You can’t move for downward dog opportunities these days. The explosion of yoga in western countries means there’s a studio on every other street and such a variety of styles and options, that choosing a holiday or retreat can be overwhelming. So where to start? It makes sense to try a weekend away before committing to a whole week. One possibility is to choose a teacher you know or like the sound of and see if they’re running anything that suits. Or you could pick a venue you fancy and see what teachers are hosting holidays there. Think about what you want too – some combine yoga with other activities (maybe good for those with non-yogi partners), some are vegan, some don’t ban booze – it’s always worth asking before you book.
Most retreats will cater for all levels, with teachers listening to individual needs, but I’ve marked those particularly for beginners suitable with a B. We think all the places we’re covering here offer good value, but those that stand out price-wise are marked with a £.
There is a glossary of yoga terms at the end of this article.
BEST UK RETREATS
Moor walks, North Yorkshire
The yoga weekends at The Orange Tree, a lovely small retreat in the North York Moors, are led by personable owner Edward Harpin and his sister Helen. They teach hatha yoga and mindfulness meditation in two or three sessions a day, which may include music, periods of silence, mantras, breathing techniques and a gong bath to enhance relaxation. There’s an outdoor jacuzzi and sauna, massages and time for moor walks before a three-course homemade veggie supper and yoga nidra prior to bed.
• From £365pp sharing for 2 nights, 14-17 guests. Next runs 3-5 Feb, theorangetree.com B
Go with the flow, Kent
Jean Hall and Liz Lark are among the UK’s most experienced and inspiring yoga teachers. They draw on a range of yoga styles in their teaching, and on their joint retreats they offer tuition for beginners and more advanced students in separate classes. Their Oxon Hoath base (near Tonbridge) is a stately home on a country estate where participants can expect one pranayama class in the morning and a couple of two-hour flow classes late morning and late afternoon. Mix in walks, massage, open fires and veggie meals – with wine allowed.
• From £295pp sharing for 2 nights, 40 guests. Next runs 10-12 March, yogajeannie.com B £
Doze in the Downs, East Sussex
At the end of a long country lane on the South Downs, elegant Tilton House near Lewes offers weekend yoga retreats all year round, with up to three classes a day from a changing roster of teachers. They include affable Stewart Heffernan, a former actor who teaches vinyasa and yin-based classes to all levels. Between classes, guests can go hiking, doze in the sauna, read by an open fire, have a massage or visit the Bloomsbury group’s Charleston Farmhouse nearby. Meals use ingredients from the orchard and kitchen garden.
• £349pp sharing for 2 nights, 14 guests, tiltonhouse.co.uk B
Solar and sauna, Argyll, Scotland
The rustic retreat of Ecoyoga at Inverliever Lodge features a bath by a wild river, an underground sauna and a solar-powered hot tub for some mindful cold plunges and hot soaking between classes. Mainly ashtanga-based teachers run retreats here all year, including the ashtanga and mindfulness expert Scott Johnson, who teaches a self-practice method and encourages you to practise on your own during the retreat. There are usually two, two-hour-long classes a day with chanting, talks on yoga and healthy veggie meals (including raw chocolate cakes, naturally).
• From £595pp for 4 nights, 12-18 guests. Scott’s next retreat is 20-24 April, ecoyoga.org
Kriya me a river, south-east Devon
A light-hearted, instinctive teacher, London-based Tania Brown leads seven, one-hour classes over a weekend at comfy, organic Trill Farm near Lyme Regis. Wake up with traditional kriya (cleansing techniques), then after a nourishing breakfast and a walk, join in dynamic yoga in the middle of the woods. There’s also massage, foraging and a restorative yoga and meditation session each evening. Meals by a River Cottage chef are seasonal and organic. Detox or indulge in organic wines.
• From £350pp for 2 nights, 10 guests. Next runs 21-23 April, trillfarm.co.uk B
All the right ingredients, East Sussex
Popular restorative and yin yoga teacher and personal development coach Julie Bickerton and yogi and cookery writer Mary Gwynn have teamed up to launch new retreats in East Sussex. Based at a studio in Hartfield village, in an area of outstanding natural beauty, they combine five yoga sessions designed to help deal with seasonal changes, and two cookery demos that focus on sourcing and cooking food that is in season. Largely vegetarian meals will include wine, cake and caffeine. Rooms are split between the hub and a boutique B&B in the village.
