As summer winds down, longer office hours resume and daylight fades, now is the time for getting the mind and body in shape. One of the best ways to regain focus, boost your energy and keep that summer-high feeling going through the winter is with a yoga retreat.
Unlike an exercise "boot camp" or weekend at the beach, a yoga break takes a holistic approach to improving the health of your whole body.
Whether you're a diehard yogi or just looking for a healthy way to deal with stress, the benefits of practicing yoga include "peace of mind, better concentration, self-confidence, enfoldment of the personality, awakening and development of spirituality," according to Paramhans Swami Maheshwaranda (Swamiji), the world-renowned yoga guru and founder of Yoga in Daily Life.
Thanks to the growing popularity of retreats, travelers can now choose from a full-range of options, from bare bones ashrams to ultra-luxe spas, depending on their specific goals and needs.
Mothers with children, for instance, can enjoy down time at D-lite Yoga Retreat in Ibiza, Spain. Outdoor-loving athletic-types can sign up for Adventure Yoga Retreats, which combines adventure trips, such as a safari in Tanzania or hiking in Machu Picchu. For those wanting to indulge in high-end, blissed-out pampering, there's the Ananda spa in the Himalays.
Many facilities also offer special events with visiting "masters," such as a week with Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman at the Como Shambala retreat in Bali, Indonesia, or carefully programmed itineraries for specific results, such as the Mind, Body, Spirit package at Maya Tulum in Mexico.
To find the right fit for your yoga retreat, travel adviser Melissa Bradley recommends doing your homework and being realistic about your goal.
"Don't be shy about getting as much information as possible about everything from the accommodations to the level of fitness to the food," Bradley says. "When traveling with a friend, that also means making sure you both have the same expectations."
"The first thing is to figure out what your real goal is," she says. "Do you want a relaxing vacation and to get a little better, or do you want a monastic experience? If you've never done one before, go somewhere closer to home and see if it's something you love," says Bradley, who runs Indagare.com, a high-end membership-based travel website and helps clients plan their dream trips.
So if your cubicle has your muscles a bit creaky and you'd like to take a few days to zen out, check out one of these excellent retreat options for a total-body boost -- physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
Located on a gorgeous beach in the Yucatan, just an hour south of Cancun, Maya Tulum Resort offers a classic yoga and wellness retreat for those who are serious about their practice -- but also look forward to a sunset margarita. Rooms are set in simple, yet comfortable Mayan-style thatched roof cabanas, facing either the Caribbean Sea or the Mexican jungle.
One of the most-popular packages is the five- or seven-day Mind, Body & Spirit program. Classes follow the Hatha Yoga tradition and are open to all levels.
In between classes, check out one of the eco-tours, enjoy swimming or snorkeling in the nearby coral reef, or visit the historic Mayan ruins. Ultimately MBS hopes to transform your sense of well-being by "balancing the inward journey with outward adventure."