Yoga retreats are temporary breaks from the daily routine that typically last from the weekend to a week or more. The purpose of a retreat is to allow yogis to deepen their practice without the distractions of life. A yoga retreat is an amazing opportunity to meet others who are passionate about yoga.

Yoga and hiking retreat is a combination of yoga and physical activity outdoors. A retreat starts and ends on a certain date, which means that you will be with the same group of people every day. You go to the same classes, have meals together, and spend a day outdoors hiking together. This gives you the opportunity to actually get to know them and develop a friendship. Yoga and hiking retreat is not just another vacation, it is a powerful experience.

A yoga retreat will help you:

  • disconnect and reflect,
  • deepen your yoga practice and knowledge,
  • step outside of your comfort zone,
  • improve your health.

If you are a beginner or not so passionate about yoga, a yoga and hiking retreat will offer you the opportunity to start with regular practice and find out how yoga can help you find balance in your everyday life.

Why hiking and yoga?

"Going back to nature is going back to the origin of life, to the origins of ourselves." This is what the philosopher Henry David Thoreau said about connecting to your inner self. There is plenty of time for self-reflection during the long hours of walking. We will encounter quite some obstacles, being far away from home and out of our comfort zone. But we might also realize what truly matters to us in our lives and what the purpose of our lives may be.

The question "Who am I?" is the ultimate question in yoga philosophy. This is exactly why connecting with nature and practicing yoga simultaneously form a perfect combination. Both will help you learn about your true self. The yoga and hiking retreat is a simple way to reconnect with your inner self and understand yourself better.

Read more about our yoga and hiking retreats in Norway and Alaska.

Hiking versus walking the Camino de Santiago

Walking the Camino de Santiago has been and still is on a bucket list for many people. Yoga and hiking retreat is like walking the Camino but it is a softer version of the Camino way. You know where you are going to sleep every night and you always have wi-fi when you need it. You will also prepare your body for a long day outdoors with morning yoga sessions, stretch and relax your tired muscles every evening and eat healthy and nutritious food during the journey.

However, yoga and hiking will give you many of the Camino walk benefits. Additionally, spending days in the fresh air will prevent you from becoming infected with viruses and will strengthen your immune system.

Top 3 reasons why people walk the Camino de Santiago

Camino de Santiago, known in English as the way of St. James, is a network of pilgrims' ways or pilgrimages leading to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in Spain.

Spiritual reasons

Many pilgrims walk to connect and discover the deeper meaning of life, to spiritually connect with nature or themselves, or walk to find answers to deep questions.

Disconnect to reconnect

In a world of busyness with too many obligations and long workdays, many of us have become disconnected and disillusioned. We all say we would like to disconnect a bit but typical vacations are anything but answering e-mails at the pool and watching or reading the news after dinner, we seem never to have the opportunity to truly "get away from it all". At first, it may seem strange to not constantly think about what is going on in your country or not check your phone every 15 minutes but soon you find peace and silence in the journey. It takes a few days to adjust but the reward is clarity and a feeling of peace.

Exercise and well-being

The majority of people have little to no experience in walking long distances over many days. A popular saying is "your Camino begins when you sign up". You begin to research what shoes to bring, how to train and prepare your body, and what you should pack. Many people start training, to become healthier and more fit for the trip.

Hiking in Estonia -visiting mysterious bogs

Estonian bogs have gone through a large-scale transformation from being seen as a horrific place to becoming one of the most loved landscapes. Our bogs are the top-of-the-list attraction for every tourist willing to discover the Estonian countryside and wildlife.

What is bog?

The bog is the oldest organic landscape in Estonia, reaching in some cases up to 10 000 years of age. The first bogs started to emerge here right after the last ice age. As the 1km, the thick glacier ice sheet was melting towards the North pole, the meltwater as a leftover was collected in depressions previously created by the glacier ice.

Over the next thousands of years, plants grew and died within those shallow and oxygen-deprived meltwater lakes. As a result, the dead plant material didn’t become decomposed but rather created ever-lasting peat/turf and turned the water acidic. Every year, one layer of partially decomposed organic material is accumulated underneath the mossy surface of the bog and this effect has taken place since the very beginning!

