When it comes to building a stronger mind and body, yoga can be one of your best tools. Regular practice can reduce stress, improve fitness, and help manage chronic conditions from heart disease to high blood pressure.
While a yoga class twice a week can have a wonderful impact on your health and wellness, a yoga retreat can help you dive more deeply into your practice. With daily classes, incredible outdoor settings, and healthful meals, a yoga retreat can be like your average vacation with a whole lot of zen.
Wellness tourism is expected to be one of the top getaway trends in Canada in 2013, according to an annual forecast report by SpaFinder. While away on vacation, you can complete yoga teacher training to further your practice and train others back home.
Since yoga retreats vary widely, you need to know what you're getting in for. A getaway in a remote, wild location? Or easy access from a big city? Other things to consider include the meals, type of yoga and who will be teaching. While some retreats have resident instructors, others bring in teachers from around the world. Each of these will have a different level of importance for each person.
For this story, we featured 5 excellent yoga retreats that can meet the needs of a variety of yogis. Take a look to find the spot that's best for you.
1. AkBol: Ambergris Caye, Belize
The first yoga retreat center and Eco Resort in Belize, AkBol offers daily classes, private sessions and workshops. Stay in a thatched hut or the yoga barracks and enjoy food from AkBol's Soul Kitchen, which offers local favorites such as pupusas (a handmade corn tortilla stuffed with a variety of fillings), as well as wood-brick, thin-crust pizzas and fresh juice and smoothies made from the retreat's home-grown produce.
2. Blue Spirit: Nosara, Costa Rica
This could be the only yoga retreat with a nearby sea turtle refuge. The center sits above Guiones beach, home to the Ostional Wildlife Sanctuary, where you have the opportunity to observe the turtles as they lay their eggs. This stretch is also known for its exceptional surfing, and Blue Spirit can arrange a lesson for you with one of the local instructors. As for the center itself, it features gourmet vegetarian cuisine, a holistic spa, a salt-water infinity pool and a number of accommodations for all tastes and budgets. You can attend a teacher training, yoga workshop or even hold your own event in the space.
3. Esalen Institute: Big Sur, California
The Esalen Institute hosts numerous yoga workshops throughout the year in styles ranging from Raja to Vinyasa. When you're not on the mat, you can soak in amazing views of the California coast or share a meal with fellow yogis in the center's dining area, where food is prepared from ingredients grown in Esalen's organic garden.
4. Escape Haven, Bali
Your week at Escape Haven will include daily yoga and meditation classes, your stay at the five star villa, a cultural day trip to Ubud and your choice of additional activities ranging from cooking or Pilates workshops to stand up paddleboarding. The center features a rotating list of expert international instructors who can adapt classes to suit people of all abilities.
5. Yoga Breaks: Alicante, Spain
If you're looking for a relaxed retreat, consider Yoga Breaks in Spain. These programs, designed for beginner and intermediate yogis, combine Hatha, Vinyasa Flow and Yin Yoga to build strength, flexibility and range of movement. They are held at two different places throughout the year. In the spring and autumn, visitors take classes at a country house with beautiful mountain views. In the summer, the program moves closer to the sea to a boutique hotel just a short walk from the beach. In addition to yoga classes, visitors can also take a guided hike, ride bikes or enroll in a Spanish cooking workshop.