Yoga teacher Justin Robertshaw shares his nine benefits of a yoga retreat.
What is the right amount of time to invest in myself each day?
That is a question I have asked myself many times and previously I was never really sure how much time I needed and when I did try to invest more time in myself, working from nine to six, five days a week, I would just become more exhausted. It turns out it wasn’t necessarily about the amount of time, it was about the quality of that time.
I believe it’s been so much more beneficial when I stepped out of my normal daily routine and environment and allowed myself the best possibility to rejuvenate and re-focus my ”Self” it became so much more beneficial.
From my own experience and perspective, I have found that yoga retreats provide me with a real opportunity to reflect. They give me a cushion of time or internal space to review properly on how I am living, whether that is in line with what I actually want and how to make happen what is right for me. There are a number of factors within the retreat and retreat environment that have allowed me to help myself.
These elements have been invaluable in steering me towards making the right heart-felt decisions and inspire me to implement them practically going forwards.
By creating the time and space to practice yoga daily in peaceful surroundings, with encouraging and supportive teachers, daily meditation, good food and drinks and like-minded people, I give myself a considerably better chance to dive into a deeper and real quality period of time.
I have experienced my times at yoga retreats as rejuvenating, supportive, nurturing, refreshing and, no word of a lie, sometimes pivotal and life changing. It was whilst on a retreat that I started to plan a new way of life, practicing and passing on the things I love doing to others. During retreats, things came up that just had not been on my radar before or that I had maybe chosen to ignore. I was able to take a proper look at myself in the mirror and be honest about the aspects of my life I had previously known weren’t working for me, yet because I was “busy”, I had told myself they were okay and therefore swept them under the carpet.
The main question I answered for myself while on a retreats was why I was spending 70% of my life working in a job I did not enjoy. What did I really want to do with my life? And what was the balance between how much money I really needed to earn and how much I thought I needed based on peer pressure and what people around me were earning?
1. Deepening of my asana practice
On many occasions during retreats, I was finally able to master certain postures, deepen my back bends or simply able to find a better seat and be more quiet during meditation. The classes during a retreat have helped me steepen my learning curve significantly. Having a more concentrated period of time with a teacher, where both students and teacher do not have to rush off after class. has meant there is time to discuss specific aspects of my practice and how it might be related to daily life.
2. Making new friends and surrounding myself with like-minded people
I have found a yoga retreat brings together more like-minded people and from experience they tend to be more open and relaxed to share their journeys and to mine. Practicing yoga and meditation together for say Ten to Thirty days I’ve found creates a great foundation for new friendships to form and for existing ones maybe to deepen. Equally, it gives me time I might require to be alone and reflect. It is the best of both worlds!
3. Taking “real” time off
In the past, even when on holidays my phone’s continued to be a distraction. Switching off—(the phone included— also!!) can be really difficult. I have realised the importance to, every now and then, take a longer step out of all the media input I am exposing myself too.
On retreat, I have much better opportunities to have great conversations and discussions about the things that I love doing with like-minded people, which inspires me and helps me generate ideas that lead to new possibilities that weren’t previously on my horizon. After my last retreat, I started new collaborations with people for workshops and retreats. This manifested because I was on retreat myself.
4. Improving my health, (and learning more about Ayurveda!)
The topic of Ayurveda was first discussed and presented to me on a yoga retreat. Learning about my Ayurvedic Doshas, (Individual Biological constitution) and Gunas, (mental nature) has led me to more positive lifestyle choices, dietary decisions and so much more, empowered by valuable foundational knowledge.
5. Meditating – finding that stillness within me
Traditionally, yoga’s main purpose was to still the mind. While, in the past, meditating three or four times a week would already leave me feeling much calmer, a deeper immersion during retreats, away from the business of everyday life, helped me establish a more frequent daily meditation practice and a much better insight into the possibility of finding real inner stillness. I actually reached a point where I wanted to meditate.
6. Going deeper into the philosophy
Whilst improving asanas has been fun and rewarding, there is a lot more to yoga for me. With the assistance of an authentic and supportive teacher and with less time constraints, there is more opportunity to go further in understanding this art of living and applied eastern psychology. I find it useful to get out of the books and the intellectual level and make it more experiential.
7. Returning refreshed and properly renewed
Rather than coming back home feeling the need for another holiday, I have often felt more ready to step back into the world after a retreat, albeit not always in the same way as before. Who knows, a newly gained outlook and refreshed and inspired mind might even encourage people to change their career. It happened to me!
8. Letting go of fears and unlocking my true potential
In a safe environment supported by a sangha, a community of experienced teachers and like-minded people, it has been easier for me to let go a little. Post-retreats, I start to unlock my true potential and live life closer to how I really want to live my passions.
9. Travelling inside and out
With a yoga retreat set in beautiful, calm surroundings, it is not only about a taking a geographical, but also a deeper journey inside. Connecting with nature has helped me to adopt a more grounded state of mind. Nature has a way of setting people back in tune with the natural rhythm and the world around us.
It was during retreats that I had real time to think clearly about all these things and it has given “life” back to my life. I recommend you to try it at least once in your life.
About the author
Justin’s passions are Yoga, Ayurveda and Permaculture and his wish is to share the amazing benefits of these with other people. He truly believes that when yoga, Ayurveda and Permaculture are combined a fully holistic lifestyle can be achieved, helping us to become physically and mentally stronger and flexible, confident, patient, focused, aware and mindful, so that not only our lives are enhanced but those of others and the World around us. Following a successful career in the City of London he decided to move full time into teaching and facilitating his knowledge to others by interacting with like minded people in a more meaningful way. His goal is to empower and inspire people to lead and maintain a truly holistic life.
Join Andy Gill and Justin Robertshaw as they hold a 10 day Ashtanga Yoga and Ayurveda retreat in the lush and beautiful surroundings of Bhakti Kutir Eco Health and Resort centre.