How About Taking a Yoga Retreat at Home?
Updated: Oct 20
It’s half term holiday and it feels as if all my yoga friends and students have packed their bags and taken themselves off on far flung adventures.
Right now, in London, is the OM Yoga Show. My friend Cath, @yogawith_cathrochadavies, shared that ‘there’s nothing much there to be honest… the same as previous years’. I catch her drift because… I realise that I don’t need to be anywhere different than where I am right now to practice yoga… though to be honest, I’ve NEVER been to a yoga show (or retreat for that matter) so would probably be relishing everything on offer…
Meanwhile on Instagram, Maria of @Yuvayogauk posts about her presentation at the OM Yoga Show, and I am so happy for her! I’ve followed her journey, from the writing of her book about chair yoga, to the creation of her chair yoga courses, and know her passion for bringing accessible yoga to everyone. Go Maria!
Here in Saudi Arabia, my first Yoga Teacher Trainer, Marylene of @Zazyoga, is currently at Al Ula preparing for a Wellness Festival that starts at the end of the week, and I’m sure she will be delivering some amazing breathwork and yoga practices. Marylene has been posting about her experience of the desert, its stillness and spaciousness. It all resonates. And wouldn’t I love to be in Al Ula, both to see her and for that festival! (Not possible, I’ll be back at work).
So dreams aside, I find myself at home with time for rest and recovery after a very busy half term, and allow myself to become absorbed in yoga in my very own home grown yoga retreat… so what does this look like and what do I include?
To be honest there is NO fixed plan, and I allow my yoga retreat at home to unfold ‘organically’:
1. Morning practice of meditation, pranayama, movement / asana. For this I am mostly revisiting ZazYoga Teacher Training practice videos and drawing on my meditation training with Svastha Yoga Therapy (2 hours approx)
2. Yoga Nidra mostly in the afternoon. Yoga Nidra is a guided meditation practice that encompasses the practice of pratyahara / withdrawal of the senses; while retaining complete awareness of the process (though caution... you may fall fully asleep). I recommend the free offerings by Ayla Nova on the podcast ‘Yoga Nidra and Beyond’ (1 hour approx.)
3. Yoga Studies. For this I am reviewing Svastha Yoga Therapy modules. I’m a quarter way through my review of all 133 modules. My goal is to embody the teachings and practices; this will take me about another 3 months to complete… there’s a lot to cover, and even then I will probably need to revisit many practices (2 to 4 hours daily). Svastha Yoga Therapy is presented by A.G. Mohan, Indra Mohan and Ganesh Mohan following the traditions of Krishnamacharya. It is such an honour to receive their teachings.
4. Daily swim in my pool, with appreciation for this wonderful resource (thanks to @louisepitman_wellbeing for the inspiration). I have to say my pool has been a much-neglected resource on my part, and the water temperature is perfect right now – not too ‘soupy’ as it can often be here! (up to 1 hour)
5. Daily gratitude journal: I’ve been doing this every day for the last 3 months as part of an experiment in happiness, taking inspiration from the podcast ‘Happiness is an option for you: 4 easy habits that make your life better based on research’ (Mel Robins with Shawn Achor. Released 29th June 2023). By embodying the 4 practices mentioned in the podcast, Shawn states that after 21 days, stress levels drop, cortisol levels drop, acuity levels rise, stress levels of people around you drop too. The gratitude practice takes 2 to 5 minutes, tops.
6. Reading: Yoga Therapy - A guide to the therapeutic use of yoga and ayurveda for health and fitness by A.G. Mohan and Indra Mohan. It’s a beautiful compliment to Svastha Yoga Therapy training. (On demand – no fixed time span, though I prefer to read in the evening).
Through this reading I am reminded of the importance of maintaining strength as we age; in the yoga world there can be overemphasis on flexibility. For healthy spine we need to maintain both strength and flexibility (as well as proper body alignment).
7. Daily Instagram post: Not everyone will think this should be part of a ‘retreat’; though for me Instagram has been inspirational in my yoga journey; I have met so many wonderful teachers and practitioners through this media and during the months of world shutdown/covid, it was a lifeline for focusing on a healthful life.
8. Intermittent fasting: The benefits of which I learned from my Svastha Yoga Therapy studies. I achieve this by shortening my eating window (eating breakfast later and dinner earlier) and by fasting overnight while sleeping. Of course fasting cannot take place without feeding, and this includes enjoyment of nourishing home cooked food / whole foods, with a little bit of chocolate on the side…
9. Oil Application / Abhyanga: for this I use Mahanarayan oil. Generally the oil is applied to the whole body once a week, left for 3 to 4 hours for absorption and then washed off. However, I may apply the oil on a daily basis, to any tissues and joints that feel particularly sore. (See the link below for more details).
10. Short ad hoc practices that online yoga friends inspired me to try from their recent Instagram posts…
o Legs up the wall for heart health thanks to @libbystevenson.wellbeing (women’s health expert, for the midlife). Libby states that your heart will thank you for this practice… as you ‘sink into blissful rest’. (Releases stress and tension and lower blood pressure) – what’s not to love about this!
o 1-minute daily squat for hip health (for 30 days) thanks to @lightwatkins (author and meditation teacher. ‘By the end your hips will be a lot more open and you’ll have reduced knee and back pain’ says Light in his post.
o Bumble bee breath / long exhalations with humming for activating the parasympathetic nervous system, to help us relax thanks to @jivanaheyman (author of ‘accessible yoga’ – must check out that book…).
11. Contemplation / reflection. Contemplation is a meditation practice, and with all my review of trainings and practices there is a lot to contemplate. (On demand – no fixed time span).
12. Rest day from physical practice. To allow the body time to absorb the impact of the practice.
I am thankful to have so many resources and practices to draw upon in creating my personalised yoga retreat at home, and hope you find some inspiration for creating your own mini retreat, whether it be one day, 3 days or longer! And who knows, perhaps this experience will find me planning retreats for others in the future...
Links to the resources mentioned above:
Posts from my ‘home based retreat week’: @juliegeissler.yoga
Ayla Nova, Yoga Nidra podcast