September 2009. Harper's BAZZAAR - Australia. Media Reviews
Take up yoga in Thailand
By Frances Hibbardd. Trips to Take Now
Miles from the thrum of Chaweng beach, with its tandooried Euro backpackers, designer fakes and pesky touts, is one of Koh Samui's hidden gems: Samahita Retreat.
Irishman Paul Dallaghan and his Thai wife, Jutima, established the yoga centre six years ago after relocating from Manhattan to raise their family. The result is a dedicated yoga retreat, a place where yogis aspiring or experienced can take up residence and immerse themselves in traditional ashtanga vinyasa yoga, the discipline responsible for 51-year-old Madonna's rock-hard physique.
Not that Samahita Retreat would ever preach a body-beautiful mantra. Way too superficial. This is a place of inherent healthiness; its aim being for guests to achieve balance of the physical and spiritual kind. Retreats are held year round and although themed (detox, breathing, yoga essentials), all follow a similar program. Days begin with meditation and pranayama, or breath-work, followed by several hours of practice (asana), under the watchful eye of Dallaghan and his passionate teaching team. After a hearty breakfast - meals at Samahita Retreat are all vegetarian and largely organic; smoking and alcohol are prohibited - students rest, take advantage of the infra-red sauna and treatments in the health centre, laze around the beachfront pool, perhaps have a traditional Thai massage in the open-air shala, take cooking lessons with the Thai staff in YT's kitchen, or explore the island by scooter, before returning for afternoon class: a mix of lectures and yoga classes. As the sun sets over Samahita Retreat's home on serene Laem Sor beach, students use the herbal steam room, where turmeric, lemongrass, basil and camphor are filtered through the air to ease aching muscles.
Samahita Retreat last year relocated from Samui's northern shore, where accommodation was on the schoolcamp side of basic. The new purposebuilt centre is hotel-plush by comparison. Rooms are light and airy, with queensized beds, WiFi and air-conditioning. So why would you choose to spend your Thai holiday exercising as opposed to drinking Mai Tais? Ultimately, yoga is a moving meditation; a way to look within. And the emphasis here is on mental clarity, spiritual growth and self-awareness. All valuable skills in tough times. The other thing that sets Yoga Thailand apart: laughter. Dallaghan and co-director Neil Barker have wicked senses of humour. No serious yoga faces here. Giggling your way to enlightenment and superb muscle tone? You bet.
Samahita Retreat, Koh Samui, Thailand, +66 77 920 090; www.yoga-thailand.com.