Our resident yoga expert (and qualified teacher) Emma Knight reveals her favourite overseas yoga hideouts, with a varied selection to choose from spanning four continents. Plus, read on for your chance to win an even lazier new year break – a spa pamper day for two worth £199. You can enter at the end of this article.
It’s that time of year again when most of us start making New Year’s resolutions and optimistic vows to lose weight, stop smoking, or to exercise more, but often we crack under pressure and break them soon after making them.
For those of you who are determined to travel and get into shape this year might be thinking that combining the two together is almost an impossible challenge. But there is a way to combine your love for travel with your willingness to get into shape. How? Book a yoga holiday.
Yoga is a great way to stay fit and healthy. However you look at it, yoga is really just a safe and effective way to increase physical activity, especially strength, flexibility and balance. The word sankalpa in yoga terms means ‘will, purpose, or determination.’ To make a sankalpa is to set an intention – it’s like a New Year’s resolution with a yogic twist.
So, set yourself a goal for 2013 to visit a yoga retreat abroad. From a lush retreat in the mountains of Turkey to a Goan Beach hideaway, we have selected some inspirational and affordable yoga holidays that might take your fancy if you are looking to make a healthy change this year, and fancy doing a bit of travelling at the same time.
Huzur Vadisi, a mountain retreat inland from Göcek in Lycia, is a fantastic place if you want to get away from it all. The name means ‘peaceful valley’ and it really is quiet. Set up by Ian and Jane Worral, this family run retreat is set among olive groves and fig trees, circled by pine forests. Traditional yurts are dotted around the place, with hammocks strung up between trees, a natural stone swimming pool and a traditional wooden summer house where you go for your yoga classes in the mornings and in the early evening.
There are various retreats going on throughout the summer run by different teachers from around the world. I had the pleasure of attending a week retreat here with Julie Potter, who was trained by the likes of Peter Blackaby and Garry Carter from Brighton. I really enjoyed her way of teaching yoga and the classes were very structured.
So much care has gone into the presentation at Huzur Vadisi – it has its own unique, rustic charm. The owners make you feel very welcome and at home with its laid back atmosphere. The homemade, organic, fresh food was plentiful and delicious. The yurts were really comfortable and the showers were excellent. You can go walking unhindered in any direction from the retreat to find spectacular viewpoints over the coast and inland to unfolding mountain ranges.
The retreat is only a 20-minute drive from Göcek, the closest town to the beach if you fancy swimming in the sea, but often boat trips are organised as part of the package where you can see the remarkable views along the turquoise coast. The best way to get to Huzur Vadisi is to book a flight to Dalaman, Turkey.
This small and friendly village on the Gulf of Aqaba, Egypt, is the perfect spot for a yoga retreat. With year-round sunshine, this is the ideal place to get away from the cold UK and chill out by the Red Sea. Dahab is excellent for snorkelling, diving, camel-trekking, windsurfing and kitesurfing and is a great base if you want to go on a desert safari or climb up Mount Sinai.
There are a couple of websites that organise yoga holidays in Dahab – I would recommend a retreat with Sunrayoga. Yoga takes place at The Bedouin Moon Hotel situated on a quiet beachfront. This is a small, friendly hotel with comfortable balcony or terrace rooms, some with sea or mountain views. The hotel has a custom built yoga room and hosts some great yoga teachers, in particular, Monica Farrell, who is not only a yoga teacher but a professional recreational and technical dive instructor and the pioneer of Yoga Diving.
There are usually two yoga classes per day, around 8am and 5pm. Guests are also invited to go on an optional Desert Dinner which really is an incredible experience – start with some yoga and meditation under the stars, then tuck into a dinner cooked by local Bedouin in traditional style. You can also visit Mount Sinai, where you stay overnight in a hotel, wake up at 4am and climb up the mountain for sunrise. Then, on the way down the Steps of Penitence, you stop for a yoga class on one of the most famous religious mountains in the world. Be aware though that it gets very hot on the walk down so make sure you take lots of water with you.
You could even book your own holiday to Dahab and attend drop in classes if you don’t want to stay on the retreat for a whole week. You will need to organise a flight to Sharm el Sheikh, and from here it’s only an hour drive to Dahab.
