I am writing this from paradise. I am in Thailand, on a tiny tropical island sandwiched between Phuket and Krabi, at a yoga retreat. I attend yoga at sunrise and sunset. Classes in the morning are active and strength building yoga classes (vinyasa based) and the sultry sunset sessions are slow and restorative.
The rest of the time, I indulge in Thai food and exotic, juicy fruit, laze in a sun-drenched hammock, flicking idly through the pages of my novel and sip the water straight from a coconut. Occasionally I go off on a photo taking mission, or to town to get a beachside aromatherapy massage and restock my supply of mangoes.
As I am sure you can imagine, I would highly recommend this type of holiday to anyone. Yoga retreats are an increasingly popular way of spending ones holidays. You can combine health goals with some much needed down time, all while traveling to a foreign country. However, before you grab your credit card and book the first retreat that comes up on Google, there are a few things you should take the time to consider before booking a yoga retreat.
1. Your Needs
Retreats range from an intense juice fast, complete with life coaching and therapy sessions, to the more relaxed yoga and 'plenty of downtime' retreat. Some can have a detox or weight loss focus, others can be as an introductory to yoga, with a lot of beginner yoga classes. Assess your needs and wants before choosing a retreat. This may seem obvious, but making your needs and wants explicit (perhaps by making a list or discussing then out loud with someone) can really help you clarify your expectations. Do you want to springboard a weight loss regime, or do you just need to relax? Are you keen to meet new people and attend workshops on healthy living, or do you really just need some 'me time'? Knowing what you want is the first step to finding your retreat.
As much as yoga retreats vary in style, so to do they vary in cost. Costs range dramatically depending on where (obviously cheaper countries to travel are cheaper for yoga retreats and vice versa), time of the year (high or low season) and what is included. By no means is the costs the best indicator of quality. A basic or lower quality retreat in the Blue Mountains near Sydney for a weekend might cost twice as much as a weekly long beach side retreat in Thailand or Sri Lanka. Think about what you can afford and definitely shop around. Having a clear budget then weighing up your options is essential.
The standard of room, meals and activities varies greatly. Some retreaters may be perfectly happy with a beach shack and local meals, while others will want all the comfort of home with an exotic and luxurious twist (think five star, organic food, and Egyptian cotton sheets). Find one which best suits your style. Look online at their website before leaving, email any questions through and read up on TripAdvisor or here at Yoga Travel Tree for reviews.
4. Type of Yoga
What style of yoga is your body craving? This will be linked in with your needs for the retreat as well. Do you need help with adjustment and alignment? If so, a Hatha or Iyengar based yoga retreat is for you. Do you want to get into a regime of Ashtanga Mysore practise (Ashtanga self practise that originated in Mysore, India)? Do you need to relax? Or are you recovering from an injury? If so, you probably need a Yin or Restorative yoga classes. Many retreats also offer mixed practice, with a range classes on offer. Make sure that you find a retreat with classes suited to what your body needs now.
This follows on from from Number 3. Whatever your needs and wants, whatever style of yoga you prefer or level of luxury you desire, one clear sign that any prospective retreat is a good one to choose, is if they have good communication skill. That means a well presented website with an email or 'contact us' section. It also means that they answer your emails and respond to your queries. If they don't respond, or respond in a way that doesn't actually answers your question, forget it. If they can't meet your needs online, they probably can't meet your needs in person either.
This covers preferred climate and surroundings. Do you prefer sunny warmth or to be cozy in a cooler climate? Are you more comfortable on the beach or in the mountains? Think long and hard about the kinds of surroundings which will contribute to a more relaxed and comfortable you. These are the surrounding for your retreat. Don't forget, it is a holiday. Use it as an opportunity to go somewhere new, a foreign country, a state or province you have never visited, or check out a different city it town from where you usually holiday.
Once you have researched sufficiently, book and enjoy!
Images via: @iheartyogainthepark