I did this program on 11 may 2013 to 31 may 2013. I have been meaning to complete this for a while. So i decided, enough is enough, perfect or imperfect.. let me just post it.. As i promised to some people.. Here it goes..
There are various aspects to this particular yoga program. For me, just like any Isha Yoga Program, it is not just about learning the techniques but also redesigning one's lifestyle. Twenty one (21) days are good enough to get a habit introduced into life, to become aware of unconscious patterns, also a focused journey to get to know oneself, re-access priorities and goals. First of its kind, the program started with almost 450 people. There is so much depth and intelligence to this program all of which I definitely cannot capture in its entirety. Nevertheless I will try to give you a review here, which would be somewhere between trailer and a movie, without spilling the suspense. Anyways, it is not about my below accounted information, but the experience you will have doing the program that counts. I know it could be a much more elaborate version, but if you want the shorter version just skip to the The Program section and read on from there.
The Isha Links:
Introducing the program:
Concluding the program:
Aadi Yogi Aalayam
It happens in Aadi Yogi Aalayam as according to Sadhguru, teaching classical Hatha yoga is the specific purpose for which the Aalayam is created. Its a majestic construction which does not even have a single pillar. It can contain about 10000 people sitting and about 2500 practicing Hatha yoga at the same time. The night stay is also in is also in Aalayam and a comfortable bed with pillow and blanket are provided. However, if preferred, people can stay in Aalayam cottages available at various rate slabs. There is a separate luggage area for men and women just by the side of Aalayam with comfortable amounts of restrooms (both indian and western style). The area just outside the Aalayam is beautiful, especially at night with perfect ambiance to just relax, meditate, to chat read a book. Since 21 days is a longs time and people with heavy work commitment can even work here during breaks however for your laptops and mobile, enough electrical charging points are not provided. I used to charge my mobile or laptop by keeping them in the bag and locking it, where the cord alone comes out and goes into the plug point. Even though I took this safety measure, there was no report of stolen mobiles or items.
Rules and regulations:
You are not allowed to go outside the ashram premises or the canteen (pepper vine). The security guards have been advised to not let you go outside and the restaurant people to deny you food token that is if you are in whites and wearing tag. However, some smart assa guys found way to sneak out for smoke or to eat junk food. They are pretty assertive about following the rules but they do not police around you, which is a good thing.
Bed time is at 10PM and there are gaurds and swamis patroling and ensuring we hit the bed by 10 or 10.30 maximum. 4.30 AM is the wake up time.
White clothing is a must, but they don not insist on it too much. However once you hear sadhguru speak about the importance of white clothing, you would want to be in whites.
Brunch and dinner timings are pretty strict, but you get used to it 2 or 3 days and doesnt really burden you.
Hot water for taking bath is available, but again, soon you would start preferring cold shower.
If you are unwell, you are advised to rest during the sessions, and not skip the sessions.
Theerthakund and dhyanalinga is a must everyday. And they dont charge you in surya kund, if you are a participant of any program.
Clothing and Laundry:
You can either choose to wash clothes by yourself or to give it to laundry service. Both the facilities is quite unfriendly. In laundry service, pick up once a week (wednesdays for 1 hour at 3:30PM) and delivery once a week (saturday same timing). If you have enough white clothings and other casual clothing, then you can afford to give to laundry.
Most of the people had not really brought 7 set of whites as per recommendation, but just 3 or 4 sets.. just like me. And you really have to fight for the buckets. May be 6 or 7 buckets for about 150 people. So i recommend you to bring your own bucket of a different colour and label it.
Food is one of the best features of isha ashram in general. Wholistic, tasty, nutritious and pure satvic food is served. With about 30 to 50 % of raw food included in every meal they are very conducive for the practice. Neither do you feel too heavy (that is if you dont keep helping yourself for 2,3 huge servings as it mostly tastes awesome) nor do you feel hungry towards the end of the practice. Having said that, its is best not to load up on food, just having each of them single serving. I personally avoided rice (Pongal, pulav,etc) though. Soaked groundnuts, sprouts, lentils, soups, fruit juices, cucumber-tomato-ash gourd salad are seen almost every day. At one point of time, i was tired of seeing those groundnuts. Sambhar, some sabji, soups, rotis, etc are there.
You WILL lose weight and inches for sure, if you stick to the diet alone and if you take the practice easy as per your body limitations. I lost about 3.5 Kgs. A friend of mine made a gross calculation according to which we were consuming 800 calories per meal, no unnecessary carbs. Even though lots of protien rich food were there, I have lost a lot of muscle mass as well, they protein could have been more. May be if it was upto me, i would have had protein shake everyday along with this food.
Food is served thrice.
Brunch at 10:30AM approx
Light snack at 1.30PM approx
Dinner at 7.45PM approx
4.30 AM wake up gong.
5.30AM to 9.30 AM approx. but the session stretches till 10AM with shambhavi practice. (4.5 Hours)
11:15 to 11.50 AM (Post Brunch ~ So either sadhguru's videos, meditation or breathing techniques)
12 to 1:15 PM Surya Kund and Dhyanalinga. Since it has been left to our freedom, sometimes we do it short time.
2:15 to 3:15 PM approx (Post snack ~ So either sadhguru's videos, meditation or breathing techniques)
4:30 to 7.30 PM approx (3 hours)
8.15 to 9.15PM = Very rare. so far just once. Mostly sadhguru videos.
