Many folks all over the world are seeking out yoga retreats as an alternative to a more conventional vacation. Some are looking to relieve stress or take time out from their hectic lives, some want to get fit and shift toward a more healthful lifestyle, and others are looking for meaningful travel experiences with opportunities to explore a new country or different culture. Whatever your reason for choosing a yoga retreat for your holiday, there are many ways to make sure you get the most out of your time away.
Below are some simple ideas to keep in mind that can make a profound difference in your experience and enjoyment while on retreat:
- Don’t always play it safe
The very fact that you’ve signed up for a yoga retreat may already be a big step outside your comfort zone. Congratulations! But don’t stop there. It’s important that you encourage yourself to continue trying new things and tackling new challenges throughout your trip. Meeting and really engaging with new people, tasting unusual foods, testing yourself (safely) in unfamiliar yoga postures, and venturing out to try a new activity or practice a foreign language – even if it’s just a few basic words – will go a long way towards enriching your overall experience.
- Skip the expectations and keep an open mind
Even if you’ve been on several yoga retreats before, each new one will be unique based on its location, the style of the teacher, and the different participants joining in. It’s natural to get excited about what you think may happen or make detailed plans about what you’d like to do, but limiting those expectations and keeping an open mind about what you experience will keep you focused in the present moment. Staying in the present is a key tenet of yoga and you’ll be amazed at what opens up for you when you let go of your story and allow your experience to unfold without attachment.
- Revel in nature
Most yoga retreats are set in serene locations, surrounded by natural beauty and abundant wildlife. Many people choose a retreat with the intention of deepening their own yoga practice; being surrounded by the tranquility of nature can truly enrich this experience. Whether it’s the power of the ocean, the grandeur of the mountains, or the peacefulness of the desert, you can leverage the healing power of the natural world to sink into a deeper state of relaxation. Take the opportunity to fine tune your senses to the uniqueness of your surroundings – the vibrancy of the colors, the freshness of the air, the rhythm of the day – and notice how that focus and attention help to create clarity of mind.
- Set aside time for yourself
In our busy, modern lives, we often find ourselves caught up in our responsibilities, our activities, and our to-do lists. Almost every moment seems chock full of tasks we should be doing – either for work or for family or for friends. A retreat is an excellent opportunity to carve out time specifically for yourself and spend some quality time alone. Whether you’re walking the beach, watching the sunset, spotting Orion on a starry night, or observing the clouds float by from a gently-swaying hammock, it can be quite powerful and revealing to dedicate time to being alone.
The complement to spending time alone is to also enjoy the company of your fellow yogis. A yoga retreat is a tremendous opportunity for you to explore – both your internal and your external worlds. Twice-daily asana practice, regular meditation, and time alone in nature away from your usual routine offer an amazing opportunity to dig deeper into who you really are and what is most important to you. Other people on your retreat will also likely be opening up and seeing their lives with fresh perspective, so it can be a wonderful chance to really connect with them in a genuine and meaningful way. The pretense and superficiality that can create barriers in everyday life often crumble during a yoga retreat, leaving the opportunity to communicate with those around you in a more intimate and authentic way.
- Focus on the reasons why you’re on retreat
One of the most important ways to prepare for your time on retreat is to set an intention for your journey. Are you facing challenges in a close personal relationship – a friend, partner, or family member? Are you feeling unfulfilled in your career or wondering whether you should make a change? Are you looking to find more meaning in your everyday life or reach out to be more active in your community? Do you want to dedicate yourself to more holistic lifestyle choices that will improve your health and well-being?
All of these – or something else entirely that is appropriate for you and your situation – are ripe areas for self-exploration and self-discovery. Choose an area to focus on that seems especially relevant and important to you at the moment and make a point of truly exploring the concerns and doubts you may have while on retreat. Reflect upon these questions after yoga classes and meditation, observe your emotional responses during your time alone, talk about these feelings with others on your retreat whose opinion you respect or who may have faced a similar situation.
A yoga retreat is an amazing place to delve deeply into a truer understanding of your essential self. It creates an environment that will offer you greater clarity and a broader perspective. Take advantage of this time away to focus on a specific area of your life that you’d like to improve and you’ll gain valuable insight that you can apply upon your return home.
If you approach a yoga retreat with an open mind, a concrete intention, and a willingness to stretch beyond your comfort zone, you’ll make the most of your experience. Soak up the beauty and serenity of nature, allow yourself time alone, and then seek out other members of your group for their support, advice, and collective wisdom. In turn, share your own perspective – and perhaps a shoulder to lean on – with those who might benefit. This approach will deepen your experience and your self-understanding, ensuring a more meaningful and gratifying experience while on retreat.