What To Look For When Selecting a Retreat Venue

Running a yoga retreat is a little like conducting a divine symphony without rehearsal.

There are a multitude of moving parts, from minute to large, to choreograph into harmony behind the scenes to ensure a seamless guest experience. Even if you’re returning to the same retreat venue, no two retreat weeks will ever be exactly the same since there are so many variables to take into account. So, it is important to select your venue carefully and choose one that you can have full confidence in.

When you’re busy teaching and holding space for your students, the last thing you want is added anxiety over whether you can rely on the venue to fully support the experience you’re trying to create.

Since ‘wellness tourism’ is currently estimated to be worth over $500 billion, it’s not surprising that potential retreaters have a vast array of options when it comes to selecting a yoga retreat. From yoga and surfing in Bali to sampling La Dolce Vita in Italy, there is something for everyone. While there is no such thing as a good or bad retreat, I’ve learned there are some critical ingredients worth considering when searching and selecting a suitable retreat venue.

The Experience

First up, define the experience you want to create and then benchmark venues against this vision. ie. Are you running an isolated healing retreat with lots of quiet, meditation and introspection or do you want to offer a fun, action packed, adventure retreat? Do you prefer mountains vs the beach, etc.? You don’t necessarily need to know all the answers, just be mindful that all these elements will influence your retreat offering.

The Space

Will you have it to yourself?

When selecting a retreat space find out if you will you have it to yourself. Is the venue a dedicated yoga retreat or a space that lends itself to retreats occasionally? If it’s the latter, will you have exclusive use or will the space be shared with non-retreat guests too? Bear in mind, outsiders tend to change the energy of the retreat and adds to the list things beyond your control, such as the presence of children, alcohol consumption, sound levels, etc.

Is there a devoted yoga space?

Discover if there is a space devoted to yoga practice and where it is. Find out if there is a heating/cooling system and consider this in context to the season you’ll be teaching in.

If the venue is open to non-retreaters and the practice space is overlooked, used for something else between classes or is close to noisy areas it could interfere with the work you are doing. Information is power, so having an awareness of all of these things upfront means you can anticipate how to manage them effectively and minimise any surprise for yourself and guests.

What are the surroundings like?

Find out what is close by and where the retreat is located as these have a big impact on your retreat experience. What else, if anything, is there to do in the area and do you want to include cultural activities in your programme?

Don’t Forget Practical Matters

Always ask about basic facilities, additional services, transport links and transfer options and if there are likely to be any hidden or extra costs for guests. Relaxed guests can quickly get flustered by unexpected expense upon departure.

The Ambience

The ambience is what gives a retreat location its charm, sprinkles it with magic and makes your retreat memorable. Don’t leave it to chance.

The ambience is a conspicuous cocktail that combines the location, it’s surroundings and the overall atmosphere which is influenced by how the space is decorated, how well it’s maintained and attention to detail.

Over the years I have observed what a difference presentation and finishing touches can make. It’s what gives spaces the wow factor. Beyond keeping things clean and tidy, it’s flowers in guests rooms, handmade soaps in bathrooms, welcome notes waiting on pillows, fluffy towels and extra candles at twilight that inspire delight.

If possible visit your venue during a retreat, ask to see photo’s from morning, daytime and night, or see if it’s possible to have a tour via Skype.

The People

It’s unlikely you will be juggling the entire retreat solo, so consider who else will be contributing to and supporting the success of your retreat. Will their manner help others to feel reassured, comfortable and relaxed? Personalities and other people’s attitudes will impact your guests too.

So check out who else will have client contact and ensure they will make a positive contribution infused with professionalism, patience and grace.

Not only do you want be able to trust your chosen retreat venue to deliver the programme you’ve promised in an orderly and organised fashion, it’s helpful if they are guest-focused and recognise they are in a role of service too.  

Finally, The Food

Food is a pivotal part of any retreat that can bring people together or poke away at eating anxieties. Happy tummies means happy minds and feeding people well, so they feel radiantly healthy, is crucial. First, consider the style of food ie. detox, ayurvedic, macrobiotic, juice fasting, then set the menus ahead of the retreat if possible and ask if the chefs are happy to accommodate common dietary requirements such as gluten or dairy free.

To conclude, searching for retreat venues should be fun. So let your intuition guide you and then gather insight by asking the right questions. After all, everything is manageable if you’re armed with the right information as it will allow you to set expectations as well as market your retreat well.

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Katherine Smith

Katherine Smith is an international yoga teacher, writer, travel junkie and food enthusiast with a tremendous appetite for life. Yoga has been a revolutionary force in her life that has fuelled more reinvention and releasing than Kat can remember as she systematically shed everything that no longer served her to reveal the person she was destined to become. Having called eight different countries home and found family and adventure in every corner of the globe, she is currently based in Amsterdam. Inspired by her own journey Katherine offers students sanctuary from an otherwise fast paced life with her Deep & Dynamic Vinyasa Yoga retreats worldwide.