Hamsa Soham, Soham Ham Saha, these simple yet extremely powerful words mean “I Am That, That I Am”. Even if this mantra was the only gift that I took back with me from this yoga retreat, it would make the three days spent here on my own totally worth it. But my time at Shreyas gave me a lot more. It simply reminded me of what yoga means to me and how good it makes me feel. Yet, this mantra has stayed with me; and whenever I need to centre myself, at times before going to sleep, at others before the start of a frenetic day, just repeating it mentally on a loop has a magical effect on my being.
When I was invited to Shreyas, a yoga retreat on the outskirts of Bengaluru, I was, both, excited and anxious. Excited because I am extremely passionate about yoga and when I was told that the entire philosophy of Shreyas is centred around yoga I couldn’t wait to experience it. Anxious because for the last few months with soaring professional and personal demands I had not been able to make the time to get on to my yoga mat.
My joints had literally been creaking every morning when I got out of bed and I wondered how I’d cope with the routine of the retreat. But almost as soon as I reached Shreyas I am taken in by its relaxed, tranquil and positive vibe. These are not just random adjectives that I have thrown together; I mean each one of them describe the space that Shreyas is.
After a brief introduction, I am asked to fill a detailed form to highlight the purpose of my visit, my expectations whether spiritual, therapeutic or simply relaxing, my current state of health, dietary preferences and so on. As I get up to check in to my room, I am informed about the routine of the day followed with a wonderful question: “would you like a reminder for each event?” No, I replied as reminders, like alarms, irk me. I like to keep track of time and pace myself to reach a class or therapy session on time.
As I walk past the inviting swimming pool, surrounded with the lush foliage that Bengaluru is known for, I am impressed with the wonderful upkeep of the landscape. Shreyas is not a new property, it has been around for more than fourteen years, yet everything looks so fresh and as if it has been lovingly tended to. My garden tented cottage has a canopied roof with a private sit-out, a spacious bedroom, and bathroom with a private walled courtyard. Simply luxurious, I could say.
Spread across 25 acres of coconut plantation, gardens and vegetable fields, it is surprising that there are only 14 rooms, accommodating a maximum of 25 people at a time. I am informed later that the staff outnumbers the guests by more than three times. That is what enables Shreyas to excel in the subtle art of refined hospitality. The service is very warm and attentive, and unobtrusive. To give you an endearing example, all indoor spaces require us to leave our footwear outside before entering, and each time when we leave the room our shoes and slippers are turned around for us to simply step into them and walk.
As I mentioned earlier, the entire philosophy of Shreyas is centered around yoga. And as we know, yoga is not limited to just asana and pranayama. It is a holistic science of living and has an eight-limbed path impacting our panchakoshas. With equal importance to raising one’s energy, partaking a nutritious balanced diet, and indulging in activities that integrate the mind, body and soul, Shreyas truly offers a holistic retreat.
The sound meditation, for instance, is a highly energising experience with equal importance given to all steps of meditation – pratyahara (withdrawal), dharana (focus) and dhyana (meditation). It is normally conducted in pillared hall that is open on all sides, bringing in the freshness of the environ, sounds of birds and insects while they go about doing their business amidst the hum of a gentle breeze blowing through the trees, literally getting you in tune with nature. The same hall is also used for morning and evening asana sessions though there are a few other indoor and outdoor spaces where hatha and ashtanga yoga classes are held.
Rejuvenation of the mind-body-soul is hardly ever possible without the right diet. Whether your purpose of being here is to ‘detox’ or not, you will be served delicious, vegetarian fare. During the few days that I spent here, I had fabulous local, north Indian, Italian and Mexican meals, all made with mostly organic produce and healthy grains. The cooking classes, therefore, are hugely popular, enabling guests to take back a bank of recipes and a wealth of knowledge.
Yoga is known for its therapeutic benefits as well as prevention of diseases. In this sense, it is closely linked with Ayurveda. The recent addition to Shreyas has been the Anaha spa which offers a wonderful mix of age-old Ayurvedic as well as modern therapies. Although it is a new construction, it is aesthetically deigned to showcase an interplay of the elements. As with most things, what lies within is most important. A specialised team to assess your physical condition, advise appropriate treatments and execute them skillfully.
I am advised a range of treatments that are cleansing as well as nourishing.
– Netra Tarpana therapy that involves a gentle oleation of the eyes to soothe them is particularly refreshing and a great antidote to constant visual stimulation from brightly lit gadgets.
– Mud therapy involves the application of processed, powdered mud onto the body for therapeutic benefits. The open air room is ideal for this as one lies gazing at the swaying palms overhead while waiting for the mud to dry.
– In a similar space, Athapa Snana involves a gentle, oil massage, after which the body is wrapped in banana leaves and left to bask in the sun, expelling toxins through sweat. Banana leaves are also known for their healing properties, and can correct various skin problems.
– The underwater massage turns out to be a high-tech procedure where the body is immersed in a water tub, and the water pressure applied is controlled by multiple jet valves, enhancing blood circulation and lymphatic drainage.
– And finally, a synchronized massage known as the Choorna Pinda Sweda, also known as the Podikizhi. It is a fomentation procedure involving the use of herbal powders and poultices after a quick oil massage. With two therapists working simultaneously on the left and ride sides of the body has an inimitable centering effect.
Most scrubs and concoctions are prepared in-house in keeping with instructions from classic Ayurvedic texts. But beyond Ayurvedic treat-ments, the team is equipped and trained for international therapies as well including Swedish, Balinese and Thai.
I, of course, made the most of my time here and also realized the importance of going on such a yoga retreat – it gives you time to unwind and get a break from the rat race that most of us have inadvertently become a part of; experience the importance of taking care of one’s self; spend time with like-minded people; and, carry that motivation back home with you: to stay consistent with yoga!