What do you think of when you hear the words ‘yoga retreat’? Do you imagine burnished blue skies, delicious vegetarian spreads and relaxed yoga sessions with a bunch of like-minded people? Or something more austere with intensive yoga sessions, time for silent contemplation and some proper headspace? Whatever you think of, it’s certainly true that yoga retreats are growing in popularity, and the trend doesn’t look set to change any time soon.
Like yoga workshops, yoga retreats are something that any yoga teacher with a business plan is likely to have in their list of things-to-do, usually at a far-off point in time. But if you’ve never run one before, they’re an intimidating project to take on. So, if you’ve thought about it, but haven’t had the confidence or the time to put your thoughts into action, read on to see if maybe you’re readier than you thought for running your very own yoga retreat.
The key to running your own yoga retreat is to decide from the outset what type of student you’d like on your yoga retreat and then go from there. If you’d like students just like you, then think about what your ideal yoga retreat would be. If you’ve already been on one, think back to what you liked (or didn’t like) about it, and make a list. The options are mind-bogglingly endless, so the important thing is to narrow them down. For example, perhaps you’d like to keep costs low for your first retreat? Think about a weekend at a UK venue. That way there are fewer travel costs and you’re more likely to get students who can’t afford to travel abroad.
My policy on trying anything new is usually to start in a manageable, non-intimidating way. My first ever yoga workshop had a massive 4 attendees, but it was really fun and we had cake afterward, what’s not to like? If you’re thinking of running a yoga retreat for the first time you could start with a small venue with a maximum of say, 8 people. That way there’s less pressure on finding students, and even if you don’t fill all the spaces, it will be easier to cover the costs.
Talk to other Teachers
The yoga community is a sharing and caring one, or if it isn’t, it jolly well should be – we’re all doing the yamas and niyamas (of course), and spilling the beans on their yoga retreat secrets is part of Satya – the truth yama. So, buy an experienced teacher a coffee and take notes (in your head) while they give you the benefits of their mistakes and successes.
Choose a Venue
This is KEY. If you get the venue right, then the rest of the organising will fall into place. There are masses of destinations that are set up specifically as yoga retreats, which means that they’ll have yoga equipment there, have plenty of experience of running retreats and will be able to help you organise. Think about the location of your venue. Whether you’d like it to be near to the airport or near the coast (if the beach is part of your retreat vision).
Forewarned is forearmed, and if you’re doing a yoga retreat abroad, there are a lot of things to organise. Think about travel, food, yoga equipment, lesson plans, trips out and all the different aspects of the holiday you’d like to cover. Then make a big list and think about what could go wrong. A risk assessment, while dull, should be part of your preparations for the retreat, so that in the unlikely event of a student falling over in handstand or something, then you’ve made a note of where the nearest hospital is.
Plan the Yoga
Think about a focus for your retreat. Perhaps you’d like to establish a home practice in your students? Or maybe you’d like to build up to a challenging pose that they wouldn’t have done before? Or, you could offer it as a restorative yoga retreat, with a focus on pranayama and yoga nidra.
Marketing, Marketing, Marketing
Once you’ve found your venue and booked it, you need to get people to come! The best way to market is to try a multi-pronged plan of attack. Tell all your students you’re thinking of running a retreat and gauge their response. Put together a flyer with an incentive like an ‘Early Bird’ offer. Social media is also key; run a Facebook campaign, put it on Instagram and send an email campaign.
If you’re still feeling like this yoga retreat thing is just too much responsibility, buddy up with another yoga teacher and see if you can organise a retreat together. Either find someone already running them and ask if you can go as their assistant – maybe just getting the cost of the retreat thrown in as payment. That way you can learn on the job. Or, find a peer who’s happy to share the teaching and organising responsibilities. Then there’s also less pressure trying to fill the spaces all by yourself.
Sometimes as yoga teachers we can forget to appreciate just how lucky we are to have such a brilliant job. Not only do we get to help people live their best lives on a weekly basis, but we get to plan and go on amazing yoga holidays wherever we like! Start to get excited about how fabulous your yoga retreat is going to be and make a date for when you’d like to have it – go on – you know you want to!