The popularity of the Yoga retreat has exploded recently, and though retreats are part of the yogic tradition, they have evolved from the original intent of self imposed exile into a much more alluring commodity. Yogis of old were expected upon reaching a certain age, to walk away from family, friends, business and home to retreat into the forest, practice austerities, and find realization. In this era, they were not expected ever to return. Conversely, today not only are we expected to come back, but to come back refreshed, realigned, and ready to hit the ground running. So can it be done? Can we leave our lives to uncover the presence of consciousness beneath our everyday experiences, and retain this knowledge upon our return? If you believe the answer is yes, or if you are looking only to “get away” without the pretense of self-discovery, then there are a plethora of options from which to choose.
Whether you want your experience to be one of luxury or restraint, trust that somewhere out there is a retreat that is your “perfect destination.” There are retreats in the states and retreats in Central America, Europe, Asia, South America and even Africa. Pretty much the only continent without a yoga retreat is Antarctica, but give it time. The intentions of these retreats vary as much as locations themselves. You can find retreats for Surfing and Yoga, with a focus on Yoga and Chocolate or Yoga and Wine; there are retreats for the whole family and retreats done in silence. No matter your intention or your desire, trust that there is a yoga retreat out there for you.
Many “retreats” now market themselves as “escapes,” free of the implication of effort of diving into to our own psyches. But when undertaken with purpose, the practice of leaving the material, external world behind, even if only temporarily, can facilitate a great deal of inner work and discovery. Even the most decadent of retreats can lend themselves to unfolding of awareness. But, how you choose to assimilate these excavated gems of consciousness found in exile is possibly the biggest undertaking in the process of retreat, and it doesn’t take place until we are back from paradise and back into the life we left behind.
After co-leading a retreat in Costa Rica recently, I was exhausted and reluctant to return to what I had left behind. By extracting myself from my “normal” life for only eight days, I was able to catch a glimpse of the profound knowing of the Self that can come when we are free of distraction and responsibilities of our day-to-day lives. Even as a teacher and leader of the experience, the simple break from my routine did a lot to change my perspective. One of my students mentioned during the course of the retreat that the transformation that you experience from practicing in a strange land often does not become apparent until you are back home and moving through life. I am now understanding what she meant. Retreats can be powerful or decompressing, adventurous or relaxing and whether they are for four days or four months, the biggest impact of a retreat happens as you assimilate all that you uncovered into your life at home.
Have you ever experienced a yoga retreat? Did it have an impact on your life or your practice?