According to Hindu mystic Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, ahimsa—a practice of nonviolence toward all living beings—is one of the five yamas for yogis. And what more effective expression of nonviolence is there than cutting the cruelty out of one’s daily meals and lifestyle by going vegan? For this reason, veganism and yoga are intrinsically intertwined, with many yoga devotees living a cruelty-free lifestyle, and many new vegans feeling drawn to the calming, centering, physical practice of yoga. By offering the chance to center and restore ourselves without the distraction of knowing we need to make dinner when we get home, a yoga retreat can help recalibrate our morals and our sense of serenity. And although anywhere is a good place to find nirvana, we’ve found seven vegan-friendly yoga retreats around the globe that’ll have you saying “ohhhmmmm” … and “please pass the kale.”
1. French countryside
Situated in an old rustic farmhouse in the French countryside surrounded by gardens and orchards, the eight-day, all-vegan yoga and pilates retreat in Malleret Boussac features daily yoga and pilates classes taught by Helen Saunders (who danced with The Royal Ballet) and ex-modern dancer Eric Butler. Saunders’ classes are technical but offer a lot of flow, while Butler’s very physical classes focus on both alignment and technique. The organizers invite participants to join them in the kitchen to learn how to prepare the vegan meals (created largely with local produce) served during their stay, or guests can relax in the outside dining area and simply enjoy eating the delectable plant-based dishes. A free day to indulge in local activities offers the option to go canoeing, try basket weaving, or take a trip to the lake.
2. United States Berkshires
Located in the beautiful Berkshires of Massachusetts, Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health has a long history as a retreat for those looking to breathe deeply and take a break from their busy lives. “Kripalu Yoga” is a form of the better-known Hatha Yoga, and classes are held for all levels. You can also sign up for the center’s “R&R” retreat to sample a variety of classes on topics including chakras and meditation, while being able to participate in yoga multiple times a day. Kripalu has earned a reputation for serving some of the finest vegan fare around, and you might find yourself eagerly awaiting the three meals each day. Though not exclusively vegan, both the regular buffet (with more sophisticated dishes) and more basic Buddha Bar (all-vegan, minimally processed foods such as steamed vegetables and brown rice) offer a variety of delicious plant-based options.
3. Costa Rican Blue Zone
Located in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, Hacienda Del Sol is situated in one of the planet’s five “Blue Zones”—geographical areas with the highest concentration of centenarians (people living past 100). Is it something in the water? No one knows, but what we do know is that something about the area supports living a longer life. The retreat is miles away from the more tourist-driven areas, offering a beautiful, relaxing, and healthy escape. Hacienda Del Sol’s seven-night Raw Food and Yoga Retreat offers mostly vegan food, including fresh juices and fruit, coconuts, yoga classes, a jungle hike, a sunset boat tour, and daily beach shuttles.
4. South African mountains
For a completely different experience, try the simpler, pared down Emoyeni Retreat Centre. Located in the Magaliesberg mountains in South Africa and with a focus on Buddhist traditions, the center’s Sacred Spiral Yoga retreat incorporates body and breath work, Tibetan overtone chanting, mantra, and other practices that deepen one’s meditation and spiritual journey. The retreat’s vegetarian meals can easily be made vegan upon request. In line with Emoyenit’s simple philosophy, breakfast is generally cereal or porridge with fruit and toast, followed by a more substantial lunch, and a basic dinner often consisting of soup and bread. Retreat fees cover only the basic costs at Emoyeni. The teachings are offered free of charge, while those who receive them can give Dana (a Buddhist tradition of generosity) in return. Those of us who are tired of talking and texting all day might appreciate the Noble Silence—held daily from evening until after breakfast—during which all participants refrain from speaking.
5. India by the sea
Yoga originated in ancient India, so what better way to connect with one’s inner yogi than to join a retreat in Goa, India? Sarvaguna Yoga’s all-vegan seven-day getaway includes mantra chanting, guided meditations, chakra workshops, and (of course) asanas (“poses”). Guests can practice among the experienced yogis of India, even at beginner levels, at Sarvaguna’s own academy on Agonda Beach. The retreat offers Kriya yoga (with an emphasis on spirituality) and Nidra yoga, which takes practitioners to a deeper and relaxed state of mind. The meals served are all-organic and entirely plant-based.
6. Alaskan views
Alaska is a wonderful place to reconnect with our commitment to do no harm to animals, as compassionate vegans and as yogis practicing ahimsa. Julie Hovsepian (a curator of healing retreats) and Cheryl Moss (founder of Goda Yoga in California) host the annual Soaring Spirit Yoga Retreat in Juneau, Alaska for five nights in neighboring properties that overlook the gorgeous water and mountains. Meals are mostly vegan, so those living a cruelty-free lifestyle have plenty from which to choose. Dishes offered include vegan cinnamon French toast (with fresh local berry compote), gluten-free pasta with red sauce, and crispy Brussels sprouts with toasted seeds and nuts. Yoga classes (primarily Vinyasa flow and restorative) are offered twice daily, along with once-a-day meditations, and frequent hikes, all while surrounded by the great bears, arctic foxes, reindeer, and whales who call Alaska home.
7. Mexico with VegNews
For the ultimate intermingling of yoga and veganism, join VegNews for an all-vegan yoga retreat in Mexico. The annual VegNews adventure offers eight days of paradise as you soak in the Mexican sun, enjoy the beautiful surroundings, indulge in plant-based organic food, and reconnect in twice-daily yoga classes. In addition to nourishing yourself with healthy vegan food and moving your body, you’ll be in the company of like-minded people who also follow a vegan path, and love VegNews as much as you do. Does it get any better?
Maya Gottfried is the author of Vegan Love: Dating and Partnering for the Cruelty-Free Gal and Our Farm: By the Animals of Farm Sanctuary.