In Estonian bogs, the pace at which the peat accumulates is roughly 1mm annually. In most Estonian bogs, the peat layer is 5-7 meters on average, which equals about 5000-7000 years of age. Over the course of thousands of years, this landscape goes through a series of transformations. At the very beginning, this peat accumulation landscape does not have a significant effect on plants – the peat layer is just too thin and flora is able to reach the nutrient-rich groundwater. After millennia or two, the peat layer becomes thicker and filters out more demanding plants. The visual of the landscape is about to change. Birch trees will give up and pines will slowly start to take over. This middle stage is called transitional mire.

Later the peat layer gets just so thick that only the toughest plants will survive. The third stage is called bog or raised bog. Here you can see a lot of bog pools or lakes inside this huge organic sponge. The landscape is entirely independent, meaning that the plants don’t have access to nutrient-rich groundwater and all they have is rainwater stored in the ground. Bogs can be seen as huge sponges that can store huge amounts of water. Mainly because the sphagnum moss, also known as the “bog builder plant” is able to absorb almost 20x its body mass. So in some ways, bogs are also giant water reservoirs.

Bog operates as a carbon sink and therefore mitigates the effects of climate change. And as we know today, it’s a perfect place for aesthetic experiences.

Bog as a place to restore yourself mentally and physically

Since the Estonian bogs were “rebranded” decades ago, their popularity has skyrocketed. The State Forestry Agency has built a lot of boardwalks and forest trails to provide easier access to all the people interested in enjoying the silence and minimalistic landscapes.

Suddenly, bogs have become the symbols of our country. 100 years ago it was unheard of to say, think or write anything pleasant about our swamps or bogs. Today, people still have some sort of unconscious “itch” inside them when they get off the trails and feel this spongy ground. But walking on boardwalks has become so popular, that on the weekends you could encounter more people in bog than in a shopping mall. So if interested in peace and silence, you have to choose your destinations carefully.

The best time to visit the bog in Estonia

As you may guess, every season has its pros and cons. Although I see some benefits in visiting bogs in particular time periods, I still think everything depends on your goals. Is it to see wildlife? To swim in a bog lake? To pick berries? To skate on the frozen lakes?

Spring (March-May) is probably the best period to encounter birds and animals. For example, male black grouses are having battles in the bogs at the sunrise. Of course, it’s something that needs preparation and setting up a hide to witness those rare moments. The cranes are arriving from Africa and many birds are stopping by to continue their journey to polar regions. Many plants, including mystical labrador tea, bloom in May-June. I love spring because at that time we don’t have mosquitoes here.

 I don’t suggest going to the bog on the hot summer days (nights are ok) – because of the dark ground, it gets really hot and there is nowhere to hide from the direct sunlight +  you potentially have to deal with horseflies. In the summer, the best time to go to the bog is right before sunset or sunrise. You will then have the least problems with insects + the view is magical. Especially when the sky is clear. and you can enjoy the water that feels especially warm when the air temperature starts to drop.

August-September-October is perfect! Starry skies, misty mornings. Berries – blueberries, lingonberries, bilberries, cranberries, and cloudberries. Mushrooms! Chanterelles! In the autumn, the mosses covering the ground turn into colorful “carpet” + you’ll see the yellow-red colored trees on the horizon. Perfect time for camping and staying overnight as well.

With winter it can go both ways – you either have snow in Estonia or you don’t. When you do, you can go skating on bog lakes, hike with snowshoes over the frozen lakes, make a fire, camp either in a hammock or in a glamping tent. Catch fish on the ice. Fullmoon hike on glowing white snow? No mosquitoes, no crowded camping sites. Silence!

Sunrise in Kõnnu Suursoo

Read more about our Estonian retreat here.

Will you be fully vaccinated soon? Or have you taken your COVID-19 vaccination and are looking to travel sometime in the near future?

As vaccines are being rolled out across the world, it brings the promise of a return to our pre-pandemic life, or, at the very least, something close to it.

That said, it’s important to keep in mind that while these shots do come with some protection against the virus, some regulations, such as lifting the mandated use of masks, may not be happening as soon as we’d hoped.

Should you choose to travel sometimes in the near future, it’s highly advisable to continue to take health & safety precautions, such as wearing a mask, washing your hands often, and maintaining the practice of physical distancing.

While it’s not mandatory, you should also consider getting tested 3 to 5 days after arrival and self-isolate for 7 days, even though you are fully vaccinated. We are still unsure as to how much protection the vaccines offer against the new variants of the virus (and the strains continue to emerge), so, it’s always better to be safe.

