Sometimes yoga practice can be a grind. You may feel like you’re in a rut, back and forth to the same studio and not feeling the shift you want to feel in your body and mind. You see those posters on the wall of the studio or see the events posted by friends on Facebook encouraging you to take the leap and dive into a week of yoga practice. Usually it’s in a far-away place, with palm trees and sea or maybe in another country you’ve been dying to visit anyway. It can be very tempting to throw it on a credit card and go.
Then there are other times you’re home and you’re in a groove. You’ve found a studio that feeds your yoga affection in just the right way. You’ve connected to a teacher or teachers at a local studio and you’re on a path to wellness. You’re eating well, practicing mindfulness in everything you do and your yoga practice is helping you examine your life closely to find other areas that you’re being drained of positive energy. Can these things happen while you’re in your own home environment?
I can say over the years, I’ve done both. I fully committed myself to a regular yoga practice for almost two years before I ever stepped on a plane to be taken to a far off place to explore yoga in a deeper way. I felt significant shifts in my body and mind long before I ever invested in a yoga retreat. By the same token, I grew in ways I didn’t think were possible by attending several off-site yoga trainings. The poses I tried, the personal development exercises I experienced, the friendships I made, the deep exploration I did; these things all were realized on many of my yoga trips.
So, what are some of the things to consider when booking a yoga trip? Here are some things to ponder:
Make sure if you’re looking for a vacation, that’s the kind of yoga trip you pick. I can remember I packed a bunch of magazines and books for my first teacher training and left home with visions of reading on the beach and sightseeing, at least for a little bit. Well, I was so wrong. The only books I read were teacher training books and what little downtime I had was spent exhausted in bed. Don’t get me wrong; it was awesome, but just be sure if you want a yoga vacation, you don’t chose a week-long teacher training.
If you decide a training program is for you, try to meet the teacher and take some regular classes with him/her before investing in the training. While trainings can all be themed as ‘yoga trainings’ the presentation, style, process and emphasis is a function of the teacher leading the training. Before you book your trip based on the recommendation of a friend (“She’s an awesome teacher!”) or your assessment of your “connection” with the teacher based on some Facebook comments you’ve exchanged, take the time to meet the teacher and take some regular classes if possible. In this context, you can see how the style of yoga feels in your body and how your whole self responds to the presentation of the practice. You can also ask the teacher questions about the training to help assess if it’s right for you.
While go-away yoga experiences can be wonderful opportunities to embark upon self-exploration, don’t use them to run away from your problems. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s famous book, Whereever You Go, There You Are is a wonderful title for such a poignant realization; that you take your problems with you, even if you change your environment. Now, the big difference is that on a yoga retreat, it’s a chance to separate yourself from your day-to-day grind and explore who you are, why you do what you do, your reactions and unhealthy relationships and habits. It’s a chance to make some changes when you return. But if you find yourself falling into old habits while you’re there, don’t be surprised. Use the retreat as a chance to be supported while you go out on a limb and try a new way of being.
Explore the cost and be realistic, or at least informed, about what the total investment will be. I know, it’s not really sexy to talk about money but unless you have all the time and money in the world, any week-long event (or even a 3-day one) will be an investment. Flight, training, lodging, missing work, child care, pet care, transportation…. it all adds up pretty quickly. Now, there are indeed times in your life when you’re driven by a force the defies reality; maybe in those times, if you’re authentic in your assessment that THIS is one of those instances, you do decide to use some savings or a credit card and go. But just take a moment and be sure, if you can, before you book. There’s nothing worse than having buyer’s remorse or losing your down-payment because you decided later you just don’t have the funds to cover the whole cost.
Take it easy on yourself when you get back. I will never forget waiting for my luggage at the airport on my return from my first training. It felt so loud and raw and unfriendly compared to the supportive, warm hug of a feeling I had when I was away. I also heard stories of people who returned to quit their day jobs, leave long relationships and sit down with their family members to share deep realizations they’d had over that week. Remember that what you went through was a very unique experience. Take your time when you return to ease back into eating regular foods, sleeping, your yoga practice and your relationships. Short of feeling compelled to make major changes, take time to sit with things before making a major shift. If it was meant to be, you’ll do it, whether it’s the first week you’re back or at a later time.