Retreats are on my mind. I have just come back from one (an incredible week in Huzur Vadisi with Nadia Narain) and am beginning to plan one for the winter -- watch this space, Powder Yogi ski + yoga season 2 is coming up!
I've experienced my fair share of yoga retreats, both as a student and as a teacher, and thought I would share a few notes on how to make the most it. This is not about how to select the perfect retreat for you. Nor is it the ultimate guide. These are a few things I learnt over the years and if you find even just one point helpful, then I'll be very happy!
1. Know why you're there
Deepen your practice. Experiment. Heal. Explore. Meet people. Escape. Nourish. Get a tan. Read and swim. Sleep. No matter what your reasons for going on a retreat are, KNOW THEM. I mean it. Know the real, true reasons why you're going. A retreat is a unique opportunity (to make a shift, break through, slow down, revive...) so use it well.
2. Stay with your intention
This one's tricky. I love being on my own, I never get bored, I keep myself busy. Very busy. To the point where I feel like I need to retreat to get a break from myself! Travelling often does the trick. It takes me out of my daily familiar surroundings. It offers new perspective. It's refreshing. But sometimes I need even more.
I go on retreats to get away from myself and to be with myself. Turn inward. Get closer to my inner guide. Ponder the big questions of life, universe and everything. Quieten and slow down.
I'm an introvert (and a bit of a hermit) by nature but put a few nice people around me and I'll want to socialise and party! I just can't help it. I love people. Staying with my intention to truly retreat is my biggest challenge on retreat. Silent mornings (ie no talking until at least after breakfast) help. They provide space to remember my intention and give me a much bigger chance to stay with it throughout the day.
3. Write it down
Keep a journal. Retreats are a fertile ground, things bubble up... thoughts, feelings, ideas. Things you want to capture. To off load. To record for future needs.
I usually write a few words down first thing in the morning, it's my personal check in time. Then I might add a few more words after meditation or yoga practice. Or a few pages. In fact, I try to keep my journal near me all day long to write down a snippet of an interesting conversation, quote from a book, an idea for back home...
Some of it is gold, some of it is utter drivel. But whenever I go back to my retreat notes, I seem to find the answers I am looking for!
4. Be fully present
You're on retreat -- enjoy it! Enjoy doing nothing. Be really really present. Make it your business to properly be there whilst you're there. If you can avoid being online and / or dealing with any "home" stuff, all the better. Because it'll be over and seem like a dream before you know it!
5. Be prepared for "real life" post retreat
When I returned from my very first yoga retreat, I was completely unprepared for what happened next. I came back home to London, the sun was shining, all was good. I popped to the supermarket down the road and before I knew it I was in tears in the middle of the road. What?!!
I couldn't explain it, it was mystery. Without meaning to sound too woo woo, I now realise that I was simply still in retreat mode. Energetically wide open to absorb all the good stuff. Only I was absorbing London madness and it all became a little too much.
And so these days I make sure that my travel back from retreat is as stress free as possible. I try to avoid coming back during rush hour or take a taxi instead of the train from the airport. I allow at least a day after returning home before getting back to any work or social commitments. It gives me time to unpack, ground my energy and adjust slowly.
6. Be prepared for "real life" post retreat, part II
More often than not, things get stirred up during a retreat. You might not even be aware of the changes at the time but seeds are being planted, shifts happen. Chances are that the seeds will begin sprouting only when you are back in your real life.
You might suddenly have the urge to make a change, big or small, and it may seem like it's come out of nowhere. It's not, it's the magic that happened on your retreat that is now bearing fruit. It may not always be pretty or easy or joyful, but change rarely is. For me, this is where my retreat notes become really valuable. They help me navigate the situation, make the best possible choices and withstand any storms.
If you have any of your own tips on how to make the most of this retreats, I'd love to know!