a very special yoga retreat for 2018

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After years of taking people to South India for yoga, I’ve decided to head north.  Way north.  Almost to the top of the world.

If you have always wanted to visit India but did not want to go alone or in an impersonal group, then this is the perfect way to do it — space is limited to 16 and the trip is a go with 4 minimum.

In one of the most beautiful places on Earth deepen your Yoga sadhana with the joy of movement and breathing, stillness and silence, live in the moment simply and joyfully, and engage in meaningful cultural exchange between the East and West.

My friend Piyush Kumar owns DUNAGIRI RETREAT, an eco- retreat center about 7 hours north of Delhi, where “HEAVEN MEETS EARTH.” Piyush has been trying to get me up there for years and we have finally planned October 1-12, 2018 for you. Read more about Dunagiri at the link above.

The Himalayas are revered as a place where spiritual practices are heightened by the energy of the land. India’s ancient yogis knew there was transformational power in these mountains where divine energy is palpable. We will dive into a daily breath-centered authentic Yoga practice in the Krishnamacharya tradition. We will also practice some Yin Yoga and Yoga Nidra and all classes will include guided Pranayama and Meditation. Reflexology and Integrated Energy Therapy will be available and for those who wish to be attuned to Reiki Practitioner Level 1, I will offer attunements at the additional cost of $100 — think how potent that transmission will be in the Himalayas!

You will fly into Delhi and we will be taken to the wilderness of the Kumaon. We will be welcomed by Piyush and delicious vegetarian food will be prepared for us daily. The Himalayan wildlife and flora surrounds us as we take trips to spiritual sites (such as the birthplace of Kriya Yoga) with breathtaking views of the mountains. There will be many opportunities for you to relax and renew and to soak up the peace and stillness of the Himalayas.

Dunagiri is a very special place in India because according to this article it is where “Mahaavatar Babaji had initiated Lahiri Mahasaya to Kriya Yoga almost 150 years back. And a lot of Babaji followers came to Dunagiri to visit the caves.”  If you have ever read “Autobiography of a Yogi” then you know what this is all about.

The price includes airport to airport service – meaning that you are picked up at Delhi airport, taken to the Delhi hotel for overnight stay, transferred to Dunagiri the next day, spend 10 nights at Dunagiri (double occupancy only — a roommate will be assigned if you choose not to pay the single supplement), be taken back to Delhi for an overnight hotel stay and then taken to the airport. All lodging and transfers are included in the price. The hotels chosen are in a Delhi neighborhood that offers great shopping. Piyush tells me that an extra night in Delhi can be included complimentary depending on your arrival/departure time.

All meals and all activities like treks, guided walks, and drives/day trips around Dunagiri for the duration of the retreat are included. The weather is perfect in October with daytime highs in the upper 70s. Rooms can be heated at night if need be — see Dunagiri’s website link above for a look at the rooms.

$3, 360.00 USD
Double Occupancy
$3,560.00 USD
Single Occupancy-
LIMITED AVAILABILITY

NON-YOGA PARTICIPANT (Double Occupancy) — $2,860.00 USD
NON-YOGA PARTICIPANT (Single Occupancy) — $3,060.00 USD
A ROOMMATE WILL BE ASSIGNED IF YOU TRAVEL SOLO
OR YOU MUST PAY SINGLE OCCUPANCY RATE IF NONE IS AVAILABLE
(bring a friend or family member!)

**$500 NONREFUNDABLE DEPOSIT DUE BY DECEMBER 31, 2017**
(SEE NOTE BELOW)

 

JULY 1 — Balance due.
AUGUST 1 — 50% refund of any amounts paid minus $500 deposit – request must be received in writing by this date.
SEPTEMBER 1– Due to payment requirements of Dunagiri, NO REFUNDS of any amount paid will be made after this date. If cancellation occurs while retreat is in progress there is no refund for any unused portion. Deposit and trip price not transferable.

THIS TRIP IS AN INVESTMENT BUT YOUR EXPERIENCE AT THE TOP OF THE WORLD WILL BE PRICELESS

If you wish to pay in installments AFTER the $500 deposit, please do so by the 15th OF THE MONTH JANUARY-JUNE 2018. If you are paying for DOUBLE occupancy, the monthly installments are $475 with final installment of $485 due June 15. If you are paying for SINGLE occupancy, the monthly installments are $510 with final installment due June 15. Please contact me for other installment arrangements.

As Dunagiri Retreat is a very popular destination, the dates in October will fill up fast unless I have committed attendees. I have found over the years that the best way to plan a trip to India is to gather people who are seriously interested and committed to TRAVEL THAT TRANSFORMS.

