Yoga Travel By Location

The Spiritual Center of Ojai, California

This popular tourist destination is surrounded by a half-dozen energy vortices. Here's everything you need to plan your visit.

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At specific points around the world, the earth churns with tangible, tingly energy at sites known as vortices, visited by those seeking connection, healing, or a good story to tell. This special series in your road map to six such hotspots in the Western United States—and what to do once you get there.

Homelands Of: Chumash

Each day as dusk falls, the setting sun alights the Ojai Valley with soft peach and ruby hues that bounce off the nearby Topatopa Mountains—a natural wonder so precious that locals call it “the pink moment.” This popular tourist destination is surrounded by a half-dozen vortices so powerful that they’re believed by some residents to have stopped wildfires from decimating the area in 2017 (though there were still significant losses).

Here, in a valley 14 miles inland from the Pacific and up in the hills between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, a community centered around holistic wellness has taken root, ushered along by age-old natural hot springs and several yoga, healing, and writing retreats, including spiritual education center the Krishnamurti Foundation. The famed Indian philosopher and mystic found enlightenment in Ojai in the 1920s, proclaiming (as his brother recalls) to be “God-intoxicated” in the valley where he would eventually base his institute.

For thousands of years before the fertile area became a favorite escape for artists, authors, and Hollywood elites alike, the Chumash harvested this land. Then, Ojai was called ’awha’y, or moon (and by some interpretations, “moon nest”), perhaps for the orientation of the valley, which runs east to west and cradles the path the sun and moon take across the sky.

While Indigenous mysticism remains a protected cultural secret (and, as such, can only be speculated about), many believe that the native Chumash people felt what today’s travelers experience when dropping into the verdant valley: an intensely pleasant vibrational hum, as though the majestic mountains whisper to their very bones—a subtle pull otherwise referred to as the magic of Ojai. The vortex.

New York Times best-selling author and area resident Deborah King attributes the phenomenon to a combination of the Topatopas’ magnetic force, Ojai’s location on ley lines (a geomagnetic grid theorized to produce energy channels), and its geological formations, considered auspicious by a branch of feng shui. The resulting energy is felt by many—Ojai has been romanticized as a real-life Eden, thanks in part to its depiction as Shangri-la in the film adaptation of James Hilton’s 1933 novel Lost Horizon—but studied by few.

Folks seem to be sufficiently satisfied that there’s something special about this place, a confidence that fills and invigorates you. Ojai is a spot to build, to warm yourself up as you prepare to bend deeper. Don’t search for the moments—simply enjoy them.

EXPLORE

Move stagnant energy and reinvigorate your mind-body connection at inspired movement studio Hamsa, where classes include ecstatic dance (with live sitar) and balanced yoga. Make a mental note to return to Spa Ojai for an energy alchemy session with Nicola Behrman, and instead stop at the Artist Cottage and Apothecary for walk-in activities such as mandala spirit stone painting, designed to incite meditation through art.

Development is restricted within city limits, though multiple bucolic sanctuaries have taken residence in its surrounds: At the 100-acre Krotona Institute of Theosophy, you can explore well-manicured grounds complete with a walkable labyrinth and many hillside ponds. Or take your outdoor moving meditation north of Ojai to the Valley View Preserve, where more than nine miles of diverse trails will suit whatever journey you’re up for. Atop Sulphur Mountain (10 miles to the southeast), find the 175-acre Meher Mount retreat, which honors spiritual leader Meher Baba, believed by his followers to be God (or Muhammad, Buddha, Krishna, Zoroaster, etc.) incarnate. The retreat was blessed in 1956 by its namesake, who, as the story goes, gifted the property an invisible fountain of spiritual energy for all who visit. Drink it in, along with 360-degree valley views—an ideal spot to catch the day’s pink moment.

STAY

Seeking solace? Try the Pepper Tree Retreat, an updated 1910 farmhouse among 10 acres of citrus orchards and verdant gardens. (Note: It’s completely vegetarian and alcohol-free). Or double down on luxury at the renowned Ojai Valley Inn, where activities include spiritual counseling and mind-body fitness classes. Perhaps you prefer the middle ground; if so, check in to the Capri Hotel, a stylishly curated midcentury marvel within walking distance of historic downtown and with excellent views of the Topatopas’ rugged silhouette.

Also visit:

Mount Shasta, California

Big Sur, California

Joshua Tree, California

Sedona, Arizona

Carefree, Arizona