Holistic wellbeing is at the heart of good health in the Caribbean, where boot camp austerity and deprivation are an alien concept and the goal is to feel serene. Here are a few of our favourite activities and retreats in the Caribbean...
Yoga at twilight between the Antiguan palms
Bringing flexibility and renewed physical and emotional strength, yoga has a long history on the island of Antigua, where numerous classes can be found. A centuries-old health ethos with legions of A-list disciples, yoga has been tried and tested over thousands of years by millions of people.
In Antigua, various yoga styles are practiced in a wide variety of venues and locations, with Kundalini classes highly popular. Promoting health and happiness by working on the mind, body and spirit, yoga focuses on the channelling of energy through spinal chakras in order to achieve a beneficial balance. Amidst rustling palms, Antigua’s yoga faithful breathe and stretch to achieve each healing posture to the gentle sounds of soft music and lapping waves. Few journeys to self-enlightenment are as restful as achieving the shooting bow pose to a syncopated mantra’s hushed tone, as an amber sun sets on a palm-lined Antiguan shore.
Sunrise T’ai Chi in the mountains of St Lucia
The slow, defined movements that characterise t’ai chi are believed to prolong longevity, in a discipline that mixes ancient oriental philosophical principles with martial arts. Since the first widespread promotion of t'ai chi’s health benefits outside Asia in the early 20th century, it has developed a worldwide following.
In St Lucia, practitioners practice t'ai chi it for its general health benefits and success in managing tension and stress. Classes – including those held at The BodyHoliday at LeSport on secluded Cariblue Beach or in the foothills of the Piton mountains – centre on the graceful, repetitive, coordinated movement of joints, rather than muscular tension. Tune into the life force of the island’s native flora and fauna in the heart of the rainforest at sunrise, as it gently stirs, squawks, flutters and chirps. T'ai chi in St Lucia is an energising experience that resonates with a strong sense of ‘being’.
Take a dip in Trinidad and Tobago's curative waters
According to the locals, to bathe in the sulphuric waters of Trinidad's La Brea Pitch Lake is to cure all ills, from skin disease to circulatory ailments and premature ageing. As the world's largest natural reservoir of asphalt, this vast brackish expanse contains an estimated 10 million tons of the stuff, in a depression immediately south of a 140-ft high hill, from the summit of which the ground slopes gently northwards to the sea.
As a chemical composition, asphalt – an emulsion of water, gas bitumen and a mix of mineral matter, consisting largely of fine silica sand and ultra-fine clay – may seem an unlikely healing property, but this enormous gloopy pool has fascinated explorers, scientists and common folk since its re-discovery by Sir Waiter Raleigh in 1595. Raleigh himself used asphalt from the Lake to caulk his battered ship. Since then, residue and sediment from the lake has been used to make a wide range of products from anti-corrosive black paint to a richly moisturising tar-thick therapeutic bath soak. Visitors taking a dip will share the La Brea’s magical sludge with prehistoric remains, fossilized trees and creatures and ancient Amerindian artifacts.
For more information, visit gotrinidadandtobago.com.
Peaceful meditation on Jamaica's Treasure Beach
At the core of meditation is the goal to focus and eventually quiet your mind, thus freeing your awareness. For this, quietude is paramount, and an open uncluttered space beneficial in order to “think” beyond the conditioned mind and achieve a deeper meditative state.
Few places are as appealing for peaceful contemplation as Jamaica’s Treasure Beach where empty sands and tranquility help promote the feeling of inner calm. Simply set a cushion down a world away from TV sets, phones, noisy appliances and distractions, keeping your back straight, as this will help with controlled breathing later on. Then visualise a place that calms you, and keep these images playing over until you begin to feel peaceful and relaxed. For yoga and meditation retreats, try Jakes Hotel.
Header photo: Bootcamp on the beach © St Lucia Tourist Board
Where is your favourite place to relax and rejuvinate in the Caribbean? Have you tried any of these holistic island activities?
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About the author: SarahWoodsSarah Woods
Award-winning travel writer, author & broadcaster Sarah Woods has lived, worked and travelled in The Caribbean since 1995. She has visited resort towns, villages and lesser-known islands where she has learned to cook run-down, sampled bush rum, traded coconuts, studied traditional medicine, climbed volcanoes and ridden horses in the sea. Sarah is currently working on a travel documentary about the history of Caribbean cruises.