Yoga Retreats in Sacred Lands

Traveling abroad teaches us how to let go and come home into ourselves.

Joan Hyman is a teacher and presenter at Wanderlust festivals and at the Wanderlust Hollywood Center

Join her on her next two international retreats, first in Goa, India and then to Bhutan. Start with a week of yoga and study in Goa March 20–27 and then travel with us to Bhutan for a spiritual journey through one of the most sacred places in the world. 

Travel has always been a passion of mine. The more far off and intrepid, the better. I find a deep sense of contentment when I am far away from the consumer world that we live in, surrounded by a simpler way of living. When I slow down, I find that I am able to grow in a deeper, more spiritual way, which enables me to find a more content place within. Instead of reaching out, I relax and allow life to unfold knowing that everything reveals itself in perfect time. Travel teaches us to surrender to the moment and that so much is outside of our control. This opens us up to a place within that reminds us that we are all in this together and helps us find the courage to stay open to the unknown and enjoy the ride.

In this busy world where our to-do list becomes more important than self-care and spending quality time with loved ones, we have a tendency to miss the deeper messages life presents. This often leads to feeling unsatisfied, creating a void within. We end up reaching outside of ourselves for things that we assume will fill that empty space and, ultimately, we disconnect.

When I am able to slow down and connect to my breath and to the present, I immediately gain clarity and a spiritual lesson is revealed. Everything we perceive is done so through our state of mind. If we are not present, it’s easy to develop a skewed perception. When we are brought to the present moment, beauty and truth are revealed. This is precisely where contentment lives and connection is formed.

Life is a step-by-step, fluid process. If we’re watching, we learn to stay present whether we’re experiencing good or bad. And either way, there is always opportunity for growth. If you can let go and find a way to embrace each moment as it comes, that spiritual lesson will be easier to accept. For me, this is the result of traveling to far off places.


Far-Flung Corners

My first visit to India was in 2006, during which I spent three months studying with Pattihbi Jois in Mysore. I remember being very anxious leading up to the trip. The thought of entering the unknown, the fear of witnessing poverty up close and stepping out of my comfort zone: All of it just made me nervous. In the beginning of the trip I faced a lot of resistance. As I began to let go of what I thought I needed and started to let my walls come down, however, I began to emerge as what felt like an entirely new person. Even the look in my eyes had changed. The way I sat in my body was more relaxed and, for the first time in my life, I actually felt grounded and at the same time wide open. I let India do its work on me and in the end, I surrendered and was brought back into my heart. From that moment, on, I was hooked. The travel bug had bitten and I vowed to keep returning for more.

Since that first adventure in India, I have made a point to visit Southeast Asia and the surrounding countries for annual visits. I have also traveled extensively throughout India, experiencing four more visits after that first trip. I found the courage to navigate buses and crazy rickshaws; I’ve visited the holy city of Varanasi where they burn the bodies of their deceased and celebrate both life and death. I have traveled through the desert, relaxed on the beaches of Goa, and experienced intense smells, overpowering crowds, and unbelievable sights. I have spent many days in Rishikesh and traveled up into the Himalayas staying in ashrams and meditating on the divine.

India is in my heart. The lessons I have gained through traveling around India have inspired me to bring groups of yogis there so they can experience the same opening I was fortunate enough to experience.


Teaching in the West, Learning in the East

I’ve taught yoga in the Western world for more than 20 years, and sometimes feel as if the message of yoga is sometimes diluted. I have watched many students get stuck on the external identification of the pose. Traveling abroad—and especially in India—has taught me to let the external go; that “God is within us” if we pause and look within. I am deeply driven to share this experience with others and I feel it does contribute to a better world and kinder people.

I have been eying Bhutan over the past year. Located at the eastern end of the Himalayas and bordered by China in the north and India to the south, east and west, Bhutan is truly a unique global destination. A traditional Buddhist culture, there has been a strict limit kept on the number of visitors entering the country each year. In 1972, Bhutan’s King coined the term Gross National Happiness. The intention was meant to represent his commitment to building a nation and economy that would serve Bhutan’s culture based on Buddhist spiritual values instead of Western material development. Bhutan has since been named one of the happiest nations in Asia.

I made it a goal of mine to host a retreat there and offer my students an opportunity to escape their busy-ness and be reminded of what happiness is. It’s interesting that we need to be reminded to be happy these days. I believe that true happiness lies within and getting back to the simple things can put us back in this space.

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Life is an adventure; being in the moment is a practice. Why travel internationally to these far off places? Because it helps you wake up to what life is about and brings you home to yourself. What better reason is there? The world is big and incredibly beautiful. Take the time to explore it and live each and every day wide-awake to the mystery of life.

Joan’s grounded teaching style creates space for students to deepen their personal journey while aligning with teachings of true yogic traditions. Joan frequently shares her insight on the subject of health and wellness in national magazines and blogs, including Elephant Journal, Mind Body & Green, Yoga Journal, ORIGIN Magazine and Women’s Health. She currently has a thriving career as a Wanderlust Senior Teacher (E-RYT500) and leads yoga retreats, workshops, and teacher trainings all over the world, while maintaining a full yoga class schedule in Los Angeles.