You don’t have to spend a lot of money, or travel to an exotic location, to experience a yoga retreat. In fact, you can create a yoga intensive that’s beautiful, transformational, and costs little more than your time in your own home. Given our current predicament with the Covid-19 pandemic, this option may feel especially appealing right now. But really, a home yoga retreat offers a practical alternative to a yoga getaway anytime. Especially if the expense and/or time involved in a destination retreat presents a significant obstacle for you.
In today’s post, I’m sharing a flexible formula you can use to design a home yoga retreat that:
- immerses you in the yogic lifestyle
- catalyzes big inner shifts
- and makes you feel like you’ve experienced a special treat.
But before we dive into it, let’s look at some of the unique benefits a home-based yoga retreat can offer you.
Benefits of a Home Yoga Retreat
I’ve already mentioned the obvious advantages of a home yoga retreat. Namely, that it’s inexpensive and doesn’t require travel. This means, you can give yourself this gift just about anytime you want. There’s no need to take a chunk of time off from work. No need to make travel arrangements or deal with any travel stress whatsoever. All you have to do is set aside a weekend (or more) of uninterrupted you-time and dive in!
For those of you who have small children, this convenience may hold extra value. After all, it’s much easier to ask someone to watch your youngsters for a weekend than for a week (or longer). And if needed, you can even plan a yoga retreat while your children stay at home, assuming you have a supportive partner who can tend to them.
But beyond convenience, a home yoga retreat offers another important benefit. It facilitates growth in the context of your ordinary, daily life.
The Home in “Home Yoga Retreat” Matters
One of the things that makes a yoga retreat so alluring in the first place is the idea of going off to some exotic location to find ourselves. The external journey mirrors and enhances the internal one. We’re on a quest. The whole process of getting to a new place and immersing ourselves in the unfamiliar can shake us out of our norms and customs. And this can encourage seeing everything – including ourselves – in fresh, new light. Big, transformative moments can happen under such circumstances.
However, as I discussed in my previous post on Integrating Spiritual Awakening Experiences, it can be challenging to translate such extraordinary events into the mundane realities of our daily life. As the high of our grand yogic adventure wears off, we have to find a way to incorporate our new insights and profound shifts into what can seem – by comparison – a rather ordinary existence. One that’s marked by daily stressors and responsibilities. And requires us to interact with other people (many of whom aren’t on the yogic path), as we make space for their temperaments and needs alongside our own. Of course, it can be done, if we’re intentional about it. But this is what can make your own home a powerful setting for your yoga retreat.
Your Home Becomes Your Ashram
An intensive, immersive practice in your home can do two things. First, it can transform the way you view your home, turning it into a sacred space you get to enjoy day after day – long after your retreat has ended. This makes this takeaway better than a travel memory or photograph. It’s a real, lived experience that stays with you for as long as you want it to.
But more importantly, you’ll likely find it much easier to integrate the growth and insights you gain into the daily routine of your life. That’s because your transformative experience has happened within the context of your home environment. There’s no distance of space or time you need to cross when your retreat comes to a close. No sense that whatever you’ve gained is somehow tied to a foreign or special setting. There’s just an easing back into the flow of your life. Only now, your surroundings serve as a regular reminder of your experience. You never really leave the ashram (place of spiritual retreat). You just seamlessly add your familiar roles and responsibilities back into the picture – applying what you’ve learned to them, and allowing them to become part of your practice too.
In other words, when your home sets the stage for your inner journey and dedicated practice, the retreat – in essence – never has to end.
How To Prepare For Your Home Yoga Retreat
To prepare for your home yoga retreat, the first thing you need to do is decide how many days you want to dedicate to it. Then, make any arrangements necessary to clear your schedule and ensure you have access to quiet space for that length of time. Ideally, you’ll want to be alone, so you can more easily focus on your practices. However, if this isn’t possible, come up with a plan for how you can give yourself solitude while others remain in the house.
