Are you diving in the deep end arranging your first yoga retreat? Congratulations! We have some expert advice from someone who has been there and done that! Mentor and travelling yogi, Jules Barber gives us four ways to make sure that your yoga retreat runs perfectly. Take it away, Jules.
"Like you, I imagine - having been a practitioner and consumer of yoga for a fair while - I’ve been on more than a few yoga retreats and holidays. I’ve participated in workshops far and wide. I’ve experienced the good, the bad and the ugly. So when it came to planning my own retreat earlier this year, I already had plenty of ideas, a firm idea of structure and a list of do’s and don’ts to bear in mind.
But as always, thinking about something and executing it are very different beasts. To misquote Pattabhi Jois ‘Yoga is 1% theory and 99% practice’ – and so with retreats of course. Thanks to some dynamite organisation from my team, our retreat ran smoothly and successfully – and at a profit. We were lucky enough to welcome 10 entrepreneurs from a networking conference in Bangkok, an awesome group of people including a psychologist, two business coaches and a Reverend.
But did it go 100% without a hitch? Of course not. And we picked up some great learning points along the way.
1. The guest experience should be a friction-less as possible
People who book retreats are looking for more than just an expanded yoga timetable, or an organised set of activities – they are looking for AN EXPERIENCE. Not only that, you can bet your bottom dollar than relaxation and a ‘letting go’ of everyday life are among their top aims when they arrive. The logistics, administration, and all communication connected with your event are therefore crucial. We can’t emphasise this enough. The experience needs to be totally painless for your guests, from the moment they confirm their booking to the point you wave them off into the sunset.
Points of potential friction – accommodation check in, communication of location and timings, onward travel from the retreat - need to be preempted, and then flawlessly thought out and 100% accurate. Just because your guests are easy going Yogis doesn’t mean they should receive anything less than perfect customer service - so give this your all!
2. Man cannot survive on prana and good vibes alone
So you’ve gathered an awesome group of people together, you’ve set up your yoga classes and additional activities, and you are ready and waiting to welcome your guests. The aim of your retreat on some level is to nourish and nurture people on a physical and spiritual level right? In which case, obvious as it may sound, for Buddha’s sake do not forget the food and beverage element. Some of the best retreats I’ve been on have been made by memorable menus and juicing or drinks options. There are several aspects to this: one is that you want the quality of the retreat centre or restaurant to match your stellar organization perfectly. Make sure you road test any options PERSONALLY, focusing not only on the menu but location, service and personal touches.
Secondly, and more crucially, although it’s easily overlooked – do not forget to ask for everybody’s dietary requirements in advance. Us yogis can be a fastidious lot when it comes to eating and simply providing a vegetarian option is probably not going to cut the mustard (excuse the pun).
3. Balancing group and structured activities with downtime is key
It’s very tempting to get overly creative with the actual content of a retreat, whether that means covering a whole spectrum of yoga styles in the sessions, or trying to fill every spare second with non stop exciting and soul fortifying experiences. STOP – less is more in this regard. If you’re guests have arrived to get away from it all it’s likely they will appreciate some ‘me time’ as much as all the delights you have planned for them. Furthermore, when you have essentially a group of strangers on your retreat, it’s hard to predict the balance of extroverts/introverts and those who will want to network and bounce off the energy of the group and those who will want to spend some time in their ‘cave’.
One thing is for sure, unless you are running an event for teenagers, it’s likely that most people will appreciate some free time, or indeed just some optional activities where they get to call the shots in terms of how they spend their time. If you can pre-qualify this in your retreat marketing then that’s a great idea. But otherwise, to give everyone some breathing space (including you!) make sure there is room in your schedule for last minute activities, or at the very least a ‘choose your own adventure’ vibe. Your guests will thank you.
4. Going the extra mile always pays off – aim to delight and surprise
On the last day of our retreat, when at least half our guests departed (the remaining half stayed – we must have done something right!) my right hand woman Henrietta ended up driving at warp ten speed to deliver a left behind laptop to one of our guests, arriving one minute before the ferry left the island. Now THAT’S customer service. We tried from minute one to give our group the most personalised and high touch experience we could. From the gifts on arrival, to the personal travel concierge service offered on departure, we attempted to make it a never-before-experienced trip.
There are so many ways in which you can have your guests leave with a giant smile on their faces. And they will come back."
Jules Barber is an entrepreneur, mentor and travelling yogi, on a mission to help guide and inform the next generation of yoga teachers as they become fully fledged, conscious and successful professionals. She currently runs Grounded - Koh Tao's Yoga and Wellbeing Centre, and is the founder of Yoginomics.
Are you a yoga teacher looking to hold more workshops & retreats, and perhaps even open your own studio? If you are looking to turn your passion into your profession, then Yoginomics has just the event for you. A 5-day intensive training in paradise, combining practical teaching exposure with foundational business skills, that will enable you to accelerate your career. For more information and inspiration, contact Yoginomics - the team are available to answer all your questions.