How to Prepare for a Yoga Retreat

A common question from retreat attendees is “how do I prepare for a yoga retreat?” For most of us, we don’t practice yoga 2+ hours each day, let alone 5, 6, or 7 days in a row so I think there is a bit of fear and apprehension that comes into play during the lead up to a yoga retreat. Don’t sweat it. You’ll be fine whether you practice once a week or everyday…. an experience yogi or a newbie. The following are my tips for how to prepare for a yoga retreat, whether it’s your first retreat or your hundredth!

1. Prepare for a yoga retreat by keeping your yoga practice up.

Make sure to keep your practice up and add a class or two if you have time. But most importantly keep your yoga practice balanced. If you always practice vinyasa add a yin or restorative class or vice versa. Your body will thank you when it feels strong, open, vibrant, and relaxed on retreat.

Two weeks before your retreat is not the time to start practicing headstands/handstands/advanced postures if you’ve never done them before. Trust me you don’t want to injure yourself right before your retreat. Just wait. If those postures are on the agenda at your yoga retreat you will have plenty of time to explore them in a mindful manner.

yoga surf retreat nicaragua

Warrior 3

2. Trust the process and your teacher.

Booking a yoga retreat is a pretty courageous act, especially if it’s your first retreat or with a yoga teacher you don’t practice with regularly. Assuming you’ve done a bit of research to get to know the teacher a bit better, have chatted with them on the phone or via email and connected on social media it’s time to relax. An experienced retreat leader will make sure you receive all of the necessary information before you need it.  Let go of the need to micromanage your life for just this little bit… you’re going on retreat aren’t you? Let your retreat leader guide you on your journey.

3. Be willing to put in 110%.

I’m not just talking physically here. Be willing to open up, to let go of old habits and preconceived self-limiting beliefs, to let down your walls and to connect with others. You already have a lot in common with the other people on the retreat, so be yourself and enjoy new friendships.

sunbathing-yoga-retreat-greece

Yoga babes.

4. You don’t need 20 pairs of yoga pants, your hair dryer or your makeup.

I’m completely guilty of overpacking yoga leggings and I’ve seen it many times from my students too. You don’t need as much as you think. Likely, you will end up wearing the same couple of outfits over and over simply because it’s easy. And there is no need to primp during a yoga retreat. We will happily accept you as you are. Sweaty, crazy haired, and glowing.

5. Prepare fora yoga retreat by ask yourself “What is my intention?”

Get clear about your intention or sankalpa for the retreat. What are your goals? Why are you attending a yoga retreat in the first place? Is it to deepen your yoga practice? To learn meditation? To relax and rejuvenate? To connect with yourself? To heal emotionally, physically, spiritually? Whatever your intention don’t be afraid to honor that. Sometimes honoring your sankalpa means skipping a yoga practice to sleep in or journal or walk the beach. Sometimes it means being bold and letting down all the barriers you’ve built up. Sometimes it means trying something completely new.

6. Eat mindfully, so you don’t “shock” your system.

raw-vegan-vegetarian-bali-yoga-retreat

Healthy eats! Raw vegan wraps. Yum!

Most yoga retreats have amazing, healthy meals with minimal processed food, meat, alcohol and caffeine. You can prepare for a yoga retreat by beginning to cut processed food and toxins out of your diet a week or two before the retreat. Ease your way into a new healthy radiant you.

7. Practice on your travel mat beforehand.

If you’re bringing a travel mat, or even a new mat, make sure to practice on it beforehand. A slick mat, or one that stretches in downward facing dog is annoying at best. Test it out beforehand and if it doesn’t work out pack your old standby. A “crappy” mat can make for a frustrating yoga retreat. You don’t want something as simple as a yoga mat to detract from your experience.

