Soneva Jani doesn’t do anything by halves and that includes its spa yoga pavilion which is not only the highest in the Maldives, but also the largest we have seen. You can escape from the escape perched high above resort life below while still immersed in the beauty of paradise surrounding you with a 360 degree panoramic view.
With all that body building, I recommend some serious stretching to keep from getting muscle bound (maybe too late for some fashionistos). They probably want to check out (as would any Maldives Instagram devotee) Cassie Foley’s @OceanYogaCas feed.
Cassie herself is clearly an accomplished practitioner who posts engaging shots regularly. All based in the Maldives where she works full time running yoga sessions for guests. But also, just as important for this online medium is the quality of the shots done by her partner Aaron. The collection is really a masterclass of shooting the Maldives – well chosen dramatic skies, impeccable lighting, aesthetic framing. The tranquil drama of both Cassie’s poses and the tropical backdrop complement each other completely.
Cassie kindly gave Maldives Complete an exclusive interview to share their world of shutter stops and shavasan.
- Which resort are you based at? – Currently based in Atmosphere’s Sangeli resort, I have previously stayed and worked at OBLU Helengeli and Constance Halaveli
- How long are you based there? – I moved to the Maldives at the start of August 2019, during this time I spent almost 14 months in Constance Halaveli (yes, my partner Aaron and I stayed through the lockdown, patiently waiting for work to resume) In October we moved to Helengeli, we split up for a month as he was sent to Sangeli and I soon joined him in November 2020, we have been here since then.
- What is your most popular yoga session that you offer? – I actually work in the Maldives as a Scuba Diving Instructor! The days can be incredibly busy with up to four dives a day, in fact, my Christmas day was spent entirely in the ocean from 8 am to 7:30 pm – we did a night dive! (of course, I did come up for some lunch at one point!) My yoga practice is done at sunrise almost every day, I practice on the beach, in my room, on the jetty, anywhere outside is perfect for me, then I really get that connection to nature, those deep breaths of fresh sea air – now that’s true medicine. I have yet to start teaching online properly as I have never had stable enough Wi-Fi to offer a class, but I did complete my YTT online during the lockdown.
- What is your favourite Instagram yoga pose photo? – I think the ones where you can see I am truly connected and peaceful or focused (the balancing ones!) are my favourites, that’s the essence of yoga – not to really care about the outside but to focus on what’s going on inwardly.
- Who takes the photos? – All the photos are taken by my absolute soul mate and love, Aaron. He is so talented and manages to wipe that early morning, sleepy vibe right off me and make me look fresh and glowing – he’s got the magical touch. Often, he takes the photos whilst I simply go through my early morning flow, gently waking up my body and setting my intentions for the day.
- Where are you from originally? – Aaron and I are both from the UK, originally from either side of London. We met on a boat in the middle of the ocean in Western Australia whilst looking for a whale shark (but that’s another story!)
- How did you get into yoga? – From 2012 I worked in London as a Marketing Manager, I lived in Camden and I was also a freelance writer. I’ve always like to have a personal project on the go as my career didn’t fulfil me whatsoever. By the end of 2012 I was having some serious health issues, undoubtedly emanating from my non-stop lifestyle, my mum suggested me to start yoga. Every amazing idea, every brave new step I took in my twenties often came from my mum – she has always taught me to reach further than my grasp, to believe in myself, I am so grateful to her for that because it has led me to constantly fulfil and exceed my dreams. She saw that I was struggling and pushed me gently towards trying yoga, she must’ve mentioned it twenty times over six months before I went to a local class which my housemate & best friend, Rachel had found for me. that was in March 2013. Starting yoga sent me on a whole new path, very gently and subtly my perceptions changed, my ambitions grew, and my confidence saw me leap into my dream of travelling in 2016. ultimately ending up where I am today, sitting with perfect health, in utter happiness, gratefully watching the ocean from my water villa in the Maldives. Now, as a professional scuba diver, yogini and content creator, I see my whole life a personal project; inspiring, expanding, creative and free and I am so in love with it.
