Why Should You Go on a Yoga & Meditation Retreat?
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In today’s fast-paced world, we often find ourselves on the run, constantly bombarded with information, living in stressful and dynamic environments, feeling too busy and off-balance. This leads to mental and emotional overload.
Stress has become an inescapable element of the modern world. There’s only so much we can process, and quieting the monkey mind is essential if we wish to keep our physical and mental health in check.
Slowing down is key to living a more balanced life. Yoga and meditation retreats offer some time out from our regular routines and habits. They are an opportunity to switch off our mind, rejuvenate, revitalize, and open more space for mindfulness.
Need more reasons to go on a yoga and meditation retreat?
Find out why yoga and meditation go hand-in-hand, what you can expect on a retreat, the most popular meditation techniques you can try, and the outstanding benefits of combining the two practices.
Reasons to go on a yoga & meditation retreat
Yoga and meditation are like two peas in a pod. Sure enough, you can meditate without practicing yoga and the other way around. However, yoga practice can be divided into three subcategories: asanas (physical postures), breathing techniques (pranayama, Kriya), and meditation. Therefore, most yoga sessions include some form of meditation as well.
In both yoga and meditation, the ultimate goal is essentially the same – to overcome the mental chatter of the ego and find spiritual liberation.
Learning to meditate and setting up a regular yoga or meditation routine can be challenging. This is where retreats come in – they offer the guidance and space you need to start out right or take your practice to new heights.
Plus, you’ll reap the astounding benefits of both yoga and meditation at the same time.
Most often, holidays are about doing. Retreats are about being – listening to your own needs, leaving the outside world behind, focusing on doing less and just being present.
Yoga and meditation retreats are powerful stress relievers. Taking a break from your day-to-day life will leave you feeling recharged, renewed, rested, and inspired.
If you already have a regular meditation or yoga practice (or maybe both), you probably noticed that it’s easy to get caught up in a rut, sticking to what’s more convenient to you and avoiding what’s more challenging. On a retreat, you’ll get to explore new meditation techniques and yoga styles, which will enable you to step out of your comfort zone.
» READ MORE: 5 Steps Towards True Meditation
What to expect on a yoga & meditation retreat?
Image credit: Santhika Retreat Center
Retreats are a powerful tool to disconnect from your daily routine and reconnect with yourself. They offer the opportunity to deepen your yoga and meditation practice. Their programs are specifically designed to help you relax, heal, and transform through asana, pranayama, and contemporary meditation techniques.
All levels of practitioners can attend
You don’t have to be a dedicated practitioner to attend. Yoga and meditation retreats cater to all levels, tailoring their programs to the previous experience and needs of the participants.
If you’re a beginner, you can expect a gentle introduction to meditation and yoga in a nurturing environment. If you’ve been practicing for a while, a retreat will provide the perfect setting to take things up a notch by trying out new yoga styles and meditation techniques.
Lots of yoga and meditation
You can expect daily yoga and meditation sessions. Some retreats offer classes twice a day, in the morning and afternoon, or even more frequently.
Throughout the retreat, you’ll learn about yoga philosophy and postures, meditation and breathing techniques, which you can then take home and apply to your everyday life.
On certain retreats, the main focus might be on meditation and spirituality. Others may be centered on the physical practice. Whichever program you choose, you can rest assured that the intention is the same – cultivating balance.
Workshops & side activities
Some retreats also offer daily inspiring workshops and holistic practices – mindfulness, yoga philosophy, and nutrition lectures, sound healing, chakra opening work, shamanic journeys, self-inquiry sessions, and more. Workshops are usually optional.
Retreats may also offer various wellness and Ayurvedic treatments, either included in the package price or available for an additional fee.
Most yoga and meditation retreats are held in inspiring natural surroundings and offer walking meditation sessions and guided hikes, which are meant to bring the body and mind in sync.
There’ll also be free time that you can spend however you wish – relaxing at the retreat, reading, taking walks or excursions. Most of the time, wholesome vegetarian meals are included.
Meditation techniques to try on a retreat
Image credit: Dhara Wellness Garden
There are countless ways to meditate and there’s no “right” or “wrong” approach. Numerous techniques have been developed over time, and it’s important to find the one that suits you best.
