YOGA IS THE ART of release It is the study of one’s concentration upon the diverse layers of the body, mind and spirit.
This ancient tradition of breath, movement and meditation, developed within the Hindu culture of the Indian subcontinent, becomes the practitioner’s sacred ritual.
Finding the right yoga retreat is just as important a part of one’s practice as a particular inhalation of breath, an exhalation into a specific posture, or the proper stillness of silent observation.
Only by choosing the right retreat will you achieve the relaxation necessary to let go and discover the true depths of your yogic journey.
The Destination Is Also The Journey
There are thousands of yoga retreats to choose from. They come in all different shapes, sizes, destinations and packages.
Some retreats offer 24/7 yoga, strict meal guidelines, and absolute silence. Others begin the day with a series of opening postures (or asanas in Sanskrit), and then immerse participants in the local culture of the region, with plenty of restorative downtime before a final series of relaxation poses.
So, how do you find the right retreat for you?
First, close your eyes…
Now, take a long inhalation through the nose. Hold. Now release all breath out of the mouth. Settle into your seat and relax.
Imagine yourself doing yoga. Imagine the setting. Where are you?
Here’s where I am. I’m on a beach. I’m not in the Himalayas watching a fast approaching lightning storm upside down while shaking in Sirsha-asana (head-stand pose).
No. I’m in the tropics, half naked (okay… completely naked) on warm sands, listening to the sound of the ocean’s waves cresting upon a coral reef. Breezy palm fronds rustle overhead and their shadows offer refreshing shelters.
I am far from the office, the phone calls, the expectations others’ harbor of me. These distractions are long gone and far out of mind. I am relaxed, warm, at peace and loving life.
Your perfect yoga setting might be different from mine – or not. No matter, it’s your yoga practice (as the conscious instructor reiterates); therefore it’s your yoga retreat.
Take Me To Your Leader
OK. Now the next important element of the practice is picking your instructor.
Who is it that will lead you through the doorways of your “guesthouse” as the Sufi mystic Jelaluddin Rumi referred to when speaking of the body? Whose guidance will you trust and surrender to?
At best, if a professional institution certifies the teacher you have no reason to doubt their practice and capabilities. However, each person’s style of teaching is unique and each system of yoga is different.
Search their name on the Internet, and read their website. If they’re local, try one of their regular classes. Acquire feedback and read their students’ testimonials. Where have they led retreats before?
Most importantly, find an instructor whose style of practice and system of yoga aligns with your needs. But how do you do that? There can’t be that many traditions of yoga…
Oh yes there are. Hatha Yoga, Yin Yoga, Flow Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Bikram Yoga – the list goes on.
The most fitting yoga retreat for you is one where the type of yoga fits your personal style and experience.
For example, let’s say you’re looking to work yourself. You want to physically sweat, strain, push and endure your entire body-muscles, joints, ligaments, bones and all. Find a retreat that offers a vigorous Ashtanga practice.
Or say you’re seeking peace and tranquility-long restorative postures. You should look for a retreat that focuses on a form of Yin Yoga. The choices are as many as the thoughts within the mind.
Your Life, Your Retreat
With a destination and style of yoga pinned down, then it’s up to you to find out what is being offered beyond your guesthouse’s doorstep.
Check the local studios for flyers. Browse through conscientious periodicals and publications that focus on spirituality and self-improvement.
Search the Internet for retreats in specific destinations or in a certain tradition of practice.
Ask your friends. Ask the universe. Ask yourself.
A yoga retreat is a sacred offering to your body, your temple. It is time removed from the daily frivolities of “making-a-living.” It is time to honor and embrace who you are; in order to develop the mind, body and soul and move closer to a state of relaxation and peace.
In essence, yoga is learning how to accept and love oneself whole-heartedly and unconditionally.
Practice your yoga practice. Observe your breath and welcome all sensations of the body. Let the mind go and visualize your perfect yoga retreat – then go out and find it.