BOWEN ISLAND, B.C. — The story of Nectar Yoga B&B on Bowen Island, B.C., began on a hot crowded train headed to Pondicherry, India.
Andrea Clark and Satjeet Pandher had taken leaves of absence from their jobs in Vancouver to spend several months travelling in south Asia and Europe in 2013. Clark, a public relations professional, had tired of her corporate life but wasn’t sure what to do next.
“We were on a train ride in India that was 18 hours,” Clark recalled. “We were in the third-class section. We were standing. It was hot.
“We were like, ‘OK, what are we going to do with our lives? This is a fun time to start dreaming. Why not?’ We started chatting. We were like, ‘We should live on an island.’”
Clark and Pandher both loved yoga and bed-and-breakfasts, so the idea of combining the two began to take shape. Clark was a trained yoga teacher who hosted international retreats, which are typically highly structured trips that, while rewarding, don’t allow for a lot of freedom.
She wanted to create a space that would offer an escape from city life and a chance to reconnect with nature, yoga and oneself, but that also would give visitors time to explore on their own and not feel committed to around-the-clock learning about deep yoga philosophy.
So Clark quit her job, the pair bought a beautiful house nestled on a forested parcel of land on Bowen Island, and Nectar Yoga B&B was born.
“We didn’t really know that there was that much of a need for this type of offering,” she said. “I was just following my heart and my intuition.”
The couple added two guest cottages, a garden suite, a sauna and a unique geodesic dome where morning and afternoon yoga classes are held. The entire property can be rented for multi-day retreats, including silent retreats and juice cleanses.
Bowen Island is just a 20-minute ferry ride from Vancouver, making it an ideal weekend getaway for city dwellers seeking nature and namaste. But the bed-and-breakfast has also been popular with international tourists, said Clark.
“The energy of this place is all about the people who come here,” she said. “That’s what I love about it.”
The dome is also rented out for one-day retreats, including excursions hosted by Chantal O’Sullivan, a news reporter-turned-yogi who approaches her classes with a lively sense of humour and fun.
On a recent Saturday, O’Sullivan welcomed a small group of students inside the cosy, heated dome, which is lit by glowing orange lights and looks out at towering trees. Unlike yoga classes at your local gym — where people often just plop down their mats without noticing others in the room — attendees immediately introduced themselves to one another.
O’Sullivan began with a short meditation before guiding the group through a 90-minute vinyasa class, a type of yoga that is dynamic and aims to build heat in the body. But don’t fret about being surrounded by master yogis doing handstands — poses were beginner-friendly and included plenty of modifications for different levels.
Students then had an hour and a half to get lunch and explore the island, on their own or with each other. O’Sullivan recommended the Snug Cafe’s beet burger, but the pastries and sandwiches at Artisan Eats Cafe are also legendary, as are the fine chocolates at Cocoa West Chocolatier.
After stuffing themselves, the group gathered again inside the dome for an afternoon of yin, a slower style that involves holding poses for longer periods of time. After the class ended with a sweet savasana — a “corpse pose” where one simply lies on the floor and absorbs the practice — students were blissfully relaxed.
O’Sullivan said the word yoga indicates connection. Derived from the Sanskrit root yuj, it’s often interpreted to mean unite or bind.
“It’s nice to get together, to connect to other people, but also connect to the environment,” she said. “When you’re practising yoga and you see a forest in front of you, that’s a very easy connection to make.”