Treating Yourself to a Yoga Retreat
Daily yoga or weekly yoga classes may alleviate the stress of a busy life. It gives us opportunities to stretch, challenge ourselves, balance our energy, and simply relax. There are few things more satisfying than the clean, refreshed feeling after a toxin-flushing, red-cheeked Bikram yoga class, or the satisfaction of perfecting a pose you’ve been working on for weeks.
However, there are ways to take your relationship with yoga a step further. Many enthusiasts across the yoga spectrum—hard-core devotees to the one-class-a-week beginners take advantage of annual yoga retreats.
A yoga retreat is a pretty little package of yoga that will help you to re-center and rebalance your life, as well as provide you with opportunities to learn new yoga techniques and improve your favorites. They range from intense, challenging experiences to learn and improve poses, to relaxing holidays with some yoga on the side. As a yoga practitioner, you have many different choices and locations to best fit your preference, level, and lifestyle.
Types of Yoga Retreats
Yoga retreats come in many shapes and sizes. Sometimes they are weekend getaways to break up the monotony and stress of the work week. They could also be week-long, yoga-inspired escapes from the real world. Some yoga retreats are several weeks long and focus on many different aspects of yoga and the yoga lifestyle.
Oftentimes, yoga retreats are residential programs held at a venue with plenty of amenities and a prime location for relaxation. A cruise ship, nice hotel, a rural cabin or lodge, are all perfect places for yoga practitioners to leave their daily routine. Phones, internet, and other fetters of daily life (and daily stress) may be discouraged or not allowed at all. Yoga may not even be the only focus of the retreat. Pairing yoga and meditation, yoga and art, yoga and cooking/nutrition, or yoga and spa treatments are all popular options.
There are also the longer, often more intense retreats that are further away (and may be out of your comfort zone). These international yoga destinations vary as well. Some are held in the most beautiful, scenic locations with plenty of pampering, high-class meals and accommodations, and expensive eco-tourism excursions. Others are in Ashrams, temples, or on farms where guests perform chores, harvest their own food, live in a hostel-like common room, or perhaps remain silent for the duration of the retreat (as a form of reflective meditation).
Yoga retreats in India, in particular, have significance in the yoga community. To practice yoga under teachers that have devoted their lives to perfecting and sharing yoga has advantages. Also, practicing in yoga’s ‘birthplace’ often gives practitioners a sense of authenticity that is difficult to duplicate anywhere else. For these retreats, based in Hindu philosophy, it is about more than yoga. It’s about combining the poses and breathing techniques with the Hindu culture and lifestyle.
How to Find the Perfect Yoga Retreat
When considering a yoga retreat, there are a few questions to ask yourself:
“What am I looking for?” – Everyone has something different in mind when they choose a yoga retreat as a holiday. Some are looking to deepen their practice (early morning meditations and intense posing all day), others to relax (peppering in adventures, spas, and fine dining with their yoga). Some vacationers are up for a nice holiday and simply love yoga. And even more people choose a yoga retreat because of what is going on in their lives. Job losses, divorce, a breakup with a significant other, or simple exhaustion or burnout are all reasons for re-centering and rebalancing.
“What kind of yoga do I want to practice?” – It is important to make sure that the retreat you choose offers a style, or styles, of yoga you are comfortable with. You don’t necessarily have to choose the same style you practice at home. If you would like to try something new, be sure to take a few classes in that style before leaving. (Your NON-sore muscles will thank you.)
“Does the retreat offer my level of yoga?” – Beginner to advanced, many yoga retreats offer something for everyone. However, it helps to research the instructors and their biographies so you know the range of experiences that they will bring to your classes. Make sure they are certified and are prepared to work at your skill level. This usually is no problem, since many retreat centers have a wide array of different styles and levels of yoga, but it is still important to make sure you will be comfortable and challenged.
“How much am I willing to spend?” – Yoga retreats can be reasonably priced or very expensive, depending on what you’re looking for. Make sure that you will be offered precisely what you want in your retreat before you open your wallet; although, a little compromising never hurt anyone.
Finding the perfect retreat for you can seem daunting. A good place to start is at your yoga school or studio. Ask your instructor or classmates. Positive word-of-mouth reviews are often the best endorsements, so ask for recommendations. There are also many articles and websites that can help narrow your search. However, typing ‘yoga retreats’ into a search engine may yield too many results. Take the previous questions into consideration, but keep an open mind in your search. With so many new retreats developing every year, you’re bound to find the perfect one for you.