Imagine a place you can go, to spend some quality time with yourself. And by 'self' i actually mean your metaphysical or spiritual self. Samahita Retreat is an oasis unlike any I have seen or experienced before. Tucked away on the southern part of Koh Samui, in Thailand, it's a sanctuary dedicated to yoga, wellness and a balanced lifestyle.
I'm attending a month-long yoga teacher intensive here, led by the dynamic and inspiring Stephen Thomas. One week in, and I'm beginning to see why so many people, yogis and others alike, consider this place a home away from home.
The schedule can be grueling: getting up at 6am every day, spending several hours in the morning doing breath work (pranayama) and yoga postures (asanas). Besides the physical activity, there's much to think about too, with classes in philosophy and anatomy in the afternoon, followed by more yoga asanas.
I have found the classes in yogic philosophy particularly stimulating. The idea that 'pure consciousness' is all around and within us, that the universe (yes, that includes you) is nothing but vibrations of varying frequencies - these concepts force you to stop and think, and look at the world a little differently. The environment here supports that personal discovery.
Then there's the food. It's more than just delicious. It's tasty on the palate as well as nourishing inside the body. Guided by the principles of a sattvic diet, the chefs at Samahita Retreat prepare some of the most amazing food you can eat without harming your body or mind. Everything is fresh and seasonal, there's lots of fruit, cereals, legumes, vegetables and nuts. Meat is never served, though fish is sometimes available. We eat twice a day, and it's always a pleasure to see what the chefs have conjured up with their imagination, from raw vegetable lasagnas to homemade salad dressings and jams to coconut fig balls to soups and stir fries. It truly is a feast for the eyes and the stomach.
Samahita Retreat also boasts a wellness centre offering a range of therapies, from traditional massages to detox therapies like colon cleansing and coffee enemas. All in all, this place takes a holistic approach to well-being, one that's guided by the teachings of yoga but fits in with our modern world.
This place is about letting go, on so many levels: of bad habits, negative thoughts, repetitive behaviour, the inclination to judge and be judged. It's a misconception that yoga is all about achieving bliss. Rather, it's about balance: a realisation that life is not always bliss and neither should it be. The journey of self-discovery is never easy. But as the days and weeks progress, I can see myself truly relaxing here, away from the stresses of my life, in moments of silence and reflection. And that's very important for each and every one of us, whether you realise it yet or not. And you don't need a tropical retreat on a beautiful island to go to that space, though of course being surrounded by nature, healthy food and good company, helps.
If you're interested in reading about what we're up to day to day on the teacher training course, my friend and fellow yogi, Elisa Malinverni, is blogging on our daily practice and reflections here.
Follow Bhanu Bhatnagar on Twitter: www.twitter.com/bhanu_bhatnagar