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Yoga retreats, especially the super high end ones, tend to add fuel to the fire in the argument that yoga is for a select group of people, but I truly believe differently. No, not all of us might be able to afford the ultra luxury retreats, but there is definitely a retreat out there for all price points, and if you’re feeling brave, you might even be able to attend a luxury retreat at a price you can afford. Here are nine steps to getting to a retreat within your budget.
1. Your Yoga Retreat Budget
In order to go on a retreat you can afford, it’s time to get real about what you can afford. Don’t worry about whether or not it is enough - we’ll figure out that out later - for now, just get honest with yourself about what you can afford to shell out. I think price is the number one deterrent, so like I said, don’t worry about the number, just figure the number out. And once you’ve got that number, go from there.
Budget Tip: If you’re feeling like money is really tight right now, make a plan - what could you cut out to put aside for a retreat? Putting your Starbucks money toward the retreat fund, or picking up a weekend babysitting job will help!
2. Yoga Retreat Vibe
Are you looking for a super serious retreat? Maybe a silent retreat is speaking to you (see what I did there?) more than a spring break retreat. Do you want a party on the beach or a winter wonderland? Something more introspective and solitary or something that’ll leave you with 15 new friends from all over the world? Do you have a bunch of activities included like surfing and zip-lining?
Budget Tip: The more activities a retreat has, the pricier it will be because the retreat leader needs to factor in not only the cost per person for the activity, but the transportation to get the students there (and that can be SO much more expensive than one would imagine, especially in places like Europe or Costa Rica, where the cost of gas is out of control). So, if you’re on a budget, look for a retreat that doesn’t have many activities planned.
3. Yoga Retreat Destination
Ok this is where we’ll start to narrow it down. Obviously, if the retreat is in some hard to get to place, like some remote island off of mainland Thailand, the price is going to go up because you’re going to need to take a plane, train, and automobile (and who knows, maybe even an elephant) to get to your destination. This means money, honey, so choose your locale appropriately. Above, Dubai, which isn't so hard to get to from Europe, but would be a trek and a half from the US. Also, Dubai is not the place to go on a budget.
Budget Tip: Look for somewhere you can either drive to or take a direct flight.
4. Yoga Retreat Transportation
Confession. When I began running retreats of my own, I couldn’t believe how expensive it was to transport people from point A to B. I’m talking $165 for an airport transfer when I could just drive my own car and pay $20 in gas. It’s insane. But I can’t be everywhere at once, so I have to factor in the $165 transfer fee and hire some obscenely priced company to do it for me. Woof. On the flip side, after a long day of travel, the last thing a student wants to do is rent a car or haggle with a taxi to get to the retreat venue. When you’re choosing a retreat, check out what transportation is included. Ps, I wouldn't suggest traveling to your retreat by Segway. :)
Budget Tip: No tip. Just go with this what's included. It’s better (and safer) to let the leader figure out your transportation.
5. Yoga Retreat Teacher
The “famous” teachers make the big bucks. I mean BIG bucks. I once had a student tell me she went on a retreat with a “famous” teacher and the retreat had over 40 people. It was a 5 day retreat priced at over $5,000. If I am ever famous and am running $1,000/day retreats, feel free to ask me what in the world I’m thinking. I mean, unless you’re eating 10 course meals that include wine and the venue toilets are plated in gold and you are getting daily private lessons (I assure you, my student told me she barely had a hello from the teacher during the entire 5 days), there’s no reason to be paying this kind of money. In my opinion, anyway.
So note your teacher. The super insta-famous yoga teacher is likely going to price the retreat higher than your local favorite (or yours truly, as I promise to never charge that much).
Budget Tip: Be brave. If you want to study with a famous teacher and the price point is WAY out of your budget, email and ask if they would consider having you at your budget. Explain what you might be able to do to help offset the costs (maybe you can clean the yoga space after each class or help clear dishes at each dinner).
