“The uniqueness of yoga is that it harmonizes the body, mind, and soul. The breath is the connection – the link; it shifts the body and the mind through the connection of the breath”-Molly-
Sri Lanka is known for its stunning natural landscapes, ancient traditions, and spiritual heritage that offer the perfect setting to unwind, reconnect with yourself, and dive deep into the practice of yoga. This tropical island nation with its golden beaches, misty mountains and delicious tea has become an increasingly popular destination for global travelers seeking solace and rejuvenation. It has also been chosen as one of the best destinations to travel to in 2024 by many, including Condé Nast Traveler, Travel+Leisure and Forbes.
For those seeking a unique experience to undergo a restorative transformation, here’s a guide on discovering and selecting the best yoga retreat in Sri Lanka.
History of Yoga in Sri Lanka
Yoga has found a flourishing home in the tranquil landscapes of Sri Lanka with more and more tourists visiting the country for a traditional yoga experience. Despite its origins in India, yoga is thriving in Sri Lanka due to its religious and cultural influences, creating a unique blend that attracts enthusiasts seeking not only physical well-being but also a deeper connection to the spiritual and cultural roots of the practice. The island has become a sought-after destination for yoga enthusiasts, due to its various internationally acclaimed yoga retreats. Sri Lanka’s serene and picturesque landscapes provide an ideal backdrop for yoga practice, offering practitioners a tranquil environment conducive to mindfulness and relaxation. Additionally, the country has embraced the global wellness trend, and the rise of internationally recognized yoga retreats has attracted enthusiasts from around the world.
Understanding the Essence of Yoga
Yoga itself means union – the union of the individual soul with the universal soul. It connects us directly to the source of all energy; the source of all consciousness. This is a unique practice that promotes overall well-being and balance by harmonizing the mind, body, and soul. Not only does it help in drawing deeper connections with oneself but also draws harmonious connections with other people and the natural world.
Yoga and Ayurveda stem from the ancient teachings of nature and they’re called sister sciences as they go hand in hand. Both these sciences are about being in harmony with oneself, with nature, and with each other. Ayurveda is more inclined towards the healing of the body. Yoga on the other hand – despite having a strong physical component- is primarily a mental practice. Although it is generally known for its physical postures, these postures represent just one aspect of the entire science. It is also important to remember that there is no such thing as yoga and meditation. Yoga is meditation and this is a common misconception among the general public.
Types of Yoga
Another common misunderstanding in the modern world is that there are various types of physical yoga. Basically, all of the physical yoga practices today are Hatha Yoga, and the term “hatha” is an umbrella term for all physical postures of yoga.
Hatha yoga is the practice of yoga that integrates postures (asana), breathing (pranayama) and meditation, and together they are considered Hatha Yoga. Any other physical style of yoga is a form of it where you’re integrating all of the above. Following are some forms that stem from these roots:
- Ashtanga Yoga: This is a strenuous physical practice that includes a series of poses linked together by the breath. It requires an intense level of physical strength, flexibility, and endurance and helps one push through mental blocks, and emotional baggage to cultivate mental clarity and mindful breathing. The intensity of this practice is designed to help you quickly improve your body and overall wellness.
- Vinyasa Yoga: This is another style of hatha yoga that involves the practice of linking Surya Namaskaras between poses. The word vinyasa refers to the flowing or linking of poses in synchronization with the breath. These poses do not have to be intense like Ashtanga yoga but can be more slow and gentle, easily flowing from one pose to another.
- Iyengar Yoga: This form of Hatha yoga focuses on alignment as well as detailed and precise movements. Developed by B.K.S. Iyengar, it is a disciplined system with carefully planned and timed sequences. Iyengar yoga often uses props to help practitioners perfect the poses in a safe manner.
Why Go To A Yoga Retreat?
Yoga offers a holistic approach to wellness, enhancing physical, mental, and spiritual health. It increases flexibility, improves breathing, and relieves stress and emotional tension, contributing to better quality sleep and overall health. While physically, it helps prevent many diseases, mentally, it fosters a positive mindset. This, in turn, improves interpersonal relationships and promotes harmony, fostering a more positive lifestyle. Going on a yoga retreat offers a great opportunity to experience the multiple benefits of yoga in a nurturing environment.
