Yoga retreats in tropical destinations have gotten so popular over the last ten years that it's become challenging to find one that fits what we're looking for. We are increasingly bombarded with enticing gimics promising that we'll find our true selves, experience deep spiritual transformation, and even unlock the power of our inner guru. With so many yoga teachers-turned-self-marketing experts through social media, it's hard to read between the lines of advertisements and seductive promotional images to really know what we're signing up for when we choose one retreat over another. There's a lot of selling-out that happens in the yoga world, and many instructors aren't as experienced as they'd like us to believe. Did you know that according to the Yoga Alliance's Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) certification standards, virtually anyone can sign-up and pay for a yoga teacher training - even if it's their very first exposure to the practice of yoga - and in less than one month's time, become officially certified to teach yoga and host retreats?
When the future of time-honored wisdom and ancestral yogic tradition are hanging in the balance, we need to trust that our retreat host has actually done her homework and put in the time and energy required to serve our collective good through teaching us and others the sacred philosophy and practice of yoga. And that sort of soul can't be bought or sold.
This means finding a retreat whose spiritual essence hasn't been lost to the commodification of yoga via Western entrepreneurship in the thriving multi-billion dollar yoga industry. While some people may argue - and rightfully so! - that the sanctity of yoga is lost once money is exchanged for its practice and teachings, there may still be some middle ground to stand on, where we as yoga practitioners can support those teachers who still carry the vital essence of yoga with them into their classes, workshops and retreats. There's a difference between exercise class being called yoga at the gym, and the type of retreats you'll experience at studios, resorts and wellness centers whose dedication to the spiritual practice of yoga transcends their attachment to profit margins and meeting their bottom-line.
Trusting your body, mind and spirit to a yoga teacher and retreat experience is a lot like finding a home or choosing a lover - big decisions not to be taken lightly. Do your homework. Find testimonials on past participants' experiences, and ask for a reference or two to learn more about the retreat host's approach to yoga philosophy and practice.
As you explore your yoga retreat options, ask yourself important questions like:
What do I most value when it comes to my physical and spiritual well-being, and will this yoga teacher and her retreat resonate with my core values and needs? Does this retreat seem to offer what I need to feel safe in exploring and transforming the deepest parts of myself?
Will this retreat host be able to support my process and hold space for me and others as we do our important soul-level work, cultivating seeds of self-love and spiritual connection?
If you have your doubts, keep searching. Ask friends you trust for recommendations. Listen to your gut and refuse to settle for less than you deserve and desire. And most importantly, don't be duped by a sexy yoga body and her fancy Instagram photos. Read the words that accompany the images - is the message some cliché New-Age yogi sale-speak, or does it share of deep truths written by a soul whose yoga practice on and off the mat transcends even the darker corners of our majestic human experience? Remember, some of the most spiritually powerful yoga teachers and retreat hosts are those who fly under the radar and whose practice speaks through their students, not their social media.
Finding and experiencing the right yoga retreat can open your spirit to an incredible world of personal transformation, high-vibrational well-being, and authentic living from the heart - helping you cultivate deeper spiritual connection and develop meaningful rituals for self-love and self-care. And when you choose your retreat wisely, you may actually unlock your inner guru, as promised, after all.
Tara Ruttenberg is a writer, surfer and PhD student in sustainable tourism and development. She has practiced yoga for sixteen years, is daughter to the owners of AmaTierra Retreat & Wellness Center, and currently practices under the guidance of yoga teacher Nancy Goodfellow at Pranamar Villas in Playa Hermosa of Santa Teresa, Costa Rica. Read more of Tara's work at www.tarantulasurf.com/ social media: @tarantulasurf