A Conscious Effort

Guests get a holistic introduction to yoga at Mandarin Oriental Riviera Maya

By: By Skye Mayring

The Details

Mandarin Oriental Riviera Maya
The four-day Wellness and Yoga retreat includes luxury accommodations at the new Mandarin Oriental Riviera Maya, one spa treatment (aromatherapy, aromastone or Thai massage), access to fitness classes and the spa, morning and evening yoga classes, daily yogic breakfast, a group dinner, lectures and roundtrip airport transfers. The rates begin at $2,465, and the scheduled dates for 2009 are Jan. 22-25, Feb. 19-22 and March 26-29.

To maximize your clients’ visit, have them stay an extra day and arrange an excursion to the Maya ruins of Tulum, Chichen Itza or Coba through the hotel. The resort is also a 10-minute drive from Playa del Carmen, Mexico, which is home to numerous restaurants, salsa clubs and boutiques.

Commission: 10 percent

Photo Tour

Click here to see photos of Mandarin Oriental Riviera Maya's art courtyards

Rishi Bharadwaj is a social worker but not in the conventional sense. The India native has instructed yoga and preached about the yogic lifestyle for more than 15 years.

"Yoga has social influence that benefits the entire society," explained Bharadwaj, who has spent most of his career working for Mandarin Oriental properties across the globe, "because when people are healthy, they think healthy, right?"

The five-diamond property boasts artful, manmade water features and a natural cenote. // (c) Mandarin Oriental
The five-diamond property boasts artful, manmade water features and a natural cenote.

It was hard not to agree with our amiable instructor as he guided our group into the first sun salutation of the morning. At that moment, I think we all knew we were going to get something greater out of our four-day yoga retreat than we had imagined.

The Wellness Yoga Retreat at Mandarin Riviera Maya in Riviera Maya, Mexico, is a holistic introduction to yoga — with lectures, guided meditations, morning and evening yoga classes and healthy meals — at one of the finest, new properties in Mexico.

Located about a 30-minute drive from the Cancun International Airport, Mandarin Oriental Riviera Maya sits on 36 acres of tropical forest, mangrove reserves and beach. The five-diamond property also encompasses a lagoon, six art courtyards and a natural cenote. And if your clients attend the yoga retreat, make sure they stay in one of the 20 cenote rooms, which overlook the freshwater lake. Not only will they find themselves closer to the spa (where morning yoga classes take place as early as 7 a.m.), they will stay in one of the most secluded and quiet areas on site. In addition, each cenote room features an exterior garden bathtub, multiple rainshowers, his-and-hers marble sinks and a roomy balcony or patio adorned with a pair of chaise lounges.

"Spending five nights here is enough to see a life change," said Bharadwaj. "I also believe that when people go on vacation they don’t merely want to relax. They are coming to the Riviera Maya to find something that they can take home with themselves."

Taking this philosophy into consideration, the Wellness Yoga Retreat began with a satang or welcome gathering at the yoga studio, followed by a group dinner of regionally inspired, vegetarian fare at the resort’s restaurant and beachfront bar, Aguamarina.

The following morning, I stumbled out of bed, while it was still dark, grumbling all the way to our 90-minute Asana (yoga pose and posture) and Pranayama (breathing) session. It wasn’t long before I was humbled by a great class and rewarded with a blissful buzz. Our group then took a seat at Cafe Mayana, located in the spa garden, and helped ourselves to a creative selection of fresh juices, exotic fruits, lox and bagels and homemade organic yogurt. Now this yogic lifestyle was one I could easily get used to.

But Bharadwaj had a way of nudging me to go beyond my comfort zone — for my own good, of course. One evening, he told our group that there would be a present awaiting us in our rooms and to bring it to our next yoga class. Each of us soon discovered a Neti pot — a ceramic tool used to cleanse the nasal passages — on our bed. Most of us were not aware that sinus cleansing is a discipline of yoga or that we would all soon become practitioners.

Bharadwaj also led us in lectures on traditional yoga in the modern world and yogic diet and nutrition. The lectures, though preachy at times, were insightful, especially for those of us who previously defined yoga as simply a series
of postures.

"Postures are famous but, on the contrary, are not needed so much by the body as meditation and pranayama," explained Bharadwaj. "Through [these practices], you are purifying the body and entering into a phase of relaxation. Once your mind is relaxed and your body is full of energy, you can start thinking in a different or better way."