Innika Choo from fashion blog No Faux Pas and her husband, Pern, just returned from a two-week yoga retreat in Coonoor, India…with their one year old Eadie Bo. She tells suitcases&strollers how she found her inner “om” with a bubba alongside and how it is possible to do yoga retreats with a baby. 

Where did you go to do your yoga retreat with baby and what was it like?

We went to the Ayurveda Retreat in Coonoor, India. It was beautiful and homely although does need a good revamp.

What was the yoga class schedule?

The retreat offers 3 or so classes a day and the option for private classes. The classes were complimented by traditional Ayurveda treatments. We alternated these so one of us was always with Eadie or she just joined in.

Who looked after your daughter while you were at yoga classes?

Eadie actually came with us to the early morning yoga class and stumbled around the room while we all practised the yoga. The energy at most times had a lovely effect on her. She was intrigued by the instructor and clapped every time we came back to “hands together”.

The retreat also kindly arranged a lovely babysitter who came between 9am to 4pm daily for around SG$9 per day. The babysitter was very intuitive with Eadie and I'm guessing kids in general. One of those lovely mamas who seems to have a knack with kids. 

A baby in yoga class?! Didn’t she disturb your zen?  

We sort of winged it and hoped for the best. I muttered to Pern on the way into the very first early morning class, "If she [Eadie] looses it, Ill go – you stay ". Of course there were a few moments when I wasn't completely in a yogi state and more focused on the carnage she might create, worried for all of the other guests and that we were destroying their zen by letting our child run free.

However all meal times are shared with the other guests and we were humbled by their welcome. Most of the true yogis go to this retreat for months on end to study the intricacies of yoga practise. They were delighted to have a little baby around to play with and change the energy up for awhile.

We got lucky this time round. It could have gone completely wrong, and I worried about this a little. Better to travel with no expectation and be pleasantly surprised when your child behaves on cue and let’s you do yoga. 

Apart from the babysitting was the retreat kid-friendly?

It was not designed for a family bring-along, however the retreat was more than accommodating for our little family and we would recommend this to any family who isn't too fussed about the small details or finer things in life. (This is probably great advice for travelling India in general – with or without a baby.)

The retreat were delighted to have a baby around. On arrival we were greeted by curious onlookers and showered with pearl necklaces, sweet chai and warm smiles. The owners of the retreat had arranged a cot for us. We brought along our own bedding. We brought a whole heap of organic pre-made baby food packets just in case, however we did not use them. The retreat is a hospital for healing so the food is beautiful and fresh, everything clean and delicious. The retreat is situated high up in the mountains – it’s freezing cold so not much pollution. We were given boiled water as and when we pleased. We took along our own steriliser. 

We were recommended [to the retreat] by a friend’s sister who had been twice. Her face literally lit-up when she talked about the experience she had there. I believe nothing is coincidence, and it was a lovely serendipitous happening that we stumbled on to a conversation about yoga and health, or we would not have had the wonderful opportunity.

Would you recommend this retreat for families travelling with older kids?

You would definitely need someone hands-on to look after them. The hills around the area are great for walks but you know kids...As they get older they need more entertainment.

The retreat had quiet areas, but there was plenty of space. They have huge common areas where you could be social and play games and chat with the other guests or you could also enjoy solitude. The long walks are particularly peaceful for both parent and baby.

Eadie wasn’t as mobile, still crawling and or hanging on to things so that made it easier. If we took her now I think the challenges would be quite overwhelming and the classes not as easy to partake in.

Would you do another yoga retreat again with baby? Why or why not? 

Absolutely. The easy part is deciding to go. The tricky part is getting the time off work! We hope there is some part of India already stimulating Eadie, even if on a subconscious level. The cultural exposure can be such a wonderful thing for any mind, young or old.

How did Eadie react to the sensory stimulation of India?

In the part of India where we were, it is considered good luck to touch a baby’s face and then kiss your lips, hence why everyone with lovely, brightly coloured materials and heavily jeweled, elaborate faces were constantly reaching in for a little swipe of her cheeks. This, as you can imagine, was a little overwhelming for a little one. So much noise and colour coming straight for your face!

However with a few exciting tuk tuk rides and some loud Bollywood beats she warmed to it all within a few days.

Any tips or tricks for other parents who also want to do the same yoga retreat with kids? 

We thought we were doing the right thing and booked a direct flight to Coimbatore, thinking it would give us a smooth flight rather than 2 small flights during the day. Unfortunately we chose the late night 4-hour flight, with a 2 hr car drive through the winding Indian hillside as we gained altitude, in the middle of the night, in a teeny tiny little car…am I painting a picture here? Eadie was great and slept for most of the flight and car ride, however her parents were a little...exhausted.

When we arrived at the retreat it was freezing cold, in the middle of the night and as the delightful and oh-so unique smell of India was so foreign to our little one, not to mention the cold temperature, Eadie was not having a bar of it. Let’s just say the first night was a long night.

So…our advice is to make sure to plan the connections well. [After having a baby] it’s not like the old days where we can fly through the night and carry-on in the day!

What are some things parents should look out for when selecting a yoga retreat to visit with their kids?

Babysitter availability. Flexibility in choice of class times. And, of course, whether the retreat is kid-friendly. I think we got lucky with this one as they don’t promote it as a kid-friendly retreat.

The one thing I've learnt in the last year of travelling with Eadie on my hip is that the love and fascination for a baby is pretty much universal. People all over the world are genuinely happy to see a little innocent face in the crowd. It's always a really nice feeling to watch a baby bring a smile to a stranger's face, doesn't matter what culture you are from. 

For more ideas on incorporating exercise into family holidays with kids, see the suitcases&strollers stories Fun Runs With Kids, Tennis Camps For Kids and Cycling With Kids