Purple Valley Ashtanga Yoga Retreat

»A Goan pearl for Ashtangis «

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An idyllic resort with some of the finest Ashtanga yoga to be found, Purple Valley is a true yoga retreat, not an ashram. While the yoga is truly Ashtanga – sweaty and exhausting – the facilities and other activities are more Westernized than our other Indian top centers. This means plenty of lounging around in hammocks, manicures, and massages in between serious yoga sessions.

  • What we love
  • End-to-end organized yoga retreat
  • True Ashtanga in the Mysore style
  • Indulgent extras
  • Very safe area
  • Delicious vegetarian buffets
  • What to know
  • Workshops with famous yogis (not recommended for beginners)
  • Western pricing
  • Most retreats run for two weeks
  • No locals
  • Why go
  • Beautiful beachy Goa
  • World-class Ashtanga teachers
  • Optional indulgence & pampering
  • Perfect organisation

For real Ashtanga fans unfamiliar with India, a resort like Purple Valley is probably the cushiest place to land after tumbling off the plane. This is an indulgent and luxurious yoga retreat, replete with Ayurvedic treatments, massage, a swimming pool, easy access to one of Asia's most glorious coastlines and plenty of time to lounge around under billowing white canopies in the outdoor living areas.

This place definitely appeals to the foreign market – much more in the holiday niche than the ashram-living one. Even its location screams idyllic, being just a stone's throw from the natural splendor of Goa's beaches. All skill levels are catered to, which is great for a beginner looking for a way to be in better shape after their beach holiday than when they left home. It's also good for the experienced Ashtangis though, as there are yearly workshops with names as notable as Sharat Jois, proving that this is no yoga-lite experience. The teachers who return year after year are extremely skilled too and - on a shallow note - so good-looking that they are a walking advertisement for the Ashtanga style.

Ashtanga is very asana-centric, meaning that the focus is almost totally on physical poses. For beginners, it is best to forget the idea of gently moving from one pose to the next while breathing in relaxed sighs. Ashtanga was designed as a way to help pubescent boys overcome their lustful urges. Anyone who has spent time around pubescent boys will know that this takes some doing, hence the extremely vigorous yoga style and the lean, sculpted bodies of Ashtangis everywhere. Ashtanga here is taught in the Mysore style. This basically means that there is only a small number of classes each week that is led by a teacher. Other sessions are simply a collection of students all doing their own series of asanas - the teacher is there, but only to answer questions and occasionally correct a posture, not to give a set sequence to be followed. This can be bewildering for newcomers, but the yogic flexibility (excuse the pun) soon becomes a favourite among Ashtangis.

The standard retreat length is two weeks, although if travel time is short, guests may participate in the first week only. Guests arrive on a Saturday afternoon and have the evening to settle in before classes begin on Sunday morning. In the Mysore style, many classes are self-led (with the teacher participating in their own practice) to allow a student to explore their new knowledge. This self-led style is balanced nicely with teacher-led classes, where skills are expanded under the watchful eye of one of the instructors. Who the instructor is will depend on the time of year, and full details of the year's schedule are available on the Purple Valley website.

Accommodation is in one of two guesthouses, or in one of the five bungalows. There are single or double rooms and guests arriving alone who would like to share a room with a fellow traveler to cut costs are able to do so. The rooms are simple - and simply gorgeous - while one of the guesthouses has more modern conveniences for a slightly higher tariff.

The food is served buffet style and is a riot of color and tastiness. In keeping with the yogic lifestyle, all food is vegetarian and mostly organic although not always strictly sattvic (the no-spice, no-onion, no-garlic food that is considered much more pure in the yoga world).

On an ethical side-note, the retreat's support staff are all locals, employed under European best-practice policies. This means that the smiling face greeting your arrival or serving your drink is well-paid, receives sick pay, widow's benefits and their whole family has full medical insurance. Now that’s what we call a truly rejuvenating yoga holiday: Good food, good people, great yoga and the warm feeling you get from knowing you’re part of something making a positive difference in the world. Namaste.

About the area: Goa

Once a Portugese colony, Goa retains its feeling of being somehow separate from the rest of India. It’s not just that D’Souza is a common Indian name, or that the coastline is unique in its beauty. There is a far more relaxed attitude in Goa that does not exist anywhere else in India. Here is where the bright young things of the country come to play and are free to wear shorts, arm-baring tops and even bikinis, a radical departure from the pervading modesty in the rest of the country.

Since the 1960s, the beach culture of Goa has drawn international visitors in their thousands, and the abundance of nightclubs, markets and laid-back bars is a testimony to Goa’s comfort with a more liberal way of life. The ideal time to visit Goa is either before or after monsoon season (June - October) and it is not only the sparkling turquoise waters that are on offer for travellers. The Goan hinterland is home to a multitude of wildlife sanctuaries, with Sakrebyle being one of the most popular. Here, orphaned or injured elephants are nursed back to health and released into the wild. They often return for visits, and are happy to say hello to tourists as well.

For those brave enough to venture to Goa during the rainy season, be aware that many of the amenities (shops, summer guesthouses and the like) close their doors during off-season. This is the time that many locals take their own vacations, giving Goa a very different feeling. Also, when it rains here, it really rains. Walls of water that drench immediately and are sometimes heavy enough to be painful. Nonetheless, there is sometimes a certain charm to a rainy, abandoned beach as Goa-fans are quick to point out.

Image credit: Coni Hörler Photography

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