How many articles have you already scrolled through to get an idea about the benefits of going to a yoga retreat? Hands on heart: Loads! Entries with such details are plentiful and easily accessible online, health and wellness magazines and so on. These usually talk about very similar things such as taking a break from a busy life, maybe even from technology, sometimes even from speaking and acknowledging others at a yoga retreat (in the case of silent retreats!). Detoxing, cleansing, reconnecting with nature, deepening your asana practice, spending time with a specific yoga teacher… making new connections, meeting new people who are mostly similar minded, as they also chose the yoga retreat you had chosen.
But you know all of this. It’s a bit like… all the reasons that one knows in their mind that would benefit them long term but believe that they do not have the time or means to recreate in one’s everyday life. Surely, they wouldn’t want to spend so many of their holiday days, just on a yoga retreat! As an outsider, you might have a look at their life and say: Oh, you could really benefit from a yoga retreat – but, when it comes to yourself, would you be able to recommend the same? It’s often ourselves that we treat with the least kindness. It’s time for that to change!
The true benefits of a yoga retreat come when you have a defined reason why you are looking to attend one. If you’re simply looking for a vacation somewhere warm, where you can do a yoga session every morning, eat wonderful food and spend the rest of the day relaxed by the pool with a glass of vino in the evening – you’ll find that the benefits of that retreat will differ to what you would get out from a silent retreat, with no technology and specific detoxifying diet. It doesn’t have to be the two end of the spectrum to get a wide range of the benefits of a yoga retreat. Marrying your goal with the type of retreat you sign up for, is probably the most important factor when it comes to identifying how to make the most of a yoga retreat.
Some yoga retreats are combined with a different style sporting activity, such as surfing, horse-riding, hiking, sailing and so much more! Some of them are combined with more creative style activities, such as writing or journaling, painting, sculpture, even boat building! The focus here isn’t primarily yoga, although of course yogic philosophy can be applied to any activity that we do. That one-pointed focus, ekagrata, that pursuit of one specific matter with unwavering attention can be often found through a walking meditation or an arty meditation e.g. writing or creating. These are all a wonderful way of stopping and recharging, going away from your everyday life and allowing others to cater for your needs for a few days.
The key benefits of yoga retreats like these include:
De-stress, Relax and Renew: This has to be the number one reason for anyone to go on any kind of holiday, surely! Different types of people find relaxation in a different way. Simply being able to get up in the morning and not having to think about breakfast, will already start melting you away. I can certainly spend hours with a coffee (or two!) in the morning, just chatting away about anything and everything with my wife. Making time for yourself in this way is always special. Giving yourself the luxury to spend time with your own needs, is not to be underestimated! Being your best self has an infinitely positive effect on the people around you – and you cannot be expected to be your best self, without actually spending some luxury me-time. And by luxury, we don’t mean expensive… we simply mean allowing yourself to lay back, and for others to take care of you, even if only for a few days.
You get to be with like-minded people: It’s really a fantastic way to socialise safely. Others will have signed up to the same yoga retreat for similar reasons to yours, they clearly have similar interests too! Which makes it likely that you’ll have a great time even when you are travelling alone. Personally, I find it challenging to make new friends; and this kind of an environment takes that edge away for me, bringing people easily together through that joint, shared human experience.
You’ll get to learn a new thing or immerse yourself further in a hobby you already do. We cannot learn anything new without stepping outside of our comfort zone, pushing ourselves to the edge in a safe and supportive environment. Stepping out of our comfort zone feels truly invigorating afterwards – not to mention: It will give you great stories to tell friends and family back home!
