Erica Gragg knows her stuff when it comes to travel fitness. An acclaimed yoga teacher and a co-founder of the hybrid travel and fitness retreat company Escape to Shape, Gragg spends most of her time abroad in places like Cambodia, Germany, Morocco, and Ecuador, leading small groups on hybrid fitness and cultural excursions. A typical day in Marrakech, Morocco—Escape to Shape’s most recent excursion—would incorporate things like morning yoga, private guided historical tours, a cooking class or belly dancing lessons, and Pilates. We talked to Gragg about what to look for (and what to avoid) when searching for your perfect yoga retreat.
Where do you start?
“First, you have to know your primary goal of the trip. Are you going for the teacher, or is it the location? If you’re going on the retreat because you have a connection with a specific teacher or style of yoga, then the backdrop isn’t as important. But if going to a certain place is your primary goal, then that’s different. The teacher is still important, of course, but in a different way.”
“It’s important that they’ve been to the country before; otherwise you’ll lose that feeling of insider access. It’s also important that the teacher has led retreats before, so you know they’re a quality instructor. Research the trip you’re taking and make sure it’s known for putting on a full, rich experience.”
There are tons of different types of yoga retreats—how do you know if you’re choosing the right one for you?
“Besides knowing the location and the teacher you want, you should also know the mindset you want to go in with. Are you looking for transformation, or relaxation? There’s something for everyone, but you have to know what you’re getting into. I’ve noticed with people that how well their trip goes comes down to how aware they were going into it. Ask about everything before you go.”
What kind of things should you make sure to ask about?
“If you want to stay somewhere fancy, you’ll be disappointed if you arrive and the accommodations are more rustic, or vice versa. So find out about where you’re staying. Ask how many people will be on the trip. Some retreats are as small as 8 or 20; some are as large as 80. Those are totally different experiences. Find out what the meals will be like. Are they going to be plated? Buffet-style? Are meals included? Make sure to ask about hidden costs.”
“One of the most wonderful aspects of traveling to a foreign destination for a yoga retreat—or any retreat for that matter—is discovery. Not only discovery of another culture and its people. Not only of new friendships. Not only of new market finds and new flavors. Not only of new meditation techniques or fitness moves. But of ourselves, which is indeed the greatest discovery of all. It’s amazing how much space there is for the process of discovery when we take ourselves out of our day to day environment.”
Gragg’s next trip is with Escape to Shape to Cartagena, Colombia, where she plans on doing a lot of Pilates, taking salsa dancing lessons, and boating to the Rosario Islands. Learn more about Escape to Shape’s adventures at escapetoshape.com.
Photos courtesy of Escape to Shape.
© 2016 AFAR Media