Thinking of booking a yoga retreat but have no idea what to expect? Maybe you’re worried it’ll be too hard for you ability, too much yoga, too little yoga, too hippy, silent, meditative, or terrifyingly off grid. Well before I go into my personal retreat experience, the first thing I’ll say is research! If you do your research into all the options, unless the details given are misleading, then hopefully there’ll be no surprises when it comes to your retreat. As for what to expect on your first yoga retreat, if I simply said ‘bliss’, this would be a pretty short post, but honestly, my first yoga retreat experience was exactly that!
Booked way back at the beginning of this year, as a gift for my 30th birthday from my Dad (isn’t he awesome?), a good friend and I recently visited the Suryalila Retreat Centre in Spain for a week-long retreat hosted by London based yoga teacher; Adam Husler. It was my first retreat, and to say I was excited was an understatement. I chose this retreat in particular as it was hosted by my regular yoga teacher in London. I’m fussy with my teacher choice, and if I’d have booked into an unknown teacher’s retreat, my concern was having a teacher that didn’t understand my complicated body, or worse still having a teacher that I didn’t find a personal connection with. That’s certainly something you need to consider when booking a retreat. Nestled in the countryside of Southern Spain, Suryalila looked to be an idyllic location, and that combined with one of London’s best yoga teachers, were the only two selling points I needed!
Most yoga retreats will, of course, run in a slightly different way, but ours followed what seems to be a fairly typical format:
90 minutes morning yoga – day time free – 90 minutes evening yoga
Yes, it really was a week of the following routine: wake up, yoga class, breakfast, sunbathing, lunch, sunbathing, yoga class, dinner, bed. Throw in some reading, pool fun, a cheeky photoshoot, beautiful sunsets, and an evening horse riding, and you’ll understand why I call the week ‘blissful’.
Our morning classes followed Adam’s usual format of a vinyasa class with a particular focus, be it balance, legs, twisting, shoulder opening etc. Being that Adam is an alignment based teacher, and we were a group of 12 yogis hungry to develop our practice and learn more about our bodies, our evening classes frequently turned into workshops with the focus on anatomy and technique. In addition to this, we were treated to yin and restorative moments too which were simply divine. For me the balance was perfect. Adam gauged the vibe the group well, knowing when we were feeling energised and willing to be challenged, and equally when we were feeling a little frazzled and needed something more restorative.
Two 90 minute classes might seem like a lot of yoga to some people, that’s 3 hours day of hard work for the body. Don’t forget however, that unless you’re on a retreat that includes daily activities other than yoga, you can spend you days completely relaxing and resting your body. What can you expect from this? To improve! We were a mixed level group, and all of us bettered our practice during that week. Saying that though, we also all had at least one class where our body had a little protest, and it’s just about listening to your body and doing what’s best for it.
A little word on the location, Suryalila is based in the Spanish countryside, 15 minutes drive from the nearest village and 90 minutes from Seville airport. If you want remote but don’t want to spend more than 2 or 3 hours on a plane, then this is the place for you. Separated in multiple residential houses, with dorm rooms, twin and double rooms, shared or private bathrooms available, there’s a communal space for dining and socialising in the main house. There are currently two yoga spaces, one a wooden shala and the other a stunning yoga dome with windows looking out onto the rolling hills of Andalusia. There are horses, llamas, donkeys, chickens, cats and a dog or two to keep guests entertained, a pool and an on site shop too. The one single drawback I experienced was a problem with Suyralila’s own water supply. In the week we were there, the water pumps stopped working and left us either without water, or with a tiny dribble. It wasn’t an ideal situation, but Suryalila were working on a solution, albeit with a slightly relaxed attitude. Aside from that however, the staff were all super friendly and helpful, and the atmosphere throughout the week was laid back and easy. Oh and the food? Vegetarian and delicious!!
There’s not much else I can say, apart from ‘When can I sign up for my next one?’ Adam has retreats scheduled in Morocco and Italy in Autumn, and although my pennies won’t stretch to that this year, I’ll certainly be on the look out for another retreat next year.
So if you’re considering a retreat, bite the bullet and go! Whether you go alone or with a friend or partner, you’ll have nothing to worry about. In our group of 12 we had a couple, solo travellers (both girls and a guy), pairs of friends and all aged 20 to 40+. There wasn’t one person that I didn’t get along with, and I hope to have made some life-long friendships.
Have I raved about it enough? I think I’ll just leave you with some of my favourite images from Suryalila (photos by me unless otherwise stated).