Beyond The Mat: 7 Inspiring Yoga Retreats

Beyond The Mat: 7 Inspiring Yoga Retreats

While one of the most obvious (and immediate) benefits of yoga is stress relief, there’s no denying that it can sometimes be challenging to find your Zen in a cramped city or strip mall studio illuminated by battery-operated candles. With that said, it’s no surprise that consumers spend $27 billion dollars on yoga retreats each year. And, why not? According to a recent study published by the Society for Chaos Theory (seriously — check it out), it’s been proven that a change of scenery, and spending time outdoors, is shown to boost moods and improve mental well-being.

Now, you probably didn’t need a study to prove that taking a vacation has a positive effect on the spirit, but it sure does help to have a few legitimate statistics in the back of your mind every time you feel guilty about submitting a time-off request. So, to inspire you on your next journey to inner peace, here are seven amazing yoga retreats that are guaranteed to center even the most off-balanced yogi.

Atlantic Ocean Cliff: The W Retreat & Spa

Photo courtesy of The W Retreat & Spa on Vieques Island.

Photo courtesy of The W Retreat & Spa on Vieques Island.

Located just eight short miles off the coast of Puerto Rico, this stunning retreat on Vieques Island—listed as one of the best hotels in the world by Travel & Leisure—is easily accessible via a 20-minute flight from San Juan International Airport. The property recently launched a new three- or five-day program created by Tara Stiles, an American model-turned-yoga-instructor and founder of Strala Yoga in New York City. The ENERGIZE retreat includes twice-daily yoga sessions on Paradise Edge-cliff, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, at sunrise and sunset; nature escapes; made-to-order spa treatments; and cooking classes.

The W Retreat & Spa on Vieques Island, State Road 200 KM 3.2 (Vieques Island, Puerto Rico); 787-741-4100.

 

Manhattan Cruise: Spirit of New York Yoga on the Water Cruise

Spirit of New York
This specialty lunch cruise (starting at $51.90 per person) from Spirit of New York is perfect for those looking for a serious lunch break. The two-hour jaunt includes a 45-minute yoga class, taught by Rae Broderick from Strala yoga studio, complimentary yoga mats and gift bags (provided by Athleta); and a light lunch consisting of healthy fare such as a spinach and kale salad and roasted tilapia.

Spirit of New York at Chelsea Piers, 62 Chelsea Piers (New York, New York); 866-483-3866.

 

Mayan Jungle: Sandos Caracol Eco Experience Resort

Photo courtesy of Sandos Caracol.

Photo courtesy of Sandos Caracol.

This eco resort provides guests with the opportunity to fall off the grid without giving up any of life’s little luxuries. The complimentary yoga classes within the lush environs of the Mayan Jungle are among the laundry list of top-notch activities available at this all-inclusive paradise.

Sandos Caracol Eco Experience Resort, Carretera Puerto Juarez-Chetumal Km. 295 (Playa Del Carmen, Mexico); +52 984 873 4444.

 

Hawaiian Mountains and Ocean: Hilton Hawaiian Village

Photo courtesy of Hilton Hawaiian Village.

Photo courtesy of Hilton Hawaiian Village.

Boasting stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and Diamond Head Crater, Waikiki’s only beachfront resort features a multitude of outdoor yoga activities. Guests can try their hand at SUP (stand-up paddle board) yoga at the world-famous Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon, named after Hawaii’s legendary Ambassador of Aloha: surfer and Olympic swimming champion Duke Kahanamoku.

Hilton Hawaiian Village, 2005 Kalia Road (Honolulu, Hawaii); 808-949-4321.

 

Farmscape: Finger Lakes Cider House

Photo courtesy of Allison Usavage.

Photo courtesy of Allison Usavage.

Looking for a truly unique yoga experience? At the beginning of each season, FLCH hosts a single yoga session that incorporates a somatic exercise to connect participants with the unique seasonal rhythms of the farm, as well as their asana practice. The workshop is designed to explore the connection between the body-mind and the farm’s ecology.

Finger Lakes Cider House, 4017 Hickok Road (Interlaken, New York); 607-351-3313.

 

Miami Oceanfront: Acqualina Resort & Spa

Photo courtesy of Acqualina Resort & Spa.

