Body, Mind, Energy and Consciousness
The content of a 10 & 14-day yoga- and meditation retreat.
This page is also part of our general course description.
“The flow of energy through a system acts to organise that system.”
(H. J. Morowitz: Energy Flow in Biology)
Hatha Yoga and Meditation
On the course, you will find that we teach from a rich tradition. Based on a thorough knowledge of body and mind, the yogis have developed the hatha yoga system to achieve physical health and wellbeing.
Hatha yoga is the practical part of yoga as distinct from yoga philosophy. Above all, hatha yoga serves as a preparation for meditation.
Yoga and meditation are learned in steps. First, simple poses; later, the methods become finer, the effects more subtle, the meditation alive and creative. You can choose from the many different methods of yoga we teach and use them as you wish.
The learning process can be experienced as a development. It is not a question of who is the most supple or whether you have interesting experiences. Rather, it is about attaining harmony and becoming one with yourself.
Muscles and organs
The first purpose of the yoga poses (asana) is to remove disturbances in the body, that stand in the way of wellbeing and concentration.
You start by experiencing the body and making it supple with easy movements. After that, we move on. Every morning, you learn to hold the body in different yoga poses.
When the body is still and the muscles are stretched for a while, tensions cannot be maintained ‑ a method that is unique to classical yoga itself.
By regular use of the poses, the body grows used to being relaxed. The blood circulation is increased in the inner organs and their functions are regulated. Some exercises touch upon specific areas in the body (eg. eye exercises and back exercises). Others influence the body as a whole.
Breath and Energy
By using breathing exercises (pranayama) precisely and regularly, the nervous system can be strengthened, tension and depression can be removed – along with bringing the two brain halves into a better balance.
German doctors from Hanover and Cologne have conducted laboratory studies on our teachers and students. They concluded that there is no method or medication as effective in normalising the blood pressure as the breathing exercises in yoga.
Through breathing exercises, you get to know your energy and, with a new sensitivity, you can begin to control it. This way, the yogi can regulate the functions in the nervous system which are normally outside the influence of the will.
The effects of this show in daily life as increased creativity and concentration. When the energy flows are purified, it’s hard to block mentally and give up.
The use of attitudes (Mudra) and locks (Bandha) relaxes and increases awareness in certain areas of the body ‑ the so called Chakras. These have a special importance in the harmonic unity between body, mind and energy.
Through the Mudras, you also become aware of the relationship between your state and the energy field of your body. If worries or sickness have limited your energy field, the Mudras can bring it back to its full and natural form. (Read The form of your energy and the mudras in yoga)
Published in the Finnish travel magazine Mondo:
“Haa Retreat Center, the Scandinavian Yoga and Meditation School in South Sweden, is perhaps the best place in Europe to learn yoga, i.e. the asanas, breathing exercises and meditation, in a profound way. The retreats are suitable for both beginners and experienced, but are not for the lazy: the program starts early in the morning and continues late into the evening, although, with appropriate breaks. In the sauna there is a Finnish sauna stove, and the vegetarian food is really good.”
– Jorma Rusanen, Chairman of the Finnish Yoga Federation.
Meditative Deep Relaxation – Yoga Nidra
“Yoga Nidra consists of techniques that trigger a state where your whole being is vitalised – the result is a stable and lasting relaxation of the whole body and all of the brain (to quite a different degree than those relaxations that are based on suggestion). During Yoga Nidra, you develop the capacity to be fully aware, even in very deep states.” (Swami Janakananda)
Yoga Nidra plays an important part in the healing process, eg. by building up and maintaining a strong immune system. Many students find that Yoga Nidra is helpful for insomnia. They regularly use the CD Experience Yoga Nidra at home.
To be able to concentrate, to let go and experience for instance a yoga pose, you must be able to relax. Therefore, it is important to combine Yoga Nidra with the other exercises we use during the daily program on a course.
But Yoga Nidra is not just relaxation. It is a method of building a bridge between the inner and outer consciousness. What use is there in making a resolution if the subconscious mind resists? The purpose of Yoga Nidra is to reach a true state of being, therefore the name: Conscious (yoga) sleep (nidra).
Read more in the booklet included with the Yoga Nidra CD. Also found on our website, an in-depth article on Tantra and Yoga Nidra, as well as a scientific study of Yoga Nidra made at The State University Hospital in Copenhagen: Pictures of the brain’s activity during Yoga Nidra.
With Yoga Nidra, the deepening process begins.
With yoga, you relax and remove what is standing in the way of your concentration. The mind, however, should also be trained to use the new openness and focus itself on one thing at a time. Here we use different techniques; Tratak where we look at outer and inner objects and Nada Yoga where we discover the inner sounds and listen to them.
To be able to meditate, means in the beginning that you let go of mental tension and worries. In our teaching, we move through the different levels of the mind, reaching what we can call real meditation. This is fundamentally different from trance, ‘positive thinking’ or hypnosis (often called ‘healing’ or ‘mental training’), where you manipulate the mind and limit it to your own or other’s conceptions. Real meditation is founded on clarity, expanded awareness and increased energy.
