I had the privilege of teaching yoga last weekend at Simply Blossoming, a yearly women’s retreat in Haliburton, Ontario. I taught morning yoga classes and a couple of yoga workshops to the group. I was also lucky enough to participate in some of the other workshops offered, had a reflexology appointment, went on a nature hike, meditated, sang, journalled, and spent time with this group of diverse and fascinating women.
Iâ€™ve been on many retreats, as a participant, a host, and as a guest instructor. Regardless of what role I play in a retreat, I am amazed at the transformations that occur. Whether itâ€™s a weekend retreat or a weeklong retreat, the action of getting away from our everyday, of â€śretreatingâ€ť is powerful.
Over the years, there are a few things I have learned about retreats and, coming off a profound weekend, it seemed like a perfect time to share them.
If youâ€™re thinking of going on any type of yoga, meditation, or spiritual retreat, here are 7 things you should know:
1. You donâ€™t know why youâ€™re there until you get there.
You may think you know why youâ€™re going. You may think your intention is clear from the moment you put down that deposit, but often itâ€™s not until youâ€™re actually there, physically there, that why youâ€™re really there becomes apparent.
2. You will gain perspective.
When you are removed from your daily life, your obligations, your roles and responsibilities, a wonderful thing happens. You can see your life for what it is, warts and all. You have the ability to step back from the minutiae of your life and look at it in a big-picture kind of way.
3. Be ready to face your life head-on.
When on a retreat, it is difficult to avoid the emotions, insights and realizations that occur. Be prepared to take a honest look at your life, and all the areas that are working (or not working, as the case may be). We are often surprised by the parts of our lives that come to the surface during these times of reflection.
4. Be compassionate with yourself
At some point, during the retreat, you may feel crabby or out of sorts. It might be short-lived, it might last longer. Know that this is okay, and look for the deeper reason. Sometimes weâ€™ve discovered an uncomfortable truth about ourselves, or weâ€™ve hit a roadblock in processing something, or perhaps itâ€™s as simple as weâ€™re just eating a different diet, have low blood sugar or need a nap! Be gentle with yourself, and listen to your body.
5. Try new things.
There will always be new experiences to try on a retreat, and some will seem weird or â€śout thereâ€ť. These are often the sessions you stand to gain the most from. So, if something scares you or is out of your usual routine, try it, and observe your reaction(s).
6. Write things down.
You will process so many things during a retreat. You may have small realizations or grand epiphanies, but I guarantee if you donâ€™t write them down youâ€™ll find it hard to remember exactly what that thought was and why you had it during that particular workshop.
7. Be open.
Of all things, this is probably the most important. Everyone is on that retreat for a reason (and referring back to #1, most donâ€™t know why theyâ€™re there until theyâ€™re actually there) and we all stand to learn from one another. Suspend judgment, listen, and be open, and your experience(s) will be that much deeper and richer.