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10 of the World's Best Yoga Retreats for 2012January 12, 2012
Susan Greenwood, The Guardian, January 12, 2012
Les Passeroses, France
Since its opening in 2005, Les Passeroses near Angoulême in south-west France has gradually become the retreat centre of choice for an eclectic mix of yoga teachings, ranging from Iyengar to freestyle. Accommodation is boutique – all wooden oak floors, lush fabrics and stone fireplaces. Perfect if throwing yourself into the sparse side of yoga doesn't appeal just yet. While the yoga is taken seriously – a typical retreat will include two yoga sessions a day plus a two-hour meditation session – there is also time to enjoy relaxing by the pool, long walks and tucking into the vegetarian food. With wine!
• passeroses.com; typical price for seven days start from around £550 to £700, including accommodation, teaching and food
Simon Low, Goa
Simon Low is one of the founders of Tri-Yoga in London's Primose Hill and now runs the teacher-training Yoga Academy, both of which put him at the forefront of yoga teaching in the UK. A yoga teacher friend of mine described his training as one of the most intense experiences of her life, helping her develop an acute awareness of anatomy and physiology as well as a dynamic Asana practice. He runs yoga holidays in various locations, but the chance to experience his teaching in Goa shouldn't be missed. The trip takes place at the Lotus Yoga Retreat on Patnem beach with two classes a day and accommodation in beachfront bamboo huts.
• lotus-yoga-retreat.com; the next 12-day retreat starts on 19 February and costs £795pp (or £370 for a non-yoga partner), including teaching, brunch, a dolphin-spotting trip and unlimited herbal tea
Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwantari Ashram, Kerala
If it's full immersion yoga you're after, this ashram in the foothills of Kerala's Western Ghats will provide that and then some. On its two-week yoga holidays, participation in all aspects of life of the ashram is mandatory, including an alcohol-free vegetarian diet, silent mediation, lectures on yoga and participation in karma yoga which involves an hour a day of helping with tasks around the facility. The idea is that giving yourself up to the timetable in this manner is extremely relaxing and can lead to a deep spiritual awareness within your yoga practice.
• sivananda.org//neyyardam; accommodation varies from tents and dorms (both around £5pp pn) to twin rooms with air conditioning (around £18pp pn), with a minimum stay of three nights
The Yoga Farm, Costa Rica
Yoga and surfing go so well together that it's easy to find a holiday offering both – the difficult bit is finding one which does the two to a high standard. The Yoga Farm, near Pavones, embraces both with quiet sincerity. The accommodation on a hilltop above the ocean is completely off grid with solar panels, compostable toilets and a garden which provides fruit and vegetables. Yoga takes place daily on a deck overlooking the beach and surfing instruction follows after. Included in the price are two vegetarian meals a day, accommodation and yoga classes. But you can cut the price further by volunteering at the farm – now that's a way to earn good karma.
• yogafarmcostarica.org; dorm rooms from $260pp pw, rooms $270pp pw and cabins $330 (both sharing)
Adventure Yoga Retreats, Portugal
Go to one of Kelly Aikins's yoga classes in Chamonix, in the French Alps, and it will be difficult to work out what stuns you most – the view of Mont Blanc from the studio window or just how powerful a teacher she is. She has now started running retreats in the western Algarve during the summer with three planned for 2012. The week involves two yoga sessions a day plus one meditation session, and if you fancy surfing or rock climbing (two of Kelly's other passions) the beach and cliffs are close by. Vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free diets are happily catered for and breakfast and dinner are included in the price – expect lots of grilled veggies and barbecued, locally-caught fish.
• adventureyogaretreat/home/portugal; 2012 dates TBC shortly. The guide price for seven nights, including all teaching, accommodation and two meals a day, is €595
Yoga Barn, Bali
Don't let Eat, Pray, Love put you off searching for a yoga trip on the Hindu island of Bali. The island positively oozes yoga in all manner of forms and styles so it's pretty easy to find one that suits you. The Yoga Barn is a centre in Ubud which runs around eight classes a day, seven days a week with disciplines ranging from ecstatic dance to Yin yoga and Vinyasa flow. All the classes take place in one of its two mud-walled, thatched-roofed studios overlooking terraced rice paddies. The centre works with Bali Spirit to organise budget accommodation nearby. But the Ubud Aura Retreat Centre next door has single rooms from about £15 and doubles from about £40, so you can literally roll out of bed straight into downward dog.
• yogabarn.com; drop-in classes £7.70 each, discount if you block book
Jason Vale Juice and Yoga retreats, Turkey
Don't let the "I'm so happy and healthy" nature of the website put you off. Jason Vale is the self-styled juice master promising his converts weight-loss and inner peace through the power of a juiced beetroot. But it works. And on his Turkey retreats he has some expert yoga teachers who believe in the importance of tackling and focusing on what you feed your body as a way of helping your yoga practice. The retreats include daily yoga, t'ai chi and meditation as well as more conventional exercise pursuits such as hiking, swimming and circuits. A good option for those keen to lose weight who may still be a little wary of a full-on yoga retreat.
• juicemaster.com; week-long retreats start in April and include accommodation and food from £700 (last few places available)
KaliYoga runs a diverse range of retreats from dynamic flow weeks to juice detoxing with yoga weekends. But this is no jack-of-all-trades destination. Located in the Alpujarra region of Andalucía, the centre is blessed with warm temperatures for most of the year while the twice daily yoga classes take place overlooking dramatic mountain scenery. The emphasis is on yoga as meditation in motion so don't worry if you can't touch your ears with your knees – it's more about deep relaxation into postures. Food is vegetarian or vegan and rooms range from tipis to chalets and rooms in the house.
The Forge Yoga Centre, Devon
Gretchen Faust, founder of The Forge Yoga Centre in Totnes, rates Marc Beuvain and Debbie Mills as the most informed practitioners and teachers she's encountered in her 20-odd years in yoga. Texas-based Debbie is hosting a series of workshops in the UK this year on Vinyasa Krama – a form of yoga which investigates numerous poses to bring breathing, body and mind into alignment – including 3-4 March and 13-14 October at the Forge (private sessions are also available). Marc will also be at the Forge, on 19-20 May, leading a workshop which explores yoga sutras, and practical sessions on asana, pranayama and meditation.
• forgeyoga.co.uk, both workshops cost £100 for the weekend. For accommodation, the Forge recommends Dart Villas, an organic, vegetarian B&B with doubles from £60 per night or single occupancy from £37pp
Yoga Jeanie, East Sussex
The economist John Maynard Keynes and his wife Lydia Lopokova, the Russian ballerina, used Tilton House in the South Downs as a peaceful retreat. Instructor Jean Hall hosts weekend retreats there, offering seven classes in three days allowing you to fully immerse yourself in her yoga techniques. Jean specialises in dynamic flow, encouraging students in meditation and mindful breathing to eke out the most from their practice. There are only 15 students on each course.