Get Spoiled in Balmy Barbados
Yoga Journal - Chloe Busch
To Lindsay Nicholson, the idea of doing yoga at a luxury resort seemed less appealing than sun-bathing on the private beach or receiving lavish spa treatments. "At first, I was daunted by the idea of four hours of yoga a day," says Nicholson, an editor in London. "I wanted to be spoiled and pampered and wallow in jet-set luxury"
She enjoyed both yoga and luxury at the newly redeveloped Sandy Lane Hotel and Golf Club, situated in the parish of St. James on the island of Barbados. Set along a three-mile stretch of Caribbean coastline, the resort has a gourmet European restaurant, golf courses, tennis courts, and sumptuous guest rooms. Sandy Lane has always been a haven for royalty and movie stars, but now it is also a destination for yogis.
In 2003, it launched a series of six-day yoga retreats that include accommodation and yoga classes with Lynn McGowan, a certified Kripalu instructor and Phoenix Rising Yoga instructor. McGowan leads asana sessions before break-fast; in the late morning, she turns the focus to other aspects of yoga, such as pranayama and med¬itation. In the afternoons, guests swim, sail, play golf, or visit the spa before enjoying a sunset med¬itation on the beach. Nicholson, for one, left the resort with a new appreciation of yoga. "I went home bendier, browner, and much more relaxed than when I arrived," she says.
~ Chloe Busch
The Daily Mail - Emma Lucas
Yoga novice EMMA LUCAS learns how to relax in a luxury Barbados resort and explains why you should bend over backwards to get there
Welcome to paradise,' announced the resort rep as I climbed out of the Bentley. I had just arrived at the celebrated Sandy Lane hotel in Barbados - a haven for the rich and famous and, of course, particularly at this time of year, for the hotel's biggest fan, Michael Winner. He proudly boasts of his Christmas-New Year break there costing him £90,000, but the purpose of my visit was to try out their recently launched yoga retreat holidays, and their 47,000sq ft state-of-the-art health and fitness spa -- the first of its kind in the Caribbean.
For the uninitiated, the word yoga inspires images of incredibly supple bodies contorted into impossible shapes. For me, the word yoga means strange-looking women in leotards and legwarmers, hosting videos I had bought and never watched more than once; I was sceptical, if not a little scared. Fortunately, the yoga offered at Sandy Lane is nothing like the arduous Ashtanga or 'power' yoga, favoured by celebrities such as Madonna. Here, guests are taught Kripalu - a gentle and spiritual style of yoga, suitable for people of any age and ability.
The sessions, hosted by Kripalu yoga instructor Lynn McGowan, started before breakfast, so it was with a rumbling tummy and sleepy eyes that I began. My classmates and I started by learning how to breathe properly, but this was not that easy. This was deep, fill-your lungs breathing, used to combat the stresses of everyday life and provide energy for the body. I had never felt so alive, if a little dizzy.
After a hearty breakfast in the main hotel restaurant (the yoga had surely earned me double helpings), we settled down to another session. It was time to learn the moves, and muscles I didn't even know I possessed were put through their paces. From the Downward Dog, which involves sticking your bottom skyward, to Salute to the Sun - a sequence of moves combined to energise your body - the movements were measured and pensive.
At first it was awkward, and my limbs refused to bend, but with practice and a little patience, it became more comfortable.
The effect on the body in such a short space of time was remarkable; profound, even. On the third day, a class member managed to touch her toes. Considering that at the start of the yoga sessions her fingers had refused to stretch beyond her ankles, it was a momentous and shared achievement.
The evenings began with an hour of meditation on the beach - the part of the trip that had worried me the most. The yoga had been fun, but the thought of having to remain quiet for any length of time 'filled me with horror. Yet again, I was pleasantly surprised. Not only did I stay silent for a full eight minutes, but I man¬aged to clear my mind, if only for a short while, of all my daily anxieties. This yoga thing was actually working.
Would-be yogis need only commit to four hours of stretching and meditating per day, as there is plenty more luxury to discover in Sandy Lane's spa. You'll find a sound-proof meditation room and even an ice cave, where you sit after a session in the sauna to close your pores. I opted for the Detoxifying Sea of Senses treatment, where my entire body was exfoliated and then massaged. I was covered in warm, mineral-rich algae, wrapped in cling-film, and left to bake under an electric blanket for half an hour. I felt (and smelt) a bit like a Mint Imperial that had been left in someone's pocket for too long, but it was pure indulgence. I hadn't even had to lift my head off the pillow: it was all done for me.
To my horror, only after attempting to head off to the shower room was I told that, in order for the treatment to be really effective, I shouldn't shower for at least three hours. I would also probably need to visit the ladies' room a lot more than usual. Great, I thought, consid¬ering that I had another hour of meditation on the beach before my day was truly over. Oh well, meditation required me to sit cross-legged anyway.
For golf fanatics, Sandy Lane boasts one of the world's greatest golf resorts, with no less than 45 holes at which to try your hand. And for lazy sunbed-dwellers such as myself, there is a freshwater swim¬ming pool and a beautiful white sandy beach with attendants to cater for your every whim. Simply stick a flag in the sand and the beach attendants will fetch your lunch or a drink (the fruit punches are a personal favourite), clean your sunglasses, or even shake the sand from your towel. There is simply nothing you need to do for yourself.
One part spiritual enlightenment, two parts exercise, the yoga retreats at Sandy Lane are perfect for anyone wanting to soothe body and mind without forgoing the finer things in life. It is an unashamedly luxurious place, providing incredible pampering. Everything, down to the smallest detail, has been thought of to make your stay more pleasant - from bedroom door signs in Braille, to remote-controlled curtains in the bedrooms. Room service arrives, as if by magic, via a network of underground tunnels, rooms and secret lifts. All this to ensure that the guests never have to lay eyes on a service trolley.
The food and entertainment are just as impressive. The hotel has three restaurants, five bars and several regular entertainers. Two local divas wowed us with their Aretha Franklinesque voices one night, to much applause. Simon Cowell had left the hotel only the day before and I couldn't help thinking he had missed out on some true talent.
'Welcome to paradise', the woman said when we arrived, and now, after a few days of yoga in a simply beautiful setting, I really couldn't agree more.
~ Emma Lucas
Pure in spirit
Excerpt from Harper's Magazine article ~ Pure in spirit
While on holiday in Barbados recently, I met an incredible yoga teacher, Lynn McGowan, who opened my eyes to the all-round benefits of her discipline. And no, before you ask, I haven't been living on Mars for the past decade; rather, I have been rather put off yoga by the competitive nature of some of the classes in my part of London, where participants take part in 'Who's the bendiest? contests, when they're not trying to outdo one another with trendy yoga gear.
Lynn, who is based at Sandy Lane's new spa, offered a more spiritual approach, teaching me not only about the postures, but also about yoga philosophy. It is not, Lynn explained, just about getting a taut physique - although you could be forgiven for thinking it's just another fitness craze, given the industry that has sprung up around it Back in London, I asked yoga teacher and writer Alexa Harris whether she thought yoga had lost its way. In 'Yoga & Co' (page 202), Alexa investigates the big business that is yoga today.