The Dance of Shiva is one of the crowing jewels of Tantric iconography. More than an enchanting image, it contains the whole Tantric teaching about the nature of the mind. In this retreat, we study the dance as an allegory of gestures that symbolize the natural unfolding of conscious experience, from the early formation of thought to the moment of dissolution that graces us with the opportunity for insight. Through this study, we learn to see the inner turnings of our minds with new wonder and clarity. We learn to appreciate even the most caustic episodes of emotional upheaval as opportunities for touching the sublime.
Using the symbology of Shiva’s Dance, we uncover the role of Ashtanga Vinyasa in cultivating the kind of consciousness that allows for the possibility of true insight. We learn how breath, bandha and postural alignment can be used to support the unfolding of revelatory experience, and we follow the thread into chanting, pranayama and meditation. Through these explorations, we reconnect to the contemplative essence of the Ashtanga practice, and we rediscover our embodied experience as part of the ecstatic Dance of Shiva.
Each day will begin with an inspiring Mysore practice, in one of the farm’s gorgeous shalas, followed by chanting, pranayama and philosophy. On four other occasions, we will gather to learn theory and technique. The balance of time will be open for making friends, exploring the Mediterranean, reclining around the pool, or resting and reflecting on the experience.
SCHEDULE OF AFTERNOON SESSIONS
The Dance of Shiva – Sunday
In our first session, we introduce the basic mythology and symbolism of Siva’s Dance. The dance is an allegory of gestures that symbolize the Five Acts, the five principles that rule the unfolding of the phenomenal world. In studying these principles, we uncover the strange relationship between concealment and revelation that defines the world of samsara, and we identify compassion as the vehicle that allows us to appreciate their coincidence.
Breath and Bandha – Monday
Having identified compassion as the essence of awakened consciousness, we explore the internal forms of breath, bandha and mudra that bring compassion alive. We practice these forms in the context of Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga, learning how to use the techniques with intelligence to center awareness in the body, to enhance clarity, and to create an open space for the dance to unfold.
Internal Alignment – Tuesday
Building on the techniques that we developed previously, we explore some principles of postural alignment in five distinct patterns of breath and movement that recur throughout the Ashtanga system. Using these patterns, we deepen our experience of standing, twisting, folding, bending and inverting.
Divine Love – Thursday
In this session, we contemplate the loving union of Shiva and Shakti. We listen to enchanting stories of their ecstatic and often blistering love affair, and we learn to see our bodies as scenes in which their drama unfolds. In these reflections, we reimagine contemplative practice as an opportunity to align ourselves with the currents of divine love that are flowing through us, and to savor the inherent sweetness of embodied experience.
This retreat is designed for practitioners of all abilities. People with injuries and special conditions are absolutely welcome to join. Some familiarity with the standing and closing sequence of the Ashtanga system is requested. The only requisites are an open mind and a willingness to explore the inner space of the body.