Stay Curious: Retreat Planning for Yoga Teachers

stay-curious-retreat-planning-for-yoga-teachers

Social distancing has provided many opportunities for us to get creative and curious about the ways we might stay connected and embrace community. It was one woman from the West End who initiated the nightly clapping at 7pm in support of Vancouver’s Health Care Workers, an event that’s since amassed with folks across the city who gather each night and light up the streets and seawall with their collective music and cheers. Curiosity insists upon a story of inspiration through a path less travelled and events born of the courage, consideration, and sheer determination to move forward despite obstacles along the way. 

As one of millions who lost employment and connection to community with the turn of events in March due to CO-VID, Clara and I came together to create the #PracticeWithClara Podcast, a space to share yoga related content with our community. With no clear direction or end in sight, the ways in which we come together has and will continue to dramatically shift, causing entrepreneurs, community builders, and creatives to change their perception of work and how to maintain and build relationships. It’s an uncertain period and a time to question how we want to appear in the world; a time to develop an attitude of curiosity; and a time to see all the ways we might innovate and bring our deepest desires to light.  

As one who’s passionate about shaping and contributing to the community, Clara provided insight on how to host a yoga retreat and experiences for guests to go deeper into their practice in one of our podcast discussions. From managing guest expectations, to creating a budget and selecting the location, Clara shared her top learning highlights for yoga teachers and anyone who wishes to host events or workshops abroad. Planning a destination yoga retreat may be a ways off given the current state of the world, but nobody knows what the future holds. Sometimes it’s through events and stories of others that we are able to appreciate and discover more in how and what we wish to offer. Right now is the ideal time to investigate what type of value you might bring to your community, allowing the curiosity for what could be to spark new ways for community contribution and inner growth. 

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DESTINATION RETREAT PLANNING 101

List the benefits and features of your retreat 

Frame your retreat in terms of the benefits your clients will receive as well as the features in the pricing breakdown and promotion. You want to give as much information as possible to highlight all of the awesome perks provided through descriptive language and captivating photography. Use inviting language and imagery that’s clear and specifies what to expect to attract the guests that are suited for the experience you’re shaping.  For example, the features of a retreat could be: yoga everyday, lodging and food, additional activities such as hiking. Whereas the benefits of a retreat could be: escape in nature, make new friends, learn and explore yoga in a workshop. 

Create copy around the benefits of your retreat to give more of an incentive for guests to sign up. You might ask: What will guests leave with? What might they discover? Who and what will they connect with? Retreats are a space to go inwards and create a space for deeper conversations, personal revelations, and intimate connections with others that are not possible in a yoga-studio setting. Communicate these benefits to guests so they understand the value in what this experience offers. 

Manage expectations & be clear in your communication 

Get super clear in what you offer during the time breakdown of your retreat. As soon as your guests sign-up, send an email outlining exactly what to expect day-by-day. Clara provides an itinerary breakdown for guests which includes:

  • Time
    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 time alone to rest and reflect. 
  • Cost
    What exactly is covered in the cost of the retreat and what is not. For example, state clearly if flights, taxi, shuttle, and other modes of transport are covered. Be really 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.
  • Food
    Depending on the destination some meals are covered and some are not. Communicate where and when guests are responsible for covering their own meals and where they can find food off-site. 
  • Yoga
    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) at an additional cost for clients to book with you. 
  • Extra activities  
    Depending on the destination you may offer time and resources to events in the area such as snorkeling, guided tours, cooking classes, bike rentals, and so on. 
Pick a location and investigate 

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, be sure to explore the area ahead of time (Clara usually goes to the location a few days beforehand) to get a better understanding of 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, as well as local airports and hospitals. 

Plan a year ahead & budget 

Give guests ample time, especially if you’re going out of the country, for people to accommodate for the time off, get child-care, and/or save money. A lot of retreat centres require a deposit well in advance to save the rooms and accommodation which means you’ll be putting quite a bit of your own money down up-front. Clara’s first retreat twelve years ago she paid out of pocket. Some tips in terms of budgeting for 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 of thumb is to never 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 to keep building community and momentum as you learn. 