8. Learn about your destination.

Where are you going? What is that part of the world known for? Do you have time for extra excursions? Prepare for a yoga retreat by doing a little research beforehand. It will get you pumped up about where you’re going and it might even get your friends excited enough to tag along. Sweet!

luxury-yoga-retreat-france-dordogne

9. Set aside all expectations.

Manage your expectations. As you prepare for a yoga retreat make sure to ask your retreat leader questions about things you want clarity about…. transportation, food, excursions. Get the answers you need and want… and then let it go. The nature of retreats, especially international retreats, is that sometimes things need to change to bring the best experience to the students. Maybe the teacher has had to rearrange excursions due to whether or even swap them out completely… maybe instead of going on that jungle hike you’ll get a lovely massage instead. Don’t worry about it. The instructor wants you to love the experience as much as you want to love the experience, so roll with the punches, go with the flow, ride the wave. It will be amazing.

“To explore what it would mean to live fully, sensually alive and passionately on purpose, I have to drop my preconceived ideas of who and what I am.”

Dawna Markova

Happy Retreat Prep Yogis!!!

Love and Light,

Autumn

 

 

 

18 Tips to Freshen Up Your Yoga Practice

vinyasa-yoga-greece-retreat

What happens when you get bored with your yoga practice? I know that it happens to me. When I fall off the yoga wagon, especially as a yoga teacher, I begin to have feelings of guilt sneak in. Feelings of “I’m not good enough” or “How can I teach yoga if I’m not practicing?” So I want you to know that I’ve been there. I feel your frustration, your dismay, your guilt… I’m here to tell you to “let it go”. I’m not going to tell you to stop practicing, but I will encourage you to let your yoga practice take on a different form. Here are my tried and true tips for getting over your boredom and feeling good about your yoga practice again.

