by Wendy Worrall Redal
If you’ve avoided yoga retreats as a vacation option because you’re worried you’ll spend all your time contorted in meditative silence, it’s time to take another look. Not only do many yoga retreats blend spa treatments and body work with asanas, but a whole new trend combines contemplative practice with activities such as horseback riding, mountain biking, stand-up paddle boarding and other outdoor pursuits.
The rise of these “yoga and more” retreats is part of a continuing growth in wellness travel as a major tourism trend. See if one of these options offers the perfect combination for you!
1. Yoga and Horseback Riding
Big Sky Yoga Retreats, Montana
At Big Sky Yoga Retreats in Bozeman, Montana, you’ll have a chance to get up on a horse as well as down like a dog. Here, where “Yeehaw” and “Namaste” come together, choose from a variety of programs centered on Cowgirl Yoga: a chance to pursue inward discovery in some of the most gorgeous outdoor scenery on the planet. Guests explore the link between yoga and riding to improve balance and body alignment while nurturing the horse-human connection with a horse assigned just to you. Three-night retreats feature yoga, riding and horse-care lessons, plus a Cowgirl Cookout. Choose a deluxe B&B or classic ranch setting. Big Sky also offers yoga and hiking retreats in Yellowstone country and Nordic skiing and yoga combo programs in the winter.
2. Yoga and Kayaking
Madeline Island Yoga Retreats, Wisconsin
The Apostle Islands on Lake Superior are a world-class kayaking destination. Paddlers can explore rugged shorelines decorated with tamaracks and wild roses and sea caves hollowed out by the waves. Yoga classes incorporate poses to balance and support the body, enhancing the ability to develop the technical skills of kayaking. A typical yoga adventure includes two afternoons with an experienced kayaking guide and one afternoon hiking the shores of Madeline Island, one of 21 small islands that comprise the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. The Apostle Islands, with their rocky coastlines and six lighthouses, were heralded by National Geographic as the top national park in the U.S. for picturesque beauty. Retreats combining yoga with horseback riding, stand-up paddling or art are also offered. Guests enjoy accommodations at The Inn on Madeline Island overlooking Lake Superior.
3. Yoga and Surfing
Haramara Retreat, Mexico
Just north of Puerto Vallarta on Mexico’s Pacific coast lies the artsy surfer town of Sayulita, beloved by expats and locals alike. Here you’ll find Haramara, named one of the 10 best yoga retreats in the world by Yoga Journal. Tack on surfing classes at Sayulita or Punta de Mita and you’ve got the makings of a sporty, restorative tropical break. Haramara offers a variety of build-your-own-sampler packages, and you can also add massage at the open-air jungle spa situated just above the surf. Every structure of the retreat center is hand-built using traditional methods. Two open-air yoga pavilions, cooled by ocean breezes, have high thatched roofs and handcrafted hardwood floors and are positioned to offer 360-degree views of the verdant mountains. As the cabanas have no electricity, guests enjoy a genuine retreat, away from the intrusion of electronic devices. Oil lamps provide soft lighting in the cabanas and restaurant, which serves fresh seafood and organic vegetarian cuisine.
4. Yoga and Stand-Up Paddleboarding
Stand-up paddleboards (also known as SUP) have become wildly popular in the last few years and offer a perfect complement to yoga for contemplative physical activity. In some cases, both are combined, with yoga done atop the paddleboards for an extra balance challenge. At Lumeria, a wellness-oriented boutique retreat on Maui’s laid-back north shore, you’re immersed in the magic of the Hawaiian ocean while increasing physical fitness and stamina via both yoga and this popular new water sport. The resort’s expert paddling guide offers personalized instruction, enhancing your balance, confidence and muscle tone while enjoying the relaxed culture of aloha. In addition to yoga and water sports activities, Lumeria offers a slate of well-being and horticulture classes. Guests enjoy ocean views from a historic clifftop estate.
5. Yoga, Hiking and Walking Meditation
EcoYoga Adventures, Banff, Canada
There may be no more stunning setting in which to practice yoga than the legendary Canadian Rockies. Dramatic rock walls and spires rise above glacier-fed turquoise lakes, while bighorn sheep, mountain goats and elk frequent the slopes and meadows that surround them. EcoYoga Adventures offers an “outdoor spa treatment for the soul” with hiking and walking meditation retreats that combine journeys on foot with yoga. Explore both inner and outer nature as body and spirit are refreshed on weekend, week-long or custom retreats. And you won’t sacrifice the calm you’ve created by spending the night on the ground in a chilly tent: Retreats include overnight stays at luxurious mountain lodges.
6. Yoga and Cycling
SoulFit Adventures, International Destinations
On SoulFit Adventures’ “Soul Soothing Italy Yoga & Cycling Retreat” you’ll enjoy a delightful blend of mindful yoga practice and guided cycling through idyllic environs in northern Italy. Home base for the week-long program is the Villa Benvenuti, a 17th-century country villa set among 17 acres of natural woodlands just outside of one of Italy’s loveliest medieval cities, Lucca. Or, choose a Southeast Asia yoga and cycling adventure in Laos, cycling through the lush northern countryside where you’ll meet the local people as you stretch and strengthen with yoga in boutique resorts along the way. SoulFit also offers a beachside yoga retreat in Bali, complemented with snorkeling and hiking.
7. Yoga and Backpacking
Kaf Adventures, Utah & Washington
Few settings are more inspiring for yoga than the wilderness backcountry, and Kaf Adventures offers two distinctly different opportunities to combine them. Get your inner warrior on with either the Canyon Lands or Mount Rainier guided backpacking adventure. In Mount Rainier National Park, glacial vistas and lush meadows of wildflowers set the scene for a summer yoga sojourn. Or trek into the White Canyon complex north of Lake Powell in Southern Utah to commune with the red-rock desert in autumn. Trips include twice-daily yoga classes, plus meditation practice. Kaf also offers shorter overnight yoga and backpacking retreats in the Cascade Mountains just east of Seattle, with three yoga sessions during the two-day program.