After a mindful walk through the woods, sitting in Sukhasana on the rocks by the gushing stream, eyes closed as you breathe in the copious supplies of pure oxygen, immersed in the sounds of natural elements and wildlife, as the sun gently beams upon you—if this doesn’t make the cut on the list of reasons for why you should be on a retreat, then we don’t know what will.
What makes a wellness retreat?
A retreat is not just about signing up at a five-star resort and ordering in your scrambled eggs and wine, draining your senses and tiring your body and mind in the guise of a vacation. A retreat, as more and more people are beginning to realize, is about withdrawing and going inwards; coming home to yourself; about nourishing, replenishing, and refreshing. A retreat is where you recharge your spiritual, physical, and mental batteries through customized diet plans; receive spa or other forms of alternative therapies and treatments; participate in yoga, meditation, mindfulness, or spiritual workshops; engage in physical activities like hiking, trekking, or swimming; or get creative in workshops and activities like cooking with the master chef, pottery, or painting.
Life today can be demanding on all levels. More is expected out of you, either by yourself or by the society—to excel at work, at home, in your relationships, and at living well. Just doing well at your job, for example, is not enough. You must sustainably beat your competition each day, strategize, collaborate, win over, do what it takes to get the results. Along with this, there may be a family to take care of, planning for their future, make financial decisions, and keeping relationships thriving. Even if you do what you love, the parameters to outperform do not change. In the bargain, sleep, health and your wellness is significantly compromised; something that a quick break away from domestic chores cannot repair. And so, more and more people are looking up for holistic wellness retreats that educate, rejuvenate, and nourish the soul as much as the body.
Types of Wellness Retreats
There is no one size fits all when it comes to wellness. We all have unique physiological and mental make-ups, our needs and demands are different, the stresses and strains we are carrying in our bodies and minds are vastly different, and so are the treatments to address them. Wellness retreats vary based on their focus. They could be focused on healing particular illnesses like chronic inflammation, diabetes, hypertension, sleep disorders, or they could be meditation based or focused on holistic treatments and detoxification like the Ayurveda wellness retreats. Wellness retreats are also designed to address life events and heal traumas, separation, and breakups.
A notable characteristic of wellness retreats is they are often led and guided by highly qualified experienced health experts. Here’s why you need to sign up for one for your next getaway…right away!
Because Research Says So
According to a study published in 2017 the benefits of wellness retreats on the health of retreat goers were significant and lasted longer when compared to regular vacations. After a weeklong retreat, on average, the waist size was reduced by 2.7 cm, participants lost about 1.6 kgs, average systolic and diastolic pressure well by -16.1 mmHg and -9.3 mmHg respectively.
Yet another study reported ‘improvements in spirituality, gratitude, self-compassion, and anxiety in women who participated in a 5-day resort-based Ayurvedic, yoga, and meditation program compared with women randomly assigned to attend the same resort facility without participating in the program’. The study indicated that the ‘vacation effect’ in case of retreats lasted longer than a regular getaway from daily routine. Yet another study also signaled improved cognitive function among participants after a weeklong intensive meditation retreat.
Reconnect to the Deepest Part of You
An important way a retreat differs from any other type of vacation is how it integrates practices that allow you to slow down against the breathless pace of life. Mindfulness, meditation, nature walks, labyrinth meditation, learning breath focused practices, they all bring much needed qualitative depth to your retreat experience, particularly so if you are checking in for a meditation retreat.
Being on a meditation retreat for a day or a week can be a unique opportunity to unplug, spend time exploring your own inner world, and to find more appreciation for your life.
A meditation retreat can be a reset button and can even create a new normal: one where you are more present to what matters to you, responsive rather than reactive, and have a deep inner peace.
Some of our meditation and mindfulness retreats focus on cultivating creativity, others give you the opportunity to dive deep into your meditation practice, and there are those that offer the opportunity to explore and heal a particular emotional issue.
The retreats create a safe and open atmosphere designed to encourage participants to find out who they are, what they really want, and be more intimate with their lives. Each retreat includes instruction in meditation and mindfulness, deep meditation practices, interactive exercises, mindfulness experiences, time in nature, and some offer an opportunity to explore gentle yoga.
Meditation is an undeniably powerful practice to create more balance in the body, clarity in the mind, purity in emotions and a new found appreciation for everything and everyone in your life. It helps you preserve the dynamism in you. Each retreat is designed to create a touchstone of feeling whole and good—and a new perspective. It’s a meditation vacation!
The retreats are designed such that they work for anybody and everybody, whether you are new to it or are a seasoned meditator, you’ll learn a sustainable practice of meditation.
When you return home you can bring the practices with you, so you can create a mini-retreat every single day. You will also notice that you are experiencing some subtle changes. Perhaps you order something different on a menu, or have more patience with your children, or you are less concerned about what people think. You might sleep better, feel more balanced and energized, or find more creativity or confidence. With a continued meditation practice, more profound changes might follow as you explore your relationship to your job, or where you live, or you find a renewed purpose or passion in life.
