We asked adventure junkie, admitted yoga addict and University Village ambassador, Silvia Mordini, how to pick a legitimate yoga retreat when it seems like everyone and their dog are hosting them. Here are her answers.
1. Location, Location, Location
Just like buying a good piece of real estate, location is key when picking a retreat. Choosing a place you’ve always wanted to go (Paris, merci!) may set the stage for a great vacay, but be sure to consider the type of landscape that will most inspire your yoga practice (are you hitting mountain pose at mountaintop or digging your down-dog into a white sandy beach?). You should also consider if you want the retreat to be dedicated only to yoga or if you’d like to partake in other activities like surfing, hiking or biking. Choose a location that offers you more of what you want.
If you enjoy: exploring culture, arts and monuments
Think: Tuscany, Paris, Provence or Spain
If you enjoy: being on a warm, sunny beach with a bucket of Coronas
Think: Hawaii or Mexico
If you enjoy: the comfort of high thread-count sheets and a cozy luxurious bed (and let’s be serious, who doesn’t?)
Think: Sonoma, Napa Valley or the San Juan Islands
If you enjoy: rustic camping trips
2. Choose a Teacher and Style You Love
Familiarize yourself with the teacher(s) guiding the retreat. Look into how many years of experience they have, both guiding retreats as well as teaching yoga. If you can, go to some of their local studio classes and decide if you like their teaching style. If they aren’t accessible to you, ask for student testimonials to shed some light. Is the teacher super serious or loads of fun? You should be "in like" with your teacher and excited to spend time learning from them and just hanging out.
A retreat can be like a mini "teacher training" so make sure you feel aligned with the style (Bikram, Hatha, Vinyasa, etc.) and level (beginner, intermediate, advanced, multi-level) of yoga you will be practicing. If you want a sweaty practice but the itinerary only includes restorative yoga, you're going to be let down. Also consider how much yoga you want to practice while you’re on the retreat. Some yoga holidays may offer only one 60-minute class a day while others offer two classes daily and mini-workshops, life coaching or yoga clinics.
3. Theme and Focus of a Retreat
Ask yourself what your intentions are for this experience. Are you looking to reset your mind, challenge your practice, heal a broken heart or make new friends? If the retreat is based on life-coaching and self-development, but you are only looking for exercise and physical activity, then it’s probably not the retreat for you. Read the descriptions of the themes carefully and find the one that most speaks to what you are looking for. The retreat's focus will bring together like-minded people so you’ll find it easier to connect with the group, which will enhance the experience.
4. Price and Timing
Unless the trip information states otherwise, retreats should include pretty much everything except airfare. This means you know what your total trip expense will be right from the get-go. Not having to worry about over-spending will help you take a load off and really embrace the experience. Keep in mind that an inexpensive retreat doesn’t necessarily mean it’s cheap in quality (it could just mean that there are more participants, all paying less). Do your research to ensure you’re getting the most bang for your buck and there are no surprises! Retreats can be as short as a two-night weekend getaway or as long (or longer than) a 10-day trip. Don’t just assume longer is better, sometimes all we need is a weekend away to "reboot."
5. Do Your Homework
Make sure you register with a legit organization. Companies like The Travel Yogi or Alchemy Tours travel to potential locations to ‘feel it out’ before hosting a retreat there. It is definitely comforting to know that the hosts can vouch for their retreats before you invest a ton of time, money and precious vacation hours. If you want even more info, MindBodyGreen has a great summary of worldwide retreats.