If you’ve recently fallen in love with yoga (or even if you’ve loved it for awhile now) you might be thinking that it’s time to deepen your practice with a yoga retreat. I’ve been on two yoga retreats in the last two years and I loved both of them. I highly recommend a yoga retreat for anyone who practices yoga. Not only will it deepen and inspire your yoga practice, it will also make for an extremely relaxing and unforgettable holiday. Every yoga retreat will be a little bit different, but these tips will help you get the most out of any retreat.
1. Leave your expectations at home
We all have our favourite yoga teachers and our favourite yoga styles, but unless you’re going on a retreat organised by your regular yoga studio the style and the teacher will be different than what you’re used to. And that’s not a problem at all. Show up to the retreat with an open mind, and bring it with you each time you step onto your mat.
2. Don’t bring a long to-do list
We all have things we like to do while we’re on holidays. Maybe it’s reading a huge stack of books, getting a tan, or writing for hours in our journal. On both of the retreats I’ve been to there has been lots of free time, but try not to cram this time full of things you think you need to do. Enjoy the down time and allow yourself time to do absolutely nothing. Definitely read if you want to, but don’t feel like you need to finish the book before you leave.
3. Listen to your body
Most of us don’t practice twice a day or even daily in our regular lives, so during the retreat you may experience muscle soreness or stiffness. During a week-long retreat there will be days when you feel flexible and strong, and other days when you are tired and have absolutely no balance. Listen to your body, without judging it. You don’t need to push yourself in every single class. If your body is calling out for a gentler class, it’s ok to slow down and take it easier than usual.
4. Keep your phone switched off
A lot of retreats have Wi-Fi readily available. As much as you might want to share your photos of the retreat on Instagram, I think it enhances your overall experience if you take a social media break – at least for a few days. Instead of looking at what other people are doing on Facebook or checking your emails, bring your full awareness to what you are doing right now, to your surroundings and to your fellow guests.
5. Practice presence on and off the mat
I think we can only truly enjoy something when we are present in the current moment. During yoga and meditation classes listen to the guidance of your teacher, bring your focus to your breath, and do your best to practice presence. Off the mat, eat slowly and truly taste and savour each meal. Give your full attention to anyone who speaks with you.
6. Pack clothes your comfortable moving in
You don’t need to impress any of the other guests with the clothes you wear, but you do need to be comfortable. Bring pants that don’t fall down and tops that don’t ride up, so that during class you can focus on the movement of your body, rather than the movement of your clothes. If you’re going somewhere warm find out if they offer a laundry service. If not bring quick drying tops that you can wash in your sink or bring enough so that you won’t be worried about being smelly.
7. Ramp up your self-care
A yoga retreat is the perfect time to really devote to your self-care. Bring your favourite moisturiser and use it every day. Spend some time journaling. Watch your thoughts and try and speak kindly to yourself. If the retreat you’re going to offers massages, I would highly recommend getting one or two. Not only do they feel good on slightly sore muscles, they can also do amazing things to your state of mind.
8. If you head overseas, book a few extra days after the retreat
There are yoga retreats held in amazing locations all over the world, including Bali, Sri Lanka and Costa Rica. If you’re flying to your retreat be sure to leave a few days for sightseeing once the retreat is over. While you might have to do this during the retreat itself, you run the risk of not being able to see everything in the designated free time. Save yourself any stress or a case of traveller’s FOMO by booking a few extra days and dedicate these days to exploring the local area.
9. Smile and have fun
You don’t need to take things too seriously while you’re on a retreat. Have fun and enjoy the things you can do. Don’t worry about how flexible or strong the girl practising next to you is. Enjoy the poses you can do, laugh when you lose your balance and don’t pressure yourself to be perfect. If you smile everyday and are open to whatever experiences may happen, you are sure to have a fantastic time.
Do you have a question about yoga retreats or self-care for Erin? Ask away via the comment section below!