Before writing this article, I happened to coincidently listen to a podcast on ‘Yoga Land’ with Bex Urban who shared her own insights on how to successfully run a yoga retreat. Bex has been running yoga retreats in California for the past decade, well before the concept of retreats proliferated the yoga marketplace. One particular string of wise words really caught my attention. When Bex was asked how she knew she was ready to run a retreat she replied ‘I had far too much that I wanted to share to be able to squeeze it into a 60 or 90 minute class.’It made me ponder why yoga teachers set out to run a retreat…
Is it a seemingly natural progression once you have enough class hours under your belt? Is it a lucrative way to diversify your income as a yoga teacher? Or, do you simply have so much more that you want to gift your students with?
- 1 What is a yoga retreat?
- 3 Stephanie Snyder – Stephanie Snyder Yoga And Love Story Yoga
- 4 StephanieSnyder.com | Instagram
- 6 Francie Fishman – Pure Flow Yoga
- 7 Pureflow.yoga | Instagram
- 9 Janet Stone – Janet Stone Yoga
- 10 Janetstoneyoga.com | Instagram
- 12 Delamay Devi – Delamay Devi Yoga
- 13 Delamaydevi.com | Instagram
- 16 Rachel Zinman – Rachel Zinman Yoga
- 17 Rachelzinmanyoga.com | Instagram
- 20 Danielle Radulski – Silver Lining Yoga
- 21 Thesilverliningyoga.com | Instagram
- 23 Annie Au – Annie Au Yoga
- 24 Annieauyoga.com | Instagram
- 27 Rachel Fearnley – The Pineapple House Bali
- 28 Pineapplehousebali.com | Instagram
- 30 Leah Santa Cruz
- 31 Leahsantacruz.com | Instagram
- 34 Jayaprada Radhika – Kalpana Radhika Yoga
- 35 Kalpanaradhikayoga.com | Instagram
- 36 Let’s wrap up
- 37 PS: Do you use Pinterest? Pin me!
What is a yoga retreat?
Let’s borrow from Yogapedia.com‘s definition… A yoga retreat is a withdrawal to focus on the practice of yoga. … The purpose of a retreat is to allow yogis to deepen their practice without the distractions of life. Yoga retreats are temporary breaks from daily routine that typically last from weekend to a week or more.
Outside of my time with The Yoga Nomads, I happen to manage a booking platform for yoga retreats and yoga teacher trainings all over the world. Over the past three years in this role, I have come into contact with literally thousands of yoga retreats and hundreds of eager teachers devoting their time, energy and passion into offering intelligently crafted immersions into yoga and yoga related topics.
Some of these retreats I see fill with ease and noticeable speed, and within a matter of days I am marking the event as fully booked. Other retreats seem to float about stagnantly in the ever-growing retreat pool and unfortunately fail to gain the traction needed to make them a successful endeavor.
Whether you are already offering retreats, if you are in the midst of planting the first seeds, or if running a retreat is on your dream-list for the near future, there seems to be certain do’s and dont’s when it comes to the retreat marketing arena.
Marketing and yoga can often seem at odds and it can be challenging for teachers, especially new teachers, to find the balance between offering and selling a retreat. The ‘hard sale’ can certainly deter even your most devoted students, while sitting back and waiting for the retreat to miraculously fill on its own borders on the risky side of positive thinking!
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In order to help you successfully market your retreat we have reached out to some of the most successful yoga teachers and leaders in the global yoga community. Some of these teachers you may be familiar with, others have been offering (and filling) retreats for several years, while a handful of these gifted facilitators have full time thriving retreat businesses.
You will learn things like where to advertise yoga retreats, how to market a retreat, and various other yoga marketing strategies.
However it won’t stop there, because surprisingly…
There was one common thread that really struck me when reading the thoughtful replies offered by these teachers: there is less emphasis on good old fashioned ‘Marketing 101,’ and far more attention being directed to what your intention is when offering the retreat. Do you have any yoga retreat ideas that aline with your unique gifts?
Another way to phrase this is: discover your unique yoga niche.
It seems that the age old yogic wisdom of ‘when the student is ready, the teacher will appear,’ holds sway when it comes to filling your retreat. So, while sitting back and doing nothing isn’t the wisest game plan, there is an element of allowing and surrendering and TRUSTING, that may prove to be effective.
Let’s hear what the professionals have to say.