• From £448pp sharing for 2 nights, 10 guests. Next runs 17-19 March livelife.org.uk B
BEST FOR ACTIVITIES
Snowdon walks, North Wales
On the Isle of Anglesey Zest Life Retreats teams yoga with wild swimming, standup paddleboarding, hiking on Snowdon, walking, detoxing, relaxation, fitness and seashore foraging for engaging, restorative weekends. The base is a secluded, country house estate, and the two, 90-minute classes a day include music, meditation and pranayama either with vinyasa flow with Zest Life founder Laura Bell or yin with partner and dru yoga teacher Kate Hamilton-Hunter.
• From £375pp sharing for 2 nights, 15 guests. Next runs 10-12 Feb, thezestlife.co.uk B
Alpine aura, France
AdventureYogi has been offering a great choice of yoga trips for the past 10 years, including fun, intense healthy weeks in the French Alps. Wake up at 7am with an energising hour of hatha yoga with Chetana Thornton, enjoy a day of skiing or snowboarding, then unwind with a sauna or a good book by a roaring fire before a 90-minute early-evening restorative class. Your base is an apartment by the slopes at Sainte Foy. Three-course gourmet vegetarian feasts include local organic wines. All levels of yogis and skiers welcome.
• From £989pp sharing for 7 nights, 14 guests. Runs 12-19 and 19-26 March adventureyogi.com B
Ionian inversions, Zakynthos, Greece
Soulfood London runs a creative retreat combining daily yoga and photography lessons at Villa Zaharoula, which overlooks the Ionian sea. There’s a fast-paced but accessible 90-minute yoga class to music each morning, and relaxing meditative classes each evening with dynamic vinyasa flow teacher Charlie Morgan. Professional photographer Chloe Read finds something new to inspire every day, from still life to moving waves, and there’s a trip to a hilltop town and wild swimming in a quiet cove. Organic meals include meat and fish.
• From £349pp for 3 nights, 12 guests. £825pp yoga and photography week 25 Sept-2 Oct, soulfoodlondon.com B
Circle of relaxation, Norway
This four-night retreat is pricy, but there’s nothing else like it. At this site above the Arctic circle, four 90-minute dynamic vinyasa flow yoga classes with Swedish-born teacher Minna Skirgård are followed by four personally guided adventures, including a boat safari and a trek along scenic paths. Expect to flow, sweat and connect with uplifting tunes, pranayama and mindfulness sessions. Boutique Lyngen Lodge has a sauna, outdoor jacuzzi and mountain views, and local, seasonal meals include fish from the fjords and local reindeer.
• From £1,355pp sharing for 4 nights, 16 guests. Next runs 14-18 June, scandoir.com
Heavenly Himalayas, India
Run by Tamsin Chubb, founder of popular Little French Retreat, this fabulous adventure features a two-hour classical hatha yoga class each morning, plus mountain walks, tiffin-style packed lunches, sunset meditation and workshops on local bio-diversity, organic farming, cooking and yoga philosophy. Tamsin teaches a relaxing, calm style of yoga inspired by sivananda and yin practices, and your base is a homely forest retreat – the Foundation for Contemplation of Nature’s Himalayan Centre – in the Almora district with a timber-framed studio and organic, vegetarian alcohol-free meals. You get to see the Taj Mahal and Delhi on this trip too.
• From £1,395pp sharing (excl flights), 8 guests. 4-17 November, littlefrenchretreat.com B
Align your anatomy, Italy
Set on a private hillside estate near Ponte a Moriano, Reclaim Yourself’s fun-filled healthy week features classes with jivamukti expert Emma Henry and alignment-based vinyasa teacher Adam Husler. Start with a power smoothie and a 2½-hour flow class each day with Adam or Emma, then in the afternoons work with Adam on anatomical alignment, turn up the volume in an advanced class with Emma or take a healthy cooking class with chef Sabar Rahbar. There are trips to nearby Lucca and Florence and vegan feasts under the stars.
• From £895 pp for 6 nights, 24 guests. 20-26 August, reclaimyourself.co.uk
BEST FOR SUN
Hatha in Ithaca, Greece
International teachers lead different weeks between May and October at Itha108, a gorgeous island retreat just five minutes from the Ionian sea, where accommodation is split between a Venetian-style house and five Mongolian-style yurts. All levels will enjoy weeks with Laura Gilmore, director of Bristol City Yoga, who teaches two, two-hour long hatha yoga classes a day, the second being a restorative class. Fish is served for those who want it, alongside the veggie meals.