This will be a trip like no other, very different from my previous ones.  As Piyush says:

“…we feel it is our responsibility to offer a unique and fulfilling visitor experience, and to do so in an environmentally and culturally aware and respectful manner. The facilities we offer at Dunagiri Retreat are modern, comfortable, minimalistic yet authentically ‘deshi’ — right down to the cow’s milk sweetened from its diet of fresh mountain herbs. Through sustainable tourism, we also fulfill our mission of maintaining the ‘thin distance’ between heaven and earth at this very special place. For doing so, we offer dignified livelihood to residents of the area; supplement local educational resources and provide primary and preventive healthcare.”

(**If there is not enough interest by December 31, 2017 the trip will be cancelled and your deposits refunded. If there is enough interest, deposits are nonrefundable.  As with all my trips, airfare to India, visa and passport fees are not included.)

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The Hathayogapradipika|Jyotsnayuta – Dr. Kausthub Desikachar

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Yoga teacher Larry Payne had this to say about Kausthub Desikachar‘s new translation of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika:

The new translation of Hathayogapradipika by Doctor Kausthub Desikachar is a modern classic. His personal footnotes make this classic text “User friendly” for Yoga teachers and serious students. Highly Recommended!

I have to agree.  This is an excellent and valuable book to be added to the Yoga book library of the serious practitioner or Yoga teacher.  A beautifully designed hard cover (with two beautiful drawings of Kali Ma inside) where the wisdom therein is as rich (if not richer) as the outside.

Five forwards in the book are written by Sonia Nelson (Santa Fe, New Mexico), Geeta S. Iyengar (Pune, India), Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani (Pondicherry, India), Frans Moors (Belgium), and Sharath Jois (Mysore, India.)

Sharath Jois writes that “the Hathayogapradipika is especially important because it is a tool that helps to understand the entire system of Yoga practice.”  He writes that Kausthub has revealed a new level of understanding of the HYP.

Sonia Nelson writes that “the quality and use of the English language makes the translations and footnotes fully accessible to serious students willing to give the time and attention needed to digest the content.  …the inclusion of both the Devanagari script and transliteration in the word by word translation provides a useful tool for extensive study.”  Indeed, for a student of Sanskrit alone the book is invaluable.

Kausthub’s aunt, Geeta Iyengar, writes that her nephew has done a “wonderful job of transcribing and translating the whole Samskrta text along with the Jyotsna commentary.  The Hathayogapradipika is such a text that no student of Yoga can bypass it.”  She believes that Kausthub’s footnotes can be seen as his own “modern commentary, making it easier, more relatable and comprehensible to today’s readers.”

In his Introduction Kausthub gives a brief history of the HYP and of the ancient yogis at that time.  I particularly enjoyed this history telling because it echos what Stephen Cope taught in my Mindfulness Yoga and Meditation training at Spirit Rock in California: that the ancient yogis (the “Skull Men”) were considered rebels, cast out by conventional Brahmin society of the time.  Kausthub writes that the Skull Men had a significant influence on Hathayoga, which evidence can be found through texts such as Sivasamhita and the HYP.

Among other things in the 22 page Introduction Kausthub also writes about whether the HYP is the only Hathayoga text; about the commentator of the HYP, Brahmananda; the special view of Isvara; what is Hathayoga (see photo above) — my students liked my reading this in class.

Given the latest statement about yoga therapy by the Yoga Alliance, of special interest in the Introduction is his section on “Hathayoga and Yoga Therapy.”  Kausthub writes:

One key trend that occurs recurrently throughout the text is the health benefits of the specific tools presented.  Whether in the chapter on Asana, Pranayama or Mudra, the Hathayogapradipika makes claims regarding which illnesses may be warded off through such practices.

This clearly confirms without a doubt that Yoga is indeed a therapeutic tool used by its practitioners over a long period of time.  So to say that Yoga and Yoga Therapy are two different things is against what the tradition of Yoga represents.

***

Then comes the business of organized professional governance.

You’ll have to get the book to find out the rest of the story, i.e., the two problems that governance creates in Kausthub’s opinion.

A sample page:

HYP page

My long time readers know that I have studied in the Krishnamacharya Yoga tradition for 10+ years.  I am grateful and blessed to have been introduced to this lineage by one of Krishnamacharya’s longest standing students, Srivatsa Ramaswami, on his first visit to Chicago.  In fact, he is teaching about the HYP in Chicago in September.  Join me!

If the HYP is mentioned at all in Yoga teacher trainings, the usual text that I’ve seen used in my area (Chicago) is by Swami Muktibodhananda published by the Bihar School of Yoga.  Kausthub’s translation is an excellent addition to your study of the HYP for a side by side comparison.  His is the type of book to be savored, not read quickly (as if the HYP would be a candidate for speed reading!)  It’s always good to have a few different translations of a Yoga text just to see how and who says what.  You can purchase this book directly from his school in Chennai, India.

