Once upon a time, traveling yogis made pilgrimages to the birthplace of their practice — India— to learn from their gurus. While India still makes the hot list of best yoga destinations, modern yogis are blessed with a variety of international destinations to choose from when they head off on a soul-searching adventure. Here are some of our favorite travel destinations for yogis on a journey
Eastern philosophies abuz, it’s time to ski, snowboard, adventure, and zen out in Japan, our favorite wintertime destination for yoga.
Although it wasn’t until 1919 that modern-style yoga appeared in Japan, the first use of the word ‘yoga’ in Japan was first recorded in 806 AD. Today, yoga is now responsible for a huge piece of Japan’s fitness market. According to one Japanese Healthcare group, the yoga population has reached 3.5 million (and growing), making it one of the best things to do in Japan. And in big cities and ski towns, yoga culture is fast growing.
Powder Yoga in Niseko is one such yoga studio which capitalizes on the adventure-zen cocktail which Japan has to offer, mixing incredible skiing with quality yoga for a well-rounded holiday experience. Even better, the Japanese culture is based on Buddhism, which emphasizes respect and goes hand-in-hand with many of the yoga philosophies, meaning you’ll get plenty of yoga both on and off the mat.
As cliché as Eat, Pray, Love has made it, the Island of the Gods does offer up a spectacular experience for yogi travelers. Little expat enclaves dot the island, offering up some of the best yoga studios, teachers, and travel experiences a practitioner could ask for. Cultural hub Ubud is well known for its yoga offerings, however coastal towns such as Seminyak and Canggu also have a number of world-class studios and teachers for traveling yogis to choose from.
The island is well known as a destination for seekers —yogis say they feel attracted to the Balinese culture for it’s Hindu religion, similar to India’s, which is practiced across the island daily. There’s also a heap of delicious vegan eats to keep you fueled up between practices.
Imagine a sunset yoga class, in an open air, wooden studio, overlooking the jungle with monkeys climbing on the beams above you. You’re not dreaming— that’s a real live Costa Rica yoga experience. Yogis from around the world have set up shop, building some of the most breathtaking yoga studios you’ve ever set eyes on. Costa Rica lends well to a relaxing yoga lifestyle — the country’s motto “pura vida,” meaning pure life, is a Latino style Aloha. The Pura Vida isn’t complete without a sunset yoga class overlooking the ocean after a day enjoying the surf and sun in Central America’s most eco-friendly country.
Hippies have been hiding out on this well-known Balearic island since the 1960’s, and just a short drive north from the clubs and party culture, they’re still reigning over north Ibiza in true yogi style. This little island’s magnetic personality draws yoga practitioners to its shores season after season. Some estimate that Ibiza hosts more per-capita yoga retreats than anywhere else in Europe.
According to reiki practitioner Faye Reason, the attraction is obvious.
“Ibiza is a very spiritual island, which makes it easy to do soul work here. People expect it and come here looking for it. The islanders believe that nature is a big healer. And because Ibiza is a natural paradise, it heals you almost as soon as you get off the plane.”
Yoga life in Ibiza means early morning practices followed by long swims at uncrowded beaches, endless conversations with the international creative crowd, long lunches, outdoor siestas, and evenings out to cool beach clubs. Not so bad for an internationally renowned party-island.
Portugal is one of the world’s hot-right-now destinations and there’s no confusion as to why. Europe’s once best-kept-secret has become well known for its endless coastline with world-class waves and blue flag beaches, delicious food and wine, charming villages, friendly locals, and an average of 300 days of sun a year, making it the perfect place for a yoga retreat with an extra something added on. Many of Portugal’s yoga retreats combine yoga with surfing, trekking, and delicious farm-fresh eats; like a Classic Surf Retreat hosted by Yogi-Surfer John Magrath at Casa Zuza.
“Surf should be taught holistically – it’s a lifestyle; a spiritual practice, which is why it goes hand in hand with yoga,” explains McGrath. “The Pure nature in Portugal is a perfect host for that lifestyle. Here it’s not just another course – this is an immersion into a way of living.” Very yogic indeed.
The birthplace of yoga is an obvious addition to this list, but it’s also the best place to go if you want to learn more about yoga’s sister science, Ayurveda. Kerala, in the south of India, is widely considered to be the mecca for Ayurveda treatments, with Indians and foreigners alike traveling to one of the area’s many Ayurveda resorts for holiday treatments. If you want to get an in-depth take on this yogi healthcare practice, skip Rishikesh and take a different kind of pilgrimage to this sunny, laid-back corner of india.