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Yoga Retreats Aren’t Just Bougie Vacations

August 30, 2017

Does your idea of vacation imply that you’re taking a desperate break from your life in an attempt to reconnect to a sense of relief or happiness? If hitting the pause button on your life for a week is meant to help you catch your existential breath before diving headfirst into it all again, well, maybe that isn’t such a bad thing. You can certainly approach yoga retreats that way – they are curated with beautiful experiences, delicious food, inspirational vistas and that sweet feeling of doing something special. But, I’ll caution you this – if you approach yoga retreats like a bougie-make-your-Instagram-followers-jealous kind of retreat, you will miss the point of the retreat experience!

These 3 factors are what differentiate your ordinary, amazing vacation from a deeply transformational, retreat experience:

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Intention: The obvious element that is shared between retreats and vacations is the “getaway” factor. Retreats have an underlying motive, however. Self- discovery. The intention behind your actions, the thoughts you choose to entertain and the experiences you choose to have, all source back to this intention of enhanced self-awareness and development. Building a relationship to Spirit or a spiritually based practice is often easier to achieve in a dedicated environment with conscious, like-minded community. Surrounding yourself with other people who are also dedicating their attention to an experience that is intentionally chosen can be the distraction-free, concentrated environment that catalyzes your understanding of yourself and your spirituality in a deeper or more valuable way.

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Immersion: Distractors are often so frequent that we desensitize to them. We live in a culture that has begun normalizing anti-social social behavior where sitting in a group on your cell phone is more normal than having a verbal conversation with each other. Media and social media has become the new normal of cultural white noise. Retreats are inherently organized around systematically pulling back from your normal in order to become less fractured and more mentally available to your environment.

Consciously displacing yourself into a retreat center makes leaving your normal distractors easier. You’re encouraged to indulge in your immediate environment through cultural voyeurism and tourism, taking in the special sites and historic monuments, enjoying local cuisine and rituals, perhaps even calibrating to a different time zone and circadian rhythm. There is structured time to focus on a daily practice, and even gaining exposure to different ways of practicing the principles of mindfulness or meditation. For example, taking a silent meal to reinforce present-moment focus while eating; walking meditation; self-care and quiet “me” time as a practice in self-love.

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Inclusion: Gathering in conscious community is probably as necessary and nourishing to our essential self as breath is to our physical self. The group-think that is often cultivated during small, highly-curated and intentional gatherings is often centered around a specific theme. [plug a retreat here and use their theme as an example] This helps to ground the rich landscape of experience to a central topic which allows for more total immersion and deeper learning. Riffing off the fact that intention will bring everyone to a particular retreat experience, the goal of self-discovery encourages these smaller groups to practice inclusivity – a known factor in elevating learning, compassion and friendship.

On vacation, you might make some friends or a few great circumstantial acquaintances. But retreats are essentially designed for enriched education, deep connection and community experience. While you may book your trip for yourself, you’ll come home with new friends and a newfound sense of self.

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