10 reasons to go on a yoga retreat + my experience at Yoga Sutra Shala

(ENG only) When I’ve decided to treat myself to a yoga retreat I really couldn’t imagine it would turn into an experience I’d cherish forever. The 6 days I’ve spent at Yoga Sutra Shala have been amazingly beyond my expectations and for sure way more than a simple holiday to take a break and in this post I’ll be sharing with you more about my experience there.

Of course going on a yoga retreat can have a different meaning and value for anyone making the experience, but for sure the benefits of being completely immersed into yoga, mindfulness and wonderful nature will reach and effect everyone. These are not only the benefits I’ve personally experienced and benefited from but also the reasons why I highly encourage you to try your own yoga retreat experience if you still haven’t:

  • DEDICATE ENOUGH TIME TO YOGA AND MEDITATION Duh! This seems obvious but it’s one of the core points of a yoga retreat, right? It’s a wonderful chance to get to know yoga better or deepen your practice with the help of experienced and qualified teachers and dedicate time to meditation alongside your yoga practice.
  • RECONNECT WITH YOURSELF. In this crazy busy world taking the time to dedicate to yourself is a gift and an act of pure self love. It’s important to realize that you should ALWAYS truly love yourself and take care of yourself (remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup!) and a yoga retreat is a wonderful reminder to do just that, whatever taking care of yourself means to you.
  • RECONNECT WITH NATURE AND CALM THE MIND. Yoga retreats are usually located in beautiful spots surrounded by beautiful nature. Nature has the amazing power to help us unwind, calm our mind and heal our souls.
  • ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS. Making a lot of guided meditations and being able to reconnect with your true selves can turn into a very emotional experience and bring out a lot of feelings. No place is better to fully be able to process them, express them, observe them, learn from them.
  • TAKE A BREAK FROM SOCIAL MEDIA (or at least use them more mindfully for a few days). I’ve decided to take fully advantage of this retreat by embarking on a complete social media break (for 15 days in total) and I used my phone just to take pictures or briefly keep in touch with dear ones through Whatsapp.
  • NOURISHING MEALS. Usually the food offered is completely plant based, which is a real nourishing treat for your body and soul.
  • MINDFUL EATING. Taking the time to fully enjoy your meals and take enough time to eat seems something that easily gets forget. The entire experience forces you to slow down and to put mindfulness into every single action, so eating is no exception.
  • SLOW DOWN, BE MORE GROUNDED AND FOCUSED ON THE PRESENT. Even if it’s usually a 6-7 days experience, a yoga retreat fills up your day with mindful breathing, yoga practices and meditations and this really helps you focus on the here and now and stay present.
  • MEET LIKE MINDED PEOPLE. I’ve met amazing human beings and beautiful souls during my yoga retreat! And so can you. I’m glad I did this experience by myself and with no travel companion, as it made me open much more to new things and new people.
  • FEEL COMPASSION AND MORE CONSIDERATION FOR OTHER PEOPLE’S NEEDS AND FEELINGS. By being put into a perspective of self love, self care and self compassion, you will be able to feel more love, kindness and compassion for everyone and everything around you.
Yoga Sutra Shala (photo by Anja V.)

When searching for a yoga retreat, the choice can be quite overwhelming as the market offers plenty of different ones in all sorts of locations, but with the right amount of patience and research anyone who is interested will be able to find one that suits their requirements. 

I have been playing with the idea of going to a yoga retreat for quite a while before deciding to jump into the experience and make my booking. I’ve made lots of research as this was my first yoga retreat ever and wanted to make sure to find one that would really suit me. I didn’t care about fancy tropical spots or infinity pools, I knew that I wanted a place that wasn’t too far away (to at least reduce a bit my plane travel, which by the way I’ve offset), and that would also focus on sustainability and nature protection. During my research I’ve stumbled upon a website called Responsible Travel, which offers all kinds of travels whilst caring for ethical sustainability. And as soon as I found Yoga Sutra Shala I was immediately hooked and decided to book my spot.

Yoga Sutra Shala is located in Benissivá, a small village in the beautiful Spanish mountains of the Valencian province about 1,5 hours away from Alicante and 2 hours away from Valencia. They offer retreats from Sunday (2pm) to Friday (1pm) all year round as well as teacher trainings.

After spending 2,5 days in the beautiful city of Alicante, on Sunday morning I made my way to the Alicante airport where our meeting point for the pickup was. 

After checking into the double room I’ve booked and finding out who my new roommate for the 6 following days would be, we officially started the retreat with a lunch during which I got to know all of my travel companions (we were 11 people in total) and teachers. During this first lunch they made us set an intention to work on during the week and share it with everyone, to make sure that we could get the most out of our time at the Shala. After the lunch we got divided into two yoga groups (Hatha and Vinyasa) according to our level and previous yoga experience. The group could be changed anytime if we felt that for some reasons wasn’t suitable to our needs (which is what I did on my second day, switching from Vinyasa to Hatha due to some pain in my left wrist).

During the 6 days spent at the Shala, I had plenty of time to deepen my yoga practice (two classes a day), meditate, relax, go hiking, journal, learn and experience new things during the various workshops, reconnect with nature, dedicate time to myself and my feelings, slow down while taking a break from social media and the internet, practice silence times twice a day and also get to know and talk to amazing people and really create a connection with them. Every day we were able to have an overview of the daily schedule on the blackboard and decide to take part into all of the activities or just some of them. Our days usually started at 07.30 am (or at 6am on days when a hike was planned). No day looked exactly like the other one and had plenty to offer but still left us the chance to be deeply immersed into a completely mindful, slow environment and atmosphere.