If your partner and/or children will be home, establish some guidelines with your partner ahead of time. Which parts of your home will you be using? Under what circumstances is it okay for you to be disturbed? In the case of children, how will your alone-time be explained to them? While this planning creates a boundary around your you-time, it’s a good idea to prepare yourself for the likely reality you’ll be interrupted and/or distracted by the presence of others in the house at some point in your retreat. Set the intention to allow these disruptions to be incorporated into your practice, as opposed to seeing them as roadblocks.
Remember, a yoga immersion isn’t merely a vacation. It’s a deep-dive into yoga practices designed to help you see and know yourself more clearly. And to learn to respond to life with greater skill and wisdom. No matter where you are, discomforts, annoyances, and unexpected circumstances are bound to arise. You wouldn’t have escaped them if you’d gone to some sanctuary in Bali either. They just would’ve taken a different form. And that’s a good thing. Because when we’re actively seeking clarity, growth and wisdom, these disruptions can serve as our greatest teachers.
What You’ll Need for Your Home Yoga Retreat
What you’ll need for your home yoga retreat will depend on your preferences. But here’s a list of some key items you’ll want to have available:
- Yoga Mat
- Meditation Cushion
- Yoga props (blocks, straps, bolsters, blankets)
- Mala (if you’re practicing Japa)
- Sacred texts or other spiritual books
The yoga lifestyle recommends a vegetarian diet. (Here’s why). So if you want the full yoga-immersion experience, you’ll want to plan to have vegetarian food available for your meals. You can prepare them in advance if you like. Or, incorporate mindful cooking as part of your retreat’s sadhana (spiritual practices). Make sure to have some herbal teas you enjoy on hand too. And for an extra-special treat, prepare some fruit-infused water.
Lastly, you’ll need a massage oil (Jojoba, or Dosha-specific) for the Ayurvedic self-massage practice I’m suggesting. (More on this in a bit.)
Creating Sacred Space in Your Home for a Yoga Retreat
I believe what makes space sacred usually isn’t the geographical location itself. Nor is it the physical structure or any props we may gather there. Instead, it’s our intention for observing and revering the Sacred (however we may define it) that invites and imbues sanctity within a given space. Those places where many people converge to express and share such intentions become saturated with this energy, until the place itself comes to naturally emit it.
Having said that, I’m not suggesting we can fully replicate an ashram in our home. But, we can infuse our home with our desire to connect with that which is sacred in a more intentional way. And when we do this, the subtle energy of the space noticeably shifts.
How Do We Do This?
We can do this first by observing saucha (one of the Niyamas) in our environment. Saucha means cleanliness. And while it mostly refers to purity of our body, mind, and speech, applying it to our environment supports these inner goals. When we dwell in a clean, uncluttered space, we’re less distracted. The external experience of spaciousness and orderliness reinforces our internal intentions for these states of being.
Therefore, in preparation for your yoga retreat, clean and organize your home. Or at the very least, tend to the room in which you’ll be spending the bulk of your time. Once it’s tidied, you can burn a smudge stick to cleanse the air. Maybe even open the windows for a time to cycle-in fresh air.
Second, in the room you’ll be using for your yoga practices, arrange some items that have spiritual meaning for you in an intentional way. I use a variety of crystals, artwork, candles, my tuning bowl, incense and a himilayan salt lamp to set the tone in my yoga room. For me, these objects serve as an external representation of my inner desire to connect with the Divine. They’re not ordinary, but rather quite significant. And having them in the room signifies the purpose for which I’m using the room, just like a table does in a dining room or a TV does in the entertainment room.
Third, at the start of your retreat, light some incense in the room. (I prefer Chandan, or sandalwood, but you can use whichever scent resonates best with you.) Incense has been used for millennia in many religions and cultures to create sacred space and help us tune-in for spiritual practices. As the incense is burning, set an intention for your retreat. Ask for divine guidance to assist you with clarity, purification, and wisdom.
Practices to Incorporate in Your Home Yoga Retreat
With your space and supplies prepared, it’s time to focus on the content of your home yoga retreat. You might be wondering what you’ll do with all this time you’ve set aside. Especially without a program to follow or teachers to guide you. In this section, I’m offering suggestions for practices you can use to support, enhance, and deepen your yoga journey. And because this is your journey, you’re free to select any or all of these practices, as well as add in others you feel are important to your goal of Self-Realization.
