I’m not a “yoga retreat person” either.
At least I wasn’t. For years.
When I first started practicing yoga, I heard about yoga retreats, and I was like, "That's something for someone else. Yes, I like yoga, but I'm not someone who goes on yoga retreats." I didn't know enough details to paint a picture of the retreat, much less imagine myself at the retreat. I just couldn't picture myself belonging there. It took me a really long time to decide to go on a yoga retreat, because it just felt like something that somebody else does. Not me.
I've been a yoga and mindfulness teacher for over 20 years now, and still remember that feeling. That's why I want to share the most common misconceptions about yoga and meditation retreats, to help you unpack and examine your objections. I don't want you to miss out like I did. If you’re considering your first yoga and mindfulness retreat, you should ask a lot of questions.
How Will You Know if You Are Ready for a Yoga and Mindfulness Retreat, and Which Retreat Is Right for You?
I have a lot of first time participants come on my yoga retreats.
Something I've noticed is, I get many questions about little details. There are fewer questions about the logistics. Getting there, the cost, and all those "front brain" things, I don't get as many questions about. It is easy to see the logistics on my website, but harder to visualize intangible feelings. It's not that the answers to "minor detail" questions would make or break whether you decide the can go on the retreat or not. The answers to these questions will still tell you a lot. The answers to all those little questions will help our brains paint a picture of what we will feel like when we get there. The main thing we want to know is, "Will I belong? Will I feel like I'm in the right place? Will I feel comfortable?" It isn't about the logistics, it's about belonging and self-worth.
It's tough. In order to "justify" going on a mindfulness and self-compassion retreat, you have to already have enough self-compassion to feel that you "deserve" to go. In order to learn skills that will help you feel more connected in your relationships, and at home in your own skin, you will already need the courage and vulnerability necessary to take a leap of faith and sign up for this new experience. Oy.
Yoga Retreat Organizers Want You to Ask Questions
I'm grateful for the questions.They show courage. I don't know what to answer unless people ask. Questions are important to your decision making process on more than an intellectual level, because they help you feel into it to see whether it's the right retreat for you.
There are so many people I never hear from, because they're just like, "Oh, yeah, I'm not a yoga retreat kind of person." And I get that, because for so many years, that was me. I did yoga, but I was like, "I'm not really that kind of person who goes on yoga retreats." I never even got to the logistical questions of money or travel or schedules, because I didn't identify myself as yoga retreat material. It seemed like something only yoga teachers would do. I didn't ask questions, because I didn't even know what to ask.
I just couldn’t picture myself as the kind of person who goes on a yoga retreat.
Now, those are the same people who appreciate my yoga and mindfulness retreats the most. Fun fact: Most of the people that really appreciate my retreats are not yoga teachers. Yeah, I've had yoga teachers come on my retreats, and I welcome them! I love it when they come, of course! But it's the people who really weren't sure whether they would feel included, who benefit the most. They have injuries, they are new to yoga, they're out of shape. It's vulnerable.
On my retreats, a lot of people are concerned about the physical practice before they come. But then at the end, they're like, "The physical practice was really gentle. But, wow, it was actually really hard to do the self reflection!" Or, for example, if they hadn't meditated before, it was harder to be present with their thoughts and feelings. So, that's something to keep in mind. For my retreats you don't need to prepare physically in any way. But if you've never meditated before, just know that you're going to do some meditation and it might bring up some of your stuff: some feelings. The whole point is to feel your feelings, realize that they're not going to bite, and use a framework to develop self-compassion.
If you’re considering your first yoga retreat, don't be afraid to ask a lot of questions. That's how you will know if it is the right retreat for you. If you aren't even sure what to ask, I've got you. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
Questions to Ask Before Signing Up for Your First Yoga & Meditation Retreat
Remember this: You are not wasting anyone's time. Answering questions leading up to the retreat is part of our job. The relationship begins the moment you reach out with a question about the retreat, especially if you have never met the yoga teacher. What's their tone in the reply? How long does it take them to respond? Who replies to you? Do they even respond? If not, tech glitches are real, so give them another chance and try to contact them another way. If the teachers or organizers are invested in your wellbeing, they will reply. They may offer to get on a call with you. If you're talking to the yoga teacher, it will be a conversation about your needs, not a sales call.
Common Logistical Questions
Let's get these out of the way. Yes, you should be able to find out all the info on the retreat website, but maybe you can't. Maybe you have dietary needs, or you just want to ask rather than hunting around. Go ahead and ask, because the way the organizer answers will tell you something too.
- Cost: "What is included?" "Are meals or travel separate?" "Do you have scholarships?"
- Destination: Location, travel, arrival, departure...?
- Safety: "What are the Covid safety measures?"
- Meals: "What’s the food like?" "Will there be coffee?" "Will my dietary needs be covered?"
- Accommodation: "Are the beds comfortable?" "Are there quiet hours?" "Will I have my own room?"
- Packing: "What should I bring?" "Do I need special clothes or gear?"
- Other: Your specific questions related to your unique situation. Ask! Nothing is off limits.
7 Yoga Retreat Myth Busters
Sometimes our mindset or common misconceptions get in the way of the yoga retreat of our dreams. Let's clear those up so you aren't held back.
Myth #1: Everyone Else Will be More Advanced
"I have to be good at yoga and/or meditation." "The weekend will involve grueling effort." One common belief is that only expert yogis and yoga teachers go on yoga retreats. Real people, especially stressed out people, go on yoga retreats.
