Ashrams, jungles, studios, homes, beaches, cabins...you name it, yoga teacher trainings and retreats have been taking place all over the world in various spaces for quite some time. It wasn't until recently that they've been given much more attention as people are recognizing the importance of taking time to retreat for the betterment of oneself. There's also been a massive shift of individuals leaving their day jobs in order to become yoga teachers and instructors, sharing the gift of healing through movement and breath with others. It's contagious...once you begin to travel and journey this way, you realize that it is the only way.
Yoga teacher training was an immensely transformative experience for me. Walls broke down, comfort zones were released, body felt pain, body found healing, mind strengthened, heart strengthened, muscles strengthened. Chanting, breathing, feeling, crying, laughing, moving, shifting, repeat. The body is such a beautiful thing, but through trainings and retreats, I have come to understand just how important it is to respect, listen to and take care of it.
Proper prep work is just as important as the journey itself, so while there is no cookie cutter way of preparing for your first, second or one hundredth retreat, I've spent time reflecting on what I find to be the most valuable pieces of advice.
Less tangibles and carry-ons, more space to expand and feel and grow.
Less concern with what your hair will look like, more concern with the state of your heart.
No need for fancy manicures when you have the salt water cure.
We tend to overpack and fill our suitcases with stuff and fluff, but this is the time to take with you what you absolutely need, because you'll find that what you truly need will be there waiting for you.
So, let's break it down and deconstruct the prep work that you get to look forward to since you have chosen or will choose to train, retreat, do yoga, repeat.
First and foremost, drop any expectations regarding how you expect the experience to go and allow yourself to embark on the journey with an open mind and open heart, knowing that things may come up for you along the way. There are challenging moments and euphoric moments; it’s all a part of the process as you go deeper within your practice and most importantly, within yourself. Be and let be.
Be persistent in your practice leading up to your training or retreat, but don’t lead yourself to believe that you should have a perfect practice in place when you show up. That’s why we call yoga a practice; it’s not meant to be perfect as we're constantly continuing to learn and grow and advance on our own terms. Yes, you will move your heart out, so spend more time mentally preparing in order to avoid showing up already exhausted.
Beginning at least a week prior, constantly hydrate and rehydrate yourself so that your body becomes used to the influx of water. Keep a water bottle with you so that you can continue to refill it. This ensures that while you're in training or retreat mode, the habit is already in place and becomes second nature. I personally have not always been the best at keeping myself well hydrated, so there were many days during my teacher training where I felt extremely exhausted, simply because I wasn't drinking enough water. Water is a cure-all, so when in doubt, hear me now: hydrate.
Bring a few must-have nourishing snacks, but be open to the foods that you'll have access to once you're there. I remember stuffing protein bars into my bag, but all they did was take up unnecessary space. Costa Rica was abundant in natural foods and fresh juices that were a much better option. Eating foods native to the country (hello, raw cacao) made my body function and feel much better. The first time that many of us bit into a native Costa Rica banana, we all declared that that was what a banana was supposed to taste like. Those euphoric moments that I mentioned...this was definitely one of them.
That said, do bring any supplements, herbs and tinctures that are a part of your daily routine. I almost always bring a magnesium supplement and high quality probiotic with me. Travel in general can offset regularity and affect your digestion, therefore having these supplements that your body is already familiar with helps to ease constipation, which is the last thing that you want to be stressing about.
Eat more hydrating foods. And in general, begin to eat more lightly, especially when you're embarking on a training or retreat taking place in a much warmer climate. The heat slows down your digestion, so lightening the load is optimal in order to help keep you moving, grooving and feeling light. You may think that that you’ll need extra food as fuel due to increased physical activity, however it's about being more mindful of the types of foods that you eat versus the amount. Avocados were in abundance in Costa Rica, so that by itself was a deeply nourishing snack (rich in potassium, magnesium and the right kind of fat) that would satiate me in between sessions and meals.
Be prepared for your menstrual and hormonal cycle to go through changes. You will be affected by new environments and exposure to an abundance of hormones at various different stages in their cycles, so you may end up having a cycle that is very early or very late. I was not very well versed in adaptogenic herbs or essential oils before I embarked on my teacher training, but they are now crucial for me when I travel. My personal adaptogenic recommendations for hormonal balance and support: pine pollen, maca, ashwagandha. As for essential oils: clary sage and lavender are extremely therapeutic.
When it comes to clothing, less is more. You'll be amazed at how much easier it is to mix and match and repeat outfits. Keep the fancy outfits in your wardrobe and pack things that will make you feel breezy and comfortable. Depending on your climate and activities, one pair of walking/hiking shoes and a pair or two of sandals should do the trick to keep your feet happy. The more well worn, the better.
Go makeup free. This is the best time to do it, giving your skin a clean break and helping you to become more comfortable in your own skin. Soak in your natural beauty and opt for holistic, toxin-free skincare essentials that won't clog your pores. Anything that you put on, you'll likely sweat off anyways. Let the salt water be your shower, your facial exfoliant, your shampoo. Sunscreen, pH balancing facial toners, skin serums and a light lip balm might be all that you need (if even that much). My top recommendations: H is for love Pollen Mist, Maven Made Facial Serum, Balm & Co Matcha Mint Lip Balm. I call this trio my traveling skin’s saving grace.
Be prepared to drown yourself in love. Let others drown you in love. Let go & let love.
Rest, and then rest some more.
Have the important conversations. Be vulnerable.
Find time for silence and solitude.
Let stuff come up, and be okay with whatever does. // You have to let it come up in order to let it go.
You do you, and don't let anyone convince you otherwise.
Sending you some well wishes on your training and retreat journeys! You are choosing to do something so deeply nourishing for yourself. Let your freak flag fly, be you and bring your stories back so that we can continue to learn from and be inspired by one another.
Train and retreat, and then train and retreat some more.
Prep well, you yoga warriors.
This piece was a sweet collaboration with Liz Smithers of Eli Keaton. For her training and retreat prep words of advice, read more here.