Tuesday, 26 August 2014

A trip to the heavens

What should I call this experience… educative, re-energizing, fun-filled, exciting or adventurous? Aww! It’s so difficult to describe this experience in one word. It was all of it and much more! I had been on a Yoga Retreat conducted by Yogavijnana at Hosagadde, Shimoga district for 3 days during the long weekend of I-day.


We were a group of eight from Yogavijnana. Vinay is the organizer of this camp and the founder of Yogavijnana. And the rest of us being me, Sudarshan, Prashanth, Madhukar and his cousin Nargarjuna, Usha and her husband Mahesh, their cute little son Aditya. All excited, we started from Bangalore on the night of 14th Aug in a tempo traveler for Hosagadde. Since most Bangaloreans were heading out on the long weekend, it took us 1.5 hours to hit the outskirts of the city. As I kept staring at the traffic, lost in thoughts, I already had a feeling that this was not going to be like any regular holiday. 


By the time I woke up around 6 in the morning, we were already in the Western Ghats, few kms away from our destination. Far away from the hustle and bustle of the city crowds and traffic, I found myself in the lap of Mother Nature; no other sounds could be heard except the chirping of birds and the soft sound being made by the cool breeze as they gently touched my cheeks. The monsoon leaves these Ghats more and more beautiful each year. One can say that the nature is at its best in the Western Ghats with lush green vegetation everywhere. As our TT traversed the road further into the dense forest, the trees and plants appeared bursting with life, and we soon reached the house that we were going to stay-in.


About the house:

It is the only house standing in the village amidst the forest, fields and small streams. And yet, surprisingly it is quite a well-maintained place, owned by a Rt. Tehsildar, Chandra Shekhar Uncle, who is the core member of the Environmental Study Centre(ESD), Shimoga. The house is virtually soundproof as one can rarely hear the sounds of any noisy neighbors, rumbling traffic or a constantly barking dog. The neighboring house is as far as 1 1/2 kms from this house. No internet connectivity, no mobile network and electricity only for a few hours in the day. Though I knew this beforehand, I still kept wondering if I could really survive without mobile for 3 long days! May be this is what is called a blessing in disguise. Something that I thought could be a drawback of this place, turned out to be the most crucial element in keeping us away from the world of distractions. It was a perfectly peaceful environment for Yoga practice and to go deeper within oneself. At this place, tranquility is assured! And trust me, I didn't miss the phone calls or whatsapp or facebook even one bit. Though there was no connectivity with the outside world, the place helped me connect well with self. It was just the home, the forests, the fields and us! 

The house

We were received by the Director of ESD, Janardhan Uncle and the owner of the house, Chandrashekhar Uncle. The place housed two other families too. It was sad to learn that one of the families (Jaggus) had lost their home and hence lived here. Jaggu's Son Abhi and Adi soon became good friends.These kids made the over-all environment very lively. Our hosts were truly amazing people and ensured that we felt at home during the stay. We felt like one big family. 


Day 1:

Though mesmerized by the beauty of the morning and the surroundings, I had to satisfy myself with a quick walk in the nature and settle down for the day’s schedule. After having a yummy and healthy idly breakfast, Vinay kick started our retreat with the personal introduction of all us present there. We were all comfortable with each other now and also pretty impressed by the good work being done by Janardhan Uncle and his team. Vinay then walked us through the “Introduction to Yoga”. During the talk, he laid special emphasis on how yoga is wrongly perceived as just a few asanas and meditation as just sitting in seclusion for a few minutes. He then explained that Yoga is all about self-awareness and anything that you do with absolute involvement of body, mind and soul is meditation. Definitely can’t agree more on what he said!


