Yoga retreats benefit mind, body and soul
Looking for a relaxing vacation idea? Find out if a yoga retreat is the right holiday choice for youBy Meredith Dault
When your routines start bogging you down and the idea of lingering a little longer in downward dog begins to sound more and more appealing, you may be ready for a yoga retreat. From intensive practice-driven getaways, to relaxing holidays with a little stretching on the side, yoga retreats come in all sorts of packages.
Reasons to retreat
“The big advantage with a retreat is that you are out of your daily routine,” says Malcolm McLean, and Montreal-based yoga teacher who runs the directory yogamontreal.com. “The obstacles that are there in your daily life—the concerns and anxieties, the habitual routines—are cut off. It is remarkable how a retreat becomes its own universe. It becomes a chance to experience yourself differently.” “A residential or retreat program provides an immersion aspect that allows participants to disconnect from their hectic lives,” says Andrea Kalpana Tabachnick, programs director at the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga in Salt Spring, B.C. “Even if it’s only a weekend retreat, people leave recharged and rejuvenated on Sunday afternoon.”
Who should go on a yoga retreat?
“Anyone,” says Tabachnick. “Retreats are a good way to re-start a fallen yoga practice, or to deepen an existing one.” They’re even great for those people who have no experience at all. Young or old, flexible or stiff as a broom handle, a yoga retreat will give you a chance to get away and to spend some time taking care of yourself. Meeting new, like-minded people is also a perk.
Retreats for all levels
McLean says the key to finding the right yoga retreat is figuring out what you want from the experience. Seasoned yogis aspiring to deepen their practice won’t necessarily want the same thing as someone looking for a relaxing holiday. “Everybody is looking for something different,” says Nomi Lyonns, a yoga teacher and the owner of Paradise Found Yoga, a retreat centre also located in Salt Spring Island, B.C. “Some come to relax and vegetate. Most people come because they are at a crossroads—a relationship breakup, job loss or they’re just exhausted. Some people come because they just love yoga and it’s their holiday.”
Some retreats, like those offered at Northern Edge Algonguin in Algonquin Part, Ont., offer an adventure-fueled blend of activities, integrating kayaking and hiking with a daily yoga practice. There are retreat centres such as Paradise Found Yoga that offer getaways specially geared to women. There are also cleansing retreats and programs that are conducted in silence.
There are retreats that boast beautiful settings, while others are focused on gourmet food and other sensual pleasures, such as massage or bodywork. A retreat at a traditional ashram, on the other hand, may involve early morning meditation and a more intensive yoga practice—perfect for someone seeking time for self-reflection or looking for a more spiritual retreat, but maybe a little overwhelming for someone who is brand new to yoga.
Whether you want to deepen your yoga practice, learn a new skill, or bond with your friends, knowing what kind of experience you’re looking for at the outset will help ensure you pick the perfect retreat.
How to find the right yoga retreat
The easiest place to start your search is at the studio where you may already be practicing yoga—this will ensure you are already familiar with the style of yoga being offered on a retreat. A word-of-mouth recommendation never hurts either. If you are drawn to a retreat offering a different style of yoga from the kind you have been doing—Kundalini, rather than Ashtanga, for example—McLean recommends taking a few classes in that style before you depart.
Ensure that the retreat is lead by certified yoga instructors who are prepared to work at your skill level. Some retreats offer yoga classes for all levels, from beginners through to advanced practitioners. When considering a particular retreat, Tabachnick suggests checking out the yoga instructors’ biographies to get a sense of their knowledge and experience.
Ultimately, a yoga retreat will give you a chance to recharge your batteries while discovering or deepening your yoga practice. It’s also a chance to take a valuable time-out.
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Web exclusive, March 2010