• From £925pp (in a yurt) sharing for 7 nights, 20 guests. Next runs 1-8 July, bristolcityyoga.co.uk B
Life of Pi, Costa Brava, Spain
With hammocks and a saltwater swimming pool just a 10-minute stroll from a beach, Pi Blau is an eco villa which enjoys 9-11 hours of sunshine a day during the summer, when Destination Yoga runs retreats here. Twice-daily, one-hour yoga classes are led by visiting experts, including vinyasa flow teacher Joanna Najduch (in June) who is particularly patient with beginners. Between times there’s walking, massages and healthy veggie meals. Guests can detox or enjoy local wine and beer.
• From £995pp sharing for 7 nights, 16 guests. Next runs 10-17 May. destinationyoga.co.uk B
Yurts and yin, Turkey
Sunshine is almost guaranteed from May to October in the secluded Huzur Vadisi Yoga Retreat in its mountain valley 10 minutes from the coast. Guests stay in yurts among olive groves, and do two classes a day with a changing roster of expert teachers in a spacious shala. Yin yang teacher Simon Low runs a retreat here each year, while other experts include the Scaravelli-influenced (gentle, gravity-based yoga) duo Tuesday McNeill and Marc Woolford. Between classes, guests can sunbathe, swim, walk, read, go to the beach or take boat trips. Food is mostly veggie, with fish or chicken twice a week. All levels.
• From £690pp sharing, 28 guests. Next runs 26 Jun-3 Jul (Low), 10-17 Jul (McNeill/Woolford), huzurvadisi.com B £
Restorative riad, Morocco
Come to riad-style Hotel Tigmi in a laid-back Berber village outside Marrakech for yoga with vibrant Jonelle Lewis in May, whose classes are often set to an urban soundtrack, or for an insightful week with iyengar-trained Jim Tarran and Khadine Morcom in June. Twice-daily, 1½- or two-hour classes are punctuated by swims in the two pools, trips to the souks of Marrakech, a massage or hammam and local walks. Veggie and meat meals, cake and alcohol are all on offer.
• From £795pp sharing, 20 guests. Next runs 20-27 May (Lewis), 10-17 June (Tarran/Morcom), yogaexplorers.com
Mediterranean meditation, Crete
On a cliff on the island’s southern coast, where the sun shines almost continually from May to October, is Yoga Rocks. Swim, sunbathe or hang out in a hammock between classes and pick a teacher who feels right to you. Reema Datta, from 13-20 May, teaches a gentle style that incorporates yoga philosophy, chanting, meditation and her own music, while Sky Akasha Tobias in September runs a funky, immersive retreat influenced by tai chi and dance. Expect gigantic vegetarian buffets including cakes.
• From £750pp sharing for 7 nights, 20 guests. yogaholidaysgreece.com B £
Feel the magic, north Goa, India
India, the spiritual home of yoga, is a great place for escaping the British winter and there’s a multitude of yoga holidays to choose from. Yoga Magic is a bit special, with tented eco-lodges in beautiful gardens. There’s yoga twice a day in a shala made from mud with a palm leaf roof, led by great local teachers drawing on a range of traditions, and incredible organic Indian cuisine. There’s a natural pool and Ayurvedic and homeopathic treatments available too.
• From £450pp sharing for 1 week yoga holiday B&B, (high season price), yogamagic.net B £
BEST HOLISTIC RETREATS
For mums and children, Derbyshire
These new yogic glamping breaks from Pachamama Yoga Retreats give tired mums – Pachamama means mother earth for indigenous Andean people – time to bond with their little ones (of any age) in a Peak District woodland setting. Stay in luxury safari tents and wake up with two hours of vinyasa flow each morning with the honey-voiced Kerry Wilde while your children enjoy forest school. Afternoons are free, then there’s a 90-minute yin yoga session each evening plus meditation, massages, vegan food and an African dance workshop.
• From £1,100 for a mother and child for 6 nights, 12 guests. First runs April. pachamama-yoga.com B
Peak peace, Oleiros, Portugal
Restorative retreats at family-run Vale de Moses in the foothills of the Serra de Estrela mountains offer a morning silent meditation walk along rivers and through forest before an invigorating two-hour yoga class suitable for all levels. There’s also therapeutic massage and acupuncture, workshops exploring aspects of yogic life, meditation and wild swimming, while some retreats focus on sleep. The main yoga teacher is owner Barbados-born Vonetta Winter, who teaches dynamic hatha yoga focusing on strength, balance and stability. Meals are vegetarian and Ayurvedic.
