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 “Suhkmani 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. Two 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. I practice it at least once 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 –

 

 

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.

Invitation-

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.

 

 

Decor-

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.

 

 

Music –

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.

Food –

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.

 

 

Cost-

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.

 

 

Me and my friends that I invited

 

 

 This post is part of CookBlogShare.

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18 Comments

  • comment-avatar
    Angie@Angie's Recipes April 18, 2017 (7:03 am)

    What a fun retreat! And you have such a lovely home.

  • comment-avatar
    Adina April 18, 2017 (7:29 am)

    Sounds great, judging by the faces I see, it seems that everybody enjoyed it. I did try yoga for a few months a few years ago, but I am not sure it is something for me. I did manage the phyisical part well, but I kept falling asleep when we were supposed to meditate. 🙂 No kidding! Two minutes into the meditating part and I was gone, and to think I have such difficulties to sleep when I go to sleep at night!

    • comment-avatar
      Balvinder April 18, 2017 (7:42 am)

      Haha, try doing in the morning when you are fully awake. I usually get distracted by thoughts of doing house work so i prefer putting some music on.

  • comment-avatar
    Juliana April 18, 2017 (10:16 am)

    Oh, what a great and fun event Balvinder…I took yoga classes years ago, and have not been back for a while…after seeing this post, I feel like I should restart yoga…thanks for the inspiration!
    Have a wonderful week 🙂

  • comment-avatar
    Monica April 18, 2017 (12:22 pm)

    Oh, you are awesome, Balvinder! What a fabulous, thoughtful event you put together for your friends. I did yoga while I was pregnant and have done some videos off and on. I enjoy how it stretches my muscles and relaxes me. Seriously – great job creating this retreat for your friends!

  • comment-avatar
    Shubha April 18, 2017 (12:30 pm)

    Looks like a super hit event. I had learnt yoga myself but nowadays just do teh surya namaskar. Loved everything about event from the decor to the food.. Btw you have a beautiful house:)

  • comment-avatar
    Tarnjit Hemer April 18, 2017 (5:51 pm)

    Dear Neetu
    What a beautiful experience! Thank you for this!
    Tarnjit

    • comment-avatar
      Balvinder April 18, 2017 (8:04 pm)

      Sweetheart, without you this event would not have been possible 🙂
      I am even more thankful.

  • comment-avatar
    Maria Nasir April 19, 2017 (12:20 am)

    Loved reading the whole article! Loved the pictures and videos! It was like I actually got to participate 😊
    Oh and thank you for the sweet mention 😊 Muah! 😘

    • comment-avatar
      Balvinder April 19, 2017 (7:07 am)

      Thank you darling! I am so glad you enjoyed reading the post and experiencing it with me!

  • comment-avatar
    Amila Wickramarachchi April 19, 2017 (2:04 am)

    This sounds really interesting.The tips shared are really helpful for anyone to plan a yoga retreat at home.Just by reading this post,I am really relaxed. 🙂

    • comment-avatar
      Balvinder April 19, 2017 (7:08 am)

      Hi Amila,
      That was the exact intention behind sharing this post with my readers.
      Thank you for stopping by!

  • comment-avatar
    marcie April 19, 2017 (7:52 am)

    I’ve only done yoga twice in my life and I know I need to do it regularly. It’s so important and I love this idea! It’s such a great thing to do with friends and the food and drinks look so healthy and delicious!

  • comment-avatar
    allie April 20, 2017 (4:30 am)

    Hi Balvinder – looks like a relaxing retreat with your friends! Your home is beautiful, light and airy. You did a great job, and the menu is tempting!

  • comment-avatar
    Abbe@This is How I Cook April 20, 2017 (3:47 pm)

    I think your friends will be asking to come back soon. What a treat!

  • comment-avatar
    Gina April 25, 2017 (4:23 pm)

    Hello Balvinder. The event was amazing!!! I feel so blessed to have attended. The ambience was so welcoming. The ladies were motivated and so friendly. The menu was perfect. You covered everything a hostess may need to know with so much detail. When reading, it does feel as though you are expedition at the same time. Thank you for sharing your talents !

    • comment-avatar
      Balvinder April 25, 2017 (4:59 pm)

      Aww ! Thank you so much for the lovely comment, Gina. I am happy everyone had a wonderful time and enjoyed yoga.

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