Yoga retreats cost money, and they require you to be away from work and family. Is it then valid to ask if they are worth your while? Since I have participated in many yoga retreats, and I have organized more than twenty myself (and helped others run plenty more), I’ll tell you what I think.
Yoga retreats are definitely worth it. It is an opportunity to delve deep into yoga and experience it on a level inaccessible for most of us amid daily life. Thanks to exceptionally favourable conditions, you benefit from deep psychic relaxation, extraordinary healing, and new insights about yourself and yoga.
Keep on reading to find out how practice during a retreat can differ so much from classes in your studio or sessions in your living room.
What makes a yoga retreat so valuable?
On a yoga retreat, you benefit from exceptional conditions that enhance your practice most tangibly. A host of factors play together to create a depth that is hard to obtain on your own.
First of all, you will practice a lot more on a retreat than you usually can do on your own. There can be as many as ten hours of various yoga practices daily. Thanks to the abundance of practice time, it is possible to include many different techniques. The multiple methods enhance each other and create harmonious synergy. Apart from yoga poses, it is common to practice breathing exercises, concentration, deep relaxation and meditation.
In addition, you will be served food that is especially suitable for yoga. The diet will make you feel lighter, give you more energy and even make you more supple.
Furthermore, a good yoga retreat is a period of voluntary isolation during which you take a break from your usual influences, relations and worries. The challenges you face in life will by no means disappear. However, not interacting with them for a while gives you new perspectives and helps you to relax.
During a yoga and meditation retreat, you will not have access to your phone, TV, newspapers or the internet. Not being bombarded by continuous cascades of information is a relief. Though it might seem subtle, it has a significant impact on your nervous system. When you turn down the noise, it is easier to notice what is going on inside you.
A good yoga retreat includes periods of silence. Silence gives additional help to calm down intellectual thinking and open up to experiencing yoga postures, pranayama and meditation in a more direct and subtle way.
What are the main benefits of a retreat?
Thanks to the special conditions a yoga retreat can provide, it is the ideal setting for initiations into advanced yoga practices. Your increased sensitivity, concentration and awareness allow you to grasp more of the subtle principles yoga is built around.
A yoga retreat can be a period of extraordinary healing, particularly longer retreats that last a month or more. I know several people who have healed from severe health conditions during such periods of intense practice.
Furthermore, the deep practice during a retreat will give you surplus energy and clarity of mind that will last after the retreat is over. How long the benefits last depends on the intensity of the program and its length. When I did a three-month yoga retreat some twenty years ago, I felt energized for about a year afterwards.
A yoga retreat can be a period of growth and insights. You can become more aware of how you function and of areas of your mind that are usually not conscious.
A bonus benefit of participating in a retreat is that you will see the true power of basic yoga practices you are already familiar with. You will get an abundance of motivation that will help you keep up your regular yoga practice once you are back home.
Have realistic expectations about your yoga retreat
No matter how great the benefits of a yoga retreat can be, it is essential not to have unrealistic expectations about what they can do for you. You will get the most out of your session if you don’t have any expectations at all.
For the most part, a yoga retreat will not be life-changing in the sense that your experience of reality will shift dramatically, though that can happen. Though a retreat can give you more energy and new perspectives, it will not be the solution to all your challenges either.
The benefits of retreats are tangible, but they don’t last forever. Experienced yogis see retreats much like a daily yoga practice. It is something you do over and over again and again.
How to choose a suitable yoga retreat?
To find a yoga retreat that is worth it in terms of the money and time you invest, make sure that the crucial elements necessary for a deep practice will be honoured. Not all yoga retreats are equal, and many yoga trips and vacation retreats are more geared towards leisure than deep practice.
Ask yourself the questions below.
Firstly is the retreat presented as a vacation or as a period of practice? Vacation is fine, but it is not the same as delving deep into yoga.
Is the retreat a luxurious escape in a country far away, or is it about back to basics and about reconnecting with yourself? There are no advantages from a yogic point of view of running a retreat in a luxurious setting, on the contrary.
Yoga can be so many different things. What kind of yoga are the instructors going to teach during the retreat? How does that align with what you are looking for?
How much practice time is there? Anything less than five hours daily, I would consider a light retreat. Make sure the intensity matches your wishes.
How strict is isolation? Can you have any contact with the outside world? Are emails or phone calls allowed? For the retreat to have a profound impact, isolation is a necessity.
Is the group shielded from outside influences, or will there be intermingling with outsiders who are not in the same mental space? That could happen if the retreat takes place in a resort. Ideally, you should only meet your fellow retreat participants during the whole time.
What is the level of experience of the other participants? For best results, it should not differ too much from your own.
What kind of experience do the guides have in running retreats? Teaching a yoga and meditation retreat is not the same as teaching yoga classes in the city.
Yoga retreats are worth it. However, they are not all the same and you need to choose carefully to find the right one for you.