What’s a Wellness Retreat?

We all like to get away at times. Change the scenery, see new things, dance the night away on a great vacation. But what about when you need something greater – when you’re running on empty and lose sight of true north? By definition, a  wellness retreat is an intentional pause, when you step back to reflect, recharge, and set a course to the authentic you.

As Canyon Ranch Director of Spiritual Wellness Stephanie Ludwig, PhD, MA, MDiv, says “A retreat is not a one-time fantasy vacation. It’s about getting real and letting go of distraction to look within. It’s showing up for your life.”

That’s not as easy as it sounds on a day-to-day basis. Hectic schedules, constant distractions, and other people’s needs can make it hard to take a few minutes, let alone the time you need for real reflection and replenishment.

Ludwig helped define and design Canyon Ranch Woodside wellness retreat as an ideal environment for this. This holistic experience is based on immersion in nature and enriched by special programming, supportive experts, mind-body activities, and fellow guests with similar interests. Every detail in this intimate redwood setting supports a meaningful retreat, so even a few days can be transformative.

However you seek a retreat, in different settings or on your own, the fundamental concept remains the same. “It’s all about connection,” Ludwig says. “It’s slowing down to connect or reconnect to self, others, nature, and purpose. All of it brings greater meaning and joy into a lifetime.”

Connection to self
Your life is busy, and natural patterns can easily get hijacked by external forces. On a retreat, you’re all that matters, so get to know yourself again.

“You can recalibrate,” Ludwig says, “rediscover your own rhythms for eating, sleeping, moving, togetherness, and solitude. You nourish yourself when and as you need to.”

Ludwig sees this as an opportunity to cultivate the richness of solitude. You can claim this time, without interruptions, to reflect on feelings, thoughts, aspirations, healing, celebration, and release.

Connection to others
During a wellness retreat, you can connect with people around you who share your interest in wellness. Or, you might use the opportunity to fortify relationships with your friends, family, or partner.

“You can share a retreat with anyone you care about,” Ludwig says. “Use the time to reunite, celebrate, and get back to joy together.”

Talking, reflecting, and focusing on one another make this experience powerful for everyone. You take home a common vision for your relationship.

Connect to nature
Immersion in peace, quiet, and natural wonders sparks a transformation. With your phone turned off and no distracting voices, you can hear the breezes, smell the leaves and flowers, appreciate a morning mist, or stop to watch a bird build its nest.

“Embracing nature awakes your own wilder, instinctual side,” Ludwig says. “Your senses come to life as you notice the small things.”

Connect to purpose
Call it spirit, call it meaning, call it by whatever name speaks to you: This is your place in the world; what matters most to you.

“A retreat gives you unstructured time to revel in each moment,” says Ludwig, “to be playful or thoughtful, to let go of what you don’t need and set new goals.”

People often say they feel lighter and freer after a retreat. They experience healing, release, and renewed optimism. When you can’t get away for a wellness retreat, you can create some of that feeling at home.

How Can You Take a Wellness Retreat at Home? 
Plan an unplugged day. Get outside, abandon your phone, make a sacred day for yourself. Let friends know in advance, tell family they’re on their own, and take a journey within.

Get into nature. Work in your yard, walk in a park, go for a scenic drive, or take a hike. Reignite your senses and connect to something greater than you.

Plan a day of silence. Give yourself a rest from the daily noise. Dig into thoughts you don’t normally have time for. Be mindful, meditate, and nourish your solitude.

Have a spiritual practice. Affirmations, prayers, and meaningful rituals can be your regular retreats to empowerment and well-being.

Tap into your creativity. Painting, writing, making music, and other creative pursuits take you into a zone where you nurture wellness through self-expression.

Self-care. Make ordinary moments special. Draw a bath, light the candles, surround yourself with scents and sounds that bring you peace.

Learn from animals. Dogs live in the moment, cats are content, hummingbirds are miracles, and butterflies make flowers more beautiful. Animals show us how to worry less and simply be.

Plant a garden. Whether it’s roses, tomatoes, or herbs on the windowsill, you can nurture growth, appreciate nature, and feel a greater sense of connection.

When you feel the need, give yourself an experience that takes you back to you. A wellness retreat provides the time, space, and focus to renew mind, body, and you.

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