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Find Yourself on an Enchanted Escape

Looking for a unique retreat that truly delves deep? Discover these serene spaces that will move you into magical mindfulness

By Jessica Humphries

Choosing where to take your next retreat is no easy feat – especially for those of us who want more than just an introduction to yoga and a few sweaty asana classes. With so many businesses capitalising on the yoga and mindfulness boom, it’s hard to differentiate the authentic from the money-makers. So we’ve done the hard work for you and scoped out some seriously serene spaces around the world that promise to take you beyond the asana and into introspection. 

Prema Shanti – Daintree Rainforest, Australia

Set amidst world-heritage rainforest, Prema Shanti offers yoga, meditation and the opportunity to explore the area with the guidance of long-time local hosts. The focus is on slowing down and looking within, and the space expresses this perfectly – with humble, zen-inspired rooms and plenty of communal areas to connect and enjoy the verdant views. Your hosts are true yogis who walk their talk, warmly inviting you into their community and helping you to find what it is you’re seeking. Visitors are invited to join in on the early morning meditation session and evening yoga, and soak up the richness of Mother Nature’s offerings in between. 

Billabong Retreat  – Maraylya, Australia 

Located just an hour northwest of Sydney lives a nature-abundant retreat centre that allows guests to leave the hustle and bustle of city life behind and immerse themselves in this lush, quintessentially Australian landscape. There are many programs to choose from, with yoga and meditation as the main focus. The airy yoga shala boasts breathtaking tree-top views, inviting instant stillness and serenity. The many accommodation options take advantage of the beautiful natural surrounds, the food is healthy and colourful, and the on-site spa offers a smorgasbord of delicious treatments that integrate native Australian plants. 

Yoga Barn – Ubud, Bali

If you’re an experienced yogi looking for a DIY-style retreat in one of the world’s most vibrant yoga hubs, then look no further than Bali’s famous Yoga Barn. A yoga mecca within a yoga mecca, Yoga Barn is often overflowing with hipster yogis laughing and socialising. But it’s not all designer tights and man buns – there’s also a sensational smorgasbord of yogic activities – from ecstatic dance to breathwork, meditation and everything in between. Despite its popularity, any yoga lover can easily slot into the community and enjoy all it has to offer – including spa treatments and delicious vegan treats at the on-site café. You can stay in style at the deluxe on-site guesthouse, or choose from a plethora of nearby, more humble accommodation options. 

Kripalu Centre for Yoga & Health – Stockbridge, Massachusetts, USA

If you’ve read Stephen Cope’s Yoga and the quest for the true self then you’ve probably already been tempted to check this place out. Cope is a senior teacher and one of the founders of Kripalu – one of the biggest yoga education centres in the world. Surrounded by the forested hills of the Berkshire Mountains, your stay includes as many sessions from the schedule as you can squeeze into the day, which comprises of workshops on asana, meditation, detox, chakras and more. The accommodation is simple, peaceful and comfortable, ranging from dorm-style to slightly more stylish, private rooms. 

Parmarth Niketan Ashram – Rishikesh, India

Rishikesh is often dubbed as the yoga capital of the world, and is home to an overwhelming number of yoga retreats and centres. Parmarth Niketan is by far the biggest – with 1000 rooms nestled in beautiful garden surrounds, perfect for yoga and meditation. It’s an ideal place to soak up the true traditions of yoga through a vast variety of programs and activities in inspiringly authentic surrounds (you can even experience the deeply spiritual sunset aarti at the river Ganges). The ashram recommends staying for at least three weeks in order to completely soak up everything the magnificent space and its teachers have to offer. 

Rhythmia Life Advancement Centre – Playa Avellana, Costa Rica

A truly tempting, luxurious yogic treat, Rythmia is situated in one of the world’s famous Blue Zones – known for the longevity of its inhabitants. Encased in an enchanted environment, visitors are surrounded by stunning shorelines, magical mountains, picturesque waterfalls and all the sights and sounds of the rainforest. And that’s just the beginning. The retreat is perhaps most famous for its herbal medicine journeys and programs that focus on transformation and personal development – topped off with twice daily flowing yoga sessions designed by Shiva Rea. 

Nilambe Buddhist Meditation Centre – Nilambe, Sri Lanka

A stay at the Nilambe Centre promises to leave both new and experienced meditators with a practice that they can use to bring a deeper sense of mindfulness and peace to their everyday lives. Not for the faint-hearted, guests may be challenged by the 5am wake-ups and the abundance of compulsory meditation on the schedule, but it’s also a perfect opportunity to delve deeply into the practice in a reasonably gentle way. It differs from a traditional Vipassana meditation retreat in that visitors can choose a shorter stay and the program is not quite as rigorous. However, it’s still a silent meditation retreat based on traditional Buddhist philosophies. While it’s a far cry from your typical yoga holiday, the surroundings are exquisitely peaceful and the profound work will surely turn your world upside down – in a good way. All retreats are by donation only. 

Words by Jessica Humphries for Australian Yoga Journal. 

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