What does Suan Sati mean?
Suan in Thai means “garden”, and Sati is a Pali and also Thai word that translates to “mindfulness”. So, Suan Sati means “The Garden of Mindfulness”.
How do I get there? Do you have airport pickup?
We can arrange a private driver to pick you up anywhere in Chiang Mai including the airport for 600 baht, or you can use Grab for 500-600 baht. Simply enter Suan Sati into Google Maps, show that to your driver and that will get you here. Please note that we are hard to find after dark, so we recommend arriving during daylight hours. If you arrive late at night, we may be unable or unavailable to guide your driver in the last few kilometers. For that reason, we don’t accept arrivals past 9 PM.
What are the check-in and check-out times? Can I arrive early or stay late?
During the special winter retreats, pick up is at 8:45 AM at 3 Kings Monument, and check-in is 10 AM. We only accept guests that are able to attend the entire retreat from check-in until check-out. If you are not here by 10 AM check-in, we reserve the right to cancel your reservation and replace your reservation with someone on the waitlist. We are closed between retreats for cleaning and recharging and are unavailable to host at that time. Outside of the special winter retreats, check-in time is 2 PM. If you would like to arrive before that, there is a 250 baht charge that will include your lunch and use of facilities. Your room is not guaranteed to be ready before 2 PM. Check-out time is 10 AM. If you would like to stay past check-out, there is a 250 baht charge per meal and a 250 baht charge for the afternoon yoga class. We ask that guests still leave the room at 10 AM so that our housekeeping staff can clean the room in time for the next guests.
How do I pay for my retreat?
The remaining balance will be paid upon arrival in Thai baht only. If you would like to pay by card, there is a 5.5% charge for that service.
Is this retreat suitable for beginners?
Yes, beginners are welcome here. However, we strongly recommend that you take some classes in a studio and study the basics of meditation before coming. The yoga and meditation practices here are not necessarily easy, and you may feel that some questions or doubts have not been addressed completely, but our intention is to simply provide a starting place for your practice. After leaving here, we would hope that you feel confident enough to walk into a beginner yoga or meditation class back home and know the basics of what it’s about.
What about seasoned practitioners?
We welcome experienced yogis as well here at Suan Sati. You may find that our varied styles of teaching will bring you to another level in your practice, whether your intentions are physical or non-physical development.
Is this a spiritual/religious retreat? Because I am definitely (not) spiritual/religious!
How do we define spirit or spiritual? Usually we’re referring to some part of us that is deep inside, something beyond the physical. In that sense, yes, this is most definitely a spiritual retreat because we’re most interested in getting to know ourselves in a deep and meaningful way. Some ways to access that more meaningful level are meditation (usually silent), asana, discussions on spirituality and what that means to you, group exercises like eye gazing, art, dance, music, writing, and chanting and singing mantras, to name a few. No one is ever forced to participate in these, and people who self-define as non-spiritual are very common here.
As for the religious aspect, we do not consider ourselves to be a religious retreat. However, we do draw upon several traditions in our retreat as they are a part of our lives and personal practice. For example, we commonly utilize Buddhist teachings or Hindu mantras in our retreats. When we chant a mantra giving praise to Ganesha, one way to connect to that might be to see His qualities in us and how we can work to bring the best out of ourselves. Subscription to any faith is not necessary and can actually be counterproductive when thinking too much about the source instead of feeling into the power of the mantra or the teaching. So, don’t fear, you aren’t expected to change your belief system, but you will have the opportunity to go as deep as you wish into yourself with experienced teachers as guides to support you on your journey.
What is the meditation like at Suan Sati? Can I learn to meditate there?
At Suan Sati, you will get exposure to different styles of meditation that you may find a connection with. Some teachers use chanting, others may use guided meditations, and others may use things as varied as breathing exercises, singing devotional songs, or even ecstatic dance! The heart of the practice here though is mindfulness with breathing, known as Anapanasati. It is a very simple but not easy technique of concentrating on watching the breath. This is not a technique that you will master in a few short days, and you will suffer greatly if that is your expectation.
We have many books and resources to give you some information on the technique, but the best advice we can give is to just keep coming back to the breath as many times as possible in order to train the monkey mind to stay focused on the breath. It is not those who “get it” quickly that master the technique, but those who are determined to keep coming back as many times as it takes with a positive, compassionate, patient attitude towards themselves. Those who have the most difficulty are those who after their first few sessions, don’t see progress and determine the practice is not working. Here we invite our guests to introspect on what’s not working, the practice or the practitioner. As with any practice, if you want to get the most out of it, you have to put the most into it!
Here is a link to a free PDF copy of Anapanasati: Mindfulness with Breathing By Buddhadhasa Bhikku: http://www.dhammatalks.net/Books5/Buddhadasa_Anapanasati_Unveiling-the-Secrets-of-Life.pdf
What is the yoga like at Suan Sati?
