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 have very little experience with yogasana, in fact, I had only tried it once fourteen years ago, and hated it. That particular teacher pushed me in all kinds of (for me) impossible positions, so that for the next few days I had been almost unable to walk. I thought, ‘this is rubbish!’ But then, I heard so many positive reviews for the Amrita Yoga retreat that I felt I should give yogasana another try.
First of all, it is run by volunteers who do this out of their love for a higher goal in life and for Amma. Every bit of moment spent around Amritapuri is an offering to Embracing The World (ETW), the humanitarian organization, benefiting millions of people in so many different ways.
So, basically, all of us as participants too 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 by serving us, a beautiful field of trust is created in which it’s so easy to follow the instructions and guidance of the teachers, simply because you know that whatever they suggest can only be for your own benefit. So you can really 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 such a retreat 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 at all an attitude of ‘I know’ or ‘had been there done that’.
Naturally, this became a very different experience for me compared with 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 wisdom that is very much worthwhile to listen 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 knows it is benefited by this. This subtle listening would not stop at the end of the class. Throughout the day, I found the body giving me valuable input of how to stay in balance. Like, for example, yesterday: when I found myself in the queue at the cafe for a desert, I felt the body saying, “Yeah, I don’t really need that right now… ”. When I honored that 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 these subtle inputs, the body feels it’s finally being noticed and is able to guide me better towards a more wholesome and balanced way of living.
The sequence taught in this retreat is called the Laghu Devi Namaskarah, which is a condensed version of the full sequence Devi Namaskarah (Laghu means short or condensed), taking about 35-40 minutes. What I like about this sequence is that, although the sequence is short, it still feels complete. All the essential asanas are being covered, so that when you have finished the sequence, your whole body feels awakened, ready to take on another day!
Also, it’s nice to notice that, when I do my practice in the morning, throughout the day I find myself to be more present within the 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 the more advanced students could benefit immensely from the refreshing perspective and goal of Amrita Yoga: union of the breath, body, mind and spirit; to remember the Divine, not just in the practice on your mat, but in every moment of your life.
Author: Adarsh, Holland