Going on retreat might sound indulgent to some, but getting away and deeper into practice can work wonders for yoga teachers. Whilst it can be difficult to prise ourselves away from hard-won studio classes or a busy schedule that took time and dedication to build up, the self-investment a retreat represents can work hugely to our favour when we return. Here are 8 reasons why you should consider going on retreat as a yoga teacher.
1. New horizon = new perspective
There’s nothing like a change of scene. How far you go is up to you, but being in a new environment naturally encourages us to see the familiar in a new light, both while away and when we get back. It’s a great way to allow your subconscious to process whatever it needs to, gain some perspective and see new opportunities.
2. Reconnect to your practice
Even for the most passionate yogis, teaching can make it a challenge to manage self-practice for its own sake. Going on retreat takes away all the distractions, the pressure to plan classes, and aspects of teaching that can sometimes make our own yoga feel too much like work. Allowing someone else to hold space for you can be an immensely powerful and freeing experience if you’re used to holding space for others.
3. Reconnect to yourself
Pattabhi Jois comes to mind here: practice and all is coming. The inevitable result of reconnecting with your practice is a reconnection to Self. By devoting time to our return to a yoga practice purely for its own sake, we strengthen our connection to ourselves and ourselves in connection with the world around us. Clarity, groundedness, and the insights they bring make for a great opportunity to practice svadhyaya (self-study) and deepen our relationship with life.
4. Meet other like-minded yogis
The chances are that what appealed to you about your chosen retreat also resonated with other attendees. Being surrounded by new people who share a love of yoga can often be as refreshing as the change of scene. Sharing the transformative power of a retreat with others usually results in great new connections, friendships and opportunities which tend to unfurl naturally.
5. Recalibrate your system
A retreat can be the perfect situation to redress any negative habits, or simply allow the body to rest and restore. Even though the work of a yoga teacher involves presence, the ability to let go and ‘just be’, the practicalities of the job can be tiring. All the more reason to take care of your body and mind, and give them a chance to heal. A lot of retreats also include delicious healthy food and other wellbeing opportunities to walk, sleep, reflect and enjoy the surroundings.
6. Become a student again
As yogis we are of course perpetual students, but it can be incredibly helpful to be immersed in a student experience for longer than a class here and there between teaching. Handing over the reins to someone else and freeing yourself from the responsibility of others’ practice highlights in greater detail where we are in our own bodies, minds and spirits, which, apart from being an incredibly worthy reason in itself, also tends to translate into more integrated and connected teaching post-retreat.
7. Enjoy your surroundings, pure and simple
We often book holidays to relax, but instead of chilling out find ourselves marking off the ‘Top 10’ sights-to-see, places-to-go, things-to-do… and end up coming back without having adequately rested. Going on retreat takes away the pressure to be a tourist, because the focus is instead upon your personal relationship with space and consciousness, helping you to appreciate the immediate here and now in more vivid detail and depth. There are interesting options to explore outside of yoga practice, but invariably these don’t involve further traveling, complicated logistics, or much effort. Practicing gratitude for where we find ourselves can be easier in a new or beautiful spot, but it’s also something we can bring back home with us.
8. Come back with your cup full
The love of yoga that first drew us to teach shifts and changes like any relationship, so taking the time to nourish it can be incredibly powerful. Aeroplane instructions often feel like a good metaphor: ‘We’re not good at helping others breathe if we haven’t got our own oxygen mask on correctly’. The same is true with yoga. We are not the best teachers we can be when we allow our cups to become depleted by the inevitable demands of teaching. But when we take the time to replenish ourselves, we will be better able to energise and inspire our students, helping them fill their own cups, and sharing the love of yoga.