Top 10 Yoga & Wellness Retreats

This week we are opening up our Editor’s “little green book” of top secret awesome yoga and wellbeing retreats.

We receive so many inquiries from people needing to take some time out to recharge, reflect and rejuvenate and wondering where in the world to go and do that.

Below is a list of personally experienced and recommend retreats where space is created and held for healing and transformation. Please feel free to respond or write to us if you have personally experienced a wellness retreat that was amazing. We are also interested in hearing from you if you are creating or hosting retreats.

Sunflower Retreats

A beautiful Italian Medieval village called Casperia forms the backdrop for a peaceful week of daily yoga classes, delicious food, cycling and hilly rambling. Conveniently only 1 hour from Rome.

I practised yoga there with Advertising Exec turned Ayurvedic Doctor and Yoga teacher, Jo Heath who is teaching there again this summer as the yogi in residence.

Casperia

Ibiza Yoga

Stay in a Balinese pagoda, a teepee or a room in a shared luxurious villa. Yoga classes are 2 hours every morning with a roster of world-renowned teachers. There are many healing holistic treatments on offer throughout the day as well as a delicious organic vegetarian lunch included at this wellness centre located next to beautiful Benirras beach on the hippie “quieter” side of Ibiza.

I trained there with Edward Clarke, founder of an experimental dance company called Tripsichore Yoga.

Ibiza Yoga

Yogabeats Holidays

Worldwide yoga holidays throughout the year with David Sye in The Canary Islands, Greece, Cuba, Ibiza and Dahab Egypt. I attended his Dahab retreat and found the combination of sunshine, moonlit desert meditations and red sea scuba diving to be out of this world. This holiday literally changed my life and set me on the path to becoming a yoga teacher myself. I also ended up assisting as an apprentice and making a lot of videos with David after becoming qualified as a yoga teacher. He is a truly amazing teacher and person.

Yogabeats

Desa Seni

A slice of heaven on earth at this paradise escape in Bali. Desa Seni is a year round wellness and yoga centre where guests stay in interior designed antique wooden joglos and eat organic vegetarian food grown in the gardens which surround the studios. The good vibes from the yoga and meditation classes also help the fruit and vegetables to grow.

I attended a powerful Satori Breathwork training retreat here, run by Dawn Delgado & Beau Robb of  Transformation Vacations

Desa Seni

PachaMama

Located deep in the jungles of Costa Rica, PachaMama is an Eco community setup by an Israeli Guru turned wildlife photographer named Tyohar. All sorts of wellness and yoga retreats happen here year round, the most popular being the cleansing, fasting and vision quest experiences. Community ground rules include one that all residents must gather to sit in silence in the great hall for one hour each day. This place is a jungle utopia for the inner Peter Pan and Tinkerbell, built entirely by it’s residents who also have their own school for the community children and their own monetary currency.

Pacha-Mama

Blue Spirit

A luxurious place to restore and unwind. All sorts of interesting wellness retreats are run here year round on a quiet beach in the un-touristy Nosara area. There are some great surf spots nearby and the yoga studio has one of the best possible views I have ever seen whilst meditating. It is an extension of the Omega Institute in the U.S so many of it’s retreats are linked to the Omega teachers and teachings.

Blue Spirit

Sacred Circularities

Jaguar Mary is a world traveller who runs these empowering hula hoop retreats in Sedona and in Bali. These weeklong retreats are focused on intention setting and workshops to expand dance and hooping techniques. I attended as a hooping novice and left that week with new friends, a fit body, trim waistline and surprisingly strong hooping skills.

Photo by Cadencia Photography
Photo by Cadencia Photography

Jungle Yoga

This place is so incredible, I almost do not want to share it! It was the most beautiful and powerful place I have ever visited and a magical weeklong retreat with world famous Yogi, Shaman and Singer/Song-writer Danny Paradise. After a one hour boat journey deep into a National Park you find a cluster of floating bamboo glam shacks and one large floating yoga studio.

We spent a blissful week practising and learning from Danny’s years of experience for 4 hours everyday and the rest of the time was filled swimming the huge lake, canoeing and observing the abundant wildlife. Every evening we had a musical jam led by Danny, with other talented (and famous) musical guests joining in too. I returned from this retreat the strongest and fittest I have ever felt in my life and still dream about it, hoping to return there one day.