• From £670pp sharing, up to 16 guests. Weekly between March and October. valedemoses.com B £
Wellbeing in the raw, North Yorkshire
The women-only Healthily Happy Retreat, led by raw food expert Dr Claire Maguire at Split Farthing Hall, the 18th-century countryside base of Raw Horizons, mixes a daily 90-minute class of kundalini yoga with two daily 90-minute sessions covering wellbeing coaching, chakra balancing, aromatherapy and healthy chocolate-making. Guests can soak in the outdoor hot tub, use the far infrared sauna, have a massage or put their feet up in the cosy library. Meals are cleansing and raw, alcohol- and coffee-free, and yoga includes music.
• From £995pp sharing for five nights, 10 guests. Next runs 29 Jan-3 Feb, rawhorizons.co.uk B
Alpujarras ashram, Spain
At Kaliyoga’s base in the Alpujarras you can pick from a variety of activities to mix with your yoga, including hill walking, raw food cleansing and juice fasting with nutrition lectures, colonic cleanses and guided meditation. Chill by the pool, have a treatment, use the infra-red sauna and take two yoga classes a day. Resident teachers include Lely Aldworth, who teaches dynamic yoga, encouraging guests to experience yoga as a moving meditation. Alcohol-free meals are veggie and vegan.
• From £895pp sharing for 6 nights, 15 guests. Weekly from 26 Feb to 18 Nov, kaliyoga.com B
Fruitful stays, Sri Lanka
At the soulful Sen Wellness Sanctuary, in a nature reserve, there are yoga classes on breathtaking Rekawa beach as the sun rises, followed by breakfast of fruits and a fresh coconut, and Ayurvedic treatments before sunset yoga in the shala overlooking mangroves. Excellent osteopathy and acupuncture are available, and meals are veggie with some fish. Yoga teachers in residence in 2017 include Pleuni van Hulten, who teaches two Scaravelli-inspired vinyasa flow and yin yoga classes each day, giving a lot of useful hands-on adjustments.
• From £330pp for 3 nights, 16-20 guests. senwellnesssanctuary.com B £
Healing hotspot, Thailand
At Sanctuary, a jungle and beach retreat on Koh Phangan, guests can indulge in spa treatments, use the steam room, have a healing session at a Tea Temple, take a Pilates class and follow an intense detox programme. Choose a three-, seven- or 10-night yoga retreat with visiting expert teachers, who include Peter Clifford, an Australian yoga master who teaches a flowing classical hatha style. Veggie and seafood meals can be healthy or indulgent, and there are movies under the stars.
• From £290pp sharing for 3 nights, 15 guests, thesanctuarythailand.com B £
Detox and cleanse, Wiltshire
On its retreats at 17th-century Littleton Mill, Jiva Healing cleverly mixes yoga with detoxing and healthy eating a few times a year. Choose the Creative Cooking, Conscious Eating and Yoga retreat for nutrition talks and cookery demos, or the Juice Fasting and Yoga retreat to cleanse with organic juices and coffee enemas. On each retreat, daily hatha yoga classes are taught by Chetana Thornton, whose husband Will plays live relaxing music throughout. There’s also bodywork and vegan meals.
• From £325pp sharing for 2 nights, 14 guests. Retreats run April and August. jivahealing.com
Caroline Sylger Jones is the founder of queenofretreats.com
Ashtanga yoga: athletic, quite demanding
Dru yoga: a type of yoga based on flowing movements
Gong bath: being “bathed” in gong vibrations
Hatha yoga: broad term for classical yoga
Iyenger yoga: precise and alignment based
Jivamukti yoga: a vigorous hatha-style yoga form
Kundalini yoga: a spiritual practice focused on raising energy
Pranayama: breathing exercises
Shala: a place of yoga; a studio or platform of wood or mud
Sivananda yoga: classical practice based on 12 basic poses
Restorative yoga: slow and supported poses
Vinyassa flow: flowing from one pose to the next
Yin yoga: slow, long-held poses
Yoga nidra: “yogic sleep”, gentle/meditative yoga
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