If you are seeking serenity and spiritual renewal to learn the wisdom of ancient yoga, meditation and Ayurveda healing, Shreyas Retreat in Bangalore may just be the place for you
Calm, serene, quiet and a peaceful surrounding… a voice calls out “Namaste” and I walked in.
Think about this. A few days of silence: no books, no writing, no music, no talking. A few days of doing nothing but yoga, meditation, Ayurvedic treatments and community service. Isn’t that a healing holiday? That’s the Shreyas retreat for you.
Situated on the outskirts of north Bangalore, this yogi haven is set against lush verdant coconut trees.
The garden tented cottages have an open-concept bathroom, where you can watch the stars while showering at night. Simply beautiful. Expect some visitors inside though (frogs, lizards, bees, ants) I had the frogs and we managed harmoniously together, but thankfully there wasn’t a lizard to freak my mom out! Also, there’s a railway crossing close-by, so a train is always passing there and it honks pretty loudly. But it didn’t bother me and I slept through it every night.
An average day looked like this: 5.30am, wake up call, 6am, group yoga, 8.30am breakfast, 9.30am group meditation, 10am massage, 1pm lunch, 4pm group yoga, 7.30pm dinner, 8.30pm reading and by 9pm I was exhausted and was fast asleep!
The food was nutritious and delectable (it’s Relais a Chateau). This was the first time I have ever been vegetarian for so long. The retreat has its own organic vegetable garden and all the guests have the opportunity to pick veggies in the garden (exhausting, but you have refreshing juice after it), cut the veggies, help prepare food and take lunch to the orphanage, which Shreyas supports. It was a truly humbling experience to spend time with the children.
The Ayurvedic treatments (in lieu of what Dr Arun prescribes after his one-on-one session with you) are top-notch as the warm herbal oils relax and rejuvenate the entire body. Special mention to the chocolate body scrub which is made from real cocoa and smells good enough to eat. It softens tense muscles, plus you are guaranteed to smell like a chocolate bar for at least 24 hours!
Group yoga classes are held out in the open under a thatched house that has lots of open space to let in the gentle breeze. For the first time, I explored a whole different world of fitness – the world I had in mind was of sticky mats, slow music, and individuals in pretzel-like positions that the sight alone made my body pain. But that was not true!
I know that Yoga has been around for thousands of years (originating in India) and practiced commonly in Hindu philosophy. I’ve always been attracted by its spiritual concept but fearful of its physical strain on the body. In other words, I never found myself to be flexible enough to practice it. I wish I had known earlier how interesting it would be – even in a headscarf! I must admit that during the first session I was intimidated as Laurie next to me looked like a gymnast and acted like a pro athlete (justified, as it was her third visit). After the initial hesitation the next hour really went by quickly as I posed as every zoo animal like cobras, monkeys, camels and turtles… just like Noah’s Ark, thanks to the teachers who were very patient with a novice like me.
Thankfully, I didn’t fall flat on my face, though there was a point when the instructor thought I would break my neck if I didn’t correct my posture. But I loved it!
The last five minutes were amazing. I laid flat on my back in the “corpse” pose with my arms and legs spread wide, relaxed and it felt as if the ground was holding my body in place. I breathed in deep and steady and for that moment, I was alone with my body and my thoughts – it was an experience like no other.
Also known as yogic sleep or sleep with awareness, Yoga Nidra is an ancient practice that is intended to induce full-body relaxation and a deep meditative state of consciousness. The concept of lying down and dropping into silence seemed a bit terrifying to me. What kind of turmoil would I find inside myself?
At first, I was completely unprepared to lie still in the darkness. When I let go of my attachment to everything I thought defined me, I saw myself very differently. I became a person who felt infinite joy in the simplest things seen through my mind’s eye: the warm beaches, the glassy eyes of pigeons, snowflakes on an icy-cold river. The wondrous, most magical process was interrupted with the sound of massive snoring by my mom lying next to me! She had drifted off to sleep.
After the retreat when I got back to the city, with all its noise, pollution, traffic and people harrowing me with trivial worries, I do get so annoyed that sometimes I just feel like giving them a good kick but I don’t! At least I’m aware of my negative emotions.
So congratulations, I’m now a yogi.
(For more information, please check out www.shreyasretreat.com)