Namaste Around the South
Yoga – a spiritual and ascetic discipline that originated in ancient India – has become widely recommended for health and relaxation. Its popularity in the U.S. has exploded, and many enthusiasts look to retreats for a complete immersion in the practice.
Once the province of free-spirits, artists, and academics, yoga has now become more mainstream with a whopping 36.7 million Americans practicing the ancient Hindu discipline, according to a 2016 report by the Yoga Alliance. Devotees attest to a greater physical, mental and spiritual well-being through the stretching, body poses, breath control and meditation.
Yoga is now a $16 billion industry in the U.S., with many practitioners drawn to it as a way of boosting their overall health.From increasing flexibility and muscle strength, to relieving stress and improving cardio and circulatory health, yoga seems to do it all.
“Yoga gives me a way to exercise that is gentle enough for my Lupus flare-ups, but I also turned some mental corners I never believed possible,” says Amber Kleid, proprietor of Kleidoscope[sic] Studios Yoga & Art in Waynesville, North Carolina. “I worked through some childhood trauma and I really look at life differently now. Through teaching, I want to share these possibilities.”
The wave of yoga fever spreading across the South means not only more studios and teachers but also more yoga retreats. Typically held in bucolic environs over a few days, retreats bring practitioners together in fellowship, giving them a chance to not only up their yoga game, but make new friends along the way. Here are a few of our favorites.
Flowering Lotus Retreat and Meditation Center
Longtime New Orleans-based studio Wild Lotus Yoga holds annual retreats at Flowering Lotus, located in a Victorian mansion in the heart of Magnolia. This year’s retreat, November 2-4, includes lodging, vegetarian meals and plenty of yoga sessions. Prices are $425, or $375 each for friends signing up together. Wild Lotus members receive a 10 percent discount. (www.wildlotusyoga.com; 504-899-0047)
Retreat in the Pines
Tucked away in a wooded enclave with its own dedicated yoga studio, Retreat in the Pines boasts a women-only experience extended to all women, regardless of age, fitness ability and background.
“What sets us apart from other retreats is the opportunity for women to discover their tribe,” notes founder Theresa Polley. “Our guests share time together laughing, enjoying wine and supporting and encouraging each other.”
Retreats are offered several times a month. The most popular, Yoga Nurture Retreat, is $399, all-inclusive. Scholarships are available. (retreatinthepines.com; 469-867-0766)
Founded by Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award-winner Sri Swami Satchidananda, Yogaville welcomes more than 2,000 guests annually to its 1,000 acres along the James River. Prices for an individual visit begin at $75 nightly for a shared room and include three vegetarian meals a day and yoga classes.
Yogaville runs group retreats often; one of the most popular is the Silent Spring Retreat, which returns April 5-8, with all activities to be held in silence. Tuition is $265, with an additional charge for lodging. (www.yogaville.org; 800-858-9642)
Wattle Hollow Retreat Center
When looking for a yoga retreat,you should keep an eye out for a spirit of generosity and non-competitiveness, advises Joy Fox, creator of Wattle Hollow Retreat Center.
“I’m in love with the synergistic marriage of silent meditation, yoga and a remote retreat center. It’s an amazing way to see ourselves,” she says.
Wattle Hollow holds retreats monthly. “Being Where You Are,” from March 23-25, will feature yoga and meditation sessions, vegetarian meals and lodging for $150, though no one will be turned away for lack of funds. All abilities are welcome. (www.wattlehollow.com;
Art of Living Retreat Center
Boone, North Carolina
Western North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains is the setting for the 380-acre Art of Living Retreat Center, founded by spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Hotel and retreat rooms are available for individual visits, and apartments for stays of eight days or more. There are daily yoga and meditation sessions, a pottery studio and spa.
Non-inclusive prices begin at $118, or book a Sri Sri Yoga Retreat, with 10 hours of classes spread over a weekend. The next retreat is scheduled for February 16-18, with all-inclusive prices starting at $350 per person. Every skill level is welcome. (artoflivingretreatcenter.org; 800-392-6870)
Seven Springs Holistic Retreat Center
Seven Springs will host Women’s Sacred Stories Retreat for the first time October 4-9. The retreat will feature yoga, meditation, self-exploratory writing and storytelling sessions, along with accommodations and meals, for $1195 if booked before July.
“For me, gathering with a circle of women is always about reconnecting to our intuition,” says Storyteller Within founder Aimee Hansen. “Through yoga we not only move the many energies that we are asking to be released or expressed within us, but we also get reconnected to the home of our deepest intuition – our own body. We learn how to be guided by the knowing and wisdom we already hold within.”