Stephanie Snyder – Stephanie Snyder Yoga And Love Story Yoga
StephanieSnyder.com | Instagram
Stephanie resides in San Francisco where she has been teaching yoga since 2000. She teaches workshops, trainings and retreats internationally, is an industry festival and conference presenter, has written numerous articles for industry-leading publications and is one of the country’s most sought-after teachers. In 2017 Stephanie founded Love Story Yoga in San Francisco and she also has over 120 online classes online at YogaGlo.Most effective strategy on how to market a yoga retreat?Now with digital media so prevalent, I use all of the usual channels: email, instagram and facebook. Posting regularly but not too often. The use of pictures is quite compelling. I also of course announce in all of my classes. It’s worth noting that your first retreat may be small but that doesn’t mean you should give up, they will build over time and it’s a word of mouth marketing stream that is one of the most powerful once you have a retreat or two under your belt. Remember too that your retreaters will post pictures of the retreat online and that is great marketing too!Least effective marketing strategy?I don’t use paper marketing, I think it’s really dated and also horrible for the environment.
Francie Fishman – Pure Flow Yoga
Pureflow.yoga | Instagram
Francie is a dedicated and passionate yoga teacher who runs a retreat company based on the tropical island of Koh Phangan, Thailand called Pure Flow Yoga. These year-round retreats draw yogi’s from all over the globe for a memorable island yoga holiday.Most effective marketing strategy for filling your retreats?1) Testimonials, Social Proof, Feature Articles & 3rd party EndorsementsPeople like and trust what other people like! Booking a destination retreat is a big deal for most people. There is risk involved: leaving home (often solo), travel to foreign land, often in a period of vulnerability, uncertainty or life transition. People need reassurance that they’re making the right decision. They need to know that other people have done it before, have benefited greatly and had a beautiful, supported, comfortable and hopefully, life-changing experience. From our analytics we can see that it takes people who convert, roughly 6 visits to the website before they make their purchase. People want to read reviews, first hand accounts, watch videos of people sharing their experience, and trust that you are offering value.For Pure Flow Yoga, it seems that the most effective marketing strategy, aside from having a consistently awesome and high quality product offering, is the steadfast and passionate building of our brand’s equity over time; consistently eliciting testimonials from students and building our social proof in the form of Facebook & Instagram followers.We are very diligent about eliciting the support of our students to spread the love and this year we’ve had some really big wins: we won a Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence, which is incredible in terms of credibility, we are a “staff pic” on the very popular BookRetreats.com, and we were featured in the Guardian as one of the top Yoga Retreats in the World for 2018. This is huge in terms of credibility and has really proved to be a factor that sets us apart from every other retreat. It has also been huge in terms of providing very powerful backlink that improve our visibility in organic searches.2) Mailing List – Building & CommunicatingConsistently building a new following by growing and communicating with our mailing list is proving to be such an important marketing tool. I find writing newsletters really challenging for a variety of reasons. And yet, each time I make it through the almost ritualistic procrastination and perfectionism stage, I remember that the people on our list chose to be there, and I’m simply doing what I promised to do: bring awareness to our products, share our news and invite people to our events. Every time I share a newsletter we have some unsubscribes from our list, and we also have people who were just waiting for that exact-sign-from-the-universe-and-this-is-it situation that leads us to selling places on our retreats. 3) SEO & BacklinksSEO or search engine optimization is a complete world in and of itself and its very changeable and competitive. Thankfully, we’ve outsourced this task to a specialist company, and I can definitely see increased traffic to our website based on “organic searches” for relevant terms – e.g. for “best yoga retreat Thailand”. In many countries, Pure Flow Yoga comes up on page 1!Least effective marketing strategy?At first we were getting very lost in the endless rabbit holes of blogging and social media. While building these avenues definitely helps to get your name out there and build your brand’s value, as ends in and of themselves, they have not been directly successful as stand-alone conversion tools. While I think it’s important to have a finger in a few of these social media pies, I would recommend that you avoid spending too much time and energy here, as this can lead to oversaturation of information for you and can lead to stress and overwhelm as you try to master these tools.
Janet Stone – Janet Stone Yoga
Janet Stone is a global yoga warrior and her wealth of knowledge and experience creates a unique, vigorous approach to vinyasa yoga. Based in Bali and San Francisco, Janet leads immersions, retreats, workshops and more.Most effective marketing strategy for filling your retreats?An authentic passion for what I am offering is my most effective marketing strategy. To clearly love and be connected with the place and experience I am designing for students. Least effective marketing strategy?The least effective marketing strategy I’ve found is desperation or trying to force or push something I don’t feel deeply aligned with.
