Beauty brand Calgon once used the slogan, “take me away,” in their advertisements. Taking clients away is exactly what yoga studios that host retreats do.
Debra Murphy, the director of Shanti Yoga, has more than 10 years of experience organizing yoga retreats and values their ability to help students truly escape from everyday life. “As soon as you leave your hour or hour-and-a-half-long class, usually you’re bombarded with all of the stuff that comes up in your life,” she said. “But with a retreat, you’re with other people who have also chosen to immerse in an experience and it tends to be a really rich experience.”
Murphy said the key to keeping a retreat intimate, but effective, is having the right number of students on the trip — which she said usually means no more than 20. “It’s good to have a few other people there, obviously, to make it financially work out and to have the experience of community, but retreats where there have been more than 20 people, it got to where people were kind of segregating themselves into mini-cliques,” she explained.
Murphy also cautioned studio owners to make sure there is a clear understanding between all parties involved with a retreat, to avoid any unplanned difficulties, especially as any unforeseen issues will most likely affect you as the studio owner, before anyone else.
“You have to protect yourself,” said Murphy. “I know of people who have led retreats but they didn’t have the fine print in place, and when they had students drop out — but they didn’t have protections for themselves — they lost out.”
Murphy explained that some sort of deposit is usually needed to secure various parts of a retreat like lodging, food, or the retreat center itself, and if for any reason last-minute changes need to be made, that deposit is often non-refundable.
Kerry Maiorca, the founder of Bloom Yoga, echoed Murphy’s sentiment. “Make sure you understand contract terms and you thoroughly review them,” she said. “What are your payment deadlines? What is the minimum number of reservations you have to commit to? You don’t want there to be any surprises.”
Maiorca said Bloom Yoga hosts one retreat per year, and started doing so to meet her students’ needs. “Retreats are a nice way to offer something fun and inspiring and different for your dedicated clients,” she said.
When approaching the idea of hosting retreats, Maiorca said she has learned that choosing a solid location is one of the most important steps in the process. “Consider location beyond just the geographical place,” she said. “You need to make sure the place you have chosen is a retreat hotspot — a place people are excited to go, or have heard about. A place that will have appeal.”
Logistics are also a huge part of the equation, according to the Bloom Yoga founder. “Everything from figuring out transportation to extra fees are a part of making sure that the needs of your client are met so that they have a relaxing vacation,” she said.
Maiorca added you also want to find out whether the retreat center is marketing the retreat themselves and drawing their own clientele, or whether you’re responsible for bringing 100 percent of the students yourself. “Many retreat centers now will bring a base of clients so you can be more confident that you will meet your minimum threshold of students,” she explained. “It will be both of you marketing together, and that’s a nice feeling to know that it isn’t all on you.”
Finally, Maiorca concluded that studio owners looking to host a retreat should move fast and look to book a location at least a year in advance. She also urged retreat hosts to be patient and very selective in choosing the staff they choose to attend the retreat alongside them.
“Select a teacher that’s going to help make the retreat successful,” she said. “Somebody with an established student base, dedicated students, who is also willing and happy to market the retreat and spread the word.”