21 Things To Expect At Your First Yoga Retreat & 9 Tips For Beginners


I still remember my first yoga retreat. It was set near a beautiful beach in Goa, India. I remember being very nervous before arriving. I was on my own and so I didn’t know anyone who was going to be there and I really didn’t know what to expect.

A yoga retreat is a perfect opportunity to take time from your normal everyday life and focus on yourself. You will practice yoga once or twice a day, you will eat healthy food and you will spend time with people who are there for the same reasons you are. Overall, it can be a beautiful experience.

For anyone thinking about going on their first yoga retreat, have a look and see the 21 things to expect at your first yoga retreat:

  • A community of likeminded people
  • An opportunity for new experiences
  • Explore a new destination
  • Healthy food options
  • An opportunity to do a digital detox and go off-grid
  • Time for relaxation
  • You will experience the benefits of a daily yoga practice
  • A change in your body
  • Stay in beautiful accommodation in beautiful places
  • Experience the positive effects the yoga retreat has on body and mind
  • People on their own, with a friend, their family or a loved one
  • Everyone needs what it is you need
  • It’s a safe space to just be
  • Long and Silent walks
  • Experience different types of yoga
  • Catch up on sleep
  • Cleanse body and mind with healthy food and no alcohol
  • Not everyone will be advanced and more flexible
  • You’re Going to Feel a Little Discomfort
  • You may make some friends
  • Leaving the retreat you will feel rested, bendier, stronger, calmer and motivated

A community of likeminded people

Each yoga retreat may host between 10-20 people. What you will quickly come to realise is that everyone is there for the same reasons you are. And so by having this in common, you will notice how easy it is to form friendships, especially given the fact that everyone is away from their daily lives.

Each yoga retreat is an opportunity to have wonderful conversations with people that you otherwise would probably not get to spend time with. And if you are lucky to join an international retreat, you will get to know about different counties and cultures around the world.

An opportunity for new experiences

Each yoga retreat has a general structure. There will be a variety of yoga classes and in some cases there may be extra workshops, such as cooking, art, photography or tracking. All these classes are opportunities to experience something new that you otherwise would perhaps not even try.

The extra activities do depend on the retreat so it is worth doing some research to see what extra workshops or activities the retreat has planned.

Explore a new destination

There are yoga retreats that take place all over the world, in some of the most beautiful and peaceful places you will ever get to experience. And so yoga retreats are a wonderful opportunity to travel to a new place, even a new continent and this way broaden your horizons through yoga.

Depending on your budget, there are yoga retreats in picturesque Greek islands, others in the jungles in Bali and others in wooden cabins in the Alps. You really are spoiled for choice when it comes to finding a yoga retreat.

Healthy food options

A yoga retreat generally places a lot of importance of healthy nutrition. Food is not always provided on yoga retreat. When it is provided, is is generally vegetarian or vegan meal options, and in most cases a wide variety of fruit and vegetables will be on offer.

The food provided generally depends on the location of the yoga retreat and whether they have their own chef. I have been to yoga retreats with a chef and the food was simply amazing. Healthy and fresh. Everything you would want when you are doing what is best for your body and mind.

An opportunity to do a digital detox and go off-grid

Yoga retreats are a wonderful opportunity to stay away from your mobile devices. This may seem hard at first, with time you will see how much you miss your phone. Try to focus on being present at the place you are and with the people you are and it will do you the world of good.

Of course you can have your phone with you for taking photos or videos. However, try to stay away from social media and the stresses of your everyday life. This way you truly will be able to recharge your batteries and be ready to go back to your daily life once the retreat is over.

Time for relaxation

A yoga retreat is the perfect opportunity to relax and unwind. By practicing yoga everyday, heating healthy food, catching up on sleep, being away from your stresses of daily life, in a beautiful location hopefully far from your home, you will slowly but surely unwind and relax.

Yoga retreats generally leave some time for people to be able to relax and unwind. This is the perfect opportunity to go for a walk, read a book, talk to your fellow retreat buddies, or just simply be.

You will experience the benefits of a daily yoga practice

Yoga retreats generally offer one morning yoga class and then an afternoon and or evening yoga class. The morning class tends to be more dynamic while the later in the day class tends to be calmer and more gentle. Over the duration of the retreat both will do wonders for your body and mind.

Indeed, this daily practice is suitable even for those who are beginners to yoga, as classes will be adapted to everyone’s needs. With time your body will get used to practicing this frequently.

A change in your body

You will most likely notice a change in your body and generally in your appearance during your yoga retreat. Practicing every day and eating healthy food in combination with less stress will help to change your mood and if you are practicing a dynamic type of yoga, you may even feel more toned.

