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California: The Hippest Place for a Yoga Retreat (Even if Just for a Weekend)

by Alberto G. Güitrón

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California is one of the biggest melting pots in the world. Its diversity, nice weather and open-minded people created a fertile land for yoga to grow. And boy did it flourish! Nowadays, it’s arguably the best place for yoga in the Western Hemisphere.

From the Bay Area to San Diego, there are hundreds of yoga retreats in California with renowned teachers and incredible settings that make it a paradise for yogis. But there’s much more than its natural beauty and recognized instructors that make it such a special place for yoga travel.

Why is California the best place for yoga in the West?

California is the cradle of many social, cultural and political movements. From the Mexican Cession to the hippie subculture to the healthier diet trends, whether we’re aware of it or not, Californians have transformed the way we live.

The hippie movement, specifically, is one of the main reasons why several Indian gurus migrated to the US to introduce the “New World” to yoga. Indra Devi opened a studio in the late 1940s and, thanks to Hollywood’s influence, the boom of modern yoga occurred. She brought a modern version of Patanjali’s method that attracted many celebrities at the time. Greta Garbo, Gloria Swanson, Robert Ryan and, some even say Marilyn Monroe, were all her students or at least were influenced by Devi’s teachings.

Later on, B.K.S. Iyengar established a few studios in California; Yogi Bhajan brought Kundalini Yoga to this area; Pattabhi Jois spent some time teaching Ashtanga near San Diego; and even the polemic Bikram Choudhury founded his first studios here and Hot Yoga became a popular style all over the country.    

The bottom line is, California is absolutely responsible for the massive expansion of modern yoga in the 20th century. Which means that, due to the influence of these gurus, you won’t find a place with better instructors or as much style diversity. Anything you want to learn and anything you want out of your vacation, you’ll find great options from a short yoga holiday to a comprehensive yoga teacher training.

The Californian yoga lifestyle

juice and detox california

Being true to its long history with yoga, California has embraced a lifestyle that aligns with the philosophy of the practice. A healthy diet is a must for the majority of the people. There’s organic, vegetarian, paleo, keto, vegan, gluten-free, lactose-free, and many more. However, no dish is ever flavor-free; Californian cuisine is quite tasty.

Even though most people are rather dependent on their cars, they’re also environmentally-conscious. Not only will you see lots of hybrid and electric vehicles on the streets, but people do make an effort to recycle, reduce the use of plastic, try to ride a bike when possible and spend a lot of time outdoors. Indeed, being outdoorsy comes naturally to Californians. Of course, it’s hard to resist Yosemite, Redwood Park and all its abundant stunning beaches.

Wellness centers, yoga studios and spas are all plentiful in California. A meditation session is part of everyone’s daily routine, a lot of companies offer yoga classes to their employees, and there’s most certainly a place to drink green juice nearby. Californians take it seriously when it comes to healthy living!

A weekend retreat to fit the Californian’s busy schedule

short yoga break in california

The downside of the Californian lifestyle is the lack of time off due to the full schedule most people have. Thus, a long yoga retreat is normally not an option unless you save all your days off and use them at once. Indeed, most yoga vacations in California aren’t longer than 3-4 days, but that could be good enough.

A short yoga break allows you to temporarily leave all your problems behind, take a well-deserved period of respite, silence the noise of the city and explore one of the many natural treasures across the Golden State. There are weekend retreats in Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, Big Bear Lake, Sierra Nevada or whichever beach you prefer.

California adds more fun to your vacation

california yoga retreat couple

The combination of the Californian creativity with all the natural landscapes of the region makes it very enticing to add some activities to spice up any yoga holiday.

Surfing is the most common way in California to add more excitement to your vacation. Huntington Beach, Dana Point, San Clemente and Ventura Point are all great locations to ride your first few waves. You’ll be surprised how both practices can complement each other. Yoga increases your concentration on the board, while surfing gives you strength to hold up the toughest asanas. Like these, there are many more mutual benefits.

You could also do some hiking in the picturesque hills of California. Its breathtaking mountains are inviting to go breathe fresh air and maybe do a couple of yoga poses on top of the hills. Horse riding is another good option for those who like the outdoors, but don’t feel like walking too much.

Want to try a different yoga style? There are some retreats where you’ll do your yoga on a standup paddleboard. It could be that you don’t only want to improve your skills on the mat, but also in the kitchen; well, there are cooking and yoga retreats as well. Or maybe you want to join a writing retreat. California’s artistic influence and the mindfulness brought by yoga will help you put on paper that story you’ve had in your mind for a while.

Without further ado, here are some recommendations for a yoga retreat in California:


Weekend Warrior Retreat


  • Duration: 3 Days
  • Location: Santa Margarita, California

Located on California’s Central Coast, in a picturesque mountain paradise in San Luis Obispo wine country, this playful retreat offers the opportunity to unplug and reconnect with yourself and nature. Recharge your batteries, soak up some pristine natural countryside, practice yoga, and enjoy nourishing gourmet meals.

Kick-start the day with a morning guided hike on one of Sagrada's picturesque trails, followed by a yoga session in the spectacular studio with mountain views. A second yoga session is held in the evening.

The fun and engaging yoga classes are suitable for all levels and are a nurturing blend of Yin Yoga, Iyengar, and Ashtanga-influenced Vinyasa, gentle Hatha, and Pranayama.

There will be plenty of time to lounge in a hammock, relax in the garden, venture off for some wine tasting, bask in the hot tub, explore the quaint towns of Santa Margarita, San Luis Obispo, Templeton, Paso Robles, or the breathtaking local beaches. 

The package includes all daily meals, as well as one stargazing session in the scenic environment.

Note: This weekend yoga retreat is available on September 17 and November 19, 2021.


Getaway Yoga Retreat

yoga retreat in Santa Barbara California

Image credit: Santa Bárbara Yoga

  • Duration: 3 Days
  • Location: Santa Barbara

This yoga retreat takes place in a beautiful and historic building with twenty-foot ceilings and huge skylights that make the center feel very spacious and illuminated.

You’ll have daily yoga classes to deepen your practice with highly experienced teachers. You can also explore new types of yoga, since there’s a wide variety of styles available like Iyengar, Vinyasa, Kundalini, Yin, Therapeutic and Restorative.

There’s a full kitchen at your service for you to prepare your own food. Or if you prefer, you can go to Santa Barbara’s downtown, which is just a few blocks away from the yoga center and have a delicious meal in any of the fantastic restaurants there.

During your free time, you can enjoy a massage, sauna, acupuncture and several more wellness treatments, or just go to a nearby beach and relax.

Yoga and Detox Retreat

yoga retreat in Santa Ysabel

Image credit: Love is the Prize

  • Duration: 3 Days
  • Location: Santa Ysabel

Located in a beautiful piece of land between Santa Ysabel and the historic town of Julian, this yoga holiday is one of the most popular retreats offered in California. It includes daily yoga practice, spiritual group discussions, daily detox drinks and 2 nights of accommodation.

The detox beverages for breakfast, lunch and dinner are quite filling. However, if you feel that you’ll need a little extra, you can bring your own food and a full kitchen will be available for your usage.

The yoga styles during this retreat are Hatha, Restorative and Chakra. Other activities you can do are singing crystal bowl sound healing meditation, walking through the largest labyrinth in California, have a personal counseling session, or explore a native botanical garden.

California has it all!

No matter what you want out of your vacation, your level of practice, which diet you follow, or how much time you have available, you’ll find the yoga retreat that aligns with all that you’ve dreamed of; the California dream!

Don’t want to break the bank on a yoga vacation? Go on a budget yoga retreat in California!

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