For the month of October 2020, I am living at a Yoga retreat centre in Montenegro called Mahakala Centre. As I teach yoga classes daily and help to host the weekly groups of people who come to get away, I am often greeting guests fresh from the plane who feel a little anxious about the week ahead.
This list are things I have reflected on through my journal, that hopefully give you an insight into the value of a retreat.
Yoga is connection - to the body, the mind and the breath, but also to other people. Living at a retreat centre I have noticed how quickly people tune into the group dynamic, and get to know each other. At Mahakala Centre, we have a welcome ceremony every week, where we first get to know each other.
But taking classes, eating and going out together means that this community feel is inherent in everything that you do. And chances are, being at a yoga retreat you'll be with like-minded people!
2. A chance to relax
The word retreat inherently means to withdraw. This is an important theme in yoga retreats and one of the principles of yoga - pratyahara or withdrawl from the senses. Yoga retreat activities are usually optional, meaning you'll have plenty of time to read your book, go for a walk or nap.
As a teacher, I try to make sure that I offer classes (including Yin yoga) that restore the body, and bring people back into contact with their rest and digest nervous system. Try a Yin class here.
3. New experiences
Many retreats offer lots of other activities apart from yoga, giving you the chance to try a new activity. The yoga style may be different from any that you have tried before, and there may be workshops on offer in the teacher's expertise.
At Mahakala, I am teaching Pranayama workshops, an area which I have specialised in with my teacher Sudhir. You can find some Pranayama classes here for free.
4. A digital detox
Yoga helps us to bring us back to ourselves, and retreats often limit the amount of wifi or connection that is available to help us be less distracted. In an age of constant connection, this is an ideal opportunity to switch your phone off and disconnect.
Why not try it at home too? Sleep in a different room to your phone or turn on 'do not disturb'. See what impact this has...
5. Different diets
At Mahakala, we eat vegan food (something which I normally don't do consistently) and only eat at 2 times in a day. This intermittent fasting and healthy, nutritious diet is a theme across many yoga retreats.
We get so much of our energy from food, this a really important part of a retreat. Make sure you choose somewhere with a good catering facility, and try to enjoy this week of eating differently!
6. Daily yoga
Of course, on a retreat you will be practicing yoga. But yoga is something that can be practiced off of your mat too, through the words we speak, our breathing and our actions. Yoga off of the mat is equally important as on the mat.
Whilst on your retreat you will have a chance to practice on your mat at least once a day, often two or three times. As classes are optional, there is no pressure to come and you should listen to what your body needs!
Wherever you are in your life right now, do consider taking time for yourself with a retreat. It might be the best thing you do with your year...
I am thankful to be teaching yoga in such a beautiful place, with a brilliant team.
Any questions, comments or anything else, just let me know!