by Stephanie Labay
Taking a yoga retreat can be an inspiring journey into your practice, but it’s also a big commitment of your time. Having a good understanding of what to look for and what to expect during a retreat is key to taking a fulfilling and successful retreat. Asking all the right questions is crucial!
Abroad or near home?
When is the right time to go?
What type of retreat should you take?
With what kind of teacher?
What do you need to take?
What level of yoga?
OUR GOAL is to help you find your dream retreat. We do this by allowing you to get answers to all your questions and compare retreats across all the specific requirements that you might have: location, time, style of yoga, cuisine, teacher, budget, etc. There’s an amazing amount of retreats out there, but unfortunately many of them are hard to get details on. That’s where we’re here to help.
This 10-step guide is a great place to start. We hope it will help you take a step forward towards the life-altering experience a retreat can be.
1. Select the type of destination that’s right for you
Most people like to use a yoga retreat as a vacation. Sometimes it’s hard to get away, so doubling up on time off by combining spiritual or physical growth along with the experiences of being in an exotic location can be a smart move.
So if this is your strategy, then the first thing you want to do is target a general idea of where you’d like to go. Beaches vs. mountains. Surf vs. forest.
What setting do you most identify with?
What environment inspires you?
There are numerous yoga retreats in the United States, Costa Rica and Mexico, which allow you to not travel very far to find what you are looking for. You are even likely to find a retreat a couple hours road trip from your house.
Many yoga teachers also offer retreats all year round in less known, yet very cute and serene retreat settings. This will give you more of an intimate feel than some of the larger resorts in Mexico for example. So be sure to think about retreat SIZE, as well as location.
Do I just need a short retreat nearby?
Do I want to be immersed in remote nature?
RetreatPlace offers you a map search of all our retreats that is handy to search from a geographic perspective.
2. Chose a time frame that fits your schedule
Its hard to get away these days. Everyone I know is busier than they’ve ever been.
For the same issues that these articles focus on, its crucial to take a deserved break every so often and realign with what’s important. That’s what yoga retreats are great at providing! Perspective. Ultimately, the more mentally and physically sharp you are, the more efficient you are with your time and energy. So with that in mind a retreat can be looked at as a time investment. Make it a priority and put it in the calendar!
If your kids or husband or both are going to be out of town during the holidays, it might be a good time to schedule a retreat. A slower month at work may also allow you to leave for a week or two with peace of mind.
Note, if you travel abroad, check the weather patterns. Costa Rica for example has a big weather pattern difference between Pacific and Caribbean coasts. Also you may see a high level of rainfall but note that it may not mean that it will rain all day. Typically in tropical areas, mornings are clear and showers come in the afternoons.
3. Define the goal for your retreat
Your goal can be as simple as taking time for yourself and to relax; whatever it is, have a clear intention of what it is before you go on a retreat. I recommend taking a journal with you to track your evolution along the course of the retreat. I like to do before/after comparisons.
I’ve taken several retreats and each one has either planted a little seed that grew into an amazing accomplishment or it was at a time of a cross-road I needed to take a step back and decide on the next move forward. For me, they’re all about gaining perspective, but there are other reasons too.
Here are some general overarching goals for a yoga retreat:
- To gain perspective
- Support a transition in your life
- Health and physical transformation
- Spiritual and mental transformation
Also, its good to be aware that most yoga retreats are targeted to any level yoga. So if you’ve started practicing yoga a few months ago, don’t fret! Your goal is independent of your yoga level or the level of others around you. A retreat is an intimate place where you will be given almost a one-on-one opportunity with a teacher to deepen your practice, advanced or beginner. Its also a nurturing, community atmosphere with like-mined spirits, a great place to be yourself and meet friends.
4. Pick the retreat style that’s right for your goals
There are different ways to go on a yoga retreat. First the length of the retreat is important, you may want to go on a day, weekend, or for a week or longer.
There are also different types of yoga retreats that’s independent of the type of yopa:
Resort style – If you are looking for a vacation alone, with a friend or with your family and would like to incorporate yoga in your daily routine, there are several places out there that offer morning yoga in their package.
Mixed – If you are looking to deepen your practice, yet need time to yourself to read, journal, reflect, and visit the area, the mixed retreat offers meals and accommodation on site, generally two yoga classes daily and some free time to relax.
Intensive – Intensive retreats are defined as deep physical and spiritual retreat. It may include practices of yoga, chanting and meditation. Every time of the day has a specific purpose where the mind is engaged in the purpose of the retreat. These retreats may be less along the lines of a vacation yet more transformative.
And there of course are a TON of different styles of yoga that a retreat might focus on. That said, the majority of retreats try to cater to a lot of people, so they teach standard yoga styles. However, there are a few that might focus on a particular style, like Ashtanga or Vinasa Flow, and others might add another focus such as meditation, chakras, or even add another style of fitness such as pilates.
