There’s just something about Ubud, Bali, Indonesia that makes everyone want to try out the yogic lifestyle. The first time I visited this energetic town surrounded by forest and rice terraces I attended the Om Ham Yoga Retreat to celebrate my birthday. For my return to the island of Bali, I was looking for a week-long intensive and all-inclusive yoga experience that was a bit further away from the city center and found the holistic wellness sanctuary that is Shanti Toya. The retreat is known as the most affordable yoga sanctuary in Bali and for being an immersive experience into the yoga lifestyle and Balinese culture. Here are 5 things you’ll love about Shanti Toya Yoga Retreat.
Shanti Toya is located about 30-minutes outside of Ubud which is accessible by taxi. It’s tucked away in a quiet farming village called Penarungan. The area is incredibly tranquil with the surroundings of rice terraces and palm trees. Shanti means peace and toya means water. An ashram is a place where people practice yoga and the yogic lifestyle.
YOGA CLASSES AT SHANTI TOYA YOGA RETREAT
The retreat can accommodate around 20 people, during my week it was so full there weren’t yoga accessories for everyone in the class. Yoga classes are held for the retreat group twice a day, five times a week at 7 AM and 5 PM. Styles vary from Vinyasa, Hatha, and Yin. The yoga practices are led by Balinese yoga teachers who incorporate their spiritual Hindu beliefs into the yoga practice and share their yoga expertise every step of the way. Wagyu was my absolute favorite—he managed to be both calm and energetic and shared so much wisdom with the group. Yoga classes at Shanti Toya Yoga Retreat are held a gorgeous elevated open-air shala that overlooks the jungle and stunning swimming pool below.
The yoga classes are from 60-90 minutes long and are suitable for beginners. Ari’s classes never had warmups so I’d suggest going through some gentle postures before jumping into harder asanas like eagle, headstand, and tree which we usually did right away. Wagyu introduced harder asanas and coached us through difficult poses like crow pose which I actually held for a few seconds! I don’t enjoy inversions so these are really challenging for me. He also taught me a few new asanas that I’ve rotated into my regular routine. There are also private classes (though I was told it was not one-on-one by other guests) available for an additional fee.
THE BEAUTIFUL GROUNDS AT SHANTI TOYA YOGA RETREAT
Shanti Toya Yoga Ashram is incredibly peaceful. The housing structures are all built upon a hill.
Throughout the space, there are various statues and structures where the Balinese staff place offerings each morning. When we first arrived at Shanti Toya Yoga Ashram we were walking around the property and asked to join the staff in placing offerings which are called chanang. It was such a special experience to partake in this deeply spiritual aspect of Balinese life. We were given sarongs to wear and blessed by the village healer with holy water and rice as we placed the offerings.
There are many places to unwind and get in touch with nature between yoga classes and activities. The swimming pool is fed by natural spring water and is absolutely stunning. We went for a dip after dinner many nights. There’s also a rickety swing set made from bamboo and several lounge chairs. The WiFi only functions in the dining area and honestly many of us spent our free time there.
PARTAKING IN BALINESE EXPERIENCES
With twice daily yoga classes that leaves plenty of time in the afternoon for fantastic Balinese experiences and Shanti Toya organizes a full schedule that shares the local lifestyle with guests. Every day there’s a unique experience you can partake in and you can also book massages with the village healer which are absolutely incredible. Additional Balinese healing experiences are available such as a consultation.
One of my favorite Balinese experiences at Shanti Toya was learning how to make chanang, the all-natural offerings made with coconut palm leaf and various colors of flower petals. Making the box is actually quite tricky as you have to line the leaves up just right in order to fold it correctly. Once the box is finished you place an incense within and leave it at a scared space around the ground. Each vignette is a prayer for a specific cause such as safety, wealth, and wellbeing for the jungle.
BUFFET-STYLE VEGAN FOOD
All of the food prepared at Shanti Toya is vegan except for the Pandan bread which is store-bought and contained animal products. Meals were enjoyed as a community and held in an open-air dining hall. For breakfast, we enjoyed homemade porridge with vegan chocolate and vegan coconut milk paired with fresh fruit. Lunch and dinner varied each day from rice noodle dishes such as mee goreng, potato curries, soups, and more. There was almost always tempeh and a green to go with the meal—I was in vegan foodie heaven!
Throughout the day herbal water infused with ginger, lemongrass, turmeric, mint, and lime are available at the Shanti Toya dining hall. You’re also welcome to a fresh young coconut each day, served with a bamboo straw, of course. We learned how to make Jamu which is one of my most treasured findings from Bali. The holistic elixir is plant-based medicine with powerful ingredients including turmeric, palm sugar XX, and XX.
VISITING THE LOCAL VILLAGE
One morning we went into the village to visit what I tend to call living-museums. These sorts of experiences are when people put on a bit of a show about local life to show visitors their way of life. Usually, they’re a bit icky and it feels like the villagers are a bit exploited. But, this was different. Everything that was showcased—from dance, collecting rice, and making coconut oil—are truly day-to-day experiences for the villagers. Everyone was incredibly welcoming and it was very special to be welcomed into their lives for the day.
We were greeted by a ceremonial dance known as Barong which is quite similar to the Lion Dances during the Lunar New Year. We joined the procession of ladies carrying sky-high fruit offerings towards the Balinese compound. Upon arriving we were blessed with by a priest wih holy water and multi-colored Balinese prayer bracelets. At the compound, we were given an in-depth introduction to Hinduism in Bali and introduce to each of the Gods.
The highlight of the day was a flavourful Balinese lunch with various small plates including jackfruit and tempeh. As we ate we were able to enjoy beautiful local music and dance performances. I jumped up at the chance to get my feet dirty and dance away in the grass (luckily, there were no photos taken!)
Overall, I loved my experience at Shanti Toya mostly due to the beautiful ambiance and the incredible people who were also attending the retreat that week. Although I was hosted it’s worth noting that you are going to get what you pay for here as far as the accommodation goes. The room I was given had the ceiling collapse and the management handled it very poorly—suggesting I stay 20-minutes away or just leave altogether before ultimately placing me in a staff room. Other guests told me they booked upgraded rooms with bathtubs only to find they were too dirty to use. It’s extremely humid so you’ll need air conditioning in order to protect your electronics so don’t skim out and book the fan room.
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I was hosted at Shanti Toya Yoga Retreat. All opinions and photos are my own. This article contains affiliate links. Please read the Miss Filatelista disclosure policy for more information.