Yoga retreats can make or break a devoted yogi. With a wealth of available retreats for you to experience, it's important to do your homework and know what your getting into rather than be blindsided by a trip you weren't prepared for. Here's your checklist to make sure you get the most out of your next adventure.
1. What type of retreat?
As yoga and yoga retreats gain popularity, it’s important to realize there are a wealth of different types of retreats available for you today. Some retreats involve a small number of people, going to an area in the world where yoga and meditation is going to be your number one focus. Other retreats bring a larger group of yogis and yoginis as well as a few more instructors to offer a variety of classes intermingled with daily excursions and experiences (in addition to the yoga). There are retreats that offer an intensive training schedule if you plan on doing a teacher training retreat. There are retreats that allow you to wander the streets of a foreign village experiencing the culture and lives of its inhabitants. If you want to participate in volunteer work and spread yoga in 3rd world countries, there are retreats for that as well! It all comes down to a matter of preference, and it’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into before you board that plane.
2. Who are the instructors?
Most retreats these days are at least a week long. If you’re going to be taking daily classes with an instructor, it’s a good idea to get a sense of what style they teach, what their personality is like, and how they will make this retreat a memorable experience. Most instructors have a strong social media presence or even blog you can check out to get a sense of who they are and what drives them. Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter or Wordpress are great places to start when doing your research about your instructor(s). Even better, do a quick Youtube search to see if your potential instructor has a class you can take in order to get a sense of how they teach. If you can’t make it through a class with them via the web, chances are you’re not going to have that fulfilling yoga experience you’re anticipating. If you’re instructor has a bigger online presence, try searching for them on some bigger yoga class sites (Udaya, Yogaglo, MyYogaWorks, YogaAnytime, GaiamTV)
3. What’s the menu?
This bit of research might not be as important to you as you think…With the rising popularity of detoxing and special retreats devoted to “detoxing” your body, it helps to understand what types of food you’ll be eating while on your journey. If you’re going on a detox retreat, it’s common to expect a week long of eating fresh, vibrant, mostly vegan or vegetarian foods. These retreats typically involve eating at a specific resort for the duration of your visit. It’s also common to have a personal chef cooking for your group during that type of retreat. If this doesn’t float your boat, don’t fret! There are a lot of retreats out there that allow you to venture out on your own, tasting the unique foods of your region and culture. Wine tasting is becoming an extremely popular activity on a lot of retreats, as is going out to eat and experiencing the vibrant culture of the places you’ll be staying. If you have any specific diet or allergy you need to accompany, then hopefully you’ve already done your research into what is being served at your retreat, and what your available options involve.
4. Whats in your bag?
Packing too light, or packing way more than you need is a nightmare you don’t want to experience. Some retreats are exclusively meant to grow and hone in on your yoga practice, meaning you’ll need little more than your mat, clothes and a few personal belongings. Other retreats involve day hikes through incredible land marks, trips to various cities or villages, hiking, diving, biking, you name it. If your retreat offers more of an opportunity for exploring, then definitely pack that camera, swimsuit, and a pair of hiking boots. You don’t want to find yourself in the midst of a glorious and fascinating city or landmark and not have the tools you need to remember this life changing opportunity!
5. Why be open minded?
Perhaps the most important aspect of going on a retreat, it helps to keep an open mind. You might make some life long friends on this journey. You might not. You might find that the schedule you’ve previously glimpsed at is far from being rigid and structured. In many cities or villages around the world, time goes by a lot slower, and locals are a lot more laid back and relaxed. Some people view retreats as a vacation, while other people choose to view a retreat as the beginning of a turning point in their lives. Depending on what your view is of your upcoming retreat, choose accordingly. If you want to experience all that a new country and region has to offer, it might be a bad idea to choose a retreat that doesn’t allow you to leave the premises and explore. If your goal is to restart your life, detoxify your body and soul, and hone in on your practice then choose a retreat that caters to your intent. There are always going to be little surprises, or little hiccups in your journey, but at the end of the day we are all yoga practitioners. Go with the flow!
Image credit: gurmit singh