For the Love of Yoga
When approached with the opportunity to partake in an all-inclusive yoga retreat on the beaches of southern Sri Lanka, I really couldn't refuse. I had been traveling around the country for about a week beforehand and was excited to join a group of passionate yogis and travelers to share in our love for yoga and adventure in a gorgeous setting on the coast. The retreat was located in Hiriketiya Bay, a secluded beach setting gaining popularity for its year-round surf and sandy shores. We stayed a one-minute walk from the shore at Salt House, a boutique jungle hotel with lovely Australian owners that really cultivated a perfect setting for our week.
My involvement in yoga had only just begun in the last six months that I had been traveling around Nepal and India. I had been exploring yoga: its history, its methodology, and the different styles into which it had blossomed. For me, the journey into practicing yoga was fresh, and this was my first opportunity to join in a yoga retreat. How perfectly had my travel plans lined up to meet up with Adzenture Retreats in Sri Lanka!
Daily Yoga + Workshops
Each morning, we awoke to the sounds only a tropical jungle can provide and I'd step onto my balcony and watch monkeys climb up and down the coconut trees. The early morning mist on the bay yielded a colorful sunrise as the surfers dove into the water to paddle out to surf as the sun rose. Morning yoga began at 8:00 each day of the week and we rubbed our sleepy eyes and assembled in the yoga shala, beautifully built just beside our hotel. The sounds of the palm trees rustling around us really created the most peaceful ambience in which to do yoga and begin our days.
Our instructors, DJ Townsel (@dade2shelby) and Tie Simpson (@hippie_heathen) both hail from the southeast USA and were well-versed in how to accommodate both beginners and the more-seasoned practitioners. In addition to the daily classes, they held workshops in both inversions and acro-yoga, and helped many of us break through mental barriers and challenge ourselves to advance our practices. I've always found acro-yoga to be so enticing and was ecstatic to be able to finally get to try it out myself!
Some of the most memorable moments of the week were spent adventuring out of Hiriketiya Bay to explore and laugh our way through some other places. We went to visit Galle Fort, a fort built initially by the Portuguese and fortified by the Dutch, that now is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The whole neighborhood around the fort been designed into markets, restaurants, boutique stores, that led to the lighthouse at the shore. We ran around snapping photos of the streets and dropping some yoga poses everywhere we walked.
Udawalawe National Park
Another one of the highlights of the week was visiting Udawalawe National Park, an area known for its plentitude of Asian elephants. We piled into two safari-style jeeps and drove through the park for the afternoon gawking at the families of elephants grazing on either side of our jeeps. We saw eagles in the trees, water buffalos and crocodiles in the watering holes, and peacocks making a ruckus all around. For many in our group, this was their first opportunity to see animals like these in the wild and I was so happy to be able to see that sparkle in their eyes the first time you see an elephant fling a load of mud onto its back just feet away.
Sri Yoga Shala
For this group, most moments were filled with constant laughter and joy, but we did have one particular evening that struck most of us spiritually. We visited the Sri Yoga Shala near to Galle Fort for a gong bath, which was another first of mine. After some chanting, singing, and kundalini exercises in breathing and movement, we all laid in a circle to feel the vibrations from a gong at the center of the room. At the time, an hour of the sounds felt relaxing, but a day or so after I was feeling profound effects. It was if each stroke of the gong had torn into little parts of my emotional pain-body that had been longing to escape, and tears flowed allowing some of it to flow out. There was a spread of effects within our group, but it was undeniable that something had been felt.
Having traveled around the third world for a significant amount of time in my life, I hadn't expected a yoga retreat to flow with such ease in a country such as Sri Lanka, which can normally be quite challenging to navigate. This speaks to the organizational prowess of Azma and Daniela, co-founders of Adzenture Retreats, that had organized a truly perfectly balanced week of yoga and adventure in Sri Lanka and accommodated to such a wide breadth of attendees. I could not have asked for a better introduction to the world of yoga retreats! Many thanks to our instructors, Tie and DJ, who went out of their way and out of their comfort zones to give us their all and create a truly special and memorable experience for all of us.