At the end of January, at a low point in my private life, I had the opportunity for something ‘off the beaten track’: I registered for an Astanga Yoga Intensive Retreat in the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern area of Germany. First, I was reluctant about it…but in the end I was glad to have taken the plunge.
It ran during a fortnight in May, and after this retreat I was blown away with all the thoughts and emotions running through my mind. It had been hellishly intense and simultaneously, sublime. The entire atmosphere was harmonic and peaceful because we were located in the middle of nowhere (no noises or traffic associated with a big city). I will certainly do it again.
The group consisted of 25 people (19 women, 6 men) – some yoga students and some also current trainee teachers. The level was pleasantly diverse and I didn’t feel out of place. The yoga students also acted as ‘study objects’ for the trainee teachers, in terms of permitting adjustments and the observation of the movement of the body. You arrive as strangers, and leave as friends.
During the breaks I had the muse for the first time to write some notes (some kind of a diary) about the practice, adjustments and my perceptions.
The schedule for each day was tight and our days began at 7.30am with a meditation, followed by the individual Mysore practice (two groups, mainly Primary Series and few practitioners of Second Series). The afternoon included information about yoga philosophy and feedback about adjustments. The day finished after the Pranayama exercises, around 7pm.
I am grateful for having received the adjustments from rather unknown people and for having been outside of my comfort zone. The practice reveals mercilessly the individual points to be rectified! On one hand, you are completely exposed to too many pairs of eyes and nothing remains hidden. On the other, you can learn a lot about yourself, what and who you are, what you like and dislike.
The adjustments were very useful to see what is currently possible and impossible, with regard to the movement of your body and your mental agility! The focus was on Utthita Hasta Padangushthasana, Utthita Pārśvasahita, Utthita Hasta Pādanguṣṭhāsana, Vīrabhadrāsana A and B, Paścimottānāsana and Kurmasana/Supta Kurmasana. The last one is quite intimate and vulnerable, so you must entirely trust the person who gives the adjustments. I was a lucky bloke because I had the same person adjusting me three times for this specific asana – easier.
Be careful about the frequency of the adjustments. During one practice I received too many adjustments, and it felt like this interrupted ‘the flow’ of my practice. At this moment, this triggered some private memories and feelings (that somebody grumbles/grouches without reason). It was a maze of thoughts in my head. I felt like someone in the trial class. Luckily there was a daily feedback in the afternoon for speaking about the received or given adjustments, to help resolve the situation.
The student is ready for the practice/asana when they are ready for it.
This experience of the retreat reminded me again to the Yoga Base Brighton blog post from 1 January this year –and to practice less “dogged“ and more “thoughtful”.
Thank you Kathryn, Sarah and Anna at Brighton Natural Health Centre for granting me the opportunity to contribute to your blog.