  1. Take class with a different teacher. I might get some flack here from other yoga instructors for saying this, but it’s okay to explore. It’s okay to skip your regular class and drop-in to another teacher’s class. Each teacher has their own style, their own way of cueing, and their own way of formatting their classes…. going to another teacher’s class gets you out of your rut and out of autopilot. You will likely experience different poses (woohoo!) and different benefits and alignment cues that you can bring back to your regular classes. And hell we all suffer from avidya (ignorance), which means that our own teacher can give us the same message every class and we may not be ready for it, so we don’t hear it… well you might be ready for it in another teacher’s class… or they may word it in a way that it is more relatable to you.
  2. Incorporate more pranayama, meditation and chanting. For most of us, myself included, we get stuck in asana land. I love asana land! It’s fun and pretty and challenging, but sometimes we forget about the other parts of yoga like pranayama, meditation, chanting. Learn some new pranayama (kapalabhati, brahmari, sitali, ratio breathing, etc.). Kick start your meditation practice. There are so many meditation resources out their now (including apps that make it ridiculously easy to practice). Or delve into the world of Bhakti and learn a new chant or two.
  3. Go on a retreat. Attending a yoga retreat (or teacher training) is a great way to get your asana in gear! It’s okay to spend a little extra money on YOU, on YOUR development, on YOUR growth. Don’t feel guilty about it. Go on a retreat with your favorite teacher OR one you’ve been following on social media OR be bold and courageous and book with someone you find online in a destination you’ve always wanted to check out (I would recommend doing some homework before you hand over your hard earned cash though).
  4. Try a new-to-you style of yoga. If you always practice Bikram, try vinyasa. If you always practice vinyasa, try yin. Maybe delve into the world of Ashtanga Yoga… why not? Be adventurous in your yoga practice.
  5. Change your environment. If you always practice in a yoga studio head on over to the local gym and try one of their classes. Or find an outdoor class at a local park or lodge. Seek out SUP yoga (yoga on stand up paddleboards)… you’ll get an awesome work out, be challenged in new ways and likely you’ll get wet… at least at your first class.
  6. Schedule up some yoga playtime. Connect with one of your yoga buddies and schedule some time to just play… maybe play with a little Acro yoga or partner poses or help each other work on those inversions and arm balances. Likely you’ll have fun in the process and make/keep a good friend too.
  7. Karma yoga. Okay it’s not asana, but it’s equally important. Find a volunteer gig at a local community center, teach a yoga class for underprivileged kids… even better get your yoga buddies together and do a little karma yoga as a group.
  8. Find another hobby. Eek! I know I said it, but it’s okay to branch out. I would recommend finding another active hobby like mountain biking or tennis… something that gets your body moving. Being active in other ways will make you appreciate your yoga practice that much more… especially when your muscles start to get tight and that range of motion you used to take for granted is gone.
  9. Read a yoga-ish book. I recommend How Yoga Works by Gesne Michael Roach and Christie McNally
  10. Take a trip. Allow yourself to be inspired by giant trees, mountains, lakes and even the hustle and bustle of a new city. Strike a pose and have fun with it. Put your feet in the dirt. Swim out to that tiny island in the lake. Enjoy the sun on your skin.
  11. Get a new mat or yoga leggings. I know, I know. Not very yogic of me, but whatever. Buy yourself something nice. Get a new Manduka mat in a fun color or get those wild and crazy patterned Liquido leggings you’ve been eye-ing forever. Give yourself a little extra incentive to get on your mat.
  12. Change your playlist. Okay this only applies if you practice at home, but music can have a huge impact on your practice and your mental state.
  13. Sign up for one of the online yoga class platforms. Create a home practice, try new teachers, practice when it works for you. Love it.
  14. Join a social media yoga challenge. A fun way to connect with other yogis, see new postures and new variations of familiar postures. Have fun with it.
  15. Focus on a specific body part or type of pose. Perhaps strengthening or lengthening the hamstrings. Focus on backbends or inversions. Perhaps focus on opening up your hips. You get the picture. Give yourself something to explore and also something to work toward.
  16. Schedule up a yoga and wine night with your friends. Why not? Yoga doesn’t have to be in the studio to be wonderful. Take turns teaching and follow it up with a glass or two of wine and some snacks.
  17. Practice shorter practices. Set a timer and allow yourself to be present on your mat for 5, 10, 20 minutes. Keep it simple so you don’t get discouraged.
  18. Go on a weekend yoga getaway. There are so many options these days. Go to a festival, conference, workshop or retreat in a different city or state. You’ll have the opportunity to get your practice back on track, explore a new place and make new yoga friends.

 

You don’t need to be perfect. You don’t need to practice 5 times a week. It’s okay to be inspired by other things. Your practice will always be with you. Know that your practice doesn’t need to look like everyone else’s practice. Remember it is YOUR PRACTICE. It is yours and yours alone AND it is a practice. Don’t beat up on yourself. Dig deep find that inner fire. It’s there. We will see you on your mat when you’re ready.

Yogis do you have any other tips or tricks you use when you get bored with your yoga practice? I’d love to hear them.

 

Love and Light,

Autumn

Autumn Adams
Follow me

Autumn Adams

Owner, Founder, & Retreat Leader at Ambuja Yoga
Autumn founded Ambuja Yoga in 2014 to share her love of adventure, yoga, and travel with her fellow yogis. Ambuja Yoga has morphed into more than she could have ever dreamed and she is thrilled to have a "job" she loves. She is forever grateful for the opportunity to facilitate personal growth and self love through yoga while taking yogis to off-the-beaten-path destinations worldwide. Follow Autumn on Instagram @autumnadamsyoga.
Autumn Adams
Follow me

Latest posts by Autumn Adams (see all)

What Are The Koshas?

