Planning Yoga Retreats: An interview with Avril Bastiansz 

Avril Bastiansz organised her first ever Yoga Retreat in December of 2021. Although her first, this event had been in the pipeline for quite some time, working around travel restrictions faced over the last two years. However, we are happy to announce that she was finally able to bring her dream to life, and she has generously shared with us how she did it! 

What is the overall aim/theme of your retreat? 

The Philosophy behind my retreat was to go on a retreat to deepen your spiritual practice, once a year would be ideal for this type of activity. A complete reset. Original plan was to take people to Sri Lanka. 

The theme included Veyda meditation, transcendental meditation, shakti meditation, feminine. Ayurvedic lifestyle retreat. It was a Meditation retreat- oral tradition where the teacher passes on teaching & initiates the pupil into the teaching. 

How have you incorporated this into the retreat? 

I incorporated meditation, yoga, ayurvedic lifestyle. Attendees receive the treatments & experience the ayurvedic lifestyle. It included a vegetarian diet, working through purifying the body & the mind & release stressors. 

Is this for a specific target market? 

Attendees don’t need to have a yogic background, it does help if you have had some experience and wanting more knowledge to deepen their experience but not necessary for this retreat. Great opportunity for first time meditators who wanted to be initiated. Retreat includes an Introduction, initiation & knowledge- 3 different sessions. 

When searching for a location/ venue, what were your top 3 must-have’s? 

  •  Local. 1–2 hour drive from Melbourne. 
  • Have everything on site, not having to leave the retreat centre. Energy is contained and undisturbed. 
  • Surrounded by beauty, nature & tranquility. Booked at Amarant Retreat Centre, Yarra Valley. 

I wanted a forest feel, there are different energies with elements and the retreat location needs to align with this. 

How did you conduct research? 

I inspected the venue beforehand, highly recommend inspecting to get a feel about the space before the event.I knew from the moment that I walked in that there was a special energy to this place. The People were beautiful to work with, an extension of the team that made sure that the whole experience was good for everyone. I searched for location and venue ideas through Facebook groups, used my personal yoga contacts, Instagram, contacted other yoga teachers as well as Retreat Co. 

How will you measure success? 

If I can teach 1 person how to meditate, I have done a great job. 

What was your biggest concern with the retreat? 

The hardest thing was finding a chef, I really wanted an ayurvedic experience so finding a chef to provide catering to fit in with this. I was able to find a great chef, Phillipa Joy who actually gave explanations of what everyone was eating and how it benefits you. 

Another concern initially was the shared accommodation for attendees. I was a little tentative about this but I realised it didn’t matter, because everyone was there for the same experience anyway. In fact, bringing people together at this retreat worked to have shared rooms. 

There is always a bit ofself doubt as well- that I won’t be able to make this work, do I really want to invest my own money in this? This is the first time running the meditation course…. Execution of the program was probably my greatest fear. 

How did you promote this retreat? 

I promoted direct through my own newsletter and website. I have had my own mailing contacts for around 4–5 years with over 100 contacts. Majority of people who attended the retreat were my direct contacts apart from one who came from Facebook. 

My following on Instagram is around 500–600 and 1000 on Facebook. I ran a few Facebook campaigns for around $50-$80 in Advertising. For these, I decided to use a static image combined with text. 

I was able to organise a Zoom interview with one of my friends/mentors who helped me with the retreat. 

Which 3 words would you love your attendees to describe this event as being: 

Holistic, knowledgeable and experiential.Something that we actually do, not just receiving but doing something practical with that knowledge gained from the retreat. 

If you could do anything differently, what would it be and why? 

Is the program too structured? Does it have enough rest time? Feedback was great, that they had enough rest time, happy with the structure. 

What was the hardest thing to organise? 

The Chef for food was the hardest thing to organise, just to find someone who was able to cater for ayurvedic. The timing of everything as well as trying to fit yoga, meditation & Ayurveda into the one retreat. The retreat numbers that we ended up with was really great but now looking back, if the attendees were to reach the full capacity, it would have been difficult to manage the timing of everything. A longer duration of the retreat would probably need to be considered for a larger group. 

4 tips you could give to someone else wanting to plan their own yoga retreat? 

  1. Have a theme. 
  2. I love collaborations, don’t try to do it all yourself. Find people that you trust to collaborate with.
  3. Look after your chef, they do a lot of work. And of course, look after yourself. I ensured I had my own time at the end of each day.
  4. Planning is so important. Provide list of things to bring for your attendees to help them prepare.

How did you work out the per person cost to attend the retreat? 

The Retreat centre was an exclusive cost. Then I worked out maximum capacity and divide by how many attendees we expected. 

The food quotes from the chef were easier to work out as these were per person prices. My own cost was added in per initiation. The cost of the course was specific for the number of people who attended. 

The musician cost (Kirtan) for 3–4 hours needed to be included.Also gift costs (Ayurvedic treatment, oil massage). It’s not that difficult at all, fixed costs were the accommodation and chef. I worked it out on the basis of 10 people. 

Did you include any special offers? 

No special offers. Just a deposit to reserve your spot which was approximately $500, then balance due 2 weeks before. 

Did participants need to make their own way there or was this included as part of the package? 

Participants were to make their own way, but as it turned out a lot of us did carpool together as some of us knew each other. 

Can you provide an overview of what the structure looked like? 

Structure/ program: 

  • Meal times were kept consistent throughout the retreat. 
  • 2 different events at the start & end. 
  • Puja, initiation ceremony. This was the opening ceremony. 
  • Last night, kirtan, celebration night. Musician that came in, sat, sang and danced. This was the closing ceremony. 

Sample Daily Itinerary: 

  • 6.30am Wake up, drink morning elixir. 
  • 7.30am Rounding session (asanya, pranayama, meditation). Allowed 75 mins. 
  • Shavasana, short talk on Ayurvedic lifestyle. Warm oil, got into bathers, self-massage. 
  • 9.30am breakfast (30mins) 
  • 11am-1pm: knowledge sessions 
  • 1.30pm lunchtime. Rest until 4.30pm 
  • 5pm-6.30: Yoga, meditation session 
  • 7pm: dinner 
  • 8pm-10pm: Satsa. Sat around together, have a chat, read oracle cards. Chant mantras, chakra meditation. Rehearsed for the celebration night. Drinking chai, shared questions and answers, talked about the program for the next day. 

Each attendee was provided with a detailed printout of the program so that they knew what to expect on each day. 

As a group, we practiced 11 rounds of meditation throughout the retreat. Day 2 ifs when attendees started to feel discomfort in what is being released. Day 3 was more to slow down. The mind & body stress is released more. Timing is really important in regards to yoga, meditation and rounding. 

I hope to plan more of these retreats in the future! 

Content and images provided Avril Bastiansz 
Instagram: @avrilbastianszbecomeyou 
Facebook: @avrilbastianszBecomeYOU 

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