By Lora O’Brien
In a world that never quite seems to shut off, sometimes it feels so good to turn off your phone and just throw yourself into a relaxing yoga retreat. But as any seasoned yoga veteran knows, not all retreats are created equal–some are more hippy-chic whilst others are luxurious; some are gentle and relaxing whilst others whip your butt into shape.
Here, we present what we think are the top 10 yoga retreats around the world for 2015, rated them for their stunning locations, yogic excellence, plush lodgings or a combination of the three.
Best for: Rustic Italian luxury
Good food, beautiful surroundings and twice-daily yoga sessions make Kaliyoga a favourite yoga retreat with many. Kaliyoga was founded in 2008 by teachers Jonji & Rosie Miles, and they’ve worked to create a retreat that truly fortifies the body, mind and spirit. Here, you’ll stay in a trullo–one of those traditional, conical buildings the region is famous for. Your little house can be either shared, or you can stay alone for an extra fee. Meals are held in the centuries-old farmhouse set amongst the trulli, and the newly constructed outdoor yoga pavilion is where classes are held when the sun is shining (which is most of the time, thankfully!).
If the yoga isn’t relaxing enough, you can also choose from a wide range of spa treatments here, from deep tissue and reflexology to manicures and pedicures.
2. Yoga Shala, Tulum
Best for: Hippy chic on the beach
It’s completely off the grid, set in front of sparkling Caribbean waters and surrounded by lush jungle–no wonder Yoga Shala is the top choice for busy models, magazine editors, designers and business people. This retreat will present you with the perfect opportunity to work on your yoga practice with a wide variety of classes and different styles to choose from. And if you’re entirely new to yoga, don’t sweat it–the teachers at Yoga Shala know that each individual is unique, and their instruction can cater to all levels.
After classes, you can lounge on the beach, swim in the sparkling blue waters of the region’s famous ‘cenotes’, or visit the Mayan ruins nearby. Every day you’ll be eating the freshest, most incredible international range of food at the many surrounding restaurants or shopping for eco-fashion at teeny boutiques like Hacienda Montecristo.
Best for: Fitness fanatics, surfers
If you find tranquillity in being near water, then Paradis Plage is the retreat for you. Rejuvenate yourself every morning with the beautiful Moroccan sunshine, and awaken to the rhythmic sound of the waves lapping softly against the golden sand. Paradis Plage is the first ever surfing, yoga and spa resort in Morocco, and there’s obviously loads to do here, from sports and pampering to exploring the local culture. Hatha, Vinyasa, and Lin yoga classes are all offered during the day, and evenings can be spent dining on local delicacies at the retreat or in one of the many excellent surrounding restaurants. All in all, Paradise Plage offers a sensuous and beautiful journey in health, wellness and cultural exploration.
Best for: Detoxing
Who says detoxing has to mean living off of juices? This retreat on Koh Sumui Island in Thailand offers a range of tasty detox options: choose from the strict Ultimate Detox, the Living Foods Detox, or the Vegetarian Detox. Each programme is customized to meet individual preferences and needs, while tailored detox massages and yoga exercises also help you clean inside and out.
Rooms here are spacious, colourful and comfortable, and of course, you’re surrounded by jaw-dropping scenery all the while.
5. The Farm, The Philippines
Best for: Full on luxury
Whether this is your first or your yearly visit, you’ll find The Farm is a focused on providing holistic healing and wellness in a natural, luxurious setting. Rooms are decorated chicly with local materials, and there are lush, verdant views from just about everywhere. Several yoga classes are on offer during the week, and your health will be further restored through the strictly vegan cuisine served by the resort, as well as green juices made to order, a small gym for personal workouts, and spa treatments to melt your stress away.
The Farm is renowned for being a life-changing retreat, and beautifully aids guests with the tools they need to recover from the stress filled challenges we all face in everyday life.
6. Shreyas, India
Best for: Meditation and reflection
This retreat is definitely a place to visit if you’re looking for space. With a maximum of twenty guests at any one time, you’ll feel especially looked after by the team of staff, teachers and therapists who all practice yoga as part of their everyday lives. Shreyas works solely to guide you as you embark on a journey of self discovery, and provides you with space for reflection, yoga classes to heal and strengthen the body, and alone time to help you to connect with your inner self.