In short, being fully vaccinated does give you more ‘freedom’ and peace of mind when it comes to travel but it’s in you & your fellow travelers’ best interest to maintain precautions when traveling.

Not only is it crucial for us to ‘adhere’ to local rules but also to keep personal consideration and precaution for the sake of your and others’ health and safety.

Even if you are fully vaccinated, these days, the type of travel you choose to take matters more than ever.

Domestic travel has been returning slowly but steadily starting last summer. With the rollout of vaccines, countries that are likely to reach herd immunity faster, maybe a ‘safer’ choice for locals and non-locals alike.

Many travelers are now choosing destinations that are off-the-beaten paths, those that are away from condensed cities, and often, these places are immersed in nature.

A yoga retreat in nature is a great choice for any traveler. Some retreats are easy-going while others go above and beyond to offer a wealth of activities. But no matter where you choose to go, it is easy to combine other outdoor activities such as hiking, walking, cycling, or running with your yoga sessions.

To get to your travel destination, road trips are recommended as non-public transportation is safer than using public transportation. In fact, according to the CDC, fully vaccinated travelers who go on a road trip and are moderately careful at the destination, would have a relatively ‘safe trip’.   

Another way to lower risk is to choose to visit a country that is waiving restrictions for fully vaccinated travelers. At the time this article was written, only a handful of countries have gone this route, but, as summer approaches and the vaccine passports are likely to become a reality, more and more countries would consider this option to open for travel.

Lastly, should you choose to travel internationally, it’s better to focus on visiting one country, rather than opting for a multi-country itinerary. Now is the perfect time to focus on slowing down, taking longer to explore a country, immerse in its culture and traditions, and discover local gems.

It’s also important to keep in mind that while the entry requirements into a certain country might not include showing a negative test, the airline might require one to board the plane. Do your due diligence and check the requirements ahead of time so that you can plan accordingly.

Nothing supports our mind and soul to open up like a natural setting. The usual distractions are far away, and your attention and focus are directed towards what’s in front of you, quieting the mind and simplifying your thoughts.

Being in nature awakens your senses – touch, scent, sight – and you cannot help but become more aware of what’s around you and start to appreciate the little things you might usually take for granted.

The smell of morning dew and flowers, a simple bird song, a gentle breeze in your hair, touching the grass or sand, provide stimulation and make you more present. You become more in tune with yourself and the world around you.

On most retreats held in nature, you’ll have the opportunity to do some forest bathing. Also known as Shinrin-yoku, this is the practice of making contact with and taking in the forest atmosphere to receive mental and physical healing.

Read more about our yoga and hiking retreats in Norway, Alaska, and Estonia.

Estonia should be your next yoga retreat destination. Here's why

Estonia is a hidden gem packed with opportunities to try something new and have experiences you would not have in most other countries.

Estonia has a long history of different settlers from Vikings to the medieval merchants of German, Swedish, Danish and Russian descent. Today’s Estonia is an exciting mix of old and new. The capital Tallinn is the best preserved medieval city in Northern Europe and its Old Town is listed as a UNESCO cultural heritage sight. At the same time, it is a bubbling and innovative city filled with trendy cafes, restaurants, and shops. Driving out of the city for only an hour and you will find yourself in wild nature.

If you want to combine a relaxing yoga holiday in nature but also experience some of the rich cultural life in a historical setting – Estonia is the perfect holiday destination for you. Estonia is a very compact country so you can cover a lot in just a week.

A Yoga Retreat in Estonia will offer you:

  • A relaxing week staying in a spa in a small seaside village near the capital Tallinn. It is a perfect location for a getaway to recharge your batteries, enjoy massages, saunas or other wellness and beauty treatments, sunbathe and swim in the sandy beaches.
  • A chance to discover the spectacular nature of Estonia. The country is famous for its untouched wild nature and especially its beautiful bogs. You can have a once in a lifetime experience by visiting a bog on sunrise – the unique landscape with sun rays slowly emerging through the morning mist is something that you will never forget. At the end of the trail you can enjoy the view from a watchtower or take a refreshing dip in the lake.
  • An acquaintance with the culture and history of Tallinn. The retreat will take place near the capital Tallinn, so there will be several options to discover its rich cultural scene. Tallinn offers a versatile experience to anyone interested in architecture, history, design and handicrafts as well as to foodies who are looking for great culinary experiences.
  • New friends among like-minded people (solo travelers are welcome!), time for yourself to relax and rewind, lots of yoga and physical activity outdoors, healthy and tasty food. What else could you want from a holiday?

