Yoga as a form of exercise has taken the world by storm. Niraamaya Retreats 7-and-14-night packages will introduce you to this ancient practice of harmonizing body, mind, and soul in ways that go beyond just the physical.
Unlike how the West views yoga as an effective exercise form, yoga in India is viewed as much as a meditation technique that sets you on a spiritual journey, as it is an effective exercise. In Patanjali yoga: there are eight limbs or practices of yoga: Yama (honesty, truth), Niyamas (contentment or self-study), asanas (the exercise form), pranayama (Prana means vital force, Yama means to control, practiced through breathing), pratyahara (withdrawn of senses from external stimulation), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (the final stage, integration of all senses).
Niraamaya’s yoga programme
Guru Ayappan, who leads the yoga programme at Niraamaya, reveals that in Indian culture, the final journey towards Samadhi is the real purpose of yoga. However, the world has confined itself to asanas and a smaller degree, pranayama. At Niraamaya, the yoga programme straddles aspects beyond pure exercise and includes within the ambit asanas, meditation or Dharana and Dhyana, Pranayama and yoga Nidra (yogic sleep is a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping).
Both the 7-and-14-day aspects include each of these practices. Every morning, from the edge of the rugged cliff on which Niraamaya Retreats Surya Samudra, Kovalam is located, Guru Narayana Ayappan will gently lead you through the smooth movements of yoga or the asanas. The sessions are held on the striking open-air wooden podium with columns salvaged from old homes in Kerala, which stands perched above the beach and is surrounded by the magical views of the sea and the palm-strewn Kovalam coastline.
The Sunrise Session includes Surya Namaskaar or sun salutations. Guru Ayappan guides guests through the basics of yoga practice. The rest of the practices – such as personalised pranayama and meditation sessions follow through the day, besides more yoga sessions.
In most of the Niraamaya Retreats, the yoga classes are conducted in areas that help guests integrate with their surroundings and nature. You could also Guru Ayappan (or any other yoga guru at any of the several Niraamaya retreats) to dig deep into the history of yoga if you so desire.
They will tell you that the word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word Yuj. “The roots of Yoga can be traced back to the Vedic texts written in India,” says Guru Ayappan. “Till now, it was said that yoga is about 10,000 years old. But new research shows it could be older; it could be traced back to the Indus-Sarasvati Civilization. Yoga is considered one of the six Indian philosophies, each of which takes you to higher planes of spiritual growth.”
While the aphorisms of yoga and its ethical-spiritual beliefs have remained constant at the core for centuries, its practice has evolved to keep up with shifting personal goalposts to do with fitness and mental health. One of the reasons why this ancient practice of breath control, asanas or yoga poses and meditation has survived the vicissitudes of time is because of the flexibility with which it adapts to contemporary times. As Guru Ayappan says, “Yoga is not a static science. It keeps growing, it keeps evolving.”
The other parts of the package
The Yoga package at Niraamaya Retreats also includes a spot of Ayurveda. A 30-minute personal Ayurveda consultation, followed by therapies such as Shirodhara (a distressing oil therapy) and Abhyangasnana (warm body oil massage to stimulate circulation) is part of the Yoga Package.
Cost: Rs 30,476 per person for 7-nights package and Rs 56,952 per person for the 14-nights package.