STRETCH YOUR MONEY
Yoga retreats in destinations such as India and the Caribbean conjure visions of rest and repose amid verdant landscapes and sandy beaches. But they can also cost a fortune, adding stress instead of vanquishing it. Relax -- there are cheaper alternatives that offer as many amenities and programs, from intense daily yoga practice to group satsangs (chanting and meditation) to outdoor activities. Here are 10 noteworthy yoga centers and ranches with budget-friendly rates.
SIVANANDA ASHRAM YOGA RANCH, WOODBOURNE, NEW YORK
Fill the day at Sivananda Ashram in upstate New York with morning and afternoon hatha yoga classes, vegetarian meals, and group satsangs made up of a meditation session, chanting, and spiritual lectures. The ashram is nestled in the Catskill Mountains, with sweeping views and nearby hiking trails. There's also a Russian sauna if a serious sweat sounds relaxing. Rates (including organic vegetarian meals) start at $60 a night for guests who bring tents, $80 a night for a shared dorm room, and $95 a night for a private double room.
SIVANANDA ASHRAM YOGA RETREAT, PARADISE ISLAND, NASSAU, BAHAMAS
If Sivananda Ashram's schedule of twice-daily satsangs and two-hour hatha yoga classes sounds appealing, but practicing on a beach sounds even better, hop a plane to the Bahamas. (Cheap flights from Miami cost just over $200 with a little planning.) The Sivananda sister retreat on Paradise Island is just a ferry ride across the bay from the port of Nassau. Nightly rates vary by season, type of room, and length of stay. Available accommodations include self-pitched tents, beachfront cabins, and private suites; a shared dormitory room goes for $83 in summer or $94 in winter. Day rates for the Yoga Vacation Program (not included with accommodation) are $18 from June to November and $32 from late November through May.
SHAMBHALA MOUNTAIN CENTER, RED FEATHER LAKES, COLORADO
Colorado boasts some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. Skiers or hikers who feel like adding yoga to the itinerary should consider the Shambhala Mountain Center for a weekend workshop on themes such as body awareness, mindful living, contemplative arts, and personal transformation. Workshop tuition is extra, but fees start at $190, a budget-friendly price compared with the $400 to $1,000-plus charged at other yoga centers. Nightly rates for a bed in a gender-segregated dorm start at $109 a person and include three meals.
YOGAVILLE SATCHIDANANDA ASHRAM, BUCKINGHAM, VIRGINIA
A craving for fresh mountain air leads many to the Yogaville Satchidananda Ashram, with 600-plus acres near the Blue Ridge Mountains. Indulge in three vegetarian meals a day and participate in group meditations offered three times daily and hatha yoga classes offered twice daily. There are tours of the ashram's Light of Truth Universal Shrine (LOTUS), satsangs, evening programs, and guest instructor classes (for additional tuition). Unlike other ashrams, Yogaville provides a cozy café and experienced mentors for guests seeking advice or someone to talk to. Nightly rates start at $50 for a tent, $75 for a shared room, and $115 for a private room with bath.
KRIPALU CENTER FOR YOGA AND HEALTH, STOCKBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS
Kripalu Center is one of the best-known names in the universe of yoga retreats and studios. With its vast array of workshops, classes, and activities, Kripalu mounts program themes for just about anyone, including Families and Kids, Fitness and Outdoors, Just for Women, and Science and Spirituality. Fees include lodging, daily yoga classes, and organic meals, as well as guided outdoor activities, amenities (including a sauna, fitness room, lakefront beach, and hiking trails), and the center's trademarked Yoga Dance classes. RR Retreat rates start at $169 a night for a shared dorm room during the week and $188 a night on the weekend. Kripalu has been known to run specials offering an additional night at 25 percent off.
RETREAT IN THE PINES, MINEOLA, TEXAS
This women-only retreat is the spot for a weekend detox. Retreat in the Pines offers programs at least twice a month that include yoga classes and/or workshops, such as the "Spring Detox and Yoga Retreat," which teaches stress management and healthy eating through four yoga classes and three workshops. Yogis are drawn to the retreat's fire circle, hammocks, and 30 acres of piney forest. Prices vary, with three-day, two-night packages starting at less than $400. All-inclusive workshop rates cover fresh meals, beverages, wine with dinner, accommodations, and a Retreat in the Pines shirt.
DISCOVERY YOGA CENTER, ST. AUGUSTINE, FLORIDA
Forget the Caribbean. Head to the Discovery Yoga Center in the old town of St. Augustine for a cheap and warm yoga retreat on the beach. Discovery Yoga is affiliated with Kripalu and offers a variety of daily yoga classes, from meditation to vinyasa flow to beginners' basic training. For a retreat from yoga, there are water activities on the beach and free bicycles guests can take to Tolomato River or Anastasia State Park for hiking and scenery, and the center is convenient to shops and restaurants, as well (meals are not included). Shared room rates start at $35 a night and private rooms with a bath start at $85 a night.
PLEASANT VALLEY SANCTUARY, NORTH SAN JUAN, CALIFORNIA
Get close to nature at Pleasant Valley Sanctuary, on a secluded path of the Sierra Nevada foothills in Northern California. The sanctuary offers kriya yoga classes and spiritual practices and serves daily meals made from home-grown vegetables and fruits. It maintains a large orchard and a library of spiritual books. Activity options stretch beyond yoga: Channel a spiritual side at the main temple and cave; venture to the nearby Yuba River to take in the views; or hike to Bridgeport State Park. Nightly rates begin at $50 for a provided tent, $110 for a private room for one person, and $160 for a private room for a couple. Rates include lodging, meals, and yoga classes.
THE YOGA LODGE, WHIDBEY ISLAND, GREENBANK, WASHINGTON
Residents of the Seattle area catch a ferry to Whidbey Island to visit the Yoga Lodge. The lodge sits on 10 acres at the end of a private drive where there's a variety of wildlife, a pond, and trails for exploring. There are daily classes for a fee, including mixed-level, gentle yoga, and chair yoga, with a specialization in therapeutic yoga practice. Weekend retreats and workshops are led by independent instructors; tuition for these programs includes meals. Rooms with double, single, and loft beds are available, with rates starting at $75 a night for a single bed with breakfast included ($65 without breakfast).
SHOSHONI YOGA ASHRAM, BOULDER, COLORADO
The Shoshoni Yoga Ashram is high in the Rocky Mountains, thousands of feet above Boulder. A group of yogis first started a restaurant and bakery in the area in 1975, founding the Ashram soon after. They offer yoga and meditation retreats, encouraging yogis to practice with the community and volunteer through selfless acts of service. Tents, huts, cabins, dorms, and cottages are available. During peak season rates start at $70 a person for a tent, $95 for a dorm, and $125 a person for a private cottage for four. Rates include three meals, two yoga classes, and two meditation sessions. Shoshoni, like many yoga ashrams, has a work-study program that lets yogis work six days a week in exchange for free accommodation and practice.