Payel Majumdar Upreti
Four Seasons Resort at Landaa Giravaaru has a holistic retreat in AyurMa where people can access world-class innovative health therapies and yoga in the pristine Baa Atoll
What exactly is yoga by the moonlight? For that matter, anti-gravity yoga sounds equally thrilling and terrifying at the same time. Dr Arun, who is the Director at AyurMa, a retreat located at the Four Seasons Resort in Landaa Giravaaru, smiles as he begins to explain what we have in store for us ahead, because he knows it won’t be an ordinary experience, and indeed it isn’t.
While I’m no veteran to yoga, I’m not a complete novice either, and have been wont to take new fangled yoga trends to be just that – as transient as the clouds that settle over Baa Atoll, this biosphere reserve island in the Maldives where AyurMa is located, before passing away to another island.
However, what I encountered at AyurMa, a retreat built around the four pillars of yoga therapy, ayurveda, wellness and planetary wellbeing, feels more permanent. I came back believing in an alternative lifestyle, one in which was possible to use innovative techniques to ancient wisdom on a journey to health and happiness. AyurMa in its essence, believes in reconciling ancient practices with modern lifestyle, strategies that would help us cope with the stresses of modernity by using their approach without having to live the life of a sage. Says Dr Arun, “Meaning “mother of life,” AyurMa invites you to reset your awareness and embark on a path to health, harmony and happiness, where the emphasis is on loving the earth as you love yourself. Alongside a multi award-winning team of Ayurvedic doctors, naturopaths and yoga therapists, challenge and overcome whatever issues are holding you back during tailored therapeutic programs that draw from many alternative systems of holistic medicine. Discover individual and shared experiences designed to cultivate care for ourselves, others, the oceans and the planet.”
AyurMa has experienced practitioners from the university of S-VYASA, or Swami Vivekanand Yoga Anusandhan Samsthana in Bengaluru, Karnataka, who take whoever willing with them to ground themselves in the exotic environs on a journey of self-discovery. Let me give you an example. For full moon night, always special if you’re down the coastline, we all went out at 9 pm at night on a special jetty, laid out our mats and practiced cooling breath exercises called sitali pranayama, followed by a languorous session of shavasana, to slow down our breathing and calm our senses. Quite a few were snoring by the end of it, and the rest of us were drifting in and out of dreams!
But that’s not it, the yoga gurus at the property can help you target specific health problems, with a 360-degree approach, right from identifying your dosha, according to Ayurveda, a look at your diet, lifestyle, to help you get connected with the planet and yourself through their planetary well-being program. Their yoga therapy courses are typically 3-5 day programs, and modules include immunity building, stress management, diabetes care, spinal care, thyroid health, addiction management and more.
Said Dr Arun, Director and Naturopathy Physician at AyurMa, “We consider planetary wellbeing as an overarching philosophy and a natural extension of our own well-being. If we are well enough and in sync with our true self, it is natural for us to extend that to our environment and other creatures who surround us.” In keeping with the philosophy, the resort extends complimentary consultations to every guest, and access to herbal medicine as well as Ayurvedic food labelling at all its restaurants, so guests can keep up with their wellness regime as well as take care of themselves.
Innovation and yoga
The gurus at the retreat do not believe in the same old traditional ways to finding balance in life. Their anti-gravity yoga makes you believe you can ‘fly’, doing gravity defying poses from suspended hammocks. Then they have the beginner friendly saltwater pool aqua yoga, with hatha postures. The aqua float yoga is for those with floating mats, which helps challenge you and improve core strength, balance and range of motion.
Or one can breathe, stretch, tone, strengthen and jog around 15 unique outdoor stations during their guided 75-minute session, suitable for guests of average fitness, 12 years and above.The property is strewn with props and descriptions of different yogic poses, in keeping with the Iyengar tradition, from a cobra pose wall in the midst of the island, where one might be taking a walk and feel like a stretch, to dedicated studios where one can practice aerial or anti gravity yoga using suspended silk ropes in the middle of the jungle.
Their Wake up to Wonder program at the property is a yoga program that begins at dawn, where you gather under candlelight to awaken the kundalini chakra with pranayama and chants. It was followed by doing sun salutations and other morning yoga poses on the pristine white beaches at the property, even as we witnessed the sun rise ahead of us. These are experiences that you take back with you, the moments of stillness observed in an otherwise hectic life that modern lifestyles tend to be. If you asked me for my happy place, doing a tree pose in the midst of aquamarine ocean and blue skies and white sands would come close to it.
Tips on introducing yoga for beginners:
Yoga can be introduced to anyone irrespective of age or health condition. But it is important to approach it in a welcoming and accessible manner.
Start with a gentle approach: Focus on basic poses, slow movements and breathing exercises.
Emphasize breath awareness: Help beginners understand the importance of deep mindful breathing during yoga practice.
Teach foundational poses: Begin with foundational poses that are easy to understand and perform, such as mountain pose (Tadasana), child’s pose (balasana), and corpse pose- (Savasana). These poses introduce basic body alignment and relaxation techniques.
Demonstrate and explain: As you guide beginners through the practice, demonstrate each pose and provide clear instructions on proper alignment and modifications. Explain the benefits of each pose and how it contributes to overall well-being.
Encourage self-compassion: Remind beginners that yoga is a non-competitive practice focused on self-awareness and self-improvement. Encourage them to listen to their body, take breaks when needed and avoid pushing themselves too hard.
Be patient and supportive: Understand that everyone progresses at their own pace. Encourage beginners to be patient with themselves and celebrate small achievements along the way.
Recommend beginner-friendly resources help to continue their practice and deepen their understanding of Yoga.