Stretch out

Pub date June 11, 2013

On the Om Front The days are getting longer. The college kids who live next door are throwing parties seven nights a week instead of the usual four. Your dog is asking to be walked so early in the morning that you’re not certain you’ve ever actually gone to sleep. It’s summertime! And it’s the perfect time to get out of town for a few days, and do what yogis (and defeated armies) do best: retreat.

Yoga and meditation retreats can take many forms. They can be active and playful (think Acro Yoga on the Yuba River) or tranquil and introspective (like a silent meditation retreat in Santa Cruz). The Bay Area is a prime launch pad for a whole range of extro- and introverted magical adventures that will stretch your body and your mind into dimensions you never knew existed.

Of course the hardest part about planning a retreat or festival getaway is actually planning it. So, here’s a little help for you. Now, all you need to do is whip out your smart phone or old-school paper calendar, flag the summer days on which you’ll say a temporary sayonara to the daily grind, and book it. See you on the flip side.



You’ve seen those brightly dressed yogis in Dolores Park on summer Sundays balancing on slack lines and doing crazy partner acrobatic tricks. Learn how to do what they do on this high-energy retreat in Nevada City, led by Jason and Chelsey Magness of the YogaSlackers. Retreat includes all-levels training in Acro Yoga and slacklining plus plenty of time on the river.

June 20-23, $400. Nevada City, CA.



This “Interdepen-dance” retreat, run by River Guidess, will blow your July 4th out of the water. It features yoga, ecstatic dance, seven miles of mellow rafting (all gear provided), deluxe camping accommodations, organic meals, and live music. The Stanislaus river is so otherworldly that you may start dreaming in an alien language. And the best part: no wetsuits required.

July 4-7, $395–$475, Oakdale, CA.



The towering mountains of Yosemite are just a hop, skip, and car ride away, but we city-dwellers rarely make it over there. Toss your yoga mat and some hiking shoes into your backseat, and head for the (really big) hills with Back to Earth’s annual Yosemite Yoga trip. Each day includes guided hiking to gorgeous spots, yoga classes, Thai Massage, delicious meals, campfires, and swimming in local creeks.

July 10-July 14, $675. Yosemite, CA.



This is pretty much the hottest local-ish yoga festival of the year. Featuring a panoply of talent, this Lake Tahoe event includes world-class yoga instructors (including several Bay Area teachers like Janet Stone and Pete Guinosso) and like-minded musical artists like Moby, Grammatik, DJ Drez, and The Shimmy Sisters. Oh, and jaw-dropping vistas of Lake Tahoe.

July 18-21, $125–$475. Squaw Valley, North Lake Tahoe, CA.



If you’re down for something mellower and more introspective, this Cazadero retreat with Danae Robinett offers yoga, delicious food, and deluxe accommodation amongst redwood trees and wandering wild turkeys. You’ll also get to experience Shake Your Asana, Robinett’s unique combo of yoga and rump-shaking.

July 25-28, $650. Cazadero, CA.



Looking to shift your perspective on life for more than just a weekend? Try this introductory silent meditation (and Qi Gong) retreat at the Insight Retreat Center in Santa Cruz. Silent retreats give us the opportunity to look at our thoughts and patterns so that we can start shifting them to better our lives. The insights gained on a silent retreat are well worth corking your pie hole for a few days. You may not even want to talk again when you return. Donation-based.

August 15 to 18, free ($100 refunded deposit). Santa Cruz, CA.



If relaxation is on your agenda (and not the kind that requires a cocktail), head to Tassajara, a Zen Buddhist retreat center in Carmel Valley. In this retreat, teachers Samantha Ostergaard and Do-On Robert Thomas will combine Restorative Yoga (an effortless, passive yoga practice) and Zen meditation techniques to create a feeling of calm in the body and mind.

August 22-25, $240, Carmel, CA.



Indian chanting or “kirtan” is a juicy part of yoga practice for lots of folks, and this festival is the ultimate event to get your kirtan on. Located in Joshua Tree (close to the state park, but not in it), the festival offers four days of music with bands performing on two different stages all day and night, as well as a mad plethora of yoga classes. Hot desert nights plus divine tunes equals a personal favorite of mine.

September 5-8, $200–$400 plus camping fee. Joshua Tree, CA.