4 Places to Try Yoga in Yunnan
The natural beauty and emerging luxury resorts in Yunnan make it an ideal destination for world-class yoga. Here, Ian Baker explores some of the best spots to find your center in China’s fabled lost paradise.
The ancient city of Dali was once the capital of the Bai and Nanzhao Kingdoms and is located along a majestic lake at the base of the forested Cangshan mountains. WenQi Lu, known to her friends as Jolie, (jolieadventure.com) offers yoga and tai chi at her lakeside studio as well as at the nearby Weiboshan, one of China’s most revered Daoist holy mountains. Lu also arranges a variety of custom tours which combine exploration of traditional Bai culture and spectacular hikes to hidden hot springs, teahouses and temples. When describing the experiences offered, she says, “mental clarity and physical wellbeing are just the beginning.”
Interlaced by ancient waterways and Ming Dynasty stone bridges, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lijiang is home to the Naxi ethnic group. The terminus of the once thriving Tea-Horse Trail between Tibet and China, Lijiang is also the site of several superlative yoga programs. Places to consider include Blue Papaya (lijiangbedandbreakfast.com) whose founder, Shanna Wu, teaches yoga, tai chi and traditional Chinese massage. The more rustic Snow Mountain Retreat Center (snowmountainretreat.org), located beneath the glittering snowfields of Yulong, offers training in Anusara, Kundalini and Ashtanga yoga.
The Tibetan town of Gyalthang in northern Yunnan was renamed Shangri-la in 2001 due to its approximation of a “heaven on earth.” The gateway to the Tibetan plateau, Shangri-la offers five-star luxury at Banyan Tree Ringha (banyantree.com/en/ringha) where guests can indulge in otherworldly spa treatments, daily yoga classes and horseback riding. Another sanctuary, closer to the Old Town and Yunnan’s largest Buddhist monastery, is Songtsam Shangri-la (songtsam.com); the five luxury boutique lodges offer meditation programs and tours of the mountains and valleys of southeastern Tibet.
Yunnan’s diverse mountain environments make it an ideal destination for adventures combining yoga with mountain trekking. Soma Journeys (somajourneys.com) offers five-to 15-day itineraries in areas including Tiger Leaping Gorge and the inner sanctum of Tibet’s sacred mountain Kawakarpo (also known as Meili Snow Mountain). These journeys amid plunging waterfalls and remote Buddhist monasteries will get you fit in body, mind and spirit and include sumptuous organic cuisine, cultural exploration and a range of rustic to luxurious accommodations at the best of Yunnan’s highend boutique hotels and eco-resorts.