Take a Deep Breath on a Yoga Retreat

By Sarah M Lowe

Three or four times a year, instructors from Y+ take a small group of yoga students to naked retreats in Moganshan for three days of asana practice, vegetarian food and meditation study. The students are encouraged to unwind, detach and tune in to the sensation of their breath and their movements. It is an invitation for both new students and long time yogis to transform their physical practice and re-examine the spiritual elements against the spacious backdrop of blue skies.

Yoga is physical asana – or postures – centred on breath control. There are hundreds of varieties of yoga postures, but all emphasize dedication to breathing and an effort to move into a quiet, meditative mindset. Yoga retreats are designed for students to both deepen their physical practice and encourage an exploration of yoga philosophy and meditation. While retreats attract many serious students, they also offer a unique space for beginners to cultivate a more meaningful practice. For other students, it doubles as a mini-vacation from the stresses of daily life.

For Yawen Hsu, the Y+ retreat was an inspiring weekend away from the grind of the city. A relative beginner, she felt the retreat could invigorate her practice, a sentiment that came true. After returning home, Hsu noted, “I finally had the feeling I was doing the practice correctly, which was inspiring.“

So inspiring, in fact, that Hsu is ready to repeat the experience, already signing up for another retreat next year – this time to India.

A long weekend away from Shanghai can be just the respite needed, but practicing yogis like Hsu often see the benefits of extending their retreats and experiencing new perspectives on habits, desires and behaviours. Maryanne von Essen, a student of yoga for seven years, went on her first retreat last year to Koh Samui, Thailand. Her husband was travelling on business and suggested she come along to stay at a spa, but she was interested in a more substantial offering.

“I wanted something spiritual, and I wanted a space to be quiet,” von Essen says. Retreats are as varied as the styles of yoga practiced, but a common template focuses on detoxification and cleansing, meditation and asana practice. Yoga Thailand gives guests the choice of residential stay or intensive study. She chose the former, giving herself more time for meditation and self-study, something she looks forward to on her second retreat this year.

If you’re not ready to pack for an ashram visit in the Indus Valley, fear not; China has a handful of domestic yoga destinations. In addition to the Y+ Moganshan retreat, Beijing’s Mountain Yoga has a capital destination in the Fragrant Hills, as well as meditation and yoga theory training this month in Lijiang in the foothills of Snow Mountain.

Mountain Yoga. Tel: 139 0102 1322. Web: www.mountain-yoga.org

naked retreats. Tel: 6431 8901. Web: www.nakedretreats.cn

Y+ Yoga Center. FXL Studio: 299-2 Fuxing Xi Lu, near Huashan Lu. Tel: 6433 4330. XTD Studio: 2F, 2 Corporate Avenue, 202 Hubin Lu. Tel: 63406161. Web: www.yplus.com.cn

Yoga Thailand. Web: www.yoga-thailand.com

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