How to Organize a Yoga Retreat

A general overview and suggestion oriented piece about organizing and running yoga retreats. Posted by Jennifer Steed of Yoga Journeys.

The How’s , Why’s and Where-for’s of conducting a Yoga Retreat.

The following article outlines ideas on how to plan for and successfully run a yoga retreat. These notes come from 4 years of experience by Jennifer Steed of Yoga Journeys, an adventure travel and yoga retreat company. This is not meant as an exhaustive exploration of all aspects of yoga retreats but more of a primer for your own design of a yoga retreat.

Where to begin?

Ideally you are already teaching yoga students on a regular basis and have anywhere from 50-250 acquaintance contacts to promote your event to. Most people go to yoga retreats because they know the instructor and like their work so it’s important to recognize your ‘warm market’ or people who know you. That’s not to say that some people may not come just from hearing of it or with a friend who knows you.

Decide on what you intend to offer first. Is it a weekend event, close to or far away from the city you work and live in? Will you include one or two classes daily, massage, meals, outdoor activities, dance, poetry or any number of other creative or expressive sessions?

I suggest you begin with a simple weekend yoga retreat hosted within 2 hours drive, if possible, from your city of residence and where you teach. This is a less intimidating beginning for you and for the students and can give you a good idea of how to market and run such an event.

If you are the sole teacher I suggest you offer a discounted spot for someone to come along, or two people, who are your assistants. They will handle all the various and somewhat petty details like a liaison between your students and you. This frees you up to focus on holding the energy and space for the students and for teaching. I recommend you purposefully set aside time away from the group besides your sleep time, to regroup, refocus, re-energize and practice or just flake out. You are seen as the example and as the leader at all times and it’s important to nourish yourself especially if it’s a one-week retreat.

If you are in a foreign country you will notice that various fears and intimidations will be an issue for some students leaving you as their safe life raft therefore having your assistants give a hand in this regard and encouraging people to be independent will help empower their experience and leave you less drained.

If you are considering a foreign retreat where people are flying in, there are a number of things to consider. In BC it’s illegal to provide travel trips as these without being a license professional in the travel industry therefore I highly recommend ( and for other reasons I will mention) finding a suitable licensed travel agent to make any and all arrangements with the students. This will save you a lot of hassle in a field that is not your expertise, ie. Travel agency, and give them the insurance necessary to be held by any tour operators in case there is a cancellation of the trip etc.
The other reason this is so helpful is that the travel agent has access to all the necessary details simply on the note of travel to the retreat while you are focusing on the yoga teaching etc. The two companies I highly recommend out of Vancouver are:

Sacred Earth Journeys www.sacredearthjourneys.ca with Helen Tomei.

Milagro Retreats www.milagroretreats.com with Shani Cranston

The rules vary from one province to the next but it’s worth having someone charge a commission to help promote to and book clients.

If you are going to a location you have never seen the risk of high stress is very present. I always recommend going places you have personally been to especially in other countries or if their sole focus is hosting of such retreats and can work with you from afar on all necessary details with you style of clientele in mind.

Once you have a location and the ‘hard costs’ are factored in (accommodations, transportation to/from airport, taxes, tips, food, spa sessions, day trips etc. etc.) then you have to add in your fee per person to make the trip a worthwhile financial endeavor. You may simply be paid to go on a holiday, to begin with, but ideally you are paid to teach and do all the organizing as the numbers grow from year to year. Always, always, always build in about a 10% buffer of cost for the unexpected.

For marketing, you can focus on your warm or hot market ie. People who know you and also go with the cold market from the internet or other sources. Be sure to make the advertising about THEM. Let the potential client know what they will get out of the trip, how it will benefit them etc. Make a special deal to bring a friend as it’s worth it for you to have more numbers of people at a discounted rate so they will tell others than try to get a big price for just a few people. That is unless you intend to do a higher end type retreat and then you have to tailor your advertising and style of retreat to the tastes of the upper echelon people.

If there is no waiver form already drawn up from the location, you must have a waiver form and health intake form well in advance plus all the travel itineraries of the clients including when and how they are arriving and cell phone numbers to reach them at in case of emergency or changes.

Always take a feedback form so you can learn from the experience of the clients and honestly work with their suggestions for future retreats.

I like to include unexpected treats such as special soap, candles, oils, books, etc to put on their pillow as they arrive as a gift for the week.

Be sure to take lots of photos including the before and after photos to show just how much they each change over the time of practicing, relaxing, reading, etc. You could even have a reunion of people afterwards to celebrate the friendships and the fun had. These clients will become your best advertising for sure.

You also may like to send them a gift of the group photos afterwards.

If you have another retreat scheduled during the coming year, it’s important to either get a verbal agreement to attend again or even a deposit to save their spot each year subsequent as this again ensure a successful event each year. If they are reluctant to commit, that is fine. Just ask their permission to send information by mail or email.

If you have awesome food served, no matter what else happens, the retreat will be a huge success. People base great focus on the food experience and this is well worth going to every effort possible to ensure a great memory is created. Providing or selling recipes or providing nutritional or cooking lessons are also awesome. Give people something they can really integrate into their lives.

There are many details that make it both rewarding and an honor to provide such healing holidays. If you have more questions or further ideas to add, please contact us at Trinity Yoga or Jennifer Steed at {encode=”yogajen@telusplanet.net” title=”yogajen@telusplanet.net”}.

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