The Joyful Experience of a Yoga Retreat at Faasai
11:40am, Thursday 16 November 2017
Several months ago, my husband and I were preparing for a big transition: quitting our jobs to freelance full-time and leaving our home in the U.S. to travel long-term. We‚€d long since decided to begin our journey in Thailand, a country we'd visited five years prior, falling in love with everything from the vibrant markets to the rich culture to the picture-perfect beaches. We couldn't wait to return and start exploring.
But I knew the very first thing I wanted to do in Thailand was attend a yoga retreat, something I'd dreamed of doing for years. As it turns out, the country offers an abundance of retreats, from the popular towns of Chiang Mai and Pai in the north to the stunning beaches of Koh Phangan and Koh Samui in the south. As I perused all the options, one place I didn't think I‚€d end up (a place I'd never even heard of) was Chanthaburi. But that's because I‚€d yet to discover Faasai Resort.
In my searching, I stumbled across
which just so happened to be taking place at Faasai during the exact week I was looking at. After reading about the retreat's activities, its leaders, and the resort, I knew it would be perfect. I signed myself up, and started eagerly counting down the days (which somehow made the craziness of sorting through all my belongings, selling or storing everything that didn‚€t fit in my backpack, and making last-minute trips to Target and CVS a little easier).
When the first day of the retreat finally came and I arrived at Faasai, sipping on a fresh coconut as I climbed out of the van, I knew it had been the right choice. I‚€d looked at plenty of pictures before arriving, but I didn't fully realize just how lush the resort would be. The grounds are huge and spread out, giving each of the 14 rooms lots of space and privacy.
Once I was shown to the room that would be mine for the week, I dropped my bags - and then gaped at all the space and the luxuries. After several days on hard mattresses in budget guesthouses (and with many, many more to come), my room felt truly opulent. The huge bed, tiled bathtub, and spacious patio made it even easier to relax during the retreat.
One of the first things we did that week was take a tour of the whole grounds with the owner, learning about the dozens of species of plants and flowers that keep the resort feeling like a fairytale. The close connection to nature made it perfect for a retreat, and so did all the quiet little nooks around the property where we could sit and read, journal, or just think.
When I told people at home that I was going to a yoga retreat, I got a lot of questions about what, exactly, you do during a yoga retreat - and whether you ″do yoga all day long.″ In the case of Whole & Happy, we had a schedule of activities that was just structured enough. The 7AM poolside yoga was the perfect way to start each day, and we reconvened for an evening yoga or meditation class just before dinner. In between were things like a trip to a local market and a class on making spring rolls, as well as plenty of free time to relax by the pool, go on walks or bike rides, and get to know our fellow retreaters.
That might still sound like a lot of yoga to some, but it was the perfect immersion. I loved the vinyasa classes, and I was also delighted by all the other practices we got to experience throughout the week, from the meditative focus of chanting to the relaxation of yoga nidra to the joy and connection of partner yoga. It was so nice to have the chance to explore all these complementary practices that are often missing from studio schedules back home.
I'd be lying if I didn‚€t say the food was another big highlight of the retreat. Thai dishes prepared with local ingredients, many grown at Faasai's own farm, made up every meal, including traditional specialties like pad thai, green curry, som tam salad, and of course mango sticky rice. Coming from the U.S., where so much of our food is processed and loaded with chemicals, a week of fresh, whole meals was a relief.
Many people dismiss yoga retreats as something for the wealthy and extravagant, or just for trophy wives. But the truth is that retreats are about much more than relaxation, although that chance to disconnect and unwind is itself vital to our health and wellness. Retreats are also about self-exploration and reflection, pushing you to identify your values, question the way you live, and get to know yourself a little bit better.
I ended my week Whole & Happy Retreat
feeling rejuvenated, inspired, and undoubtedly lighter. During that week, it became clearer than ever how important it is to take the time to uncover the truer version of yourself that might have gotten buried by years of stress, ambition, and trying to meet society‚€s expectations. We each only have one life to live, and we all deserve to be our true, and best, self.
Jen Ambrose is a freelance writer and yoga teacher who previously worked in international development. She and her husband are currently traveling through Southeast Asia and blogging about their adventures at Passion and Places