10 Things to Think about Before Planning a Yoga Retreat

Screen Shot 2014-09-08 at 3.08.55 PM1. What do I need in my life right now?
Create an intention for what you would like to achieve from a Yoga retreat. Attend regular Yoga or meditation classes to gain clarity and focus about what you currently need. Ask your body the question…’What do I need?’ Trust in the higher intelligence of your body to give you signals that will guide you towards your highest needs. Consider what you are looking for to decide on the most suitable retreats that will best fit your needs. Study the retreat descriptions carefully and find the one that speak loudly to you personally. Seek the ultimate retreat that appears to be customised just for you! When I design a retreat I’m aiming to create an experience that will refresh the spirit, reignite passion for living, rediscover balance in life and deepen our yoga and meditation practice.

2. What do I yearn to learn?
Retreats offer all kinds of different benefits and learning experiences. Exceptional retreats will offer a combination of many benefits and topics with an overall theme focus. Here’s a few to consider regarding what you may need and what may excite you.
• Restorative and nurturing yoga classes
• Energizing and dynamic yoga classes
• Advanced yoga postures
• Yoga philosophy
• New healthy rituals
• Ayurvedic lifestyle rituals
• Personal development
• Self healing
• Letting go of negative emotions
• Self love rituals
• Detox and cleansing
• Nourishing and energising food
• New foods and cooking demos
• Positive thinking and manifesting dreams
• Chakra energy centres
• Chi energy flow
• Learning new Yoga styles
• Peace, tranquillity, harmony
• Daily meditation
• Chanting
• Mantras and mudras
• Healthy weight and positive self image
• Self time; down time
• Adventures : skiing, horse riding, surfing, stand up paddling, snorkeling

Shambhala_Hangin Hammock _Bern copy3. Do I know the organizer or teachers on the Retreat?
It may be your own teacher or a teacher from your local studio who is running the retreat and you aspire to learning more from their lifestyle and wisdom. Does this teacher make you feel supported and cared for? Are they warm approachable and knowledgable? If you do not know the teacher then it’s best to spend time researching their credentials and experience and importantly check out their guest testimonials on past retreats. Feel confident in asking the teachers or organisers what their professional intention is with the retreat? You want to feel reassured that they are designing and guiding the retreat with a deeper passion to help, transform and improve peoples lives while immersed in the depths of Yoga practice, spiritual and healthy rituals.

4. What type of Yoga do I prefer?
Some retreats are based on specific types of Yoga styles (Hatha,Vinyasa, Anusara, Ashtanga, Iyengar, Yin, Acro etc) Enquire about the type of Yoga if you’re uncertain about the descriptions. Also check out the level of yoga (beginner, intermediate, advanced, all levels) and make sure the retreat you choose will accommodate your personal level of practice so you feel supported or challenged as much as you need. Unless specified as ‘advanced’, most retreats will cater for all levels Be prepared to embrace your individual journey without judging your ability or level. Most guests are surprised at the broad range of different levels and how comfortable and accepted they feel as they immerse into the retreat experience.

5. Location…location!
What landscape, culture and climate most inspires or deeply relaxes you? Are you more relaxed near the rainforest, by the ocean or in the mountains? Do you need adventure, culture, exotic locations and other elements to be included as part of your pre or post retreat experience. Retreat locations can be a monumental influence on the whole retreat experience. An amazing location will provide a powerful and positive flow of energy and negative ions, it will host a picture perfect backdrop and establish a beautiful soft ambience.Consider the location that most relaxes or excites you. Perhaps you’re interested in discovering a new location and new country and you can include the retreat as a healthy start or finish to your overseas holiday. Consider If you prefer luxury 5 star options verse basic rustic accommodation. The retreat accommodation should be clean, immaculate, stylish and esthetically pleasing. The layout should be feng shui considered to optimise a positive energy flow and additional touches such as crystals and ancient mythology statues will also support the energy and spiritual nature of the location.

Banyan tree entrance6. Does it look professional and organized?
The retreat description should clearly outline the theme, style, dates, location, costs, general overview of activities and all inclusions. You can also submit prior interest in the retreat to receive the itinerary or schedule to gain more information on what to expect on the retreat and how to be prepared. Once your booking is confirmed you should also receive the comprehensive time schedule with your daily rituals, preparation guide, packing list and a health medical questionnaire form to assess your health status and intentions for the retreat. The greater the attention to logistics, the more nurtured and supported you will feel during the transition from your home to the retreat. Your dietary preparation pre retreat and your special food requirements should also be requested and recorded.

7. What are the Costs?
Most retreats should be inclusive of accommodation, food, yoga and all activities except airfare. Additional extras may include optional spa treatments and massages. Retreat costs will vary greatly depends on the number of nights stay, the luxury elements of the accommodation and the exact location. Choose retreats within your budget but also be prepared to save and invest in the retreat of your dreams!

8. When should I go?
It’s ideal to be organised well in advance however, if your life is completely off track and you feel desperately out of balance then don’t wait to start healing, rebalancing and renewing. Get happy and harmonised! Go now!

9. What foods turn you on?
Yoga Retreats will vary greatly with food choices and some may only offer vegetarian or vegan options. Some retreats will encourage you to eliminate certain foods pre retreat to alkalise the body and enhance your retreat experience with more energy and less joint stiffness. Remember that Yoga retreats are designed to energise the liver, nourish the adrenal glands and support the body from the inside out. Try to accept the cleansing of sugar, toxins and acidic products from your diet as the beginning of a whole new anti-aging and happier lifestyle. Ask to see the retreat menu and check that the food is supplied from fresh organic local suppliers if possible.

10. Is there soul surrender time just for YOU?
Choose a retreat that offers down time and personal surrender just for you. On a quality retreat even the yoga is optional. Choose how much or how little you want to participate.

category_images_9 (1)Madonna Williams is a modern day Yoga and meditation therapist, health presenter and educator with a soulful approach to celebrating the body’s wisdom and inner spirit. Internationally accredited as a Yoga teacher and personal trainer, Madonna is the author of the successful book ‘Zen Soul Your Life‘ and the creator of the community Yoga movement ‘Zen Soul Yoga‘ that offers weekly Yoga classes and regular Yoga retreats. She is also the creator and presenter for the upcoming new online series ‘Yoga Zen Soul’. Trained in Zen Thai Shiatsu healing and food/nutrition coaching, Madonna also offers personal mentoring, healing massage and life coaching. Her work has been featured in media platforms such as Well-being Magazine, Cove Magazine, Get It Magazine, Gold Coast Magazine, Dolly Magazine, Channel Nine and the Gold Coast Bulletin. Madonna is a leader of body-mind-spiritual teachers and intends to help others ‘peace, nourish and nurture’ and always aim to ‘manifest your best’!