Why You Need a Yoga Retreat
By: Robin Shackelford, International Yoga Instructor, RYT 500
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” Lao Tzu
As an international yoga teacher, I’ve had the opportunity to teach students from all around the world and survey what they concluded to be the greatest benefits of attending a yoga retreat abroad. In my own preparation to host a unique retreat in Costa Rica this coming March, I gathered the information and was able to design an awe-inspiring retreat approachable for everyone. I learned, overall, the main benefits of and what most people search for in a yoga retreat are… how to de-stress and feel more self-empowered and to return home feeling renewed and more self-confident. Here’s what people are saying:
Beneficial Elements of a Yoga Retreat
Learning about the stressors in our life-
Would you believe that driving causes stress? Experience a week of bicycling and local transportation and never having to drive a car. What a relief! What about grocery shopping? Experience a week of preplanned meals, freshly prepared for each guest and never a need to clean the kitchen! Is it necessary to mention how chasing the elusive formula for anti-aging has caused wrinkles instead of curing them? Leave that judgmental part of your journey in the past and find new confidence in yourself no matter what your age or experience. Enjoy a week in shorts, yoga clothes and a bathing suit. The stress of a wardrobe also disappears.
Are we facing transitions on our journey like divorce, children leaving home, retirement, downsizing, graduation, aging parents, or dating again later in life? Even a new relationship or marriage has stressors. What we can do at the retreat is step away from these triggers and identify our stressors and learn how to better manage them and take control of our lives upon returning home. This benefits the loved ones we leave at home as well.
Traveling abroad boosts self-confidence –
Teaching yoga in one of the most beautiful countries on the planet, I met women traveling alone from all over the world. These students, ranging in age from 18- to 72-years-old, all agreed that their choice to travel alone was born from a desire to find courage and to seek adventure in order to build self-esteem and self-confidence. Indeed, when traveling alone in a foreign country, dependent on only yourself and your retreat host for assistance, one quickly acquires a knack to problem-solve and act independently from all the people at home we naturally take for granted. It is empowering to feel you can make the decision for all that happens during this week. During the retreat, many women are able to recognize they are more adaptable to new environments and capable of much more than they had previously suspected. For many, it is their first time traveling alone and they are amazed at the freedom of choice it gives them when not caring for spouses or children-in-tow. The majority of students felt they were able to express themselves more openly without fearing rejection from “the tribe”. One mother of three told me, “Traveling alone I was able to disconnect from a ferris wheel of distractions at home. I also like the freedom to be myself during the retreat away from family and friends at home. I am responsible for only myself. It is a reward to intimately enjoy the culture and beauty of Costa Rica without being distracted by my kids or work for an entire week. I’ve learned taking care of me is not selfish nor negotiable. I have new skills to take home after this retreat.”
Limiting Social Media and Marketing –
Having the ability to turn off your phone and step away from the addictive device we hold hands with many hours a day was one of the top reasons people enjoyed attending these yoga retreats so much. During the retreat they guiltlessly were able to step away from checking their phones and being connected every minute of the day. It is a way to disconnect from our routine and naturally self-imposed responsibility for others. A university in Texas sent a dozen of their San Antonio students to a resort, where I was teaching, to study self-sustainability and the environment in the rainforest. These young adults were a part of our media driven culture and disconnecting from the internet, television, mass marketing and social media to spend three-weeks in the rainforest did not at first appeal to all of them. Call it a “consumer and technological detox” we practice during some retreats. I can attest from my time with these university students alone, that their minds were able to focus on their inner journey when they set down the electronics and spent time meditating, hiking, swimming, journaling, reading, or exploring the outdoors. All of the students gained insight into their own character simply by identifying the practice of gauging their own self-worth from most social media outlets they had previously been addicted to continuously visiting.
Separating reality from the illusion of our outside world is rarely simple; but, without the onslaught of advertising and social media directing our opinions for us, we are finally able to seek our own hearts and be confident in our own values. Taking a week to unplug from the buzz and static of emails and the internet of our normal routines allows us to experience much needed quiet-time and discover what all we are missing when tied to our devices. Wifi is available at our retreat; but, it is limited to the common area and not in bedrooms. There is cell phone service for most carriers throughout the resort grounds and gardens; but no televisions in the guest bungalows. The retreat guests are always amazed at how much time they gain in the days for themselves while limiting their technological relationships and distracted attention span.
