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Yoga Holiday & Retreats...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
- a light-hearted break to wind-down
- rebalance diet/detox/healthy eating habits
- time to think/make life changes
- recover from an injury, both mental and physical pain
- 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. 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?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
- ‘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)
5. Need your own space or want a roomey?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!)
6. Yoga and ???...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