You can't walk down a beach in Thailand without seeing a sign advertising yoga classes—sunset on the beach, early morning in the jungle, hot in the middle of the day. There are formal yoga schools in the cities, spiritual practices, exercise practices, fusion practices, and everything in between. In other words, if you want to practice yoga while on holiday in Thailand, you will have no problem finding somewhere to do it.
But, if you are looking for more than just a class, but an experience, The Sanctuary on Ko Pha-Ngan is your spot.
I first heard about this affordable Thailand yoga retreat from a fellow traveller that I met in Hoi An, Vietnam. She was raving about this place that you could only get to by boat with tree houses and yoga classes in the jungle. After getting the name of the place, I was determined to find it when I made my way to the island a month later.
The only hotel or business located on Hat Thian, one of the quiet, pristine beaches on the island's east coast, The Sanctuary is the ultimate yoga retreat.
There are no roads leading through the thick jungle to the place, so you have to take a water taxi (or attempt a lengthy, treacherous hike over rocky cliffs from a more populated beach) to even get to it.
The hotel's reception and restaurant is located right on the beach, tucked into the edge of a cliff, open to the elements, and the rooms are located in individual tree houses that are built into the jungle behind the restaurant. When I was there, you could rent a mat and a mosquito net for $3 a night in a room located in the rafters above the restaurant, and so that is where I made my home for the incredible week that I spent there.
Yoga classes were taught 4 times a day on a platform surrounded by mosquito netting up in the jungle. It was quiet, except for the sound of monkeys rustling nearby and our deep, concentrated breathing.
Further into the bush is a beautiful structure with glass walls facing the sunset that is used to teach Thai Chi.
Also a detox retreat, the restaurant offers vegetarian and vegan food — no alcohol is served — and juices to aid in cleansing.
The beach is untouched and perfect for sunbathing, the water clean, and the evenings full of great conversation and lounging in hammocks.
The place is often compared to something that Alex Garland would have written into one of his books (he's the author of The Beach).
If the pristine location gets boring (is that even possible?!), or you need a change of scenery, there are paths through the jungle that connect you to even more deserted beaches further east, or to the more populated inlets to the west. On the high cliffs above The Sanctuary, up a treacherous, steep staircase cut into the rock, are a bunch of small structures and a covered ring were you can take Muay Thai classes.
The only problem with the place is that it will spoil you forever — I have yet to find a teacher that I loved so much, a practice that centered me so well, or a space that made me feel as relaxed.