Reawakening at Shreyas Yoga Retreat
It’s a beautiful day. The breeze is dancing to an energetic tune. And the sun is casting a happy glow on the fields, vineyards and brightly coloured buildings in the towns on the outskirts of Bengaluru.
We’re driving down a back road to Shreyas Retreat, about an hour from Kempegowda International Airport. The yoga retreat is set in a 25-acre property that has beautifully landscaped gardens. In these are set aesthetically designed buildings that effect a natural contrast with the tropical green of the surroundings, with the pool and the clear sky adding a splash of blue to the mix, and the red earthen walkways weaving their way around them all like a necklace. I am here for five days to develop a love of yoga.
I start my Shreyas experience with a meal in the company of Rucha, who runs the show. As we wait for lunch, she introduces me to the retreat’s take on food. Everything served (except the rice, which requires too much water to grow; they tried) is grown in the organic gardens at the retreat. And the meals are free of sugar and have little or no salt. On hearing this, my eyes drop in disappointment to the menu that is taking up a prominent spot on the flower-embellished table. It reads: mushroom soup, radish and spinach salad, yellow lentils tempered with cumin, sautéed marrow and peas, sautéed tofu, brown rice, Indian whole-wheat pancakes, yoghurt, lemon sorbet and fresh fruits. Then, the kitchen door opens, and the most tantalising aromas make their way to me. My four-course meal arrives, and it is delicious! The natural flavours of the vegetables and herbs more than make up for the lack of sugar and salt. The meals through my stay at the property amaze me and teach me how healthy ingredients just need to be flavoured with ingenuity to make them delicious. And be it the ravioli at dinner that night, or the granola (recipe on p70) at breakfast the next morning, I have to keep telling myself that it’s all possible!
After a quick walk around the property, I choose to stay in a lovely luxury tent set in the garden. Once I freshen up, its time to meet Dr. Shahuja and Dr. Arun. Warm smiles encourage me to share my medical history during my consultation, and by the end of the 30-minute session, a customised plan has been put in place for me. The first on my schedule is a dose of ‘udwarthanam’ at Anaha Spa and Wellness Centre. The 13-room spa offers a selection of Ayurveda, Western therapies and hydrotherapy in its soothing interiors. I step into a large treatment suite and lie down on the Ayurveda table. Two therapists start briskly rubbing a warm greenish powder on my body. This is said to improve circulation, make you sweat and detoxify, thereby helping you lose weight. My aim is to relax, and I know I’ve done that and more as I totter back to my tent to get ready for dinner. I experience a hydrotherapy session and an ‘abhyangam’, and sleep soundly after.
Days start early at Shreyas – as early as 6am, which is when the first yoga class kicks off! I am convinced that I will sleep my way well into breakfast. But come 5:50am, I find myself walking down the path to the yogashala, a yoga mat ensconced in my arms. Now, I have attempted to get into the practice of yoga several times, but it’s never stuck. So, I am not sure how I’ll fit into the class here. But my worries are soon laid to rest. The beautiful yogashala is surrounded by date palms and coconut trees and at its centre is a variety of people setting up their mats. I am told that it is mandatory for the staff to do yoga for an hour every day, so there is a class at the yogashala at 4pm and several others at different venues through the day. Yoga guru Ramakant eases us all into the correct sitting position, and off we start, stretching and contorting our way through a variety of asanas. I am amazed at how my body responds and at how flexible I feel. All one needs is an open mind, right? Thereon, I am a regular at the yoga sessions, be it the one at 6am or 4pm, and I even opt for a couple of personalised sessions (one with my favourite guru Rita) during which I learn how to adapt yoga to suit my needs.
So go the days at Shreyas – yoga, breakfast, sound meditation with the amazing Bala, chakra balancing with Rucha or yoga nidra with Bala again, lunch, sleep, yoga, a session at the spa, dinner, sleep, repeat...Within a day, my appetite improves and my mind automatically inclines itself to choosing healthier options in the days that come. My body feels younger, attempting more complex asanas with each day. The sessions with Bala help my heavily imprisoned emotions to break free, and I feel lighter...alive, after months.
I am at the yogashala, listening to Rita’s soothing voice guide me through shavasana a few hours before I am to leave. Nature – chirping, buzzing and swooshing – harmonises with her voice. My eyes shut, I feel the sun’s rays hit my feet and move upward. And as I massage my eyes open, I find myself engulfed in the sun’s warm embrace, full of hope and risen anew.