Feeling stressed? Or just need some calm and perspective and time to disconnect from your daily routine? A meditation retreat can be a respite from the hustle and bustle and helps us create space and time away from everyday distractions and give full attention to self-care
Olympian P V Sindhu often visits Kanha Shantivanam, the heartfulness meditation centre in Hyderabad, to rejuvenate -herself after a hectic and gruelling season. She says, “My life has changed after I started practicing meditation. People think practicing meditation the right way is difficult and wonder whether it leads to success. I’d like to say that meditation isn’t a magic pill for success, but brings clarity within your mind and heart. It calms my mind, helps me understand my emotions better, and helps me plan my next steps. Meditation has helped me in my career; I can face difficult situations during matches easily.”
Heartfulness Guide Kamlesh Patel, also known as Daaji, says when we practice meditation with all our effort, we can achieve the highest level of consciousness. That is the ultimate purpose of meditation. It is not about winning or losing but about gliding through life with love. Says Daaji, “When you are meditating, what you were yesterday, you are not today and you will not be the same tomorrow. Your viewpoint will continuously evolve. It’s like when you are mountaineering, in the valley you have one view, you go halfway through and you get a different view and when you are on the peak you will have a different perspective. And if you go with four friends, each of you will have a different perspective from the same height, of the same place. Buddha, Mahavir and Krishna all achieved height. But until you make their experience yours, you will never realise them.”
There are many wellness destinations in India and the table below enlists some of the more popular meditation retreats. The average starting price for entry-level wellness resorts is Rs 3,000 onwards (per night) but high-end luxury wellness resorts begin at Rs 10,000. The stay duration ranges 4-15 days and may extend up to 30 days depending on your choice.
Take the case of Namami Health Retreat and Wellness Sanctuary, a wellness centre at the banks of Periyar River in Ernakulam, Kerala, which combines the ancient sciences of Yoga, Ayurveda and Meditation. Says the spokesperson from Namami Health Retreat: “The cost of a five-day Pancha Mahabhuta retreat starts at Rs 35,000. The average price of an eight-day Ashtanga retreat is about Rs 50,000. All the plans include luxury accommodation, organic cuisine, access to state-of-art amenities and a holistic, guided approach towards wellness. All these plans along with dietary recommendations are crafted individually, based on discussions with the guests and the retreat experts.” Namami Health Retreat offers a variety of meditation types such as body (physical) meditation such as Tratak, Shavasana, and Yog Nidra; mind (mental) mediation such as Gayatri, Kirtan, Soham; and soul (spiritual) meditation–prayer, chanting, kriya yoga.
Retreats to reflect
A meditation retreat is different from a regular holiday. You are expected to ditch technology and will have limited or no access to phone, television, and Wi-Fi, so that you can really experience the true meaning of silent meditation. Also, don’t expect the usual sightseeing and recreational activities that make for some Instagramable pictures and social media content or even the indulgent amenities of a private pool, jacuzzi etc.
The routines at meditation retreats are completely different–you are expected to be in sync with the rhythms of nature, such as waking up when the sun rises. Food is simple, sattvic and vegetarian. Says Rajeev Kale, President & Country Head-Holidays, MICE, Visa at Thomas Cook (India) Ltd: “These spiritual centres are ideal for some serious head-clearing and soul-searching. Since India has played a stellar role in promoting meditation, it has attracted tourists from all over the world. Several experts in this field have set up meditation centres that have become successful over the years.”
There is a departure from the eat-travel-spa routine at most hotels. Says 23-year-old Delhi-based budding entrepreneur Akanksha Chaddha: “Even the ayurveda inspired treatments and massages to heal certain chakras are more like treatment than therapy. So you can expect more pain than pampering. Most of your time is spent at the retreat itself as you will be tied up with so much to do in one place and won’t have much time to travel around.”
A meditation retreat offers programmes based on the wellness objectives of the individual. Says Daniel D’Souza, President & Country Head-Holidays, SOTC Travel: “Five-star hotels today offer customers truly immersive hospitality–-an indulgence of all senses with premium accommodation, gourmet food, personalised experiences and varied range of concierge services tailored to the guest’s preferences. Meditation retreats, on the other hand, offer a complete physical, mental and digital detox to create a safe sanctuary where one can unplug from the stresses of everyday life, and harmonise the body and mental wellbeing in order to get the natural rhythms back on track. Post a retreat experience, customers are able return to their busy lives with a sense of renewal, empowerment and clarity. Such wellness routines include personalised yoga, meditation, healing treatments, or counselling sessions by professionals who support an individual to find their balance and the sense of wellbeing.”