5. Define your budget
A great way to limit the possibilities is to define what you want to afford and still reach your goal! The price for a yoga retreat varies on the length of the retreat – weekend, one-week long or longer – and on the type of accommodation you select.
Some retreats have only one type of accommodation, hence one price, but most retreats offer the choice between different types of accommodations in single and double occupancy.
Another aspect that will make the retreat price go up or down are the types of activities you chose to pair with it. You can take a retreat with horseback riding, or cooking classes for example. Private yoga instruction with your teacher, excursions, and massages or other spa treatments may be available at an extra cost. And of course getting to the retreat center can be costly if its far from home.
6. Your Stay
Accommodations may vary from luxurious suite with internet and room service to camping in your own tent. In the middle ground a retreat center may offer a cottage type accommodation in single or double occupancy.
As a general rule and according to availability, you can share a double occupancy room with a friend or one of the retreat attendees, which offers a more cost effective option depending on your budget.
Other types of shared accommodations include dormitory style with bunk beds and shared bathrooms. These can also be fun, like going to camp.
As for the meals, they are generally included in the retreat price as most retreats are all inclusive. Check in the price section for what is included and what is not. Although rare, some retreats only offer breakfast.
Also if you have special dietary requirements, you may inquire about the type of food served. Most yoga retreats offer healthy vegetarian meals.
7. The teacher
Yoga retreats can be taught by one or more teachers – typically one to two teachers. Often, the retreat is centered around the practice and following of a single teacher, which has enough of an entrepreneurial spirit and business sense to organize and execute a retreat.
We recommend you review a bio of the teacher before you decide which retreat to take. On RetreatPlace.com, you will find a teacher tab under each yoga retreat. Review their bio to understand their general experience as a teacher, what type of yoga they teach, who they were influenced by. If you have any questions about a specific teacher, don’t hesitate to contact us.
Note that many retreats allow you to request a private session with your teacher, at an additional cost, during the retreat if you feel the need to deepen in a specific area.
8. Knowing how to get there and away with ease
Once you have found a retreat you like, you may need to look at flights to get there on or before the day the retreat starts and after the retreat ends.
If you travel to a foreign country for a one week retreat, you may fly the day before or even a couple days prior to check-out the area. Generally when you travel on an international retreat, the retreat includes time for exploration and site-seeing.
If the retreat is in the US, use the google map tool to see how long it will take to get to the retreat location. Typically you will arrive at the retreat location late afternoon to allow plenty of time for checking-in and tour the site before evening practice or dinner.
Also refer to the Getting There tab for more details.
9. Prep work. What to do before departure to ensure fullfilment
Health: If you are traveling to a foreign country, you may want to check on the vaccination requirements (CDC vaccination recommendations here). However if you are traveling within the US, Mexico or Costa Rica you will not need any vaccinations. Refer to the What to Bring section to make sure you bring items such as sun screen and bug spray.
Passport: If you travel overseas make sure your passport is up to date. If you travel in other countries than Mexico and Costa Rica, such as India, research any visa requirements. Wikipedia has a handy way to search visa requirements around the globe here.
State of mind: to take full advantage of your retreat, we recommend first identifying your primary goal for taking the retreat (see #3 above), and then doing some prep-work beforehand. Reading can give you a great head start to get your head straight and ready. A few book ideas include:
- A fictional novel centered in the country where you’ll be. ( I LOVED when I traveled India while reading Holy Cow & Eat Pray Love)
- One that covers the yoga or meditation styles you’ll be experiencing.
- Stories on traveling or personal journeys
Odds and Ends: When my husband and I travel, we always ask each other: “do we have passports and credit cards?” That’s all you ever really need, but it might be nice to have a few extras that you can’t easily find where you’re going.
- A good inspirational book (also see “#9 Before the retreat above”)
- A journal to process and write down your thoughts
- Refillable water bottle
- Reusable shopping bag (handy for toting around odds and ends around the retreat center, or getting groceries from a local market).
- Appropriate clothing for the country/weather. Be mindful of local customs. Most yoga retreats are in warm-weather conditions, so warm weather clothes and swim wear is usually handy (a flattering swimsuit can be hard to find!).
- A few changes of yoga wear – most retreats offer yoga classes at least twice a day (mornings and evenings).
- Yoga mat (a mat strap or bag is handy to have while traveling)
- Extra yoga props if you need them (e.g., strap, block, cushion). Most retreat centers provide them though.
- Good walking shoes for hikes or general traveling about. And sandals for beach destinations.
- Ear plugs
- Insect repellent (Our family loves Burt’s Bees herbal insect repellent)
- Passport and copy of passport in a separate place for international travel (Visas are not needed for Mexico and Costa Rica)
10. What you can do right now!