There are many ways to learn and practice yoga… get a personal teacher, enroll for a group class, teach yourself with the help of an off-the-shelf DVD or sign up for a yoga retreat. This last one happens to be my favourite. So when I got an invitation to visit Shreyas Yoga Retreat resort in Bangalore, I just couldn’t refuse.
As a yoga teacher myself, I was pleasantly surprised to find that true to its name, this is a ‘yoga’ place. What this means is that they stay true to the traditional yoga in all its dimensions but do not tread into its various derivatives such as power yoga, bikram hot yoga or pilates.
Built on a sprawling 25 acres of land in the outskirts of Bangalore, there is an aura of naturalness to the resort, which is complemented by the rituals that seem to have been put into place with the purpose of enhancing your yogic experience. As I arrived, the staff, who were dressed in traditional Indian wear, welcomed me in the typical Indian style—tilak, floral garland, aarti and all. What impressed me was that this wasn’t just a formality—there was a certain genuineness in the way they went about this ritual.
Soon, I found myself on the recliner by the pool side, stretched out lazily and sipping on fresh pomegranate juice. I shut my eyes and took a deep breath in… and remembered how just the previous evening I was contemplating cancelling this trip so that I could stay back and attend to unfinished work. Oh, what a pity that would have been!
It’s only when you do it that you realise how important it is to break away from your daily routine to go do something different, even if it’s only for a couple of days. Though I has just arrived, I was already feeling relaxed—the serene setting of the place had begun its magic. As I felt my nerves soothed I heard a loud chuckle of a cuckoo and I opened my eyes to see the beaming face of one of the staff members, Santosh, there to escort me to my cottage.
At Shreyas, you have the option of staying at a garden tent cottage or one next to the pool. I stayed in a garden tent one. Every cottage has been aptly given a Sanskrit name, with some relevance to yoga—mine was called Shraddha, meaning faith.
While the philosophy of Shreyas is to promote authentic yoga, it does so in a luxurious manner. The idea is that the guests can devote their time to self-discovery through yoga without being in the rigorous environs of an ashram. Their only idea of austerity [if you can call it that] is the absence of room service.
Inside, the décor of my room had all the amenities of a luxury hotel, without being too opulent. Of course, you can’t expect a mini-bar! Being a yoga place, they maintain a strictly alcohol and non-vegetarian free environment.
The bathroom was unique as it extended out to an area that opened into my little private garden, and by ‘opened’ I mean it actually had the open sky for a roof.
Rani Jeyaraj, who manages marketing activities for the resort, informed me that practising some form of yoga was mandatory for every staff member of Shreyas. If not asanas, they could meditate, chant, do pranayamas or any of the other philosophical aspects of yoga that connects with them. In fact, all staff members meet every afternoon to do a chanting meditation. “It helps purify energies of this place and we do this without fail every single day,” Rani told me as she bent over to pluck some fennel seeds from the garden and gave them to me. Personally, I found this idea very unique—I think this rule helps the staff align with the vision and mission of the resort.
Shreyas is densely populated by trees and water bodies, so you’ll see a variety of birds, butterflies, insects and on some rare occasions some crawly friends too… keep your camera handy.
A wellness consultation on arrival, 90 minute yoga sessions twice a day and a group chanting session once a day are the activities included in your room rates. Throw in an ayurvedic massage and some relaxing time in the pool or jacuzzi and you have your plate full. Given that you do so much yoga everyday, your body demands sufficient rest too.
The yoga classes were customised to suit the level of expertise of every guest. So if you find yourself to be the only one who is at an advanced level of practice amidst beginners, rest assured—a separate class will be arranged for you, without even your asking for it. I took classes with Rita and Ramakant, both excellent teachers.
Nourishment for the body
For a wellness retreat, I wasn’t expecting a five-course meal complete with dessert. And the delicacies were a good mix of Indian and international cuisines. Keeping with the principles of yoga, the food is cooked and served with a sense of gratitude. For instance, the staff chant a prayer before they begin preparing the food.
You may be surprised to know that many of the ingredients used in cooking here are grown within the property. So most of what you eat is organic.
There are several wellness packages you can choose from but there’s one that requires special mention here. It’s called the Joy of Giving retreat. In this, you’re given the opportunity to share the abundance that you’re blessed with, with those around you.
The resort supports a shelter for orphans and Rani had arranged for me to visit this orphanage and meet the kids. The children were served a meal specially prepared by the chefs at Shreyas. After the food was served, the children folded their hands and chorused an elaborate prayer in Sanksrit, the food was blessed, offered to the Gods and only then did they begin to eat. As I observed this beautiful ritual of gratitude, it got me thinking how these kids were practising the meaningful ancient Indian rituals—and what the children growing up in cities were missing out.
Little things that matter
There are many little things about the service of the place that are sure to bring a smile on your face. For instance, while you’re in the yoga class, every 15 minutes or so, one of the staff attendants silently walks around the yoga hall with an earthen incense burner, leaving the room smelling fresh, fragrant and energised. I simply loved this gesture—especially because this is a luxury we can’t afford in the closed, unventilated yoga studios in the city.
All in all, this is a resort that has its heart in the right place and its loyalties lie with the purpose of its existence: Offering an experience of authentic yoga.
This was first published in August 2013 issue of Complete Wellbeing.