Inspired by his grandfather, a sincere spiritual yoga practitioner, Bikram Keshari Patra started his yoga journey in his early childhood and has been teaching for the last 13 years.
Now a yoga teacher and consultant at Banyan Tree Samui, he says the natural scenery and climate in Koh Samui make it the perfect place for yoga practice.
Bikram Keshari Patra’s describes a typical day in his tropical haven as beginning “…early in the morning, before sunrise. I get ready with my spiritual sadhana (or yoga practice) followed by a fruit breakfast. It’s karma yoga time after that and then Yoga Asana practices. Lunch should be before 12 noon, then some reading and meditation. Afternoon yoga session begins at 4:00 pm again until dinner before sunset around 6pm. I spend time taking rest for a while. In the evening I practice candle meditation or what is called trataka and prayer meditation. Finally, I sleep before 10:00pm”
This idyllic description of a simple and spiritual existence has been drawing travellers to Thailand for decades, but as the Western world continues to become more aware of the positive mental wellbeing effects of mindfulness and meditation, there has been more interest in yoga based holidays.
According to Bikram Keshari Patra, yoga popularity in Thailand has ‘increased incredibly’ over the last ten years, and Sian Qureshi, a travel expert with six years of yoga practice under her belt agrees saying ‘I would say that at least 50% of my clients will request a resort or destination that offers yoga from the first point of contact. You can get some of the best yoga retreats in Thailand, with stunning settings that really make the experience.”
Artemis Kyprianou, a Thailand expert working with Kuoni who has been practicing yoga for 10 years share his reasons as to why Thailand remains a heaven for yogis:
Why do you think experiencing yoga enhances your experience of visiting another country?
A: Being interested in yoga has allowed me the opportunity to travel around the world solo, going to yoga retreats as I knew I would be part of a group and not alone, allowing me to make friends along the way. Doing yoga whilst on holiday puts you in a relaxed, open state of mind to allow you to fully take in and appreciate the country and culture you a revisiting.
What’s your favourite experience of practising yoga whilst travelling?
My favourite experience of practicing yoga was whilst I was in Southern Goa at a quiet beach yoga retreat. Whilst practising during sunset I remember feeling a perfect warmth around me and the sounds of the waves crashing. It was such a serene and magical feeling.
What makes Thailand such a popular location for yoga and wellness?
Thailand has the perfect climate for practicing yoga outdoors, the humid weather feels very similar to India where Yoga originates. The heat allows the body to relax and become fully flexible. The scenery and beaches in Thailand is so beautiful it helps calm the mind ready for a yoga practice.
What’s your own personal favourite place in Thailand for yoga?
Khao Sok national park is perfect for a yoga practice especially in the morning with the mist from the humidity slowly rising amongst the limestone cliffs to create a magical feel. An evening yoga practice would also be phenomenal as there is no light pollution allowing for phenomenal star gazing.
What would you recommend to a visiting traveller who wanted an authentic Thai yoga experience?
I would recommend avoiding the tourist resort parts of Thailand and focus on isolated areas which are steeped in nature such as the national parks and the jungles of Chiang Mai
Where to practice yoga in Thailand (as recommend by Bikram Keshari Patra)
1. Banyan Tree Samui
Serene and calm, every villa at the Banyan Tree in Koh Samui has its own private pool. This is an extraordinarily peaceful resort that relaxes you as soon as you arrive with the smell of fragrant Jasmine incense welcoming at the doors.
Don’t miss: Complimentary yoga lessons from Bikram Keshari Patra; they include both group stretching and sun salutation classes – and more personalised private sessions are also available.
2. Devasom in Khao Lak
Nostalgic and tranquil, Devasom resort is inspired by the forgotten opulence of 6th century Southeast Asia. The hideaway is located on one of the quieter stretches of beach, and is just a ten minute drive from the local markets and independent restaurants. The resort provides a yoga studio with daily yoga sessions and mindfulness meditations.
Don’t miss: Discover beautiful places to practice yoga off the beaten track with a bicycle excursion to the surrounding coconut plantation nearby temples or lush mangrove.
3. Anantara in Hua Hin
Tropical and friendly, this original Anantara resort has a spa positioned in beautiful exotic gardens, and includes massage suites, and outdoor bathtubs hidden beyond a walled garden of lotuses.
Don’t miss: Sunrise yoga – the best time to soak in the splendour of the lush setting.
4. Kamalya in Koh Samui
Verdant and soothing, this former Buddhist retreat has been designed in complete harmony with its natural settings, with a boulder-strewn beach and a forested hillside offering excellent views of the jungle and ocean below. Kamalya has an endless choice of ways to participate in an authentic wellness experience; meditate in rock pools, relax in the steam cavern or climb the steep steps to the yoga pavilion and take part in the daily t’ai chi, Pilates, pranayama or yoga sessions.
Don’t miss: Making time to visit and spend time reflecting in the candlelit Monk’s Cave.