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During the lockdown, I know many of us – ourselves included – have become increasingly aware of the need for self care, and making time to take care of our wellness.
Our value of being outdoors has grown, along with trying to take care of our bodies to the best of our ability. And although my yoga practice is far from daily – I do know that on the days when I do get to my yoga flow, the difference is obvious.
Travelling for wellness – whether near or far – has been a growing trend over the last few years – and we expect that it’ll only grow more. Despite the initial challenges of holding socially distanced group yoga retreats, there are – at time of writing – some retreat centres that are already opening up for individual or private retreats.
For me, there’s no better way to deepen my yoga practice than to schedule dedicated time away from it all to re-align and re-focus. And while many yoga retreats around the world are mindful to some degree of their wider impact on their environment and world, we love to support yoga centres that are truly committed to creating a positive impact all around.
So as lockdowns ease and once travel opens up again within your own country or further afield, these are some of the best places to retreat to for a bit of me-time.
Sound good? We’ll get started with our top sustainable yoga retreat reviews!
1. Eco Yoga, Scotland (UK)
Nestled among the western highlands of Scotland on the banks of Loch Awe, Eco Yoga is a much loved natural retreat that I’ve become a “repeat offender” at (their term for visitors who have a habit of coming back multiple times).
The bathing and water therapy is as much a feature here as the yoga – the retreat centre features a thermal dome with hot top and rain showers, a sauna, plunge pools and two secluded outdoor baths for wild bathing – one in front of a waterfall! The perfect antidote to most modern day stresses, one bath in and you’ll be hooked!
Retreats are hosted by different teachers throughout the year, or you can come for a self catering break on the property. I’ve attended two Ashtanga for beginners courses here, and the good news is there’s lots of yoga for those who want it (2 daily sessions of 1.5 hours) but there’s no need to attend every class if you don’t feel like it.
Perhaps the best thing about Eco Yoga is it is almost entirely self sufficient – all energy used is produced on site through use of solar panels to heat all the water and hydro to power electricity. There’s also a range of vegetables grown on site and chickens for fresh eggs.
Located about an hour from Glasgow, Eco Yoga is reopening from 24th July 2020 for personal retreats – More info here.
2. Hariharalaya Yoga and Meditation Retreat (Cambodia)
A tuk-tuk convoy will carry you to the Hariharalaya village, about 30 minutes outside of Siem Reap and seemingly a world away from the busy Pub Street. Set on two acres of Cambodian farmland, the retreat centre has a village-like feel.
The yoga and meditation program is, of course, the main attraction for visitors coming to Hariharalaya. Their Integral Program caters to all levels and you can add to the challenge with workshops and one-on-one instruction. During our stay, we threw ourselves into everything; some days filling most of the day with yoga and silent meditation which made for a challenging but enriching experience.
This is very much an eco-barefoot retreat. They offer a Cambodian-inspired vegan menu, with coffee, alcohol and wifi all banned to encourage a full detox of body and mind. Days are spent reading books, exploring the local village and temples by bike, enjoying the varying village spaces such as an outdoor gym and rock climbing wall.
Accommodations are modest, ranging from shared dormitories to bamboo huts. The buildings are made from wood, bamboo and thatched roofing. You won’t find modern conveniences here like air conditioning either. You will sleep under mosquito nets and wake to the sound of local roosters. That is part of the charm of the retreat experience – the space and those who run the retreat are respectful of where it resides; employing locals, local practices, sourcing ingredients from the nearby 150-year-old local market and reducing their footprint wherever possible.
Contributed by Skye from the Fit Traveler – read more about her stay at Hariharalaya Yoga retreat here.
3. Siargao Island Yoga Retreat (The Philippines)
Siargao is known as the surfing capital of The Philippines but tucked into a very private corner of the island’s vast jungle, is a sacred and peaceful spot where you’re given the opportunity to find deep awareness.
Lotus Shores focuses upon the blessed simplicity of life yet with a distanct appreciation of comfort. With dedicated spaces for yoga practice (Durga Temple & Yoga Dojo) and special communal areas (Kali Ma Cafe & Restaurant) you’ll be impressed with the elegance of local building styles where they’ve use local matierals which promote being at one with nature. Constructed by hand from wood, bamboo and palm you’ll be surprised by the practical elegance of the buildings which are designed to allow for coolness in the tropical heat.
