One of the things I really encourage everybody to do is sign up for a yoga retreat at some point in their life. Not only will a retreat help you strengthen your poses under the guidance of a devoted professional, but you’ll also gain a new perspective on life and tackle your ego. I have had the privilege of attending yoga retreats around the world and working with some of the most dedicated, trusted, and innovative experts alive.
I recently had a memorable experience on a yoga retreat I signed up for during my voyage to Vietnam and Cambodia. In hindsight, I didn’t ask the right questions or investigate enough before making my reservation and handing over my money. This experience gave me a determination to share some experience about how to choose a yoga retreat that meets your needs. After all, a retreat should be all about working on yourself - not stressing over dashed expectations or hidden expenses.
So here it is, I’m sharing my list of tips for picking a yoga retreat and getting the most out of the experience.
Inquire About Extra Fees Before You Arrive
It’s important to be extremely proactive about the items on your itinerary. My disappointing experience happened on a retreat that I believed included five hours of yoga from a senior Iyengar teacher, one hour of meditation, one hour of Qi Gong, 4-star accommodations, and healthy meals for the price I was paying. It turned out that the retreat only actually included 60-90 minutes of yoga per day unless I paid a hefty fee for all of the extra features I wanted. Bottom line? Make sure you get a contract and verify that your experience will be all-inclusive before you pack your suitcase.
Be Choosy About the Location
The atmosphere of a yoga retreat is almost as important as what happens on the yoga mat during one. Being surrounded by an inspiring environment that is different from what you usually experience can put you in a frame of mind for growth and enlightenment. Depending on your budget, you can visit a remote island or find a retreat happening in a quiet corner of a city that you love. Many people choose to pair a retreat experience with a tourism experience. I personally love visiting Southeast Asia and mixing my retreat with hours of people watching at city markets or letting the sun nourish my skin on a beautiful beach. You can find amazing retreats anywhere from the sandy beaches of California to the artsy alleyways of Paris.
Pick Your Own Pace
Some yoga retreats are packed with hours of yoga sessions while others offer minimal sessions and plenty of time for quiet reflection and relaxation. Be sure to choose your retreat based on the type of itinerary you’re looking for. Will you start to feel bored and listless if your yoga session is over by 9am and you have the rest of the day free? Will you feel overwhelmed if you’re practicing yoga from sunup to sundown with very little free time to wander around or mingle with people? Some retreats are extremely hands-on and intense, which is great if that’s what you’re looking for, but can be a little scary if you’re a novice. Don’t feel obligated to sign up for a retreat that you feel will go beyond your personal boundaries or leave you more exhausted than relaxed.
Inquire About the Menu
Food is one of the most important aspects of any travel experience. You should know what type of menu will be at your retreat before you sign up. Some retreats focus on offering detox menus while others are strictly vegan. Make sure you inform your retreat concierge of any food allergies or considerations you have before you arrive. If the thought of skipping coffee is too much to bare, make sure you ask if coffee is served at your retreat (many ban it). Some retreats serve wine while others have no-alcohol policies.
Many retreat companies have websites that make their retreats look like heaven on Earth (and honestly, most are very accurate). Don’t make your decision based solely on photos and testimonials provided by the company you’ll be signing up with. Take a few minutes to read reviews from actual retreat alumni on review websites and blogs. Have questions about picking a retreat? Send me your questions @balinisports with #yogaquestions and I’ll do my best to answer you.