A Solo Yoga Retreat = The Best Birthday Ever

Most of my friends raised eyebrows at me when I told them that I wanted to spend my birthday eating green balls of spirulina and doing yoga on an island in Thailand…alone.

My 23rd birthday present to myself was a 5-day yoga and meditation retreat on Haad Yuan in Koh Phangan- totally quiet, contemplative, and solo.

I’ve never spent a birthday alone. It’s expected that birthdays, similar to New Years, should have a tangible amount of hype revolving around big plans with lots of people. However, this year there were no plans and no expectations to set me up for even the slightest disappointment. It was just me- being and enjoying- and I had the best. birthday. ever.

On the big day, which was also the first day of retreat, I enjoyed 2 yoga classes, a group meditation, a delicious, giant salad, my favorite coconut soup (tom kha gai), ginger tea, and journaling while listening to the waves crash on the beach. It was so simple and perfect.

Don’t get me wrong- I love being around friends and family, but I also seek out down time and alone time. For me, being alone doesn’t mean being lonely; my alone time is accompanied by introspection and rejuvenation, which is very important, especially when traveling.

Blooming Lotus Yoga provided an amazing space for this rejuvenation to take place. The yoga space was a beautiful, open room with wood floors, and it was surrounded by trees and stillness. I had 2 yoga classes and a lenghty meditation every day.  My lovely yoga teacher, Annette, always seemed to know what we needed, weather it was a slow, heart opening class or energizing class. (She also provided us with a wealth of information on doshas, meditation tips, and yogic lifestyle in general.)

Before our morning yoga class, she would lead us in breathing exercises and meditation. One early morning our group was able to meditate on a secluded beach while the sun came up. After starting each day with a clear and open mind, I was reminded how important meditation is in my daily life.

Between yoga classes, I logged hours in Sanctuary’s herbal steam room, swam in the ocean to cool off, drank fresh coconuts, and read in my little hammock outside my hut.

Everyday I hiked down the dirt trail to Sanctuary at Haad Tien beach. This is where I found all the healthy, hidden luxuries that Bangkok had been denying me. Balls of Spirulina! Healthy smoothies without pounds of sugar! More actual salad! This made my yoga retreat all the more exciting.

Sanctuary has a Tea Temple, where they host a variety of workshops. This sweet lounging area also has a library of books on all things spiritual and zen, plus decks of tarot cards and quotes. I spent several afternoons on a couch reading delectable quotes, pulling a tarot card a day for fun, and sipping their fresh kombucha. Yes!

In addition to rejuvenation, these last few days in Thailand served as a time for forgiving the country for all its annoyances and enjoying the beauty of its islands. It was a time to look back on the past year of my life, which left me completely in awe and emotional about the relationships I had made and the lessons I had learned.

It was also a time to squeeze in as many cheap massages as I could and attend my last island party with the grungy, local hippies. My yoga gal pals and I swathed ourselves in sarongs for the ‘sarong but right’ night, which was followed by an exhilarating midnight swim in the ocean.

During these 5 days, I was able to reconnect to myself and things I love. It was the perfect week of feeling grateful, healthy, radiant, and refreshed. I left with a very full heart. Although alone, this is a birthday I will remember for the rest for the rest of my life.

I hear Blooming Lotus Yoga has a new location in BALI…. Hello 24th Birthday?! 

Have you ever had an amazing me, myself, and I birthday?



  1. Elena (http://gonewiththebackpack.blogspot.com/ ) | 29th Sep 14

    Pretty cool place to spend your birthday! Sometimes we need some time on our own and that could be the best present we could get!

    • Words of a Wanderer | 29th Sep 14

      Elena, it was so beautiful! You’re so right- I hadn’t thought about it like that, but I couldn’t have said it better myself!

