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Top 10 Yoga Retreats 2005

Top 10 Yoga Retreats 2005

Bend it Like Beckham
Yoga Retreats for Everyone

A yoga retreat can be approached many different ways. Usually, for a devoted yogi, it means picking a favorite teacher from one's lineage, or someone who teaches in one's chosen style, and following that teacher to a destination — often in a dramatic, natural setting like Costa Rica, Thailand or India. If you're a neophyte, a comfortable, welcoming approach that takes beginners' needs into consideration will matter more than famous instructors. With our selection of yoga retreats in the U.S. we've tried to be fair and select destinations that cater to average people as well as serious adepts. California being the yoga vortex it is, we couldn't help but pick three retreats in this "spiritually minded" state; the same is true with our two spots in New York. The two coasts were for the longest time the sole purveyors of things yogic. You might miss obvious choices like Arizona and New Mexico, and this was somewhat intentional: You probably never thought you'd chance upon amazing options in Georgia and Virginia. Yoga is thriving and these destinations are just the beginning!

Big Sur, CA

Esalen Institute

Esalen Institute is located on the stunning Big Sur coastline in CaliforniaThis exquisite institute with its annual 400 plus workshops, designed to maximize what Aldous Huxley called the "human potential," is a top-secret address for serious retreaters. The quality of its teachers, unique approach and spectacular coastal setting put Esalen in a league of its own. Located in the Santa Lucia Mountains on 27 acres of Big Sur coastline, on what formerly was the home of the Esselen Indians, Esalen blends Eastern and Western philosophies in its quality workshops, which have drawn renowned philosophers, psychologists, artists, religious thinkers and top yoga instructors such as Matthew Cohen, Seane Corn, Peter Levine, Tias Little and Jai Uttal. Most people experience Esalen via a weekend or five-day workshop. Yoga, is of course, only one modality featured here. Pick from subjects such as biofeedback, shamanism, somatics, dreams, hypnosis and more. The hundreds of varieties of veggies that turn into the meals on your plates are grown on the five acres that make up the farm and garden. You can enjoy the hot springs and bodywork by appointment.

Santa Barbara, CA

White Lotus Foundation

The White Lotus Foundation in Santa Barbara, CA is highly regarded amongst yoga practitionersThis high-profile retreat is among the most esteemed in the world of yoga. Founded by the famous (in yoga circles) and accomplished Ganga White, this mountain oasis sits on ancient canyon grounds — considered sacred by the original inhabitants, the Chumash Indians — overlooking Santa Barbara and the Pacific Ocean. On its advisory board you will find one of America's most respected experts on health, Dr. Andrew Weill, as well as celeb yogi Sting and Sanskrit /Hinduism professor David Gordon White, Ph.D. Various group retreats are offered year-round with themes such as Spirit Dance and Yoga Retreat and Sacred Breath/Pranayama—or you can go on a personal retreat and stay in of their yurts. A retreat will include any or all of these: daily Hatha yoga classes, hikes in the oak and manzanita forests, meditation within canyon walls, breathing exercises, bodywork, dips in the waterfalls, massage, music, dance, philosophical discussions, a visit to the underground Hopi style "Kiva" temple and vegetarian meals. The foundation also offers a highly regarded teacher training program and practitioner training in traditional Thai Massage.

Sierra Foothills, CA

Sivananda Ashram

Guests practicing yoga outdoors at Sivananda Ashram in the Sierra Foothills of Northern CaliforniaThis Sivananda outpost — there are several Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers around the world — on eighty acres of Sierra foothills in Northern California's Gold Country was founded by Swami Vishnu Devananda, a pioneer of yoga in the Western world. It is open year-round to practitioners of all abilities, and you can choose to stay a day, a weekend or a month in this traditional ashram nicknamed "yoga farm." The daily program includes two daily yoga classes (with asanas, meditation, chanting and lecture) as well as the swami's five points of yoga (proper exercise, breathing, relaxation, diet, positive thinking/meditation), and you may be encouraged to practice Karma yoga (selfless service). Special theme-retreats are also organized. Guests can enjoy a wide variety of other wellness classes and retreat topics such as positive thinking, Ayurveda, women's health, vegetarian cooking, meditation or a silent retreat. Enjoy a swim in the pond or simply let the tranquil, picturesque landscape soothe you. Sivananda Yoga is practiced around the world and you may feel drawn to the swami's mantra that "Health is Wealth. Peace of Mind is Happiness. Yoga Shows the Way."

