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Newsweek Yoga In The Wild Feature

Peaceful Retreats

GET IN THE WILD offers yoga practitioners of all levels the chance to breathe new life into their poses.

As relaxing as yoga can be, it’s not uncommon for even the most zen-centered practitioners to need an escape from their regular routine. Between crowded studios and cramped apartments, those who practice yoga are often hard-pressed to find a spacious environment that truly yields the peaceful experience they seek. But thanks to yoga retreats such as the Yoga In The Wild program offered by Get In The Wild Adventures, yogis and yoginis from all across the globe can stretch out in serene surroundings like Goblin Valley State Park in Southern Utah.

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When he started Get In The Wild five years ago, owner and lead guide Christopher Hagedorn wanted his retreats to go “off the beaten path.” As a hiker and canyoneerer of Utah for the better part of two decades, he felt the task of choosing the perfect retreat locale to be a bit daunting initially. “But, then it became a simple answer,” Hagedorn says. “I pulled out my map and decided where I did not want to guide. I eliminated all the places that already had lots of people and other guide services.” Rather than leading visitors through already established areas such as Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park, Hagedorn decided on the region known as Robbers Roost. Located in southern Utah—the last area to be mapped in the contiguous United States—the land provides the unique, road-less-traveled setting Hagedorn seeks.

“Our yoga retreat camps are set about 1,500 feet above the canyon floor, “says Hagedorn. Teeming with crimson rocks, and vast desert sky, the destination is best known for its eponymous “goblins” which are eroded rocks of various sizes that resemble an army of goblins sprawled across the canyon. “It’s hard to put it in words—people are pretty much blown away by the location, “Hagedorn says.

In addition to the fresh air and unmatched landscapes that can be explored throughout the day, the night sky above Goblin Valley State Park is also illuminated in a way many visitors may not be used to. “It’s one of the best stargazing places in the country, “Hagedorn says, noting that the nearest metropolitan area is Salt Lake City, which is a three-and-a-half-hour drive away. “It’s kind of like a Grand Canyon type of environment if you were to take all the people away”.

The lack of human presence is in fact one of the signature features of Get In The Wild’s yoga retreats. “You really don’t see other human beings at all,” says Hagedorn. As part of the commercial permit process, Hagedorn and his crew must submit a pre-trip authorization prior to each retreat which ensures that they do not cross paths with another group in the area. “It’s all about protecting the solitude,” he says.

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While they may not be encountering people from other groups during their stay, those who partake in the Yoga In The Wild program can expect to find great diversity among their fellow retreaters. “We’ve had someone from China, someone from Canada, someone from India— all over the world,” Hagedorn says. He adds that many who join the retreats are first-timers, both to the area and to the practice of yoga. “They come just because they’ve never been to the canyon country and they want to see what it’s like, and doing yoga down here sounds really cool."

For some, though, the promise of new surroundings can fuel an escape driven more by emotion than the simple desire to practice yoga in an aesthetically pleasing place. “We had a person from Canada who was in the midst of breaking up from a long-term relationship," says Hagedorn. On another recent retreat, a woman from Switzerland had come just after the passing of her father. “She was looking at the experience as part of the healing process,” Hagedorn says.

Regardless of their reasons for attending, retreaters can expect an experience that goes beyond merely posing in a pretty place. The Yoga in the Wild program is the brainchild of retreat leader Melissa Phillips, founder and director of the Northwest Yoga Conference, who also brings her years of experience in wilderness leadership and natural history to the itinerary. A typical day consists of an early morning meditation followed by breakfast, a hike into Goblin Valley where retreaters practice yoga among the goblins and then a hike back to camp for dinner and a second yoga session in the evening.

The appeal of breaking from the daily grind to explore something new is easy to see, and Hagedorn recognizes this as the prime objective of his company’s Yoga In The Wild program. “More than anything, it’s just taking people out of the ordinary hustle and bustle of their daily lives and putting them in an atmosphere that’s so unique, “he says. And as a veteran explorer of the canyons of Southern Utah, he knows just how impactful the picturesque landscape can be. “It’s very much a transformative experience for our guests. I Think people go home with a feeling they would never have imagined heading into the retreat.”


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