If you’ve ever been on a yoga retreat, you might not need much convincing about what’s great about them. But if the experience is new to you, it can seem strange or even intimidating: are we going to do things I know? Will I look stupid? What if I’m completely outpaced by the students and we do crazy postures I can’t do? What if the teacher talks all this weird stuff I don’t understand? What if there’s nothing for me to eat? What if I get lonely? Questions multiply like over-caffeinated rabbits, and suddenly you’re talking yourself out of something you might really actually enjoy that could be a powerful, even life-changing experience.
So come on and take my hand, while I share with you
SEVEN REASONS TO GO ON YOGA RETREAT
You Cultivate Deep Rest. The word retreat literally means to move back from. On retreat, we give ourselves the opportunity to step back from a lot of the day-to-day responsibilities—pleasurable and challenging—that lay so much claim to our time and energy. I was stunned by how much my body enjoyed sleeping the first time I went on retreat, when I went to bed when I was tired and wake when I was rested. On retreat, there’s no clock for you to check every umpteen seconds or minutes, there’s no deadlines, and the schedule you get is optional. At first this can be a bit discombobulating, but once we unwind from the demand, we can rest so thoroughly, and show up for our body in the most meaningful ways.
You Get to Know Yourself Better. Travel, for those of us who are fortunate enough to do it, is a powerful experience. It changes you—or at least, it changes me. When I travel, I find myself thinking about what it is to do life in another place: another neighborhood, city, state, or country. What is the life of the people who live here? What would my life be if I lived here? Who am I in this place, and is that a different person than I am in the places I usually inhabit? All of these questions come up for me. Also, anyone who’s traveled will tell you that something always goes wrong: so travel gives us a chance to practice who we are, or want to be, in the face of struggle or challenge. Travel reflects yourself back to you in all kinds of ways, and you can learn a lot about who you are and what you’re capable of when you really take in those reflections.
You Have an Adventure! Travel is exciting, but it isn’t easy. Even at the best of times, we’re not always comfortable, and sometimes a lot happens on retreat that’s outside of your control. Adventure can be exciting, can test our courage, our fortitude, and ability to surrender. The best we can do at these times is breathe, and ride the wave of the experience, trusting the lesson that it has for us. Sometimes the adventure is an obstacle to overcome, whether that’s a mountain hike or a lost suitcase. Sometimes it’s a personal difficulty, like illness or injury. Sometimes it’s a challenge to sort out in community, and sometimes it’s something we go through as individuals. Whatever the case, we get to decide how we’ll be our best selves. A yoga retreat can be many things, but it’s never boring.
You Get to Know Your Practice Better—or Step up Your Commitment to the Practice. Spending money on a yoga retreat—and depending on where you go, how you get there, and with whom, it can be a good chunk of change—is not only a commitment of your time, it’s also a financial investment in your practice. Not only that, but spending so much time engaged in the practice of yoga. You can practice anywhere from once daily to up to three or four times daily, depending on the center and the offerings available. Whether you’re into vigorous asana, gentle and restorative postures, or you’re looking to build your foundation as a practitioner, a yoga retreat is a great way to learn more, not just about the physical practice of yoga, but about the philosophical—and dare I say it? even spiritual—underpinnings of this practice, that’s found its way around our world. Additionally, a yoga retreat can be a great opportunity for you to connect with a teacher, so pay close attention to teachers you respect and admire to see if/when they’re leading retreat so you can go with them. Practicing with your teacher on retreat is Not. Like. practicing with them at the studio or online. Not only are you free of many of the everyday trappings of life, but so are they! They’re there to cultivate a space where they can focus their energy on your growth, and hold the space for you to make your own discoveries. It’s hard to overemphasize how great this gift can be. To really make the most of it, make sure you’re going on retreat with a teacher you respect and trust; if you don’t yet have this relationship with a teacher, then do your research: once you find a retreat you’re interested in, find out whatever you can about the teacher, and take class with them, if possible. This helps you get to know each other, and will pay of well for both of you on retreat.
You Engage with the Planet. I’m grateful for every retreat experience I’ve been on, and lucky me, I’ve been to a few amazing places. I tend to choose retreats in locations that will be sunny and warm, because I live in the Northern Hemisphere, and winters here are long, cold and gray. But I’m sure they have retreats for all kinds. Skiing yoga retreats in the mountains, swampy yoga retreats in the jungle, yoga by the seaside, yoga amid changing forest colors, yoga in the city: there’s someone out there who’s built a yoga retreat that will allow you to engage the beauty and diversity of our planet in your favorite way. Whatever your preference, a retreat like this will allow you to commune with the beauty of the planet and its people in a way we just don’t do every day. After more than ten years living in Chicago, I can say with certainty that a retreat in mid- to late-winter is the only way I survive. I need the extra sunshine to cope with the frigid temps and the gray skies, all the benefits to my practice notwithstanding. At a time when we’re so keenly aware of how much trouble the planet is in due to human waste and interference, yoga retreat can be an experience of remembering and appreciating the great beauty of our home. I’m so grateful to be able to travel and engage with Mother Earth this way. It’s truly a healing and powerful experience.
You Broaden and Deepen Your Community. Whether you’re new to yoga, or a seasoned practitioner, one of your greatest resources is other yogis. A retreat experience that gathers folks around the practice of yoga can connect you with folks who at the very least, share this common interest. Fellow yogis can help one another learn about how different folks approach the practice. The yogi with more experience can be an inspiration to a newbie, and a newer yogi can remind the experienced yogi of how to step into the practice with beginner’s mind. Additionally, shared experience can breed intimacy. A yoga retreat is a great way to foster or nurture connection and community in relationship: a friends’ vacation, a family trip, or even a couples’ getaway can all be made even more memorable while on a yoga retreat.
You Change Your Perspective. Traveling to new places, being with new people , deepening your yoga practice: all of these things can make us feel more vulnerable. On its face, vulnerability isn’t something we’re taught to like, but it’s a really meaningful and necessary practice. We learn when we’re vulnerable; we grow when we’re vulnerable; we connect when we’re vulnerable. All of these things are possible on yoga retreat, and an experience like this opens us to the capacity to see more, and to see differently. Whether we learn more about transitioning into a posture, or a new way of conceiving an idea, or even a change in how we view a past experience, a retreat creates the spaciousness for us to look at things from a different angle, and be open to what that new vantage point has to show us.
BONUS: You get to have a sacred experience. I’m using this word on purpose. I don’t mean that you will see God (though if you ask me, you will, in fact you already have) and I don’t mean that you’ll have some esoteric, mysterious, religious experience that no one else could know or understand (though that too is certainly possible if you’re into it). The word sacred means “set apart.” If you’re open to it, you’ll have an experience that is set apart, that is different from, some of the others you’ve had. It might be a part of your experience to set an intention that you pursue and practice on retreat, or you might discover that something finds you while you’re on retreat. Whatever the case, there’s certainly the possibility that you’ll feel something new, you’ll experience something you can’t quite fathom or explain. The experience can be as sacred (or indeed, as mundane) as you allow it to be.
Sounds powerful, right? I am so grateful for all of the retreat experiences I’ve had, and I’m thrilled to share that this coming March 2020, I’m co-hosting a retreat in Bali with my dear friend and colleague, Adam Grossi! We’re so excited about curating a nourishing, meaningful, and memorable experience with yoga at its center. If you’re interested in joining us, and want to learn more information about the retreat, visit my Workshop and Retreat page. It will be an unforgettable experience. We’d love for you to join us.