- Complete Immersion: a yoga retreat provides a chance to fully engage in mind-body practices without any distractions.
- Relaxation and Healing: offers time for the mind and body to unwind and recuperate which is essential for a healthy lifestyle.
- Escape from Daily Stress: a retreat away from the hectic world that bombards us with information left and right, allows for better relaxation and healing.
- Enhanced Wellness Practices: a yoga retreat is a dedicated environment for meditation and mindfulness that fosters inner peace and stress management skills.
- Community Connection: provides opportunities to meet and bond with like-minded individuals which creates a supportive community and lifelong friendships.
- Personal Growth: A space to reconnect with oneself, find inner peace, and explore personal potential beyond just physical yoga practice.
How does the natural setting contribute to the overall experience of yoga?
Yoga originally evolved from nature and it was practiced by nature dwellers. Hence, practicing yoga in a natural setting enhances its original essence. Being outdoors connects you deeply with the roots of yoga, offering a peaceful and meditative atmosphere. This environment naturally facilitates a calmer mind and uplifted spirit, making the practice more therapeutic and conducive to the true spirit of yoga.
What Makes a Yoga Retreat Unique?
Yoga itself is an extremely unique practice. It has the unique ability of being adaptable to anyone in any physical condition regardless of age or physicality, including pregnant women, the very elderly and even individuals in a wheelchair. Here are some reasons why going to a yoga retreat is a unique experience:
- It provides a structured program that includes daily yoga sessions, meditation, healthy meals, and opportunities for personal reflection.
- Yoga retreats are often located in breathtaking settings in order to connect you with the natural world. The lush jungles and majestic mountains around Santani Wellness Kandy and the raw coastal vibes at Sama Kosgoda are great places to easily connect with the environment.
- A yoga retreat takes a personalized approach with one-on-one consultations, personalized guidance, and regular check-ins with your instructor to refine your individual yoga skills.
The Influence of Sri Lankan Culture on Yoga Practices
Sri Lanka’s deep-rooted spiritual traditions and its close connection to India – the birthplace of yoga, add a unique dimension to the yoga experience. The country and its settings are very conducive to yoga. Moreover, the people of Southeast Asia are recognized for their innate ability to seamlessly embrace the fluidity and dynamics of yoga. This is exemplified in traditional Sri Lankan dances, where various yoga poses are seamlessly incorporated, showcasing the profound integration of yoga into the country’s cultural and physical traditions.
Moreover, Ayurveda plays a significant role in the Sri Lankan yoga retreat scene. Many retreats offer Ayurvedic therapies and treatments such as massages, herbal steams, and detoxification processes. Participants may also receive personalized consultations with Ayurvedic practitioners who assess their dosha (body constitution) and provide recommendations for diet, lifestyle, and herbal remedies.
As both Ayurveda and yoga recognize the interconnectedness of the mind and body, this integration enhances the mind-body transformation, offering participants a comprehensive and holistic wellness experience.
The Rise of Yoga Retreats in Sri Lanka
In recent years, Sri Lanka has witnessed significant growth in the number of yoga retreats being offered. This surge can be attributed to the country’s natural beauty, warm hospitality, and growing reputation as a wellness destination.
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced yogi, there is a retreat in Sri Lanka that caters to your needs. From secluded beach resorts to lush jungle hideaways, the variety of retreat locations allows you to choose the setting that resonates with you the most.
Santani Wellness Kandy, located in the central highlands of Sri Lanka, is a tranquil mountain retreat that overlooks the Knuckles Mountain Range. The resort promotes human sustainability with modern and ancient wellness practices. Embracing the essence of personalized wellness, it offers a tailored yoga experience, accommodating practitioners at every level. Not only does it foster physical nourishment but also extends its holistic healing to its culinary philosophy. Guided by the Ayurvedic concept of ‘Rasa Haya’, every meal is customized according to the individual dosha of each person. This is one of the best and wholesome approaches to wellness in Sri Lanka.
