Choosing a yoga retreat or yoga holiday

It’s the new year. The weather is awful. You may have over-indulged (on chocolate, late nights, rubbish tv etc) over the festive period and be wanting to start afresh. You may be making new year resolutions (or, as I prefer, achievable goals for that year rather than the fixed and strict ‘I will not do X’, ‘I will do Y’ which almost set you up to fail). You may be on a fitness drive. Or you may already be planning your holidays/time off for 2012 in these dark, wet, cold winter days.

Fortunately yoga retreats don't usually involve sleeping in strange postures (image courtesy of cat who has adopted me)

If so, here’s some hopefully useful information and links about yoga retreats and holidays.

The first thing to decide is if you’re looking for a yoga retreat or a yoga holiday. In my experience during a yoga retreat you will have quite a few yoga and meditation sessions during the day, as well as some free time, whereas during as a yoga holiday there is a bit more emphasis on the relaxing ‘holiday’ element, and maybe only two yoga sessions a day. If you want to explore a particular issue, work on certain aspects of your physical yoga or meditation, a retreat may be better. Likewise, if you’re keen on yoga but don’t want to do it all the time, a holiday would be more suitable. Some retreats and holidays combine yoga with something else e.g. art, walking, dance. Another possible difference is that generally, on a yoga retreat you may do some daily tasks such as chopping vegetables, washing dishes, or a spot of cleaning, whereas on a yoga holiday you are less likely to do these, but it does very much depend on the venue.

Location is the second thing to decide. Do you want to stay in your own country, or travel abroad? And do you want to go for a weekend, a week, or longer?

You can also narrow down the choice by looking up a yoga teacher or style that you really enjoy and want to experience more deeply, and see what retreats or holidays they have coming up. Or, you could choose a nice sounding retreat venue which has a selection of different weeks or weekends that you could choose from. Or if you wish to attend a venue with religious/spiritual connections, there are quite a lot of Buddhist retreat centres in the UK for example, and you don’t have to be a Buddhist to attend them.

It can be difficult to know where to start when looking for a yoga retreat or holiday, even once you’ve thought through the above points. There are lots of online directories, some of which I’ve included below. There are also several yoga magazines available in the UK which have adverts for various retreats and holidays, in the UK and abroad.

Good Retreat Guide – range of independently recommended retreat centres/places across the world

Yoga Weekends  – a directory of yoga weekends in the UK, Europe and beyond

Yoga Holidays – calendar of international yoga holidays and retreats – another directory of international yoga holidays and retreats

Yoga Nearby – another international directory of yoga holidays and retreats

I can personally recommend Taraloka – a women’s Buddhist retreat in Shropshire, England. Whilst you have to be a woman to attend, you do not have to be a Buddhist. When I was there on one retreat there was an Anglican vicar who had been several times before and also meditated every day. Their programme includes various meditation retreats and some yoga ones.

In Wales I have been to the Mandala yoga ashram. It is slightly more ‘intense’ than Taraloka (you have to get up earlier for one thing!), but they have lots of interesting and different retreats to choose from. They have connections with the Bihar school of yoga and also run their own yoga teacher training programme.

In terms of teachers, I would highly recommend Andrea Kwiatkowski’s retreats. I have been on her UK one for two years running since meeting her two years ago. She also runs a retreat in Spain, information about both is on her website.

And for myself, I’m soon going on the Womb Wisdom Yoga retreat with Uma Dinsmore-Tuli and Alexandra Pope – can’t wait! Uma also runs a yoga camp in the UK if you like yoga and camping – see information on her website.

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