We’ve all heard the horror stories about Japan and overwork — while many of these must be taken with a grain of salt, many also contain just as many grains of truth. Whatever the case, anecdotes of Japanese work-related illness and even death highlight the seemingly endless quest for a better work-life balance that many of us find ourselves on.
That’s where yoga steps in. Gaining prominence as a way to nourish the body and mind, and yoga retreats today are an epic new-wave vacation for working professionals.
“Yoga has grown internationally from a niche subculture into a major force in wellbeing and personal development, revolutionising the fitness industry,” says Leo Lourdes, founder of global yoga brand Yogasphere. “In modern times we are bombarded twenty-four seven with so many factors requesting our time, that a retreat becomes the go-to option for professionals to come off the grid and recharge themselves.”
It’s for men too
Everything from our social network feeds to female-led TV dramas seem to suggest that, at least until recently, yoga has been almost exclusively a women’s club of sorts. But Lourdes points out that men have started realizing the benefits: “Year-on-yearm, we have seen over a 160 percent increase in our male clientele. Time Magazine reported men doing yoga is one of the most significant trends in modern fitness. Many initially join to de-stress or to supplement their gym regime to gain flexibility, but eventually yoga becomes their way of life; a means to manage their health and physique.”
While vacations are often synonymous with gruelling itineraries, booze, or chaos, yoga retreats offer something different. Not only do they force participants to unplug and unwind, connect with themselves and like-minded group members, they also maneuver individuals into learning and training the body’s most powerful organ: the brain.
“It’s easy to rely on being reactive instead of delving into deeper resources of the mind,” Lourdes explains. “Yoga helps us understand ourselves and how we respond. Exercising our brains aids decision making, vitality and how we approach tasks in both work and personal life.” Meanwhile, the physical benefits are boundless; in addition to added strength and flexibility, retreats remove the stress and effort in planning a balanced diet while away, by including fresh, healthy meals as part of the program. These parts all comes together to ensure the body is elevated and the mind invigorated.
Retreat in Japan
Japan has a rich history of Zen meditation, so it’s not surprising that it is also home to some of the most dedicated yogis on the planet. Enthusiasts fly world over to experience yoga against the wondrous backdrops Japan can provide — from mountains to shrines to fall leaves and cherry blossoms. Chris Roblin, an account manager at Arc’teryx, an outdoor clothing company, describes his recent experience at the winter resort Hakuba, just a few hours north of Tokyo. His two-week retreat was run by Elements Yoga and consisted of two yoga classes a day combined with winter activities such as skiing.
“Morning classes, with the sun shining through, left me feeling warm and positively awakened. Evening classes ended each blissful day perfectly, and we enjoyed scenic outdoor onsen during our stay which soothed our muscles,” Roblin recalls. “I left the retreat not only with amazing memories, but I returned home to Vancouver, Canada, feeling energised and more focused than ever.”
Venture further afield
The hardest part of a yoga retreat is deciding where to go, especially if you’re looking for some time away from Japan. Lourdes runs through some personal picks: “For a real yoga adventure, I recommend Costa Rica.” Well known for ecotourism, retreats in Costa Rica offer sessions in the rainforest coupled with adventure sport activities such as trekking and ziplining. “My accommodation in Costa Rica was an amazing tree house in Monteverde Forest.”
North India is ideal for those wanting to discover the roots of yoga. Sessions are taught as a stripped-back spiritual practice in a landscape of historic ashrams.
“There’s a maharaja’s palace in Rishikesh I adored when I visited years ago that we decided to come back and run retreats there, 3000 feet high in the Himalayas,” says Lourdes. For alternative treatments and holistic living, he recommends going south of India to Kerala, where you can integrate yoga with Ayurvedic treatments.
For those looking for something a little more luxurious or romantic, the Maldives is most popular with couples looking for a magical experience with nature and sumptuous spa treatments.
“We have a residency here and practice in some striking locations with infinity views of the ocean mirroring the blue sky,” Lourdes adds.
Now is time
There are now over fifty low-cost airlines in Asia, compared with just a handful at the beginning of this decade. And with world-class retreats also available within Japan, yoga vacations are more accessible than ever, both internationally and domestically.
“Yoga retreats take you on a blissful journey of self discovery, practising in and exploring beautiful surroundings while nurturing body and soul,” says Lourdes. “For our clients in particular, who return again and again, it’s the way forward for annual leave.”
While Japan is still playing catch-up with other nations in realizing that R&R is no longer an indulgence but a necessity, tales of heightened inner peace along with the slew of recommendations that you’ll bring back from a yoga retreat vacation may be the best souvenir your stressed out coworkers will ever receive.
Get inspiration for your next trip here: