I recently taught my third yoga retreat in Costa Rica at Blue Osa Eco-Resort and Spa, and I have to admit, leading retreats has gotten increasingly easier.
During the first retreat, I was on edge the entire time. “Are people happy? Am I doing everything right? Am I spending enough time with everyone? Does everyone feel included?” I felt I had to be “on” the whole time overseeing everything. By the third retreat, I realized I don’t need to be present every second.
During this last retreat twenty participants showed up with a disarming willingness to be present. We shared vulnerable parts of us, and we got to re-invent ourselves in a safe, welcoming environment. We also played tons of BananaGrams and colored Japanese postcards, among other things.
By the end of the retreat I felt a sense of relief and pure joy, mixed with sadness for being separated from a wonderful group. I did it! After all emotions had the appropriate time to sink in, I was left with these five realizations:
1. People And Experiences Are What Matters Most In Life
Without the participants, the retreat center loses its essence and remains just a beautiful, empty space. The connection is where the magic lies. In the same way, memories filled with emotion and interaction are a lot brighter than the ones reserved for objects. Meeting other people constantly inspires me to realize that in the end, we all are share similar stories and struggles.
2. People Want To Have Fun
It’s just as important to participate in mindful activities as it is to not take yourself too seriously. To let go of expectations. To not not care about how you look during barre class. Or what you sound like while chanting a mantra. Leaving time for spontaneity and irrationality is a must to understand that the very nature of life is often times unexplainably beautiful.
3. Sometimes You Gotta Be A Leader
I am not usually someone who wants to be in charge. However, teaching retreats has taught me to step in a leadership position. Quit the indecision and work up confidence and guts! People on a yoga retreat want to be lead and they need structure. They are trying to get away from constant problem solving and being in control. They can’t be bothered with logistics and big decisions, so learning to take charge of others in these situations is helpful.
4. You Can’t Control Everything
Even though I plan everything as precisely as possible before and during the retreat, unpredictable things happen. We had a guest leave within 24 hours because the jungle was too much. Several guests’s flights were delayed and their connection were missed. Not everything can go as planned, and we must stay open to facilitate, but also step back and let things unfold.
5. Community Can Be Formed Away From Home
Community is a subject close to my heart. All twenty of us arrived for a week of fun under the sun. And we all left feeling that we had new friends to enrich our lives. While community in the traditional sense is usually set in one place, we can find a unique type of community in several places around the world, and the connection is still going strong (thank you technology).
As the saying goes, teaching is a huge learning experience. Leading a yoga retreat is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about yourself, test your skills and yes, learn from your mistakes too.
Born and raised in Italy, Valentina is a full time yoga instructor who divides her time between Marin County, California and Matapalo, Costa Rica. When she isn’t hosting yoga retreats or blogging Valentina can be found trail running and baking quiche.