Yoga Explorers Winter Wellness Retreat, Goa
Immersive week of yoga and ayurveda in rustic elegance near the beach
Best for: First time India travellers who are looking to connect with the motherland of yoga
Not for: Those who are uncomfortable in a back-to-nature setting
Takes up to 30 guests
Yoga Explorers run a soothing, expertly taught yoga and ayurveda retreat each year at Samata in North Goa, a beautiful one acre organic farm and ayurveda clinic built entirely from reclaimed teak wood and surrounded by large fruit and spice trees, Langur monkeys and Giant Hornbills in beautifully sculpted grounds. Mix yoga, meditation and expert ayurveda with leading practitioners for a genuine holistic week in a place where sustainable living feels fantastic.
Yoga Explorers manage to choose excellent teachers who strike the right balance between compassion and dynamism. Samata is a rare, authentic gem – a holistic and Ayurvedic clinic staffed by expert international doctors on a stunning site with its own organic farm.
The creepy crawlies. Samata’s jungle environment and dedication to eco-living creates an ecosystem with many frequent visits by frogs, insects and other wildlife that won’t be familiar to urbanites.
This is a special week that mixes twice-daily yoga and meditation with other healing practices and plenty of down time so you can relax and reconnect. One day mid-week is left entirely free for guest to explore further afield or just spend the day at the beach/by the pool.
There are two, 1.5 hr classes per day, morning and evening, with one day off during the week. The yoga on this retreat will be led by Jonelle Lewis, a highly experienced yoga teacher who has trained all over the world. Originally from Philadelphia but now living and teaching in London, she is great fun to be around and knowledgable about the postures and philosophy of the yoga.
Jonelle’s guiding principle is ‘be brave, be fierce, be free’, and this a great way to describe her empowering style of yoga. For her, yoga makes her feel liberated, free and alive, and that’s what she wants to share with you through the practice too. She believes that yoga is for everyone, it’s a way of life to be embraced, and the fact that we all have different bodies is something to celebrate and enjoy. Jonelle is a one-of-a-kind yogi, with a big heart and refreshing take on how yoga can work for all of us, whatever level you are at. She brings an international vibration and an authenticity into classes which are filled with a lot laughter.
Ayurveda is a huge part of this retreat, from the way your food is grown and prepared to your personal Ayurvedic consultation with an on-site doctor and the numerous body therapies on offer. Every guest receives a one hour treatment, or a consultation with an expert Ayurvedic doctor, which may address and treat long-term ailments or provide advice for lifestyle changes.
Treatments take place at the Samata Clinic, where incredible practitioners, authors and scholars are based often teach around the world the other times of the year. You really can get top quality holistic care here at a fraction of the price that the same services would be available in the West.
There are many services and treatments on offer, and Yoga Explorers can arrange anything you’d like, including a highly recommended vedic astrology session. This ancient art can offer great insight into your deeper purpose in life, and give guidance as to how to actualise these gifts whilst avoiding karmic pitfalls. There are also Chinese and Tibetan therapists on site who offer acupuncture, shiatsu and traditional Tibetan therapies and herbs.
Between classes, as well as the beaches and palm trees of Goa, there’s plenty to explore. Aravalem falls are just an hour away, there are forests, cashew, mango and coconut plantations as well as spice farms, padi fields, rivers and lakes to visit. On the mid-week rest day you can either enjoy the lush gardens at your leisure, or take the opportunity to explore further afield. Perhaps take a taxi out to The Western Ghats, which form most of eastern Goa, and have been internationally recognised as one of the biodiversity hotspots of the world. Yoga Explorers are on hand to help organise any day trips or excursions you would like during your stay.
Several fabulous beaches by the Arabian Sea can be discovered within a 10/15 minute drive from the retreat where the clear warm waters are a must for swimmers. From the bohemian hub of Arambol to the quiet scenic beauty of Querim or fabulous restaurants in Mandrem, there is always something new to explore.
Goa is an ancient state with a rich, cultural heritage going back 20,000- 30,000 years, so you’ll want to explore it a little while you are here. It has been both Buddhist and Jain in its earlier history, and is today a peaceful mix of Christian and Hindu, with a sprinkling of other religions that colour the many beautiful churches and temples. The Portuguese were lured to the coastal trade outpost by the promise of money to be made from trading spices like pepper, cloves and cardamom – they’ve left an indelible mark on the cultural soul of Goa influencing its food, architecture, music and art.
Goa can be hot during the day, but cool at night, so pack for beach weather as well as a sweater or jacket in case of cool evenings. Natural insect repellant and a torch are good things to have around, as well as flip flops or other footwear that is easy to put on and take off. Wifi is available throughout the property for those who need to keep in touch.
When to Go
February is the perfect time to visit Goa. There are clear blue skies with an average of 10 hours of sunshine and temperatures hovering around the late 20s/early 30s. The average sea temperature is a fabulous 28 degrees.
Cooked by the resident chefs, all food is vegetarian and vegan, and gluten free options are available on request. Fabulous self-serve breakfasts are served in the outdoor communal kitchen. Lunches and dinners are served at the pool gazebo, so you can enjoy your meals overlooking the lovely pool area with its blooming flowers all around.
For breakfast you can expect porridge, stewed and fresh fruits, nuts and other toppings, granola, yogurt, cashew milk, fresh whole milk, coconut water, golden sugar and honey. There’s fresh baked gluten free muffins and bread, as well as whole grain brown bread, homemade peanut butter and jam, organic rice cakes, and hard boiled eggs.
Lunches are a hearty balanced meal with a grain, vegetables and fresh garden salad, dinner is usually a traditional Indian thali of traditional Goan flavors with a small dessert. Alcohol is allowed on a BYO basis, and teas and coffees are available, so this isn’t a detoxing retreat unless you want it to be.
Samata is truly impressive when it comes to giving back to both people and planet. The centre supports 30 families who work with them within walking distance of the centre. They use their own organic garden for ingredients, and also encourage and support farmers who want to convert their farms from chemical to organic practices.
Any remaining profits are sent to the Dunagiri Foundation and the high Himalayan farmers growing rare and endangered medicinal plant species – they work with a dozen villages and support 50 families in this way.
Samata also helps support and fund the YogiArt School, started by Samata’s founder and a 5 minute walk from the center. You can have a tour of the school to witness the outdoor and nature-based style of education.
Yoga Explorers offsets carbon on all staff flights (something they also respectfully encourage their customers to do). They also support SOS Children, a charity that helps orphaned and abandoned children.
8 Pernem Rd, Arambol Goa
Transfer Time: 1.5 hours from airport, 30 minutes from train station