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Lotus Yoga

A beautiful collection of simple tree-houses open to the surrounding nature yet offering complete privacy whilst decorated with beautiful antique Indian furniture. It is set inland from the quiet clean beaches of Patnem, Goa. Yoga is offered every morning and some evenings as well as a daily range of Ayurvedic and other healing modalities and the organic vegetarian food is delicious.

hut

The Findhorn Foundation

Findhorn is a world famous eco village and model of sustainability. Retreats and courses run all year at their Cluny College Campus and almost every week there is an “Experience Week” where visitors can get stuck into community life working in the gardens, the kitchens and care for the eco homes and Castle-like Cluny campus. It is a life changing experience and a very healing place. Many people who go there end up deciding to stay for years because they feel so happy and at peace there.

I trained as a “Sacred Dance” teacher there for a few months and loved it. I have returned several times since then to unwind and recharge and also for the annual Festival of Sacred Dance.

Findhorn

Cluny College

 

And here’s a bonus 11th retreat that I am on right now….

Vitala Yoga & Yoga Suite

High up in the Italian Valtellina Alps is an ancient spa town where I am on a family friendly yoga and hiking retreat specifically tailored to Parents and kids. This is run by a Nautropathic Doctor, yoga teacher and studio owner Beatrice Giampaoli and the “perfect Yang to her Yin” studio owner and teacher trainer Yoss Giancarlo Miggiano.

In my research, I found few retreats that welcome and offer comforts and services to help make it a relaxing experience for “Mummy and Babies or Mummy/Parents and Kids”.

I am being so held by the power of these magnetic mountains and have great babysitters organised so I can grab some quality “me time” for restorative yoga, hiking and soaking in the “aqua curativa” ancient healing thermal waters. Naturally, I am in bliss!

Bormio

© Lightening Magazine 2016

Highlight : David Sye

David Sye
Photo by Paul Elliot of Hut 29

People all over England, Europe and America have chipped in to provide quite a lot of money to Yogabeats Conflict. I think it was almost £25,000 pounds we raised to do this project. This year we’re flying people out from The West Bank to Scotland to carry on training there as yogis.

Why have you chosen to fly people out of the West Bank?

It’s too dangerous in the West Bank.

I don’t recognise borders. There are no borders to me. Love is the only thing that exists. So, if we need to take them out of there, we take them out of there. I believe that yoga will create peace because it goes beyond where any source of politics goes.

These people are incredible. How powerful the human heart is in spite of conflict, in spite of oppression. I’m headlining a yoga festival in Israel and I told them I don’t want to keep any money that I make, that it will all go straight to the Palestinians and I said “you need to know that”. They said that was fine, that they were totally supportive. There’s a great tribe of Israelis that are for peace and compassion. I’m proud to say that a lot of them exist.

What’s inspired you to do this work?

It just happened quite naturally. I was in a war in Bosnia and I really saw humankind and all the aggression which was stirred up by politics. The press is always very economical with the truth because they bend the story by just leaving out a few words. The press are very responsible for creating a lot of the wars that we have on our planet right now.

I don’t see myself as a yoga teacher, I’m a yogi and I believe that our species will not survive unless we can carry out what is important to us.

There are no borders between countries and there are no borders between the human heart. All of this conflict is something we need to evolve past and for me it’s just pure intelligence. It’s just so obvious. 

Why do you need a middle man for God? Why do you need a middle man for each other? You don’t!

You sound so fearless when you talk about doing something that would scare many people to do.

lt gives me such a pleasure to know that these people love me. I mean, they’re my family and so are the Israelis. I go between borders simply because I love both sides. It’s kind of hard to love one without the other. It’s totally impossible for me.

Is it safe there at the moment? 

No it’s never really safe. I mean if it was safe, I wouldn’t do the work in the first place. It’s just, it is what it is and it always seems to work out.

So the intention, with the work that you’re doing is yoga for peace?

The yoga gives people there the physical and psychological tools to deal with being in an open prison. That’s what they are basically living in-an open prison and there’s no doubt about that. It’s a very difficult place. There’s no freedom. It’s very hard to get out of the West Bank. Life is extremely difficult and also frustrating. Yoga is a way that they can kind of find that inside of themselves and they can be free. So, you can have an overt oppression outside and inside a sense of freedom. I say interior freedom because everything that we feel comes from the inside.

Where did the idea originate, to use yoga to heal the conflict between Israel and Palestine?

