Written by Christine Lines

In November 2009, teachers from the Byron Yoga Centre (BYC) stood at the Belongil Studio for the last time, waiting for the shuttle bus to Brisbane Airport. After 22 years by the beach, it was a time of transition and adventure! The studio had closed its doors and moved to new premises in town. A few teachers continued the daily classes, while the rest of the team flew to India…

Some had been to India many times before, for others it was their first time and the culmination of a long held dream to visit the very source of yoga, and explore the ancient vedic wisdom that forms the basis of our spiritual understanding. It was also a ‘first’ for the BYC itself, travelling together to run three simultaneous programs in Goa: a Level 1 teacher training, a graduate program for past students and a yoga retreat. 

Byron Yoga Centre Senior Teacher, Davina Kruse, explains, “It was my first time in India. A lot of my friends had been there, so I knew a little of what to expect.” India exceeded her expectations: “It was wild and crazy and frustrating and beautiful. After a month of adjusting I totally fell in love with the place and felt so free,” says Davina.

Of her lasting impressions Davina says joyfully, “Chai, chai, chai!” and with our next India program planned for November 2010 she’s keen to return. “Yes, I can’t wait! India was just one big opportunity to practice in every moment, even in the chai shop.”

After four years of teaching at Byron Yoga she expressed how it made her appreciate John and the holistic approach of his Purna Yoga even more. “Pranayama and philosophy wise I felt like I was coming home and my practice is a lot deeper within these aspects. It made me realise the teachings are so profound and you never stop learning, there are so many layers. I trust my intuition and self-practice more and realise I’m quite adaptable.”

After the programs ended in Goa, many staff and participants ventured off to explore more of India. Davina spoke with great enthusiasm of her favourite places, “Studying crazy pranayama in Mysore – it was so out there! Seeing all my Byron friends in Tiru was hilarious. There were beautiful, old buildings in Calcutta. Sitting in Bodh Gaya was absolute bliss and I really loved Varanasi.”

Judy, BYC senior teacher based in Sydney, has being teaching yoga for over thirty years and yet it was also her first trip to India “I loved it!” she says. “The colours, the cows, the chaos! I will return and found teaching there a very humbling experience.”

Judy’s taught on many retreats and workshops over the years and found the retreat in India unique. “I’ve never experienced such a cohesive group who came from all over the world. They still keep in contact or visit us in Sydney and join a class. How grand is that! Was it the impact of India?” she wonders.

Sarah Sim, one of the students in India recalls the friendships formed during the two week intensive.  She recalls fondly the “precious moments shared with wonderful women” who were bonded even more closely when they experienced a massive, tropical storm together.   

Byron Yoga Centre teacher, Bettina Kahlert, has been to India on numerous occasions, often for extended periods, yet on this occasion she enjoyed “the value of being with the team in a holiday like environment, as everyone gets to know each other on a deeper level.”

After the training in Goa last year, Bettina and her partner, Stephan Kahlert, Byron Yoga Centre’s Meditation teacher, visited Tiruvannamalai, the place of the holy Shiva mountain Arunachala and one of the oldest and largest temples in Southern India. “If you’re interested in meditation and philosophy this is a great place to visit,” Bettina recommends.  

According to Bettina, throughout the ages, self-realised men and women have paid respect to the mountain and many ashrams surround it. The most well known is the Ramana Ashram where you can stay and immerse yourself in the traditional ashram way of life.  “Tiru”, as it’s called for short, is just a three-hour journey from this year’s venue in Pondicherry and is an ideal place to extend your stay in India, with a strong community, regular satsangs (spiritual gatherings), bhajans (chanting) and great places to eat.

In many ways, India 2010 will be a reunion for both staff and students. Sarah Herdman completed her Level 1 Intensive last year in Goa and is now enrolled in Level 2 in Pondicherry. “India is a truly magical country,” she enthuses. “When I was there last year I was captivated by its rich culture and history and decided I would return.”

A keen traveller, Sarah is keen to explore India further and also wants to complete her Level 2 training. “I couldn’t seem to work out how to do both and when I discovered BYC were offering Level 2 in India this year, everything just seemed to fall into place!” she says. 

Sarah explained why she chose to do her training with BYC: “Doing yoga in India has always been one of my ultimate goals in life,” she says.  “Learning about this ancient Indian practice in its country of origin made the experience all the more special. It linked two of my passions – travel and yoga! The staff were lovely and supportive and also highly skilled.”

She goes on to describe the trip to India last year as one of the best things she’s ever done. “It taught me so much not only about yoga but also about myself, as I developed physically and emotionally throughout the journey. After allowing myself to be open to the experience, to stop resisting the unknown and accept all that yoga has to offer, everything became easier, “ says Sarah. 

If you prefer to relax and renew, then, there will again be the opportunity to join us on retreat this November in our hand-picked venue in Pondicherry. 

“After attending the January retreat in Byron with BYC I jumped at the chance to attend their retreat in India,” said Giovanna. “I know I’ll be nurtured, nourished and challenged by the wonderful BYC team and be open to spiritual, emotional and personal growth in the surrounds of India.”

Marilyn, also a recent Byron retreat participant, remembers attending a seminar led by a Swami from India and feeling inspired by the meeting, “He was so in love with India that I found myself falling in love with the country too.”

Like many people she’s wanted to go to India for a few years, “I knew when the time was right the opportunity would present itself and here it is! After coming to the retreat in Byron I felt BYC was the perfect group to go with.” 

The idea of traveling to India can be quite daunting, so traveling with a group of friends can really make a difference. As Marilyn expressed, “I'm hoping that doing this retreat in such a safe environment will give me the confidence to travel back there by myself one day.”

Whether it’s your first time, or your hundredth, you’ll no doubt remember the experience for the rest of your life… 

India has a way of capturing your heart and your imagination.