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Yoga Getaways Growing in Popularity

Jane Fryer is a yoga instructor in Washington, D.C., who also leads yoga-based retreats and vacations. In the last two years, she has seen her mailing list triple.

The popularity of such vacations is increasing, people in the travel industry say, and the peak is yet to come. Publications such as Yoga Journal are brimming with advertisements for these getaways. The current issue includes ads for yoga vacations to Ireland, India, Mexico, France, Utah, Hawaii, the Berkshires and Florida.

Besides these organized tours, many spas have full-time yoga instructors on staff. And some spas hire well-known instructors to come in for special yoga workshops.

Women are more attracted than men to these vacations, said Victoria Nichols, founder of Yoga Holidays.

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Nichols, who also teaches yoga in Woodland Hills, has booked yoga vacations for people in their 20s as well as 80s, but her typical client is a woman 50 or older. “Their children have gone off to college,” Nichols said. “They work 60, 70 hours a week, and it’s time to take a break.”

They’re looking forward to reaping the documented health benefits of yoga, which can include relief of tension, stress and fatigue. But many are looking for something more, Nichols said. “They are wanting to connect with themselves in a way they never have before.”

Most who book the trips have practiced yoga, but some are novices. And many of the trips offer some other activities, so all is not lost for the novice who finds yoga less appealing than she had thought.

Fryer also offers meditation, Pilates mat classes and activities tailored to the location--for example, a yoga trip to Sedona, Ariz., will include hiking.

Nichols asks her clients beforehand how much yoga they want during their holiday. On one trip, participants were split on the timing they favored for daily yoga, so she scheduled two classes, one for the early risers, the other in midafternoon.

For a trip to Tuscany in June, Nichols will arrange for watercolor and cooking classes in addition to the daily yoga fix.

Hawaii is another popular yoga vacation destination. At her Mana Yoga Studio in Hanalei on the island of Kauai, yoga instructor Michaelle Edwards offers daily programs, one-week workshops and yoga vacations. She has booked Bob Smith, a well-known Seattle-based teacher, for her April 19 to 24 workshop.

Roberleigh Claigh Deal, a yoga instructor, runs Hawaiian Wellness Holiday with her husband, Grady Deal, a chiropractor. They combine yoga with hikes, walks to lava caves, massage, chiropractic treatments and vegetarian meals.

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The style of yoga that vacationers will experience depends, of course, on the instructor’s training. There are five methods or techniques in hatha yoga, the most commonly taught form. Yoga vacation beginners are advised to choose a program that they are familiar with.

There is no universal certifying standard in the U.S. for yoga teachers, according to Todd Jones, associate editor of the Yoga Journal. A prospective student should ask how long the instructor has been teaching yoga. “There tends to be correlation between longevity and expertise,” Jones said.

People considering a yoga vacation should also ask about the makeup of the group. Beginners might find it difficult to keep up if the trip includes mostly veteran yoga enthusiasts. Likewise, veterans might not be pleased to spend a week with beginners.

Jane Fryer, Inward Bound, telephone (800) 760-5099, goes to Sedona May 10 to 16; $1,995, air fare not included.

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Yoga Holidays, tel. (818) 710-9057, visits Tuscany June 21 to 30 for $1,350; air fare extra.

Mana Yoga Studio, Hanalei, Hawaii, tel. (808) 826-9230, has limited space in the April 19 to 24 workshop; the cost is $120 for the six daily sessions. An Oct. 4 to 10 vacation week with accommodations, meals, hiking and water sports is $1,250.

Hawaiian Wellness Holiday, tel. (800) 338-6977, charges $895 for a three-day package, $1,995 for one week. Air fare not included.

Healthy Traveler appears on the second and fourth Sunday of the month.

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