Most people don’t really know how to relax – we live in a world of entertainment, where everyone should also have a safe and comfortable space to develop awareness and harmonize body and mind. I talk to Shamballah Yoga Retreats about conscious yoga retreats, the effect on wellbeing and mental health, and the perfect place for resetting your mind and body.

As an introduction, can you tell us a bit about the background of 
Shamballah Yoga Retreats?

Many years ago, both of us, made a strong commitment to making self-development and/or spiritual growth a priority in our lives. We truly believe that we are here to evolve consciously and that belief leads us to live a monastic lifestyle in a school of meditation for several years. We had already started this journey before joining the school of meditation, and part of our education and training was as holistic therapists in different types of bodywork. With our 48 years of combined experience in studying, learning, practising, and teaching practices that develop awareness and harmonize body and mind, we felt it was time to create a safe and comfortable space to share it with the world. This is when we created Shamballah Yoga Retreats, as we did so we realized it was a dream come true. 

How do you think yoga retreats affect wellbeing and mental health?

Yoga retreats can have a great impact on people’s lives, improving overall health and wellbeing.Most people don’t really know how to relax. We live in a world of entertainment. We hear many times people say: I had a really bad day and I just want to watch a movie to relax. As soon as the entertainment is gone, they quickly move back to the tension, or the situation that is creating tension. Most people don´t know how to relax the body and the mind in a way that tensions can be released and situations addressed from a more positive perspective. There are many studies that demonstrate that the practice of yoga, meditation, a healthy diet, contact with Nature, and socializing with friends can be very helpful when dealing with depression, anxiety, and stress. Yoga retreats address all these points. There is also evidence that yoga and meditation practices help increase heart rate variability, an indicator of the body’s ability to respond to stress in a way that brings more harmony.

What activities are included in the retreat?

The main program, which is the basis of all programs we offer, has two yoga sessions and two meditations per day, it includes all meals (vegetarian and mostly organic),  a massage treatment with therapeutic grade essential oils, and an extra activity that can be a guided walk, a concert or Sound Journey.

Can you tell us more about the Forest Therapy and Sound Journeys?

We have a few extra activities on offer, we feel that these can add value to the experience. Forest Therapy is one of them, this experience is inspired by the Japanese concept of shinrin-yoku, which translates to forest bathing. The therapist guides you on a walk through a beautiful part of the forest, with a few moments where he/she invites you to connect to the natural world around you through your senses. There have been many scientific studies on the health benefits of spending time in a forest environment and in Japan, this is a recommended practice that was demonstrated to reduce cortisol and stress levels. We believe that when we are in a forest, we come back to a sense of tranquillity that allows us to absorb more easily the oxygen and the many nutrients and medicinal properties of plants that exist in this rich ecosystem. 

Sound can be very powerful and create a space for deep relaxation and transformation. The combinations of instruments create rich harmonics and the layering of tones, rhythms, and frequencies create a magical and deeply relaxing soundscape that often has a profound effect on the listener.
Usually, we have 2 types of sound journeys or meditative concerts.
The healing sound bath is a sound session that offers a Tonal Alchemy for groups, where you lie down and receive currents of intentional sound and frequency that feed your body, mind, and soul. Winga is an experienced musician playing different instruments like the didgeridoo, hang drum, flutes, tuning forks, gongs, and more, this is more of a tribal soundscape where Winga takes us on a journey through the “jungle”.

The meditative concert with Alban as the name implies is more meditative.  A journey where you receive vibrational waves of higher frequencies like love, peace, joy, and gratitude with Alban’s healing voice, overtone, harmonium, flute, didgeridoo, and other instruments. Starts with 15min guided meditation and then 45min of a concert where you can experience a higher plane of awareness and inner peace.

For whom do you recommend to participate in yoga retreats?

This experience is recommended to all people from all walks of life who seek Health, Happiness, and Inner Wisdom. If you are looking to release tensions and stress, recharge and rekindle your passion for life, to find deeper connections with yourself and others around you that accept you as you are and support you to reach your potential, Shamballah Retreats is a place you can experience all that and more.

What is your unique approach in work, and what sets you apart from 
others who work in your field?

Like we said at the beginning of the interview, this is our lifestyle and we created this space so we could continue our practice and share it with others. We believe that this clear intention that we put into practice at all times, creates a space and an environment that supports healing and transformation. Yoga means union. The union between the inner and the outer world. We see the asanas as an important practice to prepare our body and mind to cultivate a sense of presence, a meditational state where we can see more clearly the steps we need to take as we explore life and all the challenges that come our way.

In your opinion, what aspects make yoga retreats the most effective?

In our opinion, what makes a yoga retreat most effective is when there is a clear structure that supports people on this path of transformation. When the people that organize and hold the space put into practice the wisdom and knowledge we have within us. Words become real with the energy of action. Having a smaller group allows us to go deeper into the practice, for us to give more attention to the participants and for deeper connections. 

Why did you choose Sintra, Portugal as a location for your retreats? 

We are deeply connected to Sintra as we have been spending holidays and time here since we were children. Sintra has always been considered mystical by the many cultures that passed here. Some people say there are some ley lines that cross in Sintra. These are lines on Earth, like the meridians in our body, that are channels for the electro-magnetic energy that create powerful fields that can support higher states of consciousness. Maybe this is why there were many convents and temples in Sintra. There is perceived magic in the place that is clear to most people that explore its beautiful parks and palaces. We are by the stunning coastline of Sintra National Park, and the beauty of the surrounding nature is a key factor for our choice of location. Being close to Lisbon and the airport is also very convenient as most of our guests come from abroad. 

Since the pandemic, how have the yoga retreats changed? Do you have 
online programs?

 Since the pandemic, groups have reduced in size and we started doing online sessions from Monday to Saturday as we do in our retreats. These sessions are a great way to continue the practice and support groups when people go back home. We are developing more online programs for these times when travelling is restricted.

How can our readers contact you and follow on social media?

Readers can check our website, for more info on our programs and contacts and follow us on Instagram and Facebook.