You can’t scroll through the news these days without hitting on a story about substance abuse or other behavioral addictions. (And yes, smartphone addiction is a thing now.) The disorders keep moving closer to home and take on many forms, ranging from one person’s obvious alcoholism to another’s murkier online shopping habit. We’re a culture hooked on work, social media, prescription pills, Netflix, personal image, food—the list goes on. And, while the daily coverage and troubling stats are enough to send us into a panic, the good news is that more people are getting help and dealing with their unhealthy habits and disorders in the open.
For many—like the powerhouse yogis who host these six retreats—yoga stands at the heart of their recovery.
It makes sense. Most of what addiction represents, your practice counteracts. Dependency keeps you stuck between the autopilot action and the constant worry of what will happen without your drug of choice; yoga, on the other hand, cultivates mindfulness. With uppers or shopping sprees, you might be avoiding emotional pain; yoga encourages awareness and radical acceptance. Where alcohol separates you from your body, yoga helps you go deeper into yourself.
There are the science-backed physical benefits, too: Yoga lowers stress hormones in the body, which drugs and alcohol can send into overdrive. Meditation can ease the pain that led you to opioids in the first place. And, a regular practice can help you sleep better, without the need for wine or insomnia meds.
Recovery has to be fought on all fronts, with a steely mix that strengthens you physically, mentally, and emotionally. These yoga retreats combine yoga, inspiring settings, workshops, healthy food, and good old fashioned joy to help you deal with addiction. Of course, they are not a substitute for a proper rehab program. (In fact, most of these retreats require that anyone with substance abuse disorders be sober for at least a few months before attending.) But at any of these retreats, you can count on an experience that will further empower your recovery.
Mindfully Recovering Retreat in Quebec, Canada
Escape to this 55-acre wellness center in Quebec’s wooded Gatineau Hills to kickstart the year-long Mindfully Recovering program, aimed at breaking addictive cycles. Mental patterns (ranging from the triggers that compel someone to overspend to the work-stress cycle that leads another to pills) are some of the biggest obstacles on the road to recovery. That’s why Gaia Wellness takes a long-term approach to fight relapse. The retreat, which you can choose as a three or seven-day experience, introduces you to the team and the curriculum with daily yoga classes, art and nature activities, one-on-one talks with peers and counselors, and healthy eats. After the kickoff event, you’ll remain accountable to the group through social media chats and monthly physical and virtual meetups. Ongoing workshops cover all areas of emotional health (forgiving yourself and others, recognizing triggers, transforming negative self-talk, tapping into your inner truth), as well as tools to overcome other side effects of addiction, like debt and damaged relationships. As a certified yoga teacher, reiki therapist, and meditation coach; founder Billie Lynn Hillis can also perform energy healing sessions and set you up with a personalized yoga and meditation routine to continue back home.
When: November 30-December 2
From $695, gaiawellnessretreat.com
She Recovers R&R Retreat & New Year’s Eve Celebration in Stockbridge, Massachusetts
Trade in the champagne-fueled parties for some R&R in the Berkshires this holiday season. Online support group and female wellness brand She Recovers is partnering with the well-known Kripalu Center For Yoga & Health for its first New Year’s Eve retreat. Led by the mother-daughter team behind the brand, Dawn Nickel and Taryn Strong, this trip is a bootcamp in relearning how to put yourself first. The calendar is stocked with hikes, manifestation workshops, sound healing sessions, nutrition classes—and you’re free to choose to engage in as much or as little of it as you want. (We suggest you not miss the daily trauma-informed yoga class with Strong or the nightly sharing circles, though). “The evening circles are so powerful,” Strong says. “For a lot of women, it is the only opportunity they have had to talk about their recovery or what they are recovering from.” Though the retreats are sober, the group supports women recovering from any dependence issue—drugs, work, exercise, food, cigarettes, love. “We’re all recovering from something,” Strong notes. Don’t fret if you can’t make the NYE gathering, She Recovers leads a ton of retreats throughout the year, including beach escapes in Mexico and farm gatherings in Canada.