Photo courtesy of Acqualina Resort & Spa.

This shiny Miami jewel has a yoga program to live up to the hotel’s five-star status. YOGiiZa’s team of seasoned yoginis and wellness gurus provide a wide array of personalized programs, including yoga sessions and health and wellness coaching, against the backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean.

Acqualina Resort & Spa, 17875 Collins Avenue (Sunny Isles Beach, Florida); 305-918-8000.

 

Marina Views: Montauk Yacht Club Resort & Marina

Photo courtesy of Montauk Yacht Club.

Photo courtesy of Montauk Yacht Club.

Along with a multitude of water sports, private yacht cruises and fishing excursions, this historic Hamptons hideaway offers beachside and on-water yoga with the breathtaking marina as the backdrop. Yoga mats, props and a complimentary Zico Coconut Water are provided to all participants.

Montauk Yacht Club Resort & Marina, 32 Star Island Road (Montauk, New York); 631-668-3100.

How Travel Inspired This Former Actress To Make A Major Career Change

How Travel Inspired This Former Actress To Make A Major Career Change

 

While you may have traveled to the same destination as your friends, family or social circle, it is our individual experiences that shape us, inspire us and leave an impression that cannot be replicated through someone else’s eyes. It’s an impact that lasts longer than any photograph or social media post every could.

For former actress Vikki Krinsky, who starred in shows such as Wild Card and Edgemont, travel meant change. Distraught with the pressures of staying thin in Hollywood, Krinksy booked a one-way ticket to Europe, where she ultimately shaped her newfound career as a successful private chef in Los Angeles for several well-known actors and Hollywood personalities. When you hear how she got her start (hint: a fated meeting on a train to Paris), you’re going to want to book your next vacation, stat.

Ahead, Krinsky shares her her career journey, go-to travel spots, and a recipe makeover (she’s a host on Recipe Rehab) for one of her favorite ethnic dishes from a previous vacation. How will your next trip inspire you?

Tell us a little bit about your time as an actress. How did the pressures to stay thin inspire you to make a career change?
“The truth is, I loved acting. I loved being a part of an ensemble and developing a character that wasn’t me. I loved expressing myself and creating something for girls around the world to relate to. The fan mail was like nothing I had ever experienced before. At a very young age I learned how people connect to actors, so I was grateful to have been given that powerful platform.”

“However, with my success came pressure. The pressure to look a certain way and maintain a certain weight started to affect the way I felt daily. It made me irritable and lowered my self-confidence. As a natural leader, I felt as though I was losing my footing and what mattered most.”

When did you decide to quit and make the decision to book a one-way ticket to Europe?
“I moved to Los Angeles when I was 19 while on hiatus from the second season of the Lifetime show Zoe Busiek’s Wild Card. I flew down to audition for a Disney gymnastics movie called Stick It. I tested for a couple of shows and didn’t land any roles. Basically, I was told to ‘lose five pounds and look into vaneers’ by several ‘important’ people such as agents, managers and producers. After hitting an all-time-low, I decided to take a break from acting. I was completely discouraged by my negative body image and the pressure to be thin. I thought it was a good time to explore, live the life of a backpacker and take off to Europe!”

“Alongside sweat pants and T-shirts, I brought my nutritional books, and off I went. Paris was first on my list. There I was on the train, second day in, coincidentally sitting next to a chef from a very upscale hotel restaurant. He noticed my book, and we started chatting. Next thing I know, I was in his kitchen learning how to make the famous Tarte Tatin.  I loved every minute of that experience. He was kind enough to connect me to chefs all over Europe—Amsterdam, Milan, Switzerland and London. After a little over five months of backpacking and lightly ‘staging’ in a few kitchens, I came back to Los Angeles with a new zest for food, health and cooking!”

So, you never formally went to culinary school?
“I didn’t! Happily self-taught.”

What were some of the most valuable techniques/lessons you learned during this period in your life?
“Outside of basic knife skills and chopping techniques, I learned it was extremely important to maintain a clean and tidy work area. This has been a huge lesson as a private chef. Working in celebrity homes, it’s crucial to clean as I go. Keeping everything neat and organized has helped secure my place as a reputable private chef. I also learned that ‘scraps’ should be saved for stock, sauces and dressings. Nothing goes to waste.”

