Retreat review

In early April 2011 I attended the “Finding citta prasadanam” retreat with Andrea Kwiatkowski at Dev Aura, Lincolnshire.

Even though it’s the opposite side of the country from where I live, I knew it was worth the travel time because I’d attended a retreat with Andrea last year in the same place and enjoyed it immensely. Dev Aura is a colour therapy centre is a very small village near Horncastle, and Andrea hires it for some of her retreats. It’s a very calm and serene venue and because the weather was hot and sunny (unlike now!) we were able to spend time in the extensive gardens, and, do some bits of the classes outside in nature.

Dev Aura gardens

There were about 10-12 of us on the retreat, all women.

The retreat programme was really varied, yet focused:

Friday 5-6:30pm Yin-Yang session, balancing longer held postures (yin) with dynamic movements including ‘flying dragon’ sequence which had martial art roots. Also some new wrist stretches including ‘seagull’. Dinner. (The food was all vegan and really varied, interesting, healthy, nutritious and appetising. One girl had her birthday whilst on the retreat and they made her a chocolate cake!)

Yoga mats at the ready!

8:30-9:30pm Patanjali’s citta prasadanam was explained, and relaxation kaya sthairyam. Citta prasadanam is part of sutra 1.33 in Patanjali’s ‘Yoga Sutras’ and relates to a favourable disposition or serene consciousness. We should aim for this serene consciousness whenever possible, through cultivation of friendliness, joy, compassion and indifference to pleasure and pain. Andrea used wonderful music and sound wave tracks during this class. (Appropriate music was used in all classes, which I really enjoy and hope to do more of myself.)

Saturday 8-8:45am Active meditation on vishuddha chakra (throat), in which we did various active mediation ‘exercises’ first, neck and shoulder work, and then meditation on vishuddha chakra. Breakfast.

10am-12:30pm Jivamukti class. A Jivamukti class includes a brief talk on the class theme or philosophy, a chant, pranayama, dynamic flowing asana work to music, meditation and relaxation. This session was ‘the peaceful warrior/finding peace within’ and focused on balances including some new ones for me e.g. rest L foot on R knee, bend R leg and come down into squat, then raise up on toes of R foot (or, be on toes before squatting down), hands in prayer position in front of chest. We did this outside, which was extra challening as the ground wasn’t flat! During the class Andrea reminded us not to worry about the asana, “it’s just a shape, it’s neutral” and to let go of the mind-stuff attached to our practice such as ‘ooh, I can’t do this’ or ‘ow my arms hurt’ or ‘don’t I look fabulous doing this’. Instead we were to seek serene consciousness. I really enjoy Jivamukti classes as they are fun, challenging, dynamic, lively and include the ‘added extras’ that are not included in an Ashtanga class.

Ganesha in the conservatory

Lunch and free time during which I had a luxurious siesta and enjoyed the gardens in the sunshine. The gardens have been designed on the chakra principle, and there were lots of separate walled sections, hidden paths, and little statues relaxing under trees. The centre is constructing two reed beds to filter and recycle ‘grey water’ from the house. At the very end of the garden there’s a meditation chalet and a pond with flowform water feature. Flowforms are meant to be calming as well as enrich the water.

4:30-6:30pm Pranayama and meditation – finding peace within. This two hour class was active focusing on the diaphragm, opening the chest, lots of breathing exercises, various positions using a bolster (e.g. lying backwards over it) then various pranayama exercises e.g. breathing to a metronome rhythm and then two different meditations – one Tibetan, one Buddhist. Dinner followed.

8-9pm We watched ‘Living Yoga’ DVD about Swami Satchindananda after dinner. His approach included the aim to ‘be useful, peaceful happy, healthy and careful’ which seems a sensible approach that we could all strive for.

Sunday was another sunny day and I woke up early at 6.30am so went into the garden to see the sun rising and did a couple of salutes to the sun by the pond!

Garden at sunrise
Sunrise over field

8-8:45am Meditation 0n the anaharta chakra (heart). Again there were active exercises to stimulate the area and a couple of different meditations. Breakfast.

10am-12:30pm Jivamukti class ‘Remember to remember’ focusing on heart openers and back stretches. I was reminded to move the backbend more into the upper back, not rely on the more supple but weaker lower back area. This is especially important if you are very flexible there (which I’m not).

After lunch I had a massage with the therapist who is also a yoga student of Andrea’s. Most of us opted for the hot lava shell massage which is a smooth plastic shell shaped object into which she put a heated ‘teabag’ of liquid stuff so when she used the shells on your body you could really feel the heat and this aids the massage process.

The lecture room cleared for our yoga

2:30-3:30pm Liketa Japa meditation, outside. Liketa japa is the writing down a phrase or word of your choosing again and again and again and again – like when school kids were told to write lines for punishment, but this was a good thing! We chose our own word or saying and wrote for 6 minutes. We also had discussion time and other reflection.

The retreat ended at 4pm but I stayed on at the centre for another night as I couldn’t get back to Aberystwyth at that time on a Sunday. There was a German woman also staying in the centre who worked for the organisation so we had dinner together and chatted. I left at 9am the following day, relaxed and with lots of new things to practice.

Space for relaxing at Dev Aura

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