I was thrilled when I received news about the confirmation of my yoga retreat with Island Yoga from Om and Away. Om and Away is co-owned by a friend of mine, Charlyn and they organise local and destination yoga and wellness retreats (they’ve got some all the way in Australia, Spain and more!) I had previously booked myself a retreat as a birthday gift with Om and Away in August 2017 but that one resort that I visited was more of a wellness retreat in a luxurious villa with personal training at the gym, spa and massages. Island Yoga, on the other hand, is a full fledged yoga retreat hideaway with shalas, spaces for sound baths, and also provides Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) courses on a regular basis. I was so excited about retreat.
Island Yoga is tucked away on a little island called Koh Yao Noi. It is quiet, simple and tranquil over there, and it’s amazing how this small place is packed with so many nice people! :p
I flew in to Phuket from Singapore and took a taxi from the airport to Bang Rong Pier (about 600 baht). From the pier, there are boats departing almost every hour. The pier is pretty small and everything you need would be close to each other so it is not difficult navigating around. There are two different kinds of boat to take you there – speedboat or long boat. Pick the former is you want to get to your destination faster. :p
I am super afraid of boat rides by the way, but this one wasn’t as bad as how I had imagined it in my head. (Another proof of the saying “Worrying means you suffer twice”. Haha!)
Once we arrive at the pier in Koh Yao Noi, there would be buses (they are actually more of little trucks really) and if I am not wrong, these are the only mode of public transport available on the island. It costs 100 baht to get to Island Yoga from the pier, the ride was about 15 minutes and because we truck-pooled, we made quite a few stops before arriving at the destination.
Island Yoga felt welcoming the moment I arrived. It felt homely and everyone I met and spoke to were friendly and helpful. There are different kinds of rooms available based on your preferences and budget. I chose one with my private bathroom and AC. Heh! :p And I am glad I did because the weather can really get quite warm in the afternoons.
There was a short orientation session (felt like school, super cute, I like) held by one of their staff and she brought the newcomers around the premise to show us the common areas, the pool, the yoga shalas etc. The main food area is an open air cafe (which very quickly became my favourite place because the food was SO FANTASTIC) with a cosy reading corner, and noticeboards showing any upcoming activities at the retreat. All guests are free to just jot their names down if they would like to take part. 🙂 They offered tours around neighbouring islands, beachside dances, makan trips, and you can also book private massage or classes if you wish to.
We were also introduced to a few nice restaurants or cafes around the island in case we want to head out in the afternoon during the free time. 🙂
The next day started bright and early at 6.15am by the beach. It was quite an experience for me because it has been SO long since I woke up so early and I had forgotten how the early mornings felt like. I stumbled to the beach all sleepy-eyed and saw this:
It was a new experience for me – having my morning cup of coffee at the break of dawn on the quiet beach with a bunch of other sleepy people. (I just assumed everyone is still waking up heh!) The moment the sky broke into beautiful colours of dawn was magical. ❤
Morning coffee + Taichi sessions became something that I looked forward to every single morning. :’)
The beach front at Island Yoga is quite interesting, the beach is really shallow and at low tide, the sea goes out a couple of hundred of meters. So you can literally walk out INTO the sea (a big distance from the shore) and still be in shallow waters.
But this was the perfect place for waking the body and mind up slowly with Taichi. It was the sound of the wind and waves, and the feeling of feeling the seawater seeping from under my feet as I tried my best to flow with the graceful Taichi stances – it was indescribably moving. There was a fluffy and warm feeling inside me at the end of every morning Taichi session which I cannot quite explain or put into words.
Every sunrise is different, but they are all equally beautiful.
Island Yoga offers two yoga sessions a day for all guests. Additional lessons or sessions can also be booked, based on the availability of the instructors. They offer Reiki sessions and sound baths, just in case you’re interested. You can also visit their website for more information.
The two shalas they have are beautiful in the wooden finishes with huge windows opening up to lush greenery and the sea.
I was actually not supposed to even have my phone in the shala so these are illegal photos haha!
If you are wondering whether you are “eligible” or “qualified” enough to go to any yoga retreat, stop right now. Because yoga is for everyone! Heh. I had that same worry before I set off for this yoga retreat but the moment the first yoga class started, I knew all my worries (again, Worrying means you suffer twice) were redundant. There are two different classes – one for beginners and the other for intermediate/advance). And even in the beginners class, the instructors made sure that there are variations so that everyone can reap the benefits out of every single class.
The shalas are clean, well-ventilated and spacious, well-equipped with mats, blocks, straps, pillows and more. The morning yoga session was usually something a little more dynamic and yang, and they are a great way to kickstart one’s day! I also like how the morning sessions are 2 hours long – it gives the class the opportunity to slowly ease into the practice and also sufficient time to take rest and take in the benefits of the session at the end of the class. I always leave the class feeling fulfilled and, empowered, almost!
Evening sessions, on the other hand, is mostly yin-style, slow-paced and a little more intimate. For every single evening session that I’ve had at Island Yoga, I fell asleep every.single.time. Hahaha! There is so much to learn – the breathing, what it does to my mind, etc – it will do so much good for my insomnia and anxiety problems.
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In the afternoons, I have a few hours of free time and I always spend 1 or 2 at the pool.
The cafe/restaurant is open all through the day and they have a wide variety of food, healthy shakes available. I am in love with the minced chicken Thai style salad (Larb Gai, can you believe it? I’m actually salivating in my mouth as I type this lol) and the shakes they serve! There is nothing better than chilling at the pool with a book or Netflix with a yummy shake in the lazy afternoons.
Or if you’re up for a little bit of exploration, Island Yoga also offers full-day motorbike rental at a really reasonable price of 300 baht. It is really easy getting around the island because there is only one main road that takes you around the island, there are properly paved roads so you don’t need a driver’s licence to ride there (Hehehehe).
That is Aileen riding us around to 7-11 in town.
Fun fact – they only recently had their first 7-11 on the island in 2017 or 2018. The AC in there is super powerful and we liked it so much that we literally did most of our shopping in 7-11. Haha!
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Koh Yao Noi is a beautiful place and it really offers more than just a getaway from the city, or a yoga “workout” trip. As with every place I had visited, it was always how open my mind and heart was that would determine how the trip will turn out. With Koh Yao Noi and Island Yoga, it is just made so much easier because of its people, energy and pleasant surprises all around for you to discover.
Special thanks to Om and Away for whisking me away from my hectic schedule back home for a little bit of utopia.