The pancha maya koshas are the five sheaths of human existence according to Vedantic philosophy and the ancient Tantric Yoga text the Taittiriya Upanishad. You can think of the five koshas as layers of an onion and at its center is Atman, the true self. Working our way through the layers we begin with the gross (physical body) then move through the subtle body toward the self.

pancha-maya-koshas-infographic

 

The five koshas are:

1. Annamaya kosha (the physical body)
2. Pranamaya kosha (the energy or vital body)
3. Manomaya kosha (the mental body)
4. Vijnanamaya kosha (the wisdom body)
5. Anandamaya kosha (the bliss body)

Unlike the layers of an onion that can be completely peeled away from one another the koshas are intertwined, inseparable with each kosha influencing the state of the others. We will begin our exploration of the koshas with Annamaya Kosha, the food/physical body, and continue from there to Anandamaya kosha, the bliss body. We can look at these sheaths, improve our awareness and explore our inner landscape as we begin to answer life’s big questions like, “Who am I?” or “What is the meaning of life?” We also work with the sheaths in yoga nidra, working through the layers methodically and patiently in hopes that we will one day be fully aware of our true self.

Annamaya Kosha (the physical body or food body)

yoga-class-outside

 

The physical body is just that, physical. It’s made by the food and water we consume. When we are not in tune with our physical body, annamaya kosha, we may experience a sense of being ungrounded or unstable, we may lack appropriate proprioception and bump into things. Also, when we are not clued into our body and the needs of our body we may not be aware of how the food we are consuming is effecting our body and therefore every other aspect of our lives (remember all of the koshas are intertwined).

When we are attuned to our physical body we may experience a sense of balance and ease. Because our body is functioning more smoothly, it’s happier (and therefore not a distraction) so we can begin to focus on the other koshas. The physical body or the Annamaya kosha is the realm of the unconscious mind.

A simple exercise that you can practice to begin bringing more awareness to annamaya kosha is to find a comfortable seat or perhaps lie down on your yoga mat and bring one hand to your chest. Bring all of your awareness to the hand on the chest, becoming aware of your heart beat in the chest and in the hand. Be aware of where the hand meets the chest and become aware of any sensation that arises, the sensation of touch, heat, movement, etc. As you begin to feel more comfortable with this exercise you can begin to shift your awareness to other parts of your body. For example, your feet meeting the Earth, your liver, stomach, lungs, mouth/jaw and the muscles of your back. Be specific and stay with it for at least three to five minutes. Feel free to journal about your experience afterward.

Pranamaya Kosha (the energetic body or vital body)

main

Each of us has an energetic signature and it is contained within the pranamaya kosha, our energetic body. Pranamaya kosha is the vital force (prana, energy) that animates our physical body, annamaya kosha. We consume prana via our breath, the food we eat and the sun. This life force is carried throughout the body via channels called nadis (the most important nadis being sushumna, ida and pingala) and controlled via the chakras (energy centers). When we work with pranamaya kosha and the prana vayus we affect all six chakras. The pranamaya kosha is the realm of the subconscious mind.

To work with pranamaya kosha begin to incorporate more pranayama (breathing exercises), bandhas (energetic locks), and pratyahara (sense withdrawal) into your practice. Practicing these methods will teach you how to increase prana and channel prana through the body. As you begin to work with prana you may notice heat, a sense of calm, a vibration, or many other sensations. Experience each sensation fully. Once you feel connected to the pranamaya kosha you may desire to work deeper into the koshas.

Manomaya Kosha (the mental body)

quiet-contemplation

Manomaya Kosha, the mental body, creates meaning out of the world around us. It is the portion of our being where thinking, daydreaming and fantasizing reside. It is also where the beliefs, emotions and opinions from our culture and community reside. It is the repository for our unconscious mind. This kosha guides our emotional responses and is also home to the jnanendriyas (organs of knowledge, ie. our sense organs). Manomaya kosha is also the home of Ahamkara, the ego.

Manomaya kosha is the abode of our samskaras. Samskaras are the grooves of our mind, they are set paths and they are created by repetitive thought patterns. “I’m worthy/not worthy.” “I’m too fat/skinny.” “I choose love/fear.” These are thought patterns that occur often without us even acknowledging them. These samskaras color and shape all of our experiences.

