Spending 133 minutes watching “Eat Pray Love” isn’t really enough time for most people to find themselves. But a full year — which is how long author Elizabeth Gilbert spent in Italy, India and Indonesia for the journey that inspired the Julia Roberts flick — is more time than most people are ready to commit. So how about a weekend? Or a week? These yoga retreats offer a vacation-length sample of self-discovery.
3 DAYS: MONTANA
Instead of three countries, try three days. That’s how long it takes to “Eat Pray Love” with Montana’s Big Sky Yoga Retreats ($995). Founded by Margaret Burns Vap, who ran Georgetown Yoga until moving across the country with her family in 2007, the company offers a slew of short adventures that pair yoga with hiking, skiing and horseback riding.
One of her most popular programs is the annual weekend getaway that focuses on the themes of Gilbert’s book. “It’s not Bali or India,” Vap concedes, but the mountain scenery is still an inspiring backdrop for stretching and self-reflection. “I didn’t realize how many people have the fantasy of coming out West and meeting a cowboy,” she adds. (Even if participants don’t find romance, they’re likely to witness some love since it’s held during elk mating season.)
4 DAYS: VIRGINIA
Anyone in the D.C. area needing peace pronto can drive down to Yogaville, an ashram just south of Charlottesville, Va. “It’s deep in the woods, up in the mountains. It is completely separate from the community,” says Katherine Hambrice, a personal trainer and Pilates instructor at Cleveland Park’s City Fitness who visited for a “personal retreat” two years ago ($195-$430, depending on how many nights and what sort of accommodations).
Over the four days, she communed with nature and spoke to practically no one — thanks to the “silent table” in the dining hall. “I wanted to give my mind a chance to quiet down,” Hambrice says. But she ate (vegetarian cuisine), prayed (through meditation and yoga), loved (herself) and, as you probably guessed, went home happy.
11 DAYS: NEPAL
If you’re seeking a more international experience and have a few extra days, join Washingtonian Marni Kravitz’s Yoga Nepal ($2,588) retreat. Like Gilbert, she headed east to explore, and found herself engrossed in a spiritual culture that she now wants to share with others. So Kravitz is organizing a trip this October through Kathmandu filled with daily yoga practices, visits to sacred sites and meditation at a Buddhist monastery.
“In 11 days are you going to get enlightened? Maybe there’s someone out there who can be,” she says. “But taking yourself from everything you know gives you the tools to cultivate inner joy and contentment.” And a taste of this life can help you decide whether a quick break from the grind was all you were craving, or whether you’re ready to quit your job and spend your days in lotus pose.
Photo by Francois Duhamel