Stay in beautiful accommodation in beautiful places

Yoga retreats are a great opportunity to go to faraway countries and stay in beautiful buildings. Depending on the retreat, this may be a villa with a swimming pool, a wooden hut in the snow, a small house near a beautiful beach. The options are endless so do your research and find the best place.

You could search for yoga retreats either by seeing where a teacher you like is teaching, or what retreats are available in the country you want to go to, or by searching for the yoga retreats based on the type of yoga you practice.

Experience the positive effects the yoga retreat has on body and mind

A yoga retreat will help you unwind and connect with your body. Some retreats are just for a weekend, while others are a week long and others are a month long. As a rule of thumb, the longer the duration, the more the benefits you will experience. But remember, even a day away can do wonders.

I have had the luxury of being able to attend both weekend retreats and month long retreats. I treasure the moments and experiences. Both were magical, of course the month long retreat was just like a dream come true and did indeed do wonders to by body and soul.

People on their own, with a friend, their family or a loved one

People tend to go by themselves to yoga retreats. However, you will see people arriving with loved ones. Something beautiful I have seen is friendships forming on yoga retreats and so on the next one they go to, they try to go together and so it is like already having a friend with you.

This is generally the case when you go to retreats with the same teacher. Indeed, some teacher have annual retreats either in one location or in several. And so each retreat can be like a reunion, as you will get to know most of the people there over the years.

Everyone needs what it is you need

People generally have a need to find some space and time for themselves. A yoga retreat can offer that, with a daily yoga practice too. And so yoga retreats are a place for people to get together, away from it all, and thus recharge their batteries.

It’s a safe space to just be

Yoga retreats are a safe space for people to go deeper in to their practice, try out new things, try healthy food and be surrounded by like minded people. All experiences are designed so that everybody feels safe and can let go. If this is a concern for you, speak to the teacher for advice.

The teacher is there to facilitate the retreat and so they also want everyone to feel safe and simply, be.

Long and Silent walks

Depending on the location of your retreat, you will have the opportunity to explore the surroundings. This is particularly nice right after your yoga practice or after breakfast, as this way you will get to think about and truly process all your new experiences.

Sometimes, even just the walk from your room to the yoga shala can be a quite and reflective time for your to gather your thoughts.

Experience different types of yoga

Yoga retreats generally have a dynamic yoga class in the morning and a more relaxing class in the afternoon. This generally depends on the teacher. Some retreats are taught by 2 or 3 teachers and this does give you the opportunity to experience different types of yoga and teaching.

One retreat I went to had Ashtanga in the morning and a long and stretching yin yoga class in the afternoon. Both together were a wonderful combination of practices that really did help complement each other.

Catch up on sleep

Most of us go about our daily lives sleeping late and waking up feeling tired. A yoga retreat can help us catch up on sometimes much-needed sleep, as they encourage us to follow a schedule that helps the body and mind rest and relax, making falling asleep much easier.

Cleanse body and mind with healthy food and no alcohol

A yoga retreat can be that chance you were looking for to eat healthily and stay away from alcohol. You may in fact notice that you won’t even miss alcohol. You may also notice a change in your appearance, especially on retreat that last at least a week. Imagine the difference after a month.

I remember the last week of my month long yoga retreat. I felt so alive and healthy. In fact, looking back at my photos it really does show. Simply imagine if we were to try to live like that even in our everyday lives.

Not everyone will be advanced and more flexible

As a beginner, going to your first retreat you may be thinking that everyone else will be more advanced than you. And that is normal. Quickly you will get to know everyone on your retreat and you will see what a mixed level group you actually are. And thats the beauty of this experience.

I have been to retreats where there were people who had only attended one yoga class practicing next to someone with almost 2 decades of experience. And what was beautiful to see was the experienced practitioner encouraging the beginner and giving tips and talking about how they evolved from a beginner.

You’re Going to Feel a Little Discomfort

Discomfort may be physical due to the daily yoga practice. This will pass with time. Discomfort may be because you are now in a new environment with people you don’t know. In this case, try to relax and go with the flow. You are in a safe space so take the time and space you need.

Feel free to open up to your teacher or one of your fellow retreat buddies. You may in fact find out that they feel the same as you.

You may make some friends

It is rather common for beautiful friendships to emerge form yoga retreats. This is normal as you get the opportunity to spent some quality time with people you done know, who actually share your passion for this practice. And all of this in an environment where all your needs are catered for.

Whether you are a fan of social media or try to avoid it, social media is a wonderful way to connect with the people you have met. Even if they are on the other side of the planet, you get to catch up with them, see how they are doing and plan your next trip away together.

Leaving the retreat you will feel rested, bendier, stronger, calmer and motivated

A yoga retreat can do wonders to body and mind. It is something worth doing at least once in your life. Aim for a faraway destination with a yoga teacher you like and respect. Both will be a winning combination that will do wonders for your body and soul.