India is the homeland of yoga, so it will come as no surprise that you will find plenty of yoga retreats and yoga outlets here. The Lotus Yoga Retreat in Patnem, South Goa, is a stunning beachfront yoga resort with eco-friendly accommodation. Yoga and meditation classes run daily from November to April and are held in a large yoga shala overlooking the ocean. They also offer holistic treatments such as detox programs, Ayurvedic treatments, shiatsu, acupressure and reflexology.
I would also recommend Yoga Gypsys on Ashwem Beach, North Goa – an ideal location for those looking to relax and rejuvenate over the winter months. You get the choice of 3 different types of accommodation; Portuguese Cottages, Zen Tree Houses or Native American Tipis, all situated in the Oceanside gardens facing the Arabian Sea.
The yoga taught here is based on the style of Vanda Scaravelli, with classes held daily and suitable for beginners. Music and dance is sometimes incorporated into the yoga practice as well. The food here is amazing. Sample the onsite kitchen with its home grown vegetables, fresh organic fruits, smoothies and tasty vegetarian food.
Charter and scheduled flights operate directly from the UK and within India so keep an eye out for flight deals to Goa.
Ibiza, Balearic Islands
You may not expect to find a lot of healthy stuff happening on this infamous party island, however there are a few good yoga hangouts dotted about the place. Ibiza Yoga is situated very near Benirras Beach, which provides the perfect set up for a relaxing retreat. Artists, hedonists and hippies have been meeting on this beach for years. If you are looking for some great yoga, but also want to have a few drinks at night (let’s face it – you are on holiday after all) then Ibiza Yoga is the place for you.
Either book a week with Ibiza Yoga and stay in one of their three choices of accommodation set among the pine trees along the Mediterranean coast, or you can drop in to classes if you want to stay somewhere else. The main style taught here is Ashtanga yoga, but you will find all different types taught during the summer months.
What I really enjoyed about this place is the relaxed attitude of the staff and teachers. You are given the space to do what you want during the day and the evening after your 3-hour morning yoga class. What’s more, the food is very good with freshly prepared, wholesome vegetarian meals, fresh fruit juices and the option to order a beer or a glass of wine too.
If you are up for a bit of a challenge and want to experience a slightly different style of yoga, then I would recommend visiting Jana at her retreat in Hvar, Croatia. Jana teaches Shadow yoga which is a specific discipline founded by Natanaga Zhander (Shandor Remeté) and is the culmination of her lifelong studies in Yoga, Martial arts, Kathakali, Bharatanatya, Ayurveda and Siddha systems of medicine. The classes are limited to small groups for maximum personal attention, with two classes a day, one in the morning and one in the evening.
In the day and evenings you’ll have time to explore the beautiful beaches, hills and villages of this spectacular island and depending on the season will be able to taste the locally produced cheese, figs, oranges, almonds, grapes, pomegranates, tomatoes and wine. I was taken aback by the sheer beauty of this place. With a rustic rural vibe, Jana has done a great job in setting up a relaxing place to stay and do yoga and is planning to build a swimming pool there in the near future. Her partner is a really good chef too. This really is an idyllic place if you want some peace and quiet.
Win a spa pamper day for two worth £199 – enter now
Valentine’s Day is coming up, and this year you can really get in someone’s good books by treating them to a whole day at a luxurious spa. We have a fantastic Red Letter Spa Pamper Day for 2 to give away, including unlimited access to the swimming pool, sauna, steam room and other heat treatments, as well as at least one beauty treatment each.
What better way to recharge the batteries? The voucher is redeemeable at various spas throughout the UK, and would normally cost £199. All you have to do to get your hands on it however is follow the simple instructions below.
To enter the competition, you need to submit your name and email address using the easy-to-use tool below, then do one or more of five things – ‘like’ us on Facebook, ‘tweet’ about our competition, follow us on Twitter and Pinterest or leave a comment on this blog post telling us what your ideal revitalising break would be – take a look at our ‘Ten revitalising activity holidays for the New Year’ blog post for ideas. Be sure to leave your comment on this post about yoga.
You get two entries into the prize draw for each of the five actions and even if you are not a fan of Facebook or social media you can enter by leaving a comment below. However, for the most chances of being picked out of the hat why not share it using all of the channels listed.
The competition closes on Thursday, 31 January, so be quick.