Mistakes to Avoid as a Yoga Retreat Host

It’s the dream of many yoga teachers — travel the world leading bliss-filled retreats. The reality is not so dreamy.

I’ve been leading yoga retreats for over 8 years now, with almost 50 retreats under my belt (I hit 50 last summer!). Straight up, not all of them were a success. Sometimes, I even lost money — I literally paid money for my students to go on vacation! I’m not going to lie, even though I tried to convince myself it was okay because I was in service, it hurt a little.

It took me a long time to figure out what I was doing wrong and what I had to do to keep living my dream of hosting yoga retreats all over the world and be profitable at it. Now, I consistently make a living hosting retreats and 75% of my guests are repeat guests (that’s how I know they love it!). I try to practice humbleness but I can’t help feeling a little pride.

What I can do is share what I’ve learned and be open with other yoga teachers to help them step into their dreams of being a successful yoga retreat leader. It’s my mission with yoga teacher prep and now I’m finally letting go of my most closely held, hardest learned lesson. If you saw my Facebook Live, then these will sound familiar but I wanted to offer it in written form too. 

So, here are the 5 mistakes that yoga retreat leaders make (and I made most of them) in running a retreat, big or small.

  1. Price it Wrong.

There are two ways this can go but most of the time, retreat leaders charge too little and this is how so many yoga teachers finish a retreat and suddenly discover that they’ve lost money. I’ve been there. It’s hard. You are on this major high and people love you and then you realize you just paid for them to feel that way. I remember when this happened to me — I was gutted. If you want to avoid this mistake, you need to learn to price it right. Don’t be greedy but make sure you fully understand what your costs are and account for a few of the unexpected expenses. Make sure your retreat will still make money even if you don’t totally sell out. I have a spreadsheet that I use to figure all of this out (I call it my Pricing Calculator because it literally tells me how much I’d have to charge to make a profit). I can’t stress enough how critical it is to have a complete grasp on your costs and potential costs before you put your offering out.

  1. Forget to Market.

Let me tell you, ‘build it and they will come’ is not a reality. We need to let go of our ego and our expectations and accept that we must present our offering to the world in order for them to say yes. Advertising and marketing a really big part of the process — and the only way that you can possibly run a successful retreat. Make sure that you are sharing your retreat in multiple places (online, in your classes, etc) and that your marketing material is attractive, effective and consistent. Once you figure the right formula out, lock it down and follow it again. It took me a while to figure this out but now I follow the same plan each time and it helps me sell out retreats quickly.

  1. Stress over Cancellations.

Nothing will make you hate running retreats than succumbing to the stress that comes with the job. Let me tell you something that took a long time to come to terms with — people will cancel! The first time it happens you’ll be shocked and your ego might get a little bruised. You’ll stress over the ‘why?’ and ‘what could I have done differently?’ Let it go. Aparigraha. Now you have a new opportunity for someone who may need it more than the person who cancelled. If you have an iron-clad refund policy and you’ve priced it right, you’ll be just fine. a

  1. Over-schedule.

For a lot of new yoga retreat leaders, they make the mistake of thinking more is better. So, they plan every minute of every retreat day and they fill it with activities. Here’s why that’s a mistake — your retreaters are on vacation. They need some downtime. They don’t want to come back from a yoga retreat feeling like they’ve just been through a whirlwind. Leave free time in your schedule and your students will thank you. I have an itinerary that I follow for each retreat including meal times, yoga, optional activities and private time. As a retreat leader, you’ll want to develop a template itinerary like this so you can avoid overwhelming your guests. Oh, and p.s. — you’re going to need some of that downtime to plan your classes and deal with any issues that come up too.

  1. Vacation.

This last mistake is huge. I made this mistake for the longest time. Here it is: Thinking that you’re on vacation. This is the hardest part! Yes, you’re in Mexico or Bali or Morocco but you are not on vacation. You are working and working hard. Running a retreat is like being a 24-hr party hostess. You need to always be available and on your game. There is no time for you to chill on the beach if you want to ensure your guests have the time of their life. ‘But, I’m doing this to travel and see the world! If I can’t enjoy it, why and I doing it?’ That might be what you’re asking yourself, and I’ve certainly heard myself say that in the past. It’s all about balance. Now I book a few days before or after my retreat so I can fully relax. This is an important part and you need to factor this into Mistake #1 so you can truly offer a memorable yoga retreat that is profitable and enjoyable for you!

I hope these tips help you realize your dreams of running amazing yoga retreats or help you run them a bit better. I dare say, this is just the tip of the iceberg of what I’ve learned.

If you want more tips, I have an online course called Creating a Profitable Yoga Retreat where I give you my complete blueprint for running successful yoga retreats. It includes the templates, spreadsheets and documents I use every time I plan, market and run a retreat. I truly hope that you will find value in it.

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