Why yoga retreats are perfect for beginners
Beginning a yoga practice isn’t easy. For those unfamiliar with yoga asana, or the physical poses, it can appear as a very strange sequence of side bends, forward bends, back bends, and more. If you’re lucky, the teacher will explain things in your native language, otherwise you’ll be glancing around the studio to get a clue as to what that Sanskrit word really means. In fact, as a beginner, you’ll be glancing around the room regardless, wondering what to do next, where to put your right foot and where to put your left hand.
It’s simply untrue that yoga retreats are for advanced yogis only. Joining a retreat can be the best way to kick start your practice, or to return to it if you’ve been long gone. On average, it takes a new yoga student five classes just to clue in to the sequence of events and the flow of the practice. Why not reap the benefit of those five classes and more in a focused retreat setting?
Here are three reasons why we think yoga retreats are perfect for beginners, and a brief guide on how to choose the best one.
More yoga classes
Perhaps the greatest benefit of a yoga retreat, for beginners and advanced yogis alike, is the frequency of classes. On retreat, you’ll attend a yoga class at minimum once daily, and sometimes up to three times, including workshops, pose breakdowns, and discussions. Immersed in all things yoga for multiple days in a row, the pace of learning accelerates.
While multiple classes per day can be physically challenging, yoga is wonderful because it allows us to go at our own pace. In any class, we can take a knee, take a child’s pose, or return to downward dog. Our continued presence on the mat and in the space, listening to the teacher’s cues and watching others presents us with a learning opportunity regardless of how we participate.
A well planned retreat will balance class time with rest time, and what’s better than eat, sleep and yoga? If you’re concerned about your ability to keep up in the classes, don’t be. Secondly, choose a spacious retreat that gives you time to spend all day poolside, reading, or napping in a hammock in between your yoga sessions.
More personalized attention
While there are yoga retreats with hundreds of participants that take place in giant ashrams or all-inclusive corporate hotels, boutique yoga retreats, including those listed on this site, keep their attendees to a minimum with the intent to provide more intimate, personalized instruction. In a group of 24 or fewer, with an instructor and assistant, or two co-teachers, you’ll be seen.
In a crowded studio class yoga teachers not only have large numbers to deal with, but time is a concern. It’s simply not possible to break down each pose, or correct each student while maintaining the flow of a 60-minute class. It’s not always possible to follow up with new students outside of class, as both teachers and clients are quickly out the door and on to their busy lives.
In a retreat setting the class format is typically longer, allowing for detailed instruction. Additional daily sessions might break down specific poses, alignment and theory. With multiple classes daily, your instructor has the time to learn more about your body and your needs, and can address your specific questions during or outside of class.
For the instructor’s sake, we hope you don’t have 24 hour access to teachings, but when you’re on retreat it sometimes feels like you do.
More freedom from distractions
When we’re new to yoga, it takes a while before we can focus on the yoga. During class our minds are occupied with all sorts of thoughts about how silly we look, whether or not we’re doing it wrong, if everyone is staring at us, why our shirt won’t stay tucked in, and regretting what we ate the moment before.
On a yoga retreat, the food is cooked for us so we’re free from those decisions, but more importantly, a retreat offers the ideal setting in which we can be as removed as want to be from all that might normally distract us from our practice.
Surrounded by friendly fellow retreat goers, we get to practice in a safe environment, supported by the teacher and in the company of others who want the same things we do. To practice yoga on vacation, away from the office, the emails, and our to-do lists lets us focus on the yoga first and foremost.
A yoga retreat is magically revealing, as we realize that whatever it is that pulls us from our practice or distracts us from the present moment, is up to us to let go of. That’s something we can take back to the studio class on the days when we feel the urge to skip savasana, hit the showers, and get back to the office.
Choosing a beginner friendly retreat
How do we know which retreats are beginner friendly? Just ask. As you browse through retreats, contact the retreat leaders, explain your experience honestly, tell them your fears, and let them convince you to attend.
Assuming that you’ve done enough yoga to know you love it and you want to learn more, you’ll next want to understand the difference between power yoga, restorative yoga, yin yoga, ashtanga, rocket, and the infinite other yoga styles.
Your retreat experience will vary widely depending upon the style of yoga offered, and some types of yoga will be inherently more challenging for you than others, depending upon your body type and goals.
Beginners would do well to choose a retreat instructor with a body like theirs. While yoga teachers are trained to offer modifications and create accessible classes, we ultimately default to teaching the practice that works best and feels best in our own bodies. When in doubt about what’s on offer at any particular retreat, ask.
Finally, whichever retreat you choose, be compassionate with yourself when it comes to learning a new practice. While attending a retreat will give you far more detailed instruction than any one studio class, you’re not expected to become a yoga professional within your first month.
Remember that the primary goal of a yoga retreat is enjoyment. Allow yoga to unfold for you at it’s own pace, understanding you’ve only just begun a lifelong process.