GOING WITH THE FLOW: CANOEING MEETS YOGA IN BACKWOODS MANITOBA THIS SUMMER

Three-day, Two-night Camping Packages
Include Organic Vegetarian Meals
July 25-27 and Aug. 22-24

Serenity-seekers can go with the flow — physically and spiritually — in southern Manitoba, Canada, this summer on leisurely, weekend wilderness expeditions that combine canoeing and yoga.

Northern Soul Wilderness Adventures says its three-day, two-night “Yoga Canoe Weekend” program is the exact opposite of white-knuckle rafting through raging rapids. It’s a gently paced experience designed to lower the pulse rate, not elevate it.

“The only thing that’s extreme is the relaxation,” says David Pancoe, founder of the Winnipeg, Manitoba-based travel company, which won a 2006 award for sustainable tourism.

The all-ages program, set in Whiteshell Provincial Park, mixes paddles and postures in a program of flat-water canoeing, lakeside camping (in lightweight tents), multiple daily yoga and meditation sessions in a mossy clearing amid fragrant jack pines, canoe instruction, and organic vegetarian meals prepared over a campfire, including pancakes made with fresh wild blueberries from the surrounding forest. Other treats include toasted bagels with apples and melted cheese.

Tours will operate July 25-27 and August 22-24.

According to Northern Soul, which launched the program five years ago, participants find that yoga and the rhythmic motions of peaceful paddling complement each other nicely. “Both are contemplative activities that have a rejuvenating effect,” Pancoe says.

The program encourages participation by first-time canoeists and campers, as well as those who have never taken a yoga class. A certified canoe guide and certified yoga instructor accompany the trip.

The weekend begins early Friday afternoon at the park’s Caddy Lake recreation area, about a 90-minute drive east of Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport in the provincial capital. Travelers paddle back to the same location Sunday afternoon.

Guests can travel in two-person canoes or larger voyageur-style canoes of the sort used by the French Canadian explorers and fur traders who first traversed the region in the early 1700s.

En route to the backwoods campsite, paddlers will navigate several of the park’s 200 glacier-dug natural lakes and float through long, cave-like rock tunnels where the sounds of chanted mantras will reverberate off granite walls.

At an improvised yoga studio a short hike from the campsite, instructor Alerry Lavitt of Winnipeg will teach classic hatha yoga postures and breathing, plus elements of Iyengar yoga, a form of hatha that uses pillows, blocks, blankets, and other props to attain correct body alignment.

“It’s not uncommon for a deer to walk through the yoga class,” Pancoe says.

The schedule allows free time for reading, hiking, and swimming in clear blue lakes beside warm sandy beaches.

At night, canoeists can set out to view reflections of the stars – and on rare occasions the Northern Lights – on the glass-smooth lake.

The 1,000 square-mile park near Manitoba’s eastern border encompasses three-billion-year-old Precambrian Shield bedrock, with car-size boulders and pink-gray granite bluffs, balsam fir and black spruce, eagles and herons, beavers and otters.

The “Yoga Canoe Weekend” costs $399 Canadian per person — about $397 at current exchange rates — plus tax, based on double occupancy in a two-person tent provided by the tour operator. An extra $10 Canadian ($9.95) buys accommodations in a private tent. The price includes all meals, which are prepared by Northern Soul staff.

Travelers need to bring their own sleeping bags, rain gear, and personal items, such as toiletries. The tour is alcohol-free.

The price doesn’t include transportation from home to Winnipeg or from Winnipeg to the provincial park. Guests will need to buy a three-day car permit from park authorities at a cost of $7 Canadian ($6.94).

For information and reservations, call Northern Soul Wilderness Adventures toll-free at 866-284-4072 or visit www.northernsoul.ca.

Other outdoor travel offers in Manitoba are described on Travel Manitoba’s website: www.travelmanitoba.com. Information is also available by calling Travel Manitoba toll-free at (800) 665-0040.