One sunny late afternoon while working at a dot-com in downtown Seattle, I decided to skip my usual after-work routine, which was just watching TV (back when I used to watch TV) and head to the gym to take a Monday night yoga class. My back was sore from sitting in front of a computer all day, and, after eight months of living in Seattle, I found myself wanting to embrace all that was hot and cool in Seattle in 1998: Internet cafes, Google, filet mignon encrusted with espresso chips, and yoga.
Cliche, but true–that class changed my life.
Fourteen years later, I can’t get through the week without downard facing dog, warrior poses 1, 2 and 3, ardha chandrasana and parivrtta anjaneyasana–movements that unfurl torqued muscles and mind. I’ve done Ashtanga, Bikram, Iyengar and Hatha, and I’m itching to take my moves on the road and practice yoga from different points on the map. I don’t have the budget or the time right now, but I’m bookmarking these yoga vacations for when the time is right:
Big Sky’s tagline “Add a little yeehaw to your Namaste” had me at hello. Top that with my desire to see Montana, and I’m ready to throw down plastic to get there asap. Big Sky Yoga Retreats combines a love for yoga, horseback riding and the great outdoors, and by “combine,” I mean very combined–while sitting on a horse under said Big Sky you do yoga stretches. Located in south central Montana off of US Highway 89, Wilsall is home to about 200 people and rests in the Shields River Valley near two mountain ranges: the Crazy Mountains to the west (that sounds fun, right?) and the Absaroka Mountains to the south with Shields River cutting through town and offering fresh trout, if fishing is your game. Big Sky offers several yoga packages, as well as scholarships to yogis struggling with breast cancer who want to participate in its “Cowgirls Vs. Cancer, Healing with Horses and Yoga” retreat. Three-night retreats hover around the $1,600 range, and the August retreat is already sold out.
One Hundred Skies Yoga Adventures offers a weeklong getaway to Sabina, Italy, about an hour’s train ride north of Rome, where yogis practice sun salutations facing olive groves and centuries old monasteraries, such as Farfa Abbey built in the sixth or seventh century, depending on who you ask. My first and only trip to Italy was in 1996, long before blogging, Twitter and cell phones that took photos, so I’m due back for a return to capture and chronicle Italy’s beauty. One Hundred Skies Yoga retreat to Italy takes place September 29 – October 6, and for prices ranging from $1,745 to $2,295 depending on room occupancy, you enjoy morning and afternoon yoga sessions, garden to table vegetarian dining, staying in a 17th century villa, hiking, and massage.
I was originally drawn to The Goddess Garden by its name, and then was completely sold by its location. White sandy beach, white-faced monkeys, iguanas, and the sounds of the rainforest enveloping you morning, noon and night. Caressed by the Caribbean, the Goddess Garden is located on the eastern coast of Costa Rica and Cahuita National Park is the main draw. In addition to yoga, the Goddess Garden specializes in eco-tourism and offers a rainforest canopy adventure, sea and river kayaking, horseback riding on the beach, and (my favorite) baula turtle (aka leatherback sea turtle, the largest in the world) night time egg-laying tour in Gandoca, two hours from Cahuita. The Goddess Garden is home to a yoga and meditation center, and plays hostess to yoga teachers from afar who hold their retreats there. Prices run the gamut depending on the package, but for those looking to take in some pranayama amidst the jungle, Goddess Garden offers a breathtaking spot on the planet in which to do so.
I’m ready to pack the yoga mat and head to the mountains, olive groves, and the beach. If only my bank account supported my whims.