You could take part in the year-round yoga retreat, book the sacred silence retreat, just turn up to the community yoga events, listen to kirtan or benefit from a fully plant based menu which is grown on the grounds in the abundant organic garden (which you can walk around). Lotus Shores also supports other organic farms on the island and boasts never using anything from a can or plastic bag. Lotus Shores is truly a celebration of unity, beauty and loving hands.
So, why visit Siargao & Lotus Shores? It offers the opportunity to live in true nature, close to the elements of life (earth, water, fire, air, and space) where you can visit natural pools, lagoons, waterfalls, caves, take surf lessons, hire SUP boards and much more.
Contributed by Emma of Journey of a Nomadic Family – read more about their time travelling in Siargao here.
4. Ghambira Eco Yoga, Santa Marta (Colombia)
I have been to many ashrams offering eco yoga retreats or something similar all over the world, but none of them is as unique as Gambhira, in Colombia. Located in the mystical Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta, the place is quite remote and peaceful. From the moment you get there, it reaches out to you with wonderful gen energy. Be it the vegan/vegetarian food they offer, volunteering with the residents and fellow volunteers, joining their devotional chanting ( totally optional), or just relaxing on a hammock- this energy is everywhere.
But what makes it uniquely eco-friendly is that it goes beyond just the idea of being friendly with the environment. It’s part of an eco-friendly movement that connects other eco-conscious movements throughout Colombia and Latin America. It actively promotes bio-construction without using any materials that are hazardous to the environment, protection of local water sources as well as water conservation, reuse of waste, permaculture, and tree plantation. Along with this, they also advocate buying recycled products and locally grown produce to reduce your carbon footprint.
They run regular yoga retreats throughout the year that are not too expensive. The retreat covers your accommodation and food. It’s an ideal place to connect with nature and yourself, all while being part of an eco-friendly movement that goes beyond just slogans.
5. Eco Yoga by Forest Fix, Banff (Canada)
There are plenty of yoga retreats out there, but my go-to is an eco-yoga one in Banff, Canada. It’s based along the same premise as forest bathing. If you’re not, familiar with forest bathing, it’s a Japanese wellness practice, where you take in all the sounds, scents, sights of nature.
It’s about being in purposeful in the great outdoors and letting yourself become mindful in nature. Forest bathing is typically done through either seated or walking meditation, but with Forest Fix, it can be done through yoga.
Following an iRest Yoga Nidra doctrine, this kind of practice helps connect us to the elements and spaciousness of wilderness in and around Banff National Park. The entire experience is eco yoga, though sessions don’t begin with poses. You’ll start by either hiking (slowly) or snowshoeing to a secluded spot in the mountains. At this point, you’re simply being in the forest, getting comfortable with the notion there’s nowhere else where you need to be.
Senses are the doorway to being present, and through guided meditations, you’ll listen to the sounds AND the silence of the forest, all the while inhaling the pungent scent of evergreens and working your breath.
Eco yoga is certain a different way to be in nature. It’s much more nourishing then even doing one of the beautiful hikes in the Rockies. For me, as I absorbed the beauty around me, my brain didn’t flitter off, as it usually does. I felt quietly connected not only to myself, but to all that’s living and breathing around me.
6. Ananda Spa, Himalayas (India)
“Going to Ananda is more like a pilgrimage than a visit” – this is what Oprah Winfrey said about the Ananda Spa in the Himalayas.
Ananda Spa is India’s best luxury wellness destination spa. In fact, it was also voted the world’s best destination spa and wellness retreat by Conde Nast Traveler in 2019. Located in the lap of the mighty Himalayas in the Palace Estate of Narendra Nagar, Uttarakhand, Ananda takes you on a journey of wellness and healing using the traditions and principles of Ayurveda and Yoga.
