Exhale Yoga Retreats and Teacher Trainings is far more then your typical yoga retreat experience. A legendary adventure for your soul, the two weeks spent wandering the incredible islands of Bali along side this tropical tribe exceeded all expectations one could have in a yoga retreat. Here's an insiders rundown of our epic Exhale experience.
Rachel and Jules, the gorgeous, gracious gurus of following your bliss hand craft this intimate, environmentally conscious excursion down to the last surf soaked savasana.
We arrived on the beautiful island of Bali, a driver eagerly awaiting to transplant us to the coastal surf town of Canggu, a small, burgeoning scene on the west coast of paradise. Our first of three destinations was a gorgeous, fresh faced health hub dubbed the Chillhouse. True to it's name this intimate resort boasted quaint bungalows, two pools cradled in a canopy of palms, lush greenery, an open air yoga shala with all the mats, blocks and bolsters a yogi could dream of. An incredible feast was prepared for our enjoyment that night which set the atmosphere for a perfect introduction to our tribe.
In the evenings we practiced a restorative yin class. For night one, this was the ultimate remedy to soothe our tired, travel-logged bodies. By the light of many candles, under the Indo sky, to the tune of the birds, frogs, and the soul seducing songs that emanated from the sound system, we were guided into what can only be described as the best rest one could ask for after a long day of flying.
In the mornings we rose for our vinyasa class, carefully curated for all levels, the incredible instructors balanced effort, ease, and enjoyment. No matter what your previous yoga experience entailed, each class offered insightful teachings, overflowing with intention, and love. They ensured each flow filled us with unbridled passion for living our best lives, tapping into our sense of self and affirming that we were exactly where we were supposed to be. Somewhere along the way all the noise and the racket we learn to live with; the analysis paralysis, the fear of failure, the self doubt, diminished self love [insert whatever it is you work through] began to shed. It took only a few days for us to identity our truths, or as we liked to call it, our tropical selves. A beautiful realization to step into as we still had more then a week together to play, explore and expand.
Aside from the twice daily yoga, awesome food and pool lounging. Exhale ensured that we had a wide array of other activities to stimulate our senses with (if you chose to). Our days in Canggu were sprinkled with surf lessons, and excursions into the neighbouring villages of Ubud, Seminyak and Uluwatu. We were taken on an incredible tour of the Gunung Kawi Temple in Tampaksiring. A sacred ceremonial location for the modern locals, this Temple houses many historical relics dedicated to the Udayana dynasty. It was created by Udayana's sons who were in command of the Bali kingdom in the 11th century.
We also had the privilege of being taken on a guided tour of the Tirta Empul Hindu Temple located in a valley between two hills with large natural springs, a sacred space to all who visit. Tirta Empul is a place to melt away the bad influences and as such purify the body, mind, and soul. Better known as Tampak Siring Temple or the Holy Water Temple, this incredible experience granted us passage to the traditional showers sourced from the natural springs within the temple walls. Locals and travellers alike come to cleanse in the showers which are believed to eliminate all kinds of diseases, including adverse effects associated with our human existence. It was remarkable to say the least. Our first 5 days together set the stage, solidified our tribe and ensured that we experienced all the wonder this Holy island has to offer.
Travelling in true Exhale elegance, our tropical tribe made their way via a luxury-comfort bus from Canggu up to the North East Coast where we hopped on a fabulous fast boat and set off for the true island excellence of Gili Meno. The Gili's are famous Indonesian islands off Bali's northern shores and host a wide array of activities, excitement and opportunities catering to anyone's desires. The glorious Seri Resort on Gili Meno was the absolute perfect destination for our second location. Sparkling white sand beaches, crystal turquoise waters, immaculate accommodations, breathtaking mountain views and an incredible breakfast and dinner buffet were only to be topped by the most amazing jungle tree top, bamboo yoga shala, complete with speakers that could rattle your bones. This made for the most extraordinary yogic experience.
There are those things - those unique gifts, characteristics or offerings that some instructors have. As a student, once you've had the opportunity to experience something uniquely intriguing about a individuals teachings, you're forever altered. Rachel is one such teacher and it is because of her that I have become a Jungle Dance junkie. Friday nights on an Exhale experience are reserved for a special kind of movement, a sacred surrender to your tropical self. This experience is called Jungle Dance. A near indescribable, injection of unadulterated enthusiasm. It's the kind of fun that adults see children having, and wish they could still tap into. The truth is, that level of alacrity, of unabashed, unbridled, irrevocable expression of self, is a Rachel Wainwright speciality. If you're looking for 'that thing' that will make one yoga retreat different from the next - hell, one vacation different from the next - this is that thing you didn't even know that you're looking for.
Another fun aspect of our time on Gili Meno was it's proximity to Gili T. The most rambunctious and largest of the Gilli's, Gili Terwanana was only a short, long-boat ride away for those who wanted to spice up their free time a little. It caters to a slightly, wilder crowd, boasting a lively night life and offers epic daytime excursions such as scuba diving and deep sea fishing just to name a few. Despite our adjacency to Gili T, Meno felt like we had been plucked out of human existence and plopped into a distant heaven. Our time on Meno fostered a space to appreciate the connections we had cultivated with ourselves and each other.
Once we had our fill of tree top yoga, beach sunset horse rides and epic Tarzan inspired dance parties on Gili Meno, we hopped on wicked fast-boats and flew over the Bali Sea to Lombok. Covered in dense, rugged terrain, lush tropical flora and fauna and picturesque villages scattered through monumental mountainscapes, Lombok quickly became a tribe favourite. We were blown away by the beauty and hospitality of the incredible team at Kies Villas in Kuta, Lombok. The accommodations were remarkable, the breakfast delightful, and the yoga shala overlooked a stunning pool, lined with gazebos and hammocks. The whole resort seemed like it was built just for our enjoyment. In between our morning and evening yoga classes, we explored Lombok via scooters, we climbed mountains and swam in pristine waters. Kies Villas and the island of Lombok were the ultimate oasis for relaxation and rejuvenation. However, balance is always important and our last night together turned into an epic post jungle dance pool party! A night of sheer gratitude, we acknowledged the growth, connection and bliss we were able to experience whilst adventuring together over the course of the two weeks.
Our time as an Exhale tribe; the connections, the adventures, the growth in ourselves and our yoga practices, really was one of those you had to be there kinda things. I've done a few retreats over the years in a few locations across the world. Honestly, itineraries can only vary so much. You soak up the outdoors, you sweat it out on your mat and you hope to vibe with the tribe that joins you. That being said, there was something inexplicably alternative about my Exhale Yoga Retreat experience. It was far more then a coming together of individuals to further their yoga practice and relax in the sunshine and surf. It was a gathering of souls, exploring what it means to be a human being in this crazy ride we call life. It was an awakening of the senses and an exploration of limiting beliefs, cradled in an epic array of stimulation, beauty and bountiful memories. I knew I was in a special place when I discovered that half of the attendees were repeat participants having joined Rachel and Jules for other retreats earlier that year. In their words they were made brighter, lighter and happier beings because of it and had immediately signed up for their second experience to continue to ride the wave of Exhale excellence.
So, when deciding on your next (or first) yoga retreat experience, don't just choose your next adventure based on location or time convenience. Close your eyes and ask your soul what you require. If you deserve the best (a rhetorical question, because you know that you do), then look no further because you have found it in Rachel and Jules and their uncanny ability to infuse you with a paradise state of mind.
For more information on Exhale Yoga Retreats or to connect directly with the team for bookings and inquiries check out their website or reach them via Facebook or Instagram.
Written by Exhale Yoga Retreats Tribe member Baillie Thornhill