10 Reasons to Take A Yoga Retreat
What is a yoga retreat and how is it different from the usual yoga classes? Why should I travel just to practice yoga? How do you tell a good retreat from a great one? Can a yoga retreat really heal illnesses and chronic pains?
If these questions are on your mind, we have answers.
Whether you have developed an at-home yoga practice or you attend classes at a studio, gym, church, etc., retreats are a unique opportunity to unplug and slow down so that you can develop a deeper connection to your inner Self. Retreats provide the opportunity and space away from everyday life distractions and challenges to clear your mind, deepen your practice, and focus on inner peace.
Immersion is Key
At the Art of Living Retreat Center, every day is curated for you to return to your source of health, healing, and true power. Here, you’re surrounded by nature that softly encourages taking in a deeper breath and provides enough space for a really long exhale. Let. It. Go. We chose the location of the Blue Ridge Mountains for its epic beauty and rich nature. You are choosing to create time and space to immerse yourself in self-inquiry. Being supported by the environment enriches the experience ten-fold.
Taking a retreat brings you together with like-minded people. When you meet new people and dive into a group experience, a specific type of bond happens. Time and time again we have witnessed deeply formed life-long friendships bloom from a retreat. These new connections can become a sounding board to share together the ongoing experiences of your evolving practice—support that is key when moving through the victories and the challenges of life.
Diving in deeper to the study of yoga and meditation can wake up the nervous system in ways you can only imagine. When you are stuck in the same daily routine in life, the layers of our existence begin to get a bit rusty, our energies start steadily moving downwards, and we begin moving away from ourselves. During a yoga and meditation retreat, you are creating new neural pathways in the brain toward well-being. Each day is a new path, a new practice, a new experience as you are guided towards balance. Yoga retreats at the Art of Living Retreat Center offer a variety of styles of yoga for all levels and abilities, and many different perspectives of these ancient teachings. As you ‘wake up’ your body, mind, and spirit, you may learn new ways to approach life—more playful, curious, and present.
Soaking in Nature
There may have been good reasons for yogis to take their practice to the Himalayas. The mountains offered them space and singularity of focus, nature in its purest form, ability to breathe fully, and zero distraction from material thought.
Surround yourself with nature as you dive into your yoga practice, putting aside all worries and interruptions. Without the distractions of routine, you move closer to the purpose of yoga, which is the union of the mind, body, and spirit. Beginners who are still trying to find their way around a practice like yoga, can particularly benefit from the anchoring environment.
Added benefits are the deep healing effects of nature on our neurology and de-stressing our system. According to Catharine Ward Thompson from the University of Edinburgh, “natural environments appear to help the body regulate the functioning of the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis, which regulates cortisol secretion and whose dysregulation is associated with a range of disease outcomes.” Research also shows that spending time in nature or forest setting after stressful and concentration demanding scenarios helps people recover quickly from the damaging effects of stress, helps them refocus and boosts immunity. It also helps reduce depression, anger, symptoms of ADHD, and aggression.
There is a tremendous body of research now available on the healing effects of yoga on physiology and mind. It can increase present moment awareness and allow you to experience the world around you more deeply and authentically. As your body and mind shift the autonomic balance from sympathetic nervous system that is activated during stressful situations, to the parasympathetic nervous system responsible for relaxation response, you experience lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduced cortisol levels, and better blood circulation to organs. The longer the parasympathetic nervous system stays activated, the better your wellness quotient. Yoga helps eliminate stress from the body and mind that has a positive trickle down effect on metabolism, inflammation, aging, mood disorders, metabolism, and more.
Breaking the Habit
Yoga retreats are a great way to break habits no longer serving you. Whether it is a bad lifestyle, poor eating habits, overthinking, or even sleep cycle turned on its head, bad habits die hard. How can a yoga retreat help?
A great yoga retreat, especially one combined with the wisdom of Ayurveda, sets you on a course correction when it comes to your lifestyle. You’ll learn what habits are best for your unique body type. During the retreat, your body clock becomes more aligned with nature and you nourish it with healthy, nutritious food. As you introduce healthful habits, those no longer serving you drop away.
Deepen Your Practice
A yoga retreat also allows you to focus on your practice without distraction and time constraints. You can practice yoga in its true form, not just asanas for physical benefits, but also the wisdom—the yoga of life. Spiritual wisdom can potentially transform your life’s journey and take you closer to your highest self. Such wisdom is often shared in a sacred conducive environment closer to nature by trained instructors and masters. You can dive deeper into the ancient texts and treatises on yogic sciences, various schools of knowledge, and yogic principles and assimilate the knowledge only in an environment that supports such learning.
One of the most commonly observed effects of diving into a practice like yoga at a retreat is that it nurtures mindfulness. It is a beautiful cycle of awareness—yoga practiced with total awareness, makes you more mindful in everything you do, and when you act mindfully, engage in wisdom mindfully, practice asanas by becoming mindful of the breath and body, it becomes a state of existence for you. Just a few of the benefits of mindfulness are improved resilience and well-being, physical health, and mental health. Being mindful helps you accept experiences—good or bad—rather than react, and gain perspective on self-defeating thoughts.
Yoga can help you sleep better. Just as regular workout regimes give us some health benefits, staying mentally active helps preserve memory and general sharpness of mind. But for getting a good night’s sleep, light workouts and yogic stretches for both the body and meditation and mindfulness for the brain may be best, according to a study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. And according to sleepfoundation.org, a yogic lifestyle can help you fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and go back to sleep more quickly if you wake in the night. At a yoga retreat, you can learn restorative habits and poses that are conducive to helping you relax and prepare your body for sleep.
Be a Better Human
Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says, “the core of every human being is positive whereas negative attributes are on the periphery. Through practices like meditation and yoga, when these negative attributes are dissolved, then all that remains in the core of our being is-love, compassion and joy.” A practice is worthless if it does not make us better human beings. Much of the violence that goes on around us is rooted in lack of awareness, prejudice, accumulated stress, and anger. It is nearly impossible to engage in violence or harmful behavior when our minds are peaceful, reflective, and heart clear. Yoga enhances our overall well being, purifies our emotions and leaves us feeling positive, compassionate, confident, and grateful.