Regardless of the destination, most yoga retreats start the same way. Someone hatches an idea and comes up with a plan, makes a reservation, sends in their deposit, and rolls out the marketing machine. It’s a rigorous process to plan and fill a retreat, and I have a feeling most event leaders would readily agree that by the time the retreat rolls around, they need the retreat more than anyone.
Yoga retreat offerings and destination options have grown exponentially over the past 5 years, and more and more travellers are looking at retreats as a way to combine vacation and world exploration with experiences that are potentially transformational.
Packing and Prepping for a Yoga Retreat
Whether you are a seasoned yoga retreat leader, or a complete novice at the whole idea of traveling beyond your neighborhood for an in-depth yoga experience, it never hurts to review some of the basics about packing for a trip and prepping for your retreat.
This shortlist of reminders is helpful during the planning and marketing stages of a retreat. Much of the information you will gather can be included in the informational letters that go out once people have registered and given you their deposits:
- Whenever possible, visit your venues before booking your dates. Many retreat sites offer low-cost (even free!) stays for yoga teachers looking to book events (it never hurts to ask). Retreat sites can look so good in professional photographs—and be startlingly different when you're up close and personal! Use review sites. Write to other teachers and ask about their experiences. Know the kind of weather you are heading into, and have a plan for less-than-optimal weather conditions. I learned early on that getting to the venue hours—or even a couple of days—before everyone else allowed me to see potential problems and get working on solutions. Experience has taught me that solving little problems before they become bigger ones allows me to be more fully present as a teacher. It’s helpful to be clear about what you can fix, and what you will just have to let go of.
- Know the travel document requirements of the country you are traveling to. Seems pretty basic, right? I thought so, too, until one recent retreat registrant showed up at the airport without a passport because a local official said they could travel to Mexico~ from the USA~ on an enhanced driver’s license. That information was wildly incorrect. This person ended up not being able to spend a week at the beach with a best friend, and it ended up costing us both. They lost their deposit and then some, and the group lost the energy of their participation.
- Never underestimate the power of Nature to assist with restoring retreat participants’ capacity to relax. By the same token, be ready for bug bites, sun poisoning, allergic reactions and more. A retreat venue in awesome natural surroundings is a potent addition to the entire experience. Be sure to create a realistic description of the accommodations and the kind of nature that lies just outside windows, doors, and screens. Howler monkeys commuting through the jungle canopy can lose their charm by day three, and abundant snakes, spiders and other tiny visitors can challenge one’s sense of equanimity. Pack a well-stocked first aid kit, connect with emergency services at the retreat site, and do a thorough introduction once everyone has arrived. Make it mandatory that retreat participants let you know if and when they plan to explore off-site, and don’t be afraid to create limits around what you can effectively manage in terms of their safety.
- Food is a Unifying Factor. When someone else cooks for you with care and a smile, the delight they take in their offering is passed from bowl to belly. Food can make or break a retreat, and my experiences have ranged from chefs who opened their kitchens to students in awe of the delights of vegetarian cooking, to a cook who insisted on putting raw garlic in everything, to other cooks who assumed that ‘vegetarian’ simply meant no beef. Sampling the food beforehand may be unrealistic when your retreat site is a continent away, but clear communications with your retreat venue are invaluable~ as is clear communication with participants about just how many dietary requests any one place can accommodate. As people register, send an email that deals specifically with food preferences. It’s okay to recommend they provide their own hard-to-find or expensive raw ingredients and supplements.
Having a vision for your retreat, coupled with clear reality checks, is essential. Having assistance with your planning and on-site is invaluable. Consider those roles as part of teacher training courses, or something offered to students you are mentoring. Challenges will present themselves during the course of every retreat, and it’s likely you will know how to deal with them. It’s a fine line to plan without over-planning, and to trust that serendipity and grace will show up in unexpected ways.