Early Rise for the Sattvic Hour
Waking before the sun rises is a highly recommended observance. The early morning hours between 4 and 6 am (a.k.a. the sattvic hour) are considered to be the most auspicious time of day for meditation and other spiritual practices. I’ve written a detailed post about this previously, which you can read here if you want to learn more. But essentially, this time when the sleepy stillness of night is transitioning into the wakeful busyness of day is energetically aligned with our spiritual nature. We’re awake, but in a softer way. And so is all of nature.
You can use this time for an invigorating asana practice to help wake your body-mind-spirit. Then follow with an extended meditation practice.
Because this is a yoga retreat, you’ll obviously want to practice your asanas. An energizing flow in the morning and a gentler practice in the evening provides a good balance. You may have asana sequences you’re already familiar with and love, and if so, use them! Or, if you want inspiration and/or instruction, find some classes online. You can also use my favorite gentle yoga flow and/or my restorative yoga sequence if you like.
If you’ve been working toward mastering some challenging postures, take some time to practice them too. Just keep in mind, you don’t want to injure yourself. It’s not a good idea to push yourself to try something you haven’t received instruction on or you’re not fully prepared to advance to.
Remember, the goal of asana practice is to establish and maintain health and balance in your body and mind, not to perform physical feats for the sake of accomplishment. Your home yoga retreat is a perfect opportunity to develop deep listening to your body and to learn how to honor its innate wisdom.
After asana practice and before meditation, work with pranayama techniques. Controlling your breath helps steady your body and mind for deeper states of concentration. You can use breath practices you’re already familiar with and/or try some new ones. (This article offers guidance on some of the main techniques.) At night, use alternate-nostril or left-nostril breathing to prepare your body and mind for sleep.
During the ordinary routine of life, most of us set aside relatively brief amounts of time for meditation. This maintains wellness in our body-mind-spirit and helps us stay in touch with our true self. But big transformations and profound shifts in understanding often come from prolonged meditation. A home yoga retreat offers plenty of time to dive deeper and stay with your meditation practice for longer (and more) sittings.
Consider including a morning, midday, and evening meditation session. You can use different meditation techniques for each session if you like. For example, japa in the morning, walking meditation after noon, and vippasana or mindfulness in the evening. (Learn more about meditation here.)
Adding Karma Yoga To Your Home Yoga Retreat
When you go to a yoga retreat at an ashram, oftentimes you’re asked to contribute to the collective good of the community by doing chores, such as cooking, cleaning, etc. This is Karma Yoga – the spiritual practice of serving others through action. And there are several ways this benefits your yoga journey. First, it helps you feel connected to, and part of, the spiritual community (sangha). Secondly, service supports a deepening love for, and recognition of, the Divine as expressed within others. Additionally, offering your work with an attitude of selfless service gradually purifies attachment to desired outcomes and selfish motives.
Finally, the work itself can become a tool for mindfulness training. As you complete your tasks with mindful awareness, you notice your inner dialogue. You can witness the types of attachments and resistances that tend to arise when you’re doing something that’s not inherently pleasurable. It’s an opportunity to practice the skill of watching such inner activity arise and fall away, without judging or acting upon it.
You can incorporate Karma Yoga by reserving some chores to complete during your home yoga retreat. For example, doing laundry, organizing a closet, or sweeping the patio. Maybe even working in the garden. To include the element of service, consciously dedicate your work to the good of your family members who may benefit from it, or to the purification process you’re undertaking. You can also set aside time to devote to charitable work outside your home.
Self-Study For Your Yoga Retreat
Svadhyaya, or self-study, is one of the Niyamas and an important element for your home yoga retreat. It includes external study of sacred texts and books of wisdom, as well as internal reflection that helps you come to know yourself more deeply and see yourself more clearly. Select a book (or two if you want) and spend a couple of hours each day reading.
