Travel is perhaps the best teacher in the world. It teaches you about the land you are travelling through, the people, the culture, its history but more important than that, it teaches you a LOT about yourself. Any challenges along the way, or shall we call them adventures, become mirrors that bring out our deepest fears and yet design a space where we can let go of them.
When I plan yoga retreats, I want them to be safe havens where people open up but also find the courage to let go of all the baggage (mental and emotional) that they carry. The retreat is designed to be challenging and supportive at the same time.
Coorg was all this and more. The daily asana and pranayama practices in the morning helped evoke a sense of calm which then helped people trust their bodies. After breakfast, we deep-dived into the philosophy of the yoga sutras – so people at least understood in theory what qualities and values they needed to practice the asana.
The practice of this theory comes with the adventure that is lined up for the day, and boy, what an adventure it was. Just as the sun peeked over the horizon and sent out a light show of reds and pinks, my group was ready, there was excitement in their eyes but also a lot of sleep on their faces. For many of them, it was the first time getting up so early.
Two hours later we arrived at Quarry Adventures, Madikeri. As the name suggests the whole park is built in an abandoned quarry. We got into our safety gear and our group was split into two. Half went rappelling and the other half on something they called tree-top adventures.
I finished rappelling and quickly went up to check what this tree-top adventure was. But by God, even the trek to this forested leafy enclave was hard. Huffing and puffing, we made our way up the hill. Through loose dirt and gripping on the roots of trees, sometimes standing and sometimes crawling. Finally, we landed at a clearing and as I looked up, I saw the most beautiful leafy canopy. The soft light made its way through the leaves creating a light show that was mesmerising and when I slowly peeled my eyes away, I noticed something that looked like an obstacle course. Only it was in the trees. Fear and excitement tingled in my body.
But, my inner Hanuman came out and in a jot of excitement I climbed up the wide wooden stairs. My sister followed me and soon we set on the course. Balancing on logs and nets with a 15-foot drop was scary and exciting. This was the chance to practice all that the yoga sutras taught us – ‘no fear and self-trust’.
Halfway around the course, my sister turned to me and said, ‘I’m saying to myself, on all the scary bits – I will not fall, I will not fall!’ I laughed and added, ‘Me too’. We couldn’t believe what we were doing. We were scared but like brave warriors, we forged on.
The course had a good balance of bravery and security - it was high enough to feel quite scary once you’re up there but to ease you in, the first course was less shaky and there was a safety green wire to hold on for most of the obstacles. Once we get used to this, the next level course is a little more bouncy and has scarier parts where you don’t have a guide rope to hold on to. Our fear gave us warning signals but our inner Hanumans didn’t mind at all though - and loved the daring element! The course ended with a magnificent zipline – even I had butterflies in my tummy when it came to me launching myself off the platform onto the zipline! I closed my eyes, thought of Swami Chinmayananda and took a leap of faith – and what I experienced was three minutes of flying down a slope feeling like a bird!