Yoga retreats are a dreamy opportunity to combine travel with an intensive yoga program. And while many of us fantasize about unrolling our mats in Bali, we have budgets and family responsibilities that mean this might not be an option. But that doesn't mean we can't get many of the benefits of a yoga retreat on a family vacation.
This summer, my family spent 10 days at my grandparents’ house in beautiful Alaska, and I was able to turn this family vacation into my own type of yoga retreat.
Here’s how you can do the same:
1. Take time for quiet reflection.
Just because you're passionate about meditation doesn't always mean that it's everyone else's favorite activity. And the last thing you want to do is drive your family crazy during vacation if you're always just sitting around meditating!
I made it clear I wanted to take time to meditate — this was a family vacation with toddlers, after all. Peace and quiet was not going to just happen accidentally. Quiet moments are very restorative and calming, so they’re definitely worth seeking out! Throughout the trip, I communicated my need for some quiet time within our family dynamics, so we scheduled that accordingly. I could take a few moments to disengage, and then come back to my family feeling refreshed and even-keeled.
2. Practice yoga, even when nobody else wants to.
Even if the rest of your family doesn't do yoga, you can still take your practice with you wherever you go.
For instance, I playfully turned upside down in a headstand while watching the kids play on the swing set. They giggled at their silly mom and their laughter filled me with joy. After a full day of fishing, I did a few rounds of Moon Salutations on the boat dock. Everywhere I went, different yoga poses connected me to that specific place. It didn't matter what everybody else was doing, because I found a way to weave in my practice with whatever family activity was taking place.
3. Eat like the locals do.
When breathtaking scenery, fresh, local food and beautiful friendships come together, you create a memorable culinary experience akin to that of a yoga retreat. The only difference is you don't always have to travel to Costa Rica to make it happen!
On our first night there, my family was invited to dinner at a neighbor’s house. They’d just reeled in their crab traps and had plenty to share! We sat in their home on the beach at a table overlooking the mountain scenery, cracking crab legs and happily licking butter right off our fingers. For dessert, a crumble made with raspberries and rhubarb straight from their garden melted in our mouths. How wonderful it is to indulge in something made with passion.
4. Practice mindful conversation.
While there's plenty of peace found within quiet moments, and the joy of playing around with yoga poses, there's also the power of being emotionally present. When you are consciously aware of what is happening in any given moment, by listening and paying attention, you'll discover a certain richness in mindful conversation with your loved ones.
I loved the talks I had with my grandparents when we shared stories and memories; when we laughed together and even cried together. All too often we allow our minds to set adrift while others are speaking, or we're just waiting our turn to speak ourselves. Practicing the art of mindful conversation means really actively listening to others — it's the path to unconditional love.
5. Offer gratitude.
Where mindfulness is the call, gratitude is the response.
Upon arrival in Alaska, I stepped off the ferry boat and looked around at the majesty of the mountains. I couldn't help but offer my thanks to the heavens for this beautiful world. Throughout the trip, I was thankful for the eagles that soared above and the whales that swam below. I was even thankful for naps that remedied jet lag, while sleeping next to my sweet children. The practice of gratitude is what truly brings forth happiness.
It turned out this family vacation was actually the best kind of yoga retreat I could have asked for. I thought that yoga would enrich the trip and yet, it was actually my family that enriched the yoga
Photo courtesy of the author