Kaivalya and Yoga Sutra chapter 4 were the subject of the KYM annual retreat at the Swami Dyananda Ashram in Rishikesh from 26th June to 7th July 2018. Wendy Haring describes her experience there.
For the past four years I had wishfully looked at the details for the retreat in Rishikesh on the KYM website, and each year there was something that got in the way. Finally, nothing prevented me from going this year, and off I went with no expectations. What a treat, everything was so special, and different to the many times I had been to southern India.
The day began at 6.30 with asana practice, time for a second shower and breakfast and then 9 a.m. yoga sutra study with Sir, S Śridharan, 10 a.m. insights into asana theory with Dr Latha, followed by Vedic chant. At midday a chance to dip into the cool, holy waters of Mother Ganga to remove our sins and refresh, and shower number 3, a delicious lunch, a short rest and ready to continue at 3 p.m. with yoga sutra study, pranayama practice and to finish the day with a meditation, shower number 4 and dinner at 7.30
From the number of showers, you’ll rightly guess that the weather was very hot and humid (around 36° with 98% humidity!); we had a couple of days of rain, but no monsoon as such. The ashram was a peaceful, green and shady haven from the busy town outside. We each had our own room, basic, but with its own en-suite and overhead fan. We were made very welcome by the ashram staff, every conversation beginning with “Hari Om”.
Despite the busy day of classes, there was still plenty of time to go off into Rishikesh to have lunch at the Madras Café (wonderful south Indian cuisine); to visit temples (my favourite was the oldest one, Bharat Mandir, 1000 years old); to go to the wonderful Maharishi Mahesh Ashram on the other side of the Ganges, where the Beatles had stayed in 1968 (a shrine for all Beatles fans!); to get up at 4 in the morning to climb up 100 steps to see the sunrise over the Himalayas at the Temple of Rudranath; and to visit Triveni Ghat, a confluence of the three rivers, Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswati to experience the Aarti (offering) to the Goddess Ganga, a magical and amazing experience. Rishikesh is the city for yoga in India, dusty, busy and bustling, but with its own particular charm, with the two footbridges Ram Jhula and Lakshmi Jhula suspended over the Ganges.
Exemplary and memorable
We were a group of 34, mostly Indian students from Chennai and Bangalore, who looked after us so beautifully, made us most welcome, as well as making us laugh and having fun. The teaching by our faculty of S Śridharan and Dr Latha Satish was exemplary and memorable, and I was honoured to be asked to lead a Vedic chant session (for which I give thanks to my teacher Radha Sundararajan) and to take part in a question and answer session.
If you’ve ever thought about going on this retreat to Rishikesh, then I would strongly advise you to go; it is a truly special event, one that I will never forget and hope to attend again next year.