written by Cathy Carroll
IN A DOME built into a hillside, a round skylight at its crown, Burdoin Mountain rising behind it and the Columbia River flowing in the foreground, the yoga session began. The poses unfolded easily for the participants, who’d spent the night steps away in a ring of cabins inspired by minimalist Japanese design, and the morning rotating between the sauna, the cold plunge pool, the warm saltwater soaking pool and the hot tub outside, gazing up at the Zen landscape—the Gorge veiled in mist.
Yoga at the subterranean Sanctuary at The Society Hotel in Bingen, as with other retreats, just isn’t the same as hitting the nearby studio after work. Done anywhere, yoga can calm the spirit while strengthening the body, but retreats can amplify the experience as well as the benefits.
This spring, yoga retreats throughout Washington offer varying themes, from hiking and uncovering your authentic self to healing through journaling and birding in the mountains. They will undoubtedly inspire you to not namaste at home.
Doing yoga for an hour or two is great, but something very profound happens when we retreat together for a weekend or week or longer. … People often feel tremendously rejuvenated and refreshed, and that gives us joy.
— Roy Holman, of Holman Health Connections
“Doing yoga for an hour or two is great, but something very profound happens when we retreat together for a weekend or week or longer,” said Roy Holman of Holman Health Connections in Everett. He has led more than seventy retreats around Washington and globally since 2003. “There seem to be more people wanting these type of retreats, not just a ‘vacation’ where you might return home more tired than when you left. People often feel tremendously rejuvenated and refreshed, and that gives us joy.”
For example, Holman’s yoga meditation retreat on Whidbey Island March 6-8 promises meditation walks and kirtan call-and-response chant-song, which help people connect with themselves and nature. It is set at Aldermarsh Retreat Center, amid hiking trails, hooting owls and singing frogs, yet only a ninety-minute drive from Seattle.
The retreat’s theme is being yourself, Holman said, exploring how we lose ourselves trying to be everything for everyone and seeking approval. Holman, author of Healing Self, Healing Earth: Awakening Presence, Power, and Passion, will focus on knowing and trusting yourself, and feeling the joy of being true to your heart and soul.
Yoga retreats offer ways to connect deeply with your true self, purpose, desires and others, he said. When done in a tranquil, natural setting, the practice prompts inner discovery via multiple days spent unplugged, in nature and nourishing yourself with organic food.
At Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort on the banks of Icicle Creek in the Cascades just outside Leavenworth, the retreat “Healing Art in Nature: Yoga, Birding and Nature Journaling” is set for April 17-19. Joanna Dunn leads a daily sunrise meditation on a knoll overlooking the Wenatchee River. “It gives one the feeling of being high on a mountain top, very far from civilization,” she said. “But, of course, a good cup of espresso is really just a short walk down the hill.”
She follows the sunrise meditation with yoga in one of the resort’s spacious, restored 1930s wooden buildings. Yoga emphasizes awareness of movement, and that is complemented by the heightened awareness that comes from birding and nature journaling on the 67-acre preserve, she said.
“People of all ages are very interested in meditation for stress relief, mental calm and clarity,” Dunn said. “People are very busy, even if they are retired, and a yoga retreat is a welcome respite from day-to-day obligations.”
Back at The Sanctuary in Bingen, Society Hotel co-owner Jonathan Cohen said that simply entering the circular yoga space underground opens people up to something new, while creating a feeling of privacy. “It’s that sense of being away from the rest of the world, from normal life and worries, that puts you in a different mentality,” he said.