Stretching Your Dollars and Muscles on a Yoga Retreat

As we near the millennium, you no longer have to be an aging hippie or a New Ager to appreciate the relaxing, healthy and economical vacations offered by this country's ever-growing number of residential yoga centers and resorts.

Yoga weekends and weeklong retreats are popular today with a broad range of Americans, from bearded rabbis to high-powered businesswomen seeking a break from the stress of their lives. Following is a sampling of yoga centers:

* Master Yoga Academy, La Jolla. Just three blocks from a beautiful Pacific beach, Master Yoga places guests in comfortable hotels half a block away. The "Budget Yoga Vacation" includes unlimited yoga, a private yoga therapy session, discounts at nearby restaurants and use of the library and meditation room. Meals, at various eateries, cost up to $12 daily. The "Budget Yoga Vacation" runs $169 per person for three days, two nights. Telephone (800) LUV-YOGA or (619) 454-6978.

* The Expanding Light, Nevada City, Calif. Very popular with West Coast visitors, this is a project of the Ananda World Brotherhood Village, located 90 minutes from Sacramento. The setting is magnificent--780 acres of land 2,500 feet up in the foothills of the Sierra, with pine forests, flowers and nature trails. The cheapest way to get your feet wet is to go on a "personal retreat," selecting as little or as much as you want from twice-daily guided yoga postures and meditation classes, various excursions and holistic health techniques such as ayurveda, polarity and massage. Rates for personal retreats are $48 per day in your own tent or RV, $68 in a shared room, $91 in a private room. Tel. (800) 346-5350 or (530) 478-7518.

* Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, Lenox, Mass. America's largest year-round yoga facility and one of the most renowned, the Kripalu Center houses 300 guests at a time (about 15,000 per year). The beautiful 30-acre spread in the rolling Berkshire Mountains has forests, meadows, trails, gardens and a lake. Dorms with shared rooms start at $75 per person per day. Tel. (800) 741-7353; fax (413) 448-3384.

* Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat, Paradise Island, Bahamas. The best known of four pioneering centers founded by the late Swami Vishnu-devananda, Sivananda is set on a picturesque stretch of white sand beach right across the bay from Nassau. Exercise and meditation are required, but post-brunchtime is free for swimming or snorkeling, a boat ride into town, a massage or a holistic workshop. Lights are out by 10:30 p.m. A drawback: The small staff is sometimes overwhelmed when the usual number of guests--100 to 200--increases to nearly 300 during holiday periods. Dormitory rates are $55 nightly, semiprivate rooms go for $60 to $70 and singles run $85. Tent space costs $50. Tel. (242) 363-2902; fax (242) 363-1227.

* Sivananda Ashram Yoga Camp, Valmorin, Canada. The largest and most spectacular of the three other Sivananda camps is in the Laurentian Mountains north of Montreal. Here guests can add canoeing, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, rock climbing and rafting to their yoga fare. Beds in shared rooms with showers cost $45 daily and $285 weekly; tents are $30 daily and $170 weekly. Tel. (819) 322-3226;fax (819) 322-5876.

* Satchidananda Ashram, Yogaville, Va. A residential community founded in 1979, Satchidananda has 750 acres of secluded woodland way down upon the swami river in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Guests here tend to be an international bunch, up to 50 or 60 at a time. The "Welcome Weekend Program" offers a tour, hatha yoga classes for beginners, guided meditations, a talk on integral yoga and, frequently, an evening session with Swami Satchidananda. The food is excellent, and the digs are air-conditioned and modern. Dorms are $40 to $45 per person per day; private rooms with shared bath, $50 to $55 single, $80 to $90 double; private rooms with private bath, $60 to $65 single, $85 to $95 double; semiprivate doubles $80 to $90. Campers pay $25 to $45. Tel. (800) 858-9642.

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