Stretch your body, mind, and soul at a yoga-intensive retreat
By Debra Bokur
As a culture, we’re losing track of our own lives. Instead of reducing the amount of time we spend at work, the technological advances that were supposed to make life easier—email, faxes, cell phones, voice mail, and home computers—have instead created an environment where we’re literally always on the job. Yoga practice—with its emphasis on breath control, meditation, and overall well-being—is one way to counteract the stress, tense muscles, and sense of spiraling out of control that result from this modern American lifestyle. Learn the skills necessary for making yoga part of your daily routine in the relaxed, holistic settings of the following retreats.
Bacara Resort & Spa, California
The sun has yet to rise as we gather beside the gray ocean. Our teacher, Patrick Hackney, leads us along the shore that fronts Bacara Resort & Spa in Santa Barbara, California, stepping blithely between clumps of golden, fleshy seaweed and softly rounded rocks. After he reaches a clear flat surface he leads us through a series of Qi Gong movements. Our small group of five finishes as the Channel Islands come into focus with the dawn.
To his everlasting credit, David Benson, who leads the new Yoga Series at Bacara, couldn’t be less intimidated by my far-from-perfect poses. With a happy smile, he makes minor adjustments; demonstrating the correct placement of a foot and a more comfortable angle for my knee.
Calmly, he explains the Sanskrit word yoga means both the path and the goal. I take another breath, check my balance, and gaze through my third eye out the domed windows to the sea. Bacara teaches no specific dogma; rather, says Benson, the yoga program is designed to integrate the best of all disciplines. “It’s about developing satva, or balance,” he tells us as we sprawl beneath a glittering, crystal-festooned chandelier in the rotunda where class is taught each day. “We develop this during our yoga practice. Then, in our daily lives, we try to carry that sense of satva with us.”
REVIVE If all that time spent in Warrior Pose leaves you in need of some TLC, head for the spa. Eastern therapies, massages ranging from Deep Tissue to Healing Stone Therapy, Ayurvedic treatments, scrubs, rubs, wraps, and facials are all administered by a professional and highly talented spa staff. Try the Citrus Avocado Body Polish for an ultimate exfoliating and hydrating experience. Follow it up with an eighty-minute Shiatsu massage under the skilled hands of Toyo Yano.
REFUEL Once a lemon and avocado ranch, the Bacara property includes an organic farm that supplies the resort’s restaurants. Ranch manager John Hunt and executive chefs David Reardon and Remi Lauvand collaborate on daily harvesting. The Spa Café, overlooking the spa pool, offers exquisitely fresh gourmet fare including chilled clear tomato soup with heirloom tomatoes, chives, and jicama; and pomegranate glazed halibut with macadamia nuts, ranch greens, local apples, and pommelo vinaigrette. In the mood for something a little more calorie-laden? Book a table at Miro, with its stunning views of the Pacific and an imaginative Mediter-ranean/ Continental cuisine.
DO Snorkel, hike, mountain bike, windsurf, paraglide, sail, kayak, horseback ride, golf, play tennis, or swim in one of the three heated, infinity pools. Area shopping expeditions and vineyard tours can also be arranged.
CONTACT (805) 968-0100 or visit www.bacararesort.com
Shoshoni Yoga Retreat, Colorado
Tucked away in the Rocky Mountains high above Boulder lies the oasis of Shoshoni Yoga Retreat, founded by Shri Shambhavananda Yogi. We gather in the Yoga Cabin for Pranayama in the morning light, which spills generously through the long bank of windows running the length of the building. At one end of the cabin, a fire burns in the stone fireplace; at the other, rests a shrine. The scent of incense and the sound of the crackling fire fill the room. Lying on my mat above a soft carpet the color of garden earth, I concentrate on my breath and the exposed beams of rough-hewn wood overhead.
The view outside is of a gently sloping pine forest. Another cabin-like structure is barely visible behind the trees. Everything looks as though it sprung naturally from the ground. Manager Mira Gale, who’s been associated with Shoshoni for nearly a decade, describes Shoshoni as having the spirit of an ashram. “One of our goals here is to take care of our guests in the spirit of seva, or selfless service,” she tells me. “This is a concept that corresponds to karmic yoga, though here at Shoshoni, the spiritual aspect of yoga is neither pushed nor required.”
