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My Top 6 Yoga Holiday Tips!

December 13, 2013 by Indra Kubicek 

Yoga Holiday & Retreats...

Beautiful rooftop view at the Sanctuary
The beautiful view from the rooftops of the Sanctuary
Are quickly replacing the party weekend in Mallorca (for the Brits) or the all-inclusive in Mexico (for the  North Americans) as an increasingly popular alternate holiday choice. Personally I am a major fan of spending my time-off on a healthy, physically active, but mindful and restful break! And I love learning more about the ancient practice of yoga and all the benefits...so it's no surprise that I was able to count 8 different 'yoga holidays' I've been on. My range of trips is quite varied and includes:  
  • a month in an Indian ashram
  • 2 week breaks at yoga retreats on the beautiful beaches of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, Thailand
  • a weekend getaway to the British countryside in Devon
  • an eco-friendly yoga & hiking holiday in the hills of Turkey
  • a 4 day yoga break at a communal organic yoga retreat on Vancouver Island, Canada
  • a week long Iyengar yoga course in a small Italian village
[/checklist] So I thought it might be helpful to share some tips to help you find your perfect yoga getaway! To jump around use these links! 1. Get Clear on Why You Are Going 2. What Are Your Expectations of the Yoga? Very Important!! 3. Hardcore detox or food freedom? 4. Strict schedule or flexy-time to play? 5. Need your own space or want a roomey? 6. Yoga and ???...
Night beach view from Samahita, Yoga Thailand
Night beach view from Samahita, Yoga Thailand

1. Get Clear on Why You Are Going

An important question but one many of us may tend to forget to ask is why do we even want to do this at all? There can be many reasons to take time out and embark on a yoga retreat, such as:
  • a light-hearted break to wind-down
  • rebalance diet/detox/healthy eating habits
Or deeper reasons like
  • time to think/make life changes 
  • recover from an injury, both mental and physical pain
Either way, its worth giving a little attention to the 'why'. And don't let it stress you out...there doesn't need to be an answer!
Meditating on the rivers in Kerala at Sivananda
Meditating on the rivers in Kerala at Sivananda
But you may even want to set an in intention for your yoga holiday, similar to when you practice in class. And this can help you narrow down the available options. For example:
  • Need time away from your usual grind & hectic life? A remote quiet weekend in the country could do the trick!
  • Looking for a longer break and are a sun lover? Maybe Spain, Italy or Greece will get your chakra wheels spinning! Or even farther exotic destinations such as Thailand, Bali or India...

2. What Are Your Expectations of the Yoga? Very Important!!

Perhaps surprisingly, yoga is not the only reason people go on a yoga holiday. Nor is it the most important part for some. Many people are happy with just a little yoga but its more about the destination or the time away. Others go specifically to immerse in the yoga! Do you want experienced teachers or will any yoga do? When I go on a yoga holiday I usually want to deepen my practice in some way and learn new things. I’m not always as concerned about where the retreat is (although hot destinations with beaches help!) so long as I am surrounded by nature and the yoga is with experienced instructors. But I’ve also gone on yoga holidays for other reasons such as learning to quiet my mind/meditate (Sivananda Kerala) or just to get away and relax (Ashiyana). In those instances, I wasn’t as concerned about the style taught/class quality. And I’ve been pleasantly surprised by accidentally ending up somewhere and getting to do a course with an amazing guest teacher like when I trained with Peter Clifford at The Sanctuary.
Dining area at Ashiyana in Goa, India
Dining area at Ashiyana in Goa, India
In my opinion, choosing specific retreats taught by well-known or international teachers usually guarantees high quality yoga as opposed to showing up at retreat 'drop-in classes'. These tend to be less reliable and its unlikely you’ll know whether you will have experienced instructors. If possible, I recommend attending a class with an instructor before going on their retreat. Or at least read their bios and the course details and maybe ask for testimonials from past retreat-goers. It is really hit or miss if you've not heard of the person ever and there are no testimonials to read or youtube videos to watch.