These are the many winning points of Yoga Sutra Shala and the reasons why I genuinely loved my stay there. 

SETTING AN INTENTION. The aim of Yoga Sutra Shala is to help people to create or bring a positive change in their lives and leave them with something to bring back home. Setting an intention and sharing it with others at the beginning of the retreat and reviewing it at the end of it was a wonderful way to get to know each other on a more personal level and to encourage us to make the most out of our stay in a mindful and intentional way. Plus focusing on my intention made me really open up more to some positive changes and learn things that I can really keep with me in my day to day life.

AMAZING NATURE. The Val de la Galinera in which the Shala is located offers breathtaking views and beautiful nature. Spending time at the Shala itself was already a refreshing way to reconnect with nature (that meditation garden though!!!) but the hikes we made during our week were the cherry on top of the cake. Some of the most stunning, uncontaminated nature I’ve ever seen.

La Forada
Our yoga teacher Leonie resting and enjoying the beautiful view during our Cave hike

Me hugging a tree on our way back to the Shala after our Cave hike –
photo by Natasha C.

INVITATION TO USE PHONE MINDFULLY. Wifi was available of course, but they invited us to use the phone mindfully to make sure we wouldn’t miss on our time there.

SILENCE TIMES. We observed silence times twice a day (every morning until after breakfast and every afternoon from yoga classes until dinner started). What I thought would be super awkward turned out to be very natural and actually pretty interesting. It reminded be to put more intention and care into my daily actions (especially when having meals, which is something I would more often than not rush into) and to be more compassionate with and considerate of other people’s needs. Sometimes a gesture is more than a thousand words. Plus it was a wonderful chance to really slow down and reconnect with myself (took advantage of silence times mostly to journal and it was amazing).

Photo by Natasha C.

QUALITY OF TEACHERS. I LOVED every single class I’ve attended. All of the teachers made me fall in love again with yoga in their own personal way and made me learn so much during just six days. There were genuine relationships with them that helped us really grow in our yoga journeys. It wasn’t just about an impersonal yoga teacher-student relationship, but they had the best interest in making us feel comfortable at all levels during our practice. We also had the chance to book one or more private classes with the teachers if we had any issues or particular things we wanted to work on, which I thought was fantastic. I had a couple of private classes and was amazed by the care and effort the teachers put into “customizing” the lessons according to my needs and interests. Like I’ve talked about with some of my retreat buddies, now we really know what to look for in a yoga teacher from now on.

ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS, TASTY, COLORFUL AND NOURISHING FOOD (100% PLANT BASED!!). This was not only the best plant based food I’ve ever had but possibly the best food I’ve had EVER. I could taste the love and care put into its preparation, the freshness, the quality of it. The meals were all highly balanced, nourishing and made of organic ingredients. We were even given nutritional information and properties of the food we were eating during every meal, to help us learn more about the amazing benefits of plant based food. Healthy snacks were also available throughout the day in case we had cravings (and let’s face it, everything was so delicious that it was impossible not to have any!).

A VARIETY OF MEDITATIONS, WORKSHOPS AND ACTIVITIES (the hikes, the creative writing workshop and 5 rhythm dance where definitely my favorite!). Every day had plenty to offer and plenty to learn from without being an overwhelming schedule, in my opinion (we were always free to attend all the activities offered or just some of them, according to how we felt like doing most).

The Meditation Garden

RESPONSIBLE USE OF RESOURCES. This was something that was very close to my heart and I loved how the Shala puts a lot of effort into using resources mindfully and inviting their guests to do the same. The drinking water offered is local filtered water that comes from the near mountains (no plastic bottled water is available!!); there’s plenty of organic tea flavors available on tap (only loose leaf tea and no tea bags); recycling bins for compost, paper and plastic (the amount of waste I’ve produced was almost none as I had the chance to get access to plenty of sustainable options during my stay); organic local seasonal food (from their garden or within a range of 25km); natural cleaning products (even the disinfecting sprays used to clean out the yoga mats are 100% natural, as they are made of just water and tea tree oil); reminders for the guests to use water and electricity responsibly and carefully.

 

GREAT ORGANIZATION AND ATTENTION TO DETAILS. The whole stay was perfectly organized and the overall attention to details was wonderful: the welcome organic chocolate and glass bottled water, the overall communication, the little goodbye plastic free gift, the little recipes book, the reading material we’ve received during our workshops, the list for the WhatsApp group to help us keep in touch and exchange photos, thoughts and ideas, the generosity and kindness of the staff. Nothing was missing.

THE PEOPLE. I’m happy I did this experience by myself as it gave me plenty of time to positively work on myself. But it wouldn’t have been this great if it wasn’t for all the beautiful souls I have been surrounded with during my whole stay.

photo by Angela P.

So, how do I rate Yoga Sutra Shala on a scale from 1 to 10? 1000!! Everything was simply perfect. Only complaint (if I really, really, really, really, really have to find one): for double rooms it would have been convenient to have a second key. That’s it. Everything else was beyond my expectations and hopes!

A huge THANK YOU to anyone who shared these amazing 6 days with me.  

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about my yoga retreat at Yoga Sutra Shala. 

I’ll talk to you soon! Take care, 

Jen 

(This post is NOT sponsored. Everything was paid with my own money and this is my absolutely true, honest opinion. <3 All photos are mine unless otherwise stated.)

Follow:

Leave a Reply