Hatha and Ashtanga yoga classes are held daily, as are classes on meditation and deep relaxation. And if that wasn’t enough to tempt you, there is also a rejuvenation spa which has been rated as one of the finest in India, with a plethora of relaxing massages and organic scrubs and masks made from their very own organic gardens. This alcohol-free, non-smoking retreat is the perfect escape to truly get away from the toxins in life, and to heal yourself whilst surrounded by 26 acres of greenery and scenic frangipani gardens.
7. Amansala, Tulum
Best for: Getting in seriously good shape
If you’re looking for a tiny slice of paradise, then the Amansala retreat is it. It’s the perfect setting for a yoga retreat set on the beautiful beaches of Tulum, Mexico, and offers up simple but eco-chic accommodation. Within its village-like setting, there are spacious and stylish cabanas for you to stay in, and whether you stay on site or get out and explore, you’re only a 20 minute bike ride from the town and not too far from Mexico’s famous cenotes, where a refreshing swim is a must.
A variety of yoga classes is on offer, and for those who really want to drop some kilos, there’s also a boot camp option, serving up a more aerobic form of exercise. This is a great retreat to come to alone or with a group of girlfriends–after enjoying yoga classes on the beachfront and taking part in bikini bootcamp for a week, not only will you leave looking great, you’ll be all set to go back to your everyday life feeling great, too.
8. Sivananda, Bahamas
Best for: Those on a budget
If you could picture yourself breathing in and out slowly as you stand in mountain pose, all whilst gazing out into crystal clear turquoise waters, then why not do it in the Bahamas? And nowhere is better than at the Sivananda Ashram Yoga retreat. You’ll be welcomed by yoga masters and staff who all work towards aiding their guests as they go on a journey of spiritual growth and general health through both the practice of yoga and healthy eating. As a guest, there’s a multitude of accommodation choices for you to choose from: whether you fancy a room with an ocean or garden view, would like to stay in a beach hut or a just pitch tent on the beach, there’s an option for you, with affordable rates allowing you to not only take part in this life changing program, but also see the beauty that the Bahamas has to offer.
9. Ak’bol, Belize
Best for: Families
Twenty years ago, Ak’bol owners Milio and Kirsten made the decision to pack up their life as they knew it, manifested their ideas into a goal with a clear vision, and made their dream to run a yoga retreat a reality. Today, Ak’bol is known for being Belize’s first yoga retreat and is building a reputation for being a family-friendly eco-resort. Situated on the beachfront just a quarter mile from the second smallest Barrier Reef in the world, Ak’bol really encourages you to be one with nature.
As you stay within the small village of cabanas perfectly situated by the sea, you’ll be woken daily to the sound of tropical birds and witness the sunrise over the reef each morning. The ocean becomes your playground as you snorkel, windsurf, kite-board and kayak in the bath-warm waters. It’s the perfect retreat for discarding your flip-flops and going barefoot in the deliciously soft, white sand as you end each and every day with a yoga class held at the end of the pier. And after your session, why not curl up in a hammock and read as you look out across the crystal clear sea, or take another leisurely swim in the lagoon-inspired pools? You’ll get a real family vibe from this retreat, so it may be the perfect place to get away as a couple, or as a family to re-connect with yourselves as well as with nature.
10. Lotus Yoga Retreat, Goa
Best for: Relaxation
This is the perfect retreat to visit if you live in a city and are looking to get away from the hustle and bustle. At the Lotus Yoga retreat you’ll find it easy to relax and disconnect from the stresses of your life. You’ll be embraced by a quiet, serene atmosphere engulfed by nature, and can count on a sound, peaceful sleep every night. If you do start to miss a little noise and are looking to soak up the local culture, you’ll find that this retreat is close to the likes of Agond and Palolem where you’ll find an array of shops, restaurants and bars. It’s also easy to make excursions outside of the retreat to breathtaking beaches.
Yoga classes are held daily from November through to June in the beautiful Pyramid Shala, a structure at the centre of a tranquil forest garden. You can choose to stay at a tropical cabana, a garden hut or–rather wonderfully– a tree house bungalow. Throughout your stay, you’ll enjoy vegetarian dishes, local fruits and organic yogurt. This truly is the perfect place for a flexible, relaxing yoga holiday.