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How to Create a Successful Retreat
A flourishing international retreats industry mean great things for the integration of ancient knowledge with modern education. The potential we see in an industry currently at its height promises so much for the future of educational tourism and, most importantly, lifestyle transformation. For yoga teachers and educators in the wellbeing industry, retreats present a unique career opportunity and the chance to contribute to holistic education on a global scale.
The Art of Relationships
The success of a retreat depends entirely on relationships. As retreat organizer, you are the linchpin holding it all together, managing relations with staff at the venue, travel sales agents, marketing team and most importantly, your guests. Guests on retreat should never suffer distractions from the experience they are paying for; so you owe it to them to ensure a strong supportive network at the retreat center. This can be achieved by forming a good relationship with the owners of the venue, who should provide a strong ‘destination management team’ to support you.
Your responsibility when on retreat is to devote all your energy and attention to the process your guests are going through. You can’t afford the distraction of having to deal with smaller organizational issues once the retreat gets going. This is why the best retreat companies will give you a destination management team who can fulfil your every request as soon as it arises. This is especially the case when things go wrong – it can seriously upset the retreat atmosphere for the teacher to take complaints from guests. Use the venue to displace any problems guests encounter and keep your own profile solid within the group.
Experiencing Local Culture
Your good relationship with staff at the venue is vital to helping you connect with the local culture. Guests may have travelled halfway around the world to attend your retreat, and will greatly appreciate a sense of integration with their environment. Because retreat venues are usually some distance away from the local culture, it will be up to you to create a sense of rootedness in the destination, by bringing the local culture into the retreat. Keep an eye on the calendar and take advantage of any local festivals (if you are hosting your retreat in India, you will find out that rarely a month goes by without one!) Many venues are able to help with this, facilitating cultural events and local tours to supplement your schedule.
Education management
The best retreat provider thinks like an educator, while considering themselves no more than a fellow student. This means: clever planning, intuitive teaching and a sense of humility at all times.
Titling your Retreat
Acting as an educator means narrowing the focus of the retreat to specific ‘learning’ or ‘transformation outcomes’. When your aim is established it will be so much easier to plan and refine your course of teaching. The easiest way to achieve this is to give your retreat a title and plan with this in mind. Good titling lets you focus your mind on teaching aims, and tells your guests exactly what to expect from their experience.
Lesson Planning and Intuitive Teaching
Good teaching is rooted in clever planning, and the timely delivery of lessons. It is an intuitive art to know when your students are ready for particular lessons and practices, and when to deliver them. Solid planning is the best way to free up all your energy to maintain your insight into what the group needs at every step of the way. Planning doesn’t mean that anything is set in stone; it is flexibility and intuition that makes a retreat successful, and planning simply facilitates these.
The Essence of Good Teaching
Humility is the chief virtue of anyone on the spiritual path, and more essential for a teacher than anyone. The title of Yoga Teacher is one to be taken very seriously, while always remembering that we are all at different levels of student-ship. When acting as a guide to others, it is essential to transmit the knowledge you have gained so far with full openness and sincerity. Ideally, you should create a shared platform with your guests, from which you can conduct an open discussion about future directions. Establishing a collaborative retreat style will put down the roots for a life-long community; sure to return to you every year and continue the work you’ve embarked upon together.
The Sharing of Ancient Knowledge
These days, there is too much of an obsession with intellectual property in the Yoga business. We are at a difficult stage where some teachers (or businessmen) are able to copyright sequences of yoga postures originating in thousand year old scripture. This kind of protectiveness over knowledge is understandable in a modern industrial context, but has no place in yoga or holistic health. Such an act of possessiveness goes against the very ethic we proclaim, that of non-attachment (aparigraha – one of the yama of Yoga’s ethical precepts and representing the key to Patanjali’s philosophy).

A good Yoga Teacher empowers their students with everything they need for independent study and practice. This may take the form of explanatory lectures and future reading lists, the tools to create their own home practice, or recommendations of colleagues and suitable complementary practices. Make time in your retreat to spend time with each guest individually, and give whatever personalized guidance you can.
The Benefits of Organizing a Retreat
Retreat organizers can earn very well in the retreat market, though it should not be seen as an easy job – running a retreat requires dedicated attention to your students’ needs for ten days or more. From a career point of view it is the best way of proving your ability, and enhancing your voice as an authority in the field of Yoga or holistic healing. When a retreat goes well, it can easily be established on a yearly basis, so can form an important part of your future career and international community.
Retreat organization opens the possibility of creating close partnerships with colleagues, joining together on retreat projects in order to create a unique product. First-time retreat organizers may find it easier to join forces with a trusted friend or fellow teacher, and this approach has great benefits for the students too – strengthening their support network and giving them a variety of teaching styles.
Career benefits aside, the retreat experience is an incredible opportunity for an educator. With time and space to do intensive work, you will go more deeply into your teaching than ever before and uncover skills you never even knew you had! The feeling of creating a network of supportive relationships and making positive change to the lives of so many people may turn out to be the best experience of your life.

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