Delamay Devi – Delamay Devi Yoga
Delamay is a senior Prana Vinyasa yoga teacher, trainer, mentor and writer. She is well known internationally for her embodied offerings that are fueled with inspiration and infectious enthusiasm.Most effective marketing strategy for filling your retreats?First and foremost, word of mouth really is one of the best marketing tools for spreading the word about retreats. Personally communicating directly with your tribe through the many different channels and platforms which are available to us these days – Facebook lives, Instagram lives and a little promo video on YouTube- can easily sit on your retreats page. One marketing strategy which I enjoy is structuring my social media posts during the week in a way which really drops people into the experience of what it’s like to be on retreat with you, mixing up the personal posts with educational ones and inspiring ones gives your followers a full spectrum of experiences about what you offer. Along with some beautiful and captivating pics, write some easy to read and beautifully scripted words which share a snippet of the pic and more. And of course listing your retreat on some like-minded directories helps expand your reach too!Least effective marketing strategy?With so many retreats, trainings and events happening it’s vital to know your niche market and unique voice when marketing yourself. It’s very common for event descriptions to sound the same, for example ‘this yoga retreat includes daily yoga, a massage and organic food’. Yes, this may be true but sounding the same as all the other retreats out there is not an effective way to grab people’s attention! To stand out in the crowd don’t let your copy be the same, really highlight the unique benefits, let your personality shine through and be creative with how this is presented.
Rachel Zinman – Rachel Zinman Yoga
Rachel Zinman has been practicing yoga since 1983 and teaching since 1992. A dedicated yogi and author, Rachel offers retreats, workshops, classes and immersions around the world.Most effective marketing strategy for filling your retreats?I don’t think I can narrow it down to one because all roads lead to Rome so to speak. I have found that people need to see the retreat in at least 10 different places to make the decision to come. That means posting on Instagram, Facebook, a newsletter, listing the retreat on websites that list retreats. Flyers and regular announcements at events and workshops plus video blogs and short film clips showing the retreat vibe. The most powerful mode by far is social credentialing. Having a former participant rave about the retreat and literally recruiting their friend for you is usually how we fill our retreats and events.Least effective marketing strategy?Expensive ads in yoga magazines. We have wasted so much money on glossy ads that did absolutely nothing for us.
Danielle Radulski – Silver Lining Yoga
Danielle is a popular yoga teacher based in New York City who has earned herself a large social media following and digital community through sharing her authentic journey both on and off the yoga mat.Most effective marketing strategy for filling your retreats?E-Mail Marketing – I think building an email list in general is a HUGE part of building a successful brand and business. People come and go off of social media – but inboxes are usually something that people are constantly checking. Another great way is marketing to current students – mentioning the retreat at the begging/end of class, posting flyers at your current studio and even offering a ticket kickback to your studio for including your retreat in their newsletter.Pro-tip: Use ActiveCampaign to manage your email list and email marketing.Least effective marketing strategy?That’s a tough one! I think that a lot of the time (for me personally) paid ads has not worked. I believe when people are buying a retreat ticket- they’re buying into the person running it. Maybe they like what you say, share, or how you teach – but there’s more of an emotional connection. Rather than spend money on paid media – I think relationship building is key. That’s the great thing about social media – meeting new people and building new friendships!
Annie Au – Annie Au Yoga
Currently a yoga nomad, Annie travels around the world offering retreats and teacher trainings primarily in Mexico, France, Canada, Thailand and Bali. She specializes in Yin Yoga and Chinese Meridians, as well as yoga anatomy.Most effective marketing strategy for filling your retreats?In the past, I have found that there’s nothing more effective than speaking from your heart. The thing is my retreats aren’t ‘products’ that needed to be sold. Instead, they’re invitations to welcome like-minded people to join me on a journey. This journey is a whole-hearted experience filled with laughs and sometimes tears. And my duty as a teacher or friend is to provide a safe and judgment-free space for others to open their hearts. Also, when I’m speaking from my heart, whether it be a blog post or social media picture, I put everything on the table-my feelings, current practice, obstacles…etc. So what you see online is what you’ll see in person. Authenticity is the most valuable marketing strategy there is. Just be you.Least effective marketing strategy?The least effective strategy would be treating the retreats like commodities- a means for survival. So if every single post online is to ‘sell’ your retreat, there isn’t a whole lot of heart in it. Just a cold business exchange. I love this saying by Jay Shetty; he said that passion is for ourselves and purpose is for the others. Having the passion to learn about yoga is what fuels my own practice and learning. But offering retreats would be a purpose to help the others. So we have to start with why are we offering retreats? And how can we help others?
