A yoga retreat is a wonderful experience for your students to go deeper into their practice with the community.
One of the perks of being a yoga teacher is traveling to unique cities and landscapes to teach!
From a weekend retreat to a month-long excursion, a few essential items to check off your list will make your retreat planning experience much smoother.
Having hosted yoga retreats abroad for two decades, Clara shared what she’s learned from her experiences hosting yoga events worldwide on the Practice with Clara Podcast.
There are a lot of elements that go into planning a yoga retreat, including the event itself! This post will show you the nine fundamental ways to prepare and market your destination yoga retreat.
Table of Contents:
Set the Intention for the Experience.
A retreat is a perfect place to offer your students insight into the why and how of particular yoga poses and/or go into more depth on the philosophy of yoga.
You have the student’s undivided attention and ability to use the space for a longer duration than a studio class. For this reason, you may want to theme your retreat around a specific idea to narrow the focus of the experience.
You could also partner with someone from a complementary wellness background, such as Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, meditation, or anatomy.
When selecting your theme, choose something that YOU are passionate about.
Whatever lights you up will be felt by the retreat participants.
Everyone around you will be more motivated to participate if you are eager to share and dive into a particular pose or project.
Select the topic that excites you and trust that those interested will show up to continue exploring with you!
Explore peak yoga poses and esoteric themes—
Learning about the gross (physical) and the subtle (energetic) bodies during a retreat may introduce practitioners to an element of the yoga practice they were previously unaware of.
Take advantage of the space, time, and attention at your disposal and dig a little deeper into an area you’re invested in with your students.
Decide Who You Will Invite.
How you frame the experience will affect who is willing to invest in your yoga retreat.
Questions to ask yourself:
How many people do I want to host?
How many people do I need to break even?
What is the maximum/minimum capacity of the space I am renting?
Smaller Versus Larger Groups
There is a massive difference between a smaller retreat setting versus a larger group of people. As a practitioner, I prefer intimate retreat settings with no more than 20 people. I find it easier to connect in small groups. I’m more comfortable opening up and sharing my feelings and experiences when there are fewer individuals present.
How many people you bring to your retreat will also affect who decides to attend.
An intimate setting typically fosters comfort and security so that individuals feel safe to express how they feel during sharing circles.
Larger group settings are more dynamic due to the number of people and contribution to what is being created.
It depends on the environment you want to foster and uphold as the facilitator.
Promote Your Retreat.
There are several tactics to employ to promote your retreat and encourage sign-ups.
Exclusivity – with a small and select number of people you choose to extend an invitation to.
Inclusivity – with the entire community; in this case, you may not know who will show up.
Exclusivity is sharing the invitation to a smaller list of people who follow you on social media or subscribe to your newsletter.
If you host an intimate retreat, select small batches of individuals to invite first.
In this method, you can set up a waitlist and segment your community members based on interest. Exclusivity will help you keep your administrative tasks to a minimum and establish easy workflows for the next time you host an event.
Benefits of exclusivity:
Less promotion and marketing tasks.
Lessens the administrative duties with fewer people.
Incentivizes people to sign up for your newsletter and follow you on social media.
Scarcity is a selling tactic for exclusive events, as your community will not want to miss out on an opportunity to take advantage of your offering.
Inclusivity is presenting your retreat to everyone via social media, newsletter, word of mouth, and in studios.
To help you with promotion virtually and in person, you may want to reach out to the studios and spaces you teach.
In this method, you may consider setting up an ‘early bird’ rate for individuals who commit to the retreat early on. You could offer a reduced rate or other perks to those who sign up before a specified date.
Benefits of inclusivity:
Establishes relationships with studios and the spaces you teach.
Expands your network online and virtually.
Must-Haves on Your Promotional Content:
In each piece of content shared with your community about your retreat, you will want to include the date, location, and cost.
Present the nitty-gritty details somewhere people can easily see.
Where, when, and why are typically the first questions people ask before attending an event.
The other piece of information to address immediately is the cost. Give people the price of your retreat somewhere in the description. Present the information plainly. State whether or not tax is included and if there are additional fees.
Flights, specific activities, and foodstuffs are usually not included in the retreat cost. Address the price immediately so people can plan accordingly.
Marketing Materials Should Include:
What’s included/not included (such as flights or foodstuffs).
Features – the activities and main offering at your retreat.
Benefits – how you want people to feel.
Share the Benefits and Featured Activities.
Give as much information as possible about your retreat activities in all promotional content that appears.
List the features (what your guests will receive) and the benefits (why your guests will care) to incentivize people to sign up.
For example, the features of your retreat could be yoga every day, lodging and food, and additional activities such as hiking. The benefits of such a retreat could be escaping to nature, making new friends, learning advanced yoga asanas, and developing a mindfulness ritual.
Before you craft the copy for the features and benefits of your retreat, get clear on your objective (intent) and what value you want to provide your guests.
What will guests leave with?
What might they discover?
Who and what will they connect with?
How do I want participants to feel?
Your offering is yoga, though your guests will receive much more than a physical practice.
In a job interview, individuals are assessed based on their hard and soft skills. Hard skills are the tactile skills needed to complete the job. Soft skills are the interpersonal qualities that help people thrive. A hard skill is knowledge of yoga anatomy. Soft skill is the compassion and ability to make physiology accessible to students of all levels.
A yoga retreat includes both hard and soft skills. Participants sign up with an objective need or desire and will hopefully leave with a deeper comprehension of human consciousness and what is possible through yoga.
Retreats are a space to go inwards and create a space for deeper conversations, personal revelations, and intimate connections with others that are impossible in a yoga-studio setting. Communicate these benefits to guests, so they understand the value of what this experience offers.
