We get a lot of questions about the benefits of meditation retreats or yoga retreats. While there are similar benefits to each, the truth is they’re quite different. Below, you’ll find some of the basics on each retreat, like what to expect, what to pack, and how to get ready. We hope these tips will help you find what’s right for you!
Who it’s for:
Meditation retreats are best for those seeking clarity and calm. Many people who attend meditation retreats are either approaching or experiencing a major change in their lives. They find that the solitude and silence help them center their thoughts and better direct their next steps. Those who already practice meditation often attend retreats to deepen their connection to their inner selves.
What to expect:
What you can expect on a meditation retreat depends on the kind of retreat you attend!
Vipassana/Insight: Vipassana meditation focuses on “self-transformation through self-observation”. Generally, Vipassana courses last about 10 days. Practitioners adhere to a strict code of moral conduct, focus on their breath, and learn how not to react to both external stimuli and sensations within the body.
Transcendental Meditation: The main feature of TM is the repetition of a silent mantra. Mantras allow the practitioner to focus on one thought or intention, which instructors believe allow for greater clarity of thought.
Zen Meditation: Zen meditation is connected to a very specific kind of breathing, which is dependent on correct posture. Deep concentration on both posture and breathing will lead the practitioner to their unconscious mind.
Time is typically spent in silence with little to no interaction with others. This may even include body language. Retreats often begin at sunrise, so it is early to bed and early to rise. In the morning there will be a few hours for meditation and a simple vegetarian breakfast. The afternoon typically follows the same schedule, possibly with a chance to check in and speak with a meditation leader on staff. This may be your only time to discuss and ask questions, so take advantage of it!
You may also be required to perform an act of service. This frequently takes the form of retreaters assisting in the cleaning and maintenance of the space.
How to prepare:
You’ll get out of any retreat what you put into it, so it’s crucial to prepare for your meditation retreat. This post has some great tips from someone who’s been there! The most important advice we can give you is to set your expectations ahead of time and proceed with an open heart. Incredible lessons about yourself, others, and the world we share are waiting for you if you are open to accepting them.
What to pack:
Loose and comfortable clothing
Journal (if permissible)
Candle (if permissible)
Crystals and/or other altar items that evoke peace and calm
Anyone looking for zen in their daily lives can benefit from a yoga retreat! From the beginner looking to learn more about yoga to the experienced yogi interested in deepening their practice, yoga retreats offer something for everyone. They’re also a good choice for people who are looking for a reset, but for whom the solitude of a meditation retreat might not be the right fit. Yoga retreats allow the participant time space to gain clarity and insight, which is invaluable when you’re going through a change or contemplating your next step in life, while also engaging the body and allowing you to interact with like-minded people.
What to expect:
Think of this as your ultimate yoga vacation! It’s your time to focus on allowing yourself to connect with your body and release any unwanted stress or tension. That being said, there are many different styles of yoga retreats, and so it’s important to ensure that you understand the expectations for fitness level and yoga ability. Retreats range from restorative and rejuvenation – think supine positions reclined over a bolster with nature sounds and a cup of tea – to eight hour handstand clinics.
The type of retreat will greatly dictate what you’ll spend your day doing. However, for most retreats, you can expect a twice daily yoga practice, healthy and sometimes vegetarian, vegan, and/or organic meals, group activities such as hiking, surfing, and exploring town, and downtime to unwind with tea and a good book by the pool or under the trees in a hammock.
Many include or make available different holistic body and energy work treatments. If your retreat offers these, we highly recommend treating yourself to Reiki or a massage.
Retreats typically range from one to seven days, though you’re sure to find everything in between. For those seeking a more immersive retreat experience, some places offer longer retreats of up to 30 days.
How to prepare:
We’re glad you asked! This post we wrote goes into more detail on the preparation process. Check it out!
In general, a foundation of basic fitness and yoga will be helpful. We also recommend taking the time to set your intentions, just as you would for a meditation retreat.
What to pack:
Athletic clothing for yoga practice and exploring – think loose & comfortable
Alarm clock or phone with alarm capabilities
A good book
A cozy jacket and sweater for the cooler evenings
Rain jacket and rain gear (just in case!)
Our fave picks:
At the risk of sounding biased, we’d have to say…ours! We’ve hosted some pretty fabulous retreats in the last few years, including our upcoming trips to Colorado and Montana. We’ll be heading back to gorgeous Los Poblanos, New Mexico in November, and we hope you’ll join us. Keep an eye on this space for registration details!