Seasonal Detox –
Spending a week at some yoga retreats can be the perfect time to eat a well-balanced diet and in a controlled environment. Weight-loss and losing body bloat is a definite benefit of attending a nice yoga retreat. Fruit and vegetables dominate the menus at yoga retreats. During our Spring Retreat in March, the guests are welcome to choose from a vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free menu for the week of three meals a day.
Exploring a clean diet and the practice of yoga and meditation daily for seven-days is a great way to kick-start your detox of physical and mental roadblocks every season. Feel mentally and physically lighter and refreshed every day with a new way to interact with our bodies, our minds and our diets.
Allowing someone else to be responsible for all of your grocery shopping, meal planning and preparation, serving and cleaning the kitchen, is a fantastic way to spend a vacation of any kind. All three-meals are specially prepared for our guests but, eating out is always optional during our time together in the diverse town of Puerto Viejo.
Tech-detox is a real thing and a real ‘good’ thing. Being more in control over what you allow to be absorbed by you via any type of electronics including television is a common way to reduce stress in our lives.
Reconnecting to nature –
Connecting to nature in Costa Rica is effortless as there is beauty all around. Situated close to the equator the rhythms of nature are abundant. Sunrise and sunset split each day in half and the tides of the sea are captivating as is star gazing and capturing the moon in her cycle hovering over the water. Grounding ourselves to the earth by spending time in nature is the healthiest detox available to us. Time spent in nature can help detoxify your respiratory system, your nervous system and your spiritual life as well. Being able to explore secluded picturesque sandy white tropical beaches with crystal clear waters while on a hike through the rainforest spotting wildlife is what drew me to the Caribbean town of Puerto Viejo for our Spring Retreat. It remains a sleepy surfer’s town and the feeling is less anxious and much more laid back than a tourist town and it lays nestled deep on the edge of the rainforest. The largest town nearby is a 45-minute drive to Limon. Limon is the port city located on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. Panama is a quick day-trip for people that visit here.
Waking up at the retreat, Om at Cashew Hill, where we will be living in the rainforest in March, promises the calls of birds and monkeys of all kinds every morning. The resort is located on the hill overlooking the center of town and the Caribbean shoreline, the beaches are within walking distance. Practicing meditation and yoga in an open air yoga studio surrounded by the rainforest and overlooking the Caribbean Sea definitely brings balance to our minds as well as our bodies here. The breeze from the Caribbean is all we need for air-conditioning in these open air bungalows by the sea.
I spent three months living in this area during the summer and am delighted to offer such an incredible Spring Yoga Retreat and Adventure by the sea. Meals are freshly prepared for us in the open air kitchen and dining room. It is always delightful to have all your meals prepared for you. There will be optional morning and evening classes of yoga and meditation followed by breakfast and dinner leaving a day of free-time or participating in planned group activities and workshops with other guests and leaders. Optional activities included are beach yoga, hiking and bicycling through the jungle that borders the sandy white beaches. Our group will also visit the BriBri Indigenous tribe, enjoy hiking and swimming in waterfalls, and touring the nearby Jaguar Rescue Center where volunteers and staff rehabilitate rescued indigenous wildlife to return to the wild.
Just like the wildlife are often rescued and detoxed at the Jaguar Rescue Center, sometimes a yoga retreat can be the rescue we all could use to detox and renew our systems.
More on Costa Rica Yoga Retreats:
Join me and my co-host DeAnna Shires, M. Ed., ACC, C-IAYT, E-500HR on this 8-day/7-night yoga retreat and week of unwinding and unplugging, letting go and reconnecting to nature in this hidden gem of a town on the Caribbean seashore March 21, 2020 – March 28, 2020. Solo-travelers, couples, family- and friends- groups are all welcome on our retreat. EARLY BIRD REGISTRATION $1299 per person. $500 non-refundable deposit reserves your spot. Email for more information and for future retreats: firstname.lastname@example.org