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Yoga Retreats 101

by Kristina Smith

Reconnect with Mind, Body, & Spirit on a Yoga Retreat

If you’re a fan of yoga, delicious food, and communing with nature, then a yoga retreat might be the perfect getaway to deepen–or recommit to–your practice, or just take a much-deserved breather from the everyday.

Where should I go?
There are as many locations of yoga treats as there are poses. You could “retreat” in your own city, drive a few hours to a more remote weekend spot, or board a flight to an exotic beach island. It all depends on the amount of time you have, your budget, and the depth of practice you’re looking to bend into.

What kind of retreat should I choose?
Ask yourself, what are my intentions for this retreat? Are you looking to challenge your practice, reset your body or mind, find healing during a difficult time, or connect with new friends? Read the retreat themes and descriptions very carefully to find the one that speaks to you. The retreat will bring together like-minded people so you may find it easier to connect, which can only make the retreat that much better.

Salt Spring Centre of Yoga on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia notes, “People often have questions about what they might expect in coming to a yoga retreat for the first time – about the classes, accommodations, food, what they should bring. Coming to a yoga retreat at the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga is a relaxing experience, a time to get away from everyday life and be pampered. The rooms are comfortable, the vegetarian meals delicious, the staff very welcoming and the yoga classes suitable for anyone of any level of experience, including beginners.

There are many offerings, and all are optional. You can wake up in time for morning meditation or you can sleep in if that’s what you need. Morning and afternoon yoga classes are offered at two levels of practice, and there is always an interesting program on Saturday evening. Other possibilities include booking a massage or joining others in the wood-fired sauna (except during the dry season). What do you need to bring? Comfortable clothing, good walking shoes if you plan on walking, slippers for indoors and a bathing suit for the sauna.”

What’s included?
A typical multi-day yoga retreat will include meals, accommodation, daily practice(s), and activities such as hiking, surfing, spa treatments, coaching, or workshops. Do make sure the style and level of yoga are right for you, as well as the amount of time spent practicing each day, before deciding.

Wendy and Darin, co-owners of Shanti Retreat on Wolfe Island, Ontario, give this advice: “Come with an open mind and heart. Give yourself the gift of a retreat weekend getaway. Your body, mind, and soul will be nurtured and nourished. Lovingly prepared meals, yoga, meditation, spending time in nature, and connecting with kindred spirits are all part of the experience. All scheduled activities are optional; be guided from within, it’s your retreat!

What should I do to prepare?
Yoga retreat fare typically includes juicing and raw foods, clean eating, and vegetarian options. But jumping straight in isn’t advised – take a few days before your retreat to wind down on dairy, meat, coffee, and alcohol for the smoothest transition, and most benefit, before you get your om on.

Final words of advice?
Barb Shaw, from Grail Springs in Bancroft, Ontario, says, “When you’re attending a retreat or any yoga class I want each student to remember that this is their experience. I am there to facilitate the experience for the student with guidance, suggestions, and lots of love and laughter.

With the popularization of yoga has come a new pressure for students. I find more and more that I need to take time to help students relax, shed expectations and to help them feel comfortable with whatever they bring to the mat. It’s about sharing the time and the space and simply being present. A great practice should leave you feeling calm and I hope, joyful. Stress can wait outside the studio!

It is such a great joy to share yoga with guests at Grail Springs. We use it as part of our amazing wellness retreat programming and my heart is big for those who connect with the joy of the daily practice. So very briefly – it’s your class – not mine. Let me know what you need and it will be my honor to be your guide.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Take a chance – and likely, your first retreat will not be your last.