Retreat Tips: Make Sure It’s Right For You


In our fast-paced world, retreats are becoming more popular every year. The dictionary definitions of retreat often refer to moving backwards after a battle. I think of them as a place to move forward. Two definitions I like are: a place of privacy or safety : refuge; and a period of group withdrawal for prayer, meditation, study or instruction under a director.

I have attended spa retreats, silent mediation retreats and a few intense spiritual retreats. I teach yoga at resorts and retreats. When I worked 60 hours per week, I loved going on spiritual retreats. I found many insights by turning inward and reconnecting with my true self. Working as a manager and teacher, I felt I always had to be “up” at work and had a constant outward focus. I came back from one retreat and a coworker told me I looked 10 years younger! Within a week or two of returning, I gained back the years. I went back to old habits and was back to my normal, stressed-out self.

Make sure you feel you know the agenda and are comfortable communicating with the retreat leader(s). On a trip to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, we had sunrise yoga at the temples. This was going to be super cool in my mind. What we were not told was, due to the length of time to get there from our hotel, we had to get up at 3:30 a.m. Our cultural shows at night would go until 10 or 11 p.m. After the first wakeup call, my awesome leader adjusted the schedule for the two of us who could not function on four to five hours of sleep. We both requested to take care of our energy levels and she honored that need.

I love that many retreats involve time in nature. One rustic retreat in Guatemala was not accessible by car. I really felt off the grid. We took a tiny boat to our destination and then climbed about a billion stairs to our mountainside lodgings. With solar-powered hot water (and no sun for a week), we had invigorating cold showers.

You can also create your own mini retreats on a vacation. I have incorporated retreat time into a few of my last vacations. Last year I was in Encinitas, Calif., staying with a friend. I was lucky enough to be able to walk to the Encinitas Retreat and Ashram Center. The fishpond was a favorite meditation spot. This year in Florida we stayed on a river with a lovely gazebo that I used for meditation.

I love the idea of home retreats. Once a project at work required mandatory 12-hour long workdays, six days a week. I would give myself retreat Sundays. It was my one and only day each week to have a facial or long, luxurious bath and just recharge. Or, I would find some spiritual books and read something more inspirational than the Project Management Journal. Now that I have cut back my work hours, my home retreats are a little more active involving a longer yoga practice or nature walks.

If you choose to go on a formal retreat, find one that resonates with you. You can do a deep dive into an area of interest with writing, running, jewelry making, dancing or the booming yoga retreats. People who lead retreats are often excited to share their topics and can over-book the time. Look to see if the amount of free time is what you need. If the seminars are centered on self-discovery, I recommend you make sure you are allowed some time to process what you have uncovered about yourself. Many people go on retreats to make some lasting changes. So if there are practices that help you, find a way to incorporate them into your daily life.

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Judy Coughlin
Judy Coughlin is a 200-hour trained Yoga and Meditation Teacher, Group Fitness Instructor, Personal Trainer, Wellness Coach and Presenter. She helps to support people on their path to a basic, essential and enduring state of joyful well-being. She can be reached through the contact form on or email [email protected].


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