How better to reward and inspire your practice than to plan a yoga retreat? Retreats come in many flavors, shapes and sizes but all signify taking one or more days out of your routine life to dedicate to yoga and appreciating its effect on your body and mind.
A retreat may be quite luxurious or definitely rustic, as they range from resort settings to wilderness camping. The right one for you will depend on your budget, time frame, motivation and inclination. A basic template of retreat life includes simple, wholesome meals provided for you, a place to sleep and find solitude and a choice of classes or meetings each day. Commonly, there will be a morning and an afternoon class as well as an evening meditation, or some other configuration of three meetings. There may be optional activities such as massages and hikes.
Check to see whether attendance at practices is mandatory. If it is, decide whether this is reasonable for you to commit to and book accordingly. At some centers such as Ashrams or other communities, attendance at least at morning practice is expected, and work practice is required. Work practice, sometimes referred to as Seva for “offering” consists in mindfully engaging the everyday upkeep of the place that’s nurturing you. Decide beforehand on a retreat that serves your needs.
Select a conference or a location that will deepen your understanding. If you are studying a particular style of yoga, you may want to take retreat with a teacher from that style. If you are interested in learning to meditate, find out about the options for meditation instruction available.
You may select your retreat by amenity, requirement or location, or you may find out that a cherished teacher is leading a retreat to a specific location. In that case, many of the choices will be outlined for you, such as cost, accommodation, nourishment and practices. When your favorite teacher leads a retreat you have a golden opportunity to grow your understanding while getting to know your teacher in a different setting.
Retreats can be like vacations, in that it’s a time for relaxation and taking a break from the routines of your life. You may travel to an exotic location in Costa Rica or Nepal or you may drive just a few miles down the road. There are several things that distinguish your retreat from a vacation, however.
Not only is your major activity on retreat yoga, but the location should be one that will support bringing that sense of reflection and self-study to your entire stay. Some retreats are silent or silent at meals, but whatever the custom where you go, cultivate a sense of inwardness and self-observation even between classes. Consider journaling once a day. Give yourself all the basic self-care you can while on retreat, because this is the foundation for your transformation. Create time and conditions that favor deep, restful sleep. Recall your dreams. Hydrate yourself optimally and eat a clean diet both in nutrients and preparation. This may be an excellent time to try eating less in general, not to diet but to maintain a sense of lightness, or perhaps you’ve always been curious about a vegetarian diet.
If you include leisure activities such as massage, hiking, surfing or creative endeavors bring your yoga mind to these experiences as well. The feeling you have at the end of class, the attention you pay to placing your foot in Warrior I, this is the quality of mind to bring to every moment and interaction you have on your retreat.
Even on a limited budget you can have a transformation retreat experience. Consider making a home retreat. Requiring greater commitment and planning, because you don’t have the total change of environment to support new habits, this can be a deeply meaningful to deepen your practice. Let your family know that you will be quietly practicing mindfulness during this time. Choose times for a morning and evening yoga practice, and download a guided Yoga Nidra or other meditation. Choose a book to digest during this time, something that calls to your deep inner wisdom.
Finally, open to the alchemy of the retreat. In the quiet and the dedicated practice, with fierce self-care you will experience a clarifying of your attention and a focus of your intent. Follow your intuition and embrace the insight that awaits you.