How to create the perfect yoga retreat
This post is about nailing the feel of the ideal yoga retreat; those extra little details that’ll turn the 'meh' into something much more memorable.
So keep reading to discover how you can host the perfect yoga retreat – to offer an incredible experience for both you and your guests!
Location Is Key
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s start with one of the most important aspects of your dream retreat: the location. Because frankly, it doesn’t matter how great your classes are, or how tasty the food that you’ll serve – if your retreat takes place in a cold ‘n’ draughty community hall, or in a crumbly ol’ building surrounded by honking car horns, it won’t exactly create a nurturing environment!
What you need is somewhere that feels like a sanctuary. A safe place in which your guests can retreat into themselves, by coming on your retreat. Now, that doesn’t mean you need to break the bank on a 5-star villa – in fact, sometimes the beauty of a venue can lie in its simplicity. Especially when it comes to a yoga retreat; an “authentic” ashram without electricity or running water might actually be what your guests want. (Note: You better make sure that if this is the case, you advertise it as such!)
You should always aim for somewhere peaceful and quiet, ideally somewhere surrounded by nature. Don’t worry if you need to host it in a city, however – you can still look for somewhere with a beautiful garden setting.
Choosing the right location will set the scene for the rest of your retreat. Then, after you’ve found the right fit, you can focus on all the other details!
Here’s a quick list of stuff to bear in mind for a magical escape…
Feed The Belly, Feed The Soul
There’s a big difference between providing a slap-dash meal and nourishing your guests with food prepared with love. We’re talking a step above simply providing a healthy, vegetarian meal, here… because our favourite retreats around the world have taken their cuisine to that next level.
In these retreats, food is grown on-site or sourced as close to the retreat as possible – better for the environment, the community and the resulting meals!
Great retreats also know the importance of providing a variety of delicious options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And the best ones know the joy of presenting a rainbow of colours on each plate. They say we first eat with our eyes. So team up with a talented local chef to offer your guests food that’s beautiful to look at…as well as to eat!
Include Quiet Zones
Part of the joy of going on retreat is that you get to meet interesting people from all walks of life. And it’s amazing to enjoy meals and classes with these people, swapping stories and learning about their lives, passions and goals. Friendships form fast and bonds stick – after all, your guests are probably like-minded types, having a shared interest of yoga!
However, it’s also important that guests have somewhere to enjoy some time alone. A lot of things can arise while on retreat – whether it’s dealing with past traumas, gaining insight into future plans or maybe even coming to a decision about changing a current situation (stressful job, bad relationship etc).
Providing guests with the space and time to have these moments is essential. That means creating a schedule with enough “free time” to enable them to do so but also offering specific “quiet zones” where it’s universally accepted that people are not to be disturbed. Whether it’s a sheltered garden bench, a comfy couch by the fire, a dedicated meditation room or a calm balcony overlooking some water, let your guests know that in these places they can seek refuge, alone, whenever they need it.
Foster Moments Of Mindfulness
Of course, in an ideal world, we’d be mindful at all times of day! However, even in a retreat setting, it’s easy to get caught up in everyday plans and stresses. So we recommend the following activities, to really help guests connect with the present moment:
- 30-minute silent walk
- silent breakfast, lunch or dinner (or all 3!)
- silent tea or coffee break (daily)
These moments of mindfulness should be enjoyed in total silence. It’s a wonderful experience because the guests are still together, enjoying the energy of each other’s company without needing to engage in small talk. (The tea or coffee break could also be nice as an individual experience.)
Make Sharing More Caring
At the beginning and end of each day, you could host a sharing circle – for instance, before your morning yoga class and after your evening meditation. This is a very safe place in which guests can honestly share what’s going on for them and have their fellow retreaters listen with compassion and empathy. They don’t need to speak if they don’t feel like sharing – but even creating this space can be invaluable for your guests, plus a great opportunity to bring your group closer.
Psst: Some retreats prefer to keep a “noble silence” before bedtime until after breakfast, which is also a nice idea. If you’d prefer to try this, you could host sharing circles after lunch and the evening meditation instead, or just stick to one a day.
Don’t Forget The Little Extras!
We’ve shared a few tips based on the best retreats we’ve been to – the ones that were truly transformative. But there is so much you can do to make your retreat even more special: a welcome snack and drink, placing a lotus flower on the guests’ mat each morning, including a free massage, doing a group cultural outing or workshop like a cooking class… there’s plenty of ways you can surprise and delight them throughout the day. Oh, and hammocks. Include hammocks wherever possible!
Your main goal is to help your guests feel safe, nurtured and cared for. To create a space that feels like home to them – a home they’ll want to return to, again and again. If you’ve done that, well, you’ve managed to achieve your goal!
Enjoy crafting your perfect yoga retreat (and welcoming those lucky guests!) Om shanti.