How to Prepare for a Yoga Retreat

So you’re going on your first yoga retreat…get excited! It’s a big move for even the most dedicated warrior pose-lover and it requires some important preparation: mentally and emotionally even more than physically. That, of course, doesn’t negate the fact that you’ll have to get your packing in order—this is not one of those times when you can assemble everything the morning of and make it work like even we so often do.

Preparation shouldn’t be a daunting task in this instance, as it will make your entire experience smoother. And you want everything to be as effortless and put-together as possible because you’ll be focusing on your mind, body, and the goals you set heading into this new adventure. Here’s everything you need to do before taking off, what you need to bring along with you, and what you can expect once you get there.

What is a yoga retreat?

But if you haven’t booked a yoga retreat, you might be wondering: what exactly is a yoga retreat? A yoga retreat is a gathering of people who are joining together to practice yoga in a group setting. These retreats can be daylong retreats, or multiple day trips where multiple activities are compiled together. A yoga retreat is an amazing opportunity to meet with others who are passionate about yoga.

What to do before your yoga retreat

Confirm accommodations. If you haven’t specified it (and most often paid additional money), you might be placed in a shared room with at least another guest. Confirm your room with the retreat staff before you arrive and ask what will be provided for you. For more minimal experiences, you may need to bring bed sheets, a towel, your yoga mat, and a blanket if they aren’t already waiting for you.

Pinpoint your goals. You have to get real with yourself and really nail down why you’re doing this. Is this the way you want to spend your vacation time? Are you looking to get healthier and fit through this experience? Do you need a major stress reliever and want to meet new people who you can connect with in the process? The better you are at landing your goals, the better the adventure will be for you. Setting your intentions is the first step for any meaningful endeavor.

Get familiar. If you’re a newbie to practicing yoga, then you absolutely want to take a class or two to familiarize yourself. Keep in mind: yoga is over 5,000 years old and mastering it shouldn’t be a concern. But it’s helpful to know some of the key poses and the structure of a typical class. It normally goes as follows—an opening with a welcome from the teacher; warm-up; the actual poses in different waves of movement; cool-down; savasana which includes a Namaste.

Plan on disconnecting. Yoga retreats are all about tapping into your core and your surroundings: not your technology! Though most of us aren’t leaving our iPhones or laptops at home, this is a time to plan to reduce your device dependencies. Being present in the moment will ensure that you get all you can from it and to be quite honest, you deserve time to completely focus on yourself.

What to pack for a yoga retreat

This is the one time in your life when you can put comfort over everything else. You may want to bring your favorite, simple dress if there’s a party on the agenda, but overall, you should choose classic pieces that you can essentially wear from sunup to sundown. Here’s a few items to include on your packing list :

  • Tee shirts or comfy tank tops, the same amount of the day you’ll be exercising
  • Yoga pants, leggings, joggers or shorts (whatever you’re most comfortable in!)
  • Your favorite jeans or bottoms
  • A pair of sneakers that can be worn for activities and for relaxing
  • A cozy sweater or sweatshirt
  • A waterproof jacket
  • Enough underclothes for the trip
  • Travel size soaps, shampoos and conditioners
  • Sunscreen
  • A durable pair of sunglasses and a hat
  • Insect repellant for a tropical retreat

What to expect from a yoga retreat

You will be exposed to a whole lot of newness: poses you haven’t done before, people you’ve never seen, and techniques you didn’t know existed. So remain as open-minded as you can.

Many love yoga and its plethora of benefits, but it isn’t the easiest mode of fitness and wellness in the world. Poses, breathing techniques, and meditation can be incredibly challenging, so make sure you’re vocal if you’re very uncomfortable or start to feel out of whack. This experience can and should be customized to your needs, so connect with your teachers and guides if you’re in need of guidance and help. And make sure that you’re paying attention to your body. There’s no need to attempt difficult poses, simply because you see others doing them.

Faith Cummings is a contributor to Paper Magazine, Allure.com, and TeenVogue.com, among countless other publications. Though she spends most of her time behind the computer or interviewing power players in the beauty, fashion, and lifestyle industries, she finds balance by being a patron of the ballet, traveling the world, and fueling her film obsession. You can find her on Twitter at @fcummings.