Hosting a Yoga Retreat – Here’s how you can do one too!
Last year a circle of my girlfriends decided to meet monthly to recite “Sukhmani Sahib” at each other’s house. Sukhmani Sahib is a Sikh prayer written in poetry format. Its purpose is to eliminate all negativity while bringing peace and joy to the one who reads, understands, and practices it. Generally speaking, these meetups were just a way of getting together, reciting for one hour, and then chatting over lunch. It wasn’t mandatory to host but when everyone does something in a group it kind of becomes obligatory to follow. One by one each of my friends held a “Sukhmani Sahib Paath” at their home and when it was my turn, somehow it kept getting delayed. Months passed and no one else was left to host afterwards. I felt bad and thought I had do something to bring us all together. Something different that I had put my heart into. So eventually, when the opportunity arose, I did. Few months ago, I started practicing yoga with a friend and enjoyed learning from her. I realized she has full confidence in her yoga knowledge and has the perfect voice for a yoga teacher. That’s when it hit me to host a yoga and meditation retreat.
Yoga is something I’ve always loved from my teen years. It is a relaxing and rewarding practice that energizes the mind and body. It is an art and science for healthy living. I practice it at least twice a week to slow down from all the hustle and bustle of everyday life so I thought it would be the perfect event. I shared this idea with my friend and asked her if she could be the instructor. She felt very honored and agreed. She thought it was excellent to conduct a get-together like this for emotional health and fun at the same time. Till that time I had no clue how I would do all this. I was confused on whether to host at home or rent space, but in my mind I was determined to make it happen.
So, I sent WhatsApp invitations to my friends two weeks in advance. On the day of the retreat the sun was shining bright and poured through the window shades. We did an hour of yoga and deep meditation (10 min in the beginning of yoga and 10 before shavasana), followed by a vegetarian meal. As I wanted to make this retreat really special, I created a menu with some of my favorite recipes. I cooked everything myself the day before. I was so busy cooking and rearranging the house, I really had no time for photography, but I did manage to snap photographs of the food presentation.
The menu was as follows –
- Beetroot lemonade
- Mint lemonade
- Oat and peanut butter energy balls
- Chickpea flour cookies
- Gram flour cakes with tomato curry and masala sweet green peas (recipe for gram flour cakes and masala peas will be posted very soon)
- Roasted potatoes
- Sprouted Red Lentil and Quinoa Tabbouleh
- Pesto Pasta
- Sweet Saffron rice
The atmosphere was very relaxed. Everyone chatted, laughed and shared stories while enjoying tea.
When I was going through the process of planning and organizing the yoga retreat I thought I should devote a blog post to it in the hope of helping anyone who wants to plan a yoga retreat for their friends.
The following points will make your home look, sound, and smell like a Zen temple.
Essentials for planning Yoga Retreat at home
Plan according to Space –
How many people you want to invite will depend on how much space you have available. It may only be for three people, or maybe you can fit in 8 people or more. Setting up a designated area for doing yoga is important. A good rule of thumb is that you need 18 square feet of optimal space for each yoga person. If you decide to do seated position yoga or meditation you can accommodate more people in less space. So take a look around the house to see which area is suitable for yoga. You can easily create a makeshift yoga space inside the house by moving the furniture for a day. This is what I did. I moved sofas and other unnecessary items from the foyer and living room to make ample floor space for 11 invitees. If you have a big garden and the weather is good you can also do yoga outside.
Send the invites at least two weeks before the event. The invitations should include:
The date and time of the event
Your address and phone number
A list of what every person should bring such as yoga mat or towel.
Creating the environment –
It is important that whatever venue the yoga is held in, it should be free of distraction. If it is outside, create a yoga space near flowers or vegetation to become more connected to nature and breathe in the fresh air. It will make the body and mind feel fresher and healthier.
