5 Tips for Your First Wellness Retreat

by  Elena Sonnino | Jul 16, 2015
Elena Sonnino
Elena Sonnino

More and more, health-minded vacationing has been on the rise. These days, many people dream of checking into a weeklong wellness retreat, spending their days with everything from yoga to hiking to painting and sculpture classes. For a first-timer, though, knowing what to expect and managing the daily offerings can be dizzying. Here are five tips to help you embrace the “om” from start to finish.

1. Set a goal.
If you're taking the time to invest in a wellness vacation, chances you have a good reason for it. Maybe it's to improve fitness, or maybe you've been feeling a need to disconnect. Wherever you're coming from, knowing your purpose will help you sift through the noise of endless programming on the menu. Not sure of what your goal should be? Some programs use a pre-assessment before you arrive to guide your journey. At Hilton Head Health , for just one example, guests fill out a pre-arrival questionnaire that they discuss with a counselor or fitness or nutrition expert once they get to the South Carolina resort, to plan the best schedule for the week ahead.

2. Be prepared.
Are you a big coffee drinker? Do you need to check your email even when you are away? Researching the availability of these daily essentials before you arrive (or, really, before you book) will help reduce anxiety about and during your stay. When it comes to packing, rarely do you need to bring a lot for a wellness retreat. Laundry services are provided -- or at the very least available, if not included in your rate. And just as important as getting ready for the retreat before you even arrive, like starting to wean off caffeine in advance, preparedness is also key for a successful re-entry into your typical lifestyle. Instead of coming home to a pantry full of sweets, enlist the help of family or friends to stock your kitchen with whole foods and fresh produce especially if your goal was to focus on improved nutrition.

3. Say "yes" to orientation.
One of the best ways to get acclimated is to take advantage of orientation sessions and tours of the property when you first arrive. You don't need to memorize all the information that's introduced, but not only might these sessions address many of the questions that you might have, they're also a good way to meet other newbies. Staff members will often share helpful insider tips that will make your week easier, too. There's one smart nugget that fitness and meditation instruction Jay Dee Cutting II shares on his tours of Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico, for example: Use a locker in the spa to keep a change of clothes and bathing suit, so that you don't need to return to your casita (possibly farther away) between activities.

4. Include downtime in your schedule.
With so many choices of activities, it's possible for guests to never fully relax during their stay. Don't fall into the trap of feeling like you need to take part in an organized activity every hour of every day. Instead, set aside downtime each day to nap, journal, sit by a pool, or lounge in the steam room. Another option is to choose a program like Mountain Trek in British Columbia, which makes the choices and sets your entire itinerary for you. But rest assured that you'll still be doing want you want -- many of these programs, like VeraVia in Carlsbad, CA, individualize the schedule based on your personal goals.

5. Be open to new experiences.
As you're setting your goals and scheduling in downtime, it's equally important to leave yourself the opportunities to do something unplanned. Saying "yes" to new experiences is a way to push beyond your comfort zone, and a wellness retreat -- which provides a safe haven to experiment without judgment -- is the perfect place to do just that. Don't worry about existing insecurities or pre-conceived notions of whether you think you'd like something or not. When else will you take a cooking, painting, writing or sculpting classes in your busy day-to-day at home? Sign up for that African drumming or striptease dance class while you have the time. You might just find something that you end up loving -- or at least have the joy of learning something new.

Elena Sonnino

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