It combines the teachings of Ayurveda with Yoga, mindfulness through Vedanta lectures, and healthy cuisine to help you experience physical and mental rejuvenation. It is an environmentally conscious yoga wellness retreat that helps you connect with your soul and embrace spirituality. First, you get to consult a doctor to identify your body type and personality. The doctor then prescribes a customized diet that you follow throughout your stay at the Ananda.
Then, you’re handed a schedule of the activities and treatments you can participate in for the day. Meditation, breathing exercises, and yoga in conjunction with various treatments and massages ensure that you are relaxed, at peace with yourself, and devoid of any stress and toxicity. You also get to indulge in activities like golf and Aqua workouts.
The Ananda Spa teaches you to respect your body and treat it like a temple. And it treats the environment like a temple too with the use of eco-friendly materials and ingredients for your treatments, besides maintaining thorough cleanliness and avoiding the use of any plastic. The stunning natural landscape in which it is located helps you disconnect with the outer world and truly find yourself. Ananda provides you with both – “Introductory” and “Comprehensive” Wellness Programmes based on your needs and what you want to achieve from your stay.
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7. Salty Soul Eco Retreat, Byron Bay (Australia)
Salty Soul Eco Retreats in Yamba, near Byron Bay is a great environmentally friendly yoga retreat on an off-grid, sustainable properly designed to exist in harmony with nature.
You can start your day with a dip in the ocean followed by yoga and mindfulness practices to slow your mind and body and become more aligned with nature.
The property is surrounded by the Yuragir National Park along with the stunning Clarence Valley beaches and river system, perfect if you want to unplug from the world and de-stress and focus on your health and well-being.
The property, known as Higher Ground Eco Retreat is a 146 acres of protected bushland where permaculture and living as one with nature are as natural as the surroundings themselves.
Enjoy organic food gardens from which meals are cooked, a native American Tipi complete with a fire pit where visitors get together for mediation, and a dam for cooling off during the hot summer months.
On-site accommodation includes Eco-Chic tents along with hot outdoor showers and a rustic camp kitchen for cooking delicious organic meals. There’s also two twin-share tents available in a private section of the property for the ultimate glamping experience.
8. Orion Healing Centre, Koh Phangan (Thailand)
Orion is a yoga & detox retreat center in Koh Phangan, Thailand. Yoga retreats and yoga teacher training are their standard offering, together with detox retreats to cleanse the body.
Three yoga shalas, of which one sits right on the beach, offer a variety of yoga styles such as Yin Yoga, Dynamic Hatha, Detox Yoga and Sunset Flow. On and off, other unique yoga styles like Aerial Yoga can be enjoyed too. Other treatments include Reiki, Massages, breath work and workshops for the body and soul.
The facilities include an infrared sauna and a herbal steam room, accommodation of different styles and a lovely vegan café.
The center offers retreats year round. It’s located on the outskirts of Sri Thanu village in Koh Phangan, which is the yoga hotspot of the island.
The center is naturally sustainable, set in a lush green environment, in the Srithanu Bay. All food is vegan and free filtered water is available for everyone. Orion is a part of the Trash Hero network, offering free water refills to anybody with a Trash Hero Bottle, aiming at reducing plastic waste.
No plastic is used in the café either. Fresh coconuts come with a bamboo straw and food is served in beautiful wooden bowls. The café doubles as a little shop and sells eco items too.
9. Anamaya Yoga Retreat (Costa Rica)
Probably one of the best places for transformative travel in the world, Costa Rica is home to more than its fair share of nature resorts and hidden gems that awaken the senses.
Set in the beautiful town of Montezuma in Guanacaste province, Anamaya means good health in Sanskrit. The resort hosts yoga teacher trainings, yoga retreats, health retreats, a luxurious spa and more. Nestled in the jungle, it offers stunning views looking over the ocean, too.
The Nicoya Peninsula, where Anamaya is located is one of the world’s designated “blue zones” – where people are said to live the longest and healthiest – so there’s got to be something right happening here! At the resort, all food served is organic, with plenty of vegan and vegetarian options.
The pool is salt water and free from harmful chemicals, and there’s a focus on creating zero impact here. Rooms are built from natural materials and interiors are decorated with organic cottons and bamboo fabrics and linens.
To find out more about Anamaya’s retreats, visit their website here.
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