Also, if you have a large social media following or a popular blog, pitch the teacher to promote the retreat and write a review for your followers. The hardest part for yoga teachers is marketing the retreat, so he or she might be willing to give a discount. Be prepared and pitch the idea with all the numbers and stats for your social media platforms. Emphasize the engagement of your followers, show sample writings and past coverage of events, and make sure to send a google analytics screenshot of your blog so the teacher can assess how much of a discount to offer. The downside to this means a little work on your part, but it might be just the discount you need!
6. Yoga Retreat Food
What’s included? I generally like to create retreats that have some food included (usually breakfasts and dinners) because that’s what I would want as a student. Of course full board would be great, but it drives up the cost and to be honest, it’s kind of nice having to leave the venue for lunch and explore the vibe of the town we’re in. Private chefs are generally expensive, but cooking your own food doesn’t translate to vacation for me, which is why I always hire someone to cook the food at my retreats.
I’m going to tell you another secret. Vegan and vegetarian food is often the norm at yoga retreats and while sometimes it’s due to personal beliefs of the teacher, but it may also be because meat is expensive and this cuts down on the overall costs. See what kind of food will be served, and if it’s not a vegetarian menu, you could ask if you could forego meat in exchange for a small discount.
Budget Tip: If you have a passion for cooking and want to help with meals, why not ask the teacher if you could cook breakfasts in exchange for a discount. Of course you’ll want to really be sure you can handle cooking for a group of people, and this may mean you have to leave morning yoga class early, but it also may be just the thing you need to be able to afford the retreat. Alternatively, seek out a retreat that doesn’t include as much food and bring snacks with you and hit up the local grocery store for cheap eats.
7. Yoga Retreat Program
Specialized workshops like stand-up paddleboard yoga, and chair yoga are likely to cost more simply because of the props needed.
Budget Tip: Choose a retreat with straightforward yoga program - pranayama, vinyasa, meditation - these are all programs that do not require any major props so should be relatively inexpensive.
8. Yoga Retreat Duration
Obviously the longer the retreat is, the more expensive it will be, so a shorter retreat might be a better bet if you’re on a tight budget.
Budget Tip: Tell the teacher you’re working within a budget (give them the actual number) and ask if they would consider having you for a shorter length of time. Often times, especially as the time nears for the retreat, the teacher just wants to fill the remaining rooms up so you never know what kind of deal you might get.
9. Yoga Retreat Accommodations
I always try to offer a variety of upscale accommodations only because that’s what I would want as a student. It wouldn't make sense for me to offer a camping yoga retreat because I strongly dislike camping (understatement). If I were going on a retreat with a friend, I would share the same room without a problem, but if I were traveling alone I would want my own room. Private accommodation will be more expensive, while shared occupancy will be more affordable.
Budget Tip: If the shared accommodation is still out of budget, email the teacher and ask if it’d be possible for you to stay at another location and just attend the yoga classes. This may be cheaper (although not always once you factor in transport to and from the yoga venue), and it would separate you from the group which might be kind of lonely.
Last piece of advice
When I started working as a yoga instructor and needed to discuss money and terms with studio owners and students and agents, I had to get over my aversions and just say exactly what I wanted. The worst thing the person could tell me was no, right? So when approaching a yoga teacher about a retreat, just be honest and try not to let ego or anything get in the way of what you’re going after. Say what you mean, ask for what you want, and you just might be surprised by how accommodating the teacher can be. When you book the retreat of your dreams within your budget, send me a postcard!
And, I’m in the middle of planning my 2015 yoga retreat schedule. If you’d like to go, just fill this out! And if you have a bunch of friends and want to do something together, I also offer custom yoga retreats.
Let’s talk Have you been on a yoga retreat before? Where? Would you like to go on one?
Related Confessions of a yoga teacher: 8 things no one ever told me about planning a yoga retreat, Pics from our Costa Rica retreat earlier this month and a video of our Greece retreat in October.