Shine Yoga Retreat • Ubud, Bali
The second half of my recent trip to Bali involved leaving the hustle and bustle of the main streets of Ubud and softening into retreat life as hosted by the wonderful Shine Yoga. Overcome with inspiration for a solo-trip after seeing the retreat advertised online in early January, I found myself with flights booked and getting ready to embark upon the eye-opening journey just a couple of weeks later. Having never been on a yoga retreat, I had no idea what to expect from the nine-day immersion along with a group of people I had never met – but from the tropical backdrop of the photographs and the alluring promise of daily yoga, I knew that I was in for something pretty special.
Arrival + The House
Upon arrival to the retreat house that would soon feel like home for the next nine days, my breath was taken away by the architectural style and beauty that unfolded as you stepped through the tall concertina doors that looked out over the serene garden and tranquil temptation of the pool. With distant glimpses of rice fields and arguably the comfiest sofa to ever have existed, the calm of the countryside was a very welcome break from the busier streets of central Ubud. This being said, as the sun set each evening, the peaceful land around seemed to slowly come to life with the not too distant lightshow and vibrational sounds of thunderstorms and murmurings of local ceremonies that danced on into the early hours and eased you into sleep. The overwhelming sense of life that burst from every crevice of Ubud seemed to be a mutual observation and energy that resonated with everyone I came across, and the retreat house was no exception. With each spare surface topped with freshly picked flora and exotically clad butterflies dancing around the breakfast table, the distinction between outside and inside ceased to be important. Sitting arm to arm around the communal dining table after each morning vinyasa flow amongst women I can now easily call friends, and feasting upon nourishingly colourful breakfasts was no doubt a highlight of each day for all.
Shine Yoga + The Yoga Barn
Ubud is a spiritual hub and ultimate bucket list location for any yogi looking to take a yoga-based vacation or retreat. The Shine Yoga retreat offered a dynamic blend of classes ranging from invigorating and glow-inducing morning vinyasa flows to deeply revitalizing yin sessions. Personally, I can see one of the main advantages of a yoga retreat is to simply allow yourself more time to dedicate to your practice. It is easy to lose our sense of time in the day-to-day running of our lives and find ourselves not being able to attend as many (or any) of the classes or workshops that we would like to, or feeling too rushed to fit in that morning flow we keep intending to do before work. A retreat however, allows you both the time and space away from what can sometimes feel like the daily ‘grind’ to really focus and delve deeper into a practice with the closer support and watchful eye of your yoga teacher(s) guiding you throughout the retreat. Jen (Shine Yoga) was never to be seen without a smile on her face throughout the whole stay, and her belief that ‘yoga classes should feel fun, relaxed and inclusive’ radiated with every posture, adjustment and flow – especially during the afternoon workshop of laughter-inducing headstands and handstands. It has to be mentioned also, that Jen’s gentle offering of a philosophical, spiritual or literary reading to end each session was a special attribute to her teaching which has remained with me since arriving home.
I also feel that it is not possible to mention yoga in Ubud without gesturing a small nod to the Yoga Barn. I have followed them for some time on social media and was eager to see if it lived up to the picturesque hype that pops up on my feed everyday, and I strongly believe that it exceeded any expectations I previously had. With something in the region of 80 classes on offer each week, the studio timetable is dotted with so many different varieties of yoga, it’s hard to know how you are going to fit it all in.
My recommendations would be Estee’s simultaneously uplifting and restoring yin sessions or Carlos’s energizing and unifying acro yoga classes.
On top of the inspiringly beautiful yoga studios that also embody the blend of outside & inside, you can find the Garden Kafe at the top of the steps serving up delicious delights – which you can read all about here.
Thoughts on Why to Retreat
As I previously mentioned, one of the most understandable reasons for why you might go on a retreat is to allow yourself the space and time to dedicate to your yoga practice, without the distractions of day-to-day life. The immersion into a mindful and well being based vacation can, for some, be particularly poignant and life changing and for others, be an appreciated escape from a stressful occupation. Whatever your reason for wanting to attend a retreat, whether it be regularly or as a one off, is probably to ultimately seek sanctuary and be around others who are looking to do the same. The power of unity that emerges during retreat life is captivatingly strong; as you find yourself embarking upon days filled with yoga, travel adventure and reflection amongst a group of people who might at first have been complete strangers - or at least, this was my experience with the wonderful Shine Yoga. In this supporting environment, it is possible to push yourself and deepen your practice, perhaps trying out and learning new poses that in your regular class seems a little bit daunting to try.
By making the decision to retreat, you are permitting yourself the time to detox and gain perspective. As I said before, it can be seriously life changing - and sometimes the biggest life changes don’t have to be giant in size.
Lastly however and above all, you should go on a yoga retreat (which can be anything from 1 day to as many weeks as you want) because you absolutely deserve it. There’s a quality that is extremely empowering about allowing yourself space and time to connect not only with others, but to also reignite the bond between your mind and body with which you can then return to life embracing a cemented sense of kindness and mindfulness.
A Final Note
When we travel, or more importantly when we choose to travel alone, we are putting ourselves out into the world in a vulnerable and exposed state. We are allowing ourselves to open our eyes fully, and it is both terrifying and exhilarating. Travel teaches us an important shift in focus from mindless doing to mindful living. You learn to live with less, but soon feel overwhelmed with riches. You learn that tears and laughter hold as much joy as one another. You are gifted with an abundance of fresh perspective to return home within yourself.
Travel doesn’t only open our eyes to the world, but also to our potential as humans being. Who are we going to meet? What conversations will we have? How do we be ‘we’ without all of the other factors, such as a familiar face, to hold us up? Always remember that a smile is universal. Sometimes it seems that there is an interpretation of the earth rotating through fear and hatred, but these is SO much love.
A conversation, or a simple phrase should I say, that has stuck in my mind from the trip was with a local taxi driver named Ketut who offered nothing but kindness and good conversation. And in line with the chilled out temperament of the Balinese, his wisest words are still ringing true, ‘Hannah, relaxed is always the best way.’
On a further note, if you would like some recommendations for foodie indulgences in Ubud, be sure to check out the Food Edit here.