7 Things to Know Before Going on a Yoga Retreat

From how to pick the right yoga retreat to what to expect once you're there.

Photo via Julie Hancher

Photo via Julie Hancher

We all know you work hard. And you need a vacation — it’s pretty much scientifically proven.

After a 2014 full of freezing vacays to destinations like Seattle, Iceland and Jackson Hole, I decided to change it up. I booked a five-night SUP yoga retreat in Tulum, Mexico at Utopia Guesthouse, practicing yoga twice-per-day and enjoying the gorgeous scenery the rest of the time.

Treating myself to a warm, sunny vacation in the middle of winter was necessary — and a great gift to myself. But, I’m not one of those people who can just sit around on vacation. I need to be active, so finding a yoga retreat was the perfect balance of warmth, relaxation and engagement for my body.

Now that I’ve been there, done that, I’m here to share what I learned about planning a yoga getaway. Here, seven things you should know before going on a yoga retreat. 

{Looking for a yoga retreat with Philly-area yogis? Check out our guide to five gorgeous ones this year.}

1. Research your options. Although I had my mind set on a Costa Rican adventure, many of the retreats I found were expensive for a week of yoga — and the plane tickets were almost $1,000 on top of it. When I factored in the amount of time I needed to explore a new place, I decided to check cheaper options. That’s how I wound up in Tulum: Plane tickets to Mexico were half the price, and five nights of accommodations, yoga, standup paddle-boarding and two meals per day was half the price, too. I chose to be more economical.

2. Don’t be afraid to go alone. Regardless that a few of my friends turned down the idea, I still ventured to Tulum solo. The retreat had a couple of sister pairs and three lone soldiers. The ladies that ended up going had similar adventurous spirits, and we found ourselves inseparable by the end of the retreat.

Even if you don’t hit it off with your fellow travelers, there’s plenty of opportunity to soak in the sun, catch up on reading and take time for yourself.

3. Go with an open mind. Although I hate the feeling of being upside down, we tried Aerial Yoga one day. Sure, I’m nowhere near prepared for a Cirque De Soleil debut, but it was a fun experience.

4. Don’t focus only on yoga. Although we practiced yoga twice a day, we hopped on the opportunity to rent bikes to venture to the Tulum ruins. The freedom of a bicycle isn’t only for the Philly bike lanes — it’s perfect for exploring a new city, too.

5. You don’t have to be a yoga expert. Being new to yoga, I was slightly nervous about being the worst person in class. Some retreats are a bit more hardcore, but this one was twice a day without being too strenuous. Our local instructor challenged us in different ways than I was used to back home. Relax, get ready to try new poses and learn a different perspective.

6. Pack light. The best part about packing for a retreat in winter was that half my suitcase was … yoga clothes. Although we dressed up for the town a few nights, the majority of the time was spent in a bathing suit or yoga pants. Bring pieces you can mix and match, expanding your options without over-packing, and leave room in your suitcase for a souvenir. (In my case, it was local tequila to enjoy with friends.)

Another thing to avoid packing? Too much of your work and online communications. Take the chance to turn off your wifi and unplug from your everyday life. Trust me, you’ll return more relaxed and relieved.

7. Get ready for an unforgettable experience. I can credit yoga for my stress reduction, clearing my mind and taking on new challenges. While Philly yoga studios are obviously awesome, there’s something magical about practicing yoga in completely new, beautiful surroundings. Could you find a finer example than this one?

If you’re on the fence about a yoga retreat, I can only advise you to book a ticket. You won’t regret it!


Julie Hancher is editor-in-chief of Green Philly Blog, Philly’s go-to resource about all things sustainable, and owner of digital marketing firm Green Philly Company. When she’s not tweeting and instragramming her travels, she enjoys craft beer, trying a new fitness class or experimenting with brewing kombucha. Follow along the latest adventures in Green Philly here.