Rachel Fearnley – The Pineapple House Bali
Rachel Fearnley is a yoga teacher and coach living in Canggu. She is the founder of The Pineapple House Bali; a fun and hip Yoga and Surf Retreat business in Bali, and co-founder of The Rising Collective, who also offer boutique wellness retreat experiences.Most effective marketing strategy for filling your retreats?Word of mouth- nothing does it better than personal recommendation. So make the experience for your guests amazing, unforgettable and under promise and over deliver! That and trip advisor has been huge for us!Least effective marketing strategy?Having really not done much marketing at all, I would say it would be the Ad Words marketing – I tried it briefly but didn’t get much from it.Rachel Fearnley is a yoga teacher and coach living in Canggu. She is the founder of The Pineapple House and co-founder of Rising Collective, a unique wellness retreat experience that inspires change in clients through education, nourishing food, healing body treatments and gentle yoga.
Leah Santa Cruz
Leah Santa Cruz shares yoga, meditation and intimacy arts to entrepreneurs and working professionals. She empowers people who lead busy lives with tools to regain their balance, energy, focus and inner joy.Most effective marketing strategy for filling your retreats?I’ve found the most effective marketing strategy to filling a retreat is building up your student base (in person) and inviting people directly. Either inviting students by announcing at the end of your classes, or asking them directly in person (or over an email) to come, and adding why you think it would benefit them or why you think they would like it. Make it personal to them. Most people come because they have a relationship with you somehow. They trust you, or they’ve practiced with you and know you can deliver an experience. They come to hang out with you and learn what you have to share! Wouldn’t you want to go on a vacation with someone you know and trust over someone you don’t? Sometimes people think a yoga retreat sounds awesome but it’s for someone else. For the “other” people who can afford the luxury. It doesn’t dawn on most people that is’ something affordable, within their reach, and that they themselves could do it! Often times, just asking if they want to come, opens up the possibility in their mind to do something they would’ve never thought was possible.Least effective marketing strategy?The least effective marketing strategy has been a toss-up between social media advertising and leaving random retreat flyers on community boards. It’s too impersonal, people don’t know you and there’s just too much noise out there. When it comes to social advertising, I haven’t met a single teacher that this strategy works well for. I’ve probably only had 1 sign up in the history of the retreats I’ve led, sign up from seeing the retreat posted on an ad. You’d have to have some serious digital marketing skills under your belt to make the needle move with online retreat advertising and most yoga and meditation teachers simply don’t have the budgets or time to learn these skills. With limited time and resources, stick with what works best. Build your student base (in person) and share, share share (with enthusiasm!).
Jayaprada Radhika – Kalpana Radhika Yoga
With 12 years of intensive daily asana and yogic practices, Jayaprada Radhika teaches from a deeply intuitive place, drawing on a lifetime of body work including martial arts and dance. Radhika offers retreats and yoga teacher trainings in Bali and Peru. Her large social media following is testament to her commitment to her global community. Most effective marketing strategy for filling your retreats?I’ve had my website for four years now so some are finding my events through google searches, also Instagram has been a big tool. I’ve put a lot of energy into creating lovely images that illustrate our yoga journeys in different countries and try to share meaningful words each time I post. Also recently the new teachers to the team have quite a large following also which has also drawn people. What is also working very effectively for me now is word of mouth now that the school has been running successfully for four years with 30 programs under our belt. Least effective marketing strategy?Facebook for me has never really worked yet I understand that for others it has.
Let’s wrap up
Well, it seems the unanimous piece of advice is- just be yourself! It’s easy to get caught up in the logistics and numbers when it comes to retreats. Yet the key is to remember why you are offering the retreat and allow your passion and intention to be seen, heard and felt by your community and beyond. The digital world allows for a diverse stream of marketing platforms these days, so find one that resonates with you and connect with people from a place of authenticity and genuine passion. That may be you sharing the retreat through a series of Facebook lives, sending out a beautifully curated newsletter, or offering client testimonials through Instagram posts. Perhaps you choose a combination of techniques. Wherever your marketing journey leads you, keep coming back to your intention and sit firmly and confidently in what you have to offer. Let your inner light shine, and trust that bright glowing beacon will guide the right students to you. We also believe that having a professional website is key to showcasing your events and adds a credibility to you and your brand. Check out our 3-part FREE video series on how to create a beautiful yoga website here.
PS: Do you use Pinterest? Pin me!