With Inner Silence (Antar Mauna), you fundamentally train your awareness. The meditation starts in the world you perceive through your senses, in the place and in the surroundings where you are meditating at that moment, and your ability to experience is enhanced. From the senses, you gradually and inevitably move through the states, habits, thoughts and emotions that normally comprise your personality. You learn to experience the personality without immediately having to criticise or analyse it, without trying to inhibit or change it. You get to know it. Then you go deeper, through different dimensions of your inner universe, to the core of your being from where you experience.
“Good or bad, I am the seer; disturbance or one-pointedness, I am the seer. If I change my physical position, I am the seer. I am not the concentrator; I am not the meditator. No, I am just the seer of all that is taking place in me. I am impartial, detached and unrelated.”(Swami Satyananda)
This meditation is best taught directly from teacher to student. You’re constantly led back to yourself, to the one experiencing, behind it all. You return. This kind of meditation follows laws and tendencies of the mind that all people have in common. It is taught in two variations: The seven-step Inner Silence and Returning® which consists of four parts.
“In meditation you undergo a process, not of self-analysis but self-perception. It is in this, that meditation goes beyond the psychoanalysis of modern psychology. You do not merely analyse yourself; you see yourself.” (Swami Satyananda)
The knowledge or the insight which comes from this meditation influences everyday life. It represents the heart of Tantra, the tantric attitude:
“You accept yourself as you are and the way you live. You need not be someone else to realise yourself – or to live. You need not change, you already are – yourself.” (Swami Janakananda)
“You are the one observer and, as such, you have indeed always been free. Your only bondage has been that you saw someone else as the observer.” (Ashtavakra Gita)
The meditations Ajapa Japa und Kriya Yoga
As a true tantric meditation, Ajapa Japa builds on a sequence of methods which takes you to increasingly finer states: a special way of breathing, the psychic breath; a mantra; the chakras and other deeper methods.
However, we begin with a more simple version of Ajapa Japa (Source of Energy). Then we go on to the actual Ajapa Japa, which consists of nine steps; first you cleanse and strengthen your energy field, then your mind is focused and your state deepened.
In this way, the meditation builds a state where limiting ideas and influences cannot take hold, the result is stability and a real ability to take action. That is, if you know how to use this vigour in your daily life (see Karma Yoga below).
Ajapa Japa is preliminary to Kriya Yoga.
Our present knowledge of the Chakras comes solely from the tradition of yoga. In earlier times in Europe, they were known to the alchemists and gnostics, in Israel to the kabalists and in North America to the Hopis.
The yoga poses balance your chakras in a most essential way. Each classical pose relates to a chakra. When you reach a deep state lying or standing completely still in, say, the plow pose, you concentrate on a specific area of the body.
Using Mudras and Bandhas, you influence these areas with your energy.
In Yoga Nidra, they are reached through symbols and mantras.
In Chakra Rohana & Avarohana, the inner sensitivity is trained by singing, or concentrating on certain tones in the areas of the body connected to the various chakras.
The chakras play a part in influencing the psychosomatic balance in the body and the control of functions normally outside conscious control (autonomous). The digestion can be consciously regulated. There are also numerous reports that tell of yogis capable of lowering the activity of the heart so that only sensitive instruments can measure that they are still actually alive.
During meditation, insight gradually grows about the nature of the chakras, that is, whirls or corridors penetrating your being – where body, mind, energy, and the innermost part of you merge. (The word ‘chakra’ means circle, wheel or whirl, energy whirl).
“When you get to know the chakras,
you will discover that they function as ‘senses’
in the psychic dimensions,
as eyes, ears and also the vocal cords perform that function
in the physical dimension.”
You learn a lot on the course – but not everything takes place in the meditation hall. Your body must be able to transform the energy you acquire from the practices. An important experience in the process is your participation in the tasks around Haa Retreat Center: in the garden; with the horses; in the woods and fields; preparing food; baking bread; dish washing and cleaning or perhaps doing repairs on a house.
Socially speaking, Karma Yoga (as these activities are called) implies that you do things for others, together with others and that you don’t expect to be waited on.
After all, you have not come to a holiday resort, but to a retreat with people who want to work with themselves. Naturally, you will want to be better able to deal with the tasks and challenges awaiting you at home. Activity creates stamina and drive.
“When one is active, then one is stable. Stability can only be achieved through action. When happiness is achieved one is active. Someone who cannot find happiness is not active.”
Many have discovered this secret on our courses.
Without Karma Yoga, it would be impossible to run such comprehensive courses. The course offers many paths to reach deeper states. The expected results, however, would not be achieved in a harmonious way without outwardly directed activities and common tasks. When you let go of something and also give something, then you are more able to receive. The energy is transformed; it becomes available to you. Karma Yoga is an activity that balances the whole course and contributes to the increase in your wellbeing.
Karma Yoga is part of the programme for approx. 1½ hours a day. Also a few times a week each person helps in the kitchen in the afternoon or evening.