Healthy Food: No matter what type of yoga retreat you choose; healthy food will be on the list of benefits. Eating healthy does not mean lack of taste, in fact, the best healthy meals are always balanced and amazingly delicious for those taste buds! Going on holiday need not mean over-indulging and this can be a very non-intrusive way of learning how to balance different types of food and nutrition. Are you a little bit of a foodie? You’ll love the easy way of discovering these revitalising dishes, and generally yoga retreats are superb for catering for all the different types of dietary requirements too. (Note: Always check with the organisers in advance)
Yoga retreats are not always combined with other activities. Feedback from regular retreat goers show that some yoga retreats do not have enough yoga associated with them either. Once you established that your goal is not only to take a break, but to dive deeper into your yoga asana practice, learn a wee bit about yoga philosophy and history, you’ll soon start to discover the large number of different themes the different hosts have to offer. Some yoga retreats focus on mindfulness and meditation sessions. Some focus on a specific asana type of practice. Some make it all about slowing down into your yin and restorative yoga practices. Some might focus on detoxifying and bringing in other, alternative medicine kind of healing. There are yoga retreats aimed at mantra and kirtan singing, kriya yoga, highly spiritual and more. Choose the one that is appropriate for you, your interests, your asana practice level… Choose the one that speaks to your heart.
As a beginner on your yoga journey, benefits of allowing yourself to dive deeper into your yoga practice by joining a yoga retreat will bring some additional points to the above. Depending on the theme of the specific yoga retreat weekend / week, you will find these kind of benefits:
Learning tools to manage not only stress, but anxiety, depression, insomnia, fatigue and more! Yogic tools such as pranayama (breathing techniques) require only a few minutes of your time daily – but will create a very soothing effect on your mind from day one. These powerful techniques are simple to follow and once practiced a few times, easily adaptable to a steady and regular home practice. See which part of the yoga retreat makes you feel calm and relaxed, and don’t be shy to chat to the host about it! Not all yoga retreats include sharing these specific tools, so be sure to check the programme fully and ask if you are unsure.
As a beginner, you are always asked to keep an open mind when joining your first yoga retreat. This is purely because as humans, we are somewhat pre-conditioned in certain ways and yoga asks you to take a look at that, question it and re-evaluate these actions and thoughts of the mind. When you are at the beginning of your yoga journey, you will be pushed outside of your comfort zone more often than not. So, it’s important that you can do this with a host that embraces you for who you are, makes you feel comfortable and cared for, feels easily approachable and guides you through the journey with inclusivity, inquiry and acceptance. You’ll feel more anew and more aware after your first yoga retreat – which I guess is cryptic enough in its own way :)
Spending time with yourself. The luxury we don’t allow ourselves too often in our everyday, ever-changing, ever-running, highly stimulated lives. There is so much focus on our to-do lists, what the children/partner/friends need, what work requires from us; that we often find it’s easy to push our needs aside and into the background. Through the mindfulness and asana sessions, and through the fact that your days are all nicely planned out for you: You will find this a quality time spent with yourself, allowing your thoughts to become clearer and for your brain to feel less foggy. Whilst a yoga retreat will not necessarily focus on self-development specifically; it will certainly leave you feeling inspired with ideas and little tricks and tips for the future. And even if you don’t end up making changes in your everyday life, you will have spent time focusing on your own mind and your own body, identifying your own needs. And that, is important.
Time. Time sweet time. When we’re over-worked, stressed, anxious, or alike; we tend to de-prioritise our own selves and end up not spending enough time on our mat, caring for ourselves. We put behind / de-prioritise our yoga practice, our meditation practice, our bath with a book and other practices that are so critical for our wellbeing, to deal with all else. An interesting observation: The less time we feel we have for our self-care, the more that self-care practice is needed! Well, during a yoga retreat, you will have all the time in the world to practice your yoga and other, self-care practices. Maybe you will discover why you had fallen in love with yoga in the first place! And, hopefully, you will feel a strong motivation by the end of your yoga retreat weekend, to look at your everyday schedule back home and find the way that will allow your yoga to be there for you, when you need it the most. A clear, rested head can handle the everyday stress in a more powerful way, also having that much needed similar, calming effect on the world around You.
So enjoy your time at Your chosen yoga retreat, wherever that might be and whoever it might be with – enjoy the journey, the discovery, broadening your experiences.
And, first and foremost: Stay positive and have fun!