In leading a retreat, a yoga teacher has duty of care for any number of people. Most retreats will proceed from beginning to end with no hiccoughs, but you still, as the leader, need to be mentally and physically prepared for different situations.
On one retreat I ran, a participant became gravely ill and I had to arrange for her to be driven home in the middle of the event. Near the end of another retreat, one that ran for two weeks in the lower Blue Mountains, nearby bush fires threatened our site and we had to evacuate the whole group or risk being cut off completely.
Being in a natural setting, you will need to advise participants about various creatures and flora they will encounter. My experience in rural settings has variously involved encounters with carpet pythons, funnel web spiders, stinging nettle, leeches, ticks, goannas, and more!
Have a well-equiped first-aid kit and make sure your training is up-to-date. You may never need them, but know where emergency services are anyway. Also, keep track of where individuals in your group are going to be when they take off to explore the area.
If you are running a weekend retreat or a longer one, post your schedule of classes, free time, and meals, so the students can slot into a routine. One of the really comforting things about attending a retreat is not having to make any decisions about what to do when. In our typically overloaded lives, having too many choices can be burdensome and stressful.
Schedule evening activities that allow all participants to feel included. We usually have a roster of kitchen helpers at my retreats. They take on clean-up after meals are served, which helps the cook and also lets people meet each other outside of classes in a purposeful way. This is “seva” – service – and is a part of karma yoga practice, part of coming together as a temporary community.
In various retreats over time, I have shown yoga-related videos, enrolled people in entertainment evenings, and invited participation into parlour games, like charades. Playing games is fun, usually provides belly laughs, and encourages moving our energy, if things have become too sedate.
Create a theme for the retreat: “Spring Cleaning”, “Organic Living”, “Ground of Being”, “Yoga Nidra and Meditation”, “Understanding Shoulders and Hips…. Then, prepare and have in mind what you want to achieve in each session. Develop each of your classes around your theme, starting from laying foundations to building toward the crescendo of accomplishing your intention by the end of the retreat.
To deliver the best value to your students, combine the theoretical, the practical and the introspective, to give your students a holistic experience. So, they feel more whole by the end of the retreat, inspired to practice yoga, and in touch with themselves and others.
A Sample Schedule:
7-8 am Pranayama/Meditation
8:30-9:30 am Light Breakfast
10-12 am Asanas (dynamic)
12-1 pm Lunch, followed by free time
4-6 pm Asanas (quieter practice/restorative/inversions)
6:30-7:30 pm Dinner