Yoga Tourism: The Mind Body Vacation

Author: Kyle McCarthy

Tags : Asia, Caribbean, Couples, Flee Market, India, North America, Spa & Wellness, Teens

In this stressful age, the subject of yoga retreats as "vacation" comes up often. People ask, are they a good option for a mother-daughter getaway?

The answer is yes, if all participants are equally interested in connecting over the same activities.

Are they a good way to see the world?

The answer is maybe, according to long-time practitioner Teresa Plowright, mom of three living near Vancouver, BC. Teresa has traveled to several yoga programs in Asia but never as part of a dedicated tour.

"One problem with yoga retreats is that, often, the setup is that the teacher just comes to do the course," she complains. She urges anyone interested in local culture to examine the itinerary, adding, "It seems to me that [on tours] the teacher just flies into a yoga retreat place, does their week or two of classes and the guests either just stay on the property or explore on their own."

Here is a sampling of domestic and international retreat options for yogis who consider themselves travelers first.

Traveling with Your Teacher on a Yoga Retreat

In the studio where I practice, several of the professional instructors are involved in either leading or providing instruction on getaway yoga vacations. James Murphy, director of the Iyengar Yoga Association of Greater New York and a gifted teacher, is one of them.

His Experience Bali: Experience Iyengar Yoga will spend March 9-25, 2015 in Bali, Indonesia, an island he's visited annually for 25 years, where he has "a strong connection and love for the people and can give participants something that they really wouldn't get otherwise."

His trip, organized through Yoga Out There, welcomes yoga practitioners of all abilities and ages to join two classes daily as part of an introduction to the unique Balinese culture.

From the clove farms of Munduk, participants head to a north coast beach for snorkeling, then to the rice plantations of Ubud for the last eight days."It's a cultural immersion into the world of the Balinese with yoga every day, to both prepare and recover from the day's activities," James says. A local guide accompanies the group; land only rates that include all programs, hotel and most meals are $3,200 per person based on double occupancy.

Find a Yoga Retreat and Meet Your Teacher

The beautifully rustic Feathered Pipe Ranch near Helena, Montana in the Rockies, runs in-house and international retreats. On its 40th anniversary, it claims to be one of the oldest centers for "conscious living" in the country. Throughout the year, multiday retreats in different forms of yoga, ayurvedic wellness and philosophy are led by visiting instructors. Feathered Pipe's international yoga program offers Power of Yoga: The Feminine Force March 14-21, 2015 at the Haramara Retreat, Mexico. Pricing for the weeklong program begins at $2395 per person in double occupancy, including seven nights' accommodation, meals, two yoga classes and meditation daily, and Mexico hotel taxes.

Yoga enthusiasts can sign up for Across the Universe: Adventures in India from November 28 - December 16, 2015. It's led by Baxter Bell, a California-based doctor who lectures on the benefits of yoga in combating stress and is a regular contributor to Yoga for Healthy Aging. His 19-day journey visits many cultural and spiritual highlights of India: Delhi, Rishikesh (the self-styled Yoga Capital of the World), the palaces in Jaipur, a bird sanctuary in Bharatpur, Agra and the Taj Mahal, the classic Hindu temples of Khajuraho, religious shrines along the Ganges in Varanasi, and the site of the Buddha's first sermon, Sarnath. 

The Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, founded in 1967 by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi of the San Francisco Zen Center, offers public programs each summer, this year from April 30 to September 13. One or more multiday sessions themed to Body & Mind, Engaging Earth, Spiritual Practice, Mindful Living and Creative Expression take place weekly at the isolated, energy-independent retreat located 25 mile southeast of Big Sur. Their invite reads, "Zen and meditation seekers, yoga lovers, artisan foodies, outdoor adventurists, and everyday people looking to unplug and rejuvenate are invited to experience a truly serene environment at Tassajara.”

Grounded in Zen and Buddhism, sessions are taught by celebrity leaders ranging from singer-songwriter Jimmie Dale Gilmore to Google Meditation Workshop leader Marc Lesser,  Praina yoga instructor Djuna Mascall, Vinyasa yoga and Vipassana meditation Instructor James Higgins and many others. The full catalogue can be downloaded here; daily rates begin at about $70 for retreats and $105 for room/board in the dorm; children ages 4-11 (welcomed cautiously) pay from $55 per day. Known for equally celebrated guests including Steve Jobs,  Governor Jerry Brown and Joan Baez — plus hot springs, vegetarian cuisine and a best-selling bread baking book — Tassajara attracts many vacationers during its guest season so early bookings are required.

Yoga Abroad - Traveling Inward with Your Practice

In The Minotaur, Albert Camus wrote, "In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion." Several yoga retreats have sprung up with this goal in mind.

