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Learning To Levitate – My Yoga Journey

By Dan Hutton on December 18, 2015 in Other

Photo: Georgia Brownlee

Photo: Georgia Brownlee

When I told people I was going to Byron on a five-day yoga retreat, most of them thought I was taking the piss. Others assumed it was a surf trip masquerading as a yoga retreat, but it turns out that eight to nine hours of yoga and meditation a day doesn’t leave a whole lot of time or energy for chasing waves.

As a guest of Rodney Sen and his wife Mari, the owners of the Yoga Travel Company, Living Room Yoga in Coogee and Dharma Shala in Bondi, I was determined to make the most of their generosity and really immerse myself in the yoga experience. With a grand total of three, maybe four, yoga classes in my lifetime, across disciplines including Kundalini, Bikram and Ashtanga, I was a bona fide beginner, but given my lack of flexibility, bad posture and dwindling strength, yoga was something that I’d wanted to pursue for quite a while, yet I hadn’t made the time to do so. A yoga retreat was always going to be the perfect place to get started.

After an early flight from Sydney to Ballina and a brief shuttle to Sang Surya Health Retreat Centre in the rainforest at the back of Suffolk Park, I settled in to my self-contained cabin in the woods before heading up to the kitchen/dining area to meet the other guests.

As expected, the quorum consisted mainly of the fairer sex. In fact, apart Rod, myself and the yoga instructor, Remi, the oestrogen was flowing like a sacral chakra yoga pose. I didn’t feel at all out of my depth, but I did receive some sideways glances from a couple of guests who were clearly concerned about having a journalist in their midst, particularly one in his early thirties who clearly didn’t have the foggiest idea about the finer points of yoga. Still, this was nothing that couldn’t be allayed over a cup or two of hot ayurvedic tea.

The ladies in attendance came in all shapes, sizes and age brackets. While I was thinking I might find myself at something resembling an Eric Prydz film clip, the reality was more like that ‘Active Wear’ video that went bananas on YouTube a couple of months back, but with a few older birds thrown into the mix.

What I’m trying to say here is that this was definitely not some sort of camp reserved for stick thin models who can contort themselves into the shape of a scorpion whilst doing a handstand and taking a photo for Instagram. It was as egalitarian as it could be. Even I was treated as an equal, despite clearly being an inferior yogi to even the women nudging seventy.

It wasn’t easy, either. Each night I’d hit the hay at around 10pm absolutely exhausted, with the alarm set for 5.25am the next morning, just enough time to sneak in a hot shower to wake me up before heading to the shala for a 5.45am start.

We’d kick proceedings off each day with a couple of hours of yang pranayama and meditation. For the uninitiated, this is basically a bunch of stretching, breathing and a spot of torture in the form of Remi’s so-called ‘ego-eradicator’, which basically involves keeping one’s arms at ’10 and 2’ for a sustained period of time (8 minutes on the final day) while chanting a mantra – it’s about as fun as removing all the hair from your scrotum with nothing but a set of tweezers.

The second session of the day was a three-hour yang session, workshopping different aspects of the asana. I thought the morning session was painful, but it just proved be a sign of things to come. It left me sweating like a shopping mall Santa.

The final session each day consisted of yin yoga and breath work, a great way to wind things down, though still a bit painful at times for this rookie.

Mealtime fell between each session and thanks to the culinary wizardry of experienced chef Clarissa De Castro, as well as plenty of interesting (and often hilarious) conversations around the dinner table, it was a highlight of the retreat.

At the end of the five days I have to admit that I felt amazing and was sad that it was all over. I couldn’t quite levitate, nor touch my toes, but I felt like I was well on my way. All in all, I’d most certainly recommend this retreat to all the would-be and well-qualified yogis out there. I’ve already booked my ticket for next year!

Breakout Box: For more information about the Yoga Travel Company’s 2016 yoga retreats, visit