Weekend Retreats: Tessa’s Experience

The following is a lovely article written by Tessa Fleming, who attended the Weekend Retreat held in June 2013. This will give you a nice sense of what the retreat experience is like.

My experience at Manfield Outdoor Centre was my first yoga retreat with Sivananda. Unlike other experiences I have had on retreats, Sivananda effortlessly cultivates a sacred community amongst its teachers and students. Many trained teachers from the centre also go on the retreat and help chant and instruct. There is no divide between those teaching and cooking and the students. Sivanada is a non-profit organization that functions through volunteers, a set up that diminishes a disparity between the instructor and learner. Everyone on the retreat is a steward of inner peace and as such many participants take up a tea towel and dry dishes or help serve the daily meal.

The day starts with meditation and chanting. Those new to the practice are gently guided through techniques of quieting the mind. To those unfamiliar with chanting prayers to unknown Hindu Gods, fear not. The sound of voices uniting in a choral reading is surprising cathartic and deeply edifying. Toward the end of the chanting small percussion instruments are handed out and a rhythm of tambourines, egg shakers, symbols and hands clapping concludes the early morning gathering in a spirit of joy.

Two, two hour classes of yoga are offered each day for both beginners and experienced students. These classes are fun and supported by the experience and playful nature of the instructor. Volunteers serve delicious vegetarian meals twice a day. As I lay in final sivasana, wafts of cardamom and masala drift into the yoga hall wetting my appetite after a vigorours two hours of yoga.

Yogis also like to have fun. The Saturday night of the retreat invites participants to sign up for the talent show! Dancing, singing, and comedy again bring everyone together into a tight knit group of like-minded people.

Enlightenment and inner peace, eastern ideologies have been marketed at rat racing westerns who seek to combat the emptiness of climbing the corporate ladder. Sivananda keeps it simple. The classes are not preaching, they simply allow the student to discover for herself the power and presence the asanas and ultimately meditation bring.

Although my muscles ached at the end of the retreat I felt rejuvenated and reminded that all we ever have is the moment in front of us, Sivanada yoga helps people learn to live those moments as fully and joyfully as we can.

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Swami Sivananda and Swami Vishnu-Devananda

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