The 8 Best Destinations for Outdoor Yoga
Select new adventures for finding your “Namaste” in nature
No longer confined to the walls of a studio, yoga has made its way into many outdoor-adventure activities. People practice yoga on cliffs, in forests, on standup paddleboards (SUP), and in the snow (“snowga”). Devotees use yoga to get exercise, to feel grounded, and to bring a sense of peace and tranquility to their hectic lives—many of the same reasons people spend time in nature. Proponents say combining yoga and outdoor pursuits can deepen the benefits of each. “You breathe deeper outside,” says Margaret Burns Vap, founder of Big Sky Yoga Retreats in Montana. “It deepens the connection you are making between your movements, your breath, and the world that we live in.”
A growing number of tour providers, yoga studios, and college and university outdoor-adventure programs offer opportunities for people to practice yoga in awe-inspiring natural settings. One of yoga’s biggest advocates says that outdoor yoga combines elements of Thoreau with Eastern traditions, which deepens practitioners’ appreciation of nature. “We know that practicing yoga increases one’s ability to take a deep breath and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system,” says Andrew Tanner, chief ambassador for the Yoga Alliance, the world’s largest yoga association. “When you can actually relax, you can enjoy nature so much more.”
Here is a sampling of destinations where you can find your “Namaste” in nature.
Purna Yoga and Treks has been combining yoga and trekking for 14 years and leads several different yoga excursions, including one at Everest Base Camp. Guides take travelers to the scenic point of Kala Pattar, where they get panoramic views of Everest and the surrounding Himalayas. The trek also goes across a glacier, through rhododendron forests, and to Buddhist monasteries. “When we practice sun salutations in the morning, we really do bow to and honor the sun in gratitude for providing sustenance to all life,” said Manohar Shrestha, the company’s founder. “When we bring this contemplative, inward-focused energy to the trekking experience, we can invite more mindfulness and quiet appreciation for the beauty of nature and landscapes that surround us.”
On a private island, Silver Island Yoga is an off-the-grid eco-retreat that uses solar power and collected rainwater. Guests practice yoga outdoors next to the Aegean Sea, where they can use a platform at the top of the island for sunrise meditation. They can also explore the island’s 60 acres, which include small coves, ancient olive groves, cypress trees, and wildflowers.
Sausalito, California–based OnBoardSUP Yoga runs the OnBoardSUP Yoga Baja Retreat, where participants paddle from island to island in the Sea of Cortez, camping on beaches each night. Travelers can swim, snorkel, and practice yoga on standup paddleboards at the foot of the Sierra Giganta while colorful fish and turtles swim by. SUP yoga is about “opening up, relaxing, and letting go,” says Leigh Claxton, the company’s founder and a SUP yoga pioneer. On the islands at night, “there’s no ambient light—it’s pitch black, and you can see the stars and planets.”
In Tahoe, guests can practice outdoor yoga on terra firma or on the lake. Lake Tahoe Yoga teaches beach and SUP yoga classes, where attendees can feel the lake breeze while looking at mountains and trees in the background. The company also offers boat tours of the lake that include a stop at a secluded beach for yoga practice. For those looking for a yoga adventure in July, Wanderlust hosts a mindful-living festival in Squaw Valley, North Lake Tahoe, every year that brings together outdoor and SUP yoga, hiking, and other outdoor activities.
Big sky country beckons yogis to breathe deeply. Visitors can opt for a Glacier National Park Yoga and Hiking Retreat, run by Happy, Wild & Free Yoga Retreats, where hikers stop along the trail to practice yoga and meditate, or one of Big Sky Yoga Retreats’ women-only trips. Big Sky’s Yoga and Yellowstone retreat includes a visit to Yellowstone’s Mammoth Hot Spring and an opportunity to dip in the Boiling River. The company’s Yoga and Hiking retreat includes trekking to a 35-foot waterfall and through alpine meadows, where yogis might spot moose and bears.
People flock to Sedona, Arizona, to hike its red rocks or experience its energy vortexes, and several yoga tours incorporate both. Energy vortexes are spots where people believe the earth’s energy is heightened and can offer healing or inspiring effects. Each vortex is supposedly female (nurturing) or male (energizing). Sedona Red Rock Tours use yoga poses they say are attuned to the energy of each vortex, in a practice that is purifying and energizing.
Beach Sunset Yoga Hawaii’s offerings include sunset sessions on Honolulu’s Waikiki Beach and jungle waterfall yoga hikes. The jungle hikes are in areas away from the tourist hustle and bustle, where hikers can explore waterfalls, bamboo forests, ruins, and cliffs.
Kaf Adventures combines yoga with hiking, rock climbing, backpacking, and snowshoeing for day trips and multiday trips in the area, including a Mt. Rainier yoga and backpacking trip. Kaf Adventures’ yoga helps deepen mindfulness and awareness of the moment, as well as develop balance and coordination—necessary skills for rock climbing and other outdoor adventures.