Phuket is one of the world’s most beautiful islands, with pristine, powder-white beaches, turquoise and aquamarine seas, verdant jungle hillsides and a vibrant and distinctive culture that makes it a perfect destination to get away from it all and recharge those depleted batteries.
The sky’s the limit
One way to get your body back into the groove that nature intended is yoga, the origins of which date back millennia to pre-Vedic traditions in the Indian sub-continent. There are many forms of yoga and, although some of the more dramatic claims for its efficacy may be a little fanciful, there is no doubt that yoga is a powerful tool for those serious about gaining control over their body’s physical realm.
Mind and body in unison
Add to this the spiritual dimension of practising yoga and you have a very potent, positive force that brings focus and clarity to the stressed mind from which improved physical health and wellbeing will inevitably follow. Indeed the word yoga most likely derives from the Sanskrit root yuj, ‘to join, attach, yoke, harness’, and is related to the English word, yoke. Most Indian grammarians have related this to the concept of concentration, harnessing the mind, so to speak, to a purpose. And yoga, if nothing else, does require a great deal of concentration of mind and body.
The origins of and development of yoga through the ages is shrouded in mystery and debate, with no consensus regarding its chronology or place of origin, as it is with much of Indian culture and history. But, since the mid-nineteenth century the interest in yoga in the West became widespread and today has mushroomed enormously and spread into almost every region of the globe. Yoga is now a multi-billion dollar business, franchised and packaged like brands of coffee and tea.
Not just for tourists. Thais doing yoga
In Phuket there are many excellent venues for practising and learning more about yoga and its health benefits. Everything from Ashtanga, Yin and Acro, to Kundalini and Hatha forms of yoga can be found on the island, many of which are taught near one of Phuket’s splendid beaches, something that very definitely adds to the experience. Whether you are an absolute beginner or seasoned practitioner, you’ll find a centre to suit your tastes.
The perfect setting for achieving bliss
The style of dress is optional and the equipment minimal, so what do you have to lose? And, you may end up hooked on this ancient, all-encompassing mind-body experience, made more likely by Phuket’s seductive charms and inimitable joie de vivre. A picture-perfect setting and a pro-active, life-affirming exercise ritual that will set you up for a lifetime of health and happiness – what’s not to like?
Some of the best known yoga schools are the Belove Yoga Rooftop Studio, Elements Hot Yoga, Yoga Republic, Baan Yoga, Santosa Detox and Wellness Centre, Yoga Connections, Kata Hot Yoga and Traditional Ashtanga Yoga Shala.
Coffee bean scrub, anyone?
Another far less strenuous way of achieving a blissful nirvana of sorts is to indulge in one of the many soothing body treatments offered by an astonishing array of spas dotted around the island that cater to all budgets. Here you can indulge yourself to delicious extremes, pampered and prodded or pummelled and soothed by expert hands, offering everything from massages to aromatherapy, facials and body scrubs, steam rooms and outdoor showers at award-winning spas that set the standards for quality and excellence.
Gentle hands to soothe away the stress
Traditional Thai massage has an ancient lineage, dating back some 2,500 years, and is intrinsically linked to Buddhism. The benefits of a Thai massage, though lacking scientific corroboration, cannot be denied. For one thing it simply feels great, soothes aching muscles, stretches tight, knotted muscles and creaky joints and leaves you feeling like you’ve been seriously worked over by a bunch of genteel thugs.
Unlike most forms of massage, Thai massage emphasises stretching, and a skilled practitioner uses almost every part of their body to do this, including walking on your back. It is something of a shock for the uninitiated to find that instead of a gentle probing and kneading of flesh that is characteristic of many forms of massage you can find yourself pulled and stretched to your limits. This can often seem a little uncomfortable and borderline unpleasant, but if it ever becomes too much a quiet word is all it takes for your masseur/masseuse to ease off a trifle.
Thailand has many excellent schools that teach traditional Thai massage, one particularly prestigious one being the Wat Pho Thai Traditional Medical and Massage School, located adjacent to this wonderful royal temple, now a UNESCO world heritage site, and in Phuket this level of expertise and experience is reflected in the dedication to their art that Phuket’s practitioners display. A good deal of this skill lies in being able to assess a person’s present state of health and the ability to gauge the appropriate level of intensity of treatment required.
Thai yoga massage statues at Wat Pho
Spas in Phuket offer the very best in therapeutic indulgence which for the jet-lagged, ultra-stressed, world-weary traveller can be a godsend. In such a picturesque setting, with tropical fragrances wafting in on gentle sea breezes there is nothing quite so wickedly self-indulgent as surrendering yourself to the marvellously deft hands, elbows, knees and toes of Phuket’s finest practitioners of arts both traditional and spiritual that bring about, if only for a brief moment, the blissful sense of abandonment to the well-honed skills that have been handed down through the generations to offer mental and physical relief.
Vriksha Asana, the tree pose, on the beach
Your search for nirvana might begin at anyone of the following places, De Surin Health Spa at Surin Beach, De Flora Spa in Patong, 5-Star Massage, also in Patong, Orientala Spa, again in Patong, as is Sweet Lemongrass, Let’s Relax Spa and Siladon Spa. At Kamala Beach you’ll find Oasis Turquoise Cove Spa and at Kata Beach Santosa Detox and Wellness Centre.
Take control of your body
To discover yoga is to embrace total physical control over your own body, working in coordination with a mind concentrated on the task at hand. The level of concentration involved focuses the mind to a degree where there are no distractions along the path to moksha, ‘liberation’. After such strenuous exertions of mental and physical effort nothing could be more rewarding than treating yourself to a well-deserved pampering at one the very many health and wellness spas that Phuket has to offer. After all you only live once… or do you?