Step into Shreyas Yoga Retreat and you could be anywhere. Outside the resort’s gate is the cacophony of India. Once inside however, all you hear are the humming of birds. The scent of a thousand herbs (lemongrass, basil, thyme and sage) permeates the air. The décor too follows the Zen Balinese aesthetic that seems to be the rage all over Asia. Dark wood, infinity pool, a profusion of flowers, minimal furnishings and the occasional understated Buddha-head or brass lamp: it could be Bali or Phuket or for that matter, Ullan Bator. Set up by an investment banker based in London, Shreyas accommodates 25 guests (many from Europe) who stay for a week or several to get yoga lessons, detox and lose weight.
WHAT’S THE BIG WOW?
The pot-holed roads and India’s choking traffic make you exhale as soon as you drive in. The peace and beauty all around, not to mention the silence make you go, “Wow.” The décor is sparse and uninspired—marble floors, white linen, flowers, woven blinds, branded furnishings– but the rooms are clean and comfortable. The names of each cottage are Sanskrit words, each with a yoga connotation. Samatvam for instance means equanimity and the short accompanying description makes a nice philosophical touch.
The scent of herbs everywhere; the bougainvillea, jasmine, lotus and frangipani flowers that seem to line every walkway; the large organic garden where guests are encouraged to work if they so desire; the cows that supply milk and dairy; the walking trails. The staff is smiling and eager, and thankfully seem intent on pampering just as much as denying. “No alcohol, Sir, but would you like chamomile tea while you watch the movie in our private screening room?” Instead of tennis, there is a ball-machine which will toss balls while you suit up with a bat, gloves and pads and play cricket: India’s national obsession. The meals are light and tasty but otherwise not particularly noteworthy. The diet is vegetarian but the food choices include both Western and Indian dishes: soups, salads, pastas but also idlis, dosas and steaming hot sambar.
The long ride from Bangalore airport to Shreyas. The yoga-lite element in the group lessons that had to accommodate students of varying proficiency, bringing the whole group to the lowest common denominator.
WHO SHOULD STAY THERE
People who like yoga and want to pursue it in a soft-landing type environment. The yoga teachers here are gentle and tolerant of beginners so this would be a good place to improve your poses and reach the next level of proficiency. The luxurious surroundings are a nice bonus. Unlike Mysore yoga schools with their four-hour long lessons, this is not a place for hard-core advanced yogis. The slow gentle pace and the varying proficiency levels of their fellow participants would drive the advanced yogis nuts.
WOULD YOU GO BACK
Yes, but if I did, it would be for a couple of weeks to get the maximum yogic bang for the buck…and who has that kind of time these days?