Adventure Yoga at Anam Cara Yoga Retreats with Natasha Mahindra
Natasha Mahindra, a certified yoga therapist and founder of Anam Cara Yoga Retreats – a yoga travel and adventure company, has been working in the space of chronic illness and structural issues for over 5 years now. Yoga for her is going beyond traditional asanas, she enjoys sufi whirling, dynamic dance meditations discovering ancient systems of practice for women and conducts yoga for children. Natasha Creates beautiful spaces and intimate gatherings , using sound, art and dance therapy in collaboration with yoga and other healing practices to offer a holistic experience. We speak with her about the inspiration behind Anam Cara Yoga Retreats and her upcoming Soul and Surf Retreat in Srilanka.
I have been practicing and teaching yoga for over six years now. But, I was getting bored of the kind of yoga that I was experiencing in India and as a teacher I felt that we weren’t really integrating our practice. For example if you’re doing Iyengar Yoga you’re doing just Iyengar or if you’re doing Ashtanga or Hatha then you’re just doing that. Going to retreats myself, I have experienced various healing therapies in combination with yoga and I discovered that this was something I really wanted to do. I decided to go ahead and create retreats where I could bring different teachers and healers together. And since I love to travel especially to explore nature, I wanted to bring them both together. I wanted people to experience these therapies in nature and to awaken themselves to the elements of nature by connecting through their spiritual energies.
The idea was to build a community of yogis and therapists to come together and share the work. Now it has grown into a much bigger therapeutic healing space where people come, heal, awaken and learn about themselves. We give them access to therapists and healers to build awareness or whatever their souls are seeking.
What does Anam Cara mean?
Anam Cara is a Gaelic word and it means soul-friend so the idea behind the retreats is soul-friends gathering and creating this means of transformation.
We’re into yoga adventure so we specifically do yoga with diving, surfing, trekking and jungle safari.
The upcoming retreat in Srilanka is a Soul and Surf Retreat so we’re clubbing yoga with surfing. This time I am collaborating with a teacher, Alexandra Denkinger, who is a yin yoga specialist and an acupuncturist. Ideally people will come to the retreat to learn surfing so we’ll surf in the morning and do restorative yin yoga in the evening. We’ll also have other activities like a visit to the Yala National Park which is the biggest national park in Srilanka and close to Arugum Bay where we’ve planned the retreat. Arugum Bay is pretty far up on the coast and is an exotic place; people usually find it difficult to travel there on their own. Along with it we’ll be doing monastery visits and cycling tours. I’ll be offering dynamic dance meditations and Alex will be doing her one-on-one acupuncture sessions. So it will be a combination of a feel-good experience, learning something new, surfing, being out in the nature and also experiencing acupuncture which is an ancient healing technique. It’s a yoga adventure for sure but there’s a big healing aspect to it too.
What is Yin Yoga and why have you clubbed it with surfing?
Yin Yoga has the same goals and objectives as any other school of yoga; however, it directs the stimulation normally created in the asana portion of the practice deeper than the superficial or muscular tissues (which we are calling the yang tissues). Yin Yoga targets the connective tissues, such as the ligaments, bones, and even the joints of the body that normally are not exercised very much in a more active style of asana practice.
Yin Yoga is suitable for almost all level of students and is a perfect complement to the dynamic and muscular (yang) styles of yoga that emphasize internal heat, and the lengthening and contracting of our muscles. Yin Yoga generally targets the connective tissues of the hips, pelvis, and lower spine.
While initially this style of yoga can seem quite boring, passive, or soft, yin practice can be quite challenging due to the long duration of the poses. We can remain in the postures anywhere from one to twenty minutes! Yin and yang tissues respond quite differently to being exercised. You need to experience this to really know what Yin Yoga is all about. After you have experienced it, even just once, you will realize that you have been doing only half of the asana practice.
Yin Yoga is a perfect complement to dynamic exercises like surfing. They both share a lot of similarities. In Yin Yoga we ride the edges of the sensations of our poses like a surfer is riding the waves of the ocean. Going with the flow and being connected with the elements and our body. Ultimately both are Zen.
What kind of healers and therapists have you worked with in the past and what makes you pick a time or place for a specific retreat?
In our previous retreats we’ve worked with sound healers, shamanic healers, art therapists, dance therapists, spiritual coaches, people who worked specifically with chakras.
Most of my retreats happen around full moon because our water energy is already high; we’ve already tapped into our emotional and receptive body. The energy of the moon facilitates us to understand the language of signs present in nature, the language that we’ve forgotten due to conditioning and the expectation to live life in a certain way. I find full moon an extremely cathartic time for people to do deep healing.
I try to pick places that make you feel the purity of nature for example the shamanic healing retreat happened in Kheerganga in Parvati Valley; I choose such high energy places. Other than that I prefer places where people can experience something exotic which is difficult for them to get to on their own like the Andaman Islands, not everyone is comfortable going their alone. So I am always looking for places where I can help people get there. Apart from that it really happens very-very spontaneously. I just listen to my intuition and go with it.
Are the participants usually open to the idea of healing? Is there a process to ease them into the alternative healing space?
We have an open circle where we talk about the therapy and healing practice. We have one-on-one sessions with people who are shut down to the idea of healing; we constantly talk and check-in on them. But in 15 retreats that I have done so far I have never come across anyone who has turned around and said that they don’t want to do it. Also, the retreats are not just for people who want to release emotions. You’ll get what you need as is appropriate through the retreat.
For more details on the upcoming Srilanka Retreat, click here.