Here at Suan Sati, we have many influences in our teaching styles. These include Classical Hatha, Anusara, Iyengar, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Yin, Restorative, and many more! Generally, our morning classes are dynamic, designed to get your body moving, build strength and flexibility, and sharpen your body awareness. Our afternoon classes are slower to balance the morning classes, and focus more on stillness, mindful movement, and relaxing and letting go.
Yoga at Suan Sati will most definitely challenge you, both physically and mentally. This is intentional, as we have seen the great benefits of this type of practice in ourselves and our guests over the years. When we approach the edge of our comfort zone, we can break down our preconceived ideas of what is possible on and off the mat. This is how yoga can totally transform your life. While you certainly don’t need to have any level of strength or flexibility to join our retreat, you will need a positive attitude and a willingness to put forth the effort to receive the benefit from what we offer and what you are looking for from your practice. With that being said, we never pressure anyone to go past their limits and we always practice safely, using props, modifications, and variations as needed for each individual’s body and limitations. Taking a rest is always available during our classes, and there is no expectation that everyone should be able to do every pose.
Do I really have to go to every session on the schedule?
We ask that all guests participate in every yoga and meditation session on the schedule. Without full participation in the program, guests are not accessing the potential of our program to effect positive change in their lives. We understand that some days your body is sore and calling for rest. If you are not feeling up to full participation in the session, we advise that you come to the shala and simply take extra child’s poses when you need it. You will get much more benefit from being in the shala and observing and absorbing the energy of the session than staying in bed. We often have a long waiting list for our retreats, so we ask that guests commit to attending every session as there are others waiting who would gladly do so. Not attending every session could potentially result in guests missing an important teaching that would help their practice grow, and in turn guests could feel frustration or dissatisfaction with themselves or our program. If you are physically unable to attend a session, please let us know in advance and we will accompany you to the local clinic or hospital if needed.
What is the food like?
Our food is healthy, plant-based local Thai food with some western favorites. Read more about our food here: Food
What do I need to bring? Do you have yoga mats? What about towels?
Guests should bring comfortable clothing to meditate and do yoga in, lightweight long sleeve clothing to protect against mosquitoes, warm clothing for winter months (November to February), a BPA-free reusable water bottle (not disposable plastic), STRICTLY natural personal hygiene products ONLY (soap, shampoo, toothpaste, sunscreen etc.), a headlamp, enough cash to pay your balance (there are no ATMs nearby), and good vibes!
Yes, we provide yoga mats and props for you. If you have a special mat, towel, or cushion you use at home, you’re welcome to bring it. We provide towels in the rooms for your use.
Why am I asked to bring only natural hygiene products?
We ask that all of our guests bring only all-natural hygiene products because the water from our showers and sinks runs directly onto our land. If we are using chemical products in the bathroom, they will pollute the land where we live and grow the vegetables that we put into our bodies.
What if I am menstruating, what do I do with the feminine hygiene products?
For the ladies that are menstruating while on retreat, we recommend trying out an alternative product such as Thinx Panties or a Femme Cup. If you bring traditional feminine hygiene products, you can chat with one of our female staff members so we can help you dispose of them in a responsible way.
What activities are available during free time?
In your free time here, you can go for a walk around our neighborhood, take a cooking class, make some art, get involved in our garden doing karma yoga, read books from our library, find a hammock to relax in, or get a Thai massage in the evenings. The activities with extra costs are the cooking class – 500 baht, and the Thai massage – 200 baht per hour.
Outside of the winter retreats, our schedule is relatively relaxed. This is intentional so you have time to unwind and enjoy some time doing less than in your normal busy life. Some people like to have a totally full schedule on their holidays and that’s great! However, here we find great benefit in slowing down and doing less and feeling content with simplicity.
Do you have wi-fi? Can I use my device while there?
During our winter retreats, we offer guests the opportunity to disconnect from their devices and take a break from the internet. We realize that some guests may have a need to use the internet for work, communicating with family, buying plane tickets, etc. If you have an urgent need for internet, we will happily accommodate. During other times of the year, Wi-Fi is available but we recommend that you try life without internet. You may find that you have a better connection!
Is there an area where I can smoke?
Yes, there is an area where you can smoke cigarettes.
Do you have laundry facilities?
There are laundry machines at a local shop around the corner from Suan Sati where you can do your laundry. Alternatively, you can ask our staff to do your laundry for a small fee. Lastly, if you prefer to do your own laundry, we provide tubs for you to do so provided your laundry soap is 100% natural.
What if I get sick on retreat? Is there a hospital or clinic nearby?
There is a local clinic just across the street for minor issues, and several excellent hospitals within 20-30 minutes drive.
Can I visit Chiang Mai's tourist attractions while on retreat?
We advise guests to focus their attention on slowing down and doing less while on retreat. If you would like to visit Chiang Mai’s wonderful tourist attractions, please plan for time before or after your retreat as our schedule does not provide enough time to make the drive to and from most attractions in between sessions.
Do you accept volunteers?
Short answer – No. We get a lot of requests for people to join us as volunteers, but we simply don’t accept volunteers. We have a full Thai staff and all of our needs are met by them.