What I learned leading a yoga retreat.

As soon as I finished my RYT 200 I knew I wanted to lead a yoga retreat. Preferably on the Greek island of Corfu after I had an epic 30th birthday adventure. I mean, a paid vacation seems like a no-brainer, right? Fast forward a few years, and I discovered a few things while leading my first yoga retreat in Paamul, Mexico last month:

  1. Leading a yoga retreat is not exactly a paid vacation. Theoretically, on a vacation you aren’t working. To lead a yoga retreat, you will work. Hard. Before announcing the retreat, you’re dealing with logistics. Who, what, when, where, how long, how much? After announcing the retreat, you’re hustling with word of mouth advertising, paid advertising, flyers, and endless plugs online. Not to mention, you’re planning classes, themes, etc. Once you’re there, you’re leading, you’re mingling, you’re assisting in any issues or problems that may arise. You are always on call. There really isn’t that much downtime.
  2. Be clear about what the retreat entails. Is the yoga practice going to be for yogis of all levels? Is it for more advanced practitioners with emphasis on inversions, etc? A more physically demanding vinyasa practice, or more relaxing with yin and restorative? Will you be staying at an all inclusive luxury resort and spa, or a charming jungle beachfront home? Camping among the redwoods, or sleeping in a cabin? These details are important! I love the outdoors, but tent life is not for me. I want a hot, indoor shower after my 5 mile hike. Make sure your guests know what they’re signing up for.
  3. Arrive earlier than your guests. Get to the venue early enough that you have time to do a run through. Check guest rooms to ensure cleanliness and to make sure they have all the things they need (towels, toilet paper, soap, shampoo, gift bags, etc.).
  4. Hire a private chef. This was by far the most successful part of the retreat. Delicious menus designed to meet each guest’s individual dietary needs. Everyone was happy with every single meal. Chef Shawn was by far the most popular human at the entire retreat.
  5. You can’t please everyone. People attend yoga retreats for a myriad of reasons. Some people go for physical or emotional healing, some go to further their practice, to make new friends, to visit new places, or because their friend talked them into it. Everyone’s yoga journey is different. Everyone’s needs will be different. As a teacher, all you can do is bring your very best to the mat each practice. It’s their job to take what they need from it.
  6. Make a schedule. Stick to it. If you’ve ever experienced group travel, you know it feels very much like herding cats. In theory, having a “go with the flow” island mentality is great, but you won’t get anything accomplished. Including yoga. You’ll have those who want to sleep in, those who want to welcome the rising sun. If a yogi doesn’t want to wake up early, they miss morning practice. If they don’t make it to the van at 4:30pm, they miss the trip to the cenote. You are doing your part by making a schedule. It is their decision to show up.
  7. Sunrise practice is the best part of the day. Well rested yogis with sleepy eyes and open hearts, snuggled up in hoodies with hot coffee looking out at the ocean in complete awe of such perfect, natural beauty. That was by far my most favorite part of each day. Leading practice on the rooftop terrace with the sound of waves crashing against the shore and the ocean breeze dancing through our hair was a surreal and spiritual experience.
  8. Set personal boundaries. This was the hardest part for me knowing that these yogis traveled to another country and paid good money to do yoga with me. I was the first to rise each morning, and felt obligated to stay up until everyone had retired to their room. Unnecessary. Get lots of sleep, drink tons of water, and make sure to schedule time for your own practice and meditation. I generally chose meditation time prior to sunrise yoga, and practiced before sunset yoga while everyone was getting ready. Although the rituals that keep you grounded may have to be altered to fit a new schedule and setting, make sure that you’re still meeting your own needs. To be the best you can be for others, you have to take care of yourself first.
  9. Enjoy every minute. You are in a magical place with miraculous souls. Be present. Enjoy every single minute. Things might get a little chaotic at times, but ultimately you have the opportunity of leading yoga in paradise at your very own retreat! That in itself is a privilege and a huge accomplishment. Don’t forget it.

I had such a wonderful time at my first retreat, that I already have a Women’s Full Moon Retreat scheduled for early June. This one is different as I’m building it from the ground up instead of going with an establishment that specializes in retreats. In the upcoming weeks I’ll be documenting the process and my experiences. Stay tuned!

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