THE BLISS OF BREATH

AN ASHTANGA RETREAT IN SOUTH INDIA
JANUARY 6 - 19, 2018

Purple Valley Yoga Retreat is located in a peaceful valley in Assagao, North Goa, between the Arabian Sea at Anjuna beach and the small market town of Mapusa. Set in landscaped tropical gardens, there are communal areas for eating and relaxing and private spaces for contemplation and meditation. It is quiet and safe, and the ideal place for a yoga retreat.

The yoga is mainly of the Ashtanga yoga tradition. The morning walk to the shala is through tropical gardens, with the sun rising over the field of palm trees and the birds and cicadas singing. The shala itself is an amazing space with a peaceful energy and the perfect place to deepen and explore your yoga practice.

All meals are vegetarian, served buffet style on our open-air terrace and enjoyed in the company of the other students. Breakfast is a feast of exotic tropical fruits, homemade breads with toppings, local nuts and porridge. Dinners are an imaginative mix of Indian and Western food and all ingredients are bought fresh daily at the local market, organic wherever possible and everything is prepared with love.


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THE COURSE

Hatha Yoga is a method of opening ourselves to the fullness of embodied experience. The method works with opposing forces in the body and invites these forces to align. When relevant forces align, the experience of the body opens up, revealing endless patterns of sensation. The practice is to be present with these patterns, allowing them to unfold in the emptiness of our awareness. Through this practice, we give ourselves space, and we invite the subtle currents of the internal breath to wash through our minds. Soon our thoughts and feelings begin to expand and contract with the internal rhythms of our breath, creating a blissful flow of consciousness.

This experience of complete immersion in the breath is the beginning of Hatha Yoga. In this special course, we explore that experience through the potent practice of traditional Ashtanga Vinyasa. The course will consist of daily morning Mysore practices, followed by instruction in Pranayama (according to the methods of the Krishnamacharya lineage), and a series of afternoon workshops designed to illumine our theme. Some workshops will explore practical aspects of asana, bandha, mudra, and meditation, while others will be pure philosophy.

This course is designed to accommodate practitioners of all kinds. No special proficiency is expected, and people with injuries, health challenges, and other limitations are totally welcome to participate. The only intelligent approach to Ashtanga is to modify and adapt the postures to our current circumstance, so that we can practice just as we are. If you have any questions about the content of the course, please contact me directly.

THE SCHEDULE

Sunday 1/6 The Breath of Ashtanga
Monday 1/7 Surya Namaskar
Tuesday 1/8 Alignment Lab I – Backbends and Folds
Thursday 1/10 Alignment Lab II – Torsions and Inversions
Sunday 1/14 Tasting the Poison
Monday 1/15 Mula Bandha
Tuesday 1/16 Radiance in Motion
Thursday 1/18 Shiva’s Dance

WORKSHOP DESCRIPTIONS

The Breath of Ashtanga
Ashtanga Vinyasa comes alive with breath. When we awaken the breath, it moves us from the inside out, animating our bodies with precision and grace. In this session, we explore some basic movement patterns from the Ashtanga system that are designed to awaken the breath. These patterns encourage the breath to reach throughout the body and expand into its natural fullness. Through this exploration, we rediscover the exhilarating experience of being moved by breath.

Surya Namaskar
The backbone of the Ashtanga system is Surya Namaskar, the Salutation to the Sun. In the context of yoga, the Sun is not only the celestial body that gives us warmth and daylight, but the solar center of the human body, where our vital forces converge. These forces propel our bodily processes and illumine our minds from within. In Surya Namaskar, we are propitiating to these forces, and inviting them to rise up through the central axis of the body, burning away our delusions and giving us insight. In this session, we explore the mechanics of Surya Namaskar, so we can undertake the practice with greater presence, elegance and grace.

Alignment Lab
Ashtanga Vinyasa works with two opposing patterns of breath. These patterns are called prana and apana, or the ascending and descending breaths, and alignment can be thought of as the continual rediscovery of balance between them. In this workshop, we explore the movements of these two opposing patterns as they present in our bodies. We learn to recognize their unique physiological signatures, and we practice integrating them in some key postures from the Ashtanga system.  Through these explorations, we will rediscover the breath as a principal axis of alignment, one that brings unusual depth and vibrancy to the postures themselves.

Tasting the Poison
Yoga practice is said to be the antidote for halahala, the poison of conditioned existence. When the practice starts to work, the poison comes to the surface, and darkens the waters of our minds.  This experience can be troubling, and pose serious obstacles to practice. In this workshop, which is an exploration of yoga philosophy and mythology (and involves no formal practice as such) we discuss the process of meeting these experiences with compassion, and turning the poison into insight.

Mula Bandha
Hatha Yoga is the process of awakening our natural intelligence. When the intelligence awakens, there is a spontaneous gathering and rising of prana through the central axis of the body. As prana rises, it burns through our dualistic delusions, giving us insight. This spontaneous awakening is called Mula Bandha. In this workshop, we explore some eponymous techniques from in both visceral and more subtle forms. These techniques allow us to manipulate the subtle forces that shape our experience, and to balance the creative and dissolutive movements of our minds. Through this balance, we can invite the experience of Mula Bandha to arise.

Radiance in Motion
The practice of Ashtanga Vinyasa amplifies our internal currents of breath. With assiduous practice, we can learn to ride these currents, moving our bodies with elegance and grace. In this workshop, we learn the techniques of bandha and mudra that underlie this ability, and we explore them through some fundamental movement patterns from the Ashtanga Vinyasa system, including the coveted actions of pressing, piking, jumping through and jumping back. We learn techniques for cultivating these actions over time, and imbuing our movements immediately with radiance. This class is vigorous and illuminating.

Shiva’s Dance
In Tantric mythology, there are few symbols more enthralling than Shiva’s Dance. More than an image of divine revelry, it contains the whole Tantric teaching about the nature of the mind. In this session, which is an exposition of the fundamental vision of the Tantric philosophy (and contains no formal practice as such) we slowly unravel the symbology of Nataraj, Shiva’s dancing form. We uncover a model for contemplating the natural unfolding of the mind, and an invitation for entering the blissful and ecstatic flow of an awakened consciousness.

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Purple Valley Retreat