Yogi Aaron has led more than 100 yoga retreats worldwide since 2002. In this article, he offers his advise to yoga teachers on what yoga teachers should know before leading their first yoga retreat.
Yoga retreats are becoming increasingly popular. This is largely because travelers are now shying away from “normal” vacations. Tourists no longer want to waste away their vacation by sitting on the beach and drinking Mai Tais all day long. What they do want are real, meaningful experiences that bring more adventure and purpose into their lives.
For those who want to deepen their connection to their yoga practice, going on a yoga retreat seems to be the next logical step. Gone are the days that yogis must travel to India to find this deeper connection. Now yogis have the option of going on surf and yoga retreats to Bali or Costa Rica; taking wine and yoga retreats to Italy or Spain; and experiencing adventure and yoga retreats to Iceland or Turkey – and that’s just the start!
With the rise in the popularity of yoga retreats and students who want to participate in them, many new yoga teachers now have the desire to lead retreats around the world. But if it’s your first time as a retreat leader, the entire process can seem totally overwhelming.
The following five points will ensure you’re ready to lead a yoga retreat, whether it’s your first or your fiftieth:
1. Do you have students who want to travel with you?
So you are thinking about having a yoga retreat. Maybe, like me, you are thinking about taking a group of your students to the Himalayas. Or to Cambodia. Or to Spain.
Have you even asked any of your students if they want to go with you?
Many yoga teachers book yoga retreats just assuming that their students will want to sign up and go with them. Time and time again I have seen yoga retreat leaders fail because they have never taken the time to ask their students if they even wanted to travel with them. Then, two months before the retreats are supposed to begin, the retreat leaders must cancel because NO one has signed up.
Why? Because they had not asked the right questions of themselves or their students.
Polling people is becoming easier and easier. Send an email out to your group. Ask questions on Facebook or other social media outlets. Ask questions at the end of your class as students are leaving the studio. In a very short amount of time, you will find out the answers to both questions above and be able to plan the appropriate marketing campaign for your yoga retreat.
2. Where do you want to take your students?
Your students are ready to travel with you and go on a retreat. Now the question is: Where? There are three schools of thought in how to answer this question.
- Start small! – Before my first yoga retreat, the world of yoga was still relatively new to me. The idea of bringing 20 people anywhere at all was a little daunting. So I choose a location close to home base – a weekend getaway that was just hours from where we lived over Memorial Weekend. My goal was 20 people. I brought 46.
- Ask your students where they want to go – After leading my first yoga retreat, I caught the proverbial retreat bug and wanted to lead more. But again, to where? I asked my students where they wanted to go and got some great feedback that I used to plan more successful retreats.
- Go where inspiration leads you – After leading yoga retreats for 12 years, I can tell you with absolute certainty that if you are inspired by a particular destination, then you should take your students there. Your enthusiasm will become so infectious that no matter where in the world it is, not matter who difficult it is to get there, your students will eagerly follow you.
Take your students places you have not only visited yourself, but that you want to revisit time and time again.
3. What is the theme of your retreat? What is your vision?
The biggest mistake green yoga teachers often make is in thinking that a yoga retreat is just an extended yoga class – and this could not be further from the truth.
“When leading a retreat, remember that your job is much bigger than simply leading a couple of yoga classes. You are taking on a role as the tour guide into the depths of the human heart and mind. Make sure you are prepared for your students to release emotions, face difficult issues, and let go of long-held patterns.
Facilitating this experience requires compassion, attentiveness, and being personally grounded. Before leading a retreat, it is essential that you remain strong in your own practice, mindful of the process that each student will likely go through, and never forget that your presence at the retreat is to hold a space for others (not to go on your own vacation.)”
- From “The YogiEntrepreneur” by Darren Main
Having an intention and setting a theme will help you to weave every day to the next, ultimately building towards something life-changing for each of your students. This effect will stay with them for years to come.
4. This is going to be a lot of work.
Are you ready to get to work?
If you are the type of yoga teacher who just wants to show up and teach, leading yoga retreats is not right for you. Unless you have a great promotional manager to do all the work for you, it is going to take a lot of energy to get this off the ground.
And it will be a lot of work for the first two to four retreats. Dollar for dollar, you will invest a lot more in your first couple of retreats than your time is worth. But if you work at it, you will get to travel and see the world. The efforts you invest in your first few retreats will put in place the building blocks you need for a stellar future career as a yoga retreat leader.
5. Consider all of your costs before you set the price.
You want to have a yoga retreat that is not only going to be a great price for your students, but will also be competitive. Great! But have you considered all of your costs? Now remember that you are NOT going to make money in your first few retreats. You are going to work hard in creating the momentum needed to get the train moving. But what you don’t want to do is lose money either. Here are some helpful reminders:
- Advertising – Flyers, Google Adwords, website fees, etc
- Welcome gifts
- Extra tours / shuttle fees
- Teacher room upgrades
- Extra nights at the retreat
Leading yoga retreats has been the single most rewarding part of my teaching career. I love every aspect to the retreat experience, and even more, I love seeing the final result – a deep, life-changing (and sometimes life-altering) experience for the student.
About the author
Yogi Aaron, author of “Autobiography of a Naked Yogi”, brings passion and adventure to his teaching. Inspired, he guides students to secret and far-flung locales, empowers them to realize their own limitless potential, and makes yoga relevant and accessible for the modern world. Since 2002 he has been traveling and leading retreats worldwide and currently serves as the yoga director at Blue Osa Yoga Retreat + Spa in Costa Rica.