We are often asked by prospective guests which retreat, teacher or style of yoga they would enjoy most. Our short answer would be that most retreat weeks are suitable for most people. Quality and experienced teachers are one key to great yoga holidays – their care and understanding should make their particular style accessible and enjoyable to all. Having said this certain styles and retreats may appeal to different people. So here is an all too brief guide to the asana practices you can find at Yoga Rocks.
Ashtanga vinyasa yoga is one of the most physically demanding styles of yoga. It is a set sequences of poses, either led by the teacher or self-practice/Mysore style. In the self-practice method everyone works through the set sequence to their ability in their own time, holding each position for 5 breaths and receiving help from the teacher as needed. Ashtanga yoga retreats at Yoga Rocks are suitable for anyone, though it helps if you have a reasonable level of fitness. This style of yoga encourages fast physical changes and after a week here you will have a personal practice and the confidence to continue it at home. Some people love the physical nature of an Ashtanga retreat. By the time they have finished their morning practice they really feel they deserve making a holiday of the rest of the day, and can relax, guilt free, on a beach, with a book or in a hammock. Others find it a little strenuous if they don’t soften the practice, approaching it joyfully.
In 2021 Maria Boox and Sandra Howling will teach tradtional Ashtanga vinyasa self practice. David Williams, who first took Ashtanga to the USA, teaches led Ashtanga in a gentle way designed to make it a lifetime practice. Danny Paradise will be teaching a more freestyle led class influenced by his long term practice and he likes to include the Ashtanga pranayama (breathing) sequence. Melanie Cooper will also teach Ashtanga yoga mornings in 2020. Melanie will teach both a detailed led class as well as a Mysore class assisted by her very experienced partner Emil, with Yin Yoga, pranayama and/or yoga nidra in the afternoon.
Vinyasa yoga owes its flowing movements supported by the breath to Ashtanga. Each class is different and people really enjoy the variety of yoga poses. Some teachers are very creative; others stick to more well known range of poses. Each pose has variations so that those who are more/less flexible or strong can benefit from going as far as they are comfortable with, in a safe way. It should be a fun, but challenging, yoga style.
At Yoga Rocks in 2021 we have Anastasis Koutsogiannis, Fleur van Hille, Helen Reavill, Gosta (Shunya) and Josie Sykes teaching vinyasa yoga and each have a very varied yoga background. This means that lots of different influences pop up in the flow over the course of a week’s retreat and the focus of the classes can bounce between strong asana, restorative flow, pranayama and meditation techniques. Though the teacher leads the flow, it is often the needs of the individual groups that create it. Vinyasa builds strength and flexibility and is suitable for those who are willing to move.
Hatha yoga often refers to a gentler form of yoga. The postures are steadier and can be held a little longer while the emphasis is often on a more traditional Indian style of yoga. Those who are not so physically active often enjoy hatha yoga more. Though not as physically tough as some other yoga styles, it reaches deep levels, gently opening you up and releasing stress from the body and mind. Everyone has something to gain by learning to relax in a good hatha pose – and this can sometimes only be learnt on a yoga retreat rather than in a yoga class squeezed between work and social commitments.
Sky teaches hatha yoga at Yoga Rocks in 2021 and loves to share his vast array of knowledge and yoga goodies. His yoga is deeply rooted in traditional practice, is delivered with real flair and has many other elements too, not just hatha yoga.
Melanie Cooper will be exploring some Yin Yoga in her afternoons here. Yin Yoga holds the poses for a very long time, so you have space to focus on relaxing, allowing the body and mind to melt into deep hip openers and forward bends. It is very satisfying but also challenging with deep sensations arising from long holds.
Jivamukti Yoga was founded by Sharan Gannon and David Life, the dynamic Jivamukti duo. This style is a physically challenging form of Vinyasa yoga that aspires to help us towards liberation through compassion to our fellow beings and animals. Devotional chanting, upbeat music and philosophy are interwoven through the asana classes and aim to help the process along. Gösta spent many years with Sharon & David at their New York studio and will lead our 2021 retreats that are most influenced by their philosophy and practice though over the past couple of years they have began exploring more seriously other styles of yoga.
Iyengar Yoga gives much emphasis to the detail and integrity of the poses. Often poses are held for a longer time and props are used instead of variations. We have no pure Iyengar teachers on our schedule although Gösta is heavily influenced by his time as a student at the Iyengar Institute in Amsterdam many years ago on his return from New York.
Gösta often teaches partner yoga on the last afternoon of his retreat. It is a bit of fun and the asana can be quite challenging taking you to new places and making new friends!
All of the above needs to be taken with an ‘accepting’ pinch of salt. Great yoga is honest, sincere and heartfelt – these qualities make for a special yoga holiday. Many labels attached to the various yogas and are a simple way to give people an idea of what to expect.
When it comes to having a great yoga holiday the safe, supported and encouraging way our teachers lead you through the yoga is more important than the style. Beginners, advanced pupils and teachers attend most weeks. The calibre of our teachers mean other yoga teachers come to practice and learn more but coming as a beginner is real a gift to yourself – you will learn so much.
Something we have not touched on is other yogic activities like pranayama (yogic breathing exercises), meditation, or chanting which can often be enjoyed here. The asana practices are most people’s gateway to these more subtle practices. While some teachers like to teach some meditation as a separate session, others simply encourage and show you how to find the meditative space within your yoga practice. Others weave a sitting practice into a class. Most teach some pranayama, specifically Gösta, Josie and Maria include particularly deep sessions.
If you have any questions about specific retreats and what further yoga activities might be on offer please write and ask. Our teachers draw upon their vast knowledge and depth of personality – some weeks are very much yoga holidays while other weeks are deeper yoga retreats that tend towards the monastic. Neither is better – they are all good for some people at some time. Feel free to write, tell us about your yoga experience and what you are looking for and we’ll help you pick a suitable week. Often the highly driven look for strenuous yoga when they’d benefit more from learning to relax in a more meditative class, while those that are more naturally meditative and relaxed could do with a more active class to light some fire inside them!
Finally we’d like to say that while the teacher is vital and the style a matter of choice you will find the biggest plus about Yoga Rocks retreats is that they are not ‘one trick ponies’. Not one exclusive things makes them. They are a combination of world class yoga teachers, amazing natural energy in the beautiful environment, locally produced food that is lovingly prepared and the caring atmosphere. We, our team and our teachers, try to combine to make something very special. Hopefully you’ll get the opportunity to experience one of our yoga holidays in 2021.