Goa.. I don’t know where to start because this place triggered many feelings inside me. It’s the place you do yoga but also have trance parties and, for people who know me closely, trance is one of my favorite types of music (and yes this is my dark side ;). It mirrors a personal contradiction between a banking career I am comfortable with and a passion for yoga I want to pursue full time.
Goa has been on top of my travel list for a long time so when my friend and yoga teacher told me she is organizing a retreat in Goa, I was definitely in and I even booked long in advance which is very much unlike me! The experience was completely novel as I always prefer to go solo on yoga retreats to focus within and avoid any distractions. However, it was an overall rewarding experience and I got to meet interesting people either from or outside my group. After an overnight flight, in addition to a long and bumpy drive from Goa Airport, arriving at Ashiyana Yoga Retreat was my ultimate reward. Trees, lake, beach, greenery, silence, bare feet walking is all what I needed to relax and unwind. I woke up everyday to the sounds of satsang chanting and birds, which I really miss where I live waking up everyday on tram dinging. The schedule for the yoga retreat started from 7 a.m. with meditation followed by a yoga class in the big shala situated in the middle of the greenery then a healthy breakfast, which I don’t usually get to have in my busy life. Later during the day and before my afternoon yoga class, I attended some lectures on different topics such as shakras or 8 limbs of yoga, all of which were a good refresher for me from my yoga teacher training. Additionally, I got to know more about hypnotherapy and Feng Shui, a Chinese philosophical system of harmonizing with the surrounding environment, as two ladies from the group had a very deep understanding of both practices and gave small talks about them.
The real highlight of my Goa yoga retreat was meeting Simon Borg-Olivier! When I first arrived to Ashiyana, I was awed by this class with the students flowing freely with movements without the teacher even talking yet everyone was so synchronized. I stood there waiting for the class to finish to speak to Simon. I asked him if I can join in for a class and he was so nice to allow me to one of his classes and it was phenomenal! I believe it really touched me because it combines my passion for dancing and yoga. He just explains all the traditional poses we sometimes struggle to do through spinal movements that actually achieve the same benefits and, at one point of the class, you just move freely following the music and his gestures. At the end of the class, I felt GREAT! As Simon puts it” I use yoga to lovingly encourage the circulation of energy and consciousness throughout my body to be in greater harmony with everything around me.” No matter how I explain, it wouldn’t do any justice to how I felt after this class; I felt free, happy, flexible, strong.. it’s just brilliant! I am even thinking about doing my 300 hours teacher training with Simon! You can check more information about him and his teaching method on www.yogasynergy.com
Other than yoga:
In addition to spirituality and yoga, Goa represents a blend of Indian and Portuguese cultures, kissed by sun, sea, sand and seafood! After traveling to a few places throughout India, in my opinion, there is no other place like it with its mix of beaches, parties and relaxed tropical vibe and of course food.
Goa’s biggest advantage is definitely its uninterrupted string of golden-sand beaches. Each Goan beach developed its own personality and reputation with time since the early hippie days. They cater to every tropical whim: backpacker Arambol, laid-back Baga, palm-fringed sands of Palolem, hippie Anjuna, pretty Mandrem. You can also relax on the sands in front of fancy five-star resorts or hidden crescent coves, where you will be sharing the beach with the scuttling crabs.
Anjuna has been the center of the Goa’s hippie scene for a long time with its famous flea market. Though it continues to pull in droves of backpackers, midrange tourists are increasingly making their way there while it continues to evolve with its beach party scene with some restaurants and bars. The most famous of which is Curlie’s with all its happening beach parties.
Not too far from Ashiyana, where I was staying, is Arambol village, a traditional fisherman village with a small market, cliffside restaurants and lesser crowds on the beach. When in Arambol, you have to try Hippies Gusto Raw Vegan Ice Cream Café. While strolling around, you should also check out the most interesting and affordable bookstore which is a paradise for every reader, Vishwa Bookshop.
Baga beach is away from the hustle and bustle found on some Goan beaches. It’s a small white sandy beach with plenty of palm trees, located between Anjuna beach on one side and Calangute on the other. It is a good place to enjoy quietness and dwell in peaceful contemplation with yourself. Also, it’s known as a fishing beach if this is one of your interests. While on Baga beach, you should try Britto’s Bar & Restaurant.
Spice of Life
Goa has a strong Portuguese influence even when it comes to food. The scents, spices and flavors of Goa’s cuisine include a classic fish curry rice, a morning bhali-pau (bread roll dipped in curry), a piquant vindaloo, with its infusions of wine vinegar and garlic, or a spicy xacuti sauce. My food highlight was the Tuna Fillet I had at La Plage located at Ashwem beach. La Plage is really elegant with a very warm and friendly owner checking on each and every table herself.
In Goa, you can definitely RELAX ??
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