Advanced Yoga Practices
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Note: For the Original Internet Lessons with additions, see the AYP Easy Lessons Books. For the Expanded and Interactive Internet Lessons, AYP Online Books, Audiobooks and more, see AYP Plus.

Lesson 387 - Retreats  (Audio)

AYP Plus Additions:
387.1 - To Go on Retreat or Not. Inner Voices?  (Audio)
387.2 - Sensitivity to Meditation and Going on Retreat
387.3 - Solo Retreats

From: Yogani
Date: February 26, 2010

New Visitors: It is recommended you read from the beginning of the web archive, as previous lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, "Why This Discussion?"

By retreat, we mean stepping away from our normal daily routine of activities and undertaking a specific schedule designed for enhancing our spiritual progress in an accelerated way. This can be done in solo mode or with a group. For those who are not experienced in retreats, joining a group retreat is preferred, where everything will be taken care of and we can follow the pre-determined schedule for maximum benefit.

On a retreat, there is the possibility to systematically increase the number of meditations we do in a day. This can be to repeat our entire routine of practices a second time in the morning adding one routine of practice for one or two days on a weekend or holiday, or on an ongoing basis if on an extended retreat. This adds a large degree of purification, and deep momentum in spiritual progress. Being free of responsibilities is very important to do this, or it can lead to discomfort and unpleasant experiences because so much is being released from inside. If we do three routines in a day it is essential to have some light activity in-between the morning and evening sessions, such as non-strenuous walking and gentle (social) satsang. This light activity helps balance the process of release of obstructions from the nervous system.

For two morning routines, the basic sequence of practices is asanas, pranayama, deep meditation, samyama (if doing it), rest (at least 10-15 minutes lying down) ... and then start over. In the evening only one routine should be done. This is three full routines of practice in a day. Practices may be done either with everyone together in a central hall, or individually in private rooms, accommodations permitting. Either way, practices are to be time-coordinated by the retreat leaders.

Three routines per day is an ambitious schedule, especially with a group. Keep in mind that group practice brings extra purifying effects in and of itself, even with our normal routine of doing two practice sessions per day. First time group retreats, where both the leaders and participants are new to retreats with the AYP practices, are best undertaken with two practice routines per day. If all goes well, a more ambitious schedule can be considered for subsequent retreats.

Do not be surprised if a lot of purification and opening occurs during a retreat. While advanced yoga practices are very simple, they are very powerful especially when performed in groups. If releases become too much, then back off practices to a more stable routine immediately, and advise the retreat leaders of any difficulties. Always keep self-pacing in mind.

A typical daily sequence of events for an AYP retreat would encompass the following:

  • Rise (hygiene and light snack as needed)
  • Morning Practices
  • Study or Meeting Activity
  • Lunch
  • Light Physical Activity (walking)
  • Study or Meeting Activity
  • Rest
  • Evening Practices
  • Dinner
  • Light Physical Activity (walking)
  • Study or Meeting Activity
  • Bed

The specific timing for each of these activities is provided by the retreat leaders. Sticking to a predetermined schedule is the most important rule of a retreat, and it should be adhered to as closely as possible. It is recommended not to add new practices or extensions in time of current practices while on retreat, except as may be instructed by the retreat leaders.

The beneficial effects of a retreat can be noticed for weeks or months after the retreat is over. It is like adding a longer cycle of purification and opening underneath our normal daily cycle. A retreat adds a large wave of inner silence underneath us. If we attend weekend or week-long retreats two or more times per year, it can add a significant boost to our overall spiritual progress over the long term. 

More information on leading and participating in retreats can be found in the AYP Retreats Book. Information on attending AYP retreats and teacher training courses can be found on the Programs Page.

The guru is in you.

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Note: For additional discussion on group practice and retreats, see the AYP Retreats Book and the Eight Limbs of Yoga Book, and AYP Plus. Information on attending AYP retreats and teacher training courses can be found on the Programs Page.

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