I had never been to a yoga retreat before, let alone a yoga holiday. But arriving at Ulpotha yoga retreat in Sri Lanka, already I could see why these would be popular. Just pulling up, a sense of time slowing down descended.
Ulpotha is a 22 acre area of land nestled in the jungle about 2 and a half hours from Kandy. As well as a Yoga retreat, Ulpotha is actually a fully functioning village too. The villages work in the yoga retreat and also in the paddy fields and farm lands that surround it. Food is sold to the retreat, and wages paid for workers.
The retreat I like something out of a coffee table book. Thatched huts dotted between palm trees, and dusty lantern lit paths. And because of this, this post is going to be someone of a heavy photo post. It was a photographers dream!
Our host Shay breezed in, in the most relaxing way possible. Her voice calm and relaxing, offered us tea and coconut cake made that morning. Ulpotha is a vegetarian retreat and everything is made on site, fresh in the kitchens to village recipes.
After a spot of cake we were left to wander the retreat. Ulpotha works slightly differently to other yoga retreats in that it doesn’t just focus on yoga. It’s about an unwinding experience. There is no electricity, so no electrical appliances at all, and of course, certainly no mobile reception. The days are very unstructured, with only 2 yoga sessions a day and meal times, the rest is about relaxing and unwinding.
Like I said. Something out of a coffee table book.
But surprisingly there’s so much to see, from swimming in the huge lake, to reading on the swings or getting an Ayurveda massage.
Lunch was served in the Ambalama, an open aired pagoda with scatter cusions that surround the help yourself style food. I’ve come to realise on this trip that I adore Sri Lankan food. Far less spicy than Indian, but such varied use of plants and fruit, which I would never have thought of. Lunch was the perfect opportunity to catch up with the other guests. It’s such a varied mix, from stressed out Londoners wanting to get away from city life, to the more hippy-ish types who walk around in a handmade wrap.
As there is no electricity, cooking is done over a fire in clay pots.
And talking of no electricity, the showers are actually powered by a pump, although they do produce a very cool effect.
I had recently only tried yoga for the first time, so I was apprehensive that a yoga holiday would be filled with yogis and die hard experts.
But climbing up to a rock high above the retreat, Nigel our yoga teacher made sure to get the balance just right for those with rather less experience. The sessions are invigorating as well on focusing on meditation at the end. Being slightly less flexible than I’d like, my muscles really worked overtime trying to complete certain poses. Just a word of warning though. Being out in the jungle, sometimes visitors will join the yoga. AKA monkeys! They actually stole a girls shoes during the session. Now that’s not something you’d get at a posh London studio!
Looks about right...
...what the about 10 photos beforehand looked like.
Back at base camp it had grown dark. This is when Ulpotha really came alive. Women who glided across the ground lit lanterns dotted about the retreat, lighting up the place. The soft hum of crickets and other creatures coming out began. With only candle light to guide you around the place, it really was magical and almost like something out of a Disney film.
Photo obviously taken earlier in the day.
As night fell, many retreated to their huts to get some shut eye. (No electricity, no phones and early starts for yoga meant bed time was alot earlier). But I knew what was my favourite hut- the treehouse. It really is like the Jungle Book.
Ulpotha yoga retreat really blew my expectations out of the water. I never thought a yoga holiday would be my cup of tea, but I was wrong. If you want to escape the reality of modern life, I cannot recommend enough.