Samsara, Kent, England
Authentic yoga and healing retreats with a luxury B&B experience
Individuals & couples who want a healthy, bendy break and are open to the spiritual aspects of yoga
People who aren’t open to a bit of Hindu mysticism
Samsara is an intimate homestay retreat set in an enchanting 13th Century cottage and grounds in West Peckham in rural Kent just a 40 minute train ride from London. The husband and wife team, yoga teacher Dipu and Lori, have created a cosy ashram feel in their home and host up to 12 people at a time, cooking for them and generally making them feel like they are part of an extended spiritual family. Traditional hatha and ashtanga yoga, breathwork and massage are always on the menu here.
Small really is beautiful at Samsara: the cosiness and intimacy of the setting and the warmth and generosity of its hosts, Dipu and Lori, almost guarantees a friendly and nurturing atmosphere. This is the antidote to an impersonal, luxury health spa break that will still leave you feeling refreshed and sparkling all over. Dipu’s yoga is designed for all levels but challenging enough that more experienced yogis won’t be twiddling their thumbs.
Tall people, beware! The doors are so low that they can literally cause a headache if you’re not mindful.
Read our personal review
Imogen O’Rorke spent an enchanting wellbeing weekend at this rural cottage in Kent with husband and wife team Dipu and Lori and found her bliss with excellent ashtanga-based yoga and pranayama, holistic massage, gong baths, delicious food and a superbly comfy home from home environment.Have a peek Contact retreat
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Samsara runs a variety of short retreats throughout the year and each will have a slightly different theme. Almost all of them of them include some form of yoga, but some will focus on restorative yoga, mixed with nutrition and reconnecting with nature, for example, while others will offer more intensive yoga bodywork with a healing massage treatment.
Yoga classes are 90 minutes long and there will be three a day on a full day (e.g. Saturday) or two on the day of departure. Dipu Das is Samsara’s resident yoga teacher. He teaches traditional Hatha yoga, ashanga and restorative. He trained in both the Sivananda and ashtanga styles of yoga (Ajay and Bharatshetty in Mysore, India) and with the renowned Western teacher David Garrigues. The morning class starts with energising breathwork (pranayama) and goes into sun salutations. This ensures you are nicely warmed up for the midday workshop where particular asanas will be studied in detail (e.g. back bends, inversions). The afternoon class will typically be dynamic, focusing on asana and flows from the primary series, unless the group specifically ask for restorative yoga. Dipu makes sure everyone in the class gets some one-to-one adjustments and personal instruction.
Like many traditional Indian Hatha yoga teachers, Dipu believes that pranayama (yogic breathwork) should be part of daily practice, not just a side focus. The day starts at 8.30am with a 30 minute rigorous practice: at least 50 rounds of Anuloma Viloma (equal nostril breathing with breath retention) and at least 60 rounds of Kapalapathi (breath of fire), using the corresponding mudra, or hand gestures. These simple but highly effective exercises cleanse the body and eliminate toxins, energise you and increase your lung capacity for yoga practice.
Dipu teaches traditional yogic meditation which focuses on the seven main chakras and Yoga Nidra (a deeply relaxing, yogic sleep technique). There is usually a class on the first night of the retreat, to help guests unwind.
A healing massage (45 minutes to one hour) is included in the weekend retreat package. This is given by Michael “Masto” Sterling, a local bodyworker and shaman who has developed his own technique called Muscle Fascia Integration Therapy (MFIT). Michael trained in sports massage but then went down the healing path. He begins with a deep tissue Swedish style massage during which he will diagnose any imbalances, energy blocks or bio-mechanical problems in the body. He will then release the blocks or tension using his MFIT technique and finish with Reiki.
Gong baths are available on most retreats, and these are passive meditations. You relax for an hour, while the gong master washes you with the sounds and vibrations of his awesome gongs. Each gong represents a different astral body and is made to reproduce the vibration of that planet or moon. The gong master, Mark Swan, who has been doing this for 20 years, will design the gong concert according to the astrological movements of the spheres.
Female empowerment and outdoor coach Tansy connects people back with nature through the Japanese practice of Forest Bathing (Shinrin Yoku). She takes guests on guided walks through the woods to engage all your senses and help you relax and heal through the appreciation of natural beauty.
