This summer, I was given the opportunity to participate in the ‘Kali Namaskarah’ 9-Day Intermediate Retreat, taking place in Amritapuri, Amma’s Ashram in Kerala, South India from August 20th to 29th, 2014.
The first time I heard of Amrita Yoga was in my visit to the ashram in the summer of 2010, when I came to know that there would be a 4-Day Retreat. As I had done some yoga asana previously, I decided to try it out, and I really enjoyed it. This was truly pure awareness in action and very different from what I had done before. Since then, Amrita Yoga has come to the West and I was also able to attend a few classes taught at the annual Barcelona Yoga Conferences.
Having additionally practiced the ‘Devi Namaskarah’ sequence in Amrita Yoga in the past, I was very intrigued by this new course. In the beginning just the mere thought of the name ‘Kali Namaskarah’ frightened me; for me it meant fierceness, power and intensity. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the pace of the course, but as I always enjoy a good challenge, I decided to give it a try anyway.
During our 9-Day retreat, we had two asana classes daily. In our morning classes, we would focus on learning the ‘Kali Namaskarah’ sequence, synchronizing the movements with the breathing. In the afternoon classes, we would go over the different asanas of the sequence in detail and really focus on bringing awareness into our every action. Additionally, we always started the early morning classes with a bhajana (Indian devotional singing) honouring Goddess Kali and, we ended the classes with a short meditation. All these elements brought a very nice balance to the course and made it feel complete.
As the retreats take place in the ashram, two hours daily are dedicated to Seva (Selfless Service), contributing to the ashram’s functioning. For this ‘Kali Namasharah’ retreat, our entire group had the opportunity to join several Seva projects and discover some of the ashram’s daily tasks. For instance on one of the days, we helped out at the composting station where all food leftovers and organic waste are turned into compost. We also got to help with recycling, cleaning different areas in the ashram, gardening, planting seeds, etc. These projects were very rewarding; not only did we get to experience ashram life, but we also learned a lot, met wonderful people and grew stronger as a group.
Another highlight of this course was the Yoga Talks that were held in the evenings, specifically for our retreat. Many long-term ashram residents shared their knowledge about Goddess Kali, their wisdom acquired over the years spent close to Amma, and very personal and touching experiences with us. My particular favourite was that of Swami Purnamritananda Puri, one of Amma’s senior most disciples. He gave us tips on how to meditate more efficiently using a mantra, and then instead of being controlled by our mind, we can be the master and controller of the mind.
Furthermore, nothing is more beneficial for one’s own personal and spiritual growth than to be in the presence of a great spiritual master like Amma during the course. In the ashram, it’s possible to spend time with Her on stage while She is giving darshan, to meditate with Her, to listen to Her insightful satsanga, to sing bhajana with Her and so much more. It is truly a blessing to experience Her unconditional and everlasting shower of love.
This new Amrita Yoga retreat, the ‘Kali Namaskarah’, is a very unique, intense and challenging retreat opportunity. The ‘Kali Namaskarah’ sequence is a beautiful practice to take home. If done with the right mindset, it energizes your whole body and brings lightness to your mind. It seems that the sequence was highly appreciated and very beneficial to all. The 40 to 50 participants had a very strong and powerful experience where everyone worked simultaneously on a physical level as well as on an emotional one. We were able to get to know ourselves better, learn to recognise our limitations and also surrender to them. The new sequence is as fierce and intense as Kali, but also has a very compassionate side to it. If you love yoga, enjoy a good physical challenge and want to practice awareness in every action, you will most definitely not regret signing up for the next ‘Kali Namaskarah’ retreat.