Yoga-Infused All-Inclusive Vacations That Add Relaxation to Adventure
Spa holidays and wellness retreats aren’t the only ways to weave yoga into a vacation. A growing number of tour companies are pairing it with all-inclusive sightseeing itineraries. See the world while getting to know yourself.
By Erica Bray
“Adding yoga says ‘wellness’ and casts an aspirational halo over the whole vacation,” says Beth McGroarty of the Global Wellness Institute, which conducts research on the expansion of wellness practices into different aspects of life, including travel. “It’s the sheer growth in those practicing yoga, or wanting to, that’s fueling its integration into all kinds of vacations.”
The growth is huge: A Yoga Alliance and Yoga Journal survey reports that 36 million Americans practice some form of yoga, up 50 percent from 2012. Worldwide, the number tops 300 million according to the International Yoga Federation. Inspired by this growth, vacation companies are seizing on the trend by designing itineraries with “yoga” as part of the trip name.
“Getting people to do yoga—to stretch and build strength and breathe—is an especially logical addition,” says McGroarty. Yoga is specifically tailored to complement the main activity, whether it’s horseback riding or hiking, to help prevent or relieve any physical side effects from it.
But the benefits go far beyond the physical. For those who have been wanting to try yoga, it allows them to sample beginner classes in a non-threatening environment, and after all, exploration—even if it's of the self—is intrinsic to the spirit of travel. For the longtime practitioners, it allows them to take their beloved ritual on the road. And for everyone, it fosters a stronger mind-body connection that many believe enhances the overall vacation experience.
Here are some vacations across the globe that integrate yoga into a bigger adventure.
Say “Namaste” in Nepal. This Himalayan adventure combines morning yoga classes with an epic hike through the beautiful Annapurna region, home to one of the country’s most popular trekking circuits. The lessons in yoga breathing become an asset during high-altitude hikes through mountain villages, and the gentle stretching of leg muscles provides a welcome reprieve to the uphill and downhill steps. You’re also near the birthplace of the Buddha, which makes the integration of yoga on this trip even more meaningful and transformative.
Surf-and-yoga retreats are popping up all over the world, but this one has been around since 2001, making it a pioneer of the trend. The warm waters of the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica make this all-woman surf vacation an ideal place for beginners. Standing up on a surfboard requires similar strength and focus found in the yoga pose, Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana), so expect to do plenty of those in the daily yoga classes, which are tailored to all levels. Kelea also offers surf-yoga trips in Hawaii.
Daily yoga is woven into this action-packed itinerary that includes game drives in Etosha National Park and cultural experiences unique to Namibia. Founder Marcel Vosloo, a certified yoga instructor who calls Namibia home, is eager to cultivate a mindful experience in Africa for her guests. After a bumpy game drive spotting zebras and elephants, a restorative yoga class can provide a welcome balance to the body, and to temper those safari-inspired spikes in adrenaline.
Start your day with a serene yoga class on a sandy beach before kayaking and snorkeling around Isla Espiritu Santo, off the coast of La Paz in Baja, where sea lions and plankton-eating whale sharks play. End the day with a restorative yoga class to soothe the muscles and mind before waking up the next morning refreshed and ready to do it all again.
"Om"s are encouraged as much as "yee-haw"s on this horseback riding-themed vacation for women only. The daily yoga classes complement the physical nature of horseback riding while cultivating the peace of mind to relax and reflect in the wide-open spaces of Montana. “The combination of yoga with getting outdoors is popular because people have many options for yoga at home,” says Margaret Burns Vap, founder of Big Sky Yoga. “But yoga plus stunning scenery plus outdoor activity offers a lot of added value.” Yee-haw to that.
Yoga teaches you how to breathe deeply and consciously, a skill especially important in SCUBA diving, so it makes sense that dive shops pair this activity with daily underwater excursions. This PADI-certified diving operation in Zanzibar, an idyllic island off the coast of Tanzania, offers seven-night vacations where accommodations, breakfast, diving, and yoga classes are bundled together.
While cooking may not be as “active” as the vacations above, there’s a special adrenaline that comes with whipping up a killer meal, especially in a romantic setting such as the Amalfi Coast. This vacation pairs morning yoga classes with cooking lessons alongside some of the region’s beloved chefs. The yoga will help start your day with focus and perhaps help you feel better about sampling seconds or thirds of the tasty meals you’ll make.
Suitable for beginner cyclists and yogis, these biking holidays are available in epic destinations such as Tuscany, Spain, and Bali. The Yin Yoga sessions integrated in the itineraries compliment the cycling with deep stretching, where poses are held longer to relieve and prevent any tightness that might stem from peddling through the countryside, while also inspiring heightened awareness of its beauty.