Self Care

Wellness Retreats Have Gone Virtual–and They Aren’t Bad!

This year has caused many of us to experience spikes in anxiety. Divisive politics, social unrest, rising unemployment, and the star of our show-the pandemic-has spurred stress.

Exercise and self-care are smart approaches to mitigating anxiety and depression with or without the added pressures of 2020. This could be the reason why many people look for a Wellness Retreat that they can attend to achieve various goals. Given the prevailing situation, when nobody wants to step out, people are on the continuous lookout for virtual services for almost all of their needs, and healthcare is no exception. There is no doubt then why there seems to be an increase in the number of virtual value-based care in Fort Collins and other places of the world.

But this year, our self-care routines have had to shift. There’s no more lavender-scented yoga studio to escape to for an hour of peace and reflection. Instead, there is Zoom and your own living room floor, where a cobra pose gives you a closer look at hidden dust bunnies and clusters of dog fur. (I fight the urge to stop and sweep!) Some have even moved away from Zoom sessions and have started focusing on building their own wellness – one step at a time! It could be their daily skincare routine or their supplements, all they need is something to hold on to during these tumultuous times of pain, anxiety, and uncertainty. With the availability of such products in retail and e-commerce site like JoyViva things have become quite easier, haven’t they?

To be honest. wellness retreats, the ultimate reset button for the emotionally depleted, have also been canceled. It’s no longer safe to gather for a weekend of sharing, stretching, and learning with a group of like-minded strangers and leaders in the healing arts. Sure, you could create your own private retreat somewhere like Doe Bay or Leavenworth, but key components such as camaraderie and teachers will be missing.

You Might Forget You’re on Zoom

Some veteran wellness experts have decided to embrace our new reality and host retreats entirely online. I decided to try one of these virtual retreats recently to see if it was as good as the real, in-person thing. It was a rainy Saturday, and the wind was pushing against my windowpanes. Gray hung over Seattle, and I felt unsettled, overwhelmed, and generally blah. I lit a few candles, made some tea, set up my yoga mat and a pillow, and prepared for a half-day workshop.

Seattle local Barbara Badolati is the founder of BeWell Retreats, and has offered wellness, yoga, and self-development retreats throughout the world since 1992. Like many businesses, she had to pivot last spring. “I decided to postpone the in-person retreats and offer an online version. We launched May 2, 2020, with an all-day experiential event with four presenters and 35 people in attendance from 13 states. The response we received was so positive that we decided to provide a retreat each month,” explains Badolati.

When I attended Badolati’s retreat that rainy morning, she and several other teachers led us through yoga, meditation, journaling, and even a sound-bath. I know Zoom-fatigue is a big concern these days, and several hours online in a retreat may make you wary. But really, it was fine. Firstly, it was a half-day program, and there were breaks. Secondly, I was mostly listening and doing the activities, not looking at my computer screen.

Look for Virtual Retreats to Continue

Badolati has found that virtual retreat-goers are able to build relationships with one another, especially in small breakout sessions she calls Sacred Shares. “I’m always surprised at the depth of connection and insight attendees share,” says Badolati, who aims to continue with online retreats even after the pandemic is behind us. More companies may jump on this bandwagon and look at event technology consulting to help plan these retreats, as well as conferences, fundraisers, etc., so they can cater to as many people as possible. These virtual retreats and events may not be slowing down as the years go on, and as we get back to ‘semi-normal’ in fact, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the internet progressing as a platform that utilizes AI and AR more, so we move from web 2.5 to web 3.0.

Linden Schaffer founded her wellness travel company, Pravassa, in 2009. “On March 13, 2020, when the business was involuntarily put on hold due to the pandemic, I personally turned toward the well-being practices I had cultivated as a way to cope with the pandemic, lockdown, constant negative news, and overall grief of losing my way of living,” says Schaffer.

Like Badolati, Schaffer pivoted and launched WanderHome, two to three-day experiences her clients enjoy from their own abodes. Her retreats differ from Badolati’s in that they are self-paced and feature upgrades such as gift bags, curated meal delivery, and private Zoom sessions with experts. She offers her retreats at several price-points, so there is something for most budgets.

Schaffer also believes online retreats are here to stay. “Our Wander Home series is a companion piece to traveling, as much as it is a great stand-alone offering. People can use the series to prepare for a well-being vacation, for a monthly tune-up, or as an introduction to various well-being practices, which will help to determine what kind of travel experience they want to create,” she explains.

So, are virtual retreats as great as the “real” in-person experience? No, but they are pretty darn good and absolutely a useful antidote for what we are collectively experiencing at the moment. This fall and winter, as the days grow shorter and holiday stressors are upon you, give yourself a virtual escape. Invite a friend, or give the retreat as a holiday gift. Brew some tea, light a candle, and allow yourself to unwind online.