Whatever type of yoga you practice, or even if you have not yet practiced, a yoga retreat can take you and your practice to another level. Not all yoga retreats are created equally. Some offer a few classes a day, usually two, while others offer day-long possibilities or very intense hours of practice.
Some yoga retreats offer large classes, some, like Sewall House, are more small and personalized. Locations for retreats can range from faraway exotic destinations to closer to home, or at least a retreat that does not require leaving the country. While some retreats are on large acreages and are self-contained.
Sewall House offers excursions to the amazing lakes, waterfalls and hikes that are within driving distance of its historic retreat house, including local maple syrup shops, farm stands and Amish communities, all part of the local culture of northern Maine.
A recent guest at Sewall House, who came with his wife and practices yoga with her in regular yoga classes at home in New York City, described his retreat as an opportunity to “deconstruct”. Instead of having expectations that might set you up for disappointment, instead view yoga travel as an opportunity to be in a new environment, truly leaving your distractions and stresses behind. This can be an especially good choice if you are going on a retreat for inner purposes but can be challenging if you are not open to trying new things or giving up the “things” you think you need to have and may not, like daily meat or alcohol, which are not a part of a yoga lifestyle.
What we have found at Sewall House Yoga Retreat in the past few years is that people have i-phones, require wireless and feel a need to stay connected.
If possible, minimize those distractions as you go on the inner journey a retreat can offer. Since for many people, a digital detox is not entirely possible, limiting when you look at your emails or texts when on a yoga retreat is a way to minimize the outside stimuli so you can get the best most authentic experience of stepping back, rebooting your own life and actually “deconstructing”.
The benefits of a yoga retreat are many and it’s wise to do research before you go.
A retreat that offers a yogic lifestyle will have a non-alcohol and non-meat (some are vegan and others, like Sewall House, offer egg and dairy options) environment. These changes can be a positive way to kick-start a healthier lifestyle by observing how you feel after a week of doing some things differently. Plant-based diets have proven to have many health benefits.
Small changes can make big results. Some schools of yoga do not allow onion, ginger or garlic for their stimulating effect. Some serve coffee (Sewall House does), some do not. Yoga retreats may be vegan, raw or offer fasts or cleanses.
Depending on what might interest you, ask if it is offered. If you are not sure, the best thing is to go with an open mind. Even if it is not exactly what you expected, you can learn from each choice you make, including the retreat you choose! Eating differently for a week may give you insights you never expected- and make your yoga practice feel different too!
The whole idea is to make you more clean and pure from the inside out, with breath, yoga and food choices.
The air in northern Maine is particularly clean for yoga breathing practices (pranayama). Immersion in these lifestyle choices can be an important part of the physical and mental clarity and cleansing that yoga practices provide. You may find yourself having more energy or more vivid dreams by following the regimen of clean foods, clean air and yoga.
Some retreats view yoga more as merely exercise.
Make sure you find that if that is what you are looking for. These types of yoga retreats are more of a yoga “vacation” if vacation includes alcohol and meat to you- so make sure you know what you are getting. One of my friends went to a teacher training at a retreat in California with a well-known teacher. He is a devoted yogi, surprised when other attendees asked if he wanted to go out drinking.
At Sewall House, our immersion 200-hour yoga teacher trainings do not allow alcohol or meat though we do accommodate needs such as gluten-free or ketogenic that people have requested.
Another thing to consider is that the level of the practice is important.
If you are a newbie make sure the retreat is not a boot camp experience where people are advanced, only looking to further their already advanced practice. Feel free to ask the retreat questions about level, how much personal attention you might get if you need it. Research if the philosophy and style of operation fit your needs. The type of yoga may be important to you. If you are open to any form of yoga then check other things that might matter to you such as location, cost, food, private or shared rooms, etc. Themes can be of interest too.
Bottom line: a yoga retreat should be a place where you choose to learn more about yourself and deepen your relationship with that all-important commodity-you! Be open-minded to the signals you receive too.
Yesterday I did a reading after the morning practice that prompted a guest to make a dozen slips of paper with things that are important to her in her life, things like love, trust and surrender. She said she did not want to choose surrender as her theme but sure enough, it is what she picked out, just what she knew she needed to work on this week at her retreat.
If you are not sure about the forms of yoga here is a quick overview to help you with your choice- at Sewall House Yoga Retreat we offer years of experience with varied yoga practices to meet the needs of our guests- here are some ideas of what we offer and what you might want to narrow your choices to.
If the retreat offers only one form of yoga, find out if it fits what you are looking for as forms of yoga vary greatly these days from gentle and relaxing to boot camp level of exercise:
Here are some common yoga practices you may want to consider:
- Vinyasa- is the most popular form of yoga but is also a generic term so can range from a well-qualified teacher offer a safe pace to a fast-paced class that pays no attention to form or breathing. The latter makes it an exercise class rather than a yoga class.
- Ashtanga is a strong form of yoga that offers the same poses in the same order every class. People who have injuries or who are not terribly strong may not be suited to it.
- Iyengar is anatomically oriented and careful about how you learn and do the poses. This is an excellent form for injuries or to prevent them. It also uses props to enhance the pose.
- Hatha yoga is gentle yoga stretches from the classic practice.
- Kundalini is an inner-focused breath awareness yoga that emphasizes working on the energy centers and body systems in specific ways.
- Yin and Restorative are the most calming and slow types of yoga, using props for support and stretch.
- Meditation is an integral part of a complete yoga practice and may be done with breathing, chanting or specific eye focus. It can be part of a yoga retreat but may not always be. More and more people are liking the idea of learning yoga and meditation when on retreat.
- Power yoga (we do not offer at Sewall House) is sometimes done in a hot room and consists of very strong poses sometimes repeated or done for long holds in a pose.
These are just a few of the types of yoga you may find. Others, like Jivamukti and Forrest yoga, are not described here. Some, like Shadow Yoga, are interesting and excellent but less known.
Here is what one gentleman wrote after leaving Sewall House this week: Thanks Jac!
“Retreat: to move back or withdraw—not in defeat, but strategically, to regroup, reassess, reinvigorate! If you are ready to venture out of your comfort zone, I would highly recommend historical Sewall House for your yoga retreat.
Leave your stress, addictive behaviors expectations and fantasies back home, as you look to find or lose yourself in Island Falls Maine—and experience, as it states clearly and insightfully on the Sewall House literature and logo; ‘simplicity in a complex world.’
My wife, Jodi and I went twice a day to yoga (Kundalini, Ashtanga, and Vinyassa with energetic, experienced and exuberant Donna and Svaroopa with warm one-of-a-kind Ejeet), meditation by the bridge steam, ate wholesome vegetarian food and enjoyed super massages from Karen as well as some lively creative conversations along with Kristen who effortlessly looks to keep everyone happy and Joel a visionary who keeps Sewall maintained, lit and organized. Our afternoon kayaking with Alison, another guest from Maryland was fun, but nothing beats viewing the brightest stars in the blackest evening skies in Maine, well, I guess the fresh air and billboard less roads are a huge plus. Shopi and Lucy the house cats were a joy to pet.
Lastly, my journal finally received some TLC as I fired up my fountain pen and unleashed some new designs, a poem and some rock solid ideas of how good it is for me to deconstruct my distracted life in NYC.
Sitting in a Portland hotel, to break up our trip back home, Jodi turns to me and says, ‘I feel like we’ve been away for a month. ‘Home run!’”
Sewallhouse.com has been offering yoga retreats since 1997, owned by yoga instructor Donna Amrita Davidge who has been teaching yoga and meditation since 1985. If you’re ready to learn more about our personalized retreats, please visit our registration page to learn more.