Chaya Yoga Retreats, Goa
Nurturing yoga holidays in an idyllic hideaway close to the beach in north Goa
Chaya Retreats offers exceptional yoga holidays with unforgettable healthy cuisine in an hidden oasis 10 minutes from Ashvem beach in the north of Goa a few times a year from January to March. Chaya’s founder Lucy Hill chooses a theme for each retreat, related to something that’s arisen in her personal practice – perhaps Opening the Heart, Creating Magic or Finding Your Voice. The basics are always the same (twice-daily yoga, delicious food, lots of treatment choice) with workshops varying according to the theme (for example, optional singing lessons with an opera singer for Finding Your Voice). Your base is Kaju Varo, an Award Winning eco-hotel in north Goa with lush gardens and plentiful trees – a far cry from India’s bustle. Some retreats are family-friendly.
The love, care and attention to detail that goes into creating each retreat is obvious – from the food to the teaching and calibre of therapist’s available.
It’s not for those wanting five-star luxury – this is more about rustic charm.
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Each retreat has a different theme – from opening the heart to finding freedom – but there will always be great twice-daily yoga, meditation, pranayama, a host of treatments on offer and time for the beach or exploring Goa.
Two 90-minute yoga classes are held on the shaded shala next to the pool, usually at 8am and 5pm. Different teachers host different retreats, but all are exceptional and combine yoga with meditation and pranayama. Mornings tend to be more dynamic, with evenings dedicated to slower restorative and yin practices.
An incredible range of treatments with brilliant practitioners is on offer, from Indian head massage to Ayurvedic oil massage, from reiki to kinesiology. Breathwork sessions with Nicola Price of Inspirational Breathing are profoundly healing. Treatments are taken in your room or the dedicated treatment room, and one is included in the price.
India is the home of ayurveda and a one-to-one consultation with a medical and Ayurvedic doctor, Dr Rohit, is included. As well as assessing any physical and emotional issues, he outlines your Ayurvedic constitution (or dosha) and will suggest treatments or lifestyle changes to suit.
Workshops vary – a ‘Find Your Voice’ retreat had group lessons with opera singer Andrea Finke. All include a two-hour wellbeing food workshop with Lucy Hill covering everything from making your own nut mylks and delicious sugar-free dessert to raw food and improving gut health. Lucy also offers life coaching.
There are brilliant night markets in Goa, which are worth a visit – one on a Wednesday and one on a Saturday. Trips to the local market town can be arranged as well as visits to a perfumer Ramakrishna who creates personalised scents for each person, which come with a blessing. A resident crystal expert sells crystals too.
Ashvem beach is a ten-minute stroll away. It’s a beautiful long sandy beach, which is amazing at sunset. The waves can be quite strong – it’s good for surfing and bodyboarding – and there are lots of beach sellers. Plenty of good restaurants and cafes, many with loungers for more comfortable sunbathing, plus shops.
There’s so much to see in Goa and you can easily hire a moped or driver for the day to explore. The old town of Goa is beautiful, there are boat trips, cookery courses and trips to local temples where visitors can join in with the chants. There are also ecstatic dances some evenings for those who want to get their groove on.
There are several different style rooms and suites – all spacious and modern and minimalist in style. A three-share option is likely to be a duplex suite with a twin upstairs and one bed downstairs. All have en suite bathrooms – some with outdoor showers. The décor is very calming, with natural woods and high quality beds and linen. One suite has its own plunge pool.
Other places to stay
There’s a standalone, two-bedroom treehouse with huge bathroom on the ground floor, and balcony overlooking the pool.
If you arrive early or want to stay longer Babu Huts on Ashvem beach offers good value rooms and the food is good too. There’s great shopping in Goa so come with space in your suitcase. Don’t miss a night market visit.
When to Go
Goa retreats run in the winter, when the weather is warm and sunny in India (often in the high 20s) – the perfect time to escape the UK chill.
The pretty open-air dining area is in the heart of the garden. Lucy Hill heads Chaya Kitchen and creates a colourful, gourmet plant-based menu (with occasional fish). It’s all organic, local, sugar-free, seasonal, fully gluten-free options, alkaline-forming, almost completely plant-based with some optional dairy and occasional fish on order. Both world cuisine and Indian style are available.
Huge brunches include fruits, overnight oats, yoghurts, nut butters, homemade nut mylks and breads and savoury cooked dishes. There’s daily afternoon tea, with smoothies or cakes. Dinner is expansive with incredible curries, sometimes using jackfruit from the trees, and creative sides like cauliflower and potato bahji, or themed from Thai to Moroccan. Incredible raw desserts are a highlight. Alcohol can be brought in and coffee is served too, with teas and coconuts available all day.
One of the founders of Kaju Varo is an Indian social entrepreneur and aims to run the accommodation sustainably and offers volunteering opportunities for those looking to learn new skills. Food used is organic, with minimal waste, composting and natural detergents and soaps are used throughout.
Kaju Varo, Ashvem, Goa
Goa International Airport