Yoga Retreat or Yoga Holiday?
16 Sep 2018
Are you considering going on a yoga break, but not sure if you should go on a yoga retreat or a yoga holiday?
Many yoga companies use the two terms for the same description, so it can be quite confusing. But as you research and read through the details of the yoga break descriptions, you’ll soon start to recognize which of them are yoga retreats and which are more yoga holidays.
Here are three differences between the two:
Normally the location for a yoga retreat is in a remote, quiet place, usually surrounded by nature and far from any central town or resort. The idea is to get in touch with your inner self and remove any kind of external stimulation. Yoga retreats are therefore commonly held at ashrams or specific educational centers, where all the guests are following the yoga courses, and few if any other visitors are present.
Sometimes it may just be 8-10 students, plus the yoga teacher and the local staff. You’ll need to be ready to spend time only with these people, or with your book! Accommodation is normally very basic, and sometimes at ashrams, you’re asked to help out with daily housekeeping duties – but this varies greatly, pick the one that’s right for you. And in any case, you’ll find peace and quiet, you’ll really feel “one with nature” and it is a lovely break from the hectic noises of city life.
On the other hand, a yoga holiday is normally held at a hotel or a resort, usually near a town or a place of interest. Many times there are other guests at the hotel in addition to the yoga students, and there are plenty of things to see and places to visit around the area. A yoga holiday is perfect for people who want to incorporate yoga with.. well… a holiday! The yoga part is the focus of the trip, and there’s time to be still, read a book, meditate and take a real break. But there’s also time to go on excursions around the area or a boat trip to a nearby beach, perhaps a stroll in town for a little boutique shopping, and lots of pampering time at the spa. Therefore locations for yoga holidays tend to have all these options nearby.
2. Daily schedule and activities
A yoga retreat is much more regimented, with a strict schedule and not much time for any other activities. The day normally begins at dawn with meditation, followed by a yoga class, and ending with another meditation, breathing, and relaxation period. There could be educational talks and group gatherings during the day, with led chanting or singing, and moments of silence. Followed by another yoga class and meditation in the evening.
Everyone is expected to attend the classes and participate in the group sessions, and most people want to do so. It’s more of a yoga-immersion and yoga-education break – perfect for those who want to experience the full yoga ashram living first-hand. The main focus is not really to enjoy yourself on a holiday but to deepen your yoga practice and learn more about the philosophy of yoga as well. You’ll find many more hard-core yoga practitioners on a yoga retreat than on a yoga holiday.
A yoga holiday instead allows for a lot more free time, there are normally two yoga classes a day, each lasting between one and two hours, and the rest of the time is spent however you wish. Some people enjoy simply relaxing on the beach or by the pool, others like to go on day trip adventures – it’s completely up to you. The options are there, but nothing is forced. The atmosphere is relaxed, not as intense as at a yoga retreat, and it is usually a great place to meet other like-minded people. The yoga itself, however, is just as good on a yoga holiday – and perhaps more what you’re used to backing home. That will depend on the teacher.
Meals at a yoga retreat are almost always vegetarian and often handpicked from locally grown organic farms. At some retreats, coffee and tea are not allowed, nor are alcoholic beverages – the idea is to do a bit of a detox and purify your body while you’re there. Since you’ll follow somewhat of a diet, the meals are normally included in the package, and breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served at the yoga center, prepared by the local staff on location. Some have juicing options as well, which will also help you cleanse. But going out for a meal is not normally an option – you eat as a group at the ashram or retreat center and enjoy the set menu they’ve prepared. This is great if you don’t want the hassle of worrying about what to eat, and it also gives your body a chance to cleanse and refuel with healthy yummy food.
There’s a lot more flexibility with food options on a yoga holiday. Breakfast is normally included, and some yoga holidays include a few lunches and dinners as well in the package. You can venture off the set menu if they like, or even go off and have dinner on your own. Coffee and tea are served and may allow for a glass of wine with dinner or a cocktail by the pool. Most yoga holidays have non-vegetarian options, and many people like to go to local restaurants and taste the various local dishes as part of the cultural experience. You can still have very healthy meals on a yoga holiday – it will just depend on your choices. But there’s always something for everyone, and you don’t have to always eat at the hotel, or always eat with the group. Again, it’s up to you.
