(This article was written for publication on RetreatNetwork.com.
I thought you might enjoy reading it, too!)
If you’re reading this, it’s likely you’ve seen one of those glossy ads for a yoga retreat. You know the ones. They have beautiful pictures of happy people practicing yoga in far-away, dreamy destinations. Maybe you’ve even considered going but then quickly talked yourself out of it.
Why? Why do we hesitate to give ourselves something that could fundamentally change our lives for the better? What is at the core of that denial?
Often the excuses run something like this: I don’t have the money. I can’t take that much time off work. The kids need me. They have a soccer tournament, debate club, senior something-or-other, (insert anything from the long list of parental guilt-inducing activities here). My husband can’t handle things alone. I have to care for my sick father/aunt/dog/etc. I’m not good enough at yoga. And my favorite – the vague, all encompassing: “Oh, I could never do something like that!” And on and on.
Do you recognize yourself in any of these statements? Is it possible you could ask for help and chose something different for yourself? Of course it’s possible, but then why don’t we? The answer is simple:
We don’t value ourselves enough.
Not long ago I read something that has proven to be one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever stumbled across and I’ll share it with you now. None of us are getting out of here alive; choose to drink the expensive wine now. In other words, stop waiting for some day in the future when everything is perfect before you treat yourself to something wonderful. In all honesty, “perfect” never arrives. Instead, do something right now – today – that makes your heart flutter and sends a surge of excitement coursing through your veins.
A yoga retreat can deliver just that, plus so much more. If you’ve ever swooned over one of those ads and thought to yourself, “I wish…”, then keep reading! There are so many benefits to giving yourself a gift like this and there’s no point in waiting for that mythical “someday” to act.
Top 10 Reasons to Say “YES!” to a Yoga Retreat
1. Deepen your practice more than you ever thought possible
If you’re thinking about joining a yoga retreat, chances are you already have an interest in yoga. But what does your current yogic life look like? A few classes per week squeezed into a relentless schedule of work, errands and other responsibilities? I thought so.
A yoga retreat gives you one simple thing: TIME. With two luxurious sessions per day and nowhere else to be, you have the opportunity to go deeper into your practice in one short week than you probably could in a year back home. Think about it. Get away and build strength, gain flexibility, improve your breath, and deepen your meditation. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced practitioner, you can raise the bar on all of it during a retreat.
2. Enjoy lots of individualized attention
By their very nature, yoga retreats provide a more intimate environment than the experience in a mainstream group class. The instructor has a chance to really get to know you and your practice and can therefore provide much more targeted instruction. In addition, you’ll receive more hands-on adjustments as well as have the opportunity to explore some of the other aspects of yoga like pranayama, meditation, and philosophy. In many ways, a retreat becomes more like a group private rather than just a regular class.
3. Sleep Soundly
This benefit needs little in the way of explanation, so let me just say this… With nothing to focus on except you and your practice, you will experience some of the deepest sleep of your life. Science tells us that the body engages in an incredibly complex amount of repair during sleep, so why not administer a heaping dose while on vacation? The yoga will help you unwind and relax so that all of your sleep is of the highest quality.
4. Discover Your Tribe
The thing about yoga people is that they are among the nicest, most openhearted people on the planet. What’s more, we generally all share the same core values. That’s why when you attend a yoga retreat – even if you signed up not knowing a single soul – you will quickly discover an entire community of folks just waiting to welcome you with open arms. Time and time again, I have made deep connections with people I have met through traveling to do yoga. Many of those have turned into lasting friendships all over the world. The same will be true for you. I know it.
5. Don’t plan a thing
Want to free yourself from the often-overwhelming task of putting together an entire vacation itinerary on your own? No problem! A yoga retreat gives you just that. After you sign up, there’s nothing left for you to do except show up and enjoy yourself. Many (if not all) of the meals are prepared for you, the yoga is taken care of, and any other excursions can be decided on that moment’s whim. On a typical retreat the most pressing decision you will be required to make is whether to slip into a hammock with a good book or join the group heading down to the beach for snorkeling.
