This (Crazy) Intense Retreat in Thailand Was the Best Thing I Did

Related Article
We Asked Two Women to Share Their Tips for a Healthier Ramadan
Read Article
Serenity Retreat Kris
Photo: Courtesy of Sonja Moses

A week-long retreat designed to “create your inner warrior” seemed like a challenge I truly needed at this point in my life. Organized by Sonja Moses, a spiritual sports coach and Muay Thai champion, it promised both a physical and spiritual challenge – and I was up for that. But fear and self-doubt started to sink in when I saw the itinerary, which included at least three workouts per day, including Muay Thai led by long-time champions. How could I possibly survive that?

I arrived in Koh Samui at midnight, which was not the best idea as I was late for the early-morning meditation and yoga on the first day. This made me feel more insecure, and I was left questioning whether or not I could handle it. Luckily, I managed to jump in while Sonja was teaching parasympathetic breathing. Being more aware of my body (and thoughts) made me calmer and more appreciative of the amazing nature around us.

Stepping Into My Power 

Driving to the Superpro Samui gym for the first time was not as intimidating as I expected. Once there, Sonja gave clear instructions: there would be no talking on the mat and we were to follow her very closely. Fifteen minutes of skipping and mobility work later, we began the first Muay Thai training session. One-on-one with Kru Kittiporn Phonyot (“Beau” for short), it left me breathless for an entire hour while also energizing me mentally. I can safely say that it was the most tiring thing I’ve done in my life. Beyond the physical demands, coordinating punches and kicks (and elbows and dodges and step backs) requires a lot of mental focus and agility. That being said, it left me feeling strong and more confident in my own power and abilities. 

I can safely say that it was the most tiring thing I’ve done in my life.

That first half day, from 5 a.m. to noon, had included more exercise than I’m used to in a week! However, after an exceptionally delicious and healthy lunch (served with the most refreshing coconut drink I have ever had), my body felt rejuvenated.

Later that afternoon, we embarked on a three-hour hike, which was not for the faint-hearted. Diving into the waterfalls (a first for most) made it all worth it in the end, and soaking in nature at the top of the mountains was more than enough to heal our tired bodies and recharge our minds.

Serenity Retreat Kris
Photo: Courtesy of Daniel Dörrer

That night, the sunset warrior flow helped us all unwind and prepare for what was to come.

Stepping Outside of My Comfort Zone

The following days began with a gratitude journal entry, followed by purposeful intention setting. Then, Sonja took us through guided meditations to help us through each day’s theme. This routine setting trained me to be mindful of every minute. A sunrise flow at 5 a.m., an uphill jog at 6 a.m., and mobility work before breakfast were the “norm” for the next six days (along with 500 palm-tree kicks to warm up your conditioning session).

The day’s highlight was always the Muay Thai training that took place before lunch. I have never kicked so much in my life — I thought my legs were going to fall off — but I loved every second of it. Kicking and punching nonstop with blistered hands and bleeding feet in an open-air gym when it’s hot and humid will challenge both your mental and physical strength.

As the days progressed, so did my punches and kicks, and I began to understand and appreciate the discipline behind this combat sport more and more.

Photo: Courtesy of Kris De Jesus


The days always ended with another flow, a guided meditation, and breathing techniques to help us achieve mental clarity, awareness of our body’s responses, and preparation for the next day’s challenges.

Enlightening the Mind, Awakening the Soul

The principles of Muay Thai teach you to be mindful of your technique and, more importantly, to be mindful of your opponent. We witnessed this firsthand on the day Sonja took us to watch the Thai Fight show. Everything I had learned over the past few days came to life in front of my eyes. What really stayed with me was how each fighter had the utmost respect for his opponents, his mentors, the referee, and even the audience.

After a week of rigorous training, we spent our active rest day island hopping and swimming in the middle of the ocean. Exploring the beautiful islands around Koh Samui was the perfect relaxing and bonding activity for the group. Taking in all of the nature was overwhelming — no words or photos could do justice to what we saw and felt. It was nature therapy in its purest form, and it was magical.

Learning how to handle life’s challenges with a serene attitude is a powerful skill that I will now never stop striving for.

Achieving a New Outlook on Life

Sonja delivered on her promise of “a week to awaken our inner warrior”, but I took away so much more than that in the end. It was the perfect retreat I never knew I needed so badly. One that reset my mind and cleared it from the stresses of mundane life. One that taught a warrior-like mentality alongside mindfulness and awareness of the situations you’re in. Learning how to handle life’s challenges with a serene attitude is a powerful skill that I will now never stop striving for.

The bond that our group formed was just the cherry on top. Seeing and listening to other people’s circumstances (and learning from each other) was such a wonderful part of the journey. The deep human connection without judgment, small talk, outside influences, and distractions was incredibly authentic.

This retreat profoundly changed my outlook on life and I definitely came out stronger — both mentally and physically. I am now in a place where peace of mind is not just a concept. It fed my soul to its core, and I know that this experience is something I will consciously sustain and seek out every now and then to reawaken my body, mind, and soul.

For more information on Sonja Moses’ retreats, visit or e-mail her here