Hosting a Yoga Retreat



What would it be like to teach a small group of dedicated students, integrating a range of practices and going into depth not afforded by your usual hour long classes? Sounds like yoga teacher heaven, right? You can create just such an experience by holding a yoga retreat. Organizing and leading a yoga retreat requires and fosters a deepening of your teaching practice as well as your top notch hosting and concierge skills.  

The most important thing in planning your yoga retreat is to be true to your personality, style, practice and ethic. Choose your location, partners, price point and venue to create a seamless experience of integrated self care fostering awareness and release. Are you a spa-lover of all styles of body work? Then a resort may be the perfect place for your yoga retreat. More into roughing it and wide open spaces? Then consider an adventure yoga retreat, incorporating your favorite outdoor activities. Your students are drawn to your teaching as an extension of your heart, so following your heart, with others in mind, is the best way to guide your initial search.

When choosing your location, consider ease of travel from multiple places. People will come from every direction, so convenience to air and car travel is key. If you are combining your yoga retreat with another gear intensive activity such as camping, climbing, hiking or surfing, consider how to handle transporting gear and whether you’ll provide any of the extras. The most efficient way to outfit these trips is to go through an established venue. With planning and creativity you can put together custom yoga retreat package for out of the way locales, too.

If you choose to go through a resort or yoga retreat provider, check out the menu, lodging and any amenities such as body work and hot tubs if you can, or get in touch with someone who’s been there for a review. Consider whether you want an entirely vegetarian yoga retreat, and inquire about options food allergies such as gluten, eggs, nuts and dairy. Make the choices for your yoga retreat that support your overall vision and create an integrated experience rather than adhering to any notion you might of what a yoga retreat “should” be. Keep in mind that people who are used to coffee in the morning or animal based protein may experience adverse side effects from unintentional withdrawal and inform accordingly. The inclusion of wine at yoga retreats is becoming more accepted, too. Be conscious about your choices and create an integrated message of awareness, self-care and joy.

One lesson of yoga retreat planning is not to undervalue your offering. Yoga teachers notoriously agonize over charging for teaching. Yoga retreats, as a premium offering, are one of the places you can step into your worth and realistically value your services as both teacher and leader. If you’re using an established yoga retreat center,  you’ll be asked for a deposit which is usually between a few hundred and a thousand dollars to hold the rooms, refundable if necessary in the months prior to the planned date, minus a service fee.

Choose a theme for your yoga retreat and begin establishing it in your marketing. Market your yoga retreat to your students and mailing list as this will likely yield your highest percentage of response per contact. Set a goal of about ten students for your yoga retreat, in addition to you and any assistants you bring. Internet marketing strategies including google ad words, facebook ads and social media campaigns can build awareness and don’t forget to make a press release to your local media and write about your yoga retreat plans on your blog and social media sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. LinkedIn hosts a Yoga Retreat Group with interesting conversations and venue information.  

The yoga part! First, remember it’s all yoga. Gather your group at the beginning of your yoga retreat and hold an opening talk, Dharma session or ceremony to mark this time as sacred and set apart from th rest of the yoga retreat. Set a theme and a tone and share the insight that every step, every bite, word and breath from here on out is part of their yoga retreat experience. Bringing mindfulness to the experience from every angle will elevate your students’ experience and this makes the difference between a real yoga retreat and just taking a lot of classes in really pretty place. Remind them that while they may be retreating from everyday responsibilities and routines, they’re actually doing the opposite with regard to the present moment. Far from getting away, they’re committing to showing up in deep and real ways for every moment during their stay, and into their lives.

Create a schedule that honors your ability to give by creating solitude for you to rejuvenate between teachings. If you plan to hold a three hour meditation or arm balance workshop in the afternoon, you may want to keep morning practice to an hour with silent meditation, or visa versa. Planning for morning and evening meditations will create a sense peace of unity within the group. If you’re using a venue for your yoga retreat, look at their meal and activity schedules so your students don’t have to choose between breakfast and your yoga class.

Get more rest than you usually do, or think you will need. Be fierce in your self-care and you will model for your students true “Brahmacharya,” or self-containment. Bring an assistant for the duration of the yoga retreat so everyone has more than one point of contact. Create explicit and detailed agreements before hand so you both you and your assistant have a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities.

Like teaching your first yoga classes, leading a yoga retreat is your opportunity to create the experience you’ve always envisioned and provide an experience of relaxation fostering practice and self-study. A yoga retreat is also a great way to create a community feeling that your students that will carry over to into your yoga classes.

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