In my yoga journey, I have both participated in and organised a number of retreats. And I can tell you for sure that there are no set rules for the perfect one. There is no specific location, time, or yoga style that will ensure it’s a 100% successful retreat, or that it’s the one you had envisaged and desired to spend time on.
First of all, you need to be clear about what you are looking to achieve and why you think a yoga retreat would be beneficial for you at a particular time of your life. At this stage, you can go on to evaluate all the practical aspects – how long you want to be away for, how far you can travel, what kind of exercise you want to do, what kind of food you’d like to eat – so that you can find the ideal combination that will work for you.
Here are my 5 tips on what to look for to achieve your ideal yoga experience:
1. Think about your objectives
You might be a very passionate and experienced yogi, who wants to go for a very immersive retreat. Or you might be new to yoga, and want to be inspired by it in a setting that’s not your weekday, post-work class in a gym. You might be a solo traveller, who wants to explore a new country in a relaxed way and with a group of like-minded individuals. Or you might be tired of the city, and use this as an occasion to spend some time immersed in nature, or in a very tranquil environment.
As usual, there is no right or wrong answer. The important thing, and the foundation of your decision, should be that you know why you’re doing it, and you do it with a sense of purpose. Once that is clear to you, there are some practical aspects to consider, which I’ll explore just below.
2. Find your ideal location
Most yoga retreats seem to be offered in exotic locations – but in reality, you could go to a weekend-long break in the middle of the New Forest, if you wanted to. Which one is better? Yes, to choose one in, say, Bali would really make you feel like you’re leaving all behind to find yourself in a completely different and wholly immersive experience. But you might not be able to fly for 16 hours to get there, and deal with the jet lag. Also, if you fancy taking time off in January, you’ll find Bali is in full monsoon season and the weather might not be as idyllic as those brochure pictures conveyed. You might actually find idyllic days can be spent walking though a British forest, which you’ve reached with a short drive, where you can reconnect with a type of nature you’re familiar with, and where you can practice and meditate in a warm and cosy lodge.
See? There is no specific answer. My tip is to start with location and time of the year first, decide how far and for how long you can afford to travel, and then find what the retreat offers are there.
Personally, I’ve been to or organised longer retreats in India, Bali or the Maldives, but I’ve also been to Amsterdam, Manchester and the Lake District.
3. Find out about the teachers
Naturally, the teacher and the style of yoga they’re going to focus on are at the heart of the retreat. Find out more about who’s going to lead the practice: how many years of teaching experience do they have? Where did they gain their qualifications? Have they led retreats before? Do they have good clients testimonials? Teaching a class in a gym is not the same as leading a group of people through an improvement journey that’s going to last several days, during which there is not only constant practice but further discussions and introspection. Make sure you choose someone who’s done it a few times before, and you feel confident to spend a few days with.
4. Style of yoga, and style of retreat
Consider what style of yoga you’re comfortable practising: do you want to get better at it, or would you like to explore other approaches? What level is the retreat aimed at? Beginners, intermediate, or advanced, almost like a mini teacher training? Some retreats are multi-level, and the teacher will lead practice in a way that’s suitable for most.
Apart from the level of expertise, it’s also about how much the retreat is focused on practice: some include intensive, day-long workshops, while others mix classes with periods of meditation or simple breathing, or even with other activities such as massage or nutrition classes, or expeditions to explore the location’s surroundings and local culture.
You may want to go for a period of deep practice, or simply mix in yoga with other aspects of a holiday, such as getting to know new people and new locations.
Personally, I specialise in Ashtanga Vinyasa, Yin and Mandala yoga, and I’m happy to tailor practice to all levels.
5. Length and price of retreat
Now for your very practical considerations. Once you’ve established how long you can be away for (which also influences how far you’re ready to travel), and how much you can spend, make sure you consider what your package of choice offers, what’s included, and what would be an extra expense.
Generally, most retreats include all activities in the proposed schedule, and even all food served during your stay – all you need to do is arrange your flight or transportation to the site. In some others, however, you’ll have to pay more for additional massages, excursions, etc. Make sure you are clear on all that’s included, so you can make the most of your experience.
Interested in a yoga retreat with Doria Yoga? I specialise in tailored-made packages, either 1-2-1 or for private groups, such as yourself and your family and friends. I’m happy to work with both men and women, and can create conventional retreats, or Naked Yoga ones, where you can enjoy both your naked yoga practice but also add yoga to your naturist holiday. Find out more and contact me here.