Bluegrass fests, culinary and photography workshops, and now yoga retreats are taking it to the river. Rafting outfitter OARS’ newest guided whitewater trip serves up a healthy dose of women’s empowerment with six days of yoga and mindfulness on the wild and free Colorado River.
Tapping into that deep craving for connection and internal reset, a recent trip welcomed mornings with intention-setting sunrise yoga, establishing a positive, energetic tone with flowing riverside movement. The group of 14 women worked their way through the rugged heart of Canyonlands National Park, finding reprieve and alignment with nature, as well as new ways to move their bodies and minds.
The OARS Cataract Canyon Women’s Wellbeing Retreat debuted in 2021 as guests and yoga instructors hit the river with five whitewater guides. The all-female group embarked on a soul-shifting journey of canyon hiking, rafting, yoga, mindful meditations and gourmet, gluten-free dining — all on one of the most secluded stretches of whitewater in the country.
Disconnected from the realities of life and cloaked in the beauty of the Utah canyon backdrop, magic unfolded among the women ranging in age from 20-something to 63, with hometowns spanning Arizona to New York. Sunset yoga was a special time for self-reflection and healing, says guest Amanda Magleby.
“As a mental health professional, I feel like we got more out of this trip than I’ve seen people get in years of therapy,” Maglebyshares. “I learned a lot about myself in such a short time, and I have carried this zen feeling with me more than a month into being back with the real world.”
As the crew motored and rowed around the rock walls and spires of Canyonlands National Park, certified yoga instructors and licensed massage therapists Breann Davis and Samantha Studley shared a carefully curated lineup of yoga poses, Thai massage, acupressure, meditations and camaraderie.
The women remained in the present moment, supporting each other in mindful movement and restorative yin practices. Each day began with a gentle vinyasa before breakfast, followed by an exciting day on the water, side hikes and nourishing meals. Evenings saw gentle yoga by the river and meditation to absorb the day.
“I realized on the last day that we had not heard a single complaint for the entire week,” recalls retreat attendee Hadley Kornacki. “Sadly, that is so rare these days. The guides and yoga teachers cultivated an environment where everyone felt comfortable, heard, happy and secure, while still pushing comfort levels and boundaries.”
Nightly camps were constructed, and makeshift yoga studios appeared along river banks. Every aspect was thought out a year in advance, says yoga instructor Breann Davis, adding to the seamless flow. Davis began each day’s practice introducing a new chakra, working upward from the root chakra.
“You could tell there were a lot of introspective moments,” she says. “I saw women sitting down on paddle boards and rafts looking inward. It was beautiful.”
Meandering more than 90 miles through southern Utah’s ancient canyons, personal journeys naturally evolved, contributing to collective cup-filling river vibes. The results of this rustic and remote retreat — one where there are no distractions, no reception, nothing money can buy, nothing but red sky-reaching rock walls and a river that decides how fast or slow your day paces — left lasting imprints.
“I can’t say enough wonderful things about Breann, Sam and all of the other guides on the trip. They really made it so special: an unforgettable experience,” Magleby adds.
For those seeking a balanced blend of wilderness, whitewater, wellness and empowerment, this is your adventure. OARS is also offering yoga and meditation trips (not exclusively for women) on the Yampa River on May 14, 2022 and a new Stillwater & Cataract Canyon Hiker Trip on September 11, 2022.
OARS Cataract Canyon Women’s Wellbeing Retreat
Trip Dates: August 7–12, 2022
Book It: Whitewater yoga retreats sell out quickly. Visit HERE for full details.
Originally published in the Winter + Spring 2021-22 issue.