Star nor the author gives any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to such information. The Star and the author disclaim all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.
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