An Under-the-Radar Yoga Retreat — With a Stone Barns Chef — Just Opened in Ulster County
Set quietly on a 30,000-acre forest in Wawarsing, Yoga Vida Farms is a welcome respite from everyday stress in the Hudson Valley.
Photos provided by Yoga Vida Farms
Yoga Vida Farms, a new retreat center in Ulster County opened by founders of the popular Yoga Vida studios in New York City, is the epitome of relaxation and rejuvenation.
You sense the calm as you approach the destination. The five-mile route along quiet Lundy Road in Wawarsing begins on pavement, then becomes gravel, and eventually a dirt road. You're enveloped in the greenery of a 30,000-acre state forest, with birdsong and the rushing waters of the Vernooy Kill providing a soundtrack. As the road gets bumpier, you almost feel your cares fall away. By the time you turn through the iron gates that mark Yoga Vida Farms, you're ready to get recharged.
And that's the point, says founder Mike Patton. "This is where we want people to slow down, and appreciate their surroundings," Patton explains. He speaks from experience. A Princeton grad, Patton gave up a career in finance to follow his heart and start the Yoga Vida yoga studios 10 years ago.
The four studios — in the Union Square, NoHo, TriBeca, and Dumbo neighborhoods of NYC — are popular for their focus on yoga for everyone, from the dogmatic to the fitness guru to the average Joe.
Patton and chef Davis Lindsey — a Yale grad, former chef at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and brother of Patton's Princeton classmate Robert (director of philosophy for Yoga Vida) — had traveled to Vrindavan, India on a yoga retreat and were impressed by the ashram's self-supporting farm and simple way of life.
They wanted to provide a similar respite in the states; after a years-long search, they found the 62-acre bucolic property once owned by restaurateur Irving Lundy from the 1920s through the 1970s.
Friendly and unassuming, Patton clearly loves the property, with its original stone walls and bridges, ancient trees, and decades-old outbuildings. Rather than tear everything down and rebuild, Yoga Vida Farms honored those who came before through careful renovation of existing buildings. In the main building, guests will find seven bedrooms and seven beautiful bathrooms, along with communal spaces and a kitchen.
The guest house has five bedrooms and five and a half baths, as well as a large commercial kitchen and main dining area. Many rooms have more than one bed, allowing for a total of 20 guests at the farm at a time. A former barn houses the yoga studio, an exercise room, and the seed storage and vegetable-washing room.
Walking the property is soothing in itself. There's an expansive lawn, dotted with fragrant wild thyme. A spring-fed pond, shaded by more of those ancient trees, has a rope swing and is clear all the way to the bottom. You'll pass that pond on your way to the pastures and barn buildings, where 50 chickens cluck and scratch and lay eggs that are used in Yoga Vida's cuisine.
A curious stone structure draws your attention, if only for the water coming from it; the natural spring draws from an aquifer deep below ground, dating back to Irving Lundy's legacy.
Circling around a huge log building used as a dance hall in Lundy's heyday, you'll pass more fenced pastures and return through an allee of cedars. Don't miss Davis' tours of the two-acre greenhouse and four-acre self-sustaining organic farm; it's fascinating to learn how food for the retreats is nurtured from seed through harvest.
And boy, what a harvest. Chef Davis makes magic with the garden's bounty, offering three meals a day as part of the three-day retreats hosted by Yoga Vida Farms since it opened on May 24. The retreats also include lodging, a selection of activities such as yoga, and transportation to the farm from Yoga Vida's studios in NYC.
No matter whether you're a yogi or a foodie — or just want to chill out in exquisite natural surroundings — don't miss the opportunity to treat yourself at Yoga Vida Farms.