If you wish to experience a beach yoga experience, visit Sama Kosgoda, the sister property of Santani Wellness Kandy on the Southern shores of Sri Lanka. This seaside retreat extends Santani’s commitment to wellness with its eco-conscious design, simplististic lifestyle and communal spirit.
Factors to Consider When Selecting a Retreat
With numerous retreats to choose from, selecting the one that aligns with your needs can feel overwhelming. To ensure a fulfilling experience, it’s essential to consider several factors before making a decision.
- Establish your level of proficiency, whether you are a beginner, an intermediate or an advanced yogi and whether the retreat suits your level.
- Recognize the purpose of your visit. If you want to recover from stress and your nervous system needs support, choose a retreat with more meditative practices like sound healing, yoga nidra etc. For a more transformative and rigorous approach, select a retreat with an active and in-depth yoga practice.
- Choose your ideal location. Choose a setting that allows you to easily connect with your inner self, such as a hillside retreat, a coastal retreat, etc
- Feel resonant with the teacher. It’s extremely important to find out if you connect with your yoga instructor because you’ll be spending a lot of time with them during the duration of your visit. Additionally, ensure that your teacher is experienced, educated, well-informed and capable of leading a safe practice. Check whether your instructor has enough experience or is a recent graduate with very little real-life teaching experience.
- Call for clarifications about the program. Don’t hesitate to call and inquire about the program. this will ensure that you make an informed decision and ensure that your retreat experience is both fulfilling and enjoyable.
Preparing for Your Sri Lankan Yoga Retreat
As you embark on your Sri Lankan adventure, it’s important to be prepared both physically and mentally.
- Remove all distractions. The number one way to prepare yourself for a yoga retreat is to remove all worldly distractions before going on a yoga retreat. Finish all your projects and let people know that you are going away so that you can take your mind on vacation and you won’t feel distracted about what’s happening back home.
- Start with an open mind. There are various misconceptions about yoga such as yoga is only for the physically fit, it is all about the asanas, etc. Therefore set aside your expectations and come with an open mind for the best experience.
- Connect with your instructor. Do some research on your teacher and if possible, have a chat with them before the program. It’s important to first find a connection with your instructor before you start the process of harmony and balance.
What to Pack for a Yoga Retreat
When packing for your retreat, prioritize comfort and practicality.
- Light, breathable yoga attire
- A good quality mat
- Comfortable walking shoes
- A couple of face towels and hand towels
- Insect repellent
- Reusable water bottle
Health and Safety Tips for Traveling to Sri Lanka
- Ensure you have the necessary vaccinations and medications
- Stay hydrated by making sure that you drink a lot of water
- Wear sunscreen to protect your skin against UV rays
- Take precautions to prevent mosquito bites
- Be cautious if you’re eating outside your retreat
- Stay alert to changing weather conditions
- Swim only in designated swimming areas in beaches and waterfalls
- Prebook your transportation
- Use a translation app
Exploring Sri Lanka Beyond the Yoga Mat
While attending a yoga retreat is the primary focus of your trip, take advantage of the opportunity to explore Sri Lanka’s cultural and natural wonders. Some retreats already include leisure and outdoor packages like guided nature walks, spa therapies, etc. Make use of the settings around you and immerse in the Sri Lankan cultural experience. Visit ancient temples and monasteries for a historical perspective of the island, embark on a wildlife safari to explore the island’s lush habitat, hike through the Sri Lankan tea plantations, or relax on the coastal beaches. Wherever on the island you are, Sri Lanka offers a diverse and unique experience that will definitely enrich your yoga experience.
Embarking on a yoga retreat in Sri Lanka is an invitation to reconnect with yourself, restore balance, and deepen your yoga practice. The combination of serene surroundings, cultural immersion, and expert guidance creates a transformative experience that will leave you feeling rejuvenated and inspired. Embark on this ultimate yoga retreat adventure in one of the best destinations in the world.