by: Marianne Wells
Starting to feel stale in your yoga practice? Even if you have a particular style of yoga that speaks to you and a devoted teacher that you love, perhaps you feel the urge to get away, step outside your comfort zone, and try something new and different. A yoga vacation might be just the thing!
Once you discover all of the different types of yoga vacations available to you, you’ll have all the information you need to start planning your trip and take your yoga practice beyond the four walls of your studio or home practice.
Vacation with a Side of Yoga
Picture a beach resort where in addition to taking yoga classes, you can relax, swim up to the pool bar, go on a zip line excursion and have plenty of time to experience local cuisine, nightlife and other attractions. If you want to keep up with your practice while on vacation, but also have time to do other things, this is your best option. If you overindulge in food and drink, you can decide to skip the next day’s class - no guilt, no pressure. (Unless you plan the trip with a group of friends who expect you to stick to a rigid yoga schedule. Make sure to work that out before you commit.)
When you’re planning your yoga vacation, keep in mind that many resorts offer complimentary yoga classes, but they tend to be very basic as they’re catering to a very diverse group of people. Make sure you reserve your spot ahead of time especially if the resort is crowded. If you want more variety or more advanced classes, perhaps a yoga retreat is a better choice.
At a yoga retreat, everything revolves around yoga and yoga-related activities. Typically, you’ll travel to a calm, quiet, remote setting that’s free from distractions — a place where you can clear your mind and really concentrate on your yoga practice. Your schedule will likely include early morning yoga, group workshops and gatherings, and another yoga session or meditation in the evening. Meal choices are usually limited to healthy foods and drinks (think vegetarian and no alcohol).
Yoga retreats tend to attract people who are looking for a zen atmosphere and are eager to take on the role of seeker, explorer, or self-discoverer. Individual progress is enhanced by and dependent on group involvement. Though you will have some down time, don’t expect your co-yogis to be up for skipping any of the scheduled activities. You’re paying for the yoga classes and other scheduled activities and if you don’t plan on participating in all of it, you might want to consider a more flexible yoga vacation instead. Yet, if you’ve been practicing yoga for a while and want to immerse yourself in a yoga-focused excursion with a small group of like-minded yoga peers, a yoga retreat is for you.
Though some aspects of yoga festivals can be similar to what you’ll discover at a retreat, they are a different experience in their own right. Festivals are held all over the world, at times in unexpected places. The Solstice in Times Square in the heart of New York City is quite the opposite of calm and quiet, and it’s certainly not remote, but that’s the point.
Many annual yoga festivals are held in beautiful places like Telluride, Colorado and Nantucket Island. They're often large gatherings held outdoors that typically incorporate live music and stir up an energy that’s much different from what you’ll experience at a retreat. For multiple day festivals, you can often choose and pay for only the classes and activities in which you want to participate.
Yoga Teacher Training
While you don’t have to travel to participate in a yoga teacher training program, many trainings are held at carefully selected remote destinations that allow students to completely remove themselves from the distractions of their lives and immerse themselves in their learnings.
Generally these programs are quite structured and intended for people who want to teach yoga, but some yoga practitioners want this immersion experience in order to deepen their own practice and the mind-body connection. Indeed, teacher training will do those things for you, but you must understand that teaching training puts far less emphasis on your personal practice.
While you will learn yoga postures, sequencing, staging of classes and how to teach a group of students, much of the emphasis is on learning the “off the mat” facets of yoga. A big part of a yoga teacher’s job is to teach students that the mindfulness they practice on the mat — breathing, softening, feeling, noticing, letting go — can help them be in the moment, calm the mind, change unhealthy thought patterns and manage stress in their daily lives, when they’re “off the mat.”
You might find that for all of the scheduled training sessions, attendance is mandatory. Instruction takes place in a studio and in a classroom setting (though the classroom might be outdoors or poolside).
If you’re a yoga practitioner and feel a desire to teach, you’ve probably explored only a small fraction of the many yoga styles and techniques. Yoga teacher training will expose you to a wide range of yoga practices and guide you to find the yogic path that’s right for you. If you’re interested in becoming a Registered Yoga Teacher, you’ll find curriculum requirements and other details on the Yoga Alliance website.
There are many options when it comes to taking your yoga practice beyond the studio and out into the world. If you feel ready to embark on a travel yoga experience, remember to read the itinerary, understand what you’re paying for, ask about the cancellation policy and get as much information as possible before you commit. That way, you’re sure to end up in the right place!
Marianne Wells has been teaching yoga for more than 30 years and has dedicated her life to the study of yoga. She offers yoga teacher training and retreats through which she has helped launch the careers of hundreds of yoga teachers and studio owners around the world.