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Yoga retreats are not for the idle practitioner. They're designed to deepen the spiritual aspect of your practice, expose you to new techniques and styles and, in some cases, improve your nutritional profile. The idea of a yoga retreat is important to those of us who are serious about our practice, as it offers a rare opportunity to retreat into ourselves and block out the mundane concerns of our lives. To that end, many retreat centers do not permit guests to use the Internet, telephones, or otherwise communicate regularly with the outside world. At some retreats, you must relinquish your keys, cell phone, etc., until it is time to leave.

For starters, you can check out resources such as Yoga Site (www.yogasite.com), which offers visitors an online yoga resource that sells mats, clothing and books, but also includes information on meditation, yoga styles and retreat centers. Yoga Directory (www.yogadirectory.com) and Yoga Finder (www.yogafinder.com) have similar resources. We've listed some upcoming retreats that may be of interest if you've resolved to take your yoga practice to the next level but need some guidance to make it happen.

Public speaking guru and yoga teacher Charles MacInerney offers classes and teacher training in Austin, Texas and leads hatha yoga retreats (tel. 512/459-2267; www.yogateacher.com/text/retreats.html) which explore the relationship between yoga and meditation and yoga and writing. In the past, he has led trips to Mexico, Texas and Costa Rica with writer Patricia Lee Lewis. The February 17-24 "Yoga and Writing" trip, takes place in Lake Atitlan in Guatemala at the Villa Sumaya Retreat Center. According to the company's description, many of the participants are yoga students with little writing experience, and many are writers with little yoga experience. The fee is $1,650 and includes accommodations in a double occupancy room for seven nights, three gourmet vegetarian meals a day, daily yoga classes and daily writing workshops. You're on your own for airfare. Another yoga and writing retreat will take place March 17-24 at Los Naranjos Retreat Center in Yelapa, Mexico, and yet another in Chappell Hill, Texas on April 5-8.

Meditation is an integral part of yoga, although some styles emphasize it more than others. The Himalayan Institute (tel. 800/822-4547; www.himalayaninstitute.org) in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, offers ongoing meditation retreats payable per diem based on single accommodations only, which costs $85 for institute members and $95 for nonmembers and includes vegetarian meals and hatha yoga classes. According to Marge Watkins of the Institute, many people stay for two to three days, but a ten-day residential program is also available. Priced at $400 for members, $440 for nonmembers, the longer stay provides many paths toward personal improvement, whether this means hatha yoga classes and practicums, five hours of karma yoga per day, seminars or other activities such as studying and relaxation. This program is organized around a Friday arrival and a departure the following weekend. You are admitted through application only, and the Institute requires that you submit the application at least 30 days in advance. A $75 non-refundable deposit is required once they have accepted your application.

Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health (tel. 866/200-5203; www.kripalu.org) is located in the scenic Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts, and boasts special sessions with teachers such as Beryl Bender Birch and Baron Baptiste, and leading thinkers such as Dr. Deepak Chopra and writer Julia Cameron. Kripalu has extensive offerings, and is currently running a "get inspired special" where you can save $100 on tuition for a five-night stay through January 26 for the new Kripalu Healthy Living program. This program includes different retreats focused on integrative weight loss, fitness, or building your yoga practice, which include a curriculum of classes and workshops, one-on-one sessions, healing arts treatments, accommodations, meals and full use of the center's facilities. The "Build Your Yoga Practice," for example, is a five-night stay that starts on Sundays with January 7-12, February 11-16, March 25-30, April 22-27 sessions available. A five-night dormitory stay is priced at $790 per person, and prices climb based on the level of privacy and whether or not your bathroom is shared.

Shoshoni Yoga Retreat (tel. 303/642-0116; www.shoshoni.org) in Rollinsville Colorado, is a residential ashram and spiritual retreat center, about 35 minutes west of Boulder. You're lodged in cabins and daily classes include meditation, hatha yoga, pranayama and chanting. You can opt for weekend retreats which include three vegetarian meals daily, accommodations, two yoga classes and two meditation sessions, and use of the hot tub, sauna and nearby hiking trails. You can customize your treatments and options, with Ayurvedic consultation, cooking classes and others, or you can opt for longer stays. Rates vary depending on the season, but they're priced nightly, and a single private cabin goes for $170 per night, a double for $115, and dorm accommodations, $90. Right now, Shoshoni is offering an off-season discount, good for 15 percent off overnight accommodations for stays through May 1, 2007 for Monday through Thursday nights.

Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers (www.sivananda.org) are part of a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to teaching classical yoga. With locations in North and South America, Europe, the Middle East and India, the organization's facilities range from city centers, affiliated locations and ashrams, the latter of which are typically rural vacations with retreat, study and selfless service. Courses are taught by teachers with Sivananda yoga training, based on the philosophies of Swami Sivananda. The center itself was founded by his disciple Swami Vishnu-devananda and its practice emphasizes the five points of yoga and the four paths of yoga. In North America there are locations in Montreal, Toronto, California, New York and Chicago with different schedules and offerings for guests. In New York, the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Ranch (tel. 845/436-6492; www.sivananda.org/ranch) is located in Woodbourne, about 100 miles north of New York City in the Catskill Mountains. You can opt for weekend retreats or longer yoga vacations, but rates start at $55 per night for members ($65 for non-members) in a shared room for Sunday through Thursday stays, and start at $60 for members in a shared room for Friday and Saturday evenings; the weekly rate for a shared room is $350. Opt for something in a warmer environment, such as the Paradise Island, Nassau, Bahamas Ashram Yoga Retreat (tel. 800/441-2096; www.my-yoga.net). The yoga vacation there starts at 6 A.M. with meditation, chanting, an hour and a half of yoga, meals, workshops, and another yoga class later in the day, followed by dinner and meditation. Accommodation range from tent space at $55 to $89 for a single room and other options in between, including shared beachfront room with two twin beds for $84. There may be additional fees for activities depending on when you visit.

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