Whether it’s to spend more time in nature, dive deeper into the practice or just create a stronger connection with studio goers, yoga retreats are beneficial and important. However, exotic locations, an agenda filled of events, and getting your yogis excited and signed up takes time to pull off.
Jessica Mishu, the owner of Blue Ridge Yoga located in Knoxville, Tennessee, knows first-hand what it takes to plan a successful retreat.
“Yoga retreats offer a supportive space for people who may not feel comfortable traveling alone or even meeting new people,” said Mishu. “We have seen our students form friendships during retreats and remain in touch after returning home. Shared experiences bond people, and we love being part of that process.”
Blue Ridge Yoga found students looking for a deeper yoga experience gravitate toward retreats. Mishu explained incorporating more spirituality and mindfulness practices is key to helping their students have a special experience. “We offer guidance, inspiration and tools for self-exploration based on the retreat’s specific theme,” she said. “At the end of the day, each person will receive what they need from the yoga; we just plant the seeds and provide a safe space for our students to make personal discoveries.”
Choosing a Location
Deciding where to host the retreat can be challenging but taking students’ opinions into consideration can help when planning. Blue Ridge Yoga starts by coming up with a list of places they would like to visit and asking staff if they know of a good location. They prefer places that are beautiful, exotic and have lots of available activities. Posting a poll with potential locations is another way to see what areas your students are interested in and get them excited early on.
“Accessibilty is also something to consider when choosing a location,” explained Mishu. “Some questions to ask would be: ‘How long does it take to get there?’ ‘Does this trip require a flight? If so, is there a direct flight available, or are multiple flights required?’ Making sure your retreat is in a safe area is also an important consideration.”
Retreats don’t always have to be an exotic location; local retreats can do the trick as well.
Mishu said planning a local retreat is a much simpler process than overseas. They search for an area within one to three hours from the studio and then plan a visit to the location. Once they confirm they like the space and amenities, they can start planning and advertising.
“An international retreat is more complex in that you probably can’t visit the location beforehand, so it can be a gamble if you’re not using a retreat center,” said Mishu. “Additionally, your students will have questions about booking flights — some retreats include flights, others do not. The language and time zone differences can make planning more difficult as well.”
One way to make the planning process of your studio retreat easier is to host it at a retreat center so it’s planned for you.
Cynthia Morgan, the founder of Desert Reset, a retreat center located in Yucca Valley, California, created the space so stressed-out yogis could enjoy the beauty of her “happy place.”
“The benefit for me is it creates an instant community of like-minded people from all over the world,” said Morgan. “For four days we get to bond, learn from each other, laugh, cry and evolve in a fast-tracked very intentional way.”
The center has been up-and-running for two years and has hosted six retreats so far. It continues to change with each group. Morgan said she learns more of what to do and what not to do with each retreat. She overcomes any challenges that arise by being well-prepared with what she can control.
“I’m super organized, so that helps,” said Morgan. “Once I feel I’ve done everything I can to make sure no detail has been overlooked, I can then hold space for everyone. It also helps I’ve got my brilliant husband Brad to help me. He expertly manages the retreat space property, so I know he’s got my back if something goes wrong in that area.”
Having the Desert Reset team members know their roles helps Morgan to focus on giving participants a life-changing and transformative retreat experience rather than worry about the small things. “A great team beside you and supporting you is crucial,” she said.
Marketing the Retreat
A perfectly planned out retreat is nothing without participants. Making sure you market the trip and experience the right way is vital when trying to get yogis to sign-up.
“The buyer has to know he or she is purchasing a worthwhile experience,” said Morgan. “After you’ve crafted an excellent retreat experience, then create a solid email list, post to social media accounts, put your retreat on retreat websites and memorize your elevator pitch for anyone at any time. You never know who needs your retreat.”
Desert Reset uses word of mouth to market their retreat center. Morgan explained you have to create a great experience first and foremost, because no marketing in the world will get a participant unless they see the substance of your retreat and the benefit of it to their lives.
For Blue Ridge Yoga, they have foundmarketing to their existing clients has worked the best for them.
“For some retreats we tried to advertise with paid ads, posting in certain online groups and putting flyers out, but what we’ve found is every retreat we have is made up of our existing students and the friends or family of those students,” said Mishu. “We are always looking for more ways to support our students, and one way we do that is by offering them a chance to deepen their practice, relax and connect with themselves through a retreat.”
Blue Ridge Yoga tries to offer retreats at different times of the year and at different price ranges, so they are reaching more students. They are aware not everyone can afford to go on an international retreat, but a weekend retreat may be more accessible. They advise other studios to speak to your students about what they are looking for and when is a good time of the year for them, because it’s extremely valuable when you are planning a retreat.
While a lot of blood, sweat and tears can go into planning the best retreat experience, it is a valuable experience and will pay off when you see your students grow and deepen their practice.