  2. Sandra @ Tripper | 29th Sep 14

    Actually I believe we should spend birthdays alone at some point. It sounds loner I know, but I think it’s that time of year you actually look back and plan what’s ahead. Of course half the world will think you’re depressed and about to throw yourself off a cliff…

    • Words of a Wanderer | 1st Oct 14

      haha! So true…. people think you’re in for a miserable time! But I think it’s fantastic, and you’re so right- it’s a great time to reflect and think about the past year, and what’s ahead. 🙂

  3. Claudia | 30th Sep 14

    I can relate 100% – I love spending time on my own. I was in London recently. I stayed at a friend’s place the first night. I then moved to another friend’s place and since she was not there, I would have to spend the first night alone. Everyone was worried I would be alone. I was actually looking forward to that!

    • Words of a Wanderer | 1st Oct 14

      Sounds like a nice combo of friend time and alone time! You seem to have the balance down! 🙂 I must say though, that I would also look forward to the night by myself! London… ahh.. I hope you had a wonderful time there!

  4. Lesh @ NOMADasaurus | 30th Sep 14

    Looks awesome Casey. I would love to do a Yoga Retreat. I did a Meditation Retreat for the first time this year and loved it. Yoga is next on my list. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • Words of a Wanderer | 1st Oct 14

      You should definitely try it! If you liked your meditation retreat, I bet you would loveee a yoga/meditation retreat! I would also love to do JUST a meditation retreat- it’s probably much more intense without the yoga component… but I think it could be very rewarding! Where did you do your retreat at?

  5. Jowita Łukaczyńska | 30th Sep 14

    It sounds like awesome brithday!
    I’ve never spent my birthday alone either, that’s why I imagine it as something unusual thus special in a way 🙂 maybe one day I’ll try something similar.

    • Words of a Wanderer | 1st Oct 14

      Jowita, I would encourage you to try it sometime! It was so surprising how easy it was for me to enjoy the day when it was just me. It’s an enlightening experience for sure. 🙂

  6. Heather Cole | 1st Oct 14

    Sounds like a great way to spend a birthday, and good to find a tranquil pocket of what can so often be quite a frustrating and bustling country. My favourite birthday was spent on safari in South Africa, but I can see the appeal of having some quality ‘me’ time!

    • Words of a Wanderer | 1st Oct 14

      I love your wording… it was SUCH a tranquil pocket, which I was very thankful for. But a South African Safari.. now THAT is another kind of birthday experience that I’ll have to have! 😀

  7. Brianna | 1st Oct 14

    Sounds like a perfect birthday present to me. I wouldn’t want to leave!

    • Words of a Wanderer | 3rd Oct 14

      Haha I didn’t want to!

  8. adrianstraveltales | 1st Oct 14

    Great idea! I would love to do this. Koh Phangan is known more for partying so its great to hear that there are other aspects to it. 🙂 Next time I’m in Asia, I’m there!

    • Words of a Wanderer | 3rd Oct 14

      So true!! I’m glad there wasn’t a full moon party during my retreat, or the island would have been a lot crazier… I’ve been to a full moon party there, but this time it was like a totally different island! It was nice to see it so calm and unpolluted.:)

  9. elsmahieuEls | 1st Oct 14

    Sounds like a wonderful experience! It is indeed great and important to take some time for yourself every now and then! I wish I was into yoga, but my mind just goes all over the place. When people say relax, it’s enough to get me getting wind up 🙂

    • Words of a Wanderer | 3rd Oct 14

      I can definitely relate! My mind always seems to be going 100 miles a minute, which was probably why this so necessary for me. 🙂 But it was a wonderful, calming experience indeed!

  10. Karen Warren | 2nd Oct 14

    Being on your own can be a great experience, especially if it is a deliberate choice. Sounds as if you had a wonderful time.

    • Words of a Wanderer | 3rd Oct 14

      I did have a wonderful time! And I like your thought about ‘choice.’ Isn’t it absolutely awesome that we can choose exactly how we spend our time ? 🙂

  11. A Foodie In Europe | 2nd Oct 14

    Well this just sounds heavenly! I think it’s a wonderful way to spend your birthday. What better way to celebrate your time on Earth than enjoying time relaxing and working on yourself from the inside out.

