Student reflection on the January Retreat

For several years, I’ve hoped to attend the Yoga Mandir Residential Retreat in Otford, NSW. Yoga practice is an integral part of my life and Yoga Mandir is my ‘home of yoga’ so it was only natural that I would want to join in the retreat. I did not set an intention to master a difficult pose, balance longer, bend more deeply, or to keep up with others.

I hoped to deepen my practice, work on quietening my mind and experience the joy of 6 days of yoga. I wanted to be in the experience.

Prior to signing up I did my research on the Govinda Valley Retreat Centre, checking out the environment, accommodation and of course, the food! I watched the YouTube clips on the centre as well as read recipes for their delicious Ayurdevic dishes on their website. I was excited and ready to go.

At last, on 8 January 2018 I finally shut the door of my car packed with mat, belts, blankets, blocks and friends and we headed down the federal highway to the beautiful and peaceful Govinda Valley. One of the things I looked forward to was getting to know some of the practitioners who I quietly practiced beside for years but have rarely shared more than a passing, ‘hello’.

Along with many Canberra based practitioners the Yoga Mandir Retreat hosted practitioners from Darwin, Forster, Hobart, Melbourne and old friends from Sydney. We even met a devoted practitioner who travelled from a community 5 hours outside of Alice Springs! This was an opportunity for them to also to experience 6 days of practice led by Alan Goode. 

Soon after arrival we quickly established our daily routine of a morning Pranayama session and two daily Yoga sessions with incredible meals in between. Our accommodation was modest and comfortable, just right for the beautiful valley the retreat centre sits in. The yoga room was magnificent; a large room with ceiling to floor windows overlooking the valley, timber floors and chimes tinkling outside the doors.

Each day, we had midday break where everyone had an opportunity to do what they liked – reading, sleeping, hiking, swimming at the ocean. In the evenings we enjoyed Alan’s discussions and movies.

I was living the dream.

I found that in this environment I was able to be so immersed in the experience at each session that it was a surprise when Alan called ‘Savasana’. Where had the time gone? How could it be Savasana already?

Clearing my mind while in Supta Baddha Konasana before practice and Savasana afterwards has always been a struggle for me. This week was a chance to work on that. Without the pull of work, home and family,

I found I could walk into the room and settle through the quiet time – simply melt into Supta Baddha Konasana and Savasana and concentrate on my breathing – letting that ‘monkey mind’ go.

Now home, I am still ‘in the glow’ of the retreat and experience I had there. If someone asks me how the retreat was, I just smile and think back on the peace and calm of my time there. The answer is “wonderful”.

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