7 Things to Know Before You Book Your First Yoga Retreat


The key to a great retreat experience is spending some time upfront to find the right fit for you. Here, experienced retreat leaders share 7 tips to help you make the most of your first yoga retreat.

If you think yoga retreats are solely for advanced practitioners whose heels effortlessly meet the floor during Downward Dog, you are mistaken. Just like yoga classes, there are retreats available for a variety of needs and abilities. The key is spending some time upfront to find the right fit for you. From options with multiple classes a day to those combining yoga with surfing, writing, or meditation, you first have to ask yourself what you want to gain from the time.

“For myself and those who attend my retreats, I like the experience to be inspirational and rejuvenating, not exhausting,” says Anna Hughes, who teaches at Yoga Flow SF in San Francisco, in addition to leading an annual event at Mayacamas Ranch in Calistoga, California. “Once you’ve taken the time away, you should make the most of it and really fill your cup.”

Experienced retreat leaders have seen it all. Here, they share what they wish students considered before signing up for a retreat. These seven tips will set you up to make the most of your first yoga retreat.

1. You need to research the teacher.

This is a critical. “If you are going on a vacation, you want it to be in an amazing place with a fabulous with an instructor that matches your personality and, ideally, attracts the type of people you want to vacation with,” says Jayne Gottlieb, owner and instructor at Shakti Shala in Aspen, Colorado.

2. You’ll want to investigate what kind of yoga you’ll be doing.

From vinaya flow and hot yoga to prenatal or even nude yoga, class offerings on retreat run the gamut. Do some research to know what kind of classes you can expect. Hughes suggests looking for a program that keeps classes fresh, mixing mellow and restorative classes with more energetic ones.

3. Two classes a day is a good starting point.

Just because you are going on a yoga retreat, doesn’t mean yoga is all you can do. Jess Ewart, an instructor and retreat leader at Shakti Shala, says two classes a day is a good starting point.

4. Downtime is essential.

The goal of a retreat is to get what you need and not overcommit. Ewart says nothing is more empowering than picking your own schedule. Hughes recommends using downtime to nap, read or take a walk.

5. It’s best to go solo.

Gottlieb suggests people attend retreats on their own, because being out of your comfort zone is where the magic really happens. It also puts you the position to meet new people and, possibly, make amazing lifetime friends.

6. It’s worth it to be picky—and splurge a bit.

Instead of choosing the least expensive trip based on your budget, Gottlieb recommends waiting and saving to go on a retreat that will be really special to you. It should be a meaningful experience and offer everything you need. Sometimes that costs more.

7. You’ll need to get in the right mindset before you go.

Look at a retreat as an opportunity to unplug. Hughes says she doesn’t mind when students are making social media posts about the experience, but she likes people to unplug as much as possible—especially to avoid checking work email. Gottlieb and Ewart encourage people to have an open mind and know that even that a seemingly simple shift has the power to change your life..


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