What it takes to run a yoga retreat


My first yoga retreat as a participant was….well…..let’s just say I was glad I’m a war veteran and felt totally comfortable stranded in a Costa Rica instead of Iraq. (For the full experience read our other retreat post). After that experience, I realized I could do it better simply because I was organized.

Leading yoga retreats is the highlight of my yoga career. Guests who come are crazy in the absolute best way, they are in good moods, and we get to interact and share some yoga teachings. However, it’s also pretty important to make sure the guests are having a good time especially since it tends to be a pretty high end service. In this post, I’ll outline the steps to have a successful yoga retreat.

Before the retreat

  • Plan the heck out of it.
    Yup, we’re basically trying to make sure a whole new yoga community of possibly strangers are not only having a good time but feel safe………. and doesn’t get into any sort of catastrophe. I highly recommend going in advance to do the planning (check out our post on that). Planning should little occur in advance down to the hour including buffer times since things don’t always run smoothly when dealing with groups of people. Back up plans should be in place, not only so we don’t become confused and frazzled, but so guests feel comfortable with us guiding them.
  • Clarity
    The website copy or flyer should include very clear information about the yoga retreat so there is no miscommunication. Our retreats include the following:
  • A description of the retreat
  • What’s included
  • What’s not included
  • Payment Plans
  • Cancellation policies

In particular, pay close attention to the payment plans and cancellation policies, these are the absolute worst ones to get wrong since there’s such a huge financial risk.

  • Partner with a travel agent.
    When planning a retreat that involves travel, people will have questions on how to get there. For my first few retreats, people acted like I was their personal travel agent: emailing me about flights and their prices, additional add-ons for their vacations, additional hotel stays. It became a completely separate job and while I’m great at planning my own travel, not so much for everyone else’s needs. Working with everyone else and their travel quirks was not fun or a productive use of my time.

Instead of being everyone’s inexperienced travel agent, I just found one to refer them to. Not only was she better equipped, but it didn’t cost any extra to the guests (they get paid by the hotels on commission) and the guests loved it. It was a value added and took a ton of work off of my plate.. The travel agent received a copy of our itinerary and helped them plan everything before and after us….saved me a huge amount of time.

  • Get an email sequence
    When people sign up for your retreat, there’s a series of information that they’ll need: additional payments, checklists, information, maybe even some affiliate links for travel and insurance.

Here’s a summary of what we send out

Thank you for joining our retreat: A thank you email outlining the remaining payment plans and an affiliate link to Cancel for Any Reason Travel Insurance.
Introduction to our travel agent: This goes out fairly quickly so they know to ask the travel agent and not me about travel plans. 🙂
Checklist: A checklist of things they should have covered way in advance such as passports and flights (including pick up time at the airport and drop off time). I typically include an affiliate link to my favorite flight booking sites.
Additional payment reminders with a direct link to pay online
Packing list: This is a list of what to wear, what to bring, etc… I include affiliate links for any super specific products I want them to bring
Know before you go: I include an attachment of our contact information while away and fillable areas for them to add additional information such as more hotels, passport information, etc so they have a copy for themselves and their loved ones at home. I also include some travel tips like what apps to download, how to turn on their credit cards for travel, and any other tidbits they need to know.

Promote the heck out of it

Get to the yoga retreat location early

Zika, Ebola, plane mechanics, missed flights….it happens…it’s probably happening to about thousands of people right this second. Stuff happens and it can be incredibly stressful when it happens from a business perspective. To ensure guests are received well and everything is planned appropriately for the retreat, get there at least one day ahead of time. The extra day, gives us a chance to prepare but it also give us a buffer should something happen to our travel arrangements.

Create a welcome kit for students

People like things in their hands. They may never reference it but the ease of knowing that they do have the option of checking helps ease questions like: “What’s next?”, “When’s dinner?”, “What time should I be ready by?”

  • Printed itinerary
  • Communal living expectations
  • On-site contact information
  • Waiver
  • Photo releases
  • Have a Welcome Meeting

People have questions. Lots of questions!

A welcome meeting is a chance to have guests learn what to expect as well as let them know of any house rules, especially in communal living. It’s also beneficial to have someone from the retreat center there as well in case participants have logistical questions about the physical location.

Make it fun. Have some snacks (we have champagne at hours) and let people have a chance to get to know each other. It could be cheesy but name tags can also help people get over the fact that they’ll probably forget everyone’s names the first day or two.

Verbally repeat the itinerary each day

I know, I know…they have an itinerary. However, some forget especially on vacation. Verbally repeating what’s happening next creates less confusion and less likelihood of someone missing the shuttle or holding everyone up. It also give you a chance to remind people of any house rules should issues begin to rise.

Check the temperature of retreat participants

So here’s a secret: When we go to Italy, most people lose the desire to do yoga within the first 24 hours of being there. We originally planned for 2 yoga classes a day but after checking in with everyone during the retreat, we found people only wanted to do yoga once a day…..and mostly the rolling on the floor kind of yoga.

Even with all of the planning, it was important to us that everyone had a great time so we adapted. We also checked in to make sure dietary needs were met and they were getting enough downtime.

Planning a retreat takes more than just teaching a few classes over the period of week. Do you have questions? Feel free to place them in the comments section!