Your Guide to Hosting a Successful and Thriving Yoga RetreatAre you looking to create a successful, thriving retreat? Do you want to curate an impactful and inspirational experience that your students will want to come back to time after time? If you answered yes, then this guide is for you! Here are some tips for how to deliver top quality yoga retreats for you and your students.
Having an idea that you’re passionate about to set the tone for your retreat is key. The theme is your “WHY” for doing this retreat and it is one of the most important ways to hook your students both while you’re promoting your retreat and during. Figuring this out in the beginning will give you lots of time to brainstorm about how you want to integrate it into your retreat.
Your theme could be rooted in yogic philosophy (such as “A Journey Through the Chakras”). It could also be connected to something personal that you’ve gone through and feel could help others who are experiencing the same thing. Your theme could be more general, something that might resonate with a lot of people, or it could be more niche where you are reaching a certain kind of person.
Choose a theme that you feel confident with and that makes you feel excited for your retreat. The more that it resonates with you, the more fluid and cohesive the retreat will feel for your students. Your theme will help you to figure out what kind of student you want to attract and that will help you to getting to the next step…
Do you want to host something locally or internationally? Where do your students want to go? Since there are lots of great places to host your retreat, look for a venue that has superb customer service and maintains regular communication.
I once had a client pitch me the idea of having their retreat in a hotel. Anyone who’s spent a week in a hotel, knows the feeling of the walls caving in on them and experiencing something almost like cabin fever. I would nix this option immediately.
I’ve also had clients ask about hosting at AirBnbs. This isn’t “wrong” but things can start to feel cramped and you don’t have a the luxuries such as house cleaning, an onsite restaurant, a concierge service and the host is most often overwhelmed and inundated with duties.
If you want to have the smoothest experience possible for yourself and your participants, find an actual retreat venue that has a nice layout, has lots of room, enough space for people to have their own rooms, shuttle services, a restaurant, everythinggggg is already there for you.
If you are eyeing a location that you’ve never been to before, do in-depth research to make sure that it will provide you with everything that you want and need. Look at the ratings and take note of the things that most people appreciate. If there are negative reviews, consider whether or not you want to deal with those issues. You can even reach out to retreat venues and voice your concerns when getting information.
A great way to get information on a venue is to reach out to other teachers who have been there or have current retreats set up. Pick their brains about everything from communication with the venue to the food, lodging, and transportation services, etc. This is an excellent way to vet a place, get a feel for how they handle retreats, and get the information you’re looking for. The less people have to worry about when arriving, the better. This is why it is important to host at destinations that provide airport transfer, meals and easy access to excursions.
This is something that most participants will want to be aware of in the very beginning. Remember that less is more. One mistake that retreat leaders make is packing too much stuff into the schedule, which can leave participants feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. A good rule of thumb is to have a retreat consisting of 2 classes a day (usually of different styles and energy levels) with 1 or 2 scheduled excursions (included in the price of the retreat), while having 1 off day, and giving plenty of time for rest, relaxation, and exploration.
Make sure that you are clear on the offerings on and around the retreat venue so that you can give your students options on how to spend their time. Part of leading a retreat is being a chaperone and the more information you have to take care of your students, the better. If possible, plan to arrive at the venue before everyone else does so that you can sit down with the owner or manager of the venue to get all of the information you need and get clear on the schedule for the week.
Remain Consistent with Communication
This one is simple, maintain consistent communication with participants. When they reach out with questions, respond ASAP. This will build and maintain trust that will keep students coming back to your retreats time after time.
Create an email folder for “retreat only”
Stay on Top of Airline Deals
Keep an eye on airline prices so participants can be advised when the best time to buy is. Tickets are usually the most affordable 4-6 months before departure and chances are you’ll have a least a few people who are new to traveling and will need extra support.
The Hopper app is great for keeping tabs on prices and can be a great help in deciding when to buy for any trip or retreat. On top of the financial commitment of doing a retreat, participants (usually) need to factor in airfare and will appreciate you going the extra mile to keep an eye on prices and letting them know when they can get the best deal.
This is a fun touch! During opening circles, surprise students with a little gift bag as a token of appreciation. Setting the tone of the retreat with gratitude is a special way to connect to your students right off the bat and they will be most delighted.
Some great gift ideas include malas, essential oils, stones/gems, journals, and if you’re able to arrive early, something native to the location where you will be traveling to. You can find lots of things online for wholesale prices if you buy in bulk. A good rule of thumb is to set aside 5% of your earnings for gift bags.
As the leader of the retreat, students will look to you to maintain the integrity of the experience. Flash forward and get clear on how you will sustain appropriate relationships with your students. This might mean excusing yourself if people start to party too hard or making sure to block off personal alone time for you.
During your retreat, you’ll be spending more time than ever before with your students and your interactions can make or break a relationship. The dynamic of being at a retreat is similar to when you’re teaching at a studio (or however you usually see your students) and it can be challenging to keep that in mind when people are in “vacation mode”. It can be helpful to be aware of what topics of conversation you are clear that you won’t participate in and what situations you do or don’t feel are appropriate to engage with.
Preplan Your Classes
This doesn’t have to be down to a T, but at least make sure to set aside time the night before you teach to get clear on you intention and direction for the next day. You’ll sleep a lot better and come to class feeling more confidant!
You might write down a few words or ideas that resonate with you at that time. Or if you have an idea of a peak pose you want to work towards, write down the preparatory poses necessary to get there. Even just taking some time to journal before the class can be profoundly helpful. When you feel prepared, you can teach a transformative class, which is exactly why your students have come!
Especially when traveling internationally, this this is the best way to keep in communication with everyone. Have a group chat started days before the retreat begins.
This can be nice for students to find each other at the airport and also find out when people are arriving. If someone misses a flight or can’t find their airport transfer, they can connect to you and the group for support. If there’s a schedule change or you need to get people to meet up for an excursion, you’ll be able to reach them. The more people feel they can contact you or the group, the safer they’ll feel.
Opening and Closing Circles
Book end your experience with an opening and closing circle. During the opening circle, you can lay out the week, introduce everyone, play some ice breaker games, and of course, give people presents! Closing circles are a great opportunity to reflect on the week and give everyone a chance to share their experiences. You could incorporate something sweet like having students write love letters to an anonymous recipient and then send them to everyone randomly when you return home. These are great ways to help students feel like they can integrate/reintegrate before and after the trip.
Retreats are a great way for an instructor to make money and supplement income from teaching yoga, which even if you are doing full time, is often not enough to cover living expenses. When a retreat venue gives you a base rate per student, consider how much you need to add on top for yourself.
Say you add on $500 a person to the base rate and you have 20 people signed up. You’re thinking, “Sweet I’ll make $10k!” But you don’t keep in mind that most people will sign up for the early bird special (which is usually around $200). So, you’ve only made $6k. Then you need to take out for taxes (say 15%) so that’s down to $5100. Then you need to pay for the included excursion (say $100 per person) so now you’re down to $3100,and then you need to consider your flight, gift bags, and also the money you won’t be earning while you’re gone.
The money goes fast, so while you want to consider what your students can afford, you also need to remember your worth and be clear on how much you want to take home.
There are a lot of BIG and little details to keep in mind when planning an executing the perfect retreat and each one is essential to making sure everything runs smoothly. When your retreat runs smoothly, your students will want to come back. Leading retreats is an incredible way to connect with your students, build your brand, travel and make money. You will learn SO MUCH about yourself and who are you, making each retreat better and better.