Are you going on your first yoga retreat and don't know what yoga apparel 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 yoga 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 about what to pack for a yoga retreat.
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 yoga outfits. But hey, I was in Paris (and I had a “man-servant.”). Remember, less is more is never truer than in packing yoga clothes.
These yoga 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 here.
If you liked this blog, check out our other blogs like: "Wildest Dreams: Find Your Perfect Retreat", "Resources for Your Well-Being", "Top 6 Long Yoga Tops For Your Practice," and " Resources to Nurture your Spirituality."