One word of advice is to try to take notes of all the new yoga techniques you learned and try to bring them back with you to your yoga practice. Especially if you learned something that felt good, or that you think will help you improve in something you need to work on.

9 Tips For Beginners Preparing For Their First Yoga Retreat

Pack wisely and lightly

Try to only pack the essentials for your trip. With experience, you will notice that we all tend to pack more than we will ever need. Indeed, we tend to be very casual on yoga retreats and not wear any fancy clothes. And so pack according to the country you are going to, bearing in mind that you will most likely be very casual for the duration of your stay.

Your list could include:

  • yoga mat
  • camera
  • yoga clothes
  • change of clothes, depending on the days you are staying
  • water bottle
  • second pair of shoes, depending on where you are going
  • a journal to write down your experiences
  • towel
  • sunscreen
  • swimsuit

Do your research

Spend time looking into all the different options for your yoga retreat. The key things to take into consideration are: who the main teacher is, where the retreat is located, how many days the retreat is. Once you have found a combination that suits your needs and budget, just go for it!

I try to go on retreats based on who is teaching. Over the years I have found the teachers I like and want to learn from, as so I look out for where they are practicing and then try to adapt that to my schedule.

You may do it in a different way. you may have always wanted to visit a particular country and so you may then look for retreats happening in a particular location. Both options help reach the desired outcome.

Keep an open mind

See your yoga retreat as an opportunity to experience a very different lifestyle. It may be hard at first, especially if it is very different from what you are used to. See it as an opportunity to let go and see life in a different way, with new people, and in a dream setting.

Especially if you do not know the teacher leading the retreat, you may experience something completely new for you. Try to stay open-minded and embrace all the new sensations with your jumping to judgment, as we normally do.

Especially if the retreat challenges you and your way of thinking, rather than jumping to judgment mode, instead ask yourself why you are reacting. This new way of thinking may open up new thought patterns for you.

Explore your surroundings

Yoga retreats tend to be located in beautiful locations. It becomes very easy to limit your movements from your room to your yoga shala to where your meals are catered.

And this is perfectly fine. As time goes by, also try to explore your surroundings, whether alone or with someone from the course. Your retreat may have even organized an excursion. So if this is something out of your comfort zone, give it a go and embrace the experience.

Explore the concept of patience

There is a saying in yoga: “practice, practice, all is coming”.

Indeed, everything takes time. Especially something like yoga. We may go to a yoga retreat expecting our practice to suddenly be amazing. A yoga retreat will give you the tools to develop your yoga practice in a way you perhaps wouldn’t have otherwise.

Remember why you’re there

You may experience discomfort, you experience some pain, you may even cry a bit. All these experiences are normal. Your retreat is a chance to reconnect with yourself.

Take a moment each day and remember why you’re there and embrace all the experiences.

Focus on yourself

A yoga retreat is a great opportunity to cater to your own needs, not those of others. It is ok to be a bit selfish and leave your daily life in order to do what is best for you. To do what you need in order to recharge.

And so in the yoga classes, try to avoid comparing yourself to others. there will always be others who are more flexible or stronger or better looking. And that is reality. Focus on yourself and your needs and embrace what this experience can give you.

Get to know your retreat buddies

You will be spending a lot of time with people you may not know. And with time they will become your yoga buddies. You will have a special bond as you got to experience the nurturing benefits of a yoga retreat together.

Bring your experiences home with you

This is something most of us promise ourselves that we will do and yet as the days go by, we slip back into our normal daily routines. Try to pack a journal, make notes of this you found interesting, make notes on things you would like to also do in your daily lives, make clear notes so that even if you read it a year later, you will still know exactly what you were thinking when writing.

Related questions

How much should a yoga retreat cost?

The cost of a yoga retread depends on the teacher, the location, the duration, whether it includes accommodation, and your meals. These are all the factors that contribute to the cost of a retreat. Once you see the price, add on the cost of flights and a small daily amount for everyday needs.

And so for those on a budget, aim for a retreat that includes accommodation and your meals.

How to choose a yoga retreat?

When choosing a yoga retreat, base your decision on the teacher or teachers teaching, the location, and the duration of the retreat. And so either google the teacher you like and see where they are teaching or google the name of the place you want to visit, followed by the words ‘yoga retreat’.

Should I go on a yoga retreat?

In one word? Yes 🙂

Alexia Koletsou

Alexia Koletsou is a Level 1 Authorized Ashtanga Yoga Teacher with a Ph.D. in Science Communication. She received her blessing to teach Ashtanga Yoga in 2019, from the Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Mysore, India, where she has had the honor of practicing with R. Sharath Jois multiple times over the years. She is the owner of her own Shala in Greece and now shares her knowledge on yogamyoldfriend.com and her YouTube channel Alexia K Yoga.

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