Co-teach with a fellow teacher 

You’re the host of the party, you have to be ON the entire time and present for questions and conflict should they arise. It may serve to collaborate with a fellow yoga teacher who shares your passion and can assist in holding space for your guests. It may also benefit to buddy up with a co-host who can offset your strength and skills to provide an experience that’s diverse and well-rounded. It supports the teaching community as an entirety when we promote each other and hold each other accountable in all that we do! 

VIRTUAL INVITATIONS: WAYS TO CONNECT

The broad selection of online platforms available has provided many ways to stay connected regardless of physical obstacles. More so than ever before, we’re able to provide value, engage, educate, and entertain through online platforms where content is easy to distribute. Virtual classes, workshops, teacher training, and similar experiences allow individuals to stay connected and consume media at their own pace and time. 

As destination retreats may be on-hold. for the rest of 2020, the #PracticeWithClara Community has gathered in a variety of online spaces to stay connected and learn from each other. Below are some of the ways you can find Clara online, which may also spark some incentive or idea for you to bring value to your online communities. 

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Practice with Clara Online 

There’s a bevy of online spaces to market and share yoga content with platforms like YouTube and Vimeo where you can create a channel for free. Clara’s YouTube Channel shares highlights and yoga content from her platform: Practice With Clara. You can access Clara’s content anywhere, anytime via desktop, android, iPhone, Apple TV, and Roku. One of the perks on the phone apps is the download feature that allows you to watch the videos offline. With yoga styles including Vinyasa, Hatha, Restorative, Prenatal, in addition to videos on mantra and meditationyou can try for 7-days free

NEW CLASS : Spice It Up 

In this short and spicy vinyasa yoga class you’ll get your heart pumping and blood flowing to build heat and burn off any excess energy and tension. Clara guides practitioners through total-body movement as you shake it out from head-to-toe with Alejandro. 

#PractiveWithClara Podcast 

Start a podcast or launch a video-series where you discuss a topic of interest that provides something of value for your community to engage with. You can listen to the #PracticeWithClara Podcast where we discuss yoga and related philosophy, unpack the business of yoga, answer questions, and lead experiential/guided meditations. Watch past discussions.   

 Facebook Group

Facebook Groups are a great way to amass community members and create an archive of content that can be shared and commented on. The #PracticeWithClara Facebook Group is where we share the latest videos, podcast sessions, blog posts, and other resources with our community members. We invite our community to post questions and feedback, and drop journaling prompts to be shared and discussed. Connect with us on Facebook to connect to like-minded peers across the globe. 

Instagram Live 

Instagram Live has quickly become one of the top spaces for individuals to create and share a variety of videos including topics in fitness, cooking ,and beauty. Clara and I host the #PractiveWithClara Podcast on IG Live to engage with listeners before turning it into a video series to share on YouTube and as a Podcast. We’ll be back on Instagram Live with the #PracticeWithClara Podcast on Monday, May 4th @11AM PST! 

LEARN MORE ON THE BUSINESS OF YOGA

Open to the possibilities

Vinyasa yoga

VINYASA
~to place in a sacred way~

💠

One of my favourite Sanskrit words -within the meaning it reminds me to give meaning to all that I do.

I’ve spent the last two weeks immersed in our 200 hour yoga teacher training following a fairly regimented schedule, getting up at the same time every day (5am!) and going to bed at the same time every night (8pm). We went through the history of this rich lineage (starting in the Indus Valley circa 2500 BCE), read and discussed two of the sacred texts (Yoga Sutras & The Bhagavad Gita), asked ourselves the bigger questions (what’s the point of all this?) and shared our own histories of how we came to be here.

I have taught this training many times however each time is different since the students, group dynamic and I am different. I love having Yoga be the common ingredient, knowing that the recipe and therefore the dishes will taste, feel, and be experienced completely different each time.

It’s a reminder to stay open to the possibility of each experience, letting go of expectations of what came before.

And now, it’s time to rest and reset.
I hope you’re having a wonderful transition into fall and hopefully see you further down the path,
Clara

Flow with me online. 

We’ve added the following new classes on our paid membership platform!

