Point Bonita San Fransisco Yoga Retreat Report
Yoga Bharati conducted a three day Yoga Retreat from July 03 to July 05, 2009 in SF Bay Area.
The theme was Happiness and Spirituality. This retreat was also blessed to have both Swami Bodhananda Saraswati and Guruji Raghuramji –both stalwarts in their own right! The location was Point Bonita – a place very near San Francisco. The rolling hills, the greenery, and the low fog just made it seem like paradise itself!
People arrived from far and near on Friday afternoon, and after a brief round of introductions, everyone began settling down. There were unsaid expectations, apprehensions and questions. But, the enthusiasm and energy were palpable!
The program started as planned at 4:00 pm with the lighting of a lamp, ‘Ganesha Vandana’ the ‘Aashirvachana’ by both Swamiji and Raghuramji. They gave an apt, wonderful introduction to Happiness and every human being’s natural quest for it. It was a great start for all the seekers. A coffee break and Cyclic Meditation by Raghuramji followed this session thereafter. It was an exhilarating experience to practice the slow Asanas with subtle instructions regarding awareness about various aspects of human faculties – and those of body and mind.
Dinner that evening was welcomed warmly by the campers! This also served as a platform for more introductions /socialization. The day ended with a ‘Trataka’ session conducted by Ashwini. This was a wonderful rejuvenating experience as expressed by many campers. People were relaxed and were ready to go to bed, but the little ones were too excited to call it a day! Climbing the bunk beds, running from room to room, their giggling and laughing made the entire camp atmosphere feel like it was a house where a wedding was being performed – like they say in India, a ‘Shaadhi ka Ghar’.
On Saturday morning 5:00 AM the alarms went off, waking all the sleepy-heads! People jumped right out of their beds even though it was not their regular wake up time. Some went out to see the deer that were running around. And a few others took a little stroll out in the beautiful camp area. Everyone arrived at the ‘Patanjali’ hall for advanced ‘Pranayama’ session conducted by Ashwini. The dawn saw most of the campers immersed deep into their practice that began with a chanting of ‘Pratasmarami Hridi sam spuradatma tatvam’. The chanting itself was so melodious and peaceful that one could feel the ‘Satva’ flow in and around the whole place.
This was followed by Yogi Mahendraji’s laughter yoga session. Everyone laughed until they cried! This laughter session was followed by a very deep and sublime experience of Swamiji’s meditation session, which made us all reach our true selves and gain that wonderful inner quietude.
The food at all mealtimes was thoroughly enjoyed by all, given that it was all organic and fresh from the farms. It was also made with utmost care, hygiene and love by the chefs at YMCA. As an example, the chef took special effort to cook Indian meal for Saturday night and he took care to roast every single cauliflower piece separately so that we Indians will appreciate his Indian cooking and yet they were nervous until we ate it and we told them we liked it!! The dining hall was also aptly called “Annapoorna” – this seemed to be the hub of many interesting discussions on various topics when the sessions ended!
A hike to the beach helped everyone shake off any left over lethargy and also set the mood for a Deep Relaxation session in the afternoon.
Nearly forty people sat at the feet of the two Gurus – to receive the warm shower of spiritual wisdom. Topics were varied, ranging from “What is Happiness”, to the mundane questions about Parenting and Relationships. Madhavi and Reshma’s moderation of the session using skit and dialogues from their day-to-day experiences set the stage for some real life problems for the two Gurujis to tackle. There was also the wonderful topic discussed in-depth about Mahavakyas from the Upanishads – explained with the greatest simplicity by both Swamiji and Raghuramji. We were both touched and humbled as we sat there and tried to grasp every word that was said – it simply felt as if we were being drenched in showers of love, wisdom and of everything else that was so humane and so very beautiful.
While all of this happened, there were other things brewing in the “Krishna” hall that was dedicated to the little bundles of energy – the kids! In fact there were moments when you could see that they had too many choices on hand, and were switching one to the other in a haste to taste every activity. Coloring, DVDs, games that were organized by parent volunteers, dancing and the best of all even Mahendraji’s krida yoga that was completely tailor made for them! They were lovingly taken care by responsible parent volunteers while their own parents enjoyed the discourses nearby.
One could hear peels of laughter, jumping and giggling from the “Krishna” hall at all times. It was obvious that the kids felt as if it were one big extended family that constantly had multiple parents watching over each other’s kids throughout the event.
The evening was dedicated to cultural programs presented by the little ones and the adults. The participation was fantastic and especially the little ones were enthusiastic to be a part of everything! Songs, dances, skits and games – made it all very enjoyable. Some of the highlights of those high moments were melodious songs sung by Geetha, Supriya and Vidhya, games by Priyanka, a hilarious skit on Mahavakyas by the upcoming yogis who supposedly received enlightenment from Swamiji during the camp, a fusion yoga dance by the team of yogis with little yogi Ankita in the center and a final flag dance by the little kids and their moms for the song “Aao baccho tumhe dikhaye jhaaki Hindustanaki…”. The audience was thoroughly entertained.
The evening had yet another grand finale to it. The fireworks! All the campers had the privilege to watch the fireworks of both the cities of Oakland and San Francisco with the man made wonder – the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. The crowd was simply thrilled!
Day three and the last day of the camp began with advanced ‘Pranayama’ session (at 5:30 AM), laughter yoga by Mahendra-ji and meditation session by Guru Raghuramji. It was the repetition of the same wonderful experience we had on the previous day!
A hike and a closing ceremony wrapped up this great event in a wonderful way!
To summarize, the camp was very well organized with every activity/program starting on time and ending on time and well thought of in every way. Though everyone participated in many activities, they still had time for socialization, bonding with like-minded campers, to play volley ball, basket ball, hike, chat and argue about philosophy/ideologies, and most of all make new friends!
It would also be so very true if the campers claimed that they came back happier, wiser, and more relaxed! Don’t you wish you were there too? Next time…for sure!
Kudos to all the volunteers for making this great event happen.