Retreats and workshops – another way to practice yoga

Summer is here and it’s vacation time for you and perhaps for your yoga instructor. Yes, we also need some time off! Truth be told, it’s harder to practice because of vacations, reduced studio schedules and instructors taking time off.

That’s why I wanted to talk to you about the various ways of maintaining your practice during your vacations.

I will be covering workshops and retreats, two somewhat different formats that can spice up your practice!

Workshops

What’s a workshop ?

A workshop usually takes a day or a half day. This practice is led by one or two instructors. A workshop can be general or focused on a topic, a pose or a series of poses.

How does a workshop unfold ?

Some instructors will have a round table to ask about each student’s expectations, to allow everybody to get familiar and to open up if they so wish and ease the group into the practice… Then the workshop begins, usually like a regular practice. If the practice is focused on a specific pose or a series of poses, once the body is all warmed up, we give ourselves the time to go deeper, and to work on those poses with more precision by helping each other or using props. If the workshop is more general, the instructor may choose to work on inversions, heart openers (unlike a regular practice where we’d usually focus on one or two peak poses).

The participants can also be encouraged to choose which poses they wish to practice depending on their usual practice and their own progress.

Then the practice concludes. Sometimes, a pranayama session follows the physical practice. On other occasions, some time is dedicated to discussing everybody’s pre-practice expectations and post-practice sensations or to singing mantras.
Full-day workshops can be structured differently. For instance, the first part will be dedicated to a physical practice. Then after a short break, the afternoon can be devoted to short series of specific poses with each other’s help or props. We can finish the day with Pranayama and maybe mantras.
Of course, this is just an example but every instructor designs his workshops according to his own inspiration. There you have it. I wanted to give you an idea of what a workshop can be like for those who have never been to one.
Why attend a workshop ?
Unlike a home practice or a class in the studio, workshops are at least 3 hours long, which offers a golden opportunity to go deeper into your practice. By taking the time to properly warm up the body, going slowly and giving the body time to open up, the poses can be explored more deeply.
A workshop focused on a pose or a type of poses allows us to perform them in more detail. As a result, the alignment is corrected by the instructor and perfected in order to improve better.

Some instructors choose to dive deeper into the yoga philosophy by reading texts or by speaking about a particular topic during the physical practice. Those topics are not brought up as often during ‘regular’ classes. Therefore, it is also a good opportunity to move away from asanas and discover the other limbs of yoga.

How much does a workshop cost ?
The price of a workshop can vary from 25 euros to 50 euros depending on the studio, the instructor(s), the location… Generally speaking, you can find very good workshops for 25 to 35 euros in Paris studios.

Yoga retreats

What’s a yoga retreat ? 
A retreat means spending a few days (usually 4 to 7 days but it can last up to 15 days) completely immersed in the yogic lifestyle: the participants sleep, eat and practice on site. There are many retreats abroad (India, Thailand, Bali or other tropical and exotic destinations), but there are retreats in France too, in very pleasant locations which are perfect for yoga, away from big cities. Most of these welcoming retreat locations are ideal for reconnecting with nature and forgetting about city life.
The point of a yoga retreat is to immerse yourself in this healthy lifestyle. This translates into a healthy diet (sometimes ayurvedic vegetarian). The organizers also suggest taking a break from technology and adopting a healthy sleep pattern (early to bed, early to rise).
How does a yoga retreat unfold ?

A retreat program may vary depending on duration. Usually, the minimum is two asanas (physical practice) per day. A standard retreat day usually starts with a morning meditation followed by a practice. Breakfast is next, after which the participants have time to do activities. In some cases, the location has a spa or offers hikes and other seasonal indoor and outdoor activities. After lunch, the participants get more free time to do activities. The end of the day is dedicated to the evening practice. The late evening is spent having dinner and meditating or singing mantras.

Depending on the duration of the retreat, there can be fewer practices and more diverse activities. Some retreats offer mixed programs (yoga and hiking, yoga and fasting, yoga and water sports…). Again, this is just an example, not a hard and fast rule.

Why attend a retreat ?

Going to a retreat is a golden opportunity to fully dedicate a few days to your practice. The schedule includes daily practice time so you don’t need to ‘make time’, nothing can jeopardize your practice, no other ‘priority’ disrupts the flow of your day.

These few timeless days allow us to refocus, to put aside all of our daily struggles and worries. Practicing several hours daily, even for 4 days only, has huge benefits: it relaxes the body, restores calm and serenity, stimulates the removal of toxins… And obviously, you will notice physical progress during your retreat! But other than that, it’s also an opportunity to meet people who share interests with you, and to bond with a group moved by the same energy for several days.

How much does a retreat cost ?
It varies a lot. If you go abroad you’ll have to factor in air fares, which obviously jacks up the price! Otherwise, a one-week retreat can cost anywhere between 400€ and 3000€ or more depending on the instructor, the location, the activities and the program.

 

There you have it friends! Now you’ve got a better idea of what a yoga retreat or workshop can be like, for those who didn’t know.

And now it’s up to you to decide whether you want to step it up and practice differently this summer!

 

Happy practice!
Namaste

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