How to pick your first yoga retreat
So you’ve made the decision to embark on your first yoga retreat? Fantastic! Feeling slightly daunted and unsure about what to expect from the experience? You’re not the only one.
Going on your first retreat proves that you’re ready to demonstrate a whole new level of dedication to your practice outside of the comfort of your regular studio. Whether you’re a total newbie looking to deep-dive into yoga or an advanced practitioner with a desire to take the next step in your yoga journey, choosing your first retreat has the potential to determine the future of your practice. So to fast track your mind into that retreat tranquillity, we’ve summarised some of the need-to-knows to help ease you into that zen space.
Deciding on the right retreat for you
There are a plethora of yoga retreats at your fingertips in every price range, style, size and location you could imagine so it’s understandable that you may be feeling a little overwhelmed! At this stage, a little self-reflection is essential. Make sure you’re asking yourself what you really want from the retreat. Deepening your practice? Some quality time with your favourite teachers? Meeting new people? Connecting with nature? Or simply a relaxing holiday with a sprinkle of yoga and meditation? It’s these questions that will really help to make sure you’re choosing the right retreat for you.
What about the yoga?
Check that both the style and the intensity of your chosen retreat are within your ability. Finding a healthy balance is essential to ensuring you don’t return to everyday life exhausted. Choose a retreat that will offer you the opportunity to go beyond your current level and grow your practice, without leaving you miserably comparing yourself to those on the mats around you. Two classes per day is a good starting point as downtime also plays a crucial role in allowing you to achieve your desired transformation. A good retreat should leave time for you to finally finish that book you’ve been reading or spend some quality time with your newfound yogi friends.
Think of the finances
Gone are the days when retreats were a luxury only afforded by big budgets. An increasing number of yoga teachers and hosts are now opting to provide accessible and affordable retreats. Saying that there’s nothing quite like the bliss of all-inclusive relaxation to facilitate that savasana zen. Align your budget with your expectations and the included costs: transportation, accommodation, meals, facilities, activities and the kind of group that these offerings will attract are all important considerations.
Are you looking for a retreat or a holiday?
It may seem obvious that you’re after a retreat from the fact you’re reading this very article, but pause and take a moment to consider whether you’re after a well-earned break from the rush of everyday life or yearning for a sense of transformation in your practice?
Both yoga holidays and retreats are amazing experiences in their own right but it’s essential to ensure you’re choosing the right fit for you to achieve your desired outcome: whether that be relaxation or transformation.
Your retreat’s teacher makes up a huge part of your experience, so do your research. Ensuring that you connect with them, or at the very least can practice to the sound of their voice and style is essential. Find out what you can by researching them online and look out for their flows on Youtube, Facebook or Instagram. If they’re local, take one of their classes and find some time to chat afterwards to really assess if they’re the right fit for you. If you’re newer to your practice, keep an eye out for authenticity and beware of the hype surrounding ‘yoglebrity’ teachers.
Although it may seem a little daunting at first, going solo is arguably the best way to approach your first retreat. For many, retreats are a highly personal journey and embarking on them alone, allows you to go deeper. Remember, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be the only one and the challenges are where the growth happens! Take solace in the safe space provided by the retreat and overcome your fears by jumping into conversation with a stranger.
Once you’ve decided on your retreat location, dress for the weather. If you’ve opted for a tropical yogi getaway from the chilly European winter, you might want to expand your yoga wardrobe in preparation for this unfamiliar climate. Tropical countries mean shorts, swimsuits and a sweat-wicking towel are a must. Don’t forget your raincoat for the occasional downpour in those humid environments or bug spray to keep the mosquitos at bay! If you’ve elected to practice in cooler climates, however, make sure you pack some thick socks and a jumper to keep you snug in savasana.
Prepare yourself to unplug
Getting the most of your retreat experience really depends on how much you’re willing to put into it. Constantly worrying about what’s going on at home, relentlessly checking your social media and combining your free time with screen time aren’t going to serve your desire to retreat from everyday life.
Prepare yourself in advance to take time out from your inbox, forewarn friends and family that you’ll be off-grid for a few days and leave your phone in a safe space rather than taking it with you each day. If nothing else, the exercise could highlight quite how addicted you are to your connection to the outside world and serve as a lesson in itself.
Manage your expectations
You’ve already made the decision to invest in yourself by embarking on this adventure, so don’t go filling your head with dreams or doubts. Approach the experience with an open heart, an open mind and a smile on your face. After all, what better way to prepare your mind for a retreat than with the practice of non-attachment?
If such qualities are still in progress however, put your mind at ease by requesting a daily schedule from your provider and reaching out to your host to answer any remaining questions you may have.