ADVENTURE RETREATS: WHY YOUR NEXT YOGA RETREAT SHOULDN’T JUST INCLUDE YOGA
BY: NATALIE MAGEE (YOGI MAGEE)
Let’s face it, any idiot can put together a yoga retreat. I should know, I’ve been hosting them for the past 4 years. I was inspired after the first yoga retreat I attended in Costa Rica in 2012. The studio where I was a member was hosting, and I had grand visions of hanging out with howler monkeys and surfing in-between yoga and cocktails. While I enjoyed the yoga, my favorite part of the trip was the day some of us skipped the meditation and mat and went deep sea fishing for marlin. We caught two sail fish, bought ice cream in the small town and I purchased a boar’s tooth necklace from a local jewelry maker. The pool time at the retreat center was great, but my soul craved more.
When I started designing my own yoga retreats, adding in an element of adventure was more for my own purposes. I wanted to learn how to surf so I picked destinations like Nicaragua and Panama where I built lessons into the retreat. Horse-back riding on the beach at sunset or a canoe trip through a cave? Why wouldn’t I add these things in so I could experience them as well? I designed trips and built in activities I thought would be borderline extreme, like the Via Ferrata in Telluride, as a way to not only get myself out of my comfort zone, but others as well.
Here’s the truth about yoga retreats, without some sort of adventure, you might as well practice yoga at your home studio. Just because you’re in the jungle of Costa Rica on a yoga deck overlooking the ocean, doesn’t guarantee your teacher will be amazing. Mother nature is a great equalizer and allows you the opportunity to be on a level playing field with the other retreat attendees. It’s unlikely you’ll strike up a conversation with the person next to you in class, but when you’re hanging off the side of a cliff together all of a sudden you become best friends.
So what type of retreats are out there and what should you know before booking? Here’s my top five tips for what to look for when booking your next adventure vacation.
1. Location: Perhaps it seems like a no-brainer but your destination will dictate your schedule. I once hosted a retreat in Tulum where it clearly stated on the description that we would be at an eco-resort (read: rustic) in the jungle (read: not near the beach) with no air conditioning (read: no fans, a/c, nothing). I had three girls leave after the first night because they weren’t comfortable with not having air flow in the rooms. If you want to lounge on the beach all day then look for a retreat that features cocktails included and an ocean view room. Want to hike? Look for mountain destinations. A yoga retreat can be a great way to travel abroad with a group without the hassle and worry about planning airport pick-ups and meals yourself.
2. Activities: One of the reasons many people join my retreats is they tell me they don’t have to think about anything in regards to a schedule. Look for an adventure retreat that has the right amount of activities in proportion to downtime. Want to learn how to surf? Interested in stand-up paddle boarding or kite boarding? Look for retreats that include these in the price. Most of the other attendees are probably just as nervous to try a new skill as yourself and this will offer you the opportunity to bond. If you’re browsing through a yoga retreat’s itinerary and don’t see any offerings, inquire with the retreat host about your options. The yoga schedule could be as such that there isn’t time to fit in a sailing trip or jeep ride or these activities may only be offered at an additional cost. Knowing what to expect before arrival can make the difference between a successful and disappointing week away.
3. Food/beverage: Is it included? Is it vegan, vegetarian or gluten free? If you have special dietary needs you need to pay close attention to the menu on a yoga retreat so that your expectations and needs can be met. Know that when you’re traveling internationally, it just may not be possible that you’re provided with fried chicken and only fried chicken for every meal. Love to have a glass of wine at dinner? Then ask the hostess if alcohol is allowed or provided. There’s nothing worse than showing up to a venue and realizing there isn’t a bar or liquor store within 100 miles of your retreat. Likewise, if your aim is sobriety you may want to inquire on how much booze will be around. I like to accommodate to my guests and manage expectations as much as possible by laying out the breakfast menu prior to the retreat. My attendees then know exactly what food to provide for themselves which makes the weekend run that much more smoothly.
4. Know your guru: One common comment I receive from my retreat attendees is how well everyone meshes during my retreats. I think I tend to attract women in similar personality and interest because they are signing up for an adventure with someone who is kin to themselves. I once had a guest tell me they picked my retreat because I didn’t look too “yoga weirdo.” So do your homework here. Like chanting and extended meditation? Then scope out the instructors classes ahead of time or follow him/her on Instagram. If they seem to offer more handstands and inversions and that’s your jam then follow them on a retreat. There’s nothing worse than showing up with the expectation your yogi guide will offer a restorative practice during the retreat when that’s not in their nature. Look for a teacher whose personality and age is similar to your own and I can bet you that’s the type of people they’re attracting to their retreats.
5. Cost: You get what you pay for. I’ve seen a few comments here and there from interested attendees that certain retreats I host are too expensive. My Telluride Yoga + Hiking Retreat, for example, is 4 nights and five days and includes lodging, five yoga sessions, guided hikes, arranged excursions, apparel and breakfast and costs $650. If someone thinks they can go to Telluride for that price and enjoy all those add-ons for less than that then they are welcome to put together their own event! Yoga retreats are pricier than your standard girls weekend away because you’re paying a price not to plan. With that being said, take into account what you hope to get out of the weekend. I’ve seen plenty of yoga retreats that are cheaper but don’t include food or even lodging. Adventure doesn’t come without a price but you’ll be happier if you know what the return on your investment is. Also note refund policies when booking and buy travel insurance. Just because your studio yoga teacher is nice in class and gives you extra savasana love doesn’t mean she’ll cut you slack on a deposit or returns.
Experiencing adventure with a group is a great way to get out of your comfort zone and test your physical and mental limits. Adventure retreats can provide a positive environment to make friends and travel to places previously undiscovered. Take a chance and step outside the box to find a weekend away that will provide you with so much more than you’ll find within studio walls. I promise, you won’t regret the time and money spent especially after you return home relaxed and re-charged.
What are you waiting for?