The Ak'bol Retreat and Eco Resort in San Pedro, on Ambergris Caye off the Belize mainland, is a full-time yoga and meditation resort where yoga teachers and their students come for organized retreats. It was begun more than two decades ago and now encompasses seven thatch roof bungalows, a Soul Kitchen restaurant and two yoga palapas for open-air practice. Co-owner Kirsten leads regular yoga classes, and there are frequent drumming sessions, talks on Mayan healing, and other spiritual and wellness programs.

New York based Carolyn Christie, who has been teaching yoga since 1995, is leading a weeklong Yoga Retreat in Belize to Ak'bol. She says, "I see this retreat and the retreat I do in Costa Rica as "yoga adventures," adding, "they are vacations where there is both exploring an environment through physical activities like walking, kayaking, biking, snorkeling, sitting and looking and exploring one's potential through the yoga asana and pranayama."

In April, a family is joining Carolyn's retreat because their 10-year-old likes yoga; her program offers four hours of it daily. "There is great value to going to a beautiful, natural environment and practicing yoga," she explains. "One opens up quickly, relaxes and regains strength." Friendships are made easily. "One finds good company because people actually have time to enjoy each other," she adds.

The program cost for Carolyn's April 4-11, 2015 Belize retreat is based on housing at the resort: from $1,185 per person double in a village room to $1,640 per person in a double cabana. Rates include accommodation, all classes, and most meals, but do not include transportation to Belize, flights from Belize City to San Pedro, or outside activities and meals.  For more information, contact CarolynChristie[at]

Commune with Nature and Yourself

In a more luxurious eco-resort compared to many in Asia and the Caribbean, Italian designer Marcello Murzilli has recently opened Eremito. Following other boutique hotels, his latest environmentally-conscious property is a 14-room stone cloister on a 3,000-hectare preserve in Umbria. Named for the Italian word for hermit, he describes the hotel's decor as "Franciscan minimalism."

Designed for single guests only, Eremito invites visitors to unplug, detoxify and explore their inner selves in a spot known more for what it doesn't offer:  WiFi, phones,TV, business center, tennis, golf, minibar. Any power used beyond candlelight comes from solar cells; vegetarian meals are locally sourced and served in silence. Solo contemplation at this unusual resort, located about 90 minutes from Rome in Parrano, begins at €212 per night including meals and refreshments, daily yoga and meditation. Book it at Design Hotels.

Focus on Transformative Growth and Creativity

Travel journalist Lynn O'Rourke Hayes takes to the road with a more contemplative approach to adult-only travels, focusing on self transformation. "Family life, in particular can be so busy!" she notes. "For many of us, it is important to remove ourselves from the strictures of everyday living so that we can connect to our own creativity and sense of self."

Her team organizes Transformational Travel Retreats to beautiful destinations such as Italy, New Mexico and Colorado where, rather than tour around, participants practice yoga, meditation and writing in order to focus on a deeper personal exploration. Their six-day retreat in Santa Fe, New Mexico, scheduled for April 25-May 1, 2015, costs $1,695 per person for meals, the program and activities; transportation and local lodging is extra.

Me Time is a Given

Hundreds of variations on the yoga getaway exist, as varied as the yoga practice itself. I've covered the detoxifying, stress-relief regimen at The Chopra Center in California, and the equally intense ayurvedic healing retreat at Devaaya in Goa, India, both of which incorporate daily sessions of yoga and meditation.

I've found that personal growth is the goal of many of these wellness experiences, whether participants travel around and explore a culture, or stay still and explore themselves.

James Murphy sums it up when talking about his Bali trip: "I wouldn't call what I do a yoga retreat or intensive... it's more about how yoga can be incorporated in your life in this beautiful setting, among a very special people and culture... and that allows you to look at yourself in a whole new way."

Please share your thoughts, favorite retreats and resources in the comments field below.

Note! This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.


Ubud, Bali is ideal for mother-daughter yoga getaways

ubud would be super for a mother-daughter getaway. The Yoga Barn is terrific: it cascades down a hillside, first with welcome bungalow, then a really good restaurant, then a yoga building (photo  below), then gardens and what I think are either cottages for accom or treatment rooms. And meanwhile you're in ubud!

Some people stay at the yoga barn but it's pretty expensive by ubud standards. I had a beautiful guest house-- traditional compound with statuary and pool and ornate platforms -- for $25 cDN and I left it for a better one.  Plus today I went to beautiful spa, garden setting, 5 mins from yoga barn, and had massage , papaya scrub, and soak in a flower-filled tub -- $27 cDN , so that's maybe $20?

Ubud Bali Guesthouse

< The patio of my guesthouse.


Ubud is so very beautiful, my room is like a private bungalow by a ravine,  beautiful greenery, sounds of cicadas and rushing water, and this little temple where the lady of the house does a ceremony every morning.

Ubud also has Balinese dance performances every night ($6), exquisite meals ($5)... 

Contributed by user Teresa Plowright.

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