The Hathayoga journey is not meant for superficial results like having a nice and slim body structure.  Rather it is meant for meaningful psychological and spiritual exploration of oneself and a profound transformation at all levels, that takes us closer to our own potentials and helps manifest them into reality.  (Introduction, p.50.)

That’s authentic Yoga.  The real deal, the good, the bad, and the ugly, wherever the journey takes us.

Mark Whitwell: sex, peace, and all that other stuff


I had stopped attending the Midwest Yoga Conference but I went last year for the first time in a long time just to experience Mark Whitwell. I attended every one of his workshops and I drank the Whitwell kool-aid — if I could only study with one person the rest of my life it would be Mark.

This year I registered on the spur of the moment for the pre-conference one day “teacher training” with Mark — here is the abridged description:

“Part 1 – Yoga Is Peace –
Peace is our natural state and it is freely Given. You will learn how to practice your own Yoga, which is your direct intimacy with life in every way. The essence of life is regenerative, nurturing, healing and dependable….

Part 2 – The Yoga of Peace, Intimacy, Sex and Relationship

In this session Mark will go deeper into Method and Understanding that Yoga is relationship and relationship is peace. To be very clear Yoga postures (asana) is hatha Yoga and hatha is tantra, the non-dual understanding. When asana is correctly practiced, actually and naturally, daily but not obsessively it helps intimate relationship of every kind.

You will understand that you live in a powerful regenerative force. Nurturing Source is appearing as the extreme intelligence that is Life, that is you. Mark will guide you to understand how to participate directly in this force and enjoy optimal health, intimacy and sex. You will learn the specifics of hatha yoga practice to make sure any Yoga practice is entirely your own….Mark will help you make use of real Yoga in your real life.”

I was not disappointed.  Mark is so true to the Krishnamacharya lineage that I felt recharged.

It was an intimate group of only 9 people and he started the morning by asking us why we are here and what we would like to get out his teaching for the day. One woman was very interested in the intimacy aspect of his teaching. She said she wanted to learn how to use yoga as a way to enrich the intimacy between her and her husband.

One of the reasons I love Mark’s teaching is that yoga is just yoga. The longer I practice and teach the more tired I become about the different styles. Mark believes that these yoga labels are an American phenomenon. A few people told Mark that they are “doing yoga” more than once a week, running from class to class, from teacher to teacher, and from style to style, but they felt they do not have their own personal yoga….which is Mark teaches — how to make yoga your own.

I know for myself that I am comfortable with MY yoga, and that’s what I say when people ask me what style of yoga I teach. I tell them, “my style. come check it out and if it resonates with you, nice, if not, have a joyFULL day.” I say on my website that I developed my own vinyasa style “in an intuitive and eclectic way based on Krishnamacharya’s method”, integrating elements from other schools that enhance my practice and teachings. It is “Mindful Yoga”, nothing more, nothing less.

As for those different yoga styles and lineages, Mark feels when we are stuck with one style of another, it’s a false identification with another culture and we do not acknowledge other cultures. He said the yoga lineages are not the point — the point of yoga is not to be attached or identified to something so solidly that it blinds you to the full participation in life itself.

He asked us how do we practice asana without wanting to get to the next asana because trying to get somewhere implies that we are not already here. Get it? Yoga is not about “looking for”, it’s about “participating in” the given, i.e., life. Yoga is about our direct experience with life, there should not be a stylized struggle for a future result.

Mark said he was disappointed that Krishnamacharya’s ideas have been absent from modern yoga. He said that while Krishnamacharya taught Iyengar and Jois, they did not fully utilize Krishnamacharya’s practices of non-dual tantric yoga. Mark believes that the Krishnamacharya lineage of viniyoga has become nothing more than physical therapy in this modern yoga age.

At that point I told Mark that it seemed to me that many astanga practitioners are obsessed with perfecting the physical part of the practice (and I’m not dissing any astangi!), doing countless drop backs and jump throughs over and over again until perfection is achieved. Mark said that obsession comes from feeling inadequate; again, it’s that trying to get somewhere else when we are already here. He believes that yoga should be practiced consistently, not obsessively. No time frames, no certain number of asanas, just be your yoga, and in fact, your asana practice may fall away completely when the things that are obstructing you from full participation in life are removed BECAUSE of your yoga practice.

To make your yoga truly yours Mark recommends starting with a daily 7 minute practice, and who doesn’t have 7 minutes a day for asana and pranayama? Don’t obsess, just start with a 7 minute sadhana of asana and pranayama, or even just breathing — embracing your breath, not merely being a witness to it. Mark believes that when asana is our bhakti, i.e., our connection to the divine, then meditation comes as a siddhi.

….to be continued…..