Work study programs are available, as well as 200-hour Hatha yoga teacher certification courses. Yogic lifestyle classes and programs including Sanskrit, Yoga of Devotion, Ayurvedic Cooking, Yoga Recovery, and Family Weekends are also offered. There are no age restrictions, and yoga classes appropriate for all skill levels are offered. Quiet places abound on the 200-acre property, with a meditation spot aptly called Buddha Rock a twenty-minute walk along a well-defined path. The shrine is open throughout the day and there’s a restful lounge area downstairs in the spa building with books, sofas, plants, and a wood-burning stove.
REVIVE Shoshoni offers a selection of massage and body therapies, many based upon Ayurvedic principals. All therapies are administered in silence, while the therapist repeats a silent mantra of intention throughout, adding to the healing component of the experience. Besides traditional massage, choices include herbal facials, herbal wraps, Shirodhara (a treatment where oil is poured in a steady stream over your “third eye” or the space between your eyebrows), and Ela Kirhi (a treatment in which pouches filled with herbs and dipped in hot oil are brushed along the body).
REFUEL Lunch is served at long tables in a common area. Everyone on staff is a volunteer, and just as with the spa treatments, all meals are prepared while mantras of gratefulness and intention are said. Today, the other guests and I help ourselves to black bean tacos with a sweet, crispy salsa, a mix of fresh greens, rice, and sweet potato-corn soup. The entreés are all prepared with organic ingredients. Music from Mira’s band, Shiva Garden, plays softly in the background.
DO Hike, meditate, or shop in the nearby mountain towns of Rollinsville and Nederland; winter skiing is also available at nearby Eldora Mountain.
CONTACT (303) 642-0116 or visit www.shoshoni.org
Feathered Pipe Foundation, Montana
If you’re expecting cowgirl yoga because this is Montana, forget about it. Instead, you’ll find Iyengar, Hatha, and energy medicine therapies including Reiki and Chakra healing. Located deep in the Rocky Mountains near Helena, Feathered Pipe has been a destination for both healing and learning since it was established in 1975 as the Holistic Health Foundation. That year, in partnership with the California Yoga Teachers Association, the Foundation began publishing Yoga Journal (now published by John B. Abbott in Berkeley, California).
Feathered Pipe Foundation also arranges international workshops, retreats, and study tours where participants can experience—and learn from—ancient tribal traditions. Feathered Pipe has a sister property, the Blacktail Ranch, in Wolf Creek, Montana. The grounds of Blacktail contain a number of archaeological sites, caves from the Ice Age, and several Native American ceremonial sites.
REVIVE A variety of traditional massage and bodywork treatments, available from area therapists, may be scheduled when making reservations or during your stay. Plus, you have a choice of sleeping accommodations: tipi, yurt, tent, or dorm.
REFUEL The menu features organic foods whenever possible. Most dishes have a vegetarian slant, but chicken and fish are also available. Special dietary needs can also be met.
DO Ride, raft, fish, hike, birdwatch, take a workshop, or enjoy a session of astrology, shamanism, cooking, art, or holistic health.
CONTACT (406) 442-8196 or visit www.featheredpipe.com
An hour or so west of Minneapolis in the lake-drenched state of Minnesota lies Birdwing. Rooms at the 300-acre estate can be found in the manor-like chalet, or in the recently renovated vintage barn. Programs at Birdwing, including Hatha yoga, are intended to relieve stress and promote relaxation and well-being.
REVIVE Choose from the Seafoam Body Mud Mask, Decadent Rose Body Glo, Mint Soak & Foot Reflexology, and a multitude of other luxurious treatments.
REFUEL Birdwing’s spa cuisine is so tasty, it warranted its own cookbook. Nourishing and low in calories, all of the spa’s recipes emphasize fresh foods. A typical lunch at Birdwing is zucchini vegetable lasagna served with a strawberry vinaigrette spinach salad; while dinner might be plantation apricot chicken breast with gingered orange glaze carrots.
DO Cross-country ski on groomed trails, hike, Taerobic Kick Box, canoe, bike, bocce ball and water aerobic classes.
CONTACT (320) 693-6064 or visit www.birdwingspa.comnext page >