Pair your passions
Spending time on a yoga retreat is an excellent way to kick-start a new practice or to dig deeper into an established one. Add in a retreat that also allows you to explore another passion, and you’ve got a winning combination.
Follow your bliss, and combine a yoga retreat with another fun activity to reap the benefits of mindfulness and experiencing your full five senses. According to the Canadian Yoga Alliance, a network of professional certified and insured yoga teachers in Canada, more and more Canadians are choosing to practise yoga, with membership in this organization rocketing since its creation in 2002. “Yoga is a great example of being fully present with your body, but then when you combine it with other things you love, such as skiing or hiking, they fuel each other!” explains Tracey Delfs of Balance Quest, who’s been leading yoga, meditation, and mindfulness retreats for the last 15 years. Delfs leads retreats at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, which feature skiing and snowshoeing. “When you experience the feeling of being fully present, you can take that mindfulness and enjoy things on a deeper level. Taking time over a few days to practise those skills can really inspire you to bring that more into your everyday life.”
You can pair yoga with paddling around the lightly visited LaHave Islands in Nova Scotia, which cover 100 sq km (39 sq mi) of pristine beaches, protected waters, and inspirational coastal wilderness.
Camp on the coast and fall asleep to the gentle hiss and roll of the tides. Each day, instructor Sarah Hrdlicka leads twice-daily beach yoga sessions slotted around exploring the archipelago by kayak, spotting coastal wildlife along the way, hiking, swimming, and relaxing with sunset meditation sessions. Enjoy fresh locally sourced ingredients and regional specialties around the campfire each night.
Hatha yoga teacher and Association of Canadian Mountain Guides-certified Martha McCallum leads heli-hikes to the remote Septets range with active yogis hiking the peaks, camping in the wild, and practising yoga surrounded by pristine Canadian mountain and lakeside beauty.
“I find that being in nature reconnects people with our planet, and the beautiful aspects of the mountains allows them to connect inside too,” says McCallum. “It’s amazing to watch people respond to it and discover mindfulness.”
Get away from the modern world and explore mindfulness, meditation, and yoga while learning about the healing properties of the plants and the forest and making balms, salves, and syrups at this candlelit, no-electricity ashram in the remote Nass Valley.
“We mostly get people who are new to yoga, but what grabs them is that we’re off-grid, and they’re excited to try something new,” says Aarti Doyle, director of operations and co-founder of Anuttara Yoga. “People tend to react really well; it’s been amazing to see yoga transform people’s lives. They immerse themselves in the retreat and walk away shinier, happier, and in more bliss.”
Perfect for nervous newbies who’ll enjoy the benefits a relaxing glass of wine will bring to their practice, head to Muskoka’s Pura Vida Soul Institute for three days of hatha, vinyasa, and yin in the shade of the pine and birch forest in a screened Muskoka room.
“People come and think it’ll be quite boozy, but what they value most is slowing down and being in nature,” says Jennifer Kavanagh, owner and lead facilitator.
“We do a wine tasting on the first night as a meditation and mindfulness exercise. We have people taste slowly, reflecting on the people who made the wine, the sacrifices they made to make it. And people start to look at their relationship with wine in a different way. It’s about appreciation, not getting tipsy!”
Dive into the joys of a Canadian winter with a team of certified yoga teachers and qualified cross-country ski and snowshoe instructors at an all-women Nordic yoga retreat in the Laurentian Mountains at Mont-Tremblant’s Domaine Saint-Bernard eco-park.
Bookend your days with invigorating morning and restorative evening yoga classes in a log cabin. Explore the pristine landscape, spot white-tailed deer, and work up an appetite for the chef-prepared organic meals that await back at camp. End your day with candlelit meditations.
Where in the world: The birthplace of Quetzalcóatl, the serpent God of the Aztecs, Tepoztlán is just an hour from Mexico City.
What you’ll do: Believed to be a centre of creative energy, on this retreat you’ll practise mantra, svadhyaya, prana kriya, and yoga nidra. Also, creative classes on offer include painting, visualization, and calligraphy sessions; music and sound therapy; contemporary dance classes; and photography. Highlights include taking part in a temazcal purification ceremony under the guidance of a native Amatlán shaman.
What you’ll eat: While staying in a tipi, your retreat includes organic local food.
Where to go for more information: yoga-art.guru
Where in the world: Combine stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) with yoga on the tranquil island of Vis in Croatia.
What you’ll do: Each day brings a morning practice on the calm water, performing asanas on your stand-up paddleboard. The afternoon focuses on land-based restorative and yin yoga to help you unwind after a day exploring this gorgeous island, and the evening brings reflection time.
What you’ll eat: Vegetarian, vegan, and raw food are on offer, including locally grown seasonal fruit, vegetables, spices, and herbs.
Where to go for more information: summersaltyoga.com
Where in the world: Head to Paia, on Maui in Hawaii for five days of yoga combined with surfing, SUP, whale watching, and massage.
What you’ll do: You’ll practise hatha and vinyasa yoga at morning and early evening classes. In between, choose from surfing or SUP, hiking in the lush mountains past roaring waterfalls, or heading out whale watching.
What you’ll eat: Feast on tropical fruit fresh from the trees; vegetarian, vegan, and pescaterian menus are available.
Where to go for more information: maui-yoga.com
Where in the world: Get back to the source of yoga along the banks of the Ganges River at the Phool Chatti Ashram for a seven-day intensive immersion in back-to-basics yoga practice.
What you’ll do: The course includes meditation, mantra chanting, prayer, kirtans, and lectures and discussions on how to apply the lessons of yoga to modern life. Mindful hikes, waterfall bathing, walks, hiking, and river dips are also included.
What you’ll eat: Mindfully enjoy delicious vegetarian food and shared room accommodation.
Where to go for more information: phoolchattiyoga.com
Where in the world: Make a connection between growing, harvesting, and celebrating fresh foods in Sonoma at the Lotus Feed Farm & Retreat.
What you’ll do: Help with the harvest, take a medicinal herb workshop, taste local wines paired with vegetarian food, and learn more about the land. Twice-daily yoga, along with meditation and Ayurvedic teachings from New York Times best-selling author Katie Silcox, add to finding your bliss under the redwoods.
What you’ll eat: Sleep in yurts or “glamping” cabins and feast on farm-to-table meals prepared in an outdoor pizza oven imported from Italy.
Where to go for more information: thelotusfeed.com