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Survival Guide: Your First Yoga Retreat

Recently I was lucky enough to enjoy A 3-day yoga retreat in the gorgeous Govinda Valley just south of Sydney with Kirsty Wright Yoga.

It was my first ever yoga retreat. Initially, I thought the idea of a retreat was all too lavish and indulgent. Fortunatley, I caught onto the falseness of this perspective and gave the retreat a chance.

It’s fair to say that most people come to retreat during a time of transition. I was no different. I drove into retreat with a bit of baggage, having a handful of big decisions to make in most areas of my personal life. Heading off on a solo road trip to hang out with a bunch of strangers when I was feeling vulnerable was of course a bit daunting, but my soul called for it, so I followed.

Within minutes I was snacking on pure vegan, wholesome goodness from Galas Organic Kitchen and discussing how an Indian Fung-Shui master had transformed this once barren land into a flourishing community for Hare Krishna devotees and visitors – I knew I was with my kind of people!

For anyone considering it, here’s a little insight into how to surrender into your first Yoga Retreat.

Prepare to share
If you like your own space and find the thought of sharing feelings and space terrifying – then a yoga retreat is for you. I’m a big believer in the idea that the pose you resist the most is the pose you need the most. The same is true in life; it calls you to lean into discomfort to reap the real benefits it has to offer. A retreat is the place to leave your fear at the door. It is the place to clear your mental slate, outside of the confines of social constructs and the roles you are responsible for in the “real world”.

The word retreat means to withdraw, which requires an inward focus and departure from the distractions of your daily life. Historically, the outcome of a retreat is to gain powerful insight into the mind and acquire a deepened connection with your true nature. So you can see why small-talk did not make the agenda. We cut straight to the big questions: Which limits we set ourselves, secret passions, wildest dreams, most gut-wrenching regrets, and traits or behaviors we think would disappoint of younger selves. Self-inquiry is such an important practice, one we are often too scared to tap into.

It is the role of your yogi host to create and hold this space of safety and support for you, all you have to do is surrender into it. Kirsty allowed us to dig deep into the self-exploration abyss, and for that we all came out of the retreat much closer to our authentic selves.

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Be open to new experiences
On face value, yoga retreats are everything you would expect them to be. A bunch of yogis or spiritually curious souls coming together to do some pretty strange activities.

Almost every activity on the agenda made my ego cringe at first. Were we really going to stand in a circle and chant Om for long periods of time? Yes we were, and until you’re in the moment, feeling the universal vibration of a dozen other yogis sharing their energy with you, don’t judge it!

When our yoga host announced we would be creating vision boards, I thought it would just be a bit of craft time to fill the schedule. Instead, Kristy guided us through the theory behind establishing a clear vision, and how visualising your goals can help to actualise them. I’ve hung my board proudly in my bedroom and the big visions that I now have for myself help me to drop off any bad habits that get in the way. Unconsciously, my vision now guides my everyday behaviour, which is a beautiful take-out from my time with Kirsty.

Whilst on retreat, I also allowed myself the privilege of participating in Yoga Nidra. A practice I had convinced myself was too luxurious and not worth the $20+ at my local studio. If I was going to sleep, I’d do it at home, for free. Within minutes, I was in the deepest sleep state of pure, glorious relaxation I had ever experienced. I now have a regular Yoga Nidra practice and have really benefited from the meditation technique.

We also practiced some very interesting blindfolded, partner yoga, which again created a divine space of trust, vulnerability and openness. It brought a whole new focus to our physical practice.

Retreats provide you with the space to say yes to so many beautiful tools that a yoga practice has to offer outside of just our physical poses.
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Allow your practice to transform
Most of us are too busy to fit in one or more yoga classes per week. When you’re on retreat you’ll start your day with a class and usually one or two more throughout the day.

Retreat provides the perfect environment to bring your body into opportune conditions for practice. You’re eating all the right foods, breathing fresh air, having the right amount of rest, waking with the sun and giving your full attention to your practice. The complete immersion of practicing on retreat is a very different experience than a class after a day of work, or between social commitments on a Sunday. It is sacred.

You also have almost 12-hour a day access to a well-trained yogi, who will be more than happy to pass on their wisdom and journey with you. The knowledge you gain from sharing stories over chai tea is invaluable to your own personal practice.

Going on retreat is an investment into the health of your mind, body and soul. You don’t have to break the bank either, with so many different types of retreats popping up, from rustic to extravagant, the style is up to you. Beyond the relaxation of a regular holiday, which may leave you a bit over-indulged, or over stimulated, the right yoga retreat will leave you refreshed and recharged. I promise you’ll feel ready to live on purpose again!

If you have been considering it, it’s time to treat yourself and let go of any fear or a false sense of what it will be like. Just surrender to the experience and enjoy the stronger sense of self you will leave with.

Do your research to make sure you find the retreat for you. Glomad yoga has some great links to yoga retreats and experiences both around the corner or the world!

‘If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got,’ – Henry Ford

Peace and light,

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