- What else do you do to pass the time in the Maldives? – I wake up at 5 am for yoga and meditation, I go to work for 7:45, I can be diving all morning or in the dive centre speaking with divers and guests. Lunch is between 12:30-2:15 and then it’s teaching in the afternoon, getting new divers certified or perhaps guiding a turtle snorkel or sunset dolphin watching before finishing my day at about 6:30 pm. Then there’s time for dinner, some catching up with friends, family and of course, Aaron. We will send some emails, create some content and right now, we enjoy sitting out under the stars for an hour or so before going to bed. What more could I want? 🙂
- What tips do you have to guests who want to do yoga in the Maldives? – Bring your mat and get into nature here – listen to the ocean, feel the breeze, try not to get too sandy if you opt for the beach, but most importantly, get up early or give yourself time in the evening – otherwise,, it’s much too hot. Yoga doesn’t have to be about following a specific sequence, it should be dynamic and appropriate for what you need each day… sometimes that might be fast, sometimes it might be slow, sometimes it may be simply to lay flat on your back in Savasana and simply breathe – there’s no wrong way, you just need to give time to appreciate yourself at that moment. (I have a beautiful travel, eco-friendly yoga mat from Yogo that I couldn’t recommend more – use my code OYC10 for a special discount on any purchase.My outfits are also sustainably made and eco-positive, from a carbon-neutral company which ship worldwide. Shop Wolven here and use code OYC20 for an amazing 20% off these beautiful artisan yoga, swim, night and daywear collections!)
Another way to perk yourself up in the morning is a bit of sunrise salutation. But why trudge all the over to the fitness centre, jetty or beach where the resort is leading a session when you can have do your own practice in the privacy and convenience of your own villa. That is why Joali provides personal yoga mats in each of its villas for guests to use. Complete with carrying strap if you want to take them to some special spot on the island you spied ad thought it would be particular soothing and inspiring.
In addition to having the world’s first underwater yoga session, Hurawalhi also secured one of the world’s best yoga Instagrammer, Jessica Olie. Her collection of Maldives shots are some of the best yoga post shots I have come across (and that is quite a competitive category in the atoll photo anthology). Here are a collection of some of the most stunning…
- “Jessica promises the 1-hour vinyasa flow to provide physical and mental rewards, with captivating views of fish around you as you move from one pose to the next bringing you even closer to a state of the zen-like state of mind.”
The one hour Vinyasa flow session was conducted by Jessica Olie (who frankly has one of the best yoga Instagram feeds…stay tuned for more on that).
The Maldives has long been synonymous with honeymoon romance and spectacular reef diving. In recent years, it has established itself as a world class center for other things like Michelin star cuisine and top flight surfing attracting top talent to its shores. Its natural tranquillity has also turned it into a bit of a yoga haven. No premium resort is complete without sunrise and sunset yoga sessions for the guests. And its uniquely placid, reef-sheltered lagoons have afforded yet another opportunity for such Asanas practice – Underwater Yoga. So much so that the International Federation of Floatational Yoga (IFFY) are hosting their annual World Yoga Championships in the Maldives today. They are being hosted by the resort Apreelfulshi Spa and Villas. Below are a few snaps from the early qualification rounds.
Above and below, a top contenders in the Ladies Levitating Lotus (Heat 1)…
While below an entry in the Men’s Seafloor category warms up for his heat (Quarterfinal-FInal)…
The shallow lagoons of the Maldives provide an ideal venue for the popular Semi-Submerged Padmasana (Semi-FInal round)…
A number of demonstration workshops were also featured for aspiring fans attending the event. Below one of the master classes is led by an underwater guru…
Namaste #1! Go team! Winning!
My first ever outdoor yoga session in my life was in the Maldives. I had been introduced to the discipline back during my West Africa travels with one lesson in Togo, but then it was 25 years later when Lori and I did the sunrise yoga at Four Seasons Kuda Huraa. I’m not quite an avid practitioner though Lori and I have a weekly lesson. Lori is well into it, has done some special yoga retreats and did several yoga sessions during our last Maldives tour. I always check out the resort spa and scan the treatments and classes on offer in every visit. And I have never come across the range of yoga sessions offered by Taj Exotica.
