Go beyond the fitness & wellness centres and embark on a journey to find your Zen in Bhutan… by Claire Trickett18th July 2018
Life is all about balance. We always maintain that calories don’t count when you’re on holiday and we encourage our guests to try all of the local delicacies, to indulge in that sneaky glass of wine with lunch, and to savour every last morsel of that sinful dessert. Yet on the other hand, wherever possible, we do harvest our own organic fruits and vegetables (or source them sustainably from local farmers) and our chefs are renowned for whipping up hearty, wholesome and healthy dishes.
Think of it as yin and yang: healthy meals and well-deserved indulgences; early wake-up calls and afternoon siestas; active mornings in the rugged outdoors and soothing afternoon massages and bubble baths; and of course, adventure by day and romance by night.
We encourage outdoor adventure and a good dose of adrenaline, from nature walks and interactive game drives, to quadbiking, kayaking, hot air ballooning, snorkelling, frogging, birding, scuba diving, trekking, swimming, cycling and skiing. You name it. Equally important, though, is finding your own quiet time. Disconnecting from your phone and WiFi, enjoying some peaceful meditation, joining a morning yoga session or simply taking a timeout to read a book or walk amongst the trees.
Taking wellness ‘beyond’
We realise that guests want to remain active and stay fit while they travel, so while our main focus will always be on indulging, exploring, relaxing and pampering, many of our lodges do also boast fully-equipped fitness centres with state-of-the-art equipment (and those lodges that don’t have gyms, still provide guests with the opportunity to exercise using our &Beyond gym-in-a-basket). Of course, to inspire that healthy and mindful balance, we also offer a growing selection of wellness centres, qualified massage therapists and, in some places, yoga instructors.
In light of the ever-popular trend towards wellness and spirituality, how do we take this balance even further for our guests? How do we enable our guests to remain healthy and keep fit, yet still find a way to seek inner peace and do some much-needed soul searching? Nowadays, most lodges and hotels around the world have fitness centres and world-class spas – this is nothing new – so how do we take wellness ‘beyond’?
Our new Bhutan Yoga Retreat Small Group Journey is the perfect example. This ten-day journey seamlessly balances energetic outdoor adventure, invigorating fresh air and spectacular jaw-dropping landscapes, with quiet, soulful and rejuvenating yoga sessions, deep meditation and spiritual guidance.
With its pristine and picturesque landscapes, peace-loving Buddhist culture and unwavering dedication to the pursuit of overall happiness, Bhutan was the natural choice for this journey. What better place to find your Zen than in a land where productivity is measured in Gross National Happiness?
This soul-enriching journey combines meditation and yoga with the opportunity to explore the untouched landscapes and time-honoured traditions of the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, also known as The Last Shangri-La.
One of the smallest countries in the world, Bhutan certainly has the biggest commitment to conservation. Not only is Bhutan the only carbon-negative country in the world, an impressive 60% of the country is, by law, dominated by natural, undisturbed forest cover. Not familiar with this notoriously peaceful and deeply spiritual kingdom? Here are 10 things you didn’t know about Bhutan.
A taste of what to expect
Witness the enormous Buddha that overlooks the capital city of Thimpu, lose track of time in the bustling farmers’ market and catch a glimpse of the country’s national animal at the Takin Preserve. Enjoy once in a lifetime scenic hikes up to the ancient Tango Goenpa monastery and the world-famous Tiger’s Nest, explore the Jungshi paper-making factory and visit the Punakha Dzong, one of Bhutan’s oldest and most scenic buildings, set at the confluence of two rivers on the valley floor.
Join guided meditation sessions; try your hand at archery and learn all about embroidery and Thangka painting; tour ancient monasteries; practice the art of Tin Tang, Hatha, Yin and Vinyasa yoga; take in the panoramic views of the mighty Himalaya mountains; observe authentic local artists’ studios; and listen in awe as 300 Buddhist monks chant their evening prayers.
The journey is led by Tashi Phuntsho, an English-speaking Bhutanese &Beyond guide, and assisted by specialist healing facilitator Zoe Nash. In addition to sightseeing and cultural experiences, it incorporates meditation sessions, as well as various types of yoga, many of which take place in breathtakingly beautiful or spiritually significant natural locations.
With a decade of guiding experience, Tashi has accumulated an excellent wealth of historic, cultural and wildlife knowledge that he eagerly shares with his guests. Originally qualifying in the field of Computer Science, Tashi, a keen and experienced hiker, accompanied a friend on an expedition leading a British couple to the base camp of the Masangang Mountain.
This expedition made him realise how much he enjoyed exploring the extraordinary landscapes of Bhutan and showcasing the rich cultural heritage and flora and fauna of his country with others. He has since lead travellers of various nationalities on numerous cultural and trekking tours, and has a wonderful ability of understanding the needs and expectations of his guests.
He is a young, energetic and humble man, who speaks fluent English and always offers a welcoming smile. When Tashi is not guiding his guests, his other passions include soccer and travelling.
A born healer, avid traveller and specialist healing facilitator, Zoe has devoted her life to the study of yoga and natural medicine. She has travelled the globe to explore the world-leading yoga and wellness retreats, including Bhutan. From her first visit, she instantly fell in love with the country and the people, as Bhutan so beautifully combines her passion for pure nature, untouched culture, Buddhism, travel, hiking and wellness.
Armed with a degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Zoe has spent a considerable amount of time studying yoga in India and Bhutan and has completed a number of teacher trainings, exceeding 500 hours in Bali.
We asked Zoe a few questions about her love of Bhutan and all things yoga…
Q: Do you have any tips for getting the most out of a journey to Bhutan?
A: “On the inbound flight to Bhutan, sit on the left-hand side of the plane so that you can catch your first glimpse of the mighty Himalayas on arrival. This spectacular view really sets the scene for the magnificent adventure ahead.”
Q: What’s your favourite thing about Bhutan?
A: “The people. They are the kindest, most gracious people I have ever met. There is just something about their nature, their Buddhist lifestyle and tendencies, and their pride in their land that just shines out of them in such a way I have not experienced in any other culture, even in other parts of Asia.”
Q: What surprised you the most about Bhutan when you first visited?
A: “The untouched, pristine nature. I had heard it was beautiful, of course, but I was still absolutely blown away by its natural beauty, raw nature, soaring mountains, clear flowing rivers, dense forests and spaciousness. It really is the ‘Last Shangri-La’, but you have to see it for yourself to really understand what this means. Bhutan has a law to keep 60% of its land forested, which is the most incredible thing a country could do for a green and bright future.”
Q: What is your favourite travel tip?
A: “As they love to say in Bhutan, ‘Leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but memories.’”
Would you like to join us on this spiritual journey of wellness through the natural beauty of Bhutan?