6. Find stillness within that you didn’t know existed
There’s something that happens inside during a yoga retreat that I’ve never experienced anywhere else. It’s a shift, of sorts. An opening. I’m sure it has something to do with the unfettered time and the overall relaxation, but it’s more than that. The bottom line is that a yoga retreat will give you the opportunity to connect with that place of stillness that is at the center of you. Call it a deeper state of meditation, if you like, but however you describe it, a yoga retreat can help you access it. It’s profound. And it’s there waiting for you…
7. Connect with the energy of the place you’ll be visiting
There is no doubt that where you elect to unroll your mat will have a deep impact on your practice. And I don’t mean which corner of the room (although that could make a difference), but rather the geographical location in which you practice. It matters. And it’s fun to mix it up in order to experience something new. Let me give you an example…
I live and practice in the sprawling concrete jungle that is Los Angeles. Because I live here, you could say I’m accustomed to the energy here, but it still affects my practice. It’s a chaotic energy and I struggle with balance. Plus, no matter how warm the room gets, it takes me a very looonng time to feel really open in the poses. Intuitively, I know this has as much to do with how highly-strung and tightly-wound most of the city is as anything else.
When I travel to Hawaii to practice, however, my experience on the mat shifts dramatically. Surrounded by mountains, I feel more grounded and stable. I can balance for days. The lush green growth nourishes and renews my spirit. The delightful humidity and warm ocean air allow my muscles to stretch and open, giving the postures a luxurious liquid quality.
When I was last there during one memorable practice, a soft rain began to fall across the fields. It created a gentle, watery hush that I watched unfold from my place on my mat. Every time I came up from a sun salutation and drew my hands down to my heart, I drew that energy down with it. The quiet. The tranquility. I could feel it in my bones. The bliss that washed over me that day was truer than anything I’ve ever experienced in Los Angeles, hands down. That’s the gift of taking yourself out of your environment to practice. You begin to understand what it can be like.
8. Reinvest in your health
We’re all trying to live healthier lives these days. That’s a fact. But imagine giving yourself a week away to focus on every aspect of what it means to have optimum health – in body, mind and spirit.
A yoga retreat will show you how. Get on your mat twice a day to build strength and gain flexibility. Nourish yourself with healthy, locally sourced, organic meals prepared just for you by a master chef. Deepen your meditation. Calm the endless chatter in your mind. Unwind. In short, come home a refreshed, improved version of yourself and then show up for your loved ones in better ways because of it.
9. Get out there and see the world
A yoga retreat offers you the chance to see the world with ease. Have you always wanted to smell the sweeping fields of lavender in Provence? Maybe you’d like to hike to the dizzying peaks of Machu Picchu in Peru? Or maybe a tropical getaway to the warm island beaches of Hawaii is more your style? No matter your preference, it’s likely you can find something to fit the bill. All you have to do is say “Yes!”
10. Place YOU at the top of your own to do list!
I saved this one for last because it is, beyond a doubt, the most important benefit. It also handily confronts all of the excuses I mentioned earlier head-on. The number one reason we come up with obstacles to going on a yoga retreat is because we don’t value ourselves enough. Period. We are NOT at the top of our own priority list. Heck, if we’re being completely honest, most of the time we don’t even make the list at all.
I’m here to tell you that doesn’t have to be the case. You matter. Your dreams matter. You can make a choice to place yourself at the top of your list and do it without guilt or reservation. You are worth that and so much more!
I’m not saying any of this is easy but I am saying you can do it. Ask for help with your obligations. Delegate. Trust other people to shoulder some of the burden. Put away $30 per week while you skip those fancy lattes and make coffee at home instead. Maybe you have a birthday coming up and could ask for help from your loved ones as a gift? The bottom line is that there are small, achievable actions you can take every day to move you closer to your goal if only you choose to honor yourself. One of my favorite quotes sums it up best:
“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way.
If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.”
~ Jim Rohn
So true. If you’ve read this far, my guess is that you’ve been searching for permission. It’s almost like by reading an article entitled “The Top 10 Reasons to Say ‘YES!’ to a Yoga Retreat” that you’re longing to be convinced. I hope I have done that. You have my blessing but moreover, I hope you see that you have always had the power to say yes.
In closing, remember that at the end of the day all we really have is our collection of memories – the things we felt, saw, and experienced for this very short time on the planet. You can’t take anything else with you so why not seize this moment and give yourself an incredibly beautiful experience? In other words, choose to drink the expensive wine. Now.
About the Author: Beloved by her students, Shari Beaubien teaches yoga in Los Angeles, California. Her signature style features a powerful vinyasa flow with focus on intelligent sequencing, connection to the breath, playfulness, and soul exploration. Shari’s greatest passion lies in helping people discover the beautiful marriage that comes from combining travel with yoga. She is thrilled to be able to share her yoga retreat “The Magic of Maui: Unwind & Renew” this fall.