Form Deeper Bonds
Our hectic life often draws a toll on our relationships. Many wellness retreats offer a beautiful excuse to bond with loved ones more meaningfully, whether that is mother-daughter, spouses, siblings or friends/female only retreats. Here you get to know each other in a deeper light. Research suggests that we ignore each other’s emotional needs out of mindlessness and not malice. Wellness retreats help us bring the focus back to ourselves as an integral part of these relationships. We can pour love into our relationships once we have filled ourselves with it. And this we can do, only when we have been able to let go of all the stress and tension from our system. Wouldn’t it be great to bring our best versions to our relationships and help each other grow?
The reflective meditations, interactive processes, emotional cleanses, Ayurveda-inspired spa treatments, nourishing food and walks in the nature allow us to bond meaningfully while taking time out for self-care.
Retreats for Women
According to American Psychological Association, almost 49 percent of the women surveyed reported that their stress levels have risen in the past five years, only 33 percent women reported to have succeeded in their efforts to get enough sleep and only 35 percent women said they managed their stress well.
The combined stress that results from domestic duties, responsibilities at work and the emotional labor is seldom fully accounted for. A number of women are found depriving themselves of vital self-care in the process of meeting the professional, emotional and physical needs of family, friends or coworkers. The stress has been reportedly responsible for a record jump in sleep and other mood disorders in women. Add to that distinct feminine health needs, especially related to reproduction, and women’s sensitivities to the rhythms and cycles of nature.
So wellness centers now offer women only retreats which have been curated keeping these exclusive needs in mind. Retreats with an Ayurveda focus deliver well on these particular wellness requirements. The principles of Ayurveda are founded on keeping the mind and body in tune with nature, which makes it the perfect solution for managing weight, the aging process, stress, and breast health, and more. The retreats are educational, fun and deeply relaxing in equal parts. Here you can learn more about topics ranging from how to achieve hormonal balance and improve menstrual health, Ayurveda for breast care and menopause management, skincare, the role of diet on mental and physical health and holistic practices of self-care to ease your body of discomfort and stress.
For example, get ready for a weekend of deep healing, transformation, bliss, and pampering with The Art of Living Retreat Center’s Women’s Health—a program that encompasses different issues during the transitional phases of life—from puberty through pregnancy, postpartum, and menopause.
Ayurveda—The Gift of Complementary and Alternative Medicine Found At Retreats
If you wish to pick a wellness retreat with a holistic and detox focus, why not try an Ayurveda inspired one? Ayurveda is a 5000 plus year old science of healing that focuses on revitalizing your being and harmonizing the imbalances in the body called the Doshas, through unique holistic treatments, herbal formulations, lepas (masks) and wraps, purges and detox cleanses, along with diet management and dinacharya or the ideal routine to align your body and mind with nature perfectly. For thousands of years, Ayurvedic medicine has provided principles, tools, support, and balance for individuals through all of life’s stages. Translated from Sanskrit, Ayurveda means ‘The science of life’ and it exists as a body of wisdom designed to heal as well as prevent illness and disease, allowing the body’s own natural healing mechanisms to work to their fullest potential.
Detoxification is the star of Ayurveda, especially during seasonal transitions, to improve skin conditions, regulate the bowels, aid digestion, and bolster physical and mental health. Here are some things you can look out for in an Ayurvedic wellness retreat:
- Identify dosha and any imbalances. Each person has a unique physiological and psychological constitution called. Once you determine your prakruti or constitution, you can then identify imbalances and with expert recommendations can then proceed to take up the course of treatment that balances the said doshas.
- Diet and lifestyle habits to maintain good health and longevity.
- Meditation and mindfulness practices for better sleep, quieter mind, and overall clarity.
- Practices that alleviate stress, promote relaxation, and naturally lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- Understanding dosha and constitution to regain stamina and re-energize the body.
- Self-care practices to nurture physical, mental, and emotional well-being
- Herbal treatments, oils, and dietary practices that promote healthy, beautiful skin.
- Essential oils and breathing practices to balance hormones.
- Ayurvedic routines and therapies to reduce inflammation, increase energy, and promote healing.
- Detoxifying spices, herbs, and other dietary components to optimize digestion and organ function.
- Uniting body, mind, and soul with spiritual practices to promote healing from within.
In it for the food?
A big part of a wellness retreat is to provide you thoroughly nourishing, detox compliant yet tasty food, as you explore the cultural palate of the place. But if you want to combine two of your first loves—food or cooking and wellness, then sign up for a cooking retreat like our Ayurveda Culinary program. You’ll dive into the art of cooking—keeping in mind taste buds and the waist line—while reveling in the universe of color, aroma, taste, and flavor with Ayurveda cooking. In these retreats, you are taken through an integrative approach to cooking, yoga, and Ayurveda with an aim to bring balance and harmonize the body, mind and spirit.
A big draw of these retreats is the experts themselves. Our signature Ayurvedic cooking program is lead by renowned instructor Nalini Mehta. The program explores the emotional, physiological and spiritual connections we have with food, nature, and cooking. It informs in interesting and fun ways about how food can affect our mind. In this retreat, some attention is given to the various body types (prakruti) and how best to nourish each of them in each season as well as during seasonal transitions. Chef Mehta walks you through theory, recipes, and dietary strategies to keep you healthy, happy, and whole all year!
So, if you tend to return home from vacation more tired than refreshed, feeling more bloated and depleted than healthy and light, you may want to try going to a retreat next time for a much deserved soul break.