Among the body beautiful at Ashiyana yoga retreat, Goa
‘Yoga was presented as a wonderful body-workout or relaxation tool, rather than as philosophy or a spiritual practice’
Rosie Walford checks in to Ashiyana yoga retreat at Mandrem beach in Goa
‘I arrived at Ashiyana unwell and exhausted. People were downfaced in a big teak yoga shala, otherwise the place was deathly quiet. When class was over, brunch was served and suddenly I was surrounded by chatty, ravenous, diverse and international yogis mainly from Europe and America wolfing fruit salads, muesli and eggs on homebaked bread. When brunch was over, everyone melted off to their rooms or onto the beach. I quickly realised that this is a comfortable place to either fall into conversation with other holidaymakers, or to be alone.
Certainly my Raj Suite room invited me to loll indoors: decked out with spacious stucco in a vivid blue, with extremely comfortable bed, daybed and desk and huge windows, with a curvy bathroom that was airy and pleasing, despite its weak shower. Spacious and uplifting, the suite had balconies overlooking coconut treetops and waterways, in quiet and privacy – a fine recovery place from the hectic rigours of India, or working life. (By contrast, the most affordable beach huts were cramped and extremely basic without adequate space for luggage – a bit like staying in a basket, and some even with shared bathrooms – if you’re on a budget, go for the ecolodges for their timber feel, cool furnishing, open-air private bathrooms, and daybeds on the balconies).
Yoga, usually hatha or vinyasa flow, was strong and long – two, two-hour sessions per day got me back into my practice and feeling a whole lot better. I loved that the two house dogs rolled and stretched amongst our yoga mats, and incense always curled in sunlight behind the teacher. The solid wood yoga shalas look into the trees and are beautiful, though classes are large – 50 at once in the main shala.
There’s a predominance of slender body-beautiful types who spent hours tanning on the beach here, and the teaching is very much like you’d get in a somewhat glamourous yoga centre in Europe or America.Everyone had impressive yoga wardrobes, quite a few people were body conscious (one teacher wore lots of make-up) and yoga was presented accessibly, I thought, as a wonderful body-workout or relaxation tool rather than as philosophy or a spiritual practice.
The house speciality is elemental yoga therapy. This means you get consultation on arrival, and then are taught a tailored, very helpful series of poses which are just right for your body’s particular constitution and needs. There are also treatments, which take place in really nice purpose built mudbrick rooms (they don’t have showers for de-oiling, mind you). I had an ultra strong Ayurvedic massage from a skilful man and went deep into tender blockages. It felt remedial, though in India men don’t traditionally massage women. My Thai Yoga massage was unusually gentle…so there’s a big range to be had.
The eating area is spectacularly rustic and inviting, gazing out over a field. Meals are western, long on veg/fish/fruit/yoghurt, fresh and eat-all-you-like – big salads are a rarity in India, and here they were plentiful and tasty. You’re served twice a day, after yoga, with no on-call food, which disappointed some people who were expecting more service. The self service buffet does give the catering a slightly school meal feel, and though it’s nourishing and clean, the dishes weren’t wildly imaginative or finessed. Nothing feels Indian enough either – the tea urn, for example, said ‘masala chai’, but was watery and made with chai teabags – it could so easily have been bursting with fresh ginger and spice, as local brews are.
In the nearby village you can arrange trips to the Goa Nightmarket (crowded, mountains of cheap tourist shopping, rave music), boat trips and motorbike hire. From here it’s also a 40 minute walk along the beach to Arambol, where you can witness the typical noisy, polluted, beer-swilling Goa holiday scene and appreciate the quiet of Mandrem even more.
Indeed, Mandrem’s vast unspoiled beach and relatively dozy village just across the footbridge from Ashiyana was a blessing; it would be all to easy to lose touch with India here and experience chiefly an elegant enclave of Primrose-Hill-Yoga-on-sea. The physical space is absolutely stunning and comfortable, but I had a strange feeling that the spirit of yoga had somehow got lost inside the imaginatively designed eco chic’.
© Queen of Retreats