When I chat to people about my love of running yoga retreats, one of the comments I often hear is: ‘I’d love to go on a retreat but I’m not experienced enough at yoga’. I understand! I went on my first retreat by myself just a few months after setting foot on a mat for the first time, and I was REALLY nervous. As it turned out, it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I came away from those fascinating few days with a far greater understanding of yoga, of myself, and a real sense of satisfaction at having stepped outside my comfort zone!
Whilst it’s helpful to have a vague idea of what yoga is all about before you commit to a retreat, you really don’t need to have an established practice. If a retreat is firmly aimed at advanced yogis then that will be made clear in the description, but most retreat leaders, including myself, are incredibly happy to welcome newcomers to the practice and consider it an honour to guide you in your first steps!
Here are 5 reasons why lack of experience need not be a barrier to going on retreat – and why, like I did, you might just find it’s one of the best things you’ve ever done!
1 – It’s a holiday that you won’t need a holiday to recover from.
‘Normal’ holidays are fantastic – who doesn’t love an opportunity to kick back, bend our normal rules and visit new places? But despite being a lot of fun, it’s not uncommon to arrive home feeling tired from partying or sightseeing, with an empty wallet and maybe carrying a few extra pounds. By way of contrast, yoga retreats are an opportunity to REALLY recharge your batteries. Deep and plentiful rest is a priority, along with fresh healthy food, fresh air, nature, reconnecting with yourself – and of course your body feels lithe and strong from daily yoga classes! It’s also easy to watch the pennies on retreat – most offer all-inclusive packages, so beyond picking up some local trinkets or treating yourself to a massage or two, the additional spending is minimal.
2 – You won’t be the only person who feels a little nervous.
Most people you’ll meet on retreat are just like you – they’ve enjoyed what they’ve experienced so far of yoga and want an opportunity to feel their best. Some people might have been involved with yoga for years, and some will be on their first retreat just like you. You might be surprised at how ‘normal’ most people are! The atmosphere on every retreat I’ve ever been on has been kind and supportive, and any first day nerves are very quickly replaced with laughter and connection.
3 – You’ll make new friends.
Yoga retreats are a great place to meet people from all sorts of different backgrounds, yet with a common interest. The shared space where all the yoga and group activity takes place is fertile ground for new friendships to blossom, and it’s a delight as a retreat leader to frequently hear of people keeping in touch once they’re back home!
4 – You’ll get to know yoga on a whole new level.
Studio classes are wonderful – they’re where most of us first dip a toe in yoga waters, and they provide the opportunity to learn steadily and regularly with a trusted teacher. But it can be hard, in 60 or 90 minutes, to really get under the skin of yoga and dive deeper into the many fascinating aspects of the practice. On retreat you have the opportunity to do just that – there’s time to really investigate and get one-on-one guidance. And as the teacher is usually with you outside of the classes as well, you can ask all the things that you’re curious about but never get the chance to ask in the studio.
5 – You’ll get to know YOU on a whole new level.
Retreats give you time for yourself. You have the peace and quiet to get off the treadmill and reflect on what you want from life; the spaciousness of no-one wanting anything from you; the luxury of not having to clean up after anyone; and the time to reconnect with the very core of who you are. Revelations, inspiration and ‘aha’ moments are very common on retreat, and you return home feeling refreshed and rejuvenated in a way that almost guarantees one thing: your first retreat is very unlikely to be your last!