Spiritual sessions and, in some cases, trips are part of the itinerary. For instance, at Telangana’s Heartfulness Institute, you can stroll down a kind of a spiritual museum called the Yatra Garden, which is a physical manifestation of the chakras in the body, a journey through 13 points which corresponds to three regions of one’s body. It starts with the heart region (1-5 points), followed by the mind (points 6-12) and then the central region (13th point).
Explaining the concept of Yatra Garden, the Heartfulness Institute spokesperson says, “We are composed of five elements, each of these are present in five points in the heart region. There is a prevailing quality, element and colour present at each point. Dualities are present at each of the five points in the heart region. When a particular chakra is in balance, we experience the positive quality at that point. Similarly, when a chakra is out of balance, we experience the negative predominant quality of that point. But we can regain a state of balance through practices in the Heartfulness Way, which include meditation, rejuvenation, and connection with the ultimate.”
Nature is an integral part of the experience at such retreats. Most of these are an ecological paradise, where you can experience simple living in-tune with nature, eating organically grown food, doing yoga to the sound of waves or mountain backdrop. Some retreats are nestled in the scenic Himalayan Mountain ranges where you get the beautiful views of snow-capped mountain peaks, and the rolling clouds. Practitioners say that meditation is best done in the throes of nature and is especially good under the Neem Tree.
Finally, if you are intrigued about what draws people out of city lives to meditate their way to stillness, then David Lynch answers with a beautiful quote: “The thing about meditation is that you become more and more you.”
Table: Packages at some of the more popular meditation retreats in India
Price Range (Rs)
|Luxury ayurvedic wellness destination set up in the palace of the Maharaja at Narendra Nagar, Tehri-Garhwal||Approx 10,000 per night|
|Based on the vision of an ideal multicultural township, Auroville is a famous meditation destination of South India. Matri Mandir – the ferrero-rocher shaped building requires a prior booking for meditating inside the building||Approx 1,000-6,000 per night|
|The Art of Living International Centre, Bengaluru||Spread across a sprawling green land at the top of Panchagiri Hills, Bengalury with organic farms; has an Ayurveda Hospital, Radha Kunj (garden), Sumeru Mantap and a Goshala||Approx 1,000-6,000 per night|
|Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh||
Yoga courses for people with no prior experience, training courses, specific Kriya Yoga courses, advanced yoga courses and spiritual retreats as well. Parmarth Niketan also hosts an annual one-week International Yoga Festival.
|Accommodation: Rs 500-2,000 depending upon the room type and service|
|Vipassana International Academy, Igatpuri||They focus on self-purification or transformation by eliminating the 3 causes of unhappiness—craving, aversion and ignorance. This is one of the most rigorous centres. The Vipassana meditation techniques go back to the period of Buddha. The academy demands complete silence, disallowing non-verbal communication as wellThere are no charges for the courses||All expenses are met by voluntary donations from people who, having completed a course and having experienced the benefits of Vipassana, wish to give others the opportunity to benefit from it also|
|Dhamma Bodhi, Bodh Gaya||Gautama Buddha first attained enlightenment at Bodh Gaya, Bihar. At Dhamma Bodhi, Vipassana meditation is widely taught and practiced. The Mahabodhi Temple Complex houses a Bodhi tree where people can meditate to find peace and tranquility||Courses are run solely on a donation basis and there are no charges to cover the cost of food and accommodation|
|Osho International Meditation Resort, Pune||Meditation is combined with the teachings of Buddha and the luxurious state of the art infrastructure. At the Osho Multiversity, one can work towards inner peace while being within a remarkable architectural structure. In addition to meditation, the resort also offers the visitors an array of activities that encourages a cultural synthesis||Approx Rs 2,000 a day for international visitors and Rs 1,000 for resident Indian nationals|
|Namami Health Retreat, Kerala||All plans include luxury accommodation, organic cuisine, state-of-art amenities and a holistic, guided approach towards wellness. Plans and dietary recommendations are crafted individually based on discussions with the guests and the retreat experts||Five-day Pancha Mahabhuta Retreat starts around Rs 35,000. Average price of eight-day Ashtanga Retreat is Rs 50,000|
|Kanha Shanti Vanam Heartfulness Institute||World’s largest meditation hall Heartfulness, also known as Sahaj Marg or the Natural Path, is a Raja Yoga system of meditation based on the ancient art of Pranahuti or Transmission. The meditation hall is within a lush green campus housing plant nurseries, a bookshop and library, a canteen and restaurant, a hotel, a children’s park, as well as temporary and permanent living spaces to lodge numerous practitioners||Comfort dorms, permanent tents are free of cost. There is a 4-star hotel, Pearl, with room tariffs ranging from 4,500-7,500 a night|
Credits: Thomas Cook (India) Limited