Stand On Your Hands (28 min)
This short vinyasa practice starts with heat right out the gates–core and handstand play–then goes into a fiery flow of twists, upper back strengthening and backbends. Ends with seated meditation or shavasana as you like. This is a personal fave.

Light Ourselves Up (8 min)
This short, yet invigorating, pranayama (breath work) practice is designed to create more energy in the body, focus in the mind and have a bit of fun while doing it. Great any time of day.

Unwind Your Shoulders (6 min)
This short flow was created to bring movement and relieve tension in shoulders and wrists after either sitting at the computer, cooking, making art or anything else that involves hunching over a table for an extended period of time. No mat necessary.

Hope you enjoy!

Survey 2019 responses

yogi survey on temp.clararobertsoss.com

At the beginning of June we ran a survey to learn more about my kula (community).

We wanted to know:
What style of yoga did they enjoy practicing?
How many practiced online versus in the studio?
What were they looking to learn more about?

I thought it’d be fun to share some of the highlights:

 

We received over 200 responses!

Not surprisingly, my community loves Vinyasa/Flow yoga and meditation and 89% tend to stick to the teachers that they love most.

When asked what they appreciated most about my teaching, it was:
-Authenticity/Creativity in sequencing (21% of responses)
-Mantras/Chanting/Pranayama/Philosophy (20% of responses)

Which are the two things that light me up the most about teaching!
Happy to see we’re on the same page 🙂

Based on this feedback there will be lots of focus on sequencing, mantra and meditation.

 

I also learned that 60% of my kula practice yoga online. This insight helped to motivate me to create my platform to practice yoga online.

51% of the respondents have attended teacher training

40% of those who have not attended a teacher training are interested in attending one in the near future.

Many of you shared you preferred part time teacher training versus immersions.

Based on that feedback our 2020 training format has changed.
200 hour yoga teacher training has been broken up into weekend modules over four months.
300 hour teacher training has been broken down into three 10 day modules
Both are being offered in Vancouver, BC.

Many of the participants appreciated how we value intimate trainings, capping the 200 hour training to 18 and the 300 Hour YTT to 12 people.

Another core value of mine is giving student teachers lots of individual attention so again, so happy we’re on the same page!

One piece of great feedback from those who have taken yoga teacher trainings, is that they’d like to have more support after the training. Based on that, I will be launching an online forum in the near future to connect all my student teachers together to share ideas, receive feedback from not only myself but their peers.

 

Thank you Michelle for creating and aggregating all the surveys!
I also want to thank all 200 of you who took the time to fill out the survey!!
And I can’t wait to share what we have brewing for you. Stay tuned 🙂

 

I am so grateful to my community for being so open to trying the many, let’s say “alternative” ways I like to express, teach and explore yoga.

You inspire me to continue to learn, play and think outside of the “mainstream” yoga box. I would not be the teacher I am without you.
Full pranams,
Clara

Resources:
Playlists on Spotify
Meditations on Soundcloud
Free Yoga Classes on my site

A few things, as a new teacher, to chew on…

Yoga Teacher Training

Advice for New Yoga Teachers

During my vinyasa trainings, people have asked me for advice. I thought I would share it with you too 🙂

A few things to chew on as a new vinyasa yoga teacher….

1) Keep it simple.
Keep everything you do while you teach as simple as possible, your sequence, your language, your music. You are learning a new language, learn the nouns, verbs and such before you jump into conversational yoga. You will appear more confident with your students and they are more likely to trust you.

1a) Speak Slowly.
Speak even slower than you think you should. New teachers are excited about sharing what they’ve learned and that excitement tends to make them nervous and that nervousness tends to speed up the cuing, the breathing and soon enough people are moving so quickly there’s no way they can be breathing with integration. Breathe with your students, speak painfully slow—usually that makes you speak normally, versus very quickly. Schylar Grant offered using a metronome at home to practice speaking slowly. Carolyn Budgell recommends recording your voice and listening to it. I recommend taping your foot quietly or using the beats in the song to give you a sense of timing. The important thing is, be conscious of your speaking speed, it is a large part of what creates the Bhavana (mood) of the class.

