First, let me say something about deciding whether or not to attend a yoga retreat in the first place. If–a big if–you are one of those very intuitive people in touch with your inner voice, just trust it. All will be well. If you have a heart or divine nudge to attend a certain retreat, just do it! All will be well–even if there are some bumps along the road.
With many of my retreat attendees, they just “knew” they were supposed to be there–no questions asked–even if they know nothing about me.
Then there are some folks who will call or email me with dozens of questions before and after they sign up for a retreat. They like to know what they are getting involved in, which is a very smart move. Being over-prepared is much better than being not prepared at all. I am appreciative of the differences between how people approach retreat planning, as it is a learning experience for me. Each of us has to follow our own way of deciding and experiencing yoga retreats.
Here are some tips for choosing and making the most out of your retreat experience.
Before the retreat:
- Ask as many good questions up front as you need to feel comfortable. If email feels too impersonal, call the retreat host up. This can answer all or at least most of your questions.
- Attend a class with the teacher / leader of the retreat if possible.
- Ask for phone numbers of a few people who have attended his or her retreat. In truth, not many people do this, but it can be really helpful. Of course, you may get some cherry picked people who LOVED the retreat, but you can still read between the lines.
- Find out exactly what is included: how many meals, taxis or shuttles, side trips, etc. And …. what other costs are there? For example, extra meals to purchase?
- Check out the hotel or retreat center on Trip Adviser. Can be helpful.
- Ask about alcohol policy. We have had some people surprised that alcohol was permitted. Some were shocked when alcohol was not permitted!
- Let the host know about special food or other needs in advance. See if they can take care of you.
- If you have requests for certain topics, or workshops, ask. I like it when people tell me what they want.
- Ask how many people will share a room, and how room mates are chosen, and–God forbid–what happens if you end up with Attila the Hun as your room mate. Again, spiritually speaking, we trust, and know we get just who we need. But some of us–like myself– are control freaks! In most cases, it works fine, but I have heard some amusing stories. Last year in Mexico, a woman found out that her new room mate has this strange habit of eating very noisy, crunchy carrots at about 2:00am every morning!
- Ask if the trip is absolutely certain. Are there enough people? What happens if it is cancelled? If flights are involved, should you buy your flights now or wait?
- Flights: Again, if flights are involved, be creative. Try Bookingbuddy.com or another site where you can compare prices and flights. For example, we often fly out of Vancouver for Asian destinations, much cheaper than Seattle.
- If an international trip, I like to prepare my immune system and digestive organs, by fasting a day or two, or taking probiotics, elderberry juice, grapefruit extract, or whatever your favorite immune system boosters. It can ruin a trip being sick. If you’re in the Seattle area, visit the University of Washington Travel Clinic to get your travel vaccines as well as get information on how to prepare for your upcoming international trip.
During the Trip:
- Pure water: On that note, in some countries, I do not use any tap water, even to brush my teeth. Make sure bottled (I know, not very green) or purified water is available.
- Slow down. We move too fast back home. Remember that a retreat is a chance to just be, and ideally get to some of those buried emotions we hide so well with all our distractions back home.
- Be patient and flexible! This is crucial. Something always goes off line. Your wireless connection night not be strong. Relax.
- Unplug: Which reminds me …. unplug as much as possible. I now have a question on my registration form asking if people are willing to cut back on their electronics. I am amazed at how big a challenge this is for us nowadays.
- Balance your group time with alone time. It can be beautiful to get out of our small worlds and hang out with a group, but know when to get some quiet time or time with one or two people you connect with.
- Cut Class: Generally, you get the most out of the experience by attending as many classes and workshops as you are able. But listen to your body and heart, and take a break if desired. This can break old “should” and perfectionist patterns.
- Speak up fast if problems or preferences arise. I have had people wait until after the trip to tell me they were not happy about something–too late for me to do anything about it!
After the Trip:
- Leave a day or two for downtime and integration after a retreat. A retreat provides a chance to make a shift. It helps us open to seeing ourself and our life differently, so make the most of it by not rushing back into the rat race and our old patterns.
If you’re interested in booking a domestic or international retreat, check out Seattle Yoga News’ retreat page and find your next journey now!
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