Choosing a Yoga Retreat: Everything You Need to Know
By: Steph Ball-Mitchell, E-RYT-500, RPYT, RCYT< YACEP
Choosing a yoga retreat is a daunting task, especially the first time that you approach it. Don't fret... we're here to help you out! There are certain things that you want to look for to make sure that you get the most out of your yoga retreat, regardless of your own personal unique situation.
This is a loaded question, and there's no clear answer. What makes a good yoga retreat depends completely on the individual. No two people are the same, and everyone has their own set of circumstances when choosing a yoga retreat. This is why we've devised a list for you to help you choose the yoga retreat that's right for you.
There are so many considerations when you’re choosing a yoga retreat. These are the top considerations that we suggest:
There are thousands of yoga retreats available and there’s a retreat for every intention. It’s important to know what your intention is and what you hope to get out of your retreat so that you can find one whose purpose aligns with your own personal intention.
Maybe you want to learn more about ayurveda and how to cook for your dosha, in which case you want to find a retreat that offers ayurvedic nutrition. Maybe the intention is to get into some challenging inversions, so you look for a retreat that specializes in helping students make progress in arm balances with specialized workshops and clinics. Maybe Ashtanga is your thing and you want an Ashtanga retreat. Perhaps you’re going through a challenging life transition and you’re hungry for restorative yoga, yoga philosophy and self-love practices.
It’s also important to ask yourself what style of yoga you’re looking for in your retreat, and whether you’re open to multiple styles of yoga. Some yoga retreats specialize in only one style of yoga while others celebrate many yoga lineages. You want to be clear on what style of yoga you’re looking for, and how much yoga you plan to do. You wouldn’t want to end up at a sweaty power yoga retreat centered around building strength if you’re looking for a yin yoga retreat that encourages introspection.
Not only do you want to make sure that the style of yoga taught at the retreat matches your intention, but also the length of time spent practicing. Some retreats have multiple yoga offerings throughout each day while others only offer one yoga class in the morning. Some retreats will also incorporate meditation, pranayama practices and chanting. There are retreats that are teacher trainings and include continuing education credits and a certificate at the end. There are also retreats that are geared more towards growth in your personal practice.
Many retreats include activities other than yoga. These activities can vary quite a bit. Some yoga retreats also include sightseeing, while others include water sports. I once knew a yoga teacher who lived in the Pocono Mountains. She hosted a rustic yoga retreat in her backyard and everyone camped in tents and went hiking the next day. This would be very different than a yoga retreat in Rome that included trips to historic monuments or a luxury yoga retreat that included massage and spa time.
Location is probably the number one consideration for many people. For most people, the yoga retreat is also a vacation so it’s important to choose somewhere that you’d like to visit.
You can really go as high end or as economical as you’d like with yoga retreats. I’ve done quick weekend getaway retreats that are an hour and a half from my house on the Jersey shore. I’ve also gone on many international retreats. If you’ve got the money and time to put into the yoga retreat, you may opt for an international destination with a longer stay. If you find yourself in need of a mental reset but you don’t want to spend a ton of money and you don’t have a lot of time, you might choose a quick weekend retreat that isn’t too far away.
Once you’ve decided how long you want your retreat to be and whether or not you want domestic or international, you can start to narrow down the location. There are questions that can help you find the perfect location for your retreat. Do you want warm weather or cold weather? Do you picture yourself in front of a fireplace in a cabin in the snowy mountains, or do you see yourself soaking up the sun on the beach? Do you enjoy being near the water? Do you like to be in cities, or would you rather be in a more secluded area? How important is it to you that you’re close to modern amenities?
You might like the idea of becoming one with nature on a secluded island, but how would you feel about not having electricity, phone service or wifi for two weeks? For some people, that’s exactly what they’re looking for, but it isn’t for everybody.
Part of choosing the right location is knowing what amenities you’d like. Some yoga retreats have luxury accommodations in 5-star resorts. They offer more amenities than you typically have in your day-to-day life. Other yoga retreats are on the opposite end of the spectrum, and you may feel like you’re roughing it. Many retreats are all about being outdoors and enjoying the beautiful scenery, but some are indoors. All of this is important to consider.
You want to do your research before choosing a location. There may be certain drawbacks that are specific to that location that you should be aware of. For example, I have been to several retreats in Central America, one in Panama and another in Guatemala. The surroundings were breathtaking, but the mosquitos were pretty bad. Some of the attendees weren’t expecting this, and it was a problem for them.
Price is always a factor when choosing a yoga retreat. I can only say that you shouldn’t assume that you can’t find a good retreat if you’re working with a small budget, and you also shouldn’t assume that you’ve found the best retreat just because you’ve found the most expensive.
I learned the hard way that the price doesn’t necessarily commensurate with the experience. Some of the best yoga retreats I’ve attended haven’t been expensive endeavors. Some of the faraway retreats that sounded super exotic and cost a fortune weren’t all that fulfilling.
Like I mentioned, you can go low end or high end. Once you’ve chosen your budget, you want to make sure you know what is included in the advertised price. Sometimes the price can be misleading. I recommend all inclusive yoga retreats, with the exception of airfare. This way there are no surprises. Sometimes the retreat lists the price for your lodging accommodations but other things aren’t included. For example, maybe lodging and yoga is included, but meals and transportation are not included. Maybe you’re going sightseeing and the admission fee for all the scheduled outings isn’t included.
Along these lines, it’s important to learn about the refund policy in case you have to cancel for any reason.
Choosing a yoga retreat with a teacher you enjoy and can learn from is crucial to your yoga retreat experience.
People find yoga retreats in many different ways. Sometimes we search for yoga retreats in a specific location and we’re unfamiliar with the teacher. While it may be tempting to go this route if your heart is set on a particular destination, it’s risky and doesn’t always work out the way you envision. If you find yourself in this situation, you might want to do some research on the teacher before booking. If they have an online presence, try to take some of their classes online. Read their bio, email and ask any questions you have.
There are other times when we know a yoga teacher who is planning a retreat and we go specifically for that teacher. This can work out well, but you want to make sure that the teacher has something to offer you in the broader context of the retreat. Loving someone’s weekly yoga class isn’t the same as spending an extended period of time with them on a retreat.
If you’re traveling somewhere unknown, you may want to make sure that the teacher who is leading the retreat is familiar with the area and can guide you through the local stuff.
In short, you want to make sure you’re learning from a teacher who has something to offer you.
Some yoga retreats are beginner-friendly while others are for advanced practitioners. You can also find mixed level retreat formats.
You might want to ask about how many attendees are expected and whether or not there is a limit on the number of attendees.
Some retreats spend more time on practice while others spend more time on theory. You want to make sure that you’re choosing the retreat that is right for you.
Choosing a yoga retreat that suits your needs may be overwhelming, but if you follow this checklist, you'll have pretty good odds of finding the right yoga retreat for you. If you aren't able to attend a yoga retreat but want to practice yoga from home, we have you covered! Join us in our virtual yoga studio anytime for yoga from the comfort of your own home, and design your at-home yoga retreat.