Thinking about going on a yoga retreat by yourself by not sure what to expect? I went on my first ‘solo’ yoga retreat last year and it was possibly one of the most wonderful experiences. I came away with new friends, a deeper yoga practice and wonderful memories.
What to expect:
Expect lots of yoga! Generally the mornings start between about 7.30am or 8am with a 2 hour dynamic practice. This is followed by a hefty breakfast. Afternoons can be a mix of free time, yoga workshops, massages/treatments, or activities depending on the retreat... there are snacks too! Your time is always your own and everything is optional. It’s about listening to your body. There is then usually a 90 minute Yin yoga practice followed by dinner.
I’ll admit, I was a little nervous about going by myself. Having been on one retreat before (Ibiza) with a friend this was my first leap into the unknown territory of going on a group retreat… where I didn’t know anyone. On my first retreat there was a real mix of people from solo travelers to friends to couples. It made me realise that I COULD do a retreat by myself. My main issue was the unknown – would I connect with the other people? Would people be friendly? I quickly realised how open people are in these situations and there’s always someone to chat to. Of course, it’s a totally personal experience and some people choose to go on retreats to be by themselves and take stock, have downtime by themselves. However, if (like me), you look to make new connections and friends then it is reassuring that this happens! I have now been on three yoga retreats (two solo) and am always in awe of how lovely and friendly the people are. I have always left with new friends that I still see months later.
When I think of retreats I generally think of warm sunny weather, swimming pools and yoga on the beach. Going to France in November was as far removed from this as possible. It completely changed my perception of what a retreat can be. While there was no lounging by a pool and feeling sand between my toes, it was a magical experience that left me feeling happier, calmer and much more content.
It was the start of October and while scrolling through Instagram I spotted a post by Chaya Retreats about yoga retreats. I originally was looking into a Goa retreat but as soon as I went onto their website I noticed that there was a winter retreat happening the next month in France, with yoga being led by Annie Clarke (Mind Body Bowl). They spoke about cosy fires, nourishing food, countryside walks and lovely yoga with the theme of kindness and looking after your body. I hadn’t really thought about a winter retreat as I had assumed most took place in faraway lands (like Bali) and I just didn’t have enough annual leave yet to do this. It felt like fate seeing this French retreat at a time when I really wanted a week away from London. I emailed Lucy (Chaya Retreats) and she was so warm and friendly, answering all my questions and immediately I felt like this was a person I would feel comfortable with for a week. I could tell instantly how much she cared about this retreat and the happiness of those attending.
Our home for the week was in Toulouse, in the beautiful countryside. Upon arrival we got the most AMAZING chilli hot chocolate and hung out by the fire before doing a little yoga practice – much needed after a flight! It was great to see the stars at night and take in the country air. The food for the week was out of this world – I have never eaten such amazing food and came away with so many ideas for recipes to cook at home. Lucy also hosted a raw food workshop where we made vegan mayo and sushi.
The evening yin and meditation by candlelight was really special – we worked on guided meditation and learning to find a comfortable sit. I sometimes struggle to quieten my mind so this was a real focus for me. Annie is such a wonderful teacher andwas so open and warm throughout the retreat. Always there to answer questions on poses, host workshops and chat.
I brought a few books with me to read… but ended up hanging out and having such great chats with the other retreaters that I didn’t end up reading! We went for lovely walks in the countryside, attempted (and failed!) to tell a farmer that we liked his chickens in French, jumped on trampolines and got very playful having games of Sardines and doing jigsaw puzzles by the fire!
We were so well looked after by Lucy, Laura (our lovely chef), Filly, Nicola (inspiration breathing coach and therapist), Annie and Will.
Levels of yoga:
On every retreat I have been to, there has been a real diverse range of yoga experience from complete beginners to yoga teachers! I went on my first retreat after having a solid yoga practice of around 6 months. Most retreats are open level but if you have any worries ask the organiser to put your mind at ease. On our yoga retreat in France, one of the guys was a complete beginner and absolutely loved it – he even wrote a review HERE
- Bring reading material, colouring books, journals etc. – you’ll have plenty of downtime to read, draw, write etc. I love having a pen and notebook with me to write down any nuggets of insight, new recipes, yoga quotes and anything that inspires me.
- Don’t over pack with clothes – realistically I spent all my time in yogawear and casual clothes. Depending on where you’re going and the time of year – I’d recommend just bringing two non-yoga outfits (when I went to Ibiza we had one evening out where we dressed up).
- Pack earplugs & an eyemask for night-time, especially if you’re sharing a room
- I’d recommend bringing a camera to document your time as opposed to using your phone for pictures. I loved being able to switch off from social media/the world. When I use my phone as a camera I inevitably end up checking emails etc.
- For peace of mind, I always pack a few energy balls. Depending on the retreat set up, meal times may be different to what you’re used to.
- Bring trainers or good walking shoes – it’s always great to explore new surroundings and be able to walk for miles in comfortable footwear!
- I like to bring something to make the room more personal – be it a candle, some crystals (I sleep with a rose quartz under my pillow) or just a little blanket that smells like home!
I’ve already booked my next retreat which will be to Bali in October. It’s my 30th birthday present to myself! I booked with Chaya again (yoga by Steffy White) and am beyond excited. I’ve never been further afield than America so knowing how amazing Chaya retreats are makes me feel much less nervous about travelling so far (plus such a long flight!) by myself!
Here’s some pictures from France (a mixture of mine, Chaya’s and Will’s). Enjoy!