The idea of retreats and yoga is like peanut butter and jelly. It just simply makes sense.
But why are retreats such a huge part of this industry? Michelle Acebo, the owner of the Yoga Studio at Corpus Christi in Corpus Christi, Texas, said because they allow for immersion. “When you immerse yourself into something like studying yoga, it’s a big difference,” she said.
Offering students and teachers the chance to go away and practice yoga for an extended length of time can be revolutionary for their practice. So they are a great potential revenue stream for your studio. Below are three types of retreats — international, national and local — for you to consider.
Debbie Murphy is the director and retreat leader at Shanti Yoga in McCall, Idaho. She’s been leading retreats for over 10 years and is planning to return to Panama in November for another. “All of our retreats involve a deep exploration of the venue’s culture as well as a ‘two-a-day’ yoga session,” said Murphy.
The retreat will be eights days, starting in Panama City. Exploration of the city, local cuisine, snorkeling and more happen alongside yoga. “In this week’s classes, we’ll work to unblock energy, our creative flow so we can feel more vibrant,” she said. “The purpose of this week is to leave feeling more rested, more energized, more inspired.”
Murphy said she’s learned four key tips over the years when it comes to planning retreats:
• Plan thoroughly and completely. Things will go wrong and you have to be OK with it.
• Be clear in your communication. “Be clear from the beginning as to what you’ll provide, what they can expect,” said Murphy. “Continue to check-in with your guests throughout the experience and follow up after.”
• Listen to and trust in the local travel services.
• Be comfortable getting outside of your comfort zone.
In terms of on the backend:
• Don’t price your retreat too low. Make sure you’re fairly compensated.
• However, when you start out you will charge less. But as you gain experience, the price can go up.
• Word of mouth is the best marketing.
• Have a great website to refer people to, one that clearly communicates the experience and what they can expect from the area and you.
While The Yoga Bars does international retreats, one of its great focuses is national retreats.
“The biggest thing is that some people just don’t have the financial capacity or the availability from a personal standpoint to be gone for [seven days],” said Jessica Meyer, the retreat coordinator and a teacher at the studio in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Recently, the studio has hosted retreats in Hocking Hills, Ohio, and is looking for other venues within a four-hour radius. Meyer said this is the best of both worlds, as it means they as teachers don’t have to travel far — while also widening the audience they are able to reach with the retreat, usually through a website like Retreat Finder or partnering with The Travel Yogi.
She said the biggest difference between international and national retreats is the amount of days and having to fill the schedule.
From her years spent hosting and planning retreats, she shared tips as well:
• Be organized and prepared. Meyer writes up outlines of what she wants to discuss and relay to those who attend the retreat.
• As a retreat leader, be intentional of your energy. “I try to be really positive and calming,” said Meyer. “They’re trusting me with their time and energy — and their money frankly — to give them what they need.”
• Find a space and location you connect with. What’s the energy like and do you feel comfortable with it?
• Understand not everything is going to be perfect. Have rainy day plans, don’t stress out and have fun.
Acebo initially started the Living Yoga Retreat to give her teacher trainees more hours in order to graduate. But since then, it’s expanded into something more.
She had enough space in her own home and opened it up to 30 attendees for the weekend. Different rooming options include “gypsy” style — air mattresses — as well as a couple of rooms. A chef comes in and cooks organic food for the weekend. Pricing was broken down to cover expenses of the food, workshops and teaching.
Coming off a long week of work, Acebo tries to structure the weekend accordingly. She said it’s hard, wanting to fit so much into two days, but students are often up for the challenge. During the last retreat, they had a fire ceremony, made vision boards, inversion practice, a candlelight restorative practice and more.
She gave several pieces of advice:
• You can’t help the weather, so be flexible with the things you plan outside.
• Think through your schedule and how it’s going to flow, being agile the whole while. Also, consider energy levels and what you’re doing after meals, at night, etc.
• On your first retreat, invite your teachers to come for a trial run. Get their feedback and grow from there.
• Determine your expenses prior and price it accordingly.