Yoga begins with the cleansing processes: Neti (nose cleansing), Kunjal and Shankprakshalana (intestinal cleansing), which we conduct one day early on in the course.
The whole alimentary canal is cleansed when you drink warm saline water. A few exercises help to move the water from the stomach through the intestines and out of the anus; then the stomach is emptied of the remaining water and finally the nose is cleansed. After this you rest for an hour and then you eat a special meal and rest thoroughly.
The following ten days you keep to a mild diet that is gentle for the intestines and preserves the harmony created in the body by the cleansing.
If you smoke, it is easier to quit when doing these practices – don’t let the habit make the decisions, but listen to your body and avoid smoking as long as the diet lasts. Yoga can give your nervous system a chance to manage on its own, without the guardianship of the nicotine.
Shankaprakshalana removes gross tensions in the body and helps you develop a greater sensitivity, and thus benefit more from the course. Please read the details about shankaprakshalana and the special diet you have the following 10 days
Neti, or nose cleansing, can be done daily on the course. It cleanses the air passages, relieves allergies and colds, and makes it easier to do the breathing exercises (see also more about nose cleansing).
Lectures and Satsang
Various subjects are covered to further clarify the use of yoga and meditation: how one relates to influences and to pain; what the meditative state really can be used for; elementary and advanced meditations and techniques; applying the ability to experience as a healing and preventative factor in life.
Music and dance
To play music together, to sing Native American, Arabic or Indian meditative songs, to dance and express yourself in free movements or according to a tradition – from the Sufis, from Africa, but also from yourself – will, when you devote yourself, release energy and emotions. Through these different dances, you develop a capacity to communicate without words and you experience a feeling of fellowship with others.
Silence (Mauna) is part of the schedule, and we mean this literally. In this way, you give the brain a rest; especially the left brain. There is no talking, writing or reading during the two and a half days of silence (see also the 3-Month Sadhana Retreat).
To most people, the silence comes as a surprising relief. Silence increases inner awareness and openness towards your surroundings. The mind becomes finely tuned and the learning of yoga, and especially meditation, is enhanced. Silence over a longer period of time removes tensions, particularly from the brain and face.
As well as the days when we are totally silent, we ask that you are always silent in the yoga hall, no matter when you enter it, and in the dining hall during the meals.
…and Individual Guidance
For many, it is only apparent in the very last days of a course what we are actually doing and how it works. We then communicate about what you have learned and how to use it when you return home. There is also the opportunity for personal talks with the teachers.
During the course you may receive individual advice. However, don’t expect any talk therapy; we let the possibilities remain open to be experienced.
Right from the start, we ask you not to talk with your fellow students about what you experience in your meditation. Digest the experiences yourself and in this way get the most out of what you learn.
When you are
whatever you do
you can do
“I went to India to learn more about yoga and travelled to various ashrams down there, but the yoga teaching I found was superficial. Nowhere did I meet the intensive and deep reaching process that one takes part in on your courses.” (Student from Sweden)
In the forests and fields surrounding Haa Retreat Center,
you can walk or ski
or ride on the horses
that we keep on the farm
that is part of the retreat center.
The area is rich in wildlife.
There are many deer,
and if you are fortunate
you may see moose or otter.
In the spring and autumn, cranes,
geese and swans visit.
It is possible to participate in guided rides, whether you are experienced with horses or not. We also use the horses for a drive in a horse wagon or sleigh.
Where the little river flows into the lake,
we have a boat and several canoes
for your use.
The different activities we offer during the free time are very much part of the course. As explained in the section on Karma Yoga, you will get the most out of the retreat if you are active – and that also applies to what you do in your free time.
During the wintertime, you are welcome to use the school’s skis and skates (or feel free to bring your own).
You can learn to use one of our bio-feedback machines and measure different reactions in your body that are not normally perceived.
Through signals from the apparatus, you can become conscious of when you tense or relax a muscle, or your brain, or when you increase or lower your skin resistance.
The Pyramid and the Sauna
In the pyramid”, you can float in body-warm salt water where the lack of sense impressions calms the thoughts and relaxes the body. Read about The Pyramid and Pratyahara
On some afternoons, you can enjoy our Finnish wood-fuelled sauna.
You may want to bring a drawing pad, pencils and colours. It is a good idea to draw or paint, especially on the longer courses.
The Course Day may look like this:
Bathroom, nose cleansing
Silent meditation, without a teacher.
Yoga and breathing exercises.
Dalia; dinkel/rice/barley tea.
Silent meditation, “tuning in”.
Meditative Deep Relaxation: Yoga Nidra.
Meditation: Ajapa Japa.
Free time. Walks, riding, sauna etc.
Yoga and breathing exercises etc.
Meditation: Antar Mauna.
Lectures, meditation or music and dance.
Come Only For What We Teach
Don’t use any techniques (meditations, therapies, massage, astrology, tarot etc.) while you are here other than what you learn on the course – neither alone, nor together with others. And for the sake of your knees, do not jog during the retreat. Please, do not bring a lot of books or magazines along either. Then we, as your teachers, can ensure that you get the intended effect – and it will be easier for you to acquire what you came for.