Lauren Lovatt, founder of Plant Hub & Academy, is the guest teacher for food-focused weekends offering gut-healthy and mood-improving foods with instruction for detoxing and nutrition.
There is a surprising amount of variety at Samsara. The half-timbered cottage has two double bedrooms which are suitable for couples, both have wooden beds with luxury TEMPUR mattresses, memory pillows and charming original features. The upstairs master bedroom is close to a lovely bathroom with a deep freestanding bath/shower. There is also a simple single bedroom here. The bedrooms are white and light with bright cushions and ethnic counterpanes and nice touches like candles, fresh flowers and ethnic art on the walls. All guests are supplied with fluffy John Lewis towelling robes and plush towels, and there are Neal’s Yard lotions and haircare products too.
Outside, there is a more secluded Shepherd’s Hut with a lovely view across the fields and an outdoor lounging platform. There is no electricity in the hut, but it is heated by a wood burning stove and has its own shower bathroom. No expense has been spared here in glamping it up to the max. In summer belle tents are planned.
More affordable accommodation is located in the round Oast house (which has been converted into two floors) and the attached yoga Shala. The upstairs room is charming with a simple single bed and a dressing table, but accessible only via a very narrow spiral staircase (not be suitable for everyone). At night-time, the downstairs treatment room and the Shala become bedrooms with comfortable put-up single beds and a double air bed. All guests in the Shala share one bathroom and shower.
Other spaces to be:
If you want to be alone or in silence at Samsara, the garden is the place to head. There’s plenty of seating and shady nooks dotted around the property; or you can find peace under the spreading branches of an evergreen Holm oak or dangling from a hammock pod. If you fancy a view, take some seating up to the summer yoga platform which looks down the valley.
Bring slippers – the flagstones can be chilly – a warm shawl or jumper and a torch for getting around at night, especially in the colder months. Bring earplugs if you’re staying in the cottage – remember that it is small and the floors in old buildings are not sound-proofed. If you’re travelling by train, be sure to book your return taxi a day before to avoid a long wait. The two local taxi services get booked up at the weekend.
When to Go
The summer months at Samsara will be glorious – this is a wine-growing region of Kent and enjoys a sunny microclimate. You can enjoy living closer to nature in a shepherd’s hut or a bell tent. However, the autumn/winter and new year retreats also have their benefits: the yoga classes will be less crowded, and you can enjoy cosy log fires and wood burning stoves.
There’s a large country kitchen with a long table in the centre for food to be served buffet style. You can take tea and coffee at any time as the tea urn is always on. Meals are served next door in the dining area which has a long refectory table. The low lighting and abundance of candles make it all rather magical.
All the produce is organic or picked from the kitchen garden (seasonal chard, beets, celery, onions and squash, for example). Samsara is a vegetarian household – so don’t expect meat here – but it does cater for vegan and other special diets with a little warning.
In the morning, pre-yoga energy balls and fruit are provided. On a typical weekend retreat, Samsara will provide a hearty brunch at 10.30 a.m. after the morning yoga session (rather than breakfast and lunch as two separate meals). This will be protein-based (omelette or scrambled eggs with veg).
After the midday yoga, tea and cake will be served – the cakes are freshly baked by Lori’s sister-in-law who runs a local bakery. This generally keeps people going until suppertime, when a large meal is served. The evening meals are cooked by a local Asian chef, Susan Gill. A mild Thai curry with aubergine and beans might be on the menu, or an Indian veggie thali.
Herbal teas and coffees are available throughout. Alcohol is not banned, but it is not encouraged either, except for special occasions like New Year.
The hosts are eco-conscious but there’s a limit to how sustainable they can be in terms of energy, as they don’t own the property. Guests are asked to keep their own mug and water cup for the retreat, so there’s less washing. Towels and linen are only changed if you ask for them to be. There are plans to install solar panels into the outdoor accommodation. The hosts friends and neighbours help out with housekeeping, to make sure guests have a luxury B&B experience.
Clements Cottage , West Peckham , Kent, ME18 5JP
Train station: Tonbridge or Sevenoaks
Transfer time: 45 minutes