A wonderful exercise to begin to work with these thought patterns and change your samskaras is one that Byron Katie teaches. Byron says to ask ourselves, “What would I be without this thought?” This is an excellent opportunity for self reflection, growth and journaling. I encourage you to keep a journal or small notepad with you at all times, so you can really see how often you experience these thought patterns. This is where big change can happen. This is the realm of the conscious mind.

Vijnanamaya Kosha (Wisdom Body)

Meditating with Mala Beads

Vijnanamaya kosha is the home of Buddhi, higher knowledge, intellect, intuition, judgement and discrimination. Ahamkara appears in vijnanamaya kosha, but as a higher knowledge of self. Our human qualities like gentleness, serenity, humility, non-attachment and bliss are also apparent in Vijnanamaya kosha. Vijnanamaya kosha is the realm of the superconscious mind. To reach Buddhi and Vijnanamaya kosha a regular meditation practice is recommended. A regular meditation practice allows one to cultivate the power and knowledge gained by being the witness and the observer.

Anandamaya Kosha (Bliss Body)

journaling

Anandamaya kosha is the innermost of the koshas and therefore the closest to Atman. The bliss in anandamaya kosha, is more than just an emotional state. Ananda (bliss) is peace, joy and love achieved through contact with the Atman (ultimate consciousness) and is a direct experience of the divine. By not identifying with the lower koshas we gain access to the higher koshas of vijnanamaya and anandamaya, where we may eventually move into that bliss state.

Interested in working with your koshas more? Join me for an upcoming Yoga Nidra class or on retreat where we will have the opportunity to practice yoga nidra multiple times.

Love and Light,

Autumn

Autumn Adams
Follow me

Autumn Adams

Owner, Founder, & Retreat Leader at Ambuja Yoga
Autumn founded Ambuja Yoga in 2014 to share her love of adventure, yoga, and travel with her fellow yogis. Ambuja Yoga has morphed into more than she could have ever dreamed and she is thrilled to have a "job" she loves. She is forever grateful for the opportunity to facilitate personal growth and self love through yoga while taking yogis to off-the-beaten-path destinations worldwide. Follow Autumn on Instagram @autumnadamsyoga.
Autumn Adams
Follow me

Latest posts by Autumn Adams (see all)

What’s A Bandha?

Hey yogis, I’m here to clear things up about the bandhas. I’ve been to more than my fair share of group classes in which the yoga instructor says something along the lines of “engage mula bandha” without any extra guidance. There are so many new yoga students right now and honestly I’d like to give you a hand, to demystify the bandhas, and encourage you to keep coming back to your yoga mat time and time again. I know experiential guidance is even more powerful than just reading, but this blog post will at least get you started in the right direction… if you still need more clarification feel free to message me or join me for a Bandha Workshop.

WHAT ARE THE BANDHAS?

Bandhas are the activation and engagement of muscle fibers, in strategic areas in the body, that support in the toning and lifting of the systems of the body against the natural laws of gravity. Bandhas are used to stabilize the spine AND to draw kundalini upward.

3 Main Bandhas:

  1. Moola bandha (mula bandha)- The root lock
  2. Uddiyana bandha- Upward flying lock
  3. Jalandhara bandha- The throat lock

2 Secondary Bandhas:

  1. Hasta bandha- hand lock
  2. Pada bandha- foot lock

 

MULA BANDHA- “THE ROOT LOCK” (PERINEUM OR CERVIX RETRACTION LOCK)

Mula bandha forces the prana upward and prevents it from escaping out the lower outlets.

Mula Bandha Basics:

  • Begin by practicing in a seated posture.
  • Isolate the different parts of the pelvic floor (front-stopping pee, back-stopping poo, middle- pulling in and up (without engaging front or back))
  • Lift from the perineum (male) or cervix (female); similar-ish to a kegel

Activating and engaging mula bandha tones and supports the internal organs of the lower abdominal cavity and brings much needed awareness to the space between the pubis (front) and the coccyx (back). This connection between front body and back body is usually saved for the psoas muscle, which due to habitual patterns of hip flexion in what we do for work and play is one of the major causes of lower back pain. Continuous awareness of the space between the pubis and coccyx and sitting bones in yoga poses and transitions can help alleviate already existing tightness, tension and/or lower back pain and can reduce the potential of lower back injury.

