My Goa Retreat
When’s the last time you did something for the first time? Well, I was apprehensive at first about hosting my first retreat and yet, when Garima from Wandering Jane reached out for a collaboration, I knew I had to do it.
As you already know, attending retreats and reviewing them is very different from creating and curating one from scratch. You have to get the word out so people are keen to join you, you have to draft an itinerary that has the right ratio of yoga and relaxation. But mostly, it’s the prepayment, logistics, coordination and anticipation of how it’s going to turn out that made me almost nauseous. I was a bundle of nerves because I wanted for it to be the perfect experience for guests as this was the first time. I’m incredibly grateful to all the people that we collaborated with, because we got really lucky.
Our guests were the perfect bunch of confident girls with incredible drive and indomitable confidence. They all flew down for the retreat and were thrilled at the prospect of enjoying some time away from daily stressors, responsibilities and commitments at work.
The itinerary, too, is very important because if you leave it too laid-back- your guests aren’t happy and if it’s too strict with no wiggle room, guests feel deprived. Our five day-four night itinerary included yoga in the mornings with the incredible Alexandra, a German native who was a skilled accupuncturist to boot. She taught us how to begin our days with a mindfulness exercise followed by yin yoga- a practice that focuses on each pose for as long as 3 minutes. After yoga, we would all sip herbal tea and head for breakfast. Chef Hemal would send out fruit platters and the most delicious range of beverages. We had to choose between eggs, waffles, smoothie bowls and a stuffed roti. All our meals were in house with seasonal, locally sourced ingredients and no added sugars. Post breakfast, guests could head to the room for a tarot session or for nutritional counseling with me, and after that most would take a nap before lunch.
One afternoon, we stepped out to Vaayu Watermens Village for a day in the sun.
We started with the most incredible lunch at Prana Cafe, curated by Varoon Nair and his team. I had basil chicken with red rice and veggies- wholesome and downright delicious. Most guests rented kayaks and went out into the lagoon while the others enjoyed a serene excursion with Rahul, who taught them the basics of stand up paddle. Post sunset, we came back to the cafe for some avocado toast, berry, maca and cacao nib smoothies.
Most evenings we would organise a yoga session on the beach but one day, the kind folk at Watermark hotel let us use their space so we could practice our asanas on a boat. Watching the sun close in on us as we finished our practice over water was a beautiful and incredibly grounding experience. We also had Jonathan Pinto, a talented photographer to help us capture such moments on the retreat.
This is a really crucial step towards planning your retreat. Your venue can make or break your retreat. It should have all creature comforts but also be far away from the maddening crowds to allow rest and relaxation. Garima and I went with Aura Goa.
Aura is a wellness oasis situated in Mandrem with two yoga shalas, a gorgeous swimming pool and beautifully appointed rooms. The executive chef, Hemal Shah, would whip up the most divine meals with lentil waffles, gluten free chocolate cake and even treated us to a delicious Goan feast for dinner one evening.
While most of us were eating meals that were gluten free, dairy free and free from added sugars. We did encourage our guests to enjoy themselves when we went to Arambol one evening. I was pleasantly surprised to see everyone reaching out for smoothies and masala chai instead of wanting to gorge on something unhealthy. The girls were welcome to a glass or two of wine on the last night because in our opinion, wellness doesn’t mean deprivation or punishment. They were happy to adapt to the 80 20 rule of eating healthy and enjoying the odd treat every once in a while.
Granted, it was a small group but we wanted for it to be an intimate experience since it was our first time collaborating. I want to say thank you to everyone who came, showed their support and trusted us to show them a good time. To Aura, for being our hospitality partner and to Alexandra for the incredible yin yoga as well as Jonathan for the fantastic photographs. Lastly, I want to thank Garima, from Wandering Jane for choosing to partner with me for this experience. I’ve learnt so much from all of you and can’t wait to do it again soon. My heart is filled with gratitude for all of you who attended, shared feedback and even wrote blogs about your experience on the retreat. This kind of stuff makes my day, everyday.
Before I end, I want to encourage yoginis, yoga teachers or anyone wanting to conduct a retreat in Goa to consider Aura. The staff are absolutely amazing and the space is very warm and inviting. They have all the facilities one needs to have a beautiful retreat and theres nothing they can’t organise with a little notice. The rooms are airy, spacious and comfortable. You feel like you’ve walked into a sanctuary as the foliage and the spirit of the place takes you in. I cannot wait to be back.
Love & Light
Photo credits – Jonathan Pinto
Location courtesy – Aura Goa
In partnership with Wandering Jane