Here are a few of the most popular meditation techniques that you can try on a yoga and meditation retreat:
This is the most popular type of meditation that you’ll find on a retreat, and one of the easiest ways to enter a state of deep relaxation.
There are numerous guided meditation techniques, all led by a guide’s voice. A narrator (teacher or trained practitioner) will lead you through a series of relaxed visualizations. The sessions are usually accompanied by relaxing music and can last for a few minutes to several hours.
Guided meditation can be tailored to your own individual needs, and it can also be used to introduce you to a new meditation technique.
Also known as “insight meditation”, Vipassana is the oldest Buddhist meditation practice. It literally means “to see things as they really are”, and its main goal is to achieve self-transformation by focusing your attention on your breathing and the physical sensations in the body.
Chakra meditation includes all types of meditation that target blocked chakras. Therefore, it’s very important to be familiar with the Chakra System if you wish to try this technique.
During chakra meditation, you control the energy that flows through your chakras. Thus, clearing, cleansing, and balancing them.
Originating from Buddhist teachings, mindfulness meditation is about being fully present. This means that it can be practiced while doing any other activity. You simply pay attention to the thoughts going through your head, without getting involved in them. Every time you get distracted by a thought, you just observe it and let it pass without judgment.
Meditation is not necessarily about sitting still in silence. On a retreat, you can meditate while practicing yoga. Or while walking, hiking, and enjoying other nature-based activities.
In walking meditation, you let the movement of the body guide you, placing the attention on the soles of your feet and the sensations in your body.
Deeply rooted in Buddhist philosophy, Zen meditation is traditionally held in nature, sitting in the lotus position or with the legs crossed, channeling the attention inward.
Essentially, it consists of thinking about nothing. You remain still with your eyes semi-open and focus on keeping the mind from wandering. The purpose is to let thoughts, words, ideas, and images pass by without getting involved in them.
A form of Buddhist meditation, this technique is also known as loving-kindness meditation. The goal is to cultivate positive energy and kindness towards all beings, including yourself.
The practice starts by taking a few breaths, then directing love and kindness toward yourself and others by repeating positive phrases slowly and steadily, for example, “May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease.”
Prominent in Hindu and Buddhist traditions, mantra meditation uses a repetitive sound to clear the mind. Some people prefer this type of meditation because they find it easier to focus on a word instead of their breath.
A mantra is a word or phrase that is repeated during meditation, used to help you set intentions, boost awareness, and improve concentration. Mantras can be spoken, chanted, whispered, or repeated in the mind.
» READ MORE: 5 Meditation Styles Suitable For Beginners
Benefits of yoga & meditation
Image credit: Shakti Yoga
As alternative forms of exercise designed to keep the body and mind healthy and in good shape, yoga and meditation have similar science-backed benefits. By combining these two practices, you can only boost them.
To start with, they relieve stress and anxiety, fight depression, strengthen the immune system, improve sleep quality, as well as enhance attention and concentration.
Both yoga and meditation have positive effects on brainwave activity, by stimulating alpha and theta brainwaves and reducing the frequency of beta waves.
Beta waves are associated with conscious thought, focused attention, problem-solving, and social interaction. The chatter of our everyday consciousness is the voice of beta waves. But continuous functioning at beta can wear us down. Spending too much time in beta can lead to tension, stress, anxiety, insomnia, and nightmares.
Through yoga and meditation, we can balance the brain chemistry for a better mood. We are able to effectively process the information we take in during beta, leading to enhanced cognitive function.
Alpha waves are the voice of intuition and quietly flowing thoughts. When alpha waves prevail, we are calm, alert, and in the now. Theta waves are found in sleep and in deep meditation. They occur when our senses are withdrawn and are associated with deep relaxation, hypnosis, and visualization.
Regular yoga and meditation practice has been associated with an increase in the gray matter volume in the brain, which aids decision-making, reasoning, and self-control.
Furthermore, studies have shown that only eight weeks of regular meditation practice can shrink the amygdala. This is the brain’s “fight or flight” center, associated with fear and emotion, responsible for releasing stress hormones.
At the same time, the brain’s pre-frontal cortex thickens, leading to higher awareness, improved concentration, and better decision-making.
*Cover image credit: H20 Yoga and Meditation
Unable to travel and join an in-person retreat right now? Start a regular meditation practice or learn new techniques from the comfort of your home with the help of our online meditation courses.