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The world has gone yoga mad. Well, truthfully, the world has been yoga mad for yonks. Have you been on Instagram lately and searched #yoga or #yogalove or #yogaeverydamnday or pretty much anything with the word "yoga" in it?
Yogis and yoginis in the social media ether are becoming superstars, inspiring people all over the world with an internet connection to practise their asanas, to breathe deeper, and to share their yoga love with the world. Sydney girl Bianca Cheah inspires her 105,000 Instagram followers with motivating (and beautiful) yoga imagery (see @biancamaycheah).
Now combining yoga with something else is in – to keep travellers interested, to stand out, and to offer a holiday experience that stretches way beyond the average. Namaste to that.
1 Yoga and cycling
Yogini and social media guru Pat Bailey (more than 90,000 Instagram followers) explains that cycling and yoga are extremely complementary. "We do yoga to get still, to create the space for thought, and for emptying," she explains. "The asana part of the practice is incredible for undoing the effects of the bicycle on the body. Many pro teams of all kinds, but especially cycling, are adding yoga to their cross training and recovery programs."
Pat's yoga and cycling breaks (her next retreat, a joint offering with www.wanderroads.com, will be in in June 19-26 next year) are all about the seamless integration of the two activities. Yoga prepares the body for cycling and aids recovery. The cycling aspect, like yoga, is a way to minimise outside world distractions and focus on breath and body.
See yogawithpb.com. See @patbailey on Instagram.
2 Yoga and walking with the elephants
Want to practise yoga in the morning and hang out with elephants in the afternoon? At Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp and Resort in Thailand you can.
The elephant camp was established in 2003 (it's a place where the street-rescued elephants rest and recuperate) and offers guests a unique opportunity to observe the gentle giants as they go about their daily lives.
Yoga takes place in a serene yoga sala that's flanked by luscious rice paddies and the one-hour classes just fly by. Afterwards guests can join the elephants on their twice-daily stroll alongside the resident vet or biologist, learning about the curious creatures along the way.
3 Yoga and horse riding
Where in the world would cowgirl yoga work really well? Montana, of course. Margaret Burns Vap, founder of Big Sky Yoga Retreats and Cowgirl Yoga, knew that fresh Montana air and stunning natural surroundings would make for one yee-haw yoga destination and her retreats are all about connecting guests to their inner selves.
Margaret also runs yoga and horse-riding retreats (fittingly called Cowgirl Yoga Retreats) around the world for both wannabe and experienced equestrians and yoga devotees. Book ahead (her retreats fill up months in advance) and don't forget your cowboy hat.
See bigskyyogaretreats.com. See @cowgirlyoga on Instagram.
4 Yoga and Bodyism
Celebrity trainer James Duigan (his client list includes Elle Macpherson, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Hugh Grant) is the founder of Bodyism, a holistic approach (embracing exercise, diet and mindfulness) to wellbeing. Yoga is a vital part of his practice and he offers his exclusive program at a handful of resorts scattered around the world. ("The locations we select need to be exactly right and reflective of what we believe," he says.)
D-Hotel Maris in Marmaris, Turkey, is one of James' satellite locations (European summer season) and yoga here is conducted by yoga guru Shona Vertue (or someone else from the team). Yoga classes might be on a hilltop overlooking where the Aegean and Mediterranean seas meet, or perhaps on one of the five private beaches (with powdery white sand imported from Egypt… seriously). Honestly, although the closing of eyes is encouraged during yoga, it's near impossible here.
5 Yoga and cooking
Jenny Klok and Edwin Rosenkranz live an idyllic life in the Hunter Valley – Jenny teaches yoga and Edwin teaches cooking – and through their combined expertise they promote a sustainable and balanced approach to life and health.
The duo run half-day retreats year-round starting with hour-long yoga sessions to the sound of Jenny's extensive selection of crystal quartz singing bowls ("This is absolute bliss and has to be experienced to be believed," Jenny says) followed by a 2.5-hour cooking class (various cuisine styles to choose from, with most of the ingredients sourced from the onsite permaculture gardens). The experience culminates with the day's prepared feast.
6 Yoga and watersports
Amy Widdis wanted to create "something different, something extra juicy" so decided to launch YOGA+ packages offering holidaymakers unique getaways that incorporate yoga and whatever else tickles her fancy.
YOGA+ Fiji (October 11-19) is a combination of chilling out with yoga sessions and amping up the adrenaline with watersports, such as stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, waterskiing and wakeboarding. Amy explains that although some people find the combination of yoga and water sports unusual, they actually balance each other.
See lvy.com.au/irresistible. See @lvy_syd on Instagram.
7 Yoga and money
Om and chi ching? Yoga teacher, writer and financial adviser Lea Schodel decided to launch yoga and money one-day retreats because she believes that financial wellbeing is an integral part of overall health and wellness. "Money influences just about everything we do in our lives. We earn it, spend it, save it, invest it, stress about it, crave it, fear it, avoid it – and some even become obsessed by it," she explains.
Her Money Lessons from the Mat workshops in Brisbane combine physical yoga practice with financial wellbeing tips (using a left and right brain approach to practice and theory). "Integrating yogic philosophy with the principles of flow, sustainability and financial planning – it just makes sense!"
See leaschodel.com/events/fromthemat. See @leaschodel on Instagram.
8 Yoga and wine
"There's a belief that in order to embody yoga you have to live a very pure existence… but most people are just trying to apply the movement, headspace and some of the principles to their busy and stressful lives," says Casey Beros, one part of twosome Paper Tiger.
Casey and Jenna Kruiskamp created Paper Tiger when they realised they shared a mutual desire to bring more balance into their own lives – and although Paper Tiger retreats (Margaret River and Sri Lanka coming up) are not technically yoga and wine holidays, drinks can absolutely be part of the experience. "We believe friendship, laughter, the ocean and red wine cure all ills," Casey laughs. "And everyone's version of a perfectly balanced week looks a tiny bit different!"
See papertigerwellness.com. See @papertigerwellness on Instagram.
9 Yoga and surfing
Although the surfing and yoga combo has been around for a while, Georgie White, founder of Ocean Soul Retreat, wanted to craft a yoga and surf retreat with a difference – and she's the only one who works together with a Balinese-owned and -operated surf school, called Surf School Bali.
During the week-long retreats attendees can participate in a number of holistic treatments in addition to yoga (such as acupuncture, craniosacral therapy, traditional Balinese healing and Reiki) but the highlight is the chance to learn to manoeuvre the waves with guidance from the local surf instructors, who are all bronze medallion-certified for first-aid and accredited to international standards.
See oceansoulretreat.com/surf. See @oceansoulretreat on Instagram.
10 Yoga and skiing
What do you get when you combine snow fun with zen? Snowga, of course. Trackers Mountain Lodge in Falls Creek Victoria hosted its first Snowga retreat from September 13-18 this year, where over five days guests combined yoga (two-hour morning energising classes and nightly restorative Yin sessions) with skiing and snowboarding.
Perth-based yoginis Kate Taylor and Donna Buchanan have led a number of holiday retreats around the world and running Trackers Mountain Lodge's first-ever Snowga getaway was one heck of an adventure for them. There will be more retreats to come, so check in online later in the year to see what's coming up.
The writer has travelled as a guest of D-Hotel and Bodyism.