by Rama (Ruth) Brooke
As I stepped onto the train to Downingtown, I sensed the power of my upcoming Yoga Healing Retreat. I felt myself turning inward. I felt a sweet surrender. I would be placing myself in the care of Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram’s highly skilled healing therapists and spiritual master, Sadguru Nirmalananda Saraswati. Already, I was aware of the Grace that would carry me through various railroad delays and mechanical problems. Grace, I knew, would transport me through the retreat and back home again.
Hours later, I arrived at the Ashram’s Lokananda retreat center. I was greeted warmly and shown to my room in the simple, yet fully outfitted student accommodations. All six of us retreatants were quite comfortable in our assigned dorm rooms. The walls of Lokananda shimmer with sacred images of Gurus and Gods. Having decorated this place of bliss with light, Swamiji has hung an abundance of mirrors. They reflect natural light and remind us of our own divine light. Having been here many times before, I flowed easily into the welcoming Ashram lifestyle and schedule. This unburdened me, freeing me from neediness.
When I enrolled in the Yoga Healing Retreat, I had no particular health issue in mind. I was a bit weary after a long and busy family-filled summer. I yearned to replenish, diving inward in a way I could not do at home. It was the “retreat” aspect that attracted me. I had heard solid recommendations from other yogis attending the same program in prior months. This was an opportunity for a pilgrimage to the Ashram. I looked forward to it as a spa for the psyche.
I did have some issues to “vichara.” Vichara is a guided self-inquiry that unravels mental tensions and heals the mind and heart. I found those daily private sessions immensely valuable. The vichara therapist’s questions helped “clear the smoke screen.” Her questions elicited responses from me that opened me to my own knowing. I could see my thought processes and mental patterns from a different viewpoint. I came away with a new level of awareness and insight. Afterwards, I knew I wanted to dig deeper still, and continue this therapy in phone sessions from home.
Although it was not my main motivation to attend, I got plenty of physical healing. In addition to morning vichara sessions and yoga classes, each of us had private afternoon yoga therapy sessions. The highly trained yoga therapists had no trouble finding the tight spots in my body. They applied skilled techniques to release these areas in a way I could never do on my own. The release was so pronounced, I thought I might experience some significant relapse. During the final days, however, our private sessions consisted of learning a customized home practice. The poses, alignments and propping were tailored for my body’s healing process. The practice has enabled me to easily maintain and continue the openings at home.
The yoga classes, yogic philosophy discourses, chants and meditation were equally as supportive as the private sessions. The yoga class format was a little different from the standard. They were slightly shorter with the same or similar pose sequences each day. This served well to relax and open mind and body after the intensity of the vichara. It also provided a sweet warmup in preparation for yoga therapy later in the afternoon.
After lunch we had time to digest while listening to a discourse on the healing process. Yoga’s perspective, as informed by the ancient sages and yogic texts, is enlightening. We learned about the yogic healing paradigm, which is explained in Swamiji’s 2017 March teachings article: Healing Is a Multidimensional Process. Although I had heard some of the teachings before, I gained new clarity on the many subtleties involved. The Svaroopa® Sciences are all incorporated in the Ashram’s Yoga Healing Retreat programs. They touch each level of our multidimensional being effectively and with precision and compassion.
Chant and meditation bookended each day. We began at 6:30 am with Sri Guru Gita. The 50 plus minutes of Sanskrit vibrated through my body, lifting the curtains of sleep and shrama (worldly heaviness). It’s easy to slip into meditation afterwards. Timelessly, the sweet sound of the meditation bowl brought us lightly and fully back into the physical realm. Journaling “memorialized” our experience.
The healing retreat schedule provides ample downtime: time to rest, chat with a yoga buddy, stroll Downingtown center or peruse Ashram Shop items. Yet it also provides the intensity of an immersion program. While the schedule feels spacious and spa-like, much more is going on beneath the surface. The immersion allows for cumulative openings of mind, body and whole being.
Even now, weeks later, the healing transformation continues. I have been able to sustain my personal yoga practices more easily. My meditations are deeper, and I experience less shrama. I feel the inward turning, sweet surrender of placing myself at my Guru’s feet, and allowing Grace to carry me through my life.