Want some time off to reflect, renew and restore? Visit a meditation retreat or a yoga and mindfulness resort to find your inner zen
Advertising film director Prahlad Kakkar is, by his own admission, an extremely irreverent, non-believing, and politically incorrect man who questions everything. Yet he says he was curious enough to accept a personal invitation by Sadhguru to do the Inner Engineering programme, though he didn’t even know the spiritual guru back then. “I could not see myself meditating for three days at a stretch. But I was keen to know more about this person and the process he was talking about. So, I did it since I was free that weekend.”
Kakkar says the experience left an indelible impression on him–something not obvious to most other people but very evident to his family. “Inner Engineering tempered my attitude towards people, especially while dealing with incompetence,” says Kakkar, “It has made me more philosophical and tolerant towards ineptitude. The practices calmed me down and created a certain reserve of energy to see a job through. All my life, I’ve said that God lies in detail. But at the ashram I discovered that both detail and God lie everywhere.”
Mindfulness, meditation and yoga resorts are the buzzwords with urban elites nowadays, for the huge benefits their courses offer. Says Sharmilee Kapur, Co-founder, Atmantan Wellness Centre, “Being mindful helps one create a balance. The benefits are many–self-awareness, ability to observe thoughts in a detached manner, toning down the turmoil within us, and stretching the mind-muscle to translate this practice into our daily lives. Atmantan’s core objective is to work on the mindfulness of your thoughts, actions, and lifestyle habits.”
Taking some time away from home and daily routine and staying at a wellness retreat instead of a regular hotel may work wonders. Kapur cites the case of a 25-year-old successful career woman who was prone to high stress, anxiety, and emotional outbursts, and had begun drinking heavily. When she first came to Atmantan for a lifestyle overhaul, her initial score on the standard stress scale was 27. By the time she got discharged, there was a decrease of 9 points in her stress score. This was accompanied with a complete positive change in her outlook on life. She felt more energetic, rejuvenated, had better sleep patterns and generally became happier and stronger.
A 51-year-old guest who had come for a 14-night stay, had lifestyle disorders such as hyperthyroidism, hypertension, hyper acidity, ED, weight gain, lack of sleep, allergies and compromised mental health had a transformational experience. Towards the end of his schedule, his food cravings dropped visibly, he shed six kilograms and had a stable BP reading of 130/80. His anxiety attacks and hyperacidity decreased substantially and sleep improved considerably.
What’s on offer
Notable meditation, yoga and mindfulness retreats are located at Rishikesh, Haridwar, Dharamshala, Goa and Kerala. One could visit Ananda In the Himalayas, Uttarakhand, Yoga Vidya Mandiram at Rishikesh or Tushita Meditation Centre (Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh). Further south, you have the Art of Living International Centre in Bengaluru, Mysore Krishnamachar Yoga Shala (Mysore), Ashiyana Yoga Retreat (Mandrem, Goa), Isha Yoga Center (Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu), Dhamma Bodhi, Bodh Gaya or Atmantan Wellness Resort (Maharashtra).
You also have Kaivalyadhama in Lonavala and one of the largest Vipassana meditation centres, Dhamma Giri, in Igatpuri.
Ananda Spa offers mindful/spiritual programmes (Dhyana meditation, yoga, stress management), rejuvenating sessions (ayurvedic rejuvenation, rebalance and renew), cleansing (detox, yogic detox and ayurvedic panchakarma), and weight and fitness programmes.
The average starting price for entry-level wellness resorts is Rs 10,000 a night. High-end luxury wellness resorts begin at about Rs 35,000 onwards a night. Daniel D’Souza, President & Country Head, SOTC Travel, says the minimum stay for most of these mindfulness and meditation packages is 4-15 days and may extend up to 30 days, depending on the customer’s requirement. He says one can expect a nourishing spa, and a holistic dining experience with traditional sattvic food. Some resorts advocate a complete digital detox for guests. That’s the kind in which you stay away from all electronic devices such as cell phones, laptops, televisions, computers and tablets.
People also visit establishments in Kerala and Karnataka for Ayurvedic packages that last between 5 and 21 days, and which include yoga, Shirodhara, Abhayangam and a specialised detox diet. Basic ayurvedic packages come for Rs 30,000-40,000 per night.
Yoga: Isha Yoga Center has many programmes in this space, such as the flagship Inner Engineering, Bhava Spandana, Hatha Yoga and other advanced sessions, which allow individuals to take tangible steps towards their inner growth. Says IPS officer Santosh Mehra, Additional Director General, Bureau of Police Research and Development, Union Ministry of Home Affairs, who attended Sadhguru’s wellness programmes: “Inner Engineering has brought about a very subtle transformation in my personality. It was soul-uplifting and enlightening, and the key takeaways were that the programme helps us understand the inter-relatedness and connectedness of the entire world, and how we can go about our jobs in a more professional manner, albeit sensitive manner, even while keeping us focused on the outcomes and accomplishments.”
Mindfulness: The upcoming Ekaanta, Mindversity on the Ganges at Haridwar has experts like Dharmacharya Shantum Seth talk about incorporating mindfulness in your daily routine. Says Seth: “We need to strengthen the seed of mindfulness and be conscious about everything we do, be it walking, eating, working, talking.” He talks about doing a breathing exercise while walking and calls it mindful walking meditation. Likewise you have mindful eating, building relationships with compassionate speech, and deep listening to members of the family and to colleagues.
Meditation sessions: The word meditation confuses a lot of people and many think of it as an “exercise.” Says Vishen Lakhiani, Founder & CEO of Mindvalley, “People think meditation is all about breathing in and out, focusing your mind, clearing your mind, but that’s wrong. It’s like saying exercise is about one thing: jogging. In reality, there are many different types of exercise–yoga, pilates, high-intensity interval training–to help you achieve whatever it is you are trying to accomplish. Likewise, there are many different forms of contemplative or transcendent practices that lead to different outcomes. I don’t talk about meditation; instead, I use the word “transcendent practice.” Meditation not only helps your mood, but can change the way your brain is wired as well.
Know what to expect
You can expect a detailed consultation with a doctor, prescribed meals, therapies, physiotherapy and even all the daily fitness activities. Don’t expect a fancy four-course meal or an indulgent routine. Also, these programmes don’t come cheap. Lakhiani says he paid $15,000 for a 7-day programme at a resort, where the group was diverse and had a Hollywood star, a guy who just sold his company for a billion dollars, a leading medical doctor, and a noted author. “What we all found was that when you meditate using these methods, your brain takes on the same patterns as someone who has spent 21 to 40 years in Zen meditation.” Lakhiani says they had to be completely off alcohol and coffee for the whole week. After all, a wellness trip may call for a good amount of rigour, self-discipline and patience.
Table: Indicative price list of key resorts in India
|Stay Package (Rs)|
|Ananda In the Himalayas, Uttarakhand|
|Yoga Vidya Mandiram Yoga School, Rishikesh|
|Atmantan Wellness Resort, Maharashtra|
|Devarya Wellness Centre, Goa|
|Ganga Kinare, Rishikesh|
Credit: TechSci Research; tariffs are per night