… my experiences in India

Yoga Retreat

I went on a two week Yoga Vacation at the Sivanada Yoga Vedanta Meekanashi Ashram in August 2007. I was looking to deepen my yoga practice and allow myself some time to ‘arrive’ in India. I got more than I bargained for.

It was the longest retreat I had ever signed up for and I was anxious before I went about how I would cope with being on retreat for so long, there really was no where to run to for 2 weeks! I knew I was expected to participate in the programme which consisted of satsang (meditation and chanting) twice a day, 2 hour asana class twice a day, two meals, a lecture and spare time in between.

I arrived late on the night before the yoga vacation began. I was told I was the only participant, I was shown my room, given bed sheets for the night and I went to bed. The roof leaked and I hardly slept.

On the first day I was totally groundless as I participated in a completely different routine with unfamiliar rituals and reference points. My sense of being alone was amplified by the fact that I was the only participant, the only Westerner, the only female and I was not with my partner who I had been travelling with for the previous two months.

What was I doing here? All I could think was that I had signed up for two weeks of isolation in a culture I knew very little about and I didn’t know how I was going to survive. I was seriously considering running away. Then I recalled some useful concepts that guided me:

  • I’m going though a pain barrier, it feels excruciating now, but once I’m through it, I’ll be better for it.
  • “The best way out is always through” (Helen Keller).
  • I’m experiencing Groundlessness (Pema Chodron) from which I can grow.
  • Stay with it, steadfastness with self.
  • Present moment, only moment.
  • I’m coming home to myself, returning to my kingdom (Thich Nhat Hanh)

When I realised that staying with the process was all I had to do, I felt some relief. Once the first day was over and I got a good nights sleep, I began to resurface and enjoy some aspects of the ashram. The butterflies were plentiful and busy fluttering their colourful wings between flowers. I wrote in my journal, I read books and I sat.

Having experienced groundlessness I began to build new ground underneath me. I was able to enjoy the physical, emotional and psychological space I had been craving. Participating in the programme helped me to keep mindful of my mind and body. The asana classes were excellent and were a real comfort as they provided something familiar within which I could dwell.

And I survived, the whole two weeks. And whatismore, I’m even glad I went! I feel stronger for it. I am soothed knowing that when all else falls away, I can still be.




3 Responses to “Yoga Retreat”

  1. The Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra starts with ‘And Now, Yoga’ Which is very deep in meaning. One of them is, After trying everything and failing, finally One sets out to try Yoga.

    During the time of Gauthama the Buddha, one walked into the ashram and hanged out there for ~ 2 years before the first formal lessons were taught!

    You thing that is slow? But the results were just amazing. There were 20,000 realized Buddhas living as contemporaries during that period.

  2. I guess time is a very important factor in enlightenment. It seems to be a barrier which constrains us.

    In the modern world, we are so preoccupied with maximising our time efficiency and using time effectively, making sure we have enough work time, social time, alone time etc.

    Who do you know could go to an ashram for two years without having a clear expectation about what was going to happen, when and for how long?!?!? I’d struggle, and I’d meet my edge regularly, but I’d learn A LOT!

  3. […] intense confrontation with my ‘edge’ at a yoga retreat which ultimately had a soothing effect upon […]

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