I get a lot of questions about the physical practice. To be honest, it really is going to depend on what kind of yoga retreat you go on. If you are looking for a workout or to learn handstand, you will be disappointed at my retreat. If you sign up for a retreat with a teacher whose specialty is handstands, then that's the experience that you can look forward to. You can look on the website for "levels" like beginner, intermediate, advanced, or "all levels." My description just says gentle. That is because it doesn't sit well with my core value of inclusion to create a hierarchy of levels. I offer variations and a lot of choice, to ensure that everyone will truly feel that their unique needs are met.
Here are some questions you can ask to decide if the retreat is a good fit for you physically:
"What do I need to do to be physically ready?" "What level of yoga will you be teaching?"
Myth #2: I’m Too Busy
Are you sure? There are a range of yoga retreats with different durations. Some are half a day, some are online. There are local weekend retreats and exotic month-long getaways.
Busy-ness is something our capitalist culture wants us to identify with, but burnout can be the crushing result. Even under the lens of productivity, success and self-improvement, you will be more creative, motivated and useful when you take a rest. My tip is to book the yoga retreat well in advance, and schedule your other responsibilities around it. Then, you'll get the added benefit of anticipation.
Myth #3: Everyone Else Will Bring Someone
"My friend can’t come so just forget it." "I won’t know anyone." Most people actually show up solo. Many participants make friends on yoga retreats.Some savor the solitude. You won't be a stranger for long. Meditation and yoga can help you learn to enjoy spending time with yourself, because you will be more comfortable in your own skin.
Myth #4: I Won't Fit In
"I’m too young, old, experienced, inexperienced, thin, fat…" Just no. It isn't true.
"I’ll be the only man, Black person, nonbinary person, trans person, pregnant person…" That's possible, because the demographics of yoga retreat participants tend to skew female, cisgender, and white. I usually have a few men on my yoga retreats. You will find that you have something in common with the other participants. You can also find a yoga retreat that affirms your identity. Here are a few: Queer and Trans Yoga Retreats with Jacoby Ballard, Women of Color Yoga Retreats with Crystal McCreary.
Myth #5: Yoga Retreats Are Serious
"There's no laughing or chatting in yoga." "It will be dull and strict." "I must give up coffee, chocolate, and fun." Ugh. If the yoga retreat you are researching seems stiff and serious, please feel free to run (or cartwheel) the other way!
After the last few years, the last thing we need is more social isolation. Laughter is one of the best ways to release tension. Your yoga retreat should reflect your values, so if joy and fun are included in your values, they should be mirrored in the experience. One retreat site stated: "We want you because you are fun to be around." I don't feel that way. You can be yourself, even if you're not feeling "fun." Everyone's journey is valuable. If you're going through a hard time, be true to that. Your experience is valid.
I will never make you give up anything, although if you are causing harm there will be limits around that. Other than that, you be you. You might want to broaden your search to a retreat center or experience that better reflects the things you already love about yourself.
MOKA Origins, the Himalayan Institute's on-site bean-to-bar chocolate factory and coffee roastery is fun to tour. On Saturday afternoon, you can sip a latte while shopping for gifts and tasting delicious samples.
Myth #6: I Can’t Justify the Expense
Now, this is very different from the inequity in our culture making the cost of a yoga retreat prohibitive to most people. If you are struggling to pay basic bills, there may be scholarships, or this may not be the right time for you to go on a yoga retreat.
If your circumstances are more comfortable right now, your mindset might be getting in the way of your wellness. Ask yourself, "Is this about a need to justify investing in my wellbeing, or is the cost really prohibitive?" Yoga retreats come in many price ranges, and if you can afford a vacation you can probably afford it. Your mindset about your self-worth might be getting in your way. You're not alone, this is very real and one of the hardest hurdles to overcome in our capitalist culture.
It may help to remind yourself that your loved ones deserve the most fulfilled, grounded and relaxed version of you. Imagine what would happen to them if you burned out and were unable to continue in your responsibilities. Going on a yoga retreat is not a selfish act.
Myth #7: I Will Have to Change
You are accepted as you are. I love this quote from the Chopra site: “If nothing else, we encourage you to change your underwear. In all seriousness, we know change is inevitable whether you do it at our event or at the grocery store near your house.” If change is inevitable anyway, do you prefer to be an agent of that change, or a bystander? What kind of changes will you choose? Most people want to bring something home from their yoga retreat. It is up to you whether it is a crystal, a helpful habit, or both!
It is always good to ask questions before you sign up for a yoga retreat, because you actually won't know what kind of retreat it is unless you ask, and really look into it. Ultimately, what we really want to know is, “Will I belong?” I encourage you to ask questions. Find out all the details, look at all the photos, and then even if you can’t quite picture yourself there, if it’s calling to you, take the plunge! Giving this gift to yourself will benefit all your relationships. Don’t wait another year for the perfect moment that may never come!
I lead a few yoga and mindfulness retreats every year, and I'd love to spend the weekend with you.
Learn more about my retreats HERE.
Still waiting for the time when you deserve a yoga and meditation retreat?
Don’t do that!
Your loved ones deserve the most fulfilled, grounded and relaxed version of you! Give them that by caring for yourself. You will learn skills you can bring back with you to feel calmer in your everyday, chaotic life. It’s only a weekend.
Self-Compassion Weekend 🌳
Mindfulness & Gentle Yoga Retreat
It’s coming up June 10! Learn more and sign up HERE. Seize the opportunity, take a risk, and come to the Poconos to learn self-compassion, breathing and mindfulness practices you can bring home with you.
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