2) Have patience and compassion towards yourself.
The first few years are hard. You are going to make mistakes and people are going to give you attitude. Try not to be hard on yourself or your students. Learn from your mistakes and trust in the process and know that it gets easier.

3) Get off your mat as soon as possible.
As a new teacher, it’s fine to practice the sequence with your students but ween yourself off the mat as soon as possible. You are more useful to your students if you’re watching them. This is why I encourage new teachers to have simple sequences, so that they don’t need to be doing it with the class in order to remember it. Elaborate sequences may seem cool but does it ultimately serve the students if their teachers are paying more attention to remembering the sequence than watching them?

4) Own the space.
Be loving yet hold your ground. This is your classroom, be confident in the choices you make with lighting, temperature, music. This one was especially hard for me to learn. I started teaching very young. Older women liked to give me hard time by complaining about the music, the temperature and talking in class. They were some of my greatest teachers. They taught me how to stand my ground, believe in my choices as a teacher or change them if need be. Which leads me to…

5) Your students can be your greatest teachers.
Observe who triggers you in class. They are usually either echoing something about yourself that you don’t like or are not proud of. For me, those women where echoing my own feelings of self worth. Who was I to teach people? What did I have to offer? Observe what arises with those students and silently thank them for the lesson. Try and stay compassionate towards them and yourself while in the room. Then work with the triggers by meditating or talking to a therapist/friend about it.

6) Develop a consistent home practice.
This is going to feed you, especially during times of stagnation in your teaching. Your home practice is not a time when you’re developing your class sequences, I like to think of it as my upkeep. I do the poses and pranayama that my body really needs for the day. It doesn’t look like a vinyasa practice, it’s more therapeutic. It changes daily depending upon what I need and how I’m doing.

7) If you do nothing else in your own time, MEDITATE.
This was a game changer for me. I was initiated into a few years back into Neelakantha Meditation practice and had to  pledge to sit 20 min every day for a year and it hooked me. This will feed you as a human and a teacher on many levels. You will be able to access compassion, strength and remain grounded in most situations. Please start today! Start by sitting for just 10 min daily and begin to increase it when you feel ready.

8) Practice the sequence in your own body prior to teaching it.
You should know how the sequence feels before you share it. If you make it up on the spot, you are more likely to forget it. I tell new teachers to teach the same sequence for a week or two so that they can focus on watching their students instead of remembering the sequence.

9) Practice different styles of Yoga
There is so much to be learned from different lineages of Yoga. It’s important to experience other ways of moving and to remember what it’s like being new at something. I find it helps me understand my students more. Two of my most influential teachers, Shiva Rea and Constantine Darling, incorporate different lineages into their teaching, giving me as the practitioner, a richer experience.

10) Create a Teacher’s Practice.
This was another game changer for me. When I moved to Vancouver eight years ago, I was invited to a teacher’s practice. I had never seen that before. We sat around in a circle and co-taught (round robin style). We picked a peak pose and created the flow together. It was an informal space where we asked each other questions, gave each other feedback on our asanas and execution. I grew as a teacher like I never had prior. It also builds a stronger kula/community amongst teachers which fed our student kula exponentially. Invite any and all teachers, no matter what style or what studio they’re from, there is always something to learn.

11) Don’t stop being a student.
Take other people’s classes. Attend teacher trainings. Continue to learn. We are students first and foremost. I look at teaching as a way of sharing things that excite me. Continue to feed yourself so you can continue to share.

and my last one for today….

12) Don’t take yourself too seriously.
As my father says so beautifully, We are all bozos on this bus. I try to think of myself as a facilitator. I am here to facilitate my students journey into themselves. I try and create a space that is safe for them to explore their inner landscapes. Teaching is not about me, it’s about them. It’s an important one to remember. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how cool your sequence is, whether a ton of people told you how great you are or if your playlist worked. Instead ask yourself, did people leave feeling more connected to themselves, more quiet, more introspective? To me that’s the sign of a good class. And if it didn’t happen, so be it. I’ll try again next time.

 

Learn more about my  Yoga teacher training, My 200 hour yoga teacher training or my 300 hour yoga teacher training and contact me if you have any questions

PS.

To see my latest yoga playlists follow me on spotify