When the wheels touched down in Costa Rica for my first yoga retreat, let’s just say I suddenly realized that I had no clue what I was in for.

I’d prepared myself for a lot of backpacking trips, some weekend retreats, even a women’s weekend at a Hot Springs resort in Montana, but my always-over-prepared self felt woefully unknowledgeable about the world of retreats abroad.

As it turns out? My meticulous research had prepared me pretty well on the practical level. I had my paperwork in order. I had proper footwear. I even remembered a rain coat.

It was the deeper levels that the travel sites failed to mention.

So that you may be more fully prepared, the eight things I wish someone had told me before my first retreat:

1. Your retreat is bound to bring a healthy dose of the unknown.

And that is where the magic begins!

2. The best thing to do before your retreat? Let go.

Of expectations, of fears, of worries about what you’re leaving behind or about what you’re arriving to.

3. You won’t want to be simultaneously doing homework, or working, or having scheduled nightly Skype sessions.

You’ll be happiest if you truly give this time to yourself, with as few distractions as possible. And really, who wants to go straight from a profound meditation session to go try and catch up on some spreadsheets?

4. You will receive as much from the retreat as you are willing to receive.

Many retreats are structured to stretch our comfort zones, so  it’s natural that we find ourselves hitting some resistance. A desire to rebel or skip some sessions can be a sign to dig a little deeper. Persevere, and you’ll find the richest territory for growth.

5. Experiencing the entire range of human emotion is absolutely, 100% normal.

Elation and bliss often go hand in hand with frustrated meltdowns and hypersensitivity. Give  yourself full permission to experience the totality of your emotions, without judgment, and you’ll be in a much better position to integrate the transformative experiences of your retreat journey. .

6. Everyone else is a little nervous, too.

It’s easy to look around and imagine that everyone else is a retreat expert. In truth? They’re nervous too. Relax, share, and connect.

7. It’s OK to take time to yourself, even when everyone else is being social.

Most retreats have ample free time to spend however you’d like, and many retreaters will happily spend it connecting with the group. But sometimes it’s more nourishing to spend that time solo, integrating the events of the day. Whatever you choose, do so without guilt: this is your time.

8. It takes a while to unwind and drop in, and you might feel that physically.

The first few days of my yoga retreat I was exhausted. A major change in lifestyle, location, and diet meant my body needed to recalibrate. This slow-down only calls for a dose of compassion, and some more rest.

May you be completely prepared (outwardly and inwardly) for your first retreat journey!

To read more about how to avoid injuries while on a yoga retreat, check out this article.

 Smaller copy- Blue DressAnkati Day is a writer, yoga teacher, and lifestyle coach who bounces back and forth between the northeast US and Costa Rica- and takes herself on retreat as often as she possibly can.

Find out more on her website at heatherdaywellness.com.