You will be accompanied by a local guide Pille, who was born and raised in Estonia. She will guide you through the yoga lessons, take you to the local’s favorite places that you won’t find in a travel guide and help you with everything you might need for a comfortable stay.

Read more about our Estonian yoga retreat by clicking here.

The life of a freelance yoga instructor, self-defense teacher, and adventure sports writer involves a lot of free time. I used to devote an embarrassing amount of that free time to trawling the Yoga Trade website. The secret to using the site well is to know when to daydream about an opportunity, when to seize it, and to love what you find. So when I saw a listing looking for yoga teachers to assist hiking retreats in Norway, I knew it was time to pounce. I just didn’t know that pouncing would change my life.

I’ve always wanted to visit Norway but it’s notoriously expensive and I’ve never had the money to go. I’ve lived above the 60th-degree latitude so I knew what I was getting into. I’ve worked as a hiking guide, I’m a natural history nerd, I have wilderness first responder training, I’ve been teaching and practicing yoga for over 30 years. I knew I was perfect for the job. I just had to convince the woman running the retreats that I was perfect for the job.

I was at a yoga retreat in Bali when I saw the listing, so I had limited internet access and no cell reception. I crafted a carefully worded letter of introduction, gathered my CV and a few yoga photos, and tried to send them off. The message didn’t appear to land, so I bombarded this poor woman at every portal I could access: YogaTrade, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and her personal email. I don’t know if she was impressed or annoyed, but she called me within a day. After a week of communication, I was able to convince her to stop looking at other applications and bring me to Molde for the month of August.

I neglected to research my remarkable hostess. Pille Mitt was born in Estonia when it was part of the USSR. She grew up under an authoritarian regime that denied the most basic freedoms I often take for granted- the ability to choose where I want to live, travel, and pursue an education or career. With the collapse of the Soviet Union Pille was able to offer exercise classes and eventually open her own gym. Online dating brought her to Molde, Norway, where she lost the guy but found a new home. A yoga teacher training in Rishikesh opened new windows, and now she teaches at both yoga studios in town and offers yoga and hiking retreats in various locations throughout the year. “I have to stop having such a good life!” she jokes. “Time flies when you’re having fun, so my life is passing too quickly!”

I also neglected to research the hikes. The first day we warmed up with a casual stroll out of town which led to the ascent of a nearby peak. Then we hiked a mountain overlooking the next day’s destination, with the option of climbing a nearby twin summit. One day saw us ascend steep muddy slopes to the Troll’s Church, a limestone cavern with a 40 ft waterfall inside. We traveled by ferry and car, climbed mountains, crawled through caves, jumped in alpine lakes and swam in the frigid Atlantic. Each day brought stunning vistas, the option to picnic and relax or hike as hard as we could. One day was a glorious road trip up a series of hairpin turns to a precariously perched restaurant and café. We dispersed like a flock of birds and came back together to meditate on a quiet ridge.

The first group was all female, and we bonded like the loving family I never had. Two Lebanese women and an Israeli woman broke bread together every day; they are not allowed to travel to each other’s homes and would probably never have met otherwise. We pushed each other to hike harder and relax more deeply, comforted and inspired each other, learned from shared stories of triumph and failure. I’ve led groups from southeast Alaska to Southeast Asia and never experienced one with more authentic love or less bitchy drama.

Over the following month my life fell into a simple rhythm: wake up, meditate, plan yoga classes, do yoga, eat breakfast, hike all day, teach yoga, eat dinner, fall asleep, wake up and do it again. Rainy days invited a road trip, a philosophy discussion, an extended yoga class, a shorter hike. After the first group left, Pille and I had two half days free. We scheduled an outdoor community yoga class, shopped for food and went for a hike. When you’re doing what you love, you never want a day off.

Pille and I cried when I boarded the bus for Oslo. We are both intense athletic tomboy powerhouses and were afraid we wouldn’t meet another kindred spirit until our paths crossed again. Fortunately that won’t be long. We plan to lead yoga and hiking retreats together in Alaska, Norway and California in 2020. Guests from last August have already signed up, eager to hang out with us again. We are considering offering yoga teacher training together in 2021. The only bummer is I don’t have time to daydream about opportunities offered on Yoga Trade anymore. I’m too busy living them! Love what you find!

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