Whatever type of yoga you practice, or even if you have not yet practiced, Sewall House Yoga Retreat can take you to another level.
Not all yoga retreats are created equal. Some offer a 2 or 3 classes a day, while others offer day-long possibilities with very intense hours of practice.
Some yoga retreats offer large classes, while some, like Sewall House, offer classes that are smaller and more personalized.
Yoga retreats can be in faraway exotic destinations or closer to home. Some yoga retreats are on large acreage in the country, and some are in urban areas.
Sewall House is located in the small town of Island Falls, Maine. It offers excursions to the amazing lakes, waterfalls, and hikes that are within driving distance of its historic retreat house. Also nearby are 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, view yoga travel as an opportunity to be in a new environment, truly leaving your distractions and stresses behind. A retreat 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, like daily meat or alcohol, neither of which is a part of the yoga lifestyle at Sewall House.
Many people arrive at Sewall House Yoga Retreat with their phones and other devices, feeling a need to stay connected. If possible, we recommend you minimize those distractions as you go on the inner journey a retreat can offer.
A digital detox is not entirely possible for many people. Keep in mind, though, that limiting the amount of time you spend on emails and texts when you are on a yoga retreat is a way to minimize the external stimuli. That way you can get the most authentic experience of stepping back, rebooting your own life, and actually “deconstructing”.
It’s wise to do research before you try a yoga retreat
A retreat that offers a yogic lifestyle will have a non-alcohol and non-meat environment. Some yoga retreats are vegan and others, like Sewall House, offer egg and dairy options. Leaving aside meat and alcohol is a positive way to kick-start a healthier lifestyle by observing how you feel after a week. Plant-based diets have proven to have many health benefits.
Small changes can lead to big results. Some schools of yoga do not allow onion, ginger, or garlic. Some serve coffee — Sewall House does — and some do not. Yoga retreats may be vegan, raw, or offer fasts or cleanses. If something interests you, but you don’t see it listed as part of the retreat, be sure to ask.
Regardless of which yoga retreat you choose, go with an open mind. Even if it is not exactly what you expected, you can learn from each choice you make. Eating differently for a week may give you insights you never expected, and make your yoga practice feel different too.
The air in northern Maine, where Sewall House Yoga Retreat is located, 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 when you follow the regimen of clean foods, clean air, and yoga.
Some retreats view yoga as merely “exercise”
Yoga surely provides exercise, and many people use it only for that. In my view, yoga retreats that view yoga only as exercise only, and don’t concern themselves with the spiritual side of yoga, provide more of a yoga “vacation”. If that’s what you are looking for, please enjoy! After all, it’s your time, so make the most of it! But make sure you know what you are getting.
One of my friends went to a yoga teacher training at a retreat in California with a well-known teacher. As a devoted yogi, my friend was surprised when some of the other attendees asked if he wanted to go out drinking.
At Sewall House, our immersive 200-hour yoga teacher training does not allow alcohol or meat, and — for an added fee — we accommodate needs such as completely gluten-free or vegan for people who request it.
Consider the level of practice at yoga retreats
If you are a yoga novice, 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 of yoga and how much personal attention you will get if you need it. Research whether the philosophy and style of operation fit your needs. The type of yoga may be important to you. Is it kundalini, vinyasa, yin? A combination of them? 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, and so on.
In my view, the bottom line consideration is that a yoga retreat should be a place where you choose to learn more about yourself and deepen your relationship with that yourself. Be open-minded to the signals you receive.
And how about themes for your personal retreat? Yesterday, after the morning practice at Sewall House, I did a reading that prompted a guest to make a dozen slips of paper with things that are important to her. She wrote down 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.
What are some common types of yoga?
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 many different yoga practices.
- Vinyasa is the most popular form of yoga. Vinyasa is a generic term so can range from a well-qualified teacher offering a safe pace to a faster 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 focuses on adapting the poses to your specific body’s needs. This is an excellent form for injuries or to prevent them. It also uses props to enhance the pose.
- Hatha provides 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 practitioners may combine it with breathing, chanting, or specific eye focus. It can be part of a yoga retreat but may not always be. More and more people like the idea of learning yoga and meditation when on retreat.
- Power yoga, which we do not offer at Sewall House, is sometimes done in a hot room. It 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!
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!’”
Sewall House Yoga Retreat has been offering yoga retreats since 1997. Yoga instructor Donna Amrita Davidge — the author of this article — owns and operates Sewall House. She has been teaching yoga and meditation since 1985. If you’re ready to learn more about our personalized retreats, please view our accommodations. You may also want to check out our daily schedule. Remember that Sewall House includes all meals and basic activities with your stay.