Let's face it, running a yoga retreat is fun. You are in a beautiful spot, surrounded by nature and happiness. People around you are relaxed and chilled, just wanting to have a good time and a little break from the everyday challenges of life.
But although it is fun and sunshine, there are some challenges included. If you are dreaming about starting your own yoga retreat, here are some challenges from my experience, and some tips on how to go about them.
1. Location, Location, Location
Location is obviously a key factor when considering running a retreat. Being on a secluded, small-scale location is nice; you can have all the space for yourself and offer really local, unique experiences. The other side of the coin is that these sorts of places are usually harder to get to, limiting your flow of guests. Then again, locations that are easy to fly to can be already saturated with different retreat offerings, making it more difficult to establish yourself.
As with everything, start with thinking about what you want to offer, more nature or more options for extra activities? Surfing, diving or hiking? Yoga in the mountains or yoga on the beach? Close to home or on the other side of the world? The opportunities are endless really, so do some research and pick a spot that speaks to you. Pick a spot you know, and want to share.
2. Together You Are Stronger
Running a retreat on your own may keep all the control in your hands, but it can get a bit much, especially if you would have larger groups. During the time of the retreat you will be 100% engaged with your guests, and not only during a yoga class. You will be the one person dealing with every question, issue, health concern down to dysfunctional toilets. Although you will not necessarily be the one to fix all of these issues, it will be up to you to be the contact person and the face towards your customers.
Depending on the amount of practical stuff you have ongoing during a retreat, getting into the mood of yoga can get challenging. Transporting yourself from meditation to practical issues and back takes a lot of energy. The best remedy? A partner!
If you don't want someone else teaching for you, have someone else to assist for you. Setting up class, answering questions and helping out. Even with small groups there can be a lot to handle, so don't get overwhelmed. The more rested you are, the better experience you can give to your yogis.
3. Finding a Good Hosting Partner
You will need to have a location for your retreats, a place to offer accommodation and a spot for the actual yoga. Finding a good partnership is crucial for your mental wellbeing as well as for the success of your retreats. Luckily there are plenty of options out there. You can contact resorts directly, or you can search for readymade packages for yoga teachers planning retreats.
Just make sure you're on the same page with the resort, you know exactly what to expect from each other, and have all agreements on paper. The main things to check? Does it fit your style, is it an eco resort or a retreat centre with a pool and AC? Do they have yoga mats? What's included, how's the food, and what additional services could they provide?
4. Different Levels of Participating Yogis
On a yoga retreat, participants vary from complete beginners to advanced yogis. Unless you take your own group for a trip, you will get a mix of yogis and it's up you to try and make everything match.
One good way is to market your retreat as beginner friendly, or aimed more towards advanced students. You can pick a yoga style which you focus on, and remember the golden rule of "being specific." Namely, the more specific your target yogi is, the better your guest and you fit together.
5. Managing Expectations
This all leads to managing expectations, which starts way before the actual retreat gets going. Especially tropical, far-away locations are lovely, but they can come with very different standards. It makes things easier if you are more permanently situated on the location where you plan to run the retreats, or very familiar with it, but in any case, cultural misunderstandings are pretty much a given.
When customers are relying on you for punctuality, service and a certain standard, it can be very frustrating to deliver bad news no matter how hard you try to do certain things according to "your way." In these situations one just has to remember that it's holiday, things are different and all will be good in the end.
Take it from me, I hardly followed any of these points when I started. You live and you learn, the best thing you can have is a passion towards what you do, and a passion to share it.
Start with planning and researching, take one step at a time, and don't stop until you are in your dream destination with your fellow yogis having an amazing time together. There are many roads that lead to this, and they all start with a dream!