Gross (clench) vs. Subtle (lift) action

Practicing with a more gross, clenching sensation is okay when you’re learning to identify the muscles necessary to perform the bandhas, but in a regular asana practice the engagement is much more subtle… perhaps 20%.

Get Familiar With Your Pelvic Floor

Physiologically, this bandha is a diamond shape hammock of muscles that spans the space between the bones of the pubis in the front, the two ischium (sitting bones) on the sides and the coccyx in the back. These are your coccygeus, iliococcygeus, and the pubococcygeus muscles – known together as your Levator Ani, which form a part of the pelvic floor.

perineal-muscles-pelvic-floor-diagram

UDDIYANA BANDHA (THE ABDOMINAL RETRACTION LOCK)

Uddiyana bandha unites apana and prana at the navel center, the bandha described is called the rising or flying bandha.

uddiyanabandha-

Uddiyana Bandha Basics

  1. To learn Uddiyana Bandha practice in either a seated posture (with spine long) or standing posture with feet hip width and hands on thighs.
  2. Inhale fully inflating belly and lungs then exhale fully and forcefully until empty.
  3. With the breath held out draw your diaphragm in and up to hollow out the belly.
  4. Release your breath and uddiyana bandha when you cannot hold the breath comfortably any longer.
  5. Never exhale or inhale AS you move the body into the lock. Breathe after or before movement as appropriate.

Uddiyana Bandha increases vitality, toning effect on the visceral organs, muscles, nerves and glands, stimulates blood circulation and absorption. The heart is gently massaged and squeezed by the upward pressure of the diaphragm. The suction or negative pressure in the thorax draws venous blood up from the abdomen into the heart and at the same time, arterial blood is drawn into the internal organs.

Chakras most affected are:

Manipura (solar plexus), Anahata (heart), & Vishuddi (throat).

*contraindications: stomach or intestinal ulcers, uncontrolled high blood pressure, heart disease, glaucoma or raised intracranial pressure

JALANDHARA BANDHA (THROAT LOCK)

jalandhara-bandha-yoga-journal

Jalandhara prevents an upward leakage of prana. Jalandhara regulates the circulatory and respiratory systems, stimulates the thyroid to balance metabolism, and is said to cure diseases of the throat.

Jalandhara bandha basics:

  • Can be practiced in most postures.
  • Full expression: shoulders up, chin to chest and jawline back.

Chakras most affected are:

Vishuddi (throat)

*contraindications: uncontrolled high blood pressure and heart disease

MAHA BANDHA (THE GREAT LOCK)

Maha bandha, or the Great Lock, is a combination of mula bandha, uddiyana bandha, and jalandhara bandha. Maha bandha should only be practiced under the guidance of an experienced teacher.

Resources:

Pelvic Floor Dysfunction No More!

https://yogainternational.com/article/view/uddiyana-bandha-step-by-step

http://www.yogajournal.com/pose/net-bearer-bond/

Autumn Adams
Follow me

Autumn Adams

Owner, Founder, & Retreat Leader at Ambuja Yoga
Autumn founded Ambuja Yoga in 2014 to share her love of adventure, yoga, and travel with her fellow yogis. Ambuja Yoga has morphed into more than she could have ever dreamed and she is thrilled to have a "job" she loves. She is forever grateful for the opportunity to facilitate personal growth and self love through yoga while taking yogis to off-the-beaten-path destinations worldwide. Follow Autumn on Instagram @autumnadamsyoga.
Autumn Adams
Follow me

Latest posts by Autumn Adams (see all)