Are you going on your first yoga retreat and don't know what to pack? I get it. I almost always wish I had a “man servant” nearby to help me lug my 50-lb bags.
The truth is, preparing for a retreat is just like preparing for life: you need less than you think, and everything works out in the end.
Having led a retreat and attending retreats for more than a decade, here are the typical questions and concerns from most yogis.
Do I bring a mat?
OMG Yes! Or maybe? It depends on the retreat, and your level of interest in the yoga. If you are attending a mostly hiking, biking, sight-seeing retreat that has an early morning practice, perhaps the yoga is not mission-critical. In that case, see if the accommodations provide mats, or you might also be happy with a lightweight travel mat. I like the Manduka Pro-Lite as it is slightly smaller, slightly lighter and is easily wiped clean because it has closed-cell technology.
However, if the main point of the retreat is the yoga, and you will be practicing six hours a day, or becoming certified in a teacher training, then I highly recommend that you take your full-size mat. One thing to check is if your mat will survive sand and grit. Travel can be hard on a mat, so you might invest in a mat bag.
How Do I Pack my Mat?
I travel with a nearly full-size mat and it fits in a 28-inch checked bag. However, most airlines will let a mat be one of your carry-on items. (You might need to verify this with international flights) Get a mat bag, or wrap it carefully in a sling if you put it in the overhead bins. A small puppy died in one of those bins this year. You have no idea what could be up there.
A Mat is Out of the Question. Now What?
Say you are backpacking and you cannot take a mat, I love yoga socks and gloves. I use the ones from Toe Sox. These will give you grip on any surface and provide a small level of sanitary protection.
Gloves give you instant grip.
What do I Take to Wear?
If you are going to a tropical location you might like technical, lightweight fabrics. For a week, three pants and three tops should suffice and you can wash them in a sink. I once practiced in Paris, and I brought all my most fabulous KiraGrace outfits. But hey, I was in Paris (and I had a “man-servant.”). Remember, less is more is never truer than in packing clothes.
These pants will wash easily and dry quickly.
The one thing I would not bring is cotton. Cotton-based fabrics hold onto bacteria and bad smells, they are hard to wash clean in a sink, and in the tropics, seem to never dry.
Don’t forget you will be off the mat too.
I recommend that you plan for those times in between practices, such as lunch. Take a dress/tunic/skirt for women, and shorts/pants for men to put over your yoga clothes. Some countries have strong feelings about nearly naked yogis walking into stores and restaurants. Go figure!
What Am I Missing?
Props are a problem. They are usually bulky, except for a yoga strap which you can tuck into a corner of your bag. I mean, how can you carry a bolster? This is an opportunity to discover your independence. If you must take a prop, then you must. But otherwise, do as Buddha would: travel light and journey well.
Michelle Marchildon is the Yogi Muse. She is an E-RYT 500 and the author of several books on yoga. She teaches writing, yoga theming and asana internationally. She is based in Denver, Colorado. You can find her at www.MichelleMarchildon.com