Yoga retreats are a great way to replenish your energies and face your everyday life as an improved version of yourself. But it is not a magic bullet that will solve your health and stress issues. Actually, there are some right and wrong reasons to opt for a yoga retreat.
It would be wise to ask yourself two questions that may help you decide whether a yoga retreat is indeed a right way for you to spend your time and money.
Question no. 1: Why do I want to go on a yoga retreat?
To build up my own practice and get deeper into yoga – This is definitely the best motivation and the one that delivers positive results. Provided you choose the right retreat for you. If you are a beginner, choose a retreat that is appropriate for your skill level. Furthermore, if you are an advanced practitioner or you practice a particular yoga style, you might be disappointed if you choose a retreat that is too easy for you or based on a different system altogether. Keep in mind that some retreats can be quite challenging and tiresome, with five or more hours of practice a day. Also, go easy on yourself once you are there because if you injure yourself, your practice might suffer in the long run.
To experience new countries, people, teachers… – Again, excellent motivation to go on a yoga retreat. Of course, there’s always a chance you’ll find out the destination is overrated, people were dull and teachers are not to your liking, but it is a risk worth taking. Especially if you keep an open mind. And if it is a hunger for new things that motivates you, there’s more than a good chance you are sufficiently open-minded.
To relax from the pressures of my day-to-day life. – This reason could go both ways – yes, it is good to take a break from your everyday stress every now and then, pamper yourself with healthy food, give yourself some proper exercise and meet some refreshing new people. So what can possibly go wrong? You might return from a truly magical yoga retreat feeling completely transformed, only to discover your everyday life hasn’t been transformed at all. Your relationships with partners, friends and family are stuck where you left them… your workload has maybe even increased because work was piling up while you were away… Also, if you have financial troubles, spending some extra money on a yoga retreat will definitely not provide any relief.
So the thing to keep in mind is – try to use the positive energy of the retreat to build up your personal capacity to handle problems and not to escape the reality of your life. Never give money you are not sure you can spare. Never leave an open relationship issue behind. Never try to escape your life – try to embrace it or change it instead.
I really like the destination of the yoga retreat. – If you are a yogi and you know what to expect on a retreat, then an attractive destination is definitely a great added benefit. However, if it is more about the destination than it is about the yoga, maybe you should consider a regular tour instead of a yoga retreat; otherwise you might just end up frustrated that the practice takes your time away from sightseeing or generally enjoying the destination the way you want to.
Question no. 2: What do I expect from a yoga retreat?
To return a bit stronger, more flexible and generally healthier. – This is a reasonable set of expectations that a good yoga retreat will almost certainly deliver.
To release stress and strengthen my mental balance. – This is also quite reasonable to expect. However, keep in mind that your life will wait for you exactly where you left it. Use all the yoga and meditation to build up your capacities but do not expect that other people you deal with will follow suit or even respect your path.
I want to transform myself completely. – Although this is obviously too much to expect from a single yoga retreat, people often come to retreats or yoga teacher training courses with high expectations. The more you expect of something, the harder your expectations will clash with reality. And the reality supports a notion that real transformation always includes lots of hard work distributed over longer periods of time. When it comes to serious problems, there are no quick fixes. Also, as the saying goes – Be careful what you wish for.
I expect nothing. – You win! This one is not about low expectations, but about being completely open to anything that an experience might bring. That, of course, includes the ability to immerse yourself completely in the moment. Which, btw, is the essence of yoga.