Bend and Balance: Top Yoga Retreats - Page 2

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Yoga class at Shivananda Ashram
PERFECT YOUR POSE: Shivananda Ashram on Paradise Island, Bahamas  (courtesy, Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat)

Satchidananda Ashram-Yogaville in Buckingham, Virginia
Perhaps you attend a couple of yoga classes at the gym on Saturday and Sunday, and you wouldn't mind incorporating a daily class in your vacation. As far as the chanting and meditating goes, though, it's all Sanskrit to you. You may not want to be thrown head first into full-time ashram living; start with "ashram-lite" at a retreat like Yogaville in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. With its relaxed and laid-back atmosphere, Yogaville is the perfect starting block for a yoga neophyte. But don't think they take yoga lightly here: Yogaville is in fact an ashram where devout yogis live and practice for months at a time. Luckily for you, they offer a flexible guest program as well. You may opt for a weekend stay in one of the dormitories (options include shared or private rooms) or camping, if you so choose. Your stay includes three vegetarian meals a day, group meditations (you have three a day to choose from) and yoga classes (two each day). For the budget-minded yogi, the stay here also won't break the bank: Rooms during weekends range between $75 and $125 per night (the price includes yoga classes and meals).

Shivananda Ashram on Paradise Island, Bahamas
You know the chants by heart. You play the harmonium during yoga classes in your studio and you meditate daily. You've mastered the headstand and you haven't seen a hamburger in ten years. If you are a true yoga devotee with a craving for some sun and sand, the Shivananda Ashram on Paradise Island in the Bahamas may just be the place for you. Here you can combine the quest for spiritual enlightenment with the feeling of being lost on a gorgeous remote island. This retreat is an ashram, which means only vegetarian meals at a communal dining hall; karma yoga (or community service); mandatory meditation twice a day; and no caffeine, alcohol or cigarettes. If that sounds like something you practice anyway, or wouldn't mind trying for a few days, you will certainly enjoy Shivananda's yoga classes, held on a platform overlooking the turquoise water of the Caribbean and one of the most beautiful beaches in the Bahamas. You may find the close proximity to the mega-resort Atlantis somewhat disconcerting, but the buffer zone of private homes is enough to limit the exposure to the decadence next door.

Maya Tulum near Tulum, Mexico
For the pampered yogi who secretly joined that particular yoga studio because of the adjacent massage clinic, a yoga spa retreat will be just what the doctor ordered. For a posh resort that serves up massages, spa treatments and cocktails, head to Maya Tulum, a wellness retreat and spa located in the picturesque Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. This seaside retreat has been ranked among the top ten resorts in the world by Travel + Leisure magazine and it boasts gourmet cuisine and "killer margaritas". Even though Maya Tulum is described by visitors as "somewhat rustic" (there is no air conditioning and electricity is available only part-time from a generator), this resort makes up for what it lacks in wattage with a smorgasbord of spa offerings for its guests. The full menu of various face and body treatments range from your basic facial or massage to a "traditional Mayan" treat, during which one can be scrubbed with exfoliating salt, massaged with healing mud, and even smothered in "invigorating" chocolate.

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