Bonding with your buddies: how yoga retreats foster friendships
People go on a yoga retreat for lots of different reasons. Some do it to help them feel calm and relaxed, to step away from their busy lives and to chill out. Others do it to improve their fitness levels, to eat healthily and to develop some wellness-focused habits for after they leave.
Some yogis go on retreat for time alone to themselves; others go to meet new, like-minded people. As a yoga teacher who’s gone on her fair share of retreats, I too have gone for different reasons, depending on what stage I was at in my life. But a lot of the time it was to gain some perspective, to take a step back and to allow the magic of yoga to do its thing.
I used to go on a retreat craving solitude. But then, at every single retreat I’ve ever been on, I’ve met amazing people who developed into fast friends. Many of whom I met up with after the retreat and with whom I’m still friends with today. So I don’t seek solitude on retreats anymore – instead, I lean into the exciting opportunities they present.
How retreats form tight bonds
It’s quite amazing, really. You might only be away with these people for a few days – maybe even a weekend – and you feel like you’ve known them for years. Here’s why retreats are great places to cultivate friendships, even if you’re not seeking them out.
You’ve already got a shared interest
Normally, a group of strangers at a dinner party or some other social gathering will take a while to find common ground. Which can be awkward for everyone involved. But at least you know that when you go on retreat, you’ll be meeting people who are already into the same stuff as you… yoga!
Sure, they might be hot yoga fans while you prefer a cooling yin but still, you’re bound to have stuff to talk about! And if your friends outside roll their eyes every time you mention words like “mantra” or “prana”… well, it’ll be a relief to find someone who won’t.
You probably have more in common
Like attracts like. And if you and your fellow yogis are into yoga… well, chances are, you’ll be into other similar stuff, too! Maybe you’ll find a new veggie friend to share tofu recipes with. Or someone who’ll teach you about Wim Hoff breathing. Or what exactly macramé is and how you can start making it.
Whether it’s to do with meditation, nutrition or finding new creative channels, you’ll more than likely end up meeting like-minded people at your retreat. Which can often foster meaningful connections faster than on the outside. (If you’ve ever been stuck in the shared kitchen of your office, trying to make small talk while willing the kettle to boil faster, you’ll know what I mean.)
You get to know each other. Fast.
When you spend time on retreat, it isn’t uncommon for personal issues to arise. Maybe anxieties about yourself surface, or stresses from your outside life, or past traumas come back to haunt you. And this is an essential part of the healing process – sometimes we need to do deep work in order to feel lighter.
The thing is, going on retreat can be an incredibly cathartic experience. Not just for you but for those around you. And when you go through that kind of journey together, when you hear each other’s problems and can hold a safe space for them to share… that’s the foundation of a pretty solid friendship.
I’ve been on a retreat when, after just a few days, I knew more about my fellow yogis than I did about most of my friends. And they said the same. Obviously, it depends on the retreat and the environment it creates but still – I always look back on the conversations I’ve had, the stories shared on retreat, and am grateful for how valuable they were. How valuable they remain.
How retreats strengthen existing bonds
Of course, maybe you’re not going on retreat alone. Maybe you’re already going with a friend, a family member or your partner. Don’t worry, you can still use the opportunity to bond with them in new ways – even while you make new friends!
But how can going on a yoga retreat, where you spend a lot of time working on yourself, help you to become closer to your friends? Well, it’s quite simple, really. As you work on yourself, your friend beside you is doing the same. You’ll start to see that just like you, they struggle at times. They don’t have it all figured out. In short, they’re human. And this kind of empathy for their journey can help you forge a stronger part of that journey.
Aside from the deeper stuff, there’s the silly stuff too. In-jokes that happen as a result of being in each other’s company for a few days, away from your normal routine. Giggling over her crush on the chef at the retreat. Or reminiscing over that song they played during Savasana, which made you both bawl your eyes out. The moment where you did a sunrise meditation and couldn’t speak after, you were so moved. You didn’t need to speak, anyway.
You know. The kind of stuff you’ll look back on for months or even years to come – when you did something different to the usual lunch dates or park runs or cocktail hours and went on a yoga retreat together instead.
So get bonding, already!
Book your next getaway with a friend. Or go solo and get ready to make some new ones! Hang out with some interesting people, share stories and tips, watch each other grow and cheer each other on.
Enjoy getting to know each other – and yourself – even better.