Taj features and over water yoga and meditation pavilion (see photo above) as well as two breath-taking over-water couple spa suites and the Heat, Hydro and Relaxation Pavilion, with its welcoming sauna, generous relaxation deck and waterbeds.
We have been studying yoga for over a year now and no two sessions are the same. I’m regularly surprised by the entirely new collection of poses that our teacher Vivian Campbell introduces to us each week. Yoga seems to have no end to the variety of not just poses, but also different styles and technique variations. Taj reflects the diversity of this ancient art with its own equally diverse menu of sessions…
- Asana, Prananyama, Mudara, Banda
- Balanced – 90 minutes
- Advanced – 90 minutes
- Abhilaya – 60 minutes
- Advanced Surya Namaskar – 60 minute
- Gentle – 60 minutes
- Dynamic – 60 minutes
- Pranayama – 60 minutes
- Laghoo Shankhaprakshalana – 90 minutes
- Kunjal Kriya – 55 minutes
- Jala Neti – 45 minutes
- Yoga Nidra – 25 minutes
- Yoga Nidra Advanced – 50 minutes
- Hirdayakasha Dharana – 50 minutes
- Ajapa Japa – 50 minutes
- Antar Mouna – 40 minutes
“Yoga is almost like music in a way; there’s no end to it.” – Sting
I always have thought that the best part of yoga was “Savasana” (ie. “Corpse Pose”). Completely relaxing at the end of a hard session with the aroma of some essential oil. That was until I did a session at Thudufushi.
Lori and I did a session there (offered daily for free). Lori has gotten me into doing yoga in a private session each week. I’ve always preferred “lazy yoga”, aka Thai Massage, where the focus of the treatment is on muscle stretching (in a variety of contorted moves), but you just lie back and relax. My joints have always been a bit tight with all my weight training for sports and now getting older. But Lori insists I practice the yoga because she “doesn’t want to be putting my shoes and socks on for me in my old(er) age”.
Thudufushi holds their yoga sessions right outside their Serena Spa. And at the end of each session, the therapists come out and provide a final, soothing bit of stretching and massaging. Above, spa therapists Nantin and Narcy are working on Lori and Claudia Galeazzi , our yoga instructor.
Yoga enhances the whole person – mind and spirit. But some poses can be particularly effective at helping certain parts of the body. Each week, our yoga teacher asks us what is hurting and what we want to focus on. Sometimes a tender back will call for a few extra twists and Child Poses. She worked on our hips and arms to get us ready for the golf course in the spring.
One of the most apropos yoga specialisations have been offered by Constance Halaveli – dive yoga. Diving is about body control. Slow and deliberate movements are the focus for both yoga and diving.
But perhaps most of all is the breathing. Yoga turns this autonomic routine in a mindful practice. A scuba diving is all about the breathing. Breath control not only regulates how long you get to stay under water (making your oxygen last longer), but it actually controls your movement in the water. Take a deep breath filling your lungs with air and your increasingly buoyant body will slowly rise. Exhale, and your body will sink again.
The resort describes the programme…
“TGI Diving , DBI, Constance Halaveli Resort and Spa & Katy Appleton team up to offer you an unique adventure to the magical Maldives. Many people would say that the Maldives offers the best diving on the planet, so we are taking apple yoga to the North Ari Atoll for a remarkable combination of underwater discovery and yoga designed especially for diving. We have designed packages to suit all levels of ability and experience – for both diving and yoga. You will be able to join us for just one session or the entire week, it’s up to you! You will experience all that the Constance Halaveli Island has to offer while enjoying daily yoga practices and sublime diving in this piece of paradise.”
For a slightly less aesthetic portrayal of what the dive+yoga combo might be like and a bit of cheeky chakra, Dive Plus on Maafushi posted this pic of their own offering…