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ON CHOOSING A YOGA RETREAT

Florence Lefebvre

This is it, this year, you are going to do it: you have finally decided to treat yourself to a yoga retreat. Congratulations! And so the search for the ideal retreat begins… and there are many to choose from. So many in fact that the process of picking a retreat could become a relatively stressful process. Well, it does not have to be! 

If you ask yourself the right questions from the start, you will be able to significantly narrow down your options and in doing so, realise what it is that you are actively seeking by going away in such a setting.

Here are a few questions worth pondering on:

- Are you looking for a “yoga retreat” or a “yoga holiday”? 
By that I mean, beyond the strict terminology - I use the terms “yoga retreat” myself when advertising but strictly speaking, there are "yoga holidays" -, are you looking for regimented days with a specific programme throughout your stay or would you rather have some free time between classes, maybe even a day off to explore your surroundings?

Some retreats offer morning and evening sessions and the rest of the time free, while others offer a full immersion with not only a physical yoga practice but also some chanting (or kirtan), pranayama (breathing practices) and meditation sessions as well as satsang (literally “sitting with the truth”) in which specific aspects of yoga will be discussed such as the sutras, the yamas and niyamas, etc.

- Is there a style of yoga you particularly like?
If you love Vinyasa Flow , make sure that it is what you will get. Even when the retreat is organised by a company (such as Yoga On a Shoestring, Reclaim Yourself ***), you should be able to find a little biography of the teacher who will be taking the classes and his or her style. Which actually brings up the next question:

- Are there teachers you particularly like?
If you are able to attend their classes, you can enquire directly with them. They often have flyers available at the centres they teach at. If they do not hold retreats themselves, they should be able to recommend a fellow yoga teacher with a similar style.
You could also look for the lineage of your favourite teachers and with some Google magic, you will be able to gather information and be one step closer to finding a suitable retreat with a teacher who is likely to tick the right boxes.

- Is there a specific country you would like to travel to?
Location, location? Where the retreat is held might be more important to you than the teacher taking it or the style being taught.

- How much time do you have? And when do you have it?
Time is an important factor. If you can’t take a whole week off, you could still look into weekend long retreats, generally 3 or 4 nights. The timing of when you can take your leave will also determine what kind of retreats you can attend. Retreats on offer when it is winter in our side of the world are likely to lead you to Asia: India, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Bali among others. There are also winter retreats combining skiing or snowboarding with yoga but there are generally less to choose from.

- What is your budget?
You can find anything from £500 for a week long retreat to several £1,000 depending on the destination and level of luxury of the accommodation provided. Almost all retreats do not include flight tickets. Some include transfers, full board while others do not. Make sure you check what is included and what is not to avoid unpleasant surprises and possible stress!

Plan a budget for a single room if you would like to preserve some privacy and are not keen on sharing a bathroom with someone you have never met before. Rooms advertised as shared can imply two people or more. Check with your teacher or the company if you are unsure.

- Are you a foodie?
A yoga holiday will often be less strict when it comes to the food and beverages provided. Wine, coffee will generally be available which won’t be the case in a more immersive retreat. As you would expect, most retreats follow the precept of ahimsa or non-violence and provide vegetarian meals. It is especially worth enquiring about the food if you have any specific dietary requirements.

- What is the cancellation policy?
Retreats are often booked several months in advance. Check the cancellation policy to see if you would be able to get a refund should you need to cancel your stay. Most likely, your teacher or company won’t be able to give you the full fee back unless they manage to fill your space. Some will offer to refund part of the fee while others have a strict cancellation policy and will not give any refund.

Here you go, yogis: happy searching and more importantly finding the retreat that is right for you! Luckily there will be more than one and who knows, you might be able to go to more than one this year…

**No retreat on offer this year on this website as my daughter Nina is only 3-months and I need to shape up a bit (read "a lot") but I will definitely hold some in the future. They will be advertised in the Events Tab.

*** I quoted Yoga On a Shoestring and Reclaim Yourself solely because I heard of them and know some teachers who work for these companies and whom I like. I have not experienced any of these retreats though and this therefore does not constitute a recommendation on my part.