Use Descriptive Language and Captivating Photography
Craft your promotional content with concise and inviting language. The clearer you are about what to expect, the more likely you will attract participants suited for the experience you’re shaping.
Do list the activities and a sample schedule. Don’t dress it up with ornate adjectives. Let the experience sell itself; you do not need to be a poet in your event description.
You want to clearly outline the retreat itinerary so that participants understand what’s involved. Misleading information will result in mishaps, confusion, and eventual letdown.
Perks of specific language:
Saves you time answering questions.
Guests know what to expect.
Attracts people suited for the retreat.
In the promotional content for your retreat, use captivating photography of the landscape, studio space, food, and other activities featured in the event.
Visuals are a wonderful way to communicate the features and benefits of your event.
One way to get beautiful photos of your retreat is to extend an invitation to a photographer/friend and swap services. In exchange for the retreat experience, you will receive a set of photos to share and promote the next event you do at the same place.
If you take photos of students throughout the retreat, you will want to get their consent before posting the photography online.
Establish the Terms of Your Cancellation Policy.
A cancellation policy holds people accountable for their commitment to the retreat. It will help you manage expectations and uphold the agreements you’ve made with vendors and other parties involved in the retreat.
Participants may not be aware of all that goes into planning a yoga retreat, and a cancellation policy ensures that everyone is clear on the cost and ability to request a refund.
What to include in a cancellation policy:
Exact time frame.
Let people know the exact timeline that they may request a refund. Give people exact dates so that they are empowered to choose if/when they want to cancel. If you have a waitlist for your retreat, you may have a more flexible cancellation policy.
Communicate the boundaries. You want to tell people what will occur if they cancel their reservation outside the timeline provided to receive a refund. You may provide a portion of the deposit back to the individual or allow participants to defer their payment to a different retreat should they have to cancel last minute.
Do not be ornate or verbose in the cancellation policy. State it plain and put it everywhere. You do not want to confuse people, nor do you want participants to misunderstand. The less confusion, the better you will be able to manage expectations.
Sample cancellation policy:
This is the Lila School of Vinyasa Yoga cancellation policy for the Art of Vinyasa Yoga Sequencing Teacher Training.
CANCELLATION POLICY for the Art of Vinyasa Yoga Sequencing:
- If you cancel 3 months before the training, only the deposit is forfeited.
- If you cancel 2 months prior to the training, half is forfeited.
- If you cancel within a month of the training, 75% is forfeited.
Manage Expectations and Be Clear in Your Communication.
As soon as your guests sign-up for the retreat, send a confirmation email outlining what people can expect daily.
This affirms their place (and that you received their payment). It provides each individual with the details per the agreement that may or may not be listed in the promotional material.
The confirmation email may include the information presented. Be repetitive. It is better to over-communicate the small details to avoid confusion.
What to include in a retreat confirmation email:
The time of day that you’re together on retreat and the time that you’re apart. Clara gives a lot of space on her retreats for guests to explore the area, pursue activities of interest, and have time alone to rest and reflect.
What is covered in the cost of the retreat, and what is not. Be clear and direct up-front about the deposit and whether or not it’s refundable, and include a breakdown of additional costs that may/may not arise. For example, state clearly if flights, taxis, shuttle, and other modes of transport are covered.
Depending on the destination, some meals are covered, and some are not. Communicate where and when guests are responsible for covering their meals and where they can find food off-site.
You’ll likely include several yoga classes on the retreat in the initial cost. You may want to include bonus classes, workshops, privates, or anything else that you may be certified in (Reiki, Thai massage, etc.) at an additional cost for clients to book with you or someone else.
Depending on the destination, you may offer time and resources to events in the area, such as snorkeling, guided tours, cooking classes, bike rentals, etc.
Explore the Location Beforehand.
Choose a location that you want to explore and/or you love. Clara chooses her retreat locations based on the areas she wants to visit.
Before you host your retreat, explore the area ahead of time (Clara usually goes to the location a few days beforehand) to understand better where you are and what’s close by for guests.
Useful resources to share with guests ahead of time may include a map of the area, potential transit and/or car rental, food/bars, shopping, nature hikes/swimming, and local airports and hospitals.
Prepare the Budget.
Give guests ample time, especially if you’re going out of the country, for people to accommodate and request the time off, get child-care, and/or save money.
Many retreat centers require a deposit to save the rooms and accommodation, which means you’ll be putting quite a bit of your money down up-front.
You may have to put a large deposit into your retreat to confirm the location before you’ve signed participants. This means you may or may not fill up the spaces and assume all risk of expenses.
Tips for the budget of your retreat:
Accept that you might not fill up all the spots and/or break even and that you may take a loss on your first few retreats in terms of making money.
Assume that your first few retreats will have low(er) registration and decide if you have a minimum number of participants to run your retreat. Clara’s rule is never to cancel your retreat, no matter what!
Anticipate hidden/unknown costs and have the money saved to manage such uncertainties, so you’re not surprised or burdened with unwanted debt.
One way to build momentum for your retreat is to host your excursion around the same time each year so your guests can count on the trip year after year.
Returning customers is ideal for keeping building community and momentum as you learn.
Co-Teach to Share the Responsibilities.
As the retreat facilitator, you are responsible for all the questions and conflicts that arise during the experience. There are always little details and issues that may or may not be accounted for.
It may serve to collaborate with a fellow yoga teacher who compliments your skills and can assist you in holding space for the guests.
Perks of collaboration:
Someone else to support you and the guests.
Another person to assist in resolving conflict and responding to questions.
Learn from each other’s strengths!
Promote each other to build a more diverse community.
Hold each other accountable!