How was my experience of the 4-Day Beginners’ Amrita Yoga Retreat? I really enjoyed it. I expected I was going to enjoy the retreat, but I really, really enjoyed it! I had very little experience with yogasana; in fact, I only tried it once fourteen years ago and hated it. That particular teacher pushed me into all kinds of impossible positions, so that for the next few days I was almost unable to walk. I thought, “This is rubbish!” But then I heard so many positive reviews about the Amrita Yoga retreat that I felt I should give it another try.What a difference!
First of all, it is run by volunteers who do this out of love for a higher goal in life and for Amma. Every moment in Amritapuri is an offering to Embracing the World, the humanitarian organization that benefits millions of people in so many ways.
So, basically, all of us are serving in this bigger project!
Because the teachers are only there out of their love for yoga and a strong desire to serve Amma, a beautiful field of trust is created in which it’s so easy to follow their instructions and guidance, simply because you know that whatever they suggest can only be for your own benefit. So you can just allow yourself to relax into the practice and work with their instructions and personal advice.
This attitude of service also becomes apparent in the way the classes are taught. I mean, they must have taught these retreats already so many times, but not for one moment did I feel it was done mechanically. Each time I could feel their hearts fully engaged in it. It was just beautiful to see the retreat being carried out with so much patience. Not even remotely an attitude of ‘I know’ or ‘Been there, done that’.
Naturally this became a very different experience for me compared to my first yoga encounter! So instead of pushing myself into all kinds of positions from a mental image of how it should look like, I would now simply ask the body gently, how to do this? And from there I would go into the asana, and by doing that I found that the body is not just a mindless tool but is actually very intelligent. It has its own wisdom that is worth listening to.
Many times I would find myself in an asana and I could feel the body encouraging me by saying, “You could go a little deeper here. Don’t worry, I can handle it!” I thought, “My God, the body really enjoys doing yogasana!” I could feel the body just knew it was benefiting by this. This subtle listening did not stop at the end of the class. Throughout the day, I found the body giving me valuable input on how to stay in balance. For example, when I found myself in the queue at the cafe for a desert, I could feel the body saying, “You know, you don’t really need that right now.” And when I honored it by stepping out of the queue, such joy I felt! These subtle inputs are normally so easily brushed aside by the loud voice of my desires. By listening to it, the body feels it’s finally being noticed, and is able to guide me towards a more wholesome and balanced way of living.
The sequence taught in this retreat is takes about 35-40 minutes. What I like about this sequence is that although it is short, it still feels complete. All the essential asanas are being covered, so when you have finished the sequence, your whole body feels awakened, ready to take on another day!
It’s nice to notice that when I do my practice in the morning, throughout the day I find myself more present in my body, and common poses like sitting, standing and walking feel more at ease and natural.
So would I recommend this course to anybody? Yes! Actually not just anybody but everybody!
Although this 4-Day retreat is a beginner’s retreat, I think not only beginners but also more advanced yogis could benefit immensely from this refreshing perspective. It is a union with the Divine, not just on the mat but in every moment of your life.