The Truth About Yoga Retreats

A wide variety of people travel. Many are marvellous, but many, sadly, are unbearable. There are the ‘bogan Aussies’, drinking and snorting anything and everything they can get their hands on; the ‘complainers’, who criticise endlessly, making you wonder why they ever left the utopia that they clearly live in at home; the overly dogmatic travel writer who picks holes in all kinds of people he meets. While these groups of travellers are all worthy of being immortalised in Ra Ra Mazputin, this post will focus on another, more astonishing group: the ‘yoga retreaters’. 

Snapshot from a yoga retreat

Snapshot from a yoga retreat

There is arguably no one more self-righteous than the yoga retreater. Whether male or female, their audacious air of superiority, and sometimes the cumbersome presence of a yoga mat, tends to impede conversation. Your trivial stories pale in comparison to their tales of months spent away on yoga retreats, where an average day will include six hours of yoga, four hours eating grass, and the remainder losing all vestiges of a personality. 

These yoga retreaters may seem harmless enough, but they foster dangerously sedated, hippy communities, which may one day pose a threat to society as we know it. I have entered two of these communities in recent months. The first occasion was in Mazunte, on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, where the inhabitants were sadly too intent upon performing a sunrise campfire ritual to pause for an interview. The second time, in San Marcos, a tiny settlement at Guatemala’s Lake Atitlan, my colleague and I were better prepared, choosing to dress ourselves in wildly attention-grabbing garments, in an attempt to fit in. However, we were disappointed to discover that interviews were still not forthcoming, and even more shocked to find out that our outfits were far from the most outrageous there. 

My colleague and I all set to infiltrate the communities 

My colleague and I all set to infiltrate the communities 

The San Marcos debacle was, nevertheless, revelatory. For all the terrible music and conversation, the most striking observation was their inability to maintain a basic standard of hygiene. Despite the presence of an enormous, freshwater lake mere metres from where they sleep, these people give off an unbearable stench. Clean in mind perhaps, but certainly not in body. Clearly, the yoga retreats have addled with their minds and these poor souls are now unable to escape from their predicament. Perhaps they deserve our pity…  

Indeed, there is nothing more pitiful in this world than a young girl wandering around Central America with a bongo drum tied to her dreadlocks, attempting to ‘find herself’ somewhere between the shores of a Guatemalan lake and her own crippling sense of self-worth. Few people listen to her music; even fewer enjoy it; fewer still believe that her contribution to life in general is anything close to worthwhile.  

The view of Lake Atitlan, near where many retreaters are based 

The view of Lake Atitlan, near where many retreaters are based 

There are, of course, exceptions to the rule. Some people can attend a yoga retreat and return with their dignity intact, although we are yet to make the crucial breakthrough of having a cynic last the 30-day test and reveal any hidden secrets. I should also make it clear that I have no problem with yoga. I find it to be a relaxing, yet oddly strenuous form of exercise, which is far harder than it looks. I have found many practitioners and instructors to be wonderful individuals. Some have even assisted me in perfecting my undeniably flattering ‘downward-facing dog’. 

Perhaps my cynicism is misplaced. After all, travelling is an opportunity for people to express themselves in ways they wouldn’t back at home. For many, the changes are nuanced. Harmless changes might be a man buying a pair of pink dungarees, growing a ropey beard and pretending to be cool. However, other people seem to go several steps too far and deserve to be reprimanded. It is time we rose up against these yoga retreaters before we all find ourselves dressed in ponchos made of tarpaulin, dancing to Andean folk songs around a pile of quinoa. Seize the day.

*** No yoga retreaters were harmed in the writing of this post ***