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A mid year break in a Yoga ashram

Why are you here?

I was lying face down in my bed, feeling in the cooling comfort of the wooden antique cottage, after a 1.5hr drive early in the morning to get to the ashram on the outskirts of Bengaluru, India.

When, the doctor, Mrs Harsha Kumar, knocked on my door. She wearing a blue salwar kameez, and had her hair tied back.

As she asked this question, she had that smile on her face, like she knew there has to be a why, like she has figured that there always is a hole, a missing link, an imbalance everyone who walks into the ashram is seeking.

It took me a second to answer this question despite having the days blocked on my calendar and the trip planned for over a month. I knew there was a feeling inside of me that said i need a break, but "Why" was I really at a yoga ashram in the middle of the year in April?

I told her I wanted a break from the routine and rejuvenate myself.

Sheta Mittal, ashram, hall, sitting
Me at the entrance of the ashram hall on my last day as I was waiting for my car

But, even as I was answering and especially after she left I knew that it wasn't the complete why. I pondered over it for the next few days and in a blissful mix of finding questions and answers even closer to questions, I uncovered all my whys...

I wanted a break from the routine.

I wanted to reconnect with my body.

I wanted to relearn the routines that help one feel energised every day every second.

I wanted to pause and answer the deeper nagging questions on why I get triggered easily.

I wanted to answer whats the path I really want to build for myself - am I happy in doing what I was doing.

Is that too much to ask from a week long retreat?

I would have been happy if I achieved even one of the items on my long list of asks, but it was great fodder to reflect on, during all the solitary walks in the garden, the meditation sessions, the treatments, the dreams...

So I wrote them down in my little diary I carry during my retreats.

At the end of every day, I made a one free flowing dairy note starting with word that described my day, documentary note of what I did during the day, what i learnt during the day and what I was looking forward to in the next day.

An everyday scene from my vantage point in the ashram

On Day 1 I was "Blah". I had come in with lingering feelings and a tired body. I was heavy in the heart. But as I forced myself to follow the schedule, with each progressive day at the ashram, I moved to an "Energetic" Day 2, "Calm" Day 3, "Reflective" Day 4, "Resolute" Day 5 and "Connected" Day 6!

I was filled with gratitude for being able to take this time off for myself, but move closer to finding answers to each of the above and more..

How did this retreat help?

1. It forces one to lose all pretentiousness

With oil always in the hair from two ayurvedic treatments a day, most relaxed pyjama clothes suited for the 3+ hrs of yoga, meditation and pranayama on the floor, and an absolute recognition that we are all here to heal that it becomes a common dinner table topic...

There comes a feeling when no part of you is trying to be artificially different, but in a state of raw. You dont compare, you dont copy, you just surrender to be.

2. The schedule empowers you to calm the mind.

We did 3 hrs of yoga, meditation and pranayama everyday. It wasn't about exercising but it was 3 hrs of conscious deep long breathing, with a focus on long long exhales.

You realize so much of what we feel is reflected in our breathing. And vice versa - if we can control the flow of breath, if we can truly release all toxins by the act of just breathing, it will leave this empty calm silence.

The results of breathing properly are more that magical! You can only believe it when you can practiced it. You will only be convinced when you have yourself experienced that calmness that philosophers and yogi talk about. Its not happiness, its bliss.

3. And It makes you pause and reflect, connect with the nature and yourself!

Imagine surrounded by nature all the time! Wherever you look, you find something fascinating. There is green grass outside, towering trees laden with fruits and vegetables you can recongise, sky is clear with the orange glow on a full moon, there is a hiss of the lizard, the crooks of the frogs. You are in nature and you cant escape it. It's fascinating. I saw myself and others just looking out...

And then imagine that you are being treated with all natural elements - oil, buttermilk, herbs, locally sourced, fruits and vegetables - and you are starting to feel the difference! One starts seeing the vastness of nature, starts connecting with the power of nature and sees one with the nature to start healing.

Further, the people one meets there come together during breakfast, lunches and dinners - with conversations flowing from mosquito bites, ghee treatments, food, philosophies to miraculous healing journeys!

The dinner crew

Do I recommend it?

An absolute Yes!

I have come back as a calmer person. I have tools and routines that have allowed me to see the change.

I am overwhelmed with gratitude as I write this as I could create the opportunity to take a selfish week for just myself. But I know the true test is how I deploy them when I go into my normal work routines.

Would I wish this retreat was my life and lasted forever?

They say we are here in this world inside the body to achieve our dharma with karma.

We are here to give. But to be able to give and share our gift, we need a healthy body.

Retreats like these provide the gentle reminder and boost the health of this body, but thats it, the real meaning of life is outside the four walls of the ashram - in the "karmabhoomi" :)

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