Whether you already have a yoga practice or just want to try it whilst on holiday, the sunny skies, warm temperature and ocean views are definite yoga motivators. Get those yoga pants at the ready, Samui is steadily positioning itself as a green, organic and healthy holiday destination, and yoga options are rapidly expanding.
If you are a complete beginner, a bit rusty or an advanced practitioner. Whether you prefer a gentle class with lots of meditation or you want to push yourself in terms of flexibility, strength or cardio. If you prefer the beach, a cliff top, or a yoga studio, want to learn something new, or just practise the basics, there will be a class to suit you, whatever your level or goals. Yoga is the perfect way to start your day, to stay in the shade when the sun’s a bit too strong, or something to do if an inconvenient downpour has just waylaid your beach plans!
So what are your options? If your main reason for a holiday on Samui is to immerse yourself in all things wellness related, then consider booking into a specialist yoga retreat. They offer healthy food, tailor-made detox programs, lots of pampering, massages and additional treatments such as reiki, hypnotherapy or acupuncture, as well as yoga.
It’s also easy to fit occasional or even daily yoga into a more traditional Samui beach holiday. Many resorts offer group yoga classes, some in beautiful open-air pavilions, and most will organise a private instructor for you if you prefer. This is the perfect option if you don’t want to venture far, and you can easily fit in your yoga fix before breakfast or happy hour!
If you want to immerse yourself in some regular yoga classes there are now many private yoga studios, and some gyms that offer drop-in classes, weekly or monthly passes, or you can book one or more private sessions. Some studios are basic, but many are set in beautiful gardens, beachside or with fantastic views. And maybe with a healthy café attached serving organic smoothies and juices as well as breakfast, lunch and dinner options.
If you just want to do your own thing, grab your yoga mat and head for the beach. Most beaches are quiet until around 8:30 am, with just a few dedicated runners, dog walkers, fishermen and other early yogis. Don’t like sand on your mat? Find a quiet corner in your resort or just unroll your mat in your room. If you are planning on yoga al fresco, be sure to bring some mosquito repellent. There is nothing worse than swiping at the mossies whilst focusing on mindfulness. And Samui’s climate might mean that you’re possibly practising your own version of hot yoga, so be sure to rehydrate regularly with bottled or filtered water or fresh coconut water.
Having decided to take part in yoga, Samui style, you start Googling for classes or hotel options that include yoga. But decisions, decisions. Should you try Ashtanga or Vinyasa? What’s the difference between Hatha and Yin? To flow or not to flow? The range of options can be a bit daunting for beginners and novices. Different types of yoga suit different people at different times, so here is the low-down on the basics so that you can identify the styles that might suit you best.
Hatha is perfect for complete beginners or novices. It’s a relatively slow moving class that will teach you all the basic poses. Holding these positions for a few breaths allows you to strengthen muscles whilst increasing flexibility and focus the mind. Even though it may be slow, do not expect it to be an easy class, especially if you haven’t tried it before. Be prepared to work and sweat. The Sanskrit term ‘Hatha’ actually refers to any yoga that teaches physical postures. So, in reality, all yoga is hatha yoga.
Vinyasa is primarily a dynamic flow practice, linking movement and breath in a dance-like way. There is very little lingering in each pose and the pace can be quick. Be prepared for your heart rate to rise. Intense exercisers might enjoy this because of its faster pace. Runners and endurance athletes are also drawn to Vinyasa because of the continuous movement.
Iyengar focuses on the precision of your body’s alignment in each pose. Lots of props may be used; yoga blocks, blankets, straps and even the wall may be used to help you to work within a range of motion that is safe and effective for you. Each pose is held for a while, just like in hatha yoga. This style is best for detail-oriented individuals. If you love learning about anatomy, movement and form, you’ll love Iyengar.
Ashtanga is a challenging yet orderly approach to yoga. There are six series of specifically sequenced yoga poses. You’ll flow and breathe through each pose in the exact same order in each class. Most classes are teacher led, but Mysore style (a subset of Ashtanga) requires you to perform the series on your own. But don’t worry, there is always a teacher in the room to offer assistance if you need it. Perfectionists are drawn to Ashtanga’s routine and strict guidelines.
Hot yoga is a sequence of moves practised in a room heated to around 37 degrees Celsius. The heat can enable you to move deeper into some poses compared to a non-heated class. Be careful not to overstretch or push beyond your capacity. Be sure to hydrate before and after the class with lots of water. Hot yoga is similar to Bikram yoga in that the same sequence of moves is practised every class. Hot yoga is best for hardcore sweat lovers.
If you feel the need to completely calm and balance your body and mind, then Yin yoga may be for you. Yin yoga poses are held for three to five minutes at a time. This is a meditative practice designed to target your deep connective tissue and fascia, restoring length and elasticity. You are encouraged to use props and allow your body to relax into the posture rather than actively flexing or engaging muscles.
Restorative yoga is a mellow, slow-moving practice allowing you to experience deep relaxation. You’ll use a variety of props to fully support your body in each pose. The main purpose is to restore the body and mind. It’s a very gentle and rejuvenating class with very little stress on the muscles or joints. Great for anyone who finds it hard to slow down or suffers from insomnia or anxiety and perfect for athletes on recovery days.
Everyone can do yoga. You don’t have to be flexible or thin, or have the ‘right’ clothes! All you need to do is show up with an open mind and do your best. Try a few different styles, studios and teachers, and then stick with the one that resonates with you. Downward facing dog, cobra or frog? Find your favourite, and surprise yourself with how much you can actually do! You will definitely be leaving Samui with a spring in your step!