Is a Yoga Retreat Right For You
By Kim Fuller
Rain dances on the roof of the studio, and from my mat I can feel it rush into the rhythm of my soul. Open-air screened windows bring the outside in, and I can smell the earth, warm and fresh from its morning shower. My own, clean sweat slides in droplets down my skin as the small class moves together in flow between yoga poses, enlivening mind and body.
Peace Retreat rests on this fertile land, tucked away behind teak and palm trees in a small Costa Rican surf town. Near the Playa Negra on the country’s Pacific Coast, the yoga and wellness retreat is a center for healing and transformation.
Co-owner Hali McQuillan says the benefit of going to a place like Peace Retreat is to take yourself out of your daily life and immerse yourself into your yoga practice.
“It’s an opportunity to really unplug,” says Kevin McQuillan, Hali’s husband and co-owner of the retreat. “There’s a decompressing that happens — we call it grounding down — and you get back to what’s important to you.”
Settling in and grounding down — what happens at a yoga retreat
Arrival at your destination will undoubtedly bring you a sense of peace, but this is really just the beginning of your journey. Here’s what you can expect during a typical day at a yoga getaway, such as Peace Retreat.
After a 90-minute morning yoga session, you’ll start your day with a nutritious homemade breakfast of local fruits and Costa Rican cuisine. Hours are then filled by whatever meets your intentions for the retreat, which may include swimming in the pool or surfing at the beach, walking in the jungle or biking back roads.
Many retreats allow you to plan your time around scheduled yoga classes, but you may also have the option to follow a more structured wellness itinerary. Peace Retreat offers on-site life coaching, Ayurveda consultations, spa treatments, journaling and discussions for self-discovery.
Guests can stay in personal jungle huts or in a room in the main house, casa yoga.Settling in is easy in the comfortable and mindful space, which also houses books and spiritual tools visitors can use to do a deeper internal dive. The entire resort reflects the openness that yoga brings.
“I think once people set foot on their yoga mat with us, they see that our teaching really speaks to a variety of styles and a wide variety of practitioners,” says Hali. “It seems that there is an instant feeling of comfort.”
The lifestyle for all levels — yoga retreats are for everyone
The surfing destination has always been dominated by its wave-riding roots, but since Peace Retreat opened a little over a year ago, people have come to find a personal yoga oasis. But you don’t have to be an advanced yogi to go on a yoga retreat. Take Michelle Leinweber, for example.
Leinweber spent three weeks at the retreat this past April. She’s done yoga on and off for about five years, the last two years of which she mostly practiced at home. When Leinweber arrived at the retreat a teacher training was in session, so— despite her lack of experience — she jumped right in and practiced for five hours both days.
“I just kept going and going until the five hours was up,” says Leinweber. “Yoga is the type of practice where you do what you can. You don't have to be the best”
Shedding layers and opening up — why go on a yoga retreat?
Katrina Love Senn is a Hatha yoga teacher, and author and founder of Yoga Girl Revolution. In an article for MindBodyGreen.com, Senn states that yoga retreats help you break away from familiar routines and help you to move out of your comfort zone into a space of growth, new people and new places.
“Yoga retreats help you to deepen your yoga practice, finding new space in your body allowing new possibilities and new thoughts into your life,” says Senn. “It’s a brilliant way to break free of old patterns, release limitations, let go of fear and step into the space of courage and new possibilities.”
Accessibility is one of the most important factors of welcoming people to a retreat, says Kevin.
“Yoga is accessible for anybody — it doesn’t matter your age or body type,” says Kevin. “It’s an embodied practice. We have our guests, our students, feel it in their bodies before they go home. It’s the rewiring that happens when you are in that kind of a practice.”
Sometimes an active and mindful vacation is exactly what’s right for the soul. Lori Banks is originally from Idaho but now lives in Calgary, Canada. She says she had always been in tune with her physical and emotional wellness, but she sought out a trip to Peace Retreat when she was going through a difficult time.
“I knew I was not as well emotionally and spiritually as I should or wanted to be,” says Banks. “I had just come out of a miserable marriage of 24 years and a very difficult divorce.”
Banks says she knew she was in a negative place mentally and that she needed to do something to get herself healthy again.
“For some reason a yoga retreat seemed to be just what I needed,” says Banks. “I was apprehensive to travel somewhere on my own and stay in a strange place. I knew Hali and Kevin from when they lived here [in Canada], and when I heard they opened a yoga retreat in Costa Rica, I knew I had to go.”
In her article, Senn states that yoga retreats facilitate deep healing and transformation, just as Banks experienced during her time in Costa Rica.
“Doing yoga regularly helps people heal and transform their lives,” says Senn.
The retreat effect — how a yoga vacation can transform everyday life
The McQuillans live at Peace Retreat with their three-year-old daughter and have made it a welcoming home for people to embrace change and manifest possibility. It’s an open and honest space, welcoming everyone who enters and inspiring everyone who leaves.
“What we’re after is creating a peaceful space, a safe space, and a space where people can come and leave different,” says Kevin. “It’s just providing the tools and providing the experience, so that people leave this property different — thinking differently, feeling different and being fully inspired.”
Banks says that since she has returned home she has made better business decisions, improved her family relations and lived a Healthier lifestyle.
“My stay at the retreat transformed me,” says Banks. “It gave me a chance to remove myself from my day-to-day life, heal and reestablish myself. I returned home at peace with myself and I am more confident in who I am,” she continues. “I have become more authentic in my being, and love who I am and life.”
Find a place of peace — how to choose your retreat
Think about what your intentions are for your retreat when you are deciding where you want to go. The Internet is a great international resource, so start your search there. Consider these three factors to help you narrow down your choices:
- Location — Yoga retreats are about self-discovery, but they can also be about seeing some places on your bucket list. Look into areas that you know and love, but also do some research to see all places you may want to explore.
- Style — There are many styles of yoga, so think about whether you are craving a more rigorous physical retreat or seeking a more restorative experience. Read student testimonials and get in contact with the retreat teachers to discuss the styles of yoga available and whether or not they will suit your needs.
- Pricing and Timing — Weeks of wellness can take time and money, but if you plan ahead you can sometimes find great deals during off-season months. Look into times when a retreat may not be as crowded and may be less expensive. Retreats often offer vacation packages, as well, so you may be able to take care of your flights for less than your thought!