Yoga White Lotus is based in Lennox Head, which is a peaceful part of NSW close to Byron Bay. It is based in a converted house made into a yoga centre by the owners Madhava and his beautiful wife Shymala, and their gorgeous son little Jai, who all mainly wear white and yellow, and don’t eat mushrooms.
I booked myself in for a three-day yoga retreat leading up to New Year Eve 2014, after flying down to Australia to spend a month soaking up their summer.
Since I am a yoga enthusiast and have been to a few yoga retreats before, I kind of knew what to expect, but to my surprise this was very different.
What is Sivananda Yoga?
The type of yoga they teach and practice is Sivananda Yoga, which is very traditional and embodies all aspects of yoga.
The last compound of this yoga retreat was practising asanas, mantra chanting (the Hare Krishna ones!), proper breathing, a yogi Ayurvedic diet, which excludes mushrooms, garlic, onions and black pepper. They tend to have a negative impact on your state of mind when you are meditating.
They encourage you to not have caffeine, alcohol or use the phone while you are at the retreat as this would provide the maximum benefit and allow your body to detox, elevate your vibrations, relax and switch off.
Another lady was meant to be joining us but she ended up cancelling at the last minute, which meant it was just me and the owners. It was such a special experience where I completely switched off from the world and felt like I became part of their family in the short space that I stayed there.
Our days started early, around 5am, when we would get up and all together go into the main studio where we would first do a 30-minute silent meditation, after which we would chant mantras (the Hare Krishna ones, which even the little Jai would sing) which then followed by Kirtan, which is an instrument that Shymala would play while we sang traditional songs. Of course, I didn’t know them so they gave me a book with all the words so I knew what I was singing next. This was quite challenging, especially first thing in the morning before even I had breakfast; to be singing in a foreign language, things I didn’t even understand.
However, I found it all to be quite soothing, especially because both Madhava and Shymala are such great teachers, and explained everything to me. We would then see what the message of the day is, by opening one of their teacher’s books and talk about the meaning of that. It was then all wrapped up a light ceremony (Arati). We did this every morning, and every evening before bed.
Breakfast was highly anticipated by the time we finished the morning practice, and everyday we would make all the food and eat together like a big family, well a family of four.
This made such a difference, as I really miss that in my life in London. We hardly ever sit down and have a meal like that these days, but here we all helped to make it, and also tidied up after each meal as a team, too. Jai and I developed a little bond and there were times when he only wanted me to feed him!
Also part of deepening my daily practice was to do ‘karma yoga’, which consisted of my volunteering to tidy up willingly. I would normally clean the shower and toilet, which I used, and it was also the same bathroom, which the student who came into our yoga classes would use. I would also tidy up the mats, and set up for our morning yoga session. I didn’t mind it at all, as actually I find tidying up and cleaning therapeutic, plus if it cleans my karma while I am at it, why not?!
The yoga was twice daily, with also meditation and Kirtan. Some days, Madhava would take me to the beach and we would do sunrise yoga, which was simply incredible. My #lifegoals is that: To be able to do sunrise yoga on the beach, overlooking the ocean, especially when you get to see wild dolphins straight after you open your eyes! It was such an unforgettable experience.
I learned a lot about myself through observation, and the conversations we had. I got to see that certain things really affected me, and how sensitive I am but that is because my energy field is so big. Madhava and Shymala both very good at what they do, and they are the living and breathing examples of their work and teachings; they have so much wisdom and very calm and peaceful energy. I felt so honoured to spend such quality one-on-one time with them both and soak up the teachings.
The food was delicious, I was concerned if it would taste bland without the use of onion, garlic, pepper or salt but actually, I still crave it to this day! Madhava taught me that shortly after you make the food this is when it has ‘prana’ the life force energy, so you shouldn’t leave anything for later. We learned always to cook just enough to feel everybody, but of course, if there are left-overs, don’t be wasteful and have it later.
They shopped at local organic farmers markets and were very conscious and mindful of waste and sustainability. Even when we washed the dishes we were very economical with the water.
It is so valuable to immerse yourself and learn new ways of doing things and come away from retreats like that with a more mindful, conscious and kind outlook on life, and this is what happened to me during this short stay at Yoga White Lotus.
After my retreat, I went into the real world so much more grounded in myself, and much more positive in the way I viewed the world. I am sure subconsciously I have healed and released traumas and energy, which I was carrying with me, through deepening my yoga and meditation practices and being surrounded by such spiritual, soulful people. It felt like my restart button was reset, and I was ready to do Adulting again.
Apologies for the lack of pictures from the actual retreat, I quite literally switched off from the world and really wanted to just be present and in the moment. I didn’t even touch my camera for the duration of my retreat.
Thank you Madhava, Shymala and Jai for such a profound and memorable retreat. It was just what I needed to reset and complete my 2014 in the most powerful way.