When I decided to join the Rainforest Yoga Retreat at The Andaman in Langkawi, I didn't quite know what to expect. This four-day-three-nights yoga retreat was presented in collaboration with The Andaman and Jessica Sinclair from Yoga Mandala Studio in Singapore. Armed with a basic understanding of yoga, I was ready to explore, learn, and above all — relax.
The setting of the retreat made it easy for me to unwind. The Andaman is located in an idyllic tropical setting on the pristine Datai Bay. Here, you'll find a 10-million-year-old tropical rainforest that's home to rare wildlife and exotic flora. Unlike some other beachfront resorts, The Andaman places a huge importance on coral rejuvenation and rainforest preservation, and actively facilitates various projects on sustainability with students, volunteers, and government agencies. If you're thinking of exploring an environmentally ethical dimension to your retreat, you'll feel right at home here.
Tall trees, the sounds of cicadas, and the cadence of the waves crashing on the beach. This was the stage against which our outdoor yoga podium was set. This couldn't have been a more magical place to practise and be one with nature among a small group of 18 other participants. The itinerary for the retreat included two sunrise and sunset yoga sessions led by Jessica herself. We worked our way through various types of asanas, including a final sequence intended to aid with the detox process. This series of asanas required us to activate our stomach and intestines to facilitate bowel movements — which certainly brought great relief to some in our group.
Jessica was the perfect instructor for this retreat as the participants were a mixture of yoga virgins and yoga pros. For newbies such as myself, she was encouraging and nurturing, so I didn't feel overwhelmed or embarrassed by my own inflexibility. She told us to persevere, even if it meant that we held onto a pose for a mere few seconds. I didn't think I could execute the crow's pose, but I did — for a grand total of two seconds. The power of the mind is truly a beautiful thing and I could see that within my yoga practice. Jessica's discovery with yoga began in 2013 while vacationing at The Andaman and since then, in these three short years, she has managed to start and run a successful yoga studio in Singapore. Discovery is beautiful, but discovery met with intention can be so powerful.
Other activities in the itinerary also included afternoon breathing (pranayama) and meditation sessions taught by The Andaman's in-house yoga instructor Ekraj Gajurel. Yoga is just as much about breath and mind as it is about poses, so gaining a deeper understanding through these complementary sessions allowed me to tap into my own consciousness.
I was also invited to a reiki session with Jessica to experience an intimate form of energy healing. I laid down on a bed as I would for a facial and Jessica placed an eye mask to cover my eyes. The session saw her identifying any imbalances in my chakras before putting me through a very calming and relaxing 60 minutes. I was pretty much lying savasana throughout the entire session.
The retreat also included a chakra balancing massage at the V Botanical Spa, which saw my therapist kneading me with a gentle touch. The pure essential oils used during my session acted as an elixir designed to resonate with different chakras and unfold their healing properties.
It is really incredible how the environment played a huge part in my experience. There was a special energy at The Andaman and I felt appreciative of its nature. This retreat wasn't just about executing yoga poses or attempting handstands. My chakras, mind, body, and soul, all found relation to one another. Without sounding too much like a hippie, I learnt a lot about myself without having to seek a teacher. I was able to fine-tune my focus, reflect on my own personal thoughts in my quiet time, and dig deeper into my own feelings.
By the time I left, my mind was clear and I was sold on yoga. I know I drank the Kool-Aid, but it was worth it. I felt rejuvenated and excited about life. I could see mental blocks in my life — but they were no longer obstacles.
I would definitely encourage everyone to go on a retreat even if it is to get away from life, work, or even your cat (just kidding, cat people don't want to get away from cats). You owe it to yourself. Namaste.