3. Hardcore detox or food freedom?

I've almost always found the food amazing on my yoga holidays! For the veggie foodies out there - one of my fav places to eat was Ashiyana! Yoga holidays are typically vegetarian and alcohol-free (but not always) When I was at Yoga Camerino in Italy wine was included with some evening meals. Ashram living at Sivananda in India was very strict with a complete vegetarian diet (not even spicey!) & obviously no alcohol available. Many places offer fish at least once a week or you can do detoxes with harsh dietary restrictions. Be open-minded but don’t set yourself up for being completely unhappy!

4. Strict schedule or flexy-time to play?

Sivanada 2hr afternoon yoga class
Sivanada 2hr afternoon yoga class
Itineraries can vary greatly but usually include 2 yoga classes per day. But don’t be disappointed - read the daily schedule beforehand! Some considerations:
  • Check the daily start times? Sometimes yogis tend to rise with the sun! 
  • Class Length? Be prepared to be in longer classes from 2 - 3 hrs sometimes
  • Yoga style? Sometimes mornings are more challenging sessions and evenings more restorative
  • Any spare time? Intensive retreats don’t usually include much of it!
  • Meals? Usually at least 2 big meals a day are included. Breakfast will typically come AFTER morning yoga (trust me, it makes sense!)
  • Evening activities? Sometimes evening entertainment is provided at least a few nights, allowing for a more social setting. Can be quite nice. 
  • A rest day? During intense yoga retreats your body might need a rest so usually 1 day off for restoration and/or sight-seeing trip to see the local attractions
You'll want a schedule which matches your intentions but stay open-minded :-). Willingness to try new things and be challenged are all part of the yogic way of life! The lingo:
  • On the Goan beaches near Mandrem
    On the Goan beaches near Mandrem
    ‘flexible’ - usually means accommodation & meals with drop-in yoga classes (good if you want to enjoy some yoga but also relax and run your own schedule)
  • ‘specific retreats’ - more intensive yoga classes and not optional (good if you want to deep your practice & learn the postures in-depth)
I went to Samahita for a week long Ashtanga retreat but my roomey was there on a flexible yoga holiday. I did not realise that option was possible until I arrived. She didn’t come to our Ashtanga classes but she could drop-in to their regular yoga classes and she was quite happy with her choice because she liked the flexibility. Ashyiana also offered both options. I went on a flexible holiday but probably would have preferred a specific retreat so I could have done more Vinyasa Flow yoga. Drop-in classes were taught a variety of yoga teachers and varied in style.

5. Need your own space or want a roomey?

Ashiyana beach hut for two!
Ashiyana beach hut for two!
Considerations:
  • your budget (sharing usually  means a lower rate) 
  • do you need private time? (is it a detox? weening off dependencies like sugar/caffeine can affect mood & energy levels so even if you're going with a friend, separate space might suit you)
  • will it be very physically challenging? (higher than normal activity levels might mean you want to sleep more!)
Sharing can be a great way to meet like-minded people and make life-long friends. I really enjoyed meeting some of my roomies and we’re still in contact today! Depending how social the atmosphere, it might be easy to meet others anyway.

6. Yoga and ???...

View from the hike with Yuva holidays in Turkey
View from the hike with Yuva holidays in Turkey
It has become more & more popular to combine adventure holidays with yoga. For example, common ones include:
  • yoga & surfing
  • yoga & hiking
  • yoga & golf
  • yoga & diving 
You can fill in the blank with almost anything! This is a great option for couples where one of you is an avid yogi, allowing both to do what they love! And yoga helps in sports by preventing injuries, etc. I went on a hiking and yoga holiday in Turkey in 2012 with Yuva Eco Centre. The hiking was amazing but for this particular place you should be someone who likes basic eco-living (luckily I am!) but I personally would have liked the yoga to be more active but I won the trip in a contest so no complaints 🙂
There are so many yoga retreats out there combining these options. Sign-up for the omexchange newsletter to get ideas & exclusive deals!
Whatever you decide, I am sure you will be thankful for treating yourself to a yoga holiday! And be hooked and soon looking for the next one... Namaste Indra

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