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The annual Yoga Holiday With Paul retreat is coming up fast. In the final weeks and days before a retreat can get crazy with everything you have to do before you go.

Starting a retreat with a frantic, busy mind, however, just means it takes longer to engage with the mental and spiritual elements of yoga. These five steps to clear your mind will help prepare you to gain the maximum from the retreat.

Keep a mental energy diary

It is really easy to get caught up in small things that take up a lot of mental energy. Whether it’s compulsively checking social media, or getting anxious about work, ordinary stuff can gobble up a lot of head space. Over the next day or two take note of what you spend your time thinking about. You may discover habitual thought patterns which you can mindfully eliminate.

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Shift your perspective

Make an “essentials” list

Do you really have to do all the things you think you have to do? Chances are, no. Your friends/partner/children/co-workers/pets/neighbours/etc will all be okay without you for a week. Make a list of what you must do, sort that, and don’t worry about the rest.

Do your travel prep

This might sound more like a physical task, but believe me, there is something very cleansing about knowing you’re set and ready to go. Get your passports, papers, etc organised and packed. Fill your suitcase with your favourite yoga clothes, a journal, and whatever else you need. Set your out-of-office and deal with any routine appointments, and so forth, so you aren’t trying to get it all done in the last 24 hours.

Set an intention for the retreat

Spend some time thinking about why you’re going on the retreat, and what you hope to gain from it. Are you looking to push your practice to the next level with challenging classes? Are you hoping to try new kinds of yoga? Are you eager to relax in the sun and make new friends? Setting an intention will help you be focused right from the start, helping you receive the maximum benefits.

Accept imperfection

Approach the retreat with a relaxed, open mind. Be kind to yourself. Not every class or posture will be your best ever, you might not feel as relaxed, or social, or inspired as you hoped. You might get a cold (though hopefully not!) Remember, the point of a yoga retreat is not to add more pressure to perform or meet a set of expectations. We go to learn and practice how to be more accepting, more flexible, softer and kinder.

Now, and always, remember the essence of yoga is unity and compassion — for yourself, others and all living things.

Questions? Thoughts? Share in the comments!