Yoga retreats are a great option for those individuals who have some experience with yoga and would like to engage in an immersive, multi-day practice. Usually, retreats take place in ashrams, or one could call the retreat itself an ashram. The meaning of ashram is spiritual hermitage or retreat for learning. Its definition is often expanded upon depending on the kind of philosophy discussed. The focus of most retreats is the same as a 1-hour yoga practice except expanded to include intensive daily hatha or other yoga physical practice, food and diet, therapy treatments, relaxation, and sometimes even massage.
All of these things are done in a deliberately chosen environment. Exotic beach resorts (such as Ubud Uma, Bali), beautiful nature reserves, and isolated urban spaces are often the host places for these spiritual and life-improving yogic retreats.
Prices for these gatherings can vary drastically in range. Much of the costs incurred to the individual are travel-related. Air travel, car rental, and other fees – all can make retreats much more costly than they need to be. Of course, what kind of venue the retreat is held at matters, as well. A large, costly resort with expensive meals and lots of wait staff can mean thousands. A small retreat in a purposeful building made for retreats or owned by the company coordinating it can be a money-saving point.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Yoga Retreat
o The kind of yoga (Iyengar, hatha, ashtanga, shambhala, etc): Find a retreat that features a yoga you know and love. If you are new to this, try for a more basic form of yoga such as hatha.
o Your budget: Money matters. Consider the cost of travel, the retreat itself, any hidden costs, and if you have to work, how will the retreat effect your pay?
o Your needs: Do you have particular focus for your retreat? Are you interested in massage? Ayurveda (traditional Hindu medicine)? Therapy? Detox? Workshops on a variety of topics? An inspirational experience? Most retreats have this information in their itinerary or brochure package. When in doubt: ask.
o Socialization: How much do you want to socialize? Would you prefer more private retreat or one that focuses on community?
o Level of spirituality: Some retreats really focus on the spirit or religion. Be sure to find out so you do not put yourself in an uncomfortable situation.
Retreats focus on a few different aspects of daily life. This discussion does not get into the details of the philosophy behind retreats because they vary so drastically. What is consistent throughout all retreats is the focus on overall wellness.
Of course, fitness is a major priority at yoga retreats. Unless otherwise specified, these retreats are organized so that people all fitness levels are able to participate. There is often more than one instructor responsible for the fitness of the students. This allows them to break up the class into groups depending on experience level. Specialized retreats may not be as flexible. Be sure to have all this information prior to making the monetary commitment. One bad yoga class is one thing, but a bad yoga week is quite another. In other forms of yoga, sivananda is practiced regularly. This is far more relaxed and is more centered around breathing techniques. Depending on the retreat, you may get more or less of this time. More often than not, activation of the body is key and you will certainly get that out of ashtanga and Iyengar styles.
A great yoga master, or swami, will be able to transform your usual practice on a retreat during training times. Before booking your trip, research the people who will be teaching the course. It is important to feel comfortable about who will be guiding you on your journey. The more information, the more peace of mind you will have.
It’s very likely that your retreat of choice will focus on meditation just as much as asana workouts. The goal of this emphasis is to clear the mind and renew the heart whilst tapping into the pure energy of the self. Yoga teachers can be very inspiring to this end, and assist practitioners with getting to know their minds.
Different styles of yoga will focus on different aspects of meditation. For instance, some may include information on the chakras while others will be more personal explorations of the mind. In any case, it will be nice enjoying these quiet moments in the sun and (often) near the sea.
Yum! Food is a big perk in most retreat. The diets are often designed to detoxify the body. Therefore, many diets are raw or vegetarian and certainly organic. These spa-type diets are intended to clear bodies of waste and toxins. Your mind isn’t the only thing that will be leaving the retreat free and clear. A week of healthful dieting can lead to better lifestyle habits at home. Take care to make notes about what you are eating and how it makes you feel. That way, you can replicate some of the meals when you return home.
The meals are not usually made by resort staff or just any person. Chefs with particular specialties are often hired to make all of the meals. This fact should help you understand just how important food is to the process.
The body’s health is of the greatest import. Yes, for the most part, eating right, meditating and exercising will be sufficient in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. For others, however, it will not be enough. Sometimes balance needs to be found by other means. Ayurvedic treatments, naturopathic, and other holistic remedies can be useful in finding that balance.
There are some retreats that separate the sexes. A retreat might be aimed at breast cancer survivors or women with fertility issues. This is a different kind of healing, as well. Yet other classes might focus on addiction issues and separate the sexes for other reasons. Again, research will help you decide which retreat is right for you.
Ideally, a yoga retreat will help a person with improving the life they are living for years to come. The retreat from the hustling, bustling (often urban) lives we lead is important to our physical and mental well-being.