3 Surprising Things You Will Experience on a Yoga Retreat 

I’ll admit it, before I got into yoga I thought all yoga retreats were either silent, involved a strict dietary cleanse, or were only for super advanced practitioners.  The truth is, yoga is for everyone, and you don’t have to fit into a certain mold to enjoy its benefits.  While there definitely are yoga retreats that cater to certain preferences and practices, you can absolutely find a retreat that clicks with your tastes and desires.  Still, what if I didn’t mesh with the other people?  Would I feel trapped?  How would I handle being at the mercy of someone else’s itinerary?  These are all legitimate concerns, and when I decided to become a yoga teacher, leading a retreat didn’t appeal to me because I was concerned that others had these similar worries.

With a little probing and encouragement from my students, I took the leap and held my first retreat January 2014 in the stunning mountains of Puerto Rico.  I’ve since gone on to lead 3 more because it was such an amazing experience.  But, it was a TON of work to organize and execute, and secretly I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be a student on a retreat…to let go of the reigns, the planning, and the responsibility, and just enjoy the ride.  So, last week I traveled with my friend (and fellow graduate of the Sonic Yoga Teacher Training Program) to Rincón, Puerto Rico…which incidentally was the destination of my most recent retreat, and I absolutely fell in love with it and was searching for a reason to go back!

Having organized several retreats, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what it was like to be on the “other side,” but I was so surprised by some of the things that came up while I was away.

1) You will detox…from TECHNOLOGY!

In this day and age, chances are most places you travel will have cell service and Wi-Fi, but something about being on a yoga retreat inspired me to unplug.  Leading up to this trip, I was feeling anxiety about the amount of time I spend on my cellphone, and how dependent on it I’ve become.   Sure, it’s primarily because I’m committed to growing a successful business, but I started feeling like I was spending an unhealthy amount of time plugged-in.  What going away made me realize was, the world can wait, and not firing back a reply to each email or text that rolls in is OK.  I made a pact to only check my emails once each morning, and left my phone in my room during the day, except for the occasional photo opp.  I felt instantly more calm and refreshed, and for the first time in a while I fully immersed myself in the beauty of my surroundings, and was able to soak it all in.

2) You will learn how to be more comfortable with discomfort.

This may seem silly because how idyllic does it sound to roll your mat out facing the ocean instead of the mirror in a cramped studio.  Yes, practicing yoga outdoors elevates the experience to new heights…from inhaling the fresh air, to feeling the ocean breeze sweep across your skin, to the soothing sound of lapping waves lulling you into savasana.  But what I realized is, I’d been totally taking for granted the perfectly controlled environment of the well-equipped studios I’m so lucky to teach and practice at.  With the turn of a dial the temperature can be adjusted to an optimal level, there is a plethora of props available to support your practice, and there’s always a spot at the wall to give you that extra confidence to hop into handstand or work towards headstand.  Practicing in nature brings on a whole host of mental and physical challenges that force you to tap deeper into your breath to maintain focus.  The seemingly perfect ocean breeze kept blowing around my mat, the sunshine I’d been craving for months was beating down relentlessly on my skin, and the occasional baby ant that would run across my feet made me feel itchy all over.  Ironically, while you’d think these elements would pull me out of my zone, they actually encouraged me to truly use my breath as a conduit for mental and physical control, more so than I’d ever experienced before.  Several times I wanted to just give up, but it further solidified the power of mind over matter.

3) You will let go and go with the flow.

I am a planner by nature.  I’ve always marveled at those “fly by the seat of their pants” people, but that’s just not me.  I’m good at it, but I know I have the propensity to over-plan, resulting in the inability to just chill out and enjoy.  When you go on a yoga retreat, everything is planned for you, from the accommodations, to the food, to the itinerary.  You’ll generally have some downtime to go off on your own and explore, but a well-prepared retreat leader will provide a detailed list of points of interest, excursions, spa services, and contact info to make booking activities seamless and take the guesswork out for you.  I was definitely apprehensive about allowing someone I’d never traveled with to decide where I would stay, what I would eat, and how my daily schedule would be structured.  To my surprise, it was a huge sigh of relief just being able to let go of control and catered to.  When one of the guests’ rooms didn’t have hot water I wasn’t scrambling to find a plumber, if the caterer was being difficult it wasn’t my responsibility to deal with it, and when I wanted to bury my face in a magazine by the pool I had no worries that I wasn’t being social enough with my group.  All I had to do was show up and have a great time!

Still not convinced?  Here are a few other fantastic perks of making a yoga retreat your next vacation:

1. You can wear flip flops, or be barefoot pretty much the whole time.  One night I actually hopped in the car to go to the local fish shack and forgot to put my shoes back on!

2. You will eat healthy.  I generally eat a very balanced diet at home, but on vacation I tend to throw caution to the wind in the dietary department.  Meals on most yoga retreats are lite and fresh so you won’t feel as guilty about other vacation indulgences, like the occasional piña colada.

3. Finding time to be active won’t seem like a burden.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy exercising and always try to maintain my workout routine while traveling, but sometimes it’s not so easy.  I mean, who wants to lift weights in the shabby, windowless hotel gym?!  On a yoga retreat, physical activity is built into your daily schedule, so it’s virtually effortless to your body moving.

4. You don’t have to rush to relax.  As a New Yorker, I’m always at the mercy of public transit to get to my favorite yoga class, and sometimes I literally have to run to arrive on time.  By the time my heart stops beating out of my chest and I find a sense of calm, class is halfway over.  On a yoga retreat you wake up to the sunrise, roll out of bed, and walk a few steps to your mat.  So nice!

5. And let’s face it…you’ll get some amazing photos for your Instagram 😉

So what are you waiting for???!!!  American author and motivational speaker Denis Waitley poignantly said, “A good life is a collection of happy moments.”  As I’ve gotten older, I’d learned that it’s much more meaningful to collect moments, not things.  If you agree, hop on Google and search for a trip that suits your style, or join me on one of my upcoming yoga retreats and take your vacation experience to a whole new level.  You deserve it!

About Dina Ivas:

Dina earned her certification in Group Exercise in 2002 through the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America and moved to NYC to begin sharing her love of movement.  The pressures of city life left her feeling totally unbalanced, and it was then that she discovered yoga.  In 2010, Dina completed the 200-hour Teacher Training Program at Sonic Yoga, becoming a certified Vinyasa Yoga Teacher.  In addition to teaching at America’s #1 health club chain, Equinox Fitness Clubs, Dina works privately with individual and corporate clients, and leads yoga retreats around the globe.  She strives to offer classes that inspire students to go beyond their perceived limits, are fun, not intimidating, and accessible to all levels.  Her approach to teaching is embodied in three simple words: “Breathe, Play, Grow.”  Dina encourages students to explore on their yoga mat without judgment.  For more information on Yoga with Dina, visit: www.yogawithdina.com

3 Surprises You Will Experience on a Yoga Retreat

By BurnThis Ambassador & Yoga Instructor Dina Ivas