RETREAT has military connotations as in a withdrawal of troops from the battlefield. It could be said that each of us has an ongoing internal and external battle that we wage at various levels of intensity depending who we are, what we do, where we live, and what we believe. A Yoga RETREAT is a retreat from the battlefield of life to a more secluded spot where we can gain a new perspective and are better able to bring about a dedicated focus inward - a focus that reunites us with the wholeness of our being. It pulls our energy back in from all the places we've allowed it to scatter.
Kquvien DeWeese's SPRING RETREAT came at the tail end of tax time with presidential debates blaring blame and throwing the energy of the nation all over the place like the solar flares of the sun. Yoga practitioners new and old chose to retreat from it all. We weaved our way up to Dahlonega Resort and Spa. There we reunited our energies and bonded with each other in true Yogic form. Kquvien teaches The Iyengar Method of Yoga, which was developed by B.K.S. Iyengar. The method could be described as a systematic retreat. It is a slow involution from the gross to the subtle. It brings our awareness from the external to the internal. Kquvien began her lessons with simple poses that focused on our arms and legs; and then, she added props like chairs, blocks, and straps to support a deeper understanding of our body and its tendencies.
Once she shifted our focus to retreat inward, we were more receptive to the guidance of a few of the 196 Yoga Sutras of the sage Patanjali. Patanjali describes yoga as "Citta Vrtti Nirodha," Iyengar translates this in Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali as "Yoga is the cessation of the movements in the consciousness." We discussed several other translations of this sutra (1.2) along with a more recent translation by Rohit Mehta's from his book Yoga, The Art of Integration. Mehta explains Citta Vrtti (read monkey mind) as a comparing or contrasting reaction to any stimulus. The reaction perpetuates itself into a chain of reactions.
We might react to a cup of coffee with a comparison of the warm milk we got as a child that made us feel loved then contrast that reaction with a reaction of pain brought about from an imprint of when our father spilt hot coffee and burnt us. The cycle can go and on and on and follows the same groove as every other set of chain reactions. We can trap ourselves into this endless pattern our entire lives. Or we can learn to see each experience as new -- void of any comparison or contrast. Interestingly, it was about here in our discussion that Kquvien brought up Albert Camus' Myth of Sisyphus (I encourage you to click and read it, along with this Elephant Journal article) and consider the last line that imagines Sisyphus happy.
The Yoga of Patanjali's Sutras teaches us how to retreat from this chain reaction of thoughts. In retreat, we gain strength of awareness of a part of us that is separate from the meat suit where we live. Kquvien discussed Sutras 2:26-2:27 where Patanjali explains that there are seven stages to this awareness. Iyengar Yoga guides us through them systematically from the external body and senses to more internal areas of breath and prana (energy) to mind/intelligence and consciousness and finally to the innermost part of us that is none of that - what some call the soul. As we grow strength in the awareness of this innermost part of us, we learn to stay there. And staying there, with uninterrupted awareness, Nirodha Parinama (a transformation that reduces the power of our reactions) results in growing moments where we experience the "Incomparable joy" that "comes from self-containment" [Mehta: Sutra 2:42], and a steady (Sthira) stream of happiness (Sukham).
Kquvien will have another SPRING RETREAT. Until then, consider that your thoughts are merely a chain of reactions. That what's behind your eyes are your own Samskaras or imprints and you are constantly comparing and contrasting them, ad nauseam, against any new information or experience. Therefore, perhaps you don't need to take your chain of reactions so seriously. If you're not an Iyengar practitioner, I encourage you to find an Iyengar Studio near you. There you can begin to learn how to retreat from the chain of reactions, so you can see all your experiences with fresh eyes. And who knows where that could take you.
To learn more about Kquvien DeWeese visit her website at http://kquvienyoga.com/