When did the health-kick passion come into the mix?
“Playing competitive sports my whole life has driven me to be as fit and healthy as possible. However, it became a slight obsession after being told, several times, to lose weight. I didn’t like how I started to view food. It was unhealthy and made me unhappy. I knew at a young age I needed to turn this mentality around, and that’s when I started studying and researching nutrition and sports medicine. I recognized people wanted delicious fine-dining meals, and my passion became creating those with a nutritional twist.”

vikki

What are a couple of your most memorable dining experiences?
Blue Hill in Tarrytown, New York: “From the moment you enter the farm to the moment you leave you feel as though you’ve entered a magical dream! All of your senses are stimulated, and the primary focus on ‘farm-to-table’ is expressed throughout the entire experience.”

Lapérouse in Paris, France: “Incredibly elegant and romantic. This was the first restaurant I witnessed a decadent soufflé finished off with a pour of hot chocolate ganache — by an ever-so-handsome and professional waiter. I recognized here that service was just as important as the meal itself.”

If someone wanted to go on an epicurean/foodie vacation of their dreams, what places would you steer them to and why?
“Aside from the obvious — Italy, France and Spain — my top three places to travel solely for their food would be:

Chicago: “The Windy City has an amazing array of terrific street food and fine dining, providing a great balance.”
New York: “I eat everything while I’m there! From street pupusas to dirty-water-dogs (hot dogs) on the bustling corners of Manhattan. I leave my evenings free for anything from Barbuto or ABC Kitchen to fine dining restaurants like Le Bernardin or Eleven Madison Park.”
Israel: “Spectacular ingredients and extremely talented chefs. Israeli cuisine continues to adapt elements of various styles of cuisine. Mediterranean ingredients, as well as Sephardic and Ashkenazi styles of Jewish cooking, influence it, so it’s very flavorful and healthy.”

What tips can you offer for staying in shape while traveling, without having to give up experiencing all the amazing local cuisine?
“Keeping hydrated is incredibly important while traveling. Time change and imbalanced blood sugar levels can make you feel hungry when you’re actually dehydrated. It’s important to be sure to nibble on small amounts of high-protein, low-sugar snacks, like unsalted nuts or 85% or higher dark chocolate, every two to three hours. Also, taking advantage of active means of transportation—like riding a bicycle or walking as much as possible—is a great way to explore while burning a few extra calories.”

Recipe makeover challenge: One of the best ethnic dishes that you had on your travels.
“I had an incredible traditional tamale while in Mexico, so I decided to create a healthy ‘Krinskified’ version! Remember, portion control is your friend.”

MUFFIN TIN TAMALES
“There’s nothing like the flavors of a traditional, warm gooey, tamale, made with fresh ingredients, bursting with flavor, and all-ready to eat in a healthy portion-size cup!

vikki recipe

Serves: 4
Cook time: 40-minutes
Prep time: 15-minutes

CRUST:
4 teaspoons coconut oil
1 1/2 cups masa (Note: Masa or masa harina (or corn flour) is a very finely ground cornmeal.)
2 cups low-sodium, fat-free chicken stock
½ teaspoon baking powder (aluminum free)
pinch of salt and pepper

FILLING:
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 pound extra lean ground turkey
1 medium yellow onion, small dice (about 1 cup)
3 medium garlic cloves, fine chop
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 15 oz. can diced fire roasted tomatoes
½ cup low-sodium fat free chicken broth
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

TOPPING:
1/3 cup low fat mozzarella cheese
½ cup plain fat free Greek yogurt
¼ cup chopped cilantro

STEPS:

