Yoga vacations travel guide

2 minute summary

The word ‘yoga’ for some still conjures up the stereotype of chanting hippies in headbands; a very outdated and actually pretty offensive idea. What it’s vital to consider if you’re thinking of going on a yoga vacation is that for many yoga practitioners, the true yogic meaning of yoga as an eminently spiritual practice has been diluted since the pastime arrived in the West. Holistic retreats are much more instructive and more focused on teaching the foundations of yoga and meditation than other retreats which, although they take the physical practice of yoga very seriously, offer more of a vacation experience with sun, sea and social time thrown in too.

Before the romanticism of a healthy, calm and contemplative yoga vacation carries you away, it’s important to think about what you want to get out of your trip. Weight loss, a health kick, quiet meditation, or taking the plunge and becoming a yoga teacher yourself – they’re all possible and can be done intensively, or on a vacation with free time and lots of other activities thrown in.

Let our yoga vacations travel guide help you decide which trip is the right one for you.

What does a yoga vacation entail?


There really are a massive amount of yoga vacation options out there, each one different from the next be it in terms of style, focus, level of luxury or location. Two things are certain though – firstly, what a yoga vacation entails is predominantly a lot of yoga, and secondly, there is a very clear sliding scale between those yoga vacations that involve a less intensive level of discipline and are more of a vacation with yoga thrown in, to those that are very intensive and require guests to have an active interest in the principles and foundations of yogic thinking, and a desire to practice at least twice daily.

Most yoga vacations will offer two classes a day: one in the morning before breakfast and one in the evening before dinner, so it is essential that you’re committed to pushing yourself. Absolute beginners are more than welcome, though – you’ll be sharing the experience with no more than 14 other people, which keeps numbers at a manageable level for instructors to give support and encouragement to those that need it and to develop the existing skills of those that don’t.

The biggest misconception? That yoga vacations are airy-fairy. For every retreat with a focus that falls on life-coaching and personal growth, there will be another that offers a tranquil, but packed schedule of physical activity; both are challenging and rewarding in their own ways, so it’s important that you choose wisely and are among like-minded guests with similar goals.

All of your yoga equipment will be provided, as will your accommodation, but there are vacations for those who like their sheets with a high thread count as well as back to nature retreats for those who prefer their sheets lining the bottom of a teepee. And as for food, almost all retreats serve a vegetarian diet because it’s easier on the digestive tract and ideal for a healthy vacation, although, you guessed it, it works on a clear sliding scale again – all yoga vacations will cater for you daily, but some will offer you the occasional salmon fillet and even a sip of sangria, where others are organic, macrobiotic and strictly alcohol free.

Proper accreditation is crucial

The number one thing you must be absolutely sure of is that the instructors on your yoga vacation are properly accredited – in some countries it’s pretty easy for anyone to hire a villa, watch a few instructional DVDs and call themselves a yoga retreat, but they are definitely not that. Proper yoga teaching is driven by a very high set of standards and qualifications and though the instructors may be experts in the art of getting you to relax, they will have worked very hard to get there. Do your research and ask questions, any yoga vacation worth its salt will be proud to show you proof of their accreditation.

Is a yoga vacation for you?


Go on a yoga vacation if...

  • You’re a complete beginner – all levels of fitness and flexibility are welcome.
  • You’re an expert – any yoga vacation worth its salt will have instructors capable of progressing yogis of any level.
  • You are keen to kick start a new fitness and health regime, or lose a few pounds.
  • You are seeking a truly healthy vacation; different yoga retreats practice different levels of austerity, but none will suggest you pig out on pastries and get sloshed every night.
  • You have a genuine interest in and are keen to learn about the deeper philosophies behind yoga.
  • You are looking to restore your health and flexibility after an injury or illness
  • You want to get away from it all and find comfort in a supportive environment. There is a yoga vacation to suit everyone – just come out of a nasty break up and need to find yourself? Go for it.

Don't go on a yoga vacation if...

  • You are traveling with young kids, they’re neither suited to the environment nor old enough to practice properly.
  • You want to party – some retreats are more social than others; some may even serve wine with dinner, but none are about getting smashed and staying out until 6am.
  • You want a military-style, super detox, weight shedding vacation. There are yoga retreats with ‘boot camp’ in the title, but this has come to mean something entirely different in recent years. A yoga boot camp has a gentler, healthier approach.

A brief history of yoga

Yoga’s beginnings were developed by the Indus-Sarasvati civilisation in northern India over 5,000 years ago. The Vedas were a collection of texts containing songs, mantras and rituals to be used by Brahmans, the Vedic priests, and the word ‘yoga’ was first mentioned in the oldest sacred texts, the Rig Veda. Yoga was slowly refined and developed by the Brahmans and Rishis, mystic seers who documented their practices and beliefs in the Upanishads, a massive work containing over 200 scriptures – the most renowned of which is the Bhagavad-Gîtâ, a scripture said to have been composed around 500 B.C.E. The Upanishads took the idea of ritual sacrifice from the Vedas and internalised it, teaching the sacrifice of the ego through self-knowledge, action (karma yoga) and wisdom (jnana yoga).Read more ▼
Photo credits: [yoga topbox: Benjamin J. DeLong] [Yoga at sunset: Ian Bothwell] [Teaching: Fabrice Florin]
Written by Polly Humphris
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