Are you ready to go on a yoga retreat?
How to choose the best yoga retreats and holidays?
Yoga travel is growing rapidly. Years ago just a handful of yoga centers offered yoga retreats and breaks. Today yoga has a huge following, as the Western world has acknowledged the importance of the mind-body-spirit connection to keep healthy and whole.
With so much interest in the field of yoga, the demand for yoga retreats, yoga boot camps, yoga holidays, yoga breaks, yoga tours and week-end gateways is increasing.
Yoga travel companies have been established to market them and tour operators are offering their own versions too. This means that yoga breaks can differ greatly, catering for all people and requirements.
Some yoga retreats are at ‘all inclusive’ ‘exclusive’ 5-stars resorts that offer cosmetic, weight-loss, detox and pampering treatments; others are in temples, monasteries and spiritual centres, where a frugal vegetarian meal plan and accommodation is offered.
In some yoga holidays, one would spend an hour or so cultivating the practice of yoga postures in the morning and the rest of the day engaging in other leisure activities such as golf, surfing, snorkelling, art classes, cooking classes, excursions and so on.
In certain yoga retreats, the entire day is filled with yoga, meditation, silence and self-exploration; whereas in yoga tours, one is likely to travel to different locations almost every day.
With so many teachers, yoga centres, yoga travel companies, tour operators, spa resorts offering them, how does one get to pick the best yoga retreat or holiday?
Undoubtedly, the information on this page will provide ideas about taking time off for yoga and yourself.
Yoga holidays, yoga breaks, or yoga retreats. What is the difference? The distinction is becoming less clear and the terms are often used interchangeably.
The term yoga retreat is often used to imply a full immersion yoga programme and a location that is quiet, humble and remote.In such setting, the schedule for yoga sessions is intense as the focus is on the practice of yoga, self-exploration and renewal.
Participants might be required to wake up at the crack of dawn to engage in meditation and chants. Throughout the day, time is spent in self-practice, classes or in silence. Lights are off in the early evening. Participants might take some responsibility for chores, sleep in dormitories and go on a vegetarian diet.A complete beginner would find it difficult to sustain this regime unless it was for a couple of days. For this reasons they are targeted to more experienced yoga practitioners. Many Westerners that seek this type of experience go to India. Yoga travel in India is big business, but it requires more time at least 3 weeks. If India is not possible, practitioners might go on yoga boot camps.
In India, one can also go on yoga tours and also visit sacred sites important to Sikhism, Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. Yoga tours are also offered outside India during which yoga and meditation are practised. Tours of sacred places in Peru and Mexico to learn about Incas, Toltec, Atzec and Maya civilisations are also popular as they developed practices similar to yoga.
Yoga holidays tend to be activity holidays in holiday resorts and hotels. There might just be a session a day about yoga postures and free time is spent on other activities and excursions. Generally, in yoga retreats the focus is more on the practice of yoga and self-growth and less on traveling and enjoying leisure activities.
Often experienced yoga teachers are able to offer an experience that is not as intense as a full-immersion yoga retreat.
Their yoga programme includes a minimum of two daily yoga workshops, which include yoga positions, meditation and philosophy discussions.
Excursions and other activities are possible during the day, but the focus is still on yoga and inner development.
Idyllic holiday locations – in the mountains, countryside or seaside – are selected.
Twin or triple rooms are shared between participants, and friendships are formed. Groups are kept to a maximum of 10-15 participants.
A wider choice of food and drinks are available – including coffee, meat and fish to avoid withdrawal symptoms – in addition to vegetarian and herbal teas.
This type of yoga break is suited to most people. Even complete beginners would be able to attend all of the sessions, as teachers are able to offer modifications due to the low number of participants.
If you like the idea of a yoga break, then read the next section.
Take a pen & paper to create mind map of your ideal yoga retreat, as you go through each of the following stages and questions.
- What is my budget?
Decide how much your budget is, and stick to that. Be aware that yoga breaks tend to be more expensive than package holidays; flights and insurance are not arranged by yoga teachers.
Your budget might dictate where you can go as the more up-market and exotic locations and spa centres can be expensive and cost several thousands of dollars for just a week.
The cheapest option might be to share accommodation without en-suite facilities.
Unless the retreat is in an ‘all inclusive’ type, transfers, meals, excursions and activities – other than yoga – are normally not included.
A non-refundable deposit is generally asked a few weeks before the start. In some cases, full payment is required at the time of booking. You will need to find out about the cancellation policy prior to making the booking.
- How long for? And what time of the year?
- Where do I want to go?
- Am I prepared to take vaccines and medications?
- Do I need a passport or visa?
Yoga breaks between 2-10 nights are common.
Select the time of the year that is most convenient to you. Bear in mind travelling during high season – national and school holidays – is more expensive.
To keep the cost low, keep your dates flexible and book months in advance.
Plan a longer break if you want to engage in other activities, and be prepared to pay extra for those.Other considerations about travelling abroad are vaccinations and passport requirements.
- What type of holiday break do I want?
- Why do you want to go on a yoga break?
- Do I want to do other activities?
- How much yoga do I want to do everyday?
- What type of accommodation?
A yoga break can be an opportunity to take a vacation, do some traveling or practice sports or recreational activities, which are not possible during the year.
However, most of the time people are concerned with learning yoga from an experienced teacher.
Be very clear about what you want!
To find out what kind of experience you are after, try to ascertain what elements will allow you to make the most from your yoga break. For instance, is practising and learning about yoga and inner development the most important factor? Is a beach and sun bathing essential? Is going to a country where I have never been before to learn about a new place a key element? Is culture important? Is having a single room and en-suite facilities important? And so on.
- What style of yoga do I want to practice?
- What teacher do you like?
- What level of intensity?
- What size will the group be?
This should be the most important decision to make, as ultimately you want to practice yoga with an experienced teacher.
Read the yoga programme. The yoga teacher’s name and qualifications should be mentioned. Researching about the teacher’s qualifications and style is useful.
Contact the teacher so you can explain where you are with your yoga practice, what your level of fitness is and any medical conditions.
Some people like to follow a particular teacher and style of yoga. Other people want to keep their mind open and prefer learning new styles or from new teachers. That is a matter of choice.
You can learn about different perspectives from new teachers and styles of yoga. But do your research first, so it becomes an informed decision and you know what you are getting into.
If you are beginning yoga, ensure the level is not too advanced and/or vigorous. Think about a gentler approach – as you will be spending several days practicing yoga – and a small sized group so the teacher can give you more attention. In some retreats, large crowds – between 50-100 people – are accepted, find out about the size of group, if it is not stated.
- Is food important to you? Do you have any allergies or specific dietary needs?
In some all-inclusive and full-immersion yoga retreats, a vegetarian diet is the only option and coffee is not served. Shops and restaurants might not be in close proximity.Read about the food provided and make enquiries about your specific dietary needs.
- How do I find out about yoga retreats and yoga holidays?
Since yoga is popular, you might know someone who has been on a yoga break and might be able to refer you to a particular teacher.
If you are beginning yoga, visit your local yoga centres and take a few classes before going on a yoga break.
Yoga teachers’ directories and associations are very useful to get hold of names of teachers taking people on yoga breaks and retreats. Your local yoga centre and natural health store will also have names and ads.
Otherwise, search the ads on the internet for a yoga break that matches your requirements.