BOOK YOUR YOGA RETREAT.
Just like your yoga practice is uniquely personal and in constant evolution so is what you are looking for in a retreat. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and the ocean of choice can be overwhelming. But finding the right retreat for you doesn’t have to be an elusive quest. Here are 5 simple questions to ask yourself that will help guide you to the right retreat for you.
1) What’s your “why” This may sound like a really simplistic and yet impossibly broad question, but it’s an important starting point. Your body/mind/soul has an incredible way of intuitively recognizing it before you are able to cerebrally acknowledge it. Once you do, listen to what it’s trying to tell you.
Your “why” is uniquely personal and often reflective of where you are emotionally at a given moment in time. There have been times when my energy was cresting at an all-time high and I needed to channel it into a deep dive of disciplined asana practice. At other times, I felt myself edging on complete burnout and I knew I needed to completely remove myself from my current environment and immerse myself completely into my soul – a vanishing act that allowed me to hold space for myself without the distractions of my day-to-day life. Our bodies and souls have amazing ways of short-circuiting to protect our sensitive systems.
You will most likely leave your retreat having gained a lot more than your original intention (what a gift!) but it’s important to be brutally honest with yourself about what it is that you need and find a retreat that will nurture that need. There is no wrong answer here.
2) What’s their “why”? Any good retreat will have their ethos and a very unique proposition, whether it’s sustainable living; honoring the local culture; a specialization such as detoxing healthily; a community developed around a lineage or guru; or a niche such as providing a space for likeminded women to come together (side note: I met one of my best friends at this retreat!)
It doesn’t need to be particularly profound, it just needs to align with your “why”.
3) Connection matters. This is make-or-break for me. Reach out to the retreat in advance (you’re bound to have questions that need answering anyway) and be honest with yourself about what your feel is. Was there a rapport with the person on the other end? Remember that you’re going to be spending quite a bit of time in the same environment and will be feeding off and mirroring the energy that you receive. If something in your gut doesn’t feel right, honor it. Intuition is everything.
At one retreat that I attended, the group bonded over their shared negative experiences with one of the retreat managers. I often wonder how we could have channeled our energy into a more positive, constructive shared experience.
At a different retreat, many of the guests had been coming every year without fail. One elderly couple even moved permanently from the US to the retreat in Koh Samui and became unofficial family to the retreat owner and staff. It was a beautiful thing to experience, and I found myself feeling very warm and nurtured in that space and wanting to return every year.
4) Think of the facilities. Let’s be honest: even the most dedicated practitioners will tell you there’s only so much asana practice you can do in a day. Going back to your “why”, do the facilities deliver what it is you need? The beach is a very sacred place where I connect most with nature and my yoga practice, so I will invariably pick a retreat that is walking distance, if not immediately on the beach. Besides providing a calming refuge for walking and meditation, it also means I can go for a swim or try my hand at water activities like surfing that I wouldn’t normally have access to or the boldness to try.
Most retreats have incredible in-house spa facilities. Massages, infrared saunas and steams can be a powerful complement to your physical yoga practice and a kind way to indulge yourself.
It’s not uncommon for retreats to organize excursions or activities as part of their package. If you’re visiting a country for the first time, this could be a convenient and safe way to experience the local culture at the same time. Most retreats are also more than happy to organize trips for you that aren’t part of their regular offering.
5) Research, research, research (but then take the leap.) I can’t stress this enough, especially if you’re travelling overseas. Check the weather. Find out when monsoon season is (TRUST me on this one.) Read reviews, the good and the bad ones so you can make your own assessment of where the reality lies. Talk to friends who have been to retreats and find out what their experiences were like. Look at all the pictures, not just the retreat ones.
Be extensive and diligent but beware of getting caught in research paralysis. Assign yourself a specific period of time to do the research and a deadline to make a decision.
Once you decide on a retreat there’s really only one piece of advice left to follow: be open, be open, be open. So much of the magic happens when you just let it happen.