After a sumptuous lunch, Janardhan uncle and his team took us to a walk in the forest. Since it had just rained, the trees and plants looked green and fresh. We walked through the narrow paths of the forest, filled with  noises of frogs, crickets and other insects, humming of birds and the distinctive pleasant scent of the earth soon after rain. It felt so delightful to come across occasional small streams and walk through them. A few more meters of walk through the open fields took us to the beautiful back waters of Sharavathi. So calm and so serene, Sharavathi is truly blessed! A refreshingly beautiful and charming sight.
Sharavathi backwaters

On the way back from backwaters, we ran into two different broken houses that Jaggu used to live-in. He told us in a cool manner that he is now in the process of building a third house. We were dumb-founded to hear that. Imagine how devastated one could feel on losing two houses. And imagine the amount of courage and strength it takes to build everything from the scratch all over again. Hats off to his guts!


Once back home, we all had our health drink; it is hot milk mixed with healthy ingredients from local plants and is called 'kashaya'. We then started with our first 3 hour Yoga session at around 5 PM. Vinay started from the very basics and explained thoroughly about each and every minute aspect to be observed and felt. During every session, he ensured that every single person is in the right posture. Only when you practice the right way, you feel the existence of each part of your body, from the small toes, to the calf muscles, to the spine, all the way up to your neck and head. After the asanas, Vinay concluded the session with a Pranayama session. It was indeed a rejuvenating experience. 

Practice


Followed by the session was a light and yet tasty dinner. We then planned to take a walk into the other part of the forest and make an attempt at spotting some luminous plants. After a 15 - 20 minutes search, when we had almost given up hopes, we suddenly discovered those light emitting plants; our excitement knew no bounds! We all had switched off our flash lights to get a better view of those plants. We wondered in awe at the mystifying nature.

The flash lights were still off and that is when a thought struck me; imagine yourself alone in the mid of a dark thick forest with no clues as to where to go; how helpless would you feel and how direction less would the life be. Just the thought of it gave me goosebumps! This is the kind of moment which makes you realize and appreciate the worth of everything that you have and thank the Almighty for all that you possess.  I did say a quick thank you to GOD and returned to the world of excitement.  It was a day full of activities; we went back and hit the bed by 10 PM. We had to rise early and be ready for the morning Yoga Session next day.


Day2:

All of us were ready after a cup of our health drink for the 6:30 session. Vinay has the capability of making every session and every asana equally new. He keeps repeating convincingly that nobody has yet reached the perfect posture in any asana and hence it calls each one of us to keep on analyzing and  improvising. There is nothing called perfect or final and thus every effort is a step towards achieving that perfection. Indeed a profound thought which can be applied to every activity that we do on a daily basis. He kept guiding us again through the many asanas while touching upon every subtle aspect. Even the beginners like Mahesh, who had never been into Yoga before, started loving the sessions. While many a times we struggled to get the postures right, it was motivating to see how the two kiddos Abhi and Adi did every asana with such ease.  After the 2.5 hour session, all of us were hungry as wolves and ate heartily the dosa breakfast.


At 10 am, we set out on the “silent trek” to Bheemeshwara temple. The trek is a 2 km stretch through the forest and wilderness. Vinay explained us the concept of silent trek and bare-foot-walking. Silence calms down your mind; and when you keep walking in silence, you can feel and enjoy the nature outside and feel closer to your own nature from inside. It gives you an opportunity to focus on yourself.  And when you walk bare-foot, all your focus is on the feet and how the ground below feels; it keeps you away from diversions. Though it felt like a challenge to remain silent, it was an amazing experience to feel the rhythm of your breath and feet, as you walk. A walk in absolute silence is like a reassurance of your existence, a re-discovery of self!

As we walked through rain in the steep terrain, we came across variety of insects, beautiful flowers, small streams flowing through big rocks and various herbs with high medicinal value. At the end of the stretch is the divine waterfalls just next to the Bheemeshwara temple. The roaring sound of the waterfalls was so inviting that everyone rushed under the waters immediately to feel the bliss. Later, we visited Lord Lingeshwara seated in the small temple built of pillars of rock and covered by a cave. We then started on our journey backwards. We had carried our lunch and hence were able to feed our rumbly tummies on time.