If indoors and the weather is nice, open up your windows to let fresh air through. If the outside air is warmer than the air inside it is best to switch on a fan on lower mode to ensure good air circulation. If it’s too chilly, open your blinds to let the natural light in. Working out can get you heated up pretty quickly, so lower the temperature on thermostat to keep things comfortable. Burn incense, scented candles, or an aromatherapy diffuser to set the mood. You can also create a custom scent/spray used specifically for yoga. Make sure no one is allergic to any scent. It’s good to choose candles and oils that are made from natural ingredients as we will be inhaling them into our bodies. I really like the ultrasonic essential oil diffuser as it delivers aromas to a larger area. Essential oils are expensive but they have therapeutic properties. Fragrance oils are good too. I often use them to eliminate cooking smells. They are pleasant and inexpensive but I wouldn’t recommend them for meditation or yoga as they are artificially-created fragrances and may contain artificial substances.
Yoga is also about relaxation. Hence, keep the area as simple as possible. We do not want our attention to shift away from ourselves to the expensive decoration pieces or the paintings on the walls. My two cents is to bring the outdoors in. I am obsessed with plants and I can’t imagine living in a plant less house. Looking at them simply soothes my soul. When we were building our house I specifically asked the painter to hand paint the entryway feature wall with bamboos to give a serene effect, not only for us but for all those who visit our house. Plants provide a pleasant backdrop and remind you of nature. If you do not have plants put up a big forest poster on the wall. I hosted my yoga retreat in the month of April. Unfortunately at this time I didn’t have any plants growing outside. However, I brought life to the room with whatever I already had in the house and it looked pretty good.
Other things that can be used to create a perfect Zen-like tone are candles, a Buddha structure, driftwood pieces, rocks and sea shells. Be careful not to place candles or burners near anywhere that can catch fire easily. In addition, do not place them too close to the mat as you will not want to knock them over. If the space allows, throw some cushions to make the area look cozier.
For the outdoors, you can hang a couple of bamboo wind chimes.
The use of music during yoga practice is a personal preference. For me it’s a must. It helps banish our wandering thoughts and increases concentration as the mind is focused on the body movement and music. Choose whatever music you like to fit the style of yoga you are doing. Keep the volume of the music at a level that does not disturb the mind, and so that the teacher’s instructions are easily heard. For meditation pick whatever mantra, a word or a phrase you want to chant. We did the “Waheguru jaap”.
If the yoga is outdoors, no music is necessary as the natural surroundings, fresh air, sunshine, and sound of birds chirping will allow you to be in the moment.
You wouldn’t want any of your friends to be hungry so prepare nutritious, wholesome food or get it ordered. Keep the menu simple and go buffet style. Check with your guests if they have any food allergies.
Thank you Gift –
It’s nice to send some goodies home with guests to show your appreciation for their time and consideration. But don’t feel pressurized to spend loads. If you’re crafty, you might opt to make favors with your own personalized labels that reflect the concept of your event. I made “essential oil yoga mat cleaners” and “date nut and seed bars“. The recipe for bars is on my blog and the yoga mat cleaner is as follows:-
3 parts boiled water
1 part pure white vinegar
Few drops of essential oil ( I used 9 of lavender and 9 of lemon grass in 100ml)
You can decrease and increase the amount of oils to make your ideal scent. Shake the bottle before each use.
Gatherings are memorable moments and I prefer to organize in a fun way rather than thinking of the expense. You can have a great yoga experience without spending much, but it all depends on how much you already have in the house, like plants, candles, mood setting device etc. If you are hiring an instructor you might explore the option of having it from your gym to conduct a yoga lesson. Of course, you can always ask your friends if they would like to split the cost of the instructor. Or ask a friend to lead the yoga session. If you are planning to give thank you gifts, It’s nice to make them yourself. However, if you kept a small budget for gifts then fragrant candles or tea are perfect without spending much. Also, you can shop at the dollar store for inexpensive gift bags, stuffing paper and spray bottles, (as in my instance).
For music use YouTube yoga music. There are so many good ones.
It doesn’t take a lot to host a yoga or mediation experience. You just need to be willing to put some planning and effort so that guests can remember the retreat for weeks after. If you have anything to add that you have found out, tell me about it in the comments below.
I want to thank my friends Maria Nasir, Shamsa A, and Priya Sharma for helping me think of Decor and Food Ideas. And, my heartfelt thanks to my dear friend Taran who agreed to lead the yoga and meditation session at my home.
This post is part of CookBlogShare.