Just returned from another heartwarming yoga retreat in Costa Rica. I do know that every practice is a retreat,yet there is nothing like physically removing ourselves from our everyday lives to notice more clearly our own habitual ways of thinking, being, feeling, moving and breathing. Just as we do in most, if not all yoga practices, reducing distractions is a sound first step.
During the retreat we used a simple approach.
Our intention was to move towards greater Presence, that is towards our full participation in the present moment by:
- Taking a brief moment in order to let go of all other moments, times and spaces
- Tuning into our senses and noticing the unfolding of life, one moment at a time
- Distinguishing what is from our preconceived ideas and automatic-habitual reactions
- Aligning with the silent whisper of our heart with confidence that its guidance is appropriate, applicable and relevant
These simple steps inspired us to act with heartfelt intention, to breath with integrity and to engage our bodies mindfully towards participating wholeheartedly and harmoniously in our every moment. Since we had minimized distractions we used our infinite time mindset to inform our playful exploration of a wide range of yogic tools. Every day we applied mindful breathing (pranayama), chanting (japa), postures and movement (asana & vinyasa), yogic relaxation (yoga nidra), mindful use of our senses (pratyahara) as well as reflection, discussion (satsanga), concentration (dharana) and meditation (dhyana) to deepen our practice, to uncover and remove restrictions, old patterns and pain.
Throughout the retreat we engaged in the study, reflection and application (svadhyaya) of the first four sutras in chapter 1 of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra:
- 1.1 Yoga happens only now, its study and practice requires our preparation and full participation here and now.
- 1.2 Yoga is the reduction of agitation and noise in our mind, breath, body and heart.
- 1.3 Stability in our mind, breath, body and heart lets our inner witness be established in pure awareness.
- 1.4 Otherwise, we misidentify ourselves with the temporary labels we have been acquiring over the years.
In our inward journey we had the inspiration of the breathtaking Costa Rican tropical rainforest surrounding us. Inspired by the abundance of life and the exuberant foliage, we noticed how each leaf, each insect and every single animal contributes its uniqueness to their environment without trying, just by being. Nature provided powerful inspiration guiding us to sleep as the day light dimmed into profound darkness, enveloping us in the sound of falling rain. The guttural growls of the howler monkeys lulled us into sleep and woke us up every morning. At every turn we were captivated by the magnificent hues of blue of the morpho butterflies,the unusual colors of bright red and dark blue poison dart frogs, , the precise and purposeful movements of hummingbirds, colorful toucans and countless other birds , the deep colors of innumerable flowers like red ginger, bright orange heliconias, dazzling, birds of paradise, vivid hibiscus, and myriad intricate bromeliad blooms. The unbelievable beauty around us made it easy to disconnect from our contemporary communication technologies and to savor the joy of quiet.
Besides, the warmth of our hosts at Samasati Nature retreat, the delightful and plentiful vegetarian meals and the rustic comfort of our accommodations made our retreat the best way to deepen our yoga practice and to help us align with awareness to begin the New Year.
With grateful heart I am enjoying my return to the place I call home while I am already taking tiny steps to guide another retreat later this year.
May your year be filled with love, joy and awareness.