7 common mistakes of yoga retreat centers

The chances are it’s been a long slow labor of love to get here. You dared to dream. You knew you wouldn’t settle until you owned your own retreat space. And now, you do.

The trouble is as yogis start piling through your Om inaugurated doors, you feel like there is more you could do to safeguard a good guest experience. When you are running around trying to keep everything together and responding to the need of guests and staff, it doesn’t leave much time for being proactive and processing your beloved business.

Through my own work in retreat centers, there are a number of things I’ve recognized that often get overlooked that can cause chaos. So here are the top errors that most retreat spaces make which effect the overall guest experience. Tackle these and your life (along with your TripAdvisor reviews) may just become a little bit better!

You’re not welcoming people in the right way

People come on retreat from all over, for all sorts of reasons. Maybe they’ve never been on retreat before. They arrive travel frazzled, tired and a little bit scared. Being received by a friendly face who puts them immediately at ease helps kick things off on the right foot. Make sure that whatever time of day guests arrive there is someone to welcome them, show them around and make them a cup of tea.


You don’t have enough attention to detail

Your retreat can be modest, but ensure everything is in its place. Check that guest rooms are properly made, with fresh linen and towels. Ensure there is plenty of soap and toilet paper in each bathroom (there is nothing more humiliating than having to constantly ask for a re-stock, alluding to your bowel habits). Add flowers, welcome notes or chocolates to each and every pillow. Put pretty books on coffee tables and display fruit and juice and tea by the bucket load.

You’re not being unconditionally kind

People on retreat don’t always feel as though life has been kind. They have come to recover from the seeming lack of kindness in the world. Listen to them when they speak to you. Welcome what they say without judgement and then hold the space. Be kind and warmhearted. Let your own generosity of spirit and openness lead the way. Most people have never been met in their wholeness.

You’re not being responsive

Each group of retreat guests are different. Group dynamics and individuals all shift and alter constantly. No two retreats are ever the same. Therefore, don’t try to teach them in the same way. Keep your eyes, ears and heart open. Notice the mood in the group and try to deliver an experience based on what you see is needed, rather then blindly following the program you had in mind. Sometimes that means throwing all your careful plans out of the window.

There isn’t an abundance of food

Eating habits are so intimate and personal after all. There is nothing that brings out folks’ food anxiety demons more than dictating meal times or there not being enough food for everyone. Down time, fresh air and yoga will make people hungry. Ensure there is an abundance of everything, especially in the first few days until you gauge eating habits and appetites. It’s better to have a few left overs than under-nourished guests.

Fun is off the menu

A yoga retreat is time out for some, recuperation for many and a holiday for others. While this provides the opportunity for decompression and contemplation that doesn’t necessarily mean that the mood needs to remain sombre. Life is serious, but it sometimes helps not to take it so seriously. A little humour and light heartedness can go a long way.

You’re not managing expectations

Help people navigate their week ahead by telling them a little bit about what being on your retreat will involve. You don’t have to give away all your secrets but a little clarity can go a long way. Bring people together, tell them about yourself, build rapport and trust and let them know what they can expect from you.  Ensure that you or preferably an appointed ‘go to’ person are available at all times, should troubles or tensions arise.

Running retreats is a wonderful and inspiring thing to do. More than anything you are holding a space for an experience to unfold and you won’t always be in complete control of what that experience will be. However, one thing is for certain the need for retreat spaces is on the increase in our stressed out world, with more and more people needing time away. To ensure you build a successful yoga retreat center, check that you’re not making any mistakes that can easily be avoided.

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