Red Feather Lakes, CO

Shambhala Mountain Center

The Shambala Mountain Center is a Tibetan Buddhism-centered retreat in the Colorado RockiesLocated on 600 acres in the Colorado Rockies, this Tibetan Buddhism-centered retreat, founded by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, caters to both neophytes and in-depth practitioners with a vast roster of programs on yoga, Buddhist meditation, Shambhala warriorship training, dharma talks and much more. The name Shambhala symbolizes the notion that each human being innately possesses wisdom, compassion and goodness, and after a stay here you'll feel one step closer to your personal enlightenment. Besides practicing yoga, you can take walks through the surrounding wild, natural beauty and encounter brown hawks and eagles, foxes, marmots and lynx. Or stroll the Shambhala Botanic Gardens, enjoy massages, Vipassana Insight meditations, poetry readings and three healthy meals a day. Among the highlights on the property is The Great Stupa of Dharmakaya, the "largest and most elaborate example of Buddhist sacred architecture in North America." Housing options vary and include motel-like buildings, the Shambhala Lodge guesthouse, dorms and tents.

, GA

Pura Vida USA Wellness and Yoga Retreat

Guests practice yoga at the base of Georgia's Blue Ridge Mountains at Pura Vida USAThe sister property to Costa Rica's famed Pura Vida Retreat and Spa sits on 72 wooded acres in the foothills of the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains, with a view of the Chattahoochee National Forest, surrounded by fields, woods, three nearby vineyards (you might know Three Sisters), waterfalls and blueberry bushes. Guests choose from the B&B and wellness center's comprehensive five- or seven-day Mind, Body & Spirit Retreats or themed yoga vacations like Spring Cleansing, Anusara Yoga, Tantra: The Yoga of Love, Yoga & Knitting and wellness weekends. The meals are home cooked with herbs from the garden, mostly vegetarian and often featuring world cuisines; and you'll also be able to enjoy some regional wine or microbrewed beer to cap off a day of yoga classes (in the 1,400 square-foot yoga hall), massages, leisurely walks on nature trails and English-style wildflower gardens or a lounge on the large front porch. Be sure to check out the aroma spa steam cabin and under-the-stars Watsu tub with its wooden deck. The 18 accommodations in the 1920's-style farmhouse, barn or private cabins ("Bear Dens") in the woods are simple and comfortable, done in traditional southern style. It's just an hour's drive from Atlanta and you'll be picked up at the airport. Note: Pura Vida USA is now Dahlonega Spa Resort.

Big Island, HI

Kalani Oceanside Retreat

The Kalani Oceanside Retreat in Hawaii features a lush, tropical settingKalani Honua translates as "harmony of heaven and earth," and this is the mission of this 30-year-and-going-strong island retreat bordering the ocean and tropical jungle. Visitors have raved about the lush setting and healing and joyful spirit of this place and yoga great Shiva Rea was inspired to say: "Kalani is one of the most potent and nurturing retreat centers in the world as it is so close to where Pele’s lava flows into the ocean — where new earth is actually being created." Top guest faculty from around the country includes Baron Baptiste, Shiva Rea and Rodney Yee, but even if you're not a pro and these names mean nothing, this might be the place to begin a spiritual or wellness journey with their Introduction to Yoga retreat offered year-round. Guests enjoy skilled instruction in yoga basics, healthy vegetarian, vegan or seafood-centered meals on the open-air lanai and activities such as Hula basics, creative writing or DolphinDance. On your off-hours you can laze by the 25-meter Olympic pool, enjoy Hawaiian Lomilomi or Watsu massage or bodywork, tennis and volleyball. Accommodations cover all budgets, from the colorful Tree House with ocean and horse pasture views to the friendly cottage and the campsite.