In a day, we practice about 7 to 7.5 hours of hatha yoga everyday. Of course not all of them are difficult body bending postures but there are gaps in between where you are asked to sit in ardha sidhasana, which can be quite back breaking and not all of it shavasana. In the thrid week, it got much more intense reducing the ardha siddhasana timings and
The other times times are break timings, allowed to communicate, but you are advised to keep minimal communication with the outside world. You can find a way to sleep during the afternoon breaks, if needed. The night time breaks are really great to take a walk around the ashram's beautiful premises, to chat about, to write, to read, listen to music, or to simply be with nature and
Generally, When learning something, one has to go into the subject with increasing depths with every session, However simple it is. But in most places this process faulters, due to the lack of quality in the teacher or the technique. However, this is one of the best program i have attended where the quality is really good.
The contents are pretty much what they have announced in the blogs, but the way it is taught, with an unwavering commitment from the teachers with right ambiance, powerful instructions, kindest volunteers helps you explore and experience the practice in different dimensions and increasing depths as the days goes by. With all this, the things are drilled down into the system in a very subtle way. Upa Yoga, Surya Kriya, Asanas, Anga mardhana, Butha shuddi are the main aspects and thought in the same order. It takes total of approximately 3 hours to complete the entire set but, freak not! you get a split of various aspects to be done in alternate days which takes about 1.5 hours to 2 hours. If you want to know about the individual aspects, read this blog which is from the source.
Upa Yoga: It is a glorified warm up, with movements to activate the joints from head to toe. However the beauty with this is, it is the first thing in the morning and you do it with your eyes closed. So when you open your eyes after half hour, it feels great and get you alive and ready for what is coming next. It takes about half hour to do upa yoga.
Surya Kriya and Asasas: It was my most favorite part as it was always a meditative experience for me. There is again 3 or 4 dimensions for this being taught. right posture, visualization techniques, breath focus, subtle body focus. . A single cycle takes ubout 10 to 12 minutes and asanas takes about 1 hour. Read more about what sadhguru has to say about surya kriya in the links provided in the beginning of the article.
Angamardhana: I was looking forward to it the most as i wanted to practice a yogic system which also caters to my fitness without taking up much time and doesnt involve any live instructor. But i was not completely satisfied with this. Although it was quite intense, it was not intense enough. Although it was so much fun to practice angamardhana. Angamardhana literally means killing of body parts . sadhguru later goes on explaining, as per my understanding, that it means killing the limitation that the body parts of body has. Done with eyes open, this does not resemble "classical yoga". A very dynamic form, angamardhana is focused towards flexibility, strength and cardiovascular endurance. I think what was taught to us was just level 1 and there could be much more to it. It takes about 1 hour to practice it.
Butha shuddi: This initiated to us during a 1 hour session and there was no repetition. Its is a small 5 minute procedure and they promote a small bhuta shuddi kit for Rs. 1700. Sadhguru, in his videos talks to us about the importance, however i am skeptical about it and i didnt experience anything during the initiation process but some friends of mine did.
Other than that, Isha kriya, bhakthi sadhana, surya/ chandra kund dip, dhyanalinga meditation were all part of everyday schedule.
Sadhguru's videos: This was a very important aspect. Sadhguru didnt physically visit our training program, however almost everyday his videos pertinent to hatha yoga and its relevance in our lives was played. It was very vital to keep the context alive for us and keep a positive attitude not just during the program but while personal practice after we get back to our everyday lives. I think most of the videos was taken while he was conducting the 21 week teacher training program so every possibly conceivable questions regarding the practice - regarding focus, how to deal with pain, how to improve the posture, how to deal with thoughts, how to deal with distractions, etc - were addressed and i would say, in depth. So that is why i say that this program is not only about learning some techniques but also about lifestyle in general. Paying attention to the life around you, being a devotee (not necessarily to some object or somebody, but as a way of being), hatha yoga to not let your unconscious memory come up, taking conscious actions as against compulsive action.
That i expected:
I am a yoga practitioner and an instructor myself for the past 4 years. Even with that, i dont practice yoga everyday as much as i would like to. I enrolled into the program so i can get "hatha yoga practice everyday" a living reality no matter what. I was also looking for a way to get something which was a comprehensive fitness regimen along with a everyday hatha yoga practice plus this possibility was coming from a powerful source ~ sadhguru jaggi vasudev, a living master . There were other mental benefits that i wanted to get like better focus, more meditative living, living a life of purpose, mastering my compulsions.
That which i got:
The most important thing that i got is to just BE by myself ~collecting my thoughts and observe my thought processes and it could not have been possible without the conducive atmosphere provided there. I can most definitely say certain insecurities have come down (which is because of watching my own thinking pattern and compulsions), have attained a certain comfort level with my own being - it is a big thing for me as i would easily deny my deeper calls and go on attending superficial wants. How can i listen to my deeper longings if i don't sit long enough to let the distractions settle, right?
There were certain common and obvious benefits like weight loss, my body felt more lighter, freer, livelier, cleansed. Even thought body pain came up, it eased out as we progressed.
Overall it was a fantastic experience and ideally i would attend such program every 6 months once, if it progressing in levels. Even if it was the same program, i would definitely attend it every couple of years just for the experience of it.
Would i recommend it to anybody? YES, definitely.