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Sometimes you just need to get away to recharge, relax and get inspired. Here are 3 wonderful places to go that are a few hour drive from the New York, Boston and Philadelphia areas. Note that Omega is not open in the winter.

Omega Institute

Located in upstate New York, this beautiful, camp-like setting offers a wide range of workshops for spiritual and personal growth and self improvement. Well-known names in Buddhism, intuition, meditation, yoga and other topics teach workshops lasting from a few days to a week. There are a variety of accommodations from tents to private rooms. During the winter, they move to Costa Rica and occasionally offer New York City events.

Kripalu

Kripalu is located in the Bershire Mountains within hundreds of acres of beautiful land. The main residential building was previously a monestary and has a sparse and institutional look. A new building with many private rooms was designed as an example of sustainable architecture, but also has an institutional feel. There is a wealth of courses for spiritual, personal and physical growth. Kripalu has a strong offering in physical activities like kayaking, yoga, biking, and hiking in addition to it’s wide variety of other other courses. It also has a strong program in nutritional counseling.

New Age Health Spa

Although the educational programs are not nearly as well developed as those as Omega or Kripalu, New Age is a different type of retreat. With a number of classes scheduled throughout the day from meditation to yoga to Nia dance, you can take in as little or as much activity as you like. The setting in the Catskills feels small, although it is surrounded by woods and opportunities for hiking. An exquisite building with a cathedral roof and giant windows where yoga and meditation are offered looks out on fields with deer and it is attached to a building with an indoor pool and hot tub with a large picture window and beautiful view. This is truly more of a retreat than a learning center. The word “spa” can be misleading as this is not a luxurious place but a simple spot with open or active time where a guest makes of it what she wants.

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Reiki is a spiritual healing practice. It is performed on a fully clothed person and has no harmful effects.

Thanks to Mehmet Oz, the cardiologist made famous by Oprah, Reiki is about to be introduced to a mainstream audience. Oz, whose wife is a Reiki practitioner, will be interviewing Pamela Miles in his show in January 2010. Miles is an author and has been a Reiki practitioner since 1986.

Pamela Miles describes Reiki as “applied mediation.” She has worked on patients during heart surgery and has helped patients suffering from HIV.

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Hatha Yoga Video - Revolving Lunge Pose
Image by myyogaonline via Flickr

In his blog today, Andrew Weil reflects on a study that indicated a connection between yoga and a lower BMI. Researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle found that yoga helped practitioners maintain a lower weight than a control group. Rather than this being a matter of calories, the study determined that it was mindful eating that made the difference.

I started practicing yoga about 2 1/2 years ago and my personal experience is in keeping with those findings. Before I started taking yoga classes, I was a couch potato. I was over 20 pounds heavier than I am today. My goal in taking yoga was simply to start to feel better physically. But what happened after a few sessions was that I started to . . . well, the only way I can explain it is to say that I started to feel my body. As a result of this new awareness, I was finally able to hunker down and do what was necessary to lose weight. It was easier to avoid foods that were unhealthy because it didn’t feel right to eat them.

I think that mindfulness was certainly part of it, but it was more than mindfulness of what I ate. It was also mindfulness of my body. And that awareness made it possible to maintain a healthier weight.

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