A growing number of people want to take control of their spiritual and physical health and wellbeing
IN A WORLD growing ever more hectic by the day, an increasing number of people are turning to the ancient practice of yoga to find balance and happiness in their lives.

This search for zen has lead to an upsurge in yoga retreats where tired souls can find sanctuary from a crazy world. Experts attribute the popularity of these resorts to people leaning towards a healthier lifestyle and taking charge of their spirituality.

Qutoe Anoushka Emson, a yoga instructor based in Cape Town, said yoga retreats began gaining popularity in South Africa a year ago, and it is easy to see why.

Yogis head to beautiful wine estates, beaches and mountains to revel in a weekend of relaxation and meditation, combined with healthy food and spa treatments, marrying the traditional getaway with a passion for fitness and wellness.

Joëlle Sleebo, a fitness trainer and yoga instructor, says yoga culture is growing across the world, with more yoga retreats being organised not just internationally, but locally too.

When asked about some of the popular types of yoga, Sleebo says suspension and aerial yoga, where one uses a hammock to invert and do yoga.

She says sculpt yoga, which includes cardiovascular exercises, is popular. As is acro yoga, where you work as a couple and do the acrobatic type of yoga poses, while supporting each other.

Yoga also creates a healthy weight and balanced metabolic system, while it helps the body with muscle stretching and toning.

Here is a list of some of the most beautiful and peaceful retreats across the country.

The Buddhist Retreat Centre

Where: KwaZulu-Natal

Surrounding by stunning views of valleys, hills and indigenous forests, this Buddhist Retreat is overlooking Chibini valley. The BRC facilitated the founding of Woza Moya, a social and welfare project which does outreach work with the local community.

Former President Nelson Mandela also awarded the centre National Heritage status for its environmentally friendly outlook.

Not just for practising Buddhists, the retreat offers a variety of programmes, courses and facilities with an emphasis on meditation and mindfulness.

Cost of experience: From R750.

Blissful Kids Parent and Child Retreat

Where: Cape Town

Experience: This place is an environment for families to spend quality time together. To relax, de-stress and connect using yoga and art, while immersing themselves in nature and nourishing the body and soul with wholesome foods.

This retreat is an opportunity to pause, breathe and reconnect with the incredible potential that lies within.

Cost of experience: Adults R3850 and Children R3250 - vegetarian meals three times a day.

Emoyeni Retreat Centre

Emoyeni Retreat Centre in Magaliesberg.

Where: Magaliesberg

Highlights: Emoyeni - meaning place of spirit in Zulu - is set high on the northern slopes of the Magaliesberg Mountains, 100km from Johannesburg.

They run formal weekend retreats with a set programme and a teacher every second weekend with “open weekends” in between, and they run two annual yoga retreats a year.

On these retreats you will work with movement and breathing, presence or mindfulness and meditation.

All meals are vegetarian, there are no TV, games or swimming pool - the lack of distractions is meant to encourage a spirit of introspection.

Cost of experience: From R1650.

Satori Farm Eco Retreat

Where: Natal Midlands

Highlights: Set high in the Natal midlands, Satori Farm is a beautiful place surrounded by mountains, with freshwater streams and a river.

Forging a connection with nature is one of the goals at Satori Farm.

The retreat offers yoga, reiki and Pilates classes, plus meditation and massage.

There are art and drumming workshops, and plenty of down-to-earth activities such as helping to prepare meals and bake bread.

Cost of experience: On request

Little Samadhi Karoo Retreat

Where: Little Karoo

Highlights: Little Samadhi is a small, positioned yoga retreat and B&B, located on a mountain overlooking the small village of Barrydale, on the Route 62, in the Little Karoo, Western Cape, South Africa.

The Sanskrit word “Samadhi” is the mind’s ultimate state of being: bliss or enlightenment. In “Samadhi” the mind becomes still. With a choice of yoga, meditation and walking a labyrinth, your mind is bound to become quiet and you can then reconnect with your own true essence - the part of yourself that is forever joyful and blissful. Meals are vegan or vegetarian.

Cost of experience: R1800 per person per night.