I was invited in 2004 to do some yoga workshops in Israel by Israelis. I said “Yeah, I’m happy to do that as long as you provide me with classes of Palestinians too.” And they said “No, we’re in a war so that would be very difficult with a lot of potential conflict”. I said “Well then, I’m not going to come.” They said “Don’t be ridiculous.” I was in a Bosnia war and I don’t know what the enemy looks like, they’re just different people. To me, there are no such things as enemies.

Finally they agreed to let me teach a class over at Jericho. I went to Jericho and had 18 Palestinians in my first class. We went on the front lawn for prayer. And I had beats playing on the Boom Box and we were rolling and putting our legs up in the air.  I really thought I might get into trouble, but I was fine and they loved me.

When I left the Israelis to go back to the West Bank they said “You know these poor people on the other side of the West Bank they don’t have good hummus. So, I became this hummus carrier back and forth and then finally they all wanted to meet each other.

In 2006 I was on a bus going to this meeting with 18 Palestinians. We were going to meet in Jerusalem at the American Colony in town and one Israeli came up to me and said “Can I have a word with you?” She asked “What are the Palestinians like? I’m really frightened of them because they killed a lot of my family.” I said “They’re just like you.” She says “Oh, you’re sure?” I said “Yes, don’t worry. You’re going to see how lovely they are”. So later that day, we’re in a hotel and I see this same woman hugging a Palestinian woman, and they were both crying. I just thought That’s it. That’s my work right there!

I mean, that one memory of them is burned like a tattoo in my brain forever. I can’t get rid of that. No politician can tell me that there’s anything better than that. The rest is just bullshit.

 What gave you the confidence to take yoga into war zones?

I found myself in a war in Bosnia when I went there to run a radio station. I was going in and out of the borders during the worse part of the war and then I had my car stolen. I was on the run from the Middle Eastern police and I couldn’t get out of Serbia.

People looked after me when I had no money, nothing. I remember one time it was minus 24. It was horrible and they fed me, looked after me. I saw such human kindness. They didn’t really care that I was a yogi, they read me as a human being who was compassionate.

I felt my work was starting at that point. I didn’t think oh that’s what I want to do, that’s just what happened. For me, wherever I am is the place I need to be.

If you had to summarise your life’s purpose in a short statement, could you?

Yeah. My own self evolution. I know that my biggest pleasure out of this is my pleasure. I don’t give a shit about the world. I give a shit about MY world and I need to feel happy with me as a human being. I’m not such an egomaniac to think that I can save anybody. If I’m compassionate with someone else, loving to someone else, it’s because I’m loving for me. It’s a consequence of loving yourself.

So if you love yourself then you’ll love everyone else?

I think that’s one of the characteristics of all the advanced souls on this planet, they’re very childish and they’re in love with themselves but yet they do the hard work. It’s because they’re in a place of bliss.

It’s interesting to hear you say that you’re not trying to save the world, but your actions would suggest that in a way you are doing your bit to save the world.

Well we all have to come together now and stop it and rub out the borders between countries. It’s like someone saying well, I’m gay and I’m straight. I mean where does the borderline stop? Who knows? There is no borderline. It’s ridiculous. The line is in your head.

Okay that’s a great line to finish this interview with. Have a great time, wherever you’re going now.

I’m heading to Coventry for a big Yoga & Tequila Rave.

Yoga Tequila Rave- what?

Last year we had 240 people and we had 50 bottles of tequila. Basically, it started in Colorado when they wanted me to teach four hours of yoga. We had a break and they all disappeared and went into a bar. I walked in and they were all hiding their glasses behind their backs so I said “What the hell is that?” They went oh, it’s a tequila shot. I said “Well, okay I’ll do one of those too.” They said “Really?” I said “Sure.Allow us to celebrate. Don’t be such pussycats, you’ve got to celebrate your life. Don’t be wimps. Everything in life is celebration. Celebrate life in everything you do because that’s what it’s about. So, as I’m drinking the tequila I get a download from the universe, which is that I need to do tequila yoga. So I said “Let’s do tequila yoga!” and it was the best class I ever gave. Basically, one of the main principles is “turn off your head”. The head is political so if you cut the head off you go back to being simple. You just enjoy being alive without all the stuff going on in your head. You cut the head off. So I started to do this as a rave event; and now they are completely sold out yoga raves.

WWW.YOGABEATS.COM

David Sye

© Lightening Magazine 2016