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Planning Your Family Yoga Retreat? Be Flexible

by Debra Bokur

Jan 4, 2018

© Evgenyatamanenko | Dreamstime.com

Travel Tips

Family dynamics are complex and multilayered, even on the best of days. Like all energy, lines of communication tend to ebb and flow, sometimes becoming muddled, regardless of how loving the relationships between members. Setting off together on a retreat can help initiate a process of rediscovery that forges stronger family bonds and strengthens a sense of unity — and help families be fully present and attuned with one another for an extended period in a supportive and relaxed setting.


When nature is a component of a retreat, a powerful tool for connection and healing is added. Hiking unfamiliar paths, or including active elements such as surfing, river kayaking or other challenging activities, removes people from their comfort zones and allows an opportunity to explore cooperation and connection (with the added bonus of eliminating technology and all its distractions).

Mother teaching daughter yoga pose

© Evgenyatamanenko | Dreamstime.com

Yoga professional Rita Trieger has led yoga retreats around the world, and helped both beginning and advanced yogis benefit from the retreat setting by creating an atmosphere of support and community — and, most of all, fun. “You need to remember that a four or five day retreat is, after all, a vacation,” says Trieger. “Laughing should be encouraged.”


A member of the International Association of Yoga Therapists, Trieger is the founder and former editor-in-chief of Fit Yoga magazine (2003–2010), and is the author of Yoga Heals Your Back (Fairwinds, 2005) and Tranquil Mind, a meditation and yoga CD. She incorporates a variety of traditions into her inspiring teaching style, and has cultivated an enthusiastic following in both Vinyasa flow and classes with a healing, restorative or therapeutic focus. In July 2011 she was initiated into the sacred Kalachakra Tantra by H.H. the XIV Dalai Lama in Washington, D.C., and continues her in-depth studies of Buddhist philosophy and meditation.


When asked what happens when all that togetherness on a family retreat simply exacerbates tension between people, Trieger reminds this can happen on any kind of vacation.


“On a yoga retreat,” she expands, “you hope that all the naturally occurring self-examination will help mediate any big outbursts. That said, if an outburst occurs, what better place to work things out? Yoga is not just about the physical — it’s an holistic practice affording the opportunity to see who you are, forgive yourself and acknowledge what’s good about you. When that kind of personal breakthrough happens, you can turn those good intentions towards others.”

group doing yoga together

Photo: Syda Productions | Dreamstime.com

She suggests family members not practice next to each other, so parents are not tempted to offer corrections, and a teenager has space to explore with some degree of autonomy. And if you’re already asking yourself how you’ll drag your teenager to that tropical yoga retreat you have your heart set on, Trieger cautions you to reconsider.


“I wouldn’t recommend dragging anyone to a yoga retreat,” she says. “That’s a recipe for certain rebellion. It can be better to say, ‘I’m going to yoga; you can come or you can do the beach.’ When everyone is talking about the day’s practice at dinner, it may inspire curiosity in your teen, and who knows? He or she may show up via encouragement from another yogi. If they can relate to someone they truly resonate with, I think they’re more likely to give it a good try.”


Within family structures, it can become easy for members to assign roles to one another — the resourceful daughter, the authoritarian brother, the passive youngest child — without recognizing that roles evolve, just as people do. Happily, a retreat can help release outdated definitions.


“A yoga practice can really level the playing field,” says Trieger. “The bossy brother may not feel like such a hot shot on his first or second attempt at a Vinyasa flow or an arm balance, while an often-overlooked younger child may discover an ability to excel and shine in a practice that can highlight a beautiful expression of individuality.”


According to Trieger, yoga can temper the ego or boost confidence; it can help release emotional burdens and allow for leaps of faith. “Imagine,” she asks, “if that begins to happen when you’re a teen? It’s a beautiful opportunity to grow into a well-formed human being, as well as into a family who not only love each other, but truly like and respect one another.”


Through a retreat, families can begin to learn from one another, gaining insights that can help them navigate new, more functional, more loving ways of being together. A retreat allows families to sit together with problems or thought patterns that may be blocking intimacy, leading to insight, understanding and transformation — and emerge at the end with less rigid viewpoints and newly strengthened bonds.


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