The advice given in a classical yoga text hints at why taking the time, effort and expense to come on a retreat is worthwhile
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika is a classical yoga text. It is not an academic text, but rather an instruction manual on hatha yoga. It is the testimony of an experienced practitioner, Svatmararama, from a long time ago (the 15th century CE) who obtained insight through their practice. In the 12th, 13th & 14th sloka of the first chapter it states: ‘He who practises Hatha Yoga should live alone in a small hermitage (Matha) situated in a place free from rocks, water and fire to the extent of a bow’s length and in a virtuous, well-ruled kingdom, which is prosperous and free of disturbances. The Matha should have a small door, and should be without any windows; it should be level and without any holes; it should be neither too high, too low, nor too long. It should be very clean, being well smeared with cow dung and free from all insects. Outside, it should be attractive with a small hall (Mandapa), a raised seat and a well, and surrounded by a wall. These are the characteristics of a Yoga Matha as laid down by the Siddhas who have practised Hatha Yoga. Living in such a hermitage (the Yogin), being free in mind of all cares, should practise only Yoga all the time, in the way taught by his Guru.’
When studying these type of texts it is necessary to read between the lines, and as far as I can glean two things are being suggested here. Firstly, if you want to do yoga you are required to have a conducive environment. From the country you live in right down to the space that you practise in it is necessary to have harmonious surrounds.
While we are fortunate enough to live in a country that is politically stable and economically prosperous, often our living conditions are not so favourable. From pressured work environments to cramped or lively living quarters, often these environments do not support the physical or mental space needed for a yoga practice. Coming away on a retreat, however, does offer you this. You are in a secluded bushland setting near a majestic river surrounded by beautiful flora and fauna. You have a lovely yoga room with all props provided, including wall ropes. You are fed three delicious organic vegetarian meals each day. You have a bed in a shared room to sleep in. You have the place where you have the ability to ‘practise only Yoga all the time’.
The second thing that is being suggested in these slokas is that it is important to keep things in proportion and to set things up in your life that supports the ability for you to have the time to practise. When it is written that ‘it should be neither too high, too low, nor too long’ it is not just physical space that is being referred to here. A commitment is required to give it the space it needs If you want to practise yoga, and if you would like for it to be more than just an exercise routine, you need to have the right balance in your life and create the conditions that prioritise your practice. It is not enough just to hope that this will happen. You have to be proactive about it. You need to make the commitment to give it the space it deserves. This month a retreat is being offered. Are you willing to take that offer up? Is your yoga practice something that is worth investing in and culturing as a long term pursuit?