Whatever your preference – yoga retreat or yoga holiday – be sure to stick to your instincts and pick the one that will make you feel more comfortable. If you really want to get away from it all and find peace and silence, then go to an ashram and immerse yourself – you’ll come back having learned a lot about yoga and about yourself. It may be a bit tough going, but it’s very rewarding. If instead you really enjoy practicing yoga and would like to continue to do so during your time off, but don’t want to necessarily give up everything else while away, then a yoga holiday is probably your best option.
These are just three things to consider when deciding between a yoga holiday or a yoga retreat, but there are plenty more.
Here are some other things to think about:
Can I go alone?
Most yoga retreats and yoga holidays welcome solo travelers – find out it they have single-occupancy rooms if you want your own room. Or if they have the option of sharing a room if you’re on a budget.
What type of yoga and who is the teacher?
Ask what type of yoga will be taught, and if possible read the bio on the yoga teacher – this will help you decide if it’s right for you and if you’ll be able to follow along. Also, see if they accept beginners and/or advanced, and what the general yoga level is for the group. Some teachers can modify the classes for all levels, other teaches strictly teach advanced students, or have experience with only one particular style of yoga. Ask the organizer if it would be right for you.
How long is the yoga retreat/holiday?
Some last a week, others have shorter breaks, and some allow people to arrive and leave as they please. See what fits with your schedule. Normally you’ll get much more out of a week-long break. It takes about three to four days to really let go and get into the rhythm – leaving to go home at that point is a shame since you don’t get all the benefits of the last days when the real magic happens!
What is the accommodation and do I need to share?
Some places offer shared-room options and single-occupancy rooms for a supplement. Some are a high-end luxury, some are basic and simple. And there are ashrams. It really depends on what you’re used to and how much you want to spend – do a little research before committing, take a look at the pictures, and read reviews. See what you get for your money, and decide if it’s worth splurging a bit to treat yourself.
How easy is it to get to?
A direct flight is always the best option of course – you’ll arrive in a better mood and your return home won’t be as painful. And the overall journey time door to door is really important as well. Do you really want to travel 15 hours for a 4-day break? Does it make sense to pay a little more to avoid that stopover and arrive sooner and less stressed? Again, these are all choices, see what’s available and ask your organizer for travel options, they most likely have done the trip before and would know some good tips.
Is there anyone else on location for help besides the yoga teacher?
It’s quite a challenge for the yoga teacher to be both the mindful serene yoga instructor as well as the one running around making sure everyone’s issues are taken care of, planning activities and events, dealing with the hotel, late arrivals, food allergies, and lost passports. So normally what happens is you’re left to your own devices to deal with all things not related to yoga. Your yoga teacher may also not be an expert on the location – it may be his or her first time there as well. Which is why it’s very important to make sure there’s someone else there to help you with random things that inevitably pop up. You don’t want to be stuck in a foreign country for example without back up help! Ask if there’s another rep on location or even hotel staff that has been assigned to assist the yoga group specifically.
How large is the group?
This is a deal breaker for many. Before joining a yoga group, ask the organizer or the yoga teacher how many participants will be in the group. You wouldn’t want to arrive and find yourself with 20-25 people vying for the teacher’s attention after having been promised a personalized yoga class.
Are yoga classes and activities mandatory?
This will depend on the type of yoga break you pick – but it’s always good to ask ahead of time. Some yoga teachers don’t mind if you skip a class or two, others will frown, and others will be completely flexible and understand that it’s your holiday! But it’s helpful to know this beforehand.
Imagine yourself there
Before you decide on a yoga holiday or a yoga retreat, imagine yourself there on location, and think about which one resonates best. You don’t want to be stuck in an ashram if you’re going to be bored, and you don’t want to be at a hotel with other people if you’re looking for complete silence.
Written by: Laura Bianchini