When: December 30-January 3
From $772, sherecovers.com
Ascend to Your Higher Self in Chiang Mai, Thailand
After fighting her way to sobriety, Carrie Hoffman launched sober-retreat company Bigger Life Adventures with partner Zach Minnick on the basis that life after addiction can be bigger than anything the intoxicated mind can fathom. On the Thailand trip, you and 12 other yogis get free-range of Suan Sati, a Chiang Mai permaculture compound outfitted with adobe huts and bamboo bungalows, an organic garden (don’t be surprised if the highlight of your trip is the garden-sourced, vegan Thai eats!), and a main house stocked with books and craft materials to peruse during free time. The schedule includes therapeutic experiences, such as the Ayurveda for Recovery workshop and reiki healing with Minnick, to aid with all forms of addiction. But, the agenda is light on the addiction rhetoric, so anyone who wants to deepen their practice and dive into Thai culture, sans booze, can attend. Day trips into town and the surrounding countryside allow you to explore temples, hike to a waterfall picnic, and meet elephants at a rescue center working against animal exploitation. Hoffman, who studied under Quantum Method® of Yoga founder Lara Baumann, bookends each day with a mix of meditation, Vinyasa, Yin-Yang, and Restorative sessions peppered with mantras to feed your willpower.
When: February 1-8, 2019
From $1,600, biggerlifeadventures.com
Yoga for Recovery in Nosara, Costa Rica
Knowledge is power and understanding addiction may be the best tool to get and stay clean. Set in a jungle five, minutes from one of the world’s best surf beaches, Nexus Institute combines the verdant landscape and fun activities of summer camp with a smart curriculum for its biannual Yoga for Recovery retreat and teacher training. Classes cover nitty-gritty topics like the neuroscience of addiction; psychological factors (trauma, “the drama triangle); specific breathwork and meditations; and sutras, such as self-inquiry and witness consciousness, that support recovery. “There is also have a big focus on the koshas.” says Nexus Institute co-founder and recovering addict Horace Usry. “We want participants to know what it is to be a witness to our own thoughts, feelings, and emotions.” The 75-hour course results in a Yoga for Addiction Recovery YA certification (perfect for any recovering yoga teacher who wants to pay it forward), but you don’t have to be a pro to participate. Nexus is known for its non-authoritarian approach that encourages participants to cultivate their own rhythm and learn from each other. “We teach participants to be in their bodies,” he adds. “Traditional recovery methodology is excellent, but so much of it is in the head—we want people to learn to listen to their bodies and notice how they feel when they put their bodies in certain shapes. It is difficult to be sad with our heads and hearts held high.” Pad your schedule with surf lessons at Playa Guiones, waterfall tours, or simply sitting around listening to the Howler Monkeys.
When: March 3-12, 2019
From $750, nexusyoga.com
The Yoga of 12-Step Recovery Retreat in Guatemala
Here’s a chance to go on vacation without having to skip meetings. Working with Satya Retreats, Nikki Myers—founder of the Yoga of 12-Step Recovery program—leads this tour through Guatemala, where you’ll start everyday with her trademark Y12SR class that combines a 30-minute sharing circle with a 60-minute meditative Hatha-like sequence. Sanctioned meetings are also on tap. Myers, who launched the program to blend the physical benefits of yoga with the psychological tools from traditional recovery programs, tracks down local AA and NA meetings for the group to attend. The trip itself is one for the books with a mix of city and rural adventures. First up is Antigua to soak up the colonial city’s art, architecture, and food. Then you’ll hightail it to the picturesque town of Santa Cruz on Lake Atitlan, a dramatic crater lake surrounded by cliff-side Mayan villages and volcano peaks. Adventurous types can kayak on the lake or trek to visit nearby native communities. But, trust that no one will judge if you opt to laze about in your Zen-inducing room at the eco-luxe Villa Sumaya.
When: May 17-24, 2019
From $2,309, satayaretreats.com
Break Free of Addictions in Windom, Texas
Let’s say you can’t shell out thousands of dollars for a spiritual journey in India. Well, Siddhayatan Tirth and Spiritual Retreat in East Texas gets you pretty darn close to the original thing. Living enlightened master Asharya Shree Yogeesh’s 200-acre ashram is recognized as the only tirth (pilgrimage site) in North America. The master’s own Purnam Yoga™ method, which blends intense breathwork and yoga postures to rid the body and mind of toxic stuff that feeds addiction, is the cornerstone of the center’s recovery retreat. Rooms and food are kept simple and light, and groups get capped at 10 people, allowing guides to tailor yoga and mantra classes for each guest’s specific addiction and needs. You can meet the master himself for a one-on-one and seek support from the monks and nuns who run the nonprofit center. Consider adding a water fast or a vow of silence to your retreat. if you want to embrace a more challenging cleanse, this legit spiritual hub is the place to do it.
When: Ongoing; at least one retreat hosted every month
From $450, siddhayatanretreat.org
About the Author
Stephanie Granada is a freelance writer and editor, who splits her time between Colorado, Miami, and NYC.