  • Heat the oven to 375 degrees with a rack in the middle.
  • Place coconut oil, masa, chicken stock, baking powder, salt and pepper in a medium bowl and mix well with a spatula until combined and soft. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside.
  • Heat the coconut oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the turkey, salt and pepper, and break the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Stir occasionally until browned and cooked through, about four minutes. Remove the turkey with a slotted spoon to a medium bowl and set aside.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens, about four-minutes.
    Add the vinegar and stir to combine, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle in the paprika, oregano, cumin, and cayenne, and stir until incorporated. Cook for about two-minutes.
  • Add the turkey, tomatoes, chicken broth, salt, and pepper to the pan—stir to combine. Cook for another three-minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens slightly, about five-to-seven-minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat. Taste, and add a touch more salt, pepper, and cayenne if you see fit!
  • Using the muffin tin base, spray four-inch foil cups really well with olive oil spray. Take about a teaspoon of masa and spread a thin layer evenly in the cups and up the sides, being careful it’s not too thick. Add two teaspoons of the turkey mixture to the middle of the muffin tin cup. Cover the entire pan with tinfoil and bake for 20-minutes.
  • Carefully remove the tamales from the oven and sprinkle with cheese. Place back in the oven uncovered for 10-minutes. Gently run a knife around the edges and carefully flip tin cups upside down. Top with a dollop of fat-free Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of fresh cilantro!

Nutritional information (per serving):
Calories: 390
Fat calories: 100
Total fat grams: 11
Sat fat grams: 7
Cholesterol mg: 65
Sodium mg: 970
Total carbohydrates g: 39
Fiber g: 4
Sugars g: 4
Protein g: 35

The Pros And Cons Of Renting A Vacation Home

The Pros And Cons Of Renting A Vacation Home

 

I rented my first vacation apartment eight years before Airbnb even existed, let alone became popular. It was in Paris and, even adjusted for inflation, it was a steal at just $109 a night. Between the ample size (larger than my first abode in Chicago); killer location (a stone’s throw away from Place des Vosges); and luxurious chateaux-like décor; I felt as though I had won the vacation home lottery.

My obsession continued through many of my future voyages, including several more trips to Paris exploring pads in different arrondissements; a seaside respite in Cinque Terre, Italy; a villa in the Amalfi Coast; and more. Don’t get me wrong. I love a palatial hotel just as much as the next person, right down to the serene spa; fancy bar; and breakfast in bed. But I also love to travel—a lot—so my love affair with this alternative boarding arrangement works for my bank account, while still catering to my love of interesting places.

So, because I often get asked questions about renting, I put together a list of pros, cons, and things to look out for. And remember, while my experience has been international, don’t rule out a rental for your next domestic voyage, too. After all, just think about the extra spending money you’ll have if you do.

paris apt

PROS
More bang for your buck: As mentioned, I’ve stayed in fancy apartments; an entire floor of a villa; and a seaside retreat, all for under $150 a night. Aside from the luxury of having a heck of a lot more space than a cramped hotel room at the same price, there’s also the option to save some cash by cooking a few meals on-site. Traveling with kids? Renting is a dream come true!

  • You can budget your trip: While Airbnb requires full payment upfront, many rental agencies only require a down payment at the time of booking, so it makes it easier to budget for an entire trip—especially after shucking out bucks for airfare.
  • Not cookie-cutter: An average hotel room couldn’t compare to some of the unique places that can be found via rental-by-owner. The one-of-a-kind nature of a rental property really makes the trip feel special.
  • Feel like a local: While this might be more of a pro for international travels, it is by far one of my most favorite points. Without all the noise of a hotel; a set of keys in your hand; and a refrigerator filled with goodies from the open-air market down the street; you can (temporarily) live out that fantasy of living in Paris, Rome, or wherever your wanderlust takes you. It also gives you a greater appreciation for the culture and surroundings as you’re more connected to it.

swiss

CONS

  • Check-in: There’s always a little anxiety between the time your plane lands and when you actually get to the apartment. For starters, most owners/managers want you to call to let them know you’re on the way. This can sometimes lead to a language barrier/confusion on the phone depending on your destination. Next, these places aren’t exactly lit-up with a neon sign. They can sometimes be difficult to find—even for a shuttle/cab driver. I try to combat this by looking at a Google map of the destination beforehand. This way, I’m familiar with any possible landmarks that I can use to navigate.
  • You’re on your own: Seven flights of stairs in a 17th century apartment building with no elevator? You’re on your own when it comes to schlepping your suitcases—no bellman here. I look at it as a way to burn off some extra vacation calories.
  • Security deposit: Most owners/agencies require a refundable cash security deposit, which can generally range from $50-$500. I’ve been able to negotiate leaving a signed check so that I don’t have to tie up my cash. It’s worth an ask.
  • Plan ahead for food: If you’re staying in a more remote destination, it’s best to hit the local grocery store or market the first day you arrive. Without the convenience of room service or an on-site restaurant, you’ll want to make sure you always have fresh water and some snacks on-hand. A tired, hungry traveler is not a happy one.
  • Not all handicapped accessible: Luckily, most rental websites clearly state whether or not a property is handicapped accessible. To save time on your search process, look for the filter so you can narrow down your options. Also factor in things like how easy it is to get to the property from the airport, etc. If it’s going to take a bus and two trains, it’s obviously not the best option—even if it does have an elevator.
  • Service fee: I’ve never paid a service fee, but there are some agencies that require one. Read the fine print before you even begin searching on your site if that extra cost is an issue.

THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR

  • Secure payment options: Anything that sounds shady probably is. Only book using secure online payment options like PayPal. Keep in mind that some of these renters want you to pay the remaining amount, after the initial deposit, in cash. If this is an issue, ask about charging the amount to a credit card instead. There might be a small fee, but it’s worth it for peace of mind.
  • Poor email correspondence: Sorry, but if someone isn’t writing me back or answering my questions, I don’t even want to think of what’s going to happen when my plane lands and I need to pick up keys. It’s the job of the owner or agency to respond to you in a prompt and clear manner, so don’t be afraid to ask questions about transportation or amenities, or for additional images if you’re having a problem making a final decision.
  • Reviews: Dig deep into those reviews. Read every single one and look for consistencies in pros and cons. Remember, though, reviews are subjective, so if someone was complaining that the television was too small and you have no plans to watch Law & Order reruns on your vacation, take the comment with a grain of salt.
  • Do your research: Most importantly, don’t drop a deposit on the first place that tickles your fancy. There are a lot of options out there, so do your homework. It takes time, but personally, I’ve always found it enjoyable. Make a Google document and start a running list of places you find, complete with a link to the property and all applicable costs. If you’re not sure where to start, choose a few neighborhoods or areas you’d like to stay in and go from there. And don’t be afraid to start a conversation with the owners. The answers to your questions will ultimately help you decide upon the vacation home of your dreams.

Have a question about renting that I didn’t cover here? Email me at Rebecca@welltraveledbeauty.com. Stay tuned for a post on some of my top rental agencies and websites.

Curious About Cuba? Here’s A Great Way To Experience It

Curious About Cuba? Here’s A Great Way To Experience It

 

Every since President Obama announced late last year that travel restrictions to Cuba were going to be lifted, adventure-seekers have been clamoring to visit this vibrant, tropical country so that they can add another pushpin to their map of travel conquests. However, almost one year later, it’s still not possible to travel to Cuba simply as an eager tourist ready to sip mojitos on the beach.

To visit this lost land, travelers have to prove they’re visiting Cuba for educational reasons or to help the Cuban people. That’s where tour companies like Group IST (International Specialty Travel) come in. The 34-year old travel provider specializes in content-rich, original, thematic, educational and interactive travel programs, so an excursion to Cuba fits like skirt steak in ropa vieja.

Group IST has been licensed to take Americans to Cuba since 2014 and is one of the few travel providers offering Americans small ship cruises today. It’s no surprise that GIST is adding more sailing dates to their People-to-People cruise of Cuba, totaling 19 cruises in the 2015-2016 season.

Havana View

The “Havana to Cienfuegos” cruise gives Americans a chance to have an enriching cultural experience while enjoying all the creature comforts—fine food, good accommodations, excellent personal service—of traveling by small ship. On shore, you’ll take part in activities ranging from people-to-people exchanges with local artisans, musicians, and conservationists; authentic lunches at area restaurants; and visits to a variety of landmarks, including the archaeological sites at Guanahacabibes National Park, the Spanish colonial city of Trinidad, and old Havana.

Panorama in Cuba

The cost of a cruise ranges from $4,899 to $5,999. This price includes mandatory Cuban medical insurance as well as all the necessary paperwork. Charter airfare is not included —so if you’re trolling the Internet for rates, CheapAir offers nonstop flights from Miami, Tampa, and New York. And as of this past July, JetBlue also offers nonstop service from JFK. For more information, visit the Group IST website.