Lenox, MA

Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health

The Kripalu Center Yoga and Health focuses on holistic healingHere's another stellar yoga retreat offering the chance to study with world-class teachers such as Ana Forrest, Shiva Rea, Rodney Yee and Gary Kraftsow. Founded by Swami Kripalu, a master Kundalini adept, in 1966, this center's mission is as true to the original meaning of yoga as you can possible get: the search for your authentic self, or rather, a nonsectarian way to become a better, healthier, more integrated human being. The center benefits from a beautiful natural setting in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts, and a typical day may include daily yoga and meditation, healthy meals and other healing modalities such as Kripalu DansKinetics classes and Healing Arts Sessions. A weekday healing retreat can also feature workshops, hikes, meditation in the labyrinth, kirtan, dance and drum circles. Beyond you will encounter programs designed to heal body, mind and spirit that range from macrobiotics, Ayurveda and raw juice fasting to chi gong and "brainergy." Accommodations in the Jesuit seminary mean either the dormitory or small standard rooms. It's not luxurious, but the rooms are clean and modern, and you cannot top the quality of instruction and chance for real transformation offered here.

Neversink, NY

New Age Health Spa

The New Age Health Spa in Sullivan County, NY offers daily Hatha yoga classesThis Catskill address on 280 acres of pastoral Sullivan County land is not a yoga retreat per se — but everything on offer here is designed to help you develop a sense of greater fulfillment in life — and they do feature regular "Specialty Yoga Weekends" centered, for example, around opening your heart, sacred breathing techniques or the tradition of Viniyoga. In addition, daily Hatha yoga classes are held in the property's 1,700-square-foot studio with heated floors, a fieldstone fireplace and impressive Buddha statue. Unless you're a die-hard yogi and all you want is asana, you'll appreciate other holistic activities like pranayama, silent meditation, Tai Chi, aquarobics, strength training, cabaret dancing, juice fasting, hydro colon therapy, reflexology, aromatherapy, as well as hiking excursions, swimming, lectures and workshops and more. Unlike many luxury destination spas, the prices at "the only destination spa in New York State" are extremely affordable and the accommodations nice enough — you'll stay in pretty white country-inn style clapboard lodges, and the fresh air and greenery (especially of the nearby Shawangunk Mountains, best explored on a half-day hike) around you alone are enough to uplift the spirit


Rhinebeck, NY

Omega Institute Rhinebeck Campus

The Omega Institute Rhinebeck Campus in New York offers approachable progams for all ages and levelsIf you're just beginning on your spiritual journey, the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies offers the most approachable programs for everyday people who have an inkling that something deeper is missing in their lives. It takes its name from mystic Teilhard de Chardin, who described "the point where all thought converges" as "omega." Its Rhinebeck Campus in the Hudson Valley is the furthest thing from elitist — you'll encounter neither gurus nor heightened disciplines and esoteric efforts, but you'll be exposed to yoga, meditation or transformational psychology in an easily digestible manner. And, the faculty may include stellar names such as Pema Chödrön, Sharon Salzberg, Geshe Michael Roach, Jack Kornfield, Ph.D. or Krishna Das. Omega is very highly regarded among retreat seekers and people emerge refreshed in mind, body and spirit, if not totally reformed, from the many classes such as Thai Chi by the lake, yoga with pro Baron Baptiste or simple strolls amid 195 acres of gardens, rolling hills and woodlands in the Hudson River Valley. Cabin housing can be single or shared.

Buckingham, VA

Satchitananda Ashram

Satchitananda Ashram is located in the rolling Virginia countrysideA retreat can mean many things, a day packed tight with scheduled classes and activities or a silent retreat of rest, meditation and the chance to experience life in a spiritual community. At the 1,000-acre Satchitananda Ashram Yogaville in the rolling Virginia countryside guests enjoy Hatha yoga classes, meditation, three vegetarian meals a day, Saturday evening satsang and a visit to Lotus, the Light Of Truth Universal Shrine, an oasis for contemplation and prayer dedicated to world peace and all faiths. The Intergral Yoga you encounter here combines the various branches of yoga (Hatha, Raja, Bhakti, Karma, Jnana and Japa) to form a scientific system that helps to integrate your whole being. In the mornings you're awakened by the play of a violin and you rise to an environment of serene woods and wildflowers beneath the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains. Guests stay in air-conditioned dorms, private rooms in two guesthouses or campgrounds on a quiet, wooded area. Weekend workshops and programs on anything from Thai Yoga Massage to structural yoga therapy or vegan and vegetarian cooking are also available, as well as teacher certifications.

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