    • Words of a Wanderer | 3rd Oct 14

      So heavenly! “Working on yourself from the inside out”.. I love that! I suppose we always need to be rejuvenated and balanced on the inside in order to for that to show on the outside. 🙂

  12. Curb Free with Cory Lee | 3rd Oct 14

    Sounds like a perfect way to celebrate your birthday! Sometimes some peaceful alone time is the best thing you can do.

    • Words of a Wanderer | 5th Oct 14

      I agree 🙂

  13. Lauren | 4th Oct 14

    I would absolutely love to do this. As someone who loves yoga and is vegan, I would be all over that food and relaxation. I’d love to spend a few days to myself just relaxing and rejuvenating! I completely understand.

    • Words of a Wanderer | 5th Oct 14

      Oh man, then you would love it! Especially if you’re a vegan- Sanctuary would be your place! I don’t eat much meat myself, so I know that while traveling your choices are generally limited to little piece of a menu (or they’re nonexistent) so Sanctuary’s vegetarian/vegan menus were such a treat!

  14. Baskets Life Travel | 4th Oct 14

    Oh what a wonderful time – as a mom of two and one on the way, an alone weekend anywhere sounds heavenly!! This sounds great and relaxing, something I might need to look into. Thank you for sharing – my fave birthday was on the beach in Isla Canela Spain sipping coffee for breakfast overlooking the beach – peaceful and amazing!!

    • Words of a Wanderer | 5th Oct 14

      I bet!! I don’t have kids yet, but I can see how that would sound extra heavenly! A relaxing weekend is always a good idea. 🙂 And your birthday in Spain sounds so amazing! I wouldn’t mind doing that!

  15. Veronika @ travelgeekery.com | 4th Oct 14

    Oh wow, it seems like an exceptional birthday..! I’ve never done anything like that but I feel an increasing need for it! For a birthday or not 🙂

    • Words of a Wanderer | 5th Oct 14

      Very true! I was happy for it to be on my birthday, but it’s definitely necessary more than once a year. 😉

  16. bournehungry | 5th Oct 14

    So dreamy!

    • Words of a Wanderer | 5th Oct 14

      Totally!! The next one is in Bali, and you’re coming with me 😉

  17. Jules and Christine (@DontForget2Move) | 6th Oct 14

    Awesome! That actually sounds like an amazing birthday! I always get stressed out around my birthday and I feel there’s too much pressure to have a perfect day. I love the idea of just chilling out and being by yourself. Would you recommend that retreat? Maybe I’ll do one when I’m in the area!

    • Words of a Wanderer | 7th Oct 14

      I know the feeling! There is usually a lot of pressure to make birthdays a big to-do, so this was nice! I would definitely recommend this retreat- accommodations are very basic, but they’re included and it’s a really nice private area (Haad Yuan and Haad Tien); yet Haad Rin, which has more nightlife is only a short boat ride away, so it’s the best of both worlds! If you don’t want to do a whole retreat, you can also just drop in for a yoga class! 🙂

  18. Jon @ jonistravelling.com | 6th Oct 14

    I can’t think of anything worse than spending 5 days at a yoga retreat haha, these kind of things seem to be really popular in Southeast Asia though!

    • Words of a Wanderer | 7th Oct 14

      haha! It’s not for everyone 😉 But I really love that you can do these retreats in SE Asia- they’re much less expensive than a retreat in the states, or elsewhere, and the locations are unbeatable!

  19. words of a wanderer – 10 Things I Learned from Yogatique’s 30-Day Yoga Challenge | 17th Feb 15

    […] on and off for several years now. For my birthday last year, I gifted myself with a blissful 5-day yoga retreat on Koh Phangan, and since then- when my body felt the best it has every felt- I have given yoga a bigger role in […]

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