You can choose a traditional yoga text, such as The Baghavad Gita or The Yoga Sutras, or other scriptures, such as The Bible, The Koran, the Buddhist Sutras, etc. Any book that can assist your spiritual journey – through teachings on philosophy, wisdom, or spiritual practices – is also suitable. (There are many such books I love and have learned invaluable lessons from. But one in particular comes to mind now – Beyond Words by Swami Satchidanda. If you’re not sure which book to choose, I highly recommend it.)
Dedicate some time to self-reflection as well. Writing in a journal can facilitate this process, especially as you contemplate what you’ve read and what you’ve noticed come up for you during your other practices. Sitting in mindfulness as you observe what’s happening in your body, heart, mind, and spirit is another effective way to study yourself.
Spend Time In Nature
While opting for a home yoga retreat means you’ve foregone the allure of an exotic location, you can take a mini-excursion to a nature preserve in your area. Communing with nature is a sublime way to contemplate the Divine and the interconnected nature of all creation. You can go for a swim or a hike. You can walk through a garden and find a quiet spot to meditate. Or lay out in a field of grass to watch the sun slip below the horizon. All that matters is you bring the intention of your yoga retreat with you, and invite nature to take part in it.
Mindful eating turns the act of eating into a meditative self-care ritual. It means holding mindful awareness of your present moment experience as you prepare and eat your food and as you wash and put away your dishes. You notice all your senses – what you taste, smell, hear, see, and feel – and chew your food slowly and completely. It also means fully acknowledging your food – its source, the life energy it contains, and its interconnectedness to the sun, rain, soil, and even the people who worked to make it available to you.
During your home yoga retreat, observe this practice during all your meals. Offer gratitude for the life energy you’re receiving, blessing it with the intention to use that energy for good.
Pratyahara – The Retreat Within
Pratyahara is one of the 8 limbs of yoga. It means sensory withdrawal. This is something we do during meditation, as we fold awareness deeply inward. But it’s also the practice of withdrawing our attention from external affairs, so we can focus on inner refinement and self-observation. You’ve dedicated this time to your goal of self-exploration and self-realization. External distractions can interfere with this process.
To preserve your intentions during your home yoga retreat, abstain from watching television, getting on the Internet or social media, and using your phone. If you feel the need to, let others know you’ll be unavailable during this time. When thoughts about external affairs come to mind, redirect your attention to your present endeavor. You can tell yourself, I spend so much of my life thinking about those things. It’ll all be there for me to take up again after my retreat. For now, I’m going to focus on this important self-work.
Ayurveda – yoga’s sister science – offers a beautiful, self-loving ritual called abhyanga, or self-massage. Not only is it a wonderful way to nurture yourself, but it provides a number of important health benefits. Some of these include:
- Calming the nervous system
- Increasing circulation
- Aiding in sleep
- Lubricating the joints
There’s a specific way to perform this ritual that details what kind of oil to use, the order in which you should progress through your different body parts, and the types of massage strokes to use for them. It’s not difficult, and it’s incredibly soothing. You can learn how to do it here. Give yourself this treat each night of your home yoga retreat.
Other Options For Your Home Yoga Retreat
The above suggestions can create a well-rounded home yoga retreat rich with self-growth. However, if you want to add more, you might consider any of the following options if they’re available in your community:
- Visiting a spiritual center, such as a church, cathedral, meditation garden, labyrinth, etc.
- Partaking in a local group meditation or yoga class
- Participating in an online communal meditation (an exception to the withdrawal from Internet use)
- Doing a Sensory Deprivation (or Float) tank session (Practice meditation in an environment with no sensory stimulation)
Giving yourself the gift of a home yoga retreat is an act of self-love and self-care. And its intensive, extended focus can catapult your yoga practice to new levels in a short amount of time. While it can’t replicate the typical yoga retreat’s offerings of skilled instruction and spiritual community, it facilitates total immersion in inward reflection. Yoga is, after all, an inner journey. A solo retreat supports this process in powerful ways.
I hope this article serves your yoga journey in some way. May you be blessed abundantly.