Upon organizing a yoga retreat next weekend, the idea of going on a retreat has been on my mind lately... Certain questions such as "what does it mean to go on a yoga retreat or to take a retreat in general?" have come up for me.
Just to say the word "retreat" almost sounds like we're trying to run AWAY from it all. Aren't we supposed to FACE reality, according to yoga? Sometimes the idea of going away from our lives, situations, responsibilities and daily living can also bring up feelings of the ego and thoughts such as "Am I being selfish or self-indulgent? Do I deserve a treat like this?"
Going on a retreat is very different from going on a vacation, where we may run off to do all of the above while trying our best to get some needed relaxation. Most of the time, even on vacations, we fall pray to the antics of our restless minds, and usually come home just as tired as when we left after scurrying from one itinerary to the next.
In my opinion, a retreat is truly about setting aside time to explore our internal landscape rather than just the external one. It's meant not to run "away", but to run inside and meet your Self. It could be an opportunity to simply allow ourselves to "be," to meditate, and give our bodies and minds a chance to stop running or "retreating" as it were, from being in the present moment. Oh yes, and also to give ourselves the chance to relax, away from the stress of daily life!
A retreat can also be a great way to focus on making positive changes in our lives in various areas such as:
Our practice: It can reinvigorate our yoga practice or inspire us to start a daily practice once we get a taste of making it a part of our day.
Our diet: It can inspire positive lifestyle changes including eating a healthy diet or even different diets such as vegetarian or vegan in some cases.
Our minds: It can inspire our mental attitude toward a positive light so that we return home well-rested, invigorated and inspired to make positive changes.
Our hearts: Most of the time we are asked to be there for others, but we can only give if we also allow ourselves the chance to rest and rejuvenate so that we can come back and give that much more! It's very important that we are also compassionate to ourselves.
If these are the intentions and the results, then going on a retreat is a wonderful chance to make our lives and the lives of the people around us better and is hardly a self-indulgent act in such a light. When it comes time to make changes in our lives, it is also helpful to be surrounded by like-minded people who have similar intentions. Going on a group retreat is a great way to receive the positive support of others. This can be very encouraging and inspiring. Conversely, If you already have a supportive group in your life and are constantly surrounded by people, including friends and family, then going on a solo or silent retreat might also be a good experience to receive the alone-time you might be lacking.
In any case, it's best to be honest with yourself and ask your heart what it is you truly need in your life right now. The right retreat, in a place you find appealing, with an instructor you are drawn to, can be just the right medicine for whatever your heart desires and oh yes, it's a lot of fun too!