have become very popular in the last years and are offered around the whole
world. What is so compelling to go on a retreat? Who could benefit from a
retreat? Why are retreats so important these days? Let’s have a look to find
out why retreats are more than just a current hype.
What does retreat mean?
To retreat literally means moving back or
withdrawing from something. In common use retreat means a withdrawal from daily
life, to pause from the demands of life and from tasks that we are usually
consumed with. Most retreats follow a structured daily schedule with the aim to
let go of the usual routines and to focus on ourselves. A conscious and planned
retreat from everyday life and the reduction of distractions and external
stimulations are key aspects of a retreat.
Mantras are sacred words traditionally chanted in Sanskrit, an ancient Indian language in which the old classical spiritual texts had been written. The syllables of the mantras carry energetic frequencies and they are chanted with the intention to connect to the respecting aspect of the divine. Singing mantras is a wonderful way to calm the mind and connect to a higher force, regardless of its name, call it God, Shiva or Buddha.
Mantra chants are often accompanied by a harmonium. This instrument has its firm place in India to accompany classical and spiritual music and is now becoming more and more popular also in the western Yoga world. Kirtan is a form of devotional chanting, in which the audience is singing together with a leading vocalist. The songs range from slow and calm chants up to energizing and powerful ones where people get up and dance.
My journey from classical music to devotional chanting
During Yoga classes, workshops and in my teacher trainings, I was introduced to mantra chanting and loved it right away as a way to quieten my mind, elevate my mood and reach higher states of consciousness. When I did my first Yoga teacher training in Tiruvannamalai in India in 2012, we gathered every day for an hour of chanting and it was a well-deserved time-out for body and mind as we were so busy studying from morning till evening. Living in Bali since 2014 gave me the opportunity to join numerous Kirtans and chanting circles as intimate gatherings at small Yoga studios or high vibe events with more than 150 people singing spiritual songs together and dancing in ecstasy. I feel very blessed that so many amazing musicians are coming to Bali to share their passion for spiritual music and create wonderful communities of like-minded people. I vividly remember my first Chanting Circle with Kevin James at a stunning villa in Ubud which blew my mind completely. I felt like being transported into another world that evening and I was thinking how amazing it would be to belong to this community. At that time, it did not cross my mind that it would actually come true for me to live in Bali a few years later and even to play with him for an audience over 200 people in 2019 in Ubud.
Cacao has been used in ceremonies since thousands of years, especially in Central and Southern America for spiritual, medicinal and ceremonial purposes. Nowadays Cacao Ceremonies are becoming more and more popular in Yoga communities all over the world. Theobroma Cacao, the botanical name for the plant, is translated as the food for the Gods and is attributed with promoting inner awakening, creative guidance, heart opening and healing. As a nutrition it is rich in iron, magnesium and b-vitamins, improving immune functions, enhancing concentration and giving an energy boost. It is a natural plant medicine that induces feel-good hormones in our blood stream yet without any hallucinations or psychedelic effects.
My love for Cacao and Ceremonies
In Bali we are blessed to find high quality raw Cacao that we blend in the ceremonies with local spices such as Ginger, Cloves, Cinnamon, a pinch of Chili and a bit of Coconut sugar for additional sweetness. When I tasted the ceremonial Cacao for the first time, I was surprised how delicious it was, how rich and intense. It is very different from the sweet Cacao that we usually drink with warm milk. The ceremonial Cacao is much rawer and thicker in consistency.
Various traditions all over the world have realized for a long time how important it is to stay in balance in order to live in harmony, with good health and a sense of fulfillment.
In Bali it is the philosophy of “Tri Hita Karana” that creates a base foundation for human life – three pillars that need to be in harmony and balance: harmony between people, harmony with nature and surroundings as well as harmony with the divine. It is about creating harmony in daily life, especially as Balinese live together in communities, living in harmony with nature and creating a balanced connection to the non-material reality. Balinese strongly believe that following this concept is the basic foundation of one’s well-being. There are many rituals and ceremonies showing the importance of the three pillars such as daily offerings to both Gods and demons and various ceremonies that keep the social communities strongly bonded.
The good thing about living in Bali is that it provides you with so many opportunities to deepen your path of yoga, transformation, spiritual growth and holistic healing. One of my Expat friends from Ubud told me one day about the Theta Healing® modality and how it has brought huge benefits to her life. She was talking so passionately about it that I became curious and booked a session with her teacher Erika Johansson in Ubud. And I can tell that this first session was one of the most profound healing sessions I’ve ever had.
What is Theta Healing about and where does it come from?
The Theta Healing technique is an effective method of changing deep beliefs and habitual patterns. Theta Healing is facilitated in one-to-one sessions that combine dialogue and meditation including elements of NLP and kinesiology. The modality was developed by Vianna Stibal in the US and since she started teaching it in 2000, it has spread into various corners of the world. Theta Healing came to Ubud in Bali with Erika Johansson from Sweden, who is giving sessions and courses in Taksu Spa with great success. Every time I had booked a session with her, I came out with more clarity, a sense of relief and I could let go of various blocks and limiting patterns. She is one of the best teachers and healers I’ve ever met – funny and joyful, empathetic, highly intuitive yet down-to-earth and very supportive.
Last week I was asked to write down descriptions of the Yoga classes at the resort where I am currently working for in Canggu. There is a comprehensive schedule with 5 to 7 classes daily in various Yoga styles which can be attended both by hotel guests as drop in students from outside. At Udara Resort Bali there are several Indonesian teachers who were trained either by Westerners or by local Yoga teachers. And there is my Russian colleague and myself leading classes in various styles.
This was an interesting task, as I was both attending some classes lead by teachers that I haven’t met before, tried out Yoga styles that I haven’t practiced before and got to read what the teachers themselves wrote about their way of teaching. And of course I brought in my own experience and knowledge as a teacher. I realized how confusing it can be as a newcomer to Yoga what style and which teacher suits best for the own body, personality and intention of the practice.
Nowadays you’ll hear many people talking about ‘Holding Space’ and it may sound like a newly invented, esoteric New Age thing. I’d rather see it as a natural expression of key qualities for social interaction in various contexts. They help us to create a container in order to facilitate healing, transformation and growth.
How do you feel if somebody listens to you with full awareness, giving you enough room to express your emotions and thoughts that you like to share? How do you like a Yoga class where you have enough space for your journey inwards? Do you like a workshop where you are allowed to be just as you are, as part of a group in midst you feel safe and respected? Naturally, we are drawn to teachers and companions in whose presence we feel secure, accepted and supported.
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