Yoga in the Arctic wilderness
Do you like the idea of getting in touch with yourself and with Svalbard’s magnificent nature simultaneously? Taking a timeout to be a hundred percent present and strengthen your body and mind with yoga exercises? Our yoga trip to Svalbard in 2024 could be just what you are looking for. Here is an interview with our yoga guru Isabel, who led the sessions on board M/S Quest last spring.
From the second Isabel Holmquist saw an acquaintance's photos from a photo trip to Svalbard, she dreamed of experiencing the Norwegian archipelago. There were pictures of a small red fishing cabin by the water in an otherwise completely deserted landscape, of spectacular ice formations, snow-capped mountains, and clear blue fjords. It would take more than 20 years for Isabel to make her dream a reality, but at the end of May 2022, the trip finally happened. Isabel came along as a yoga instructor on one of M/S Quest's spring trips to Svalbard.
Isabel has been a yoga teacher for 15 years. She attended Gothenburg School of Economics and the plan was initially to follow the common career path, but when she had her first child, she chose to jump off the hamster wheel and open her own yoga studio in Gothenburg. Isabel wanted to try life as a self-employed person and devote herself to yoga full-time. Since then, she has run several yoga studios and for just over two years she has been living with her family in Åre. A Swedish ski resort and charming mountain village in the northern part of the country.
Isabel has been doing yoga since she was 15 and practices PREHAB yoga. A type of rehab yoga that increases strength and stability in the body while reducing the risk of injury. PREHAB yoga also makes you recover faster if you, in fact, injure yourself.
"For me, yoga is a way of connecting with myself and challenge my body physically. It feels good, makes me more present, fulfilled and I can sort my thoughts better."
For many years in her 20’s, Isabel was constantly on the move and no matter where she was in the world, she would find comfort and strength in practicing yoga.
"I knew that even though my life was chaotic, I would get exactly the same experience, whether I walked into a bikram yoga class in Santiago or Tel-Aviv."
The idea to organize a yoga trip to Svalbard emerged when Isabel got to know her neighbor, PolarQuest's popular expedition guide Henrik Törnberg.
It's hard to imagine anything more relaxing than doing yoga on a sun-warmed rock overlooking snow-capped mountain peaks and a crystal-clear fjord where the sky paints the world upside down. The experience is also enhanced by the feeling of facing nature with a mind that is unaffected by the constant stream of information that characterizes today's society.
"Many people think that the amazing nature and wildlife are the memories you cherish the most when returning from an expedition cruise on Svalbard, but for me the best thing was to experience all the beauty together with other people who were also mentally present. I reflected on it a lot during the trip. No one was online because there was no coverage. Everyone was relaxed. There was absolutely nothing that shifted the guests focus from being present in the moment.”
Isabel held yoga and meditation classes on several occasions during the trip. Both in the lounge, on deck and outdoors with a view do die for.
“Being in nature nourished our senses and our souls with a symphony of stimulus that grounded us firmly in the present moment. Doing yoga also brought people closer together. It is much easier to take a seat next to someone during dinner who you recently practiced odd poses next to. Yoga is disarming and attracts a few laughs.”
As the family's project manager, Isabel appreciated being able to rely fully on the expedition leader and the guides.
“Sure, I was responsible for the yoga, but apart from making decisions about the classes, I could relax completely, just enjoy myself because someone else was in charge of my day. Today, not many are allowed to do a digital detox for a whole week, to not answer you phone or emails, but it was extremely valuable for me personally. I didn't even bring a camera because I didn't want to experience Svalbard through a lens.”
The guests saw arctic foxes, reindeer, walruses, and polar bears. The first polar bear was spotted on the pack ice from a long distance. The other one, a healthy male polar bear, was sleeping on the beach as the M/S Quest passed between two islands.
"We stayed until the bear woke up and after an hour or so we got to see a whole list of cool things a polar bear can do. He swam, pooped, climbed, investigated a house, and played around in the snow, completely unaffected by our presence. It was truly magical!”
Isabel and PolarQuest are planning a yoga trip for the Svalbard season 2024. Make sure you keep an eye on the website or sign up for the newsletter to receive the information first when the yoga trip is available for bookings.
Since 1999, we have taken travellers on once-in-a-lifetime trips to Svalbard. From May to September our three small expedition ships, carrying only 12 and 50 passengers, explore this magnificent Arctic archipelago. Unpredictability and flexibility are the main keywords when you travel with PolarQuest as the exact route depends on weather, ice conditions and wildlife encounters. Sometimes you might be woken up in the middle of the night if a polar bear has been spotted on the ice.