During the trek, the two photography enthusiasts, Sudarshan and Nagarjuna grabbed every opportunity of capturing the picturesque natural wonders. 

At Bheemeshwara


Back home was the time for ‘Shramadana’ or ‘Karma Yoga’. The family was building temporary steps to the steep terrain near the house. We did our bit in contributing to this construction. It was fascinating to see how they did every work all by themselves, be it the regular household chores, growing veggies at home, or the hard work in the fields. Do-not-wait-for-support and do-it-yourself were the mantras of their life.They were happy, content and proud of their lives; a sense of satisfaction pervaded the place. Awe-inspiring!


We started our evening Yoga session around 5:00 PM after the usual energy drink. Since the day was a bit hectic, Vinay took us through some asanas which were meant to relax the body. The schedule was intentionally set in this fashion in order to demonstrate how Yoga can be useful not only in exercising your body but also in relaxing the body and mind after a hard day. We often tend to equate relaxation with activities like listening to music or simply having a quiet time. However, deep relaxation asanas are something very different. They quieten your mind and release physical tension in your body. In a state of deep relaxation, your heart beat and breathing slows down, and your mind and body become deeply calm. Indeed a comforting and soothing session. Followed by it, was the Yogic activity called Trataka where you concentrate and fix your gaze on a single point, bringing your restless mind and eyes to a halt. We switched off all the lights and used a candle flame for this activity. The darkness around the house, the pin-drop silence and the naturally calm environment were acting in a perfectly conducive way for this activity of concentration. We concluded the session for the evening after this Yogic activity of staring meditation.


By now we all had got used to looking forward to meal times. Every single dish that they prepared was so delicious that we could hardly stop our craving stomachs from over eating. They made sure that every meal was a balanced healthy diet comprising of a variety of salads, chutneys, sambars, rice, rotis and curries made out of home grown veggies. After the dinner, Usha gave us some insights into the topic 'Chakras in our body and their role on our over-all health'. We winded up for the day after this interesting talk.

dinner_time


Day3:

As usual, everyone was up early in the morning for the Yoga session. As we finished the 2.5 hour session with equal vigor, which was an ideal combination of different asanas, our ever-hungry-tummies couldn't wait to have the mouth-watering breakfast. Next, we went to the paddy fields with the good intent of doing some more ‘shramadana’ by ploughing the fields. The sight of the fields in itself was like a feast to the eyes with the lush greens covering the earth like a carpet over kilometers. Initially we were all being extra careful while walking in the muddy waters. Prashanth initiated the mud play and dragged us all into the muddy waters. Eventually everyone loved the play; so much so that we ended up playing in the mud like kids and enjoyed it to the core. Most of us were doing this for the very first time and it was so much fun. Later, we washed ourselves in the stream which runs close-by the fields. What a memorable experience!

play_time


Soon it was noon and it was time to pack up and make a move after lunch. We concluded the stay by conveying our heart-felt gratitude to our hosts. There was a feeling of heaviness in the heart as we had developed a sense of attachment towards the place and the people in such a short span. It was so hard to bye-bye to the lovely people, the enchantingly beautiful forest and the pristine environment.

On our way back to Bangalore, we stopped by at the Sridhara Matta, Varadahalli, which is 6 kms from Sagara to offer prayers. Thus we concluded our trip with the visit to this divine place in the midst of natural surroundings of Western Ghats. We then started our journey back home; transitioning minds to the reality of returning to routine lives.

family_pic



All in all, it was an unusual yet rejuvenating trip - a welcome break from the ordinary, a fantastic vacation, a valuable learning experience and a bag full of wonderful memories to cherish forever J
It felt like a trip to the heavens!

2 comments:

  1. Swetha...Nice write-up! It certainly makes us relive those wonderful moments :) Had a real good time with u there :)

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  2. Very nice!
    Wonderful blog with attention to the details - reading through your experiences gives me a vicarious excitement :)

    ReplyDelete