What to Expect on Your First Yoga Retreat: Our Tips

Not sure exactly what to expect or how to plan for your first yoga retreat? Traveling to a new place to spend time with strangers can undoubtedly cause some degree of unease, but don’t let the unknown of your first retreat intimidate you in the slightest.

Instead use it as an opportunity for self-exploration, and an epic excuse to get away and grow your yoga practice in the ultimate supportive environment.

A woman stands in front of a grey sky with her hands pressed together

Remember that the purpose of a yoga retreat is for you to relax and reconnect with yourself | ⓒ Stephanie Moors/Unsplash

What can you expect on your first yoga retreat?

Are you put-off thinking that yoga retreats are only geared toward experts who effortlessly kick up into a handstand? Think again. Similar to the myriad forms of yoga, you’ll find yoga retreats that span the entire spectrum, from beginner-friendly to advanced with various options in between.

Worried you don’t have it in you to practice yoga all day, every day? In reality, you’ll probably only be attending a couple classes a day with lots of yummy breaks scheduled in. Retreats offer a lot more than just yoga. You’ll have downtime to soak in your learnings and socialize with your fellow participants, and you’ll be relishing in some super-healthy delectable eats to invigorate your body and soul.

Beyond the obvious of doing a lot of yoga and deepening your practice, expect a lot of connecting, sharing, mindfulness, laughter, discovery, and opening your mind to new experiences.

Tips for your first yoga retreat

Doing your research pays off

There are a few key questions to ask yourself when booking your first yoga retreat:

What type of yoga style do you want to practice? What level of yoga suits you best? What teaching personality resonates with you?

Choosing a yoga retreat

Yoga is such a personal journey, it’s important to figure out what you like and find a retreat that matches your style. If you’re not sure what style you want to focus on, pick a retreat that offers a variety. If you’re looking to truly unwind, consider finding a retreat that offers some form of yin or restorative yoga. If you’re also looking to explore a new country and really get out of your routine, the most popular retreats are often located in places such as Bali and India.

A group of people laying on their fronts on yoga mats at an indoor yoga retreat

You’ll be able to connect with like-minded people on a yoga retreat | ⓒ Daku Resort Fiji/Flickr

Choosing a yoga teacher

When you find a retreat that piques your interest, read up on the teacher and watch a few of their videos. What you definitely don’t want to do is end up on a retreat with a teacher you don’t connect with. This will not get you into the right mindset. On the contrary, when you find a teacher that you work well with, you’ll have an incredible experience and be surrounded with other like-minded people who are drawn to that teacher’s style for similar reasons to yours.

Get your stretch on (ahead of departure)

If you don’t practice yoga regularly, that’s perfectly fine, but consider adding it to your weekly routine so your body is ready for a daily practice. This doesn’t mean you should push your body to the max – just a few mindful postures here and there make all the difference.

A person wearing a black jean jacket walks out of a building carrying an orange yoga mat

Practice at home before setting off | ⓒ The Creative Exchange/Unsplash

Set an intention and be mindful

Take some time before your voyage to think about what you’d like to accomplish during your getaway. Perhaps you have a specific goal of working on a position you find challenging. Or maybe, on a more holistic level, you’re looking to be more present, de-stress, or focus on healthy eating. Be mindful of your intention throughout the course of your stay and observe how things may shift. The power of mindful intention is capable of accomplishing the seemingly-impossible.

(If you don’t accomplish an intention during your short getaway, do not stress. Yoga is a lifelong journey – there’s no deadline or rush!)

Consider going solo for the optimal experience

If you’re looking to join a retreat with all your best pals, you’re sure to have an amazing time. However, you may not reach your fullest potential that could be achieved if you take a leap and go at it solo. You’ll have more time to take in the full experience, focus on yourself and unwind, and be more inclined to meeting fellow participants. As Rumi so eloquently stated: “Yoga is the journey through yourself to yourself.” Are you up for the challenge?

A woman sitting in lotus position sits on grass above a body of water

Attending a yoga retreat solo can allow you to focus on your own growth | ⓒ WeTravel/Flickr

Pack lightly

Get into the yoga spirit while you pack and practice Patanjali’s fifth yama “aparigraha,” meaning “non-attachment.” Less is more. You don’t need 10 pairs of yoga leggings, five colors of eyeshadow, your blow dryer, and curling iron. Here’s a simple packing list:

  • Light, layerable, breathable yoga clothes
  • Journal for jotting down your learnings
  • Jacket/pullover to get to and from early morning or evening sessions
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Yoga mat & towel (although you can borrow a mat at the retreat, it’s nice to practice on a familiar surface)
  • Backpack to lug your gear around
  • Your favorite set of mala beads to awaken your spirit
  • A good book (perhaps with a yoga theme)
  • Consider leaving the laptop, ipad and/or cell phone at home!

A word to the wise: Don’t compare yourself to others

It’s easy to get distracted when you’re in a room full of yoga experts, and even easier to compare yourself to others. No two bodies are alike. Some poses may come easily, and others are inevitably challenging, even for those “pretzels.” When you take the focus off your own mat, you lose the purpose of the posture and may push your body into a form of a pose that does not suit you.  Yoga is about personal transformation. It does not matter what you look like compared to your neighbor. What matters is how you feel inside on a physical and mental level.

If you’re easily distracted (like most of us are), try focusing on your breath, the sensation you feel in your own body and focus your eyes on a unwaivering “drishti.”

a man and woman practice a yoga pose outdoors

Don’t try to copy your neighbour; focus on your own practice | ⓒ WeTravel/Flickr

Go off the grid

If you have it in you, use your yoga retreat as the perfect opportunity to unplug and take a break from work email and social media. A digital detox is easier said than done, but you’d be amazed at the sense of freedom and clarity it can bring. If going cold turkey isn’t an option for you, try limiting yourself to connecting only during a set time of day.

Downtime is critical

Make sure to schedule in some non-yoga time into your yoga-packed day for self reflection and relaxation. Schedule a massage if they’re offered, take a nature walk, read a good book or simply take a nap – whatever recharges your batteries.

What to expect when your retreat comes to an end

Expect to leave your first yoga retreat as a rejuvenated being, with a deeper yoga practice and understanding of yourself. You’ll notice quick improvements in your practice due to your focused dedication. You also leave your retreat with new perspectives and a clearer head after giving yourself the chance to truly unwind, go within, and reset.

When you’re back home, make a point not to fall right back into the pre-retreat hectic daily-grind. Instead, try to incorporate your new yoga learnings on both a physical and mental level into your daily life – both on and off the yoga mat. You’d be surprised at just how impactful this continued mindfulness can be on your overall well-being. Namaste!