I’ve always wanted to go to a yoga retreat. Unfortunately, most are extortionately expense. I was lucky enough to find Blooming Lotus in Ubud, which is very reasonably priced and had amazing reviews. Literally, all five star reviews on TripAdvisor.
I signed up for the four day retreat- they also run seven and 11 day retreats, as well as 200-hour teacher trainings.
The retreat takes place at Villa Ubud Corner 88, which is its own self sustaining hotel that I’ve reviewed here. The staff really takes care of every retreat goer- in fact, I would be tempted to say that Blooming Lotus isn’t so much a yoga retreat as a very inexpensive way to stay at a luxury hotel that includes a few yoga classes a day.
I arrived on a Sunday afternoon– note, the retreat runs Sunday evening to Wednesday morning, so its not so much four days as two. I was immediately welcomed by the hotel staff with a welcome drink- flavored coconut water and a coconut pancake.
They then drove me to my room, a luxury villa with its own private pool.
Herein began the alone time that I’d be getting very used to on the retreat. The retreat asks that you check in on Sunday afternoon, but it is very unclear as to why, actually. On Sunday evening, all the retreat-goers met up for dinner, followed by a cultural event, watching the Kecek Dance at a temple in Ubud.
The Kecek is really interesting. Apparently, different keceks can tell different stories; they all begin, however, with a large group of men chanting. They’re telling the story. Then, performers come out to dance. They don’t speak. They simply move and dance to tell the story.
We watched the Ramayana. If there hadn’t been a pamphlet giving us the full story, all of us agreed we’d have struggled to follow along. Then again, we don’t speak Balinese!
While this was an interesting thing to see, it didn’t have a whole lot to do with yoga.
The next morning, we started our retreat. The morning bell, a beautiful singing bowl rang by a staff member who walks through the villas, rises everyone at 7am so we can start class at 7:30am. The group was split between those staying four and seven days (again, four days was really like two days with a morning class on the third day, and the seven day was really more like five, with a morning class on the sixth day). We didn’t meet our instructors until our first morning session, which started with meditation followed by a very simple asana practice. (For those of you familiar with yoga, a few simple sun salutations.)
I appreciated being weaned in to the meditation, as quieting my mind isn’t something I’m very good at, but I was a bit taken aback by the simplicity of the asana. It became immediately clear that the retreat was catered to people of all levels of yoga, from very beginner to more experienced yogis like myself.
The classes and workshops were held in a gorgeous shala, adjacent to the restaurant/check in space. I’m not sure what it is used for when the space is simply a hotel.
It is on the top level of the villas, which are perched on a hill overlooking a river, so the view is amazing.
After the morning meditation and asana is a simple breakfast, the same thing every day- yogurt and granola with fresh fruit. It wasn’t too bad and was undeniably light and healthy. However, it left me starving for lunch time!
Breakfast is followed by an hour and a half long break. During that time, you can go back to sleep, laze by the pool or explore the area surrounding the villas. The group reconvenes at 11am for daily workshops- except on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. That means that four day retreat goers get two workshops and seven day retreat goers get three workshops.
Workshops are followed by a bit more down time, with the option of taking the shuttle bus in to central Ubud to explore. The driver, Wayan, was super accommodating, dropping members of the group off at different points in the city, and even bringing us as a group to a waterfall instead of Ubud one day.
At 5:30pm, the group meets up for an evening meditation and asana session, followed by dinner.
Do you see a pattern here? A lot of down time.
Our two instructors, who were very yogic people- I mean, total #lifegoals, centered, spiritual women who clearly were called to this earth to teach yoga- told us that the down time was to digest all that we learned from the retreat. But to be quite honest, there wasn’t much to digest. Our meditation sessions were helpful, to me personally, but short. Asana practices were fairly easy. Our workshops consisted of very basic information, and, in my opinion, focused a little too much on yoga as a lifestyle, rather than as a form of relaxation and physical activity.
Our instructors were also only at the villa during class times. We were more or less looked after by the staff at all other times. Not that I’m complaining. The staff were awesome. Again, more about that in my review of the villa as a hotel. But it made the whole thing seem more like a stay at a luxury villa, with some yoga thrown in, than a yoga retreat.
Would I return to Blooming Lotus? Probably not. Would I give it five stars like all the other reviews on TripAdvisor? If I’m being stingy, maybe a four, but then again, I’m feeling so zen from my trip I think I’d nudge it up to a five. It wasn’t what I was expecting, and as one of my fellow retreat goers pointed out, we could have done as much yoga and workshop-ing at home as we did at the retreat- double up your daily class and go to a workshop at your local studio, and you could have your own retreat like Blooming Lotus. Then again, you wouldn’t have the amazing villas and the completely phenomenal staff. That’s really where my five is coming from.
I also think Blooming Lotus was a good introduction to yoga retreats, an appetizer of sorts. I’ve tried a bit, and it wasn’t expensive, so I don’t feel too bad about it. I know more about what I want and what I’m looking for in a retreat now, so I’m happy I went, if only for a stay at such a nice villa in such a beautiful location. Next time, I think I’ll go to a more intensive retreat where I’ll have more meditation time and more intensive asana practice. But it was a great learning experience to discover I’m ready for that, and in a location that couldn’t be more beautiful.