After leading 50+ yoga retreats around the globe over the past decade, one thing remains unanimous: yoga retreats inevitably bring people deeper into their practice. Practicing in a palapa in Mexico with the waves crashing on the shore a few feet away, breathing in the sweet sticky air of the Amazon in Peru, or hearing your own breath isolated in the hills outside of Rome accomplishes one very important thing in your yoga practice: it brings you more inward. We are all more connected to our truest selves when surrounded by nature.
Ultimately a yogi's goal is to connect to oneself so that barriers come down. Yoga retreats are a wonderful way to discover this connection, recharge, and touch deeper layers than one might whilst at their home studio thinking about what to make for dinner or what time your next work meeting takes place. With the stresses of home life and the demands of work, school, and kids we often rush in and out of yoga class without a chance to even process the whole experience. On retreat, your only job is to show up and breathe. This time away from every day life gives you extra attention from the instructor to address individual concerns plus, you have the added benefit of remembering why you do this amazing ancient practice called Yoga to begin with.
The Buddhists talk about being an 'empty cup' or cultivating a 'beginner's mind' wherein you are not full of your own agenda but rather available or 'empty' enough to receive the teachings. Practicing in big cities is a great challenge for all of us so we know we need to be on the mat for many reasons. A big part of the practice is noticing the 'chitta vrittis' or the psyche. By working to become a witness to our thoughts whilst amongst chaos, we gain serenity. Yet, how much more amazing would our practice be if those thoughts, our job, money, family, were not there, as is often the case when on vacation.
I, too, take delight in retreats as a yoga teacher. On retreat, not only do I celebrate the fact that I don't have to lug around my heavy bag, take the subway, or rush around to my next appointment, but the teachings I share tend to come more from my heart. Many of my own learnt teachings come back to me. Offerings that have lain dormant re-emerge making the classes more creative and dynamic. The energy of the group is usually in sync, and I love getting to know the students more intimately than I ever would get to know them in NYC.
I always say that when people come to my classes in NYC, they are taking a retreat for 90 minutes. That is true, it is like a re-set button for many people throughout the day, but what is even more divine is an intimate group together for silent mornings, meditation, sweaty vinyasa and workshops amid nature- everyday! Teachers can always tell students who have returned from retreat. They come back with a new outlook on life, stronger and supplier bodies, and the hunger for being on their path is renewed.