My first impression was that my chic boho yoga tights would not be required and, instead, I would be pining for my sherman’s pants and tie-dyed head bands. However, I soon learnt that yoga in New Zealand is a remarkable combination of traditional attitudes and a range of evolving yoga practices.
My odyssey in New Zealand took me physically and spiritually on a trip of philosophical discovery, while simultaneously entertaining my inner cravings for new and dynamic yogic options. I had arrived in Auckland frazzled from the ight and in need of some immediate quiet space so I could ground myself and begin my adventure. Upon first sight, the landscape of the north island appeared similar to Australia, but I soon noticed the raw beauty in my surroundings. I was travelling on a budget and had only a few weeks for my jaunt, so based myself mostly around Auckland.
With no time to lose, I headed straight to Mangawhai, just over an hour’s drive from the city, to stay with some new yogi friends I’d met back in Australia. On the way, I stopped at the Karma Choeling Buddhist Monastery, a peaceful retreat centre offering humble accommodation and perfect for anyone interested in furthering their meditation practice. The centre is also home to the southern hemisphere’s largest Buddha statue and has a palpably Southeast Asian ambience.
My new friends are part of The Gaya Tree, an organisation encompassing a number of smaller collaborations—from a kirtan group to organic food catering and health-inspired retreats. I spent my first days at The Gaya Tree Organic Farm where Gabrielle was my host. Gabrielle is also the violinist in the kirtan band and she makes delicious raw vegan goodies. She lives on the farm with her family and often others who also come to spend time on the property. She said The Gaya Tree Farm started as a family project “with the goal of working together to share and make life easy”.
I chatted with Gabrielle about yoga in New Zealand, and she said the country had nurtured its own unique yoga vibe. “When people think about yoga here, they think about having the experience and not just what they look like in their clothes. There are people like that, but they’re not the majority. Yogis are seen as real hippies.”
After a few days spent indulging in produce straight from the garden and exploring the beautiful beaches of Mangawhai, I moved on to Kawai Purapura (kawaipurapura.co.nz), a retreat centre in Auckland that hosts a variety of retreats, workshops, teacher trainings and yoga events. Kawai Purapura also offers accommodation for woofers (world wide opportunities on organic farms or willing workers on organic farms) and guests. Tucked away from the everyday hustle and bustle, the retreat centre has fairy gardens, rainforest tracks, and a swimming pool with a spectacular mountainous backdrop. The community is family-friendly and inclusive, offering daily yoga classes in one of the several inviting shalas. You can join in or explore your own practice in a private space.
Waiheke Island was my next stop. I jumped on the ferry from the city and 40 minutes later I was in a yogi’s paradise. As soon as I arrived, I felt a weight lift from my shoulders. Waiheke had a familiar, tropical feel. I was reminded instantly of family holidays … the smell of an ocean breeze combined with the scent of freshly cut spring grass took me back to my youth and a wave of nostalgia carried my worries away.
Melanie Burdett, local yoga teacher and co-owner of Simply B Yurts, picked me up and took me back to her property where I spent the next two days in a state of absolute bliss. Melanie told me that she and her husband strived for a simple life. They migrated to Waiheke, bought a block of land, and built three yurts and their family home. Two yurts provide accommodation for visitors and the third is a dedicated yoga space. Simply B’s philosophy is centred around providing a space for people to just be, explore stillness, their yoga practice, or whatever they need in that moment. I was travelling solo and felt like a princess in my modern yurt with its ocean views; however, the space would also be ideal for a romantic getaway. The many yoga teachers within the Waiheke Island community support one another, and there is one shared website that promotes all local yoga classes: Breathing Space Yoga (thebreathingspace.co.nz). Although there is no official yoga studio, a range of experienced yogis teach from either community halls or their homes.
Waiheke Island is a magical place for healing, resting and regenerating, and my time there was truly transformational.
Back in Auckland, I met up with local yoga teacher Jennifer Allen. Jennifer has been teaching for more than 13 years, has lived in Auckland for eight, and teaches at various studios as well as running her own teacher training, Jaya Yoga (jayayoga.co.nz). She said she has seen a shift in yoga during the time she has been in New Zealand. “When I first came to Auckland, all that was on offer was Bikram, Iyengar and Ashtanga. Over the years, the community has really expanded, and there are a lot more modern, urban styles emerging.”
Now there’s plenty of yoga studios to visit in Auckland. Raw Yoga is a cute space offering various yoga styles, from vinyasa to acro and aerial. Golden Yogi has classes in vinyasa flow, yin yoga, restorative yoga, kundalini yoga and meditation, pregnancy and mums and bubs yoga, kids and teen yoga. There’s a yoga clothes shop across the road and nearby Mimosa café serves incredible vegan and gluten-free goodies.
The Yoga Tree studio around the corner has recently been remodelled and, with its Balinese-style studio, is promoting yoga, wellness and spiritual insight. Studio Red is the latest inner-city space offering hot yoga in fashionable, spa-style surrounds.
Other studios loved by local yogis were Abundance, Urban Ashram, Yoga Academy, Yoga Sanctuary and Yoga Tech. Not far out of Auckland, the Mana Retreat Centre also came highly recommended.
Raglan is a two-hour drive south of Auckland and is reportedly New Zealand’s version of Byron Bay 20 years ago. This sleepy surfer town, surrounded by rolling hills, felt immediately soothing to the soul. I stayed at Solscape (solscape.co.nz), the place to be for travellers, yogis and surfers. There are daily yoga classes on offer as well as a conscious café with an impressive view of the sea. The accommodation options range from funky train carriage dorms to secluded tipis sleepily set inside the rainforest. The feeling was communal and laid-back with families, solo travellers and backpackers bustling about.
Further south, Lake Taopo is a stunning region surrounded by enchanted forests and volcanic mountains. For yoga in Wellington, my yogi friends recommend Urban Yoga, Yoga in Daily Life and The Yoga Lounge. Power Living have two studios in the city which offer their signature classes as well as community spaces for yogis to chill out.
My pilgrimage to the heart of yoga in this enchanting region of New Zealand unveiled a yogic scene radiating charm, authenticity and warmth, making it an essential trip for any travelling yogi. While New Zealand doesn’t yet boast an abundance of urban studios and trendy styles that exist in other parts of the Western world, there is a tangible quality of giving back. Many yogis I met appreciated the importance of taking their practice off the mat, with the aim of contributing to bringing yoga and its philosophies to all people.