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Zam's yoga retreat in India: A journey of yoga

Posted on 27/03/2012 by Health Wise

As many of you know I am in my fourth year of Iyengar yoga teacher training. In January this year I took advantage of some time off to attend a three week yoga retreat in Goa, India.  It was conducted by my Senior Iyengar yoga teacher, Glenn Ceresoli, from Sydney whom I train with regularly.

What is Yoga? 

Yoga is a complete science of life that originated in India and dates back more than 5,000 years.  It is the oldest system of personal development in the world encompassing the entire body, mind and spirit.  It is the union between a person's own consciousness and the universal consciousness.  The Ancient Yogis had a profound understanding of man's essential nature and of what he needs to live in harmony with himself and his environment.  They perceived the physical body as a vehicle, with the mind as driver, the soul as man's true identity, and action, emotion and intelligence as the three forces, which pull the body-vehicle.  In order for these to be integrated, these three forces must be in balance.  Taking into account the interrelationship between body and mind, the Yogis formulated a unique method for maintaining this balance - a method that combines all the movements you need for physical health with the breathing and meditation techniques that ensure peace of mind.

The word Yoga means, "to join or yoke together", and it brings the body and mind together into one harmonious experience.   Yoga is a method of learning that aims to attain the unity of mind, body and spirit through these three main Yoga structures: exercise, breathing and meditation.  The exercises of Yoga are designed to put pressure on the glandular systems of the body, thereby increasing its efficiency and total health.  The body is looked upon as the primary instrument that enables us to work and evolve in the world, a Yoga student; therefore, treats it with great care and respect.  The breathing techniques are based on the concept that breath is the source of life in the body.  Yoga students gently increase their breath control to improve the health and function of body and mind.  These two systems prepare the body and mind for meditation, making it easier for students to achieve a quiet mind and be free from everyday stress.  Regular daily practice of all three parts of this structure of Yoga produces a clear, bright mind and a strong, capable body.

Allow me to begin by first explaining a little about the style of yoga that I practice.  Iyengar yoga was developed by BKS Iyengar, who is now 93 years of age, and it differs from other yoga styles in the use of props, such as bolsters & blankets for support, the specific alignment of the body, the time held in a pose and the sequencing of the poses by the teacher.   Allowing time and relative comfort in each pose assists students to gain not just physical benefits but mental clarity, poise, evenness and balance in life.  Iyengar style of yoga emphasises the integration of body, mind and spirit and is based on the eight limbs of yoga.

The Yoga Retreat 

After visiting family in Mumbai, I headed down to Goa where I was greeted at the retreat by the lovely owners and staff of the Satsanga retreat. This retreat centre is secluded, quiet and gorgeously appointed and the swimming pool and masseuse were put to great use between my yoga classes.  The delicious meals were all designed and cooked by an in-house Ayurvedic Doctor and the staff, who were from the local town, would supply anything we required.

The day began at 6.30am with 30 minutes of meditation and 90 minutes of pranayama (specific breathing techniques), then a two and a half hour asana (yoga postures) class.  Silence was observed for the morning until after breakfast which was a respite for the senses and a pleasure to spend this time in reflection.  At 4.30pm we would return to the yoga room again for another two and a half hours of yoga poses and this program was repeated six days each week.  On Sunday we did our own practice and had time to relax, reflect and explore Goa, if we desired.  It was an intense three weeks and not without its challenges but a great experience that I hope to repeat next year.

What I most gain from yoga is the capacity and time to reflect on life and spend some time relaxing in the poses and enjoying the experience on all levels.  But I also believe any kind of activity can be meditative for many people and they can reflect on life whilst jogging in the morning mist, by going to the gym and working through a weights circuit, camping and walking by the side of a river. I could relax in any of these situations if I enjoyed them.  Yoga is what I feel the most benefit from but it may be different for you - just enjoy and reflect whilst gently but firmly taking charge of your life.  All the "ball juggling" in life is essential but only a distraction.  Make a choice and make a change towards more clarity in life however you go about achieving it.

Hopefully yoga makes me be a better practitioner and human being so that should our paths cross sometime, briefly or for a life connection, it will be of benefit to each of us.


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