Ready to breathe a little deeper, stretch out those tight shoulders and brush up on your Sanskrit? Attending a yoga retreat is more than just a current trend. If you’re looking to refresh, reboot or even start your practice, there’s a retreat for you.
When deciding on a retreat, it can be difficult to choose important factors such as the duration of the retreat, the type of practice that you wish to explore and even the lessons and knowledge that you want to get out of it all. If you’re a dedicated yogin with a desire to deepen your knowledge of this tradition in a beautiful location, you know that there are so many amazing locations out there. That’s why Retreat Guru is here to help. To be sure you choose a yoga retreat that’s perfect for you, we’ve come up with some questions to ask yourself before you book.
Are you wanting a yoga retreat or a retreat with a little yoga?
There’s a difference. An important one. Some retreats emphasize the relaxation or tourism element of the location by offering a yoga class once or twice a day, then bringing participants to the beach, on a hike or providing other workshops or classes such as nutrition or personal development. If you want to sample yoga as part of a larger experience, be sure you choose a retreat that offers you that flexibility.
More yoga-intensive retreats will offer multiple, longer classes each day with the intention that participants dive deeper into the practice through asana, meditation, chanting or even private sessions with an instructor. There may be mini-workshops, themed field trips, group seva or service activities -- but you can bet that it will all be generally focused on the practice of yoga in its many forms. Whichever you choose, be sure you know what you’re in for.
Stretch and sweat or relax and restore?
This is where the type of yoga being offered matters. If you choose a more luxury retreat setting (see the next point) you may have multiple options, but most retreats focus on one particular style.
Vinyasa, Power, Hot Yoga and Ashtanga will probably translate into a more physically vigorous practice with a lot of dynamic movement and strength work. Kundalini has a category all of its own, with extensive kriyas that incorporate breathwork, continuous movement and chanting to activate Kundalini energy. Kripalu, Viniyoga or Iyengar will have a focus on longer holds in each posture. Restorative or Yin yoga will be floor-based with very little flowing movement. In between you have styles like Anusara, Forrest, Jivamukti and many more -- can you see how confusing it might be? If you’re pondering a particular retreat, check out the teachers’ backgrounds and current teaching style to see if they align with your expectations.
There’s nothing quite like setting your sights on a restorative retreat, only to realize you’ll be doing a whole lot of Sun Salutations...
Theme, Intention and Focus
At a deeper level, you may be seeking something specific from your retreat. You could be hoping to quiet the mind with plenty of meditative time, experience a deep emotional shift at a difficult time in your life, make new friends who are also committed to the yogic path or shed some light on your own life journey.
Conversely? You could be seeking a physically intense experience with challenging classes that promote fitness, weight loss or advanced asana practice. Maybe you want to immerse into one particular tradition, like Ashtanga, that has a specific series of postures to be mastered. Or if you’re a true beginner on the mat, you may be seeking a foundational experience to help you create an intentional, safe and beneficial practice.
When you choose the retreat focus that is best aligned with the experience you seek, you’ll find the retreat attracts participants who are similarly aligned with your desires -- and hello, new friends! You’ll have a much better experience if you get what you’re really looking for. Read retreat descriptions in-depth and, if you aren’t familiar with a particular style of yoga, do some research. You might be glad you did.
Rustic and quaint or luxe to the max?
Eco-retreat or deluxe hotel suite, yoga can be done anywhere - and it is. If you’re interested in rustic cabanas in the jungle with open-air showers and yoga “studios” that are open to the natural world, there are retreats to suit your needs. But don’t assume that just because you’re going on a yoga retreat you have to be barefoot and drinking smoothies. If luxury is more your style, choose a resort that offers the amenities you seek. A private room with a big bathtub? You can have it. Five-course meals? No problem. Though your retreat will likely ask you to stretch outside of your comfort zone, you don’t have to go that far if you don’t want to.
Does location matter to you?
If you’ve been jonesing to get to Guatemala or the Swiss Alps, a yoga retreat may just be the perfect excuse. Not that you need one, of course. Peruse retreats by location to find one that also meets your style and luxury preferences to find your perfect match.
On the other hand, you may be more focused on studying with a particular teacher or in a specific style, and location doesn't matter quite as much. If that’s the case, narrow your options by those other criteria first, then choose the location that suits you best. Who knows, you might find yourself traveling to a place you had never imagined!
Last but not least, listen to your intuition.
This retreat is ultimately about you, so only you know what will best suit your needs and desires. Listen when your gut tells you no, and then listen even more when it’s telling you YES. Your own instinct will guide you true!