Anahata Yoga Retreat (Satyananda)

»Reclaiming inner peace in Aotearoa«

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In the northwest corner of New Zealand’s South Island a jewel of a retreat center sits in quiet contemplation of its surrounds. The Sanskrit word ‘anahata’ relates to the heart and from its breathtaking location overlooking Golden Bay, Anahata Yoga Retreat has the double distinction of being able to open your heart, as well as to metaphorically stop it.

  • What we love
  • The private straw bale roundhouse with glorious ocean views
  • Range of retreat options, including residential
  • Full immersion in the yoga lifestyle
  • What to know
  • No alcohol or drugs (including cigarettes) permitted
  • WWOOFing available
  • Vegetarian diet
  • Why go
  • The beauty of Golden Bay
  • Authentic ashram experience
  • Meet fellow yogis from all walks of life

Early starts are common at Anahata. Gently stretching away sleep to the comfortable sound of a crackling open fire is one of the most blissful ways to start a day. That's not the end of yoga here, though. Anahata is a true ashram, which means that yoga is part of every minute of every day. From the principles of sustainable living to the physical purification that means a to detox from substances like coffee, Anahata is a place to go to really slough off the crutches of the modern world. After the morning circle at 8.30am, during which the previous 12 hours of evening silence is broken, the day continues with free time, silence is broken, the day continues with free time, daily relaxation (Yoga Nidra), meditation, and/or Karma Yoga.

Karma Yoga is a strong part of any ashram life. This is where the physical work happens, with the operational result of a smoothly-run ashram, and the spiritual result of learning to simply be in the moment, enjoying the movement of the body without becoming attached to the quality of the end result. There's a dignity in this that can be hard to learn but is well worth the effort.

Adjusting to ashram life can be difficult. Discomfort and itchy irritability during meditation classes is common for newcomers. Like any new habits, it takes about three days for the discomfort to disappear and the ease to begin. The gentler pace here can also take some getting used to. MP3 players, cell phones, TVs, radios and constant Internet access are no longer part of the array of distractions we are used to. Instead, there is actual conversation with real human beings, and plenty of quiet space in which to examine one's life. The peace can be addictive, and Anahata has seen plenty of residential guests. Some folk come to Anahata and simply don't leave, at least not for an extended period of time.

Anahata is part of the Satyananda Yoga family, which brings together all eight 'limbs' of yoga (including Karma Yoga) into one, more easily accessible package. That's the simple explanation. The deeper, and more accurate explanation is most easily seen in the results. Time spent in an ashram, and at Anahata in particular, almost always results in a more peaceful and placid outlook. The physical health benefits are nothing to sneeze at either, with brighter skin, cleaner lungs and stronger muscles being a routine result of a stay here. The range of retreats runs the gamut from light and short-term – a few days to simply recharge – to those long-term residential programs that delve deeply into the self, using yogic principles.

A typical Satyananda class uses its practices in a traditional and systematic way which involves the practice of Asana (postures), Pranayama (breathwork) and meditation. There is a progression beginning with the physical body and moving increasingly into subtle realms. This holistic approach and style of practice allows both mind and body to relax enabling students to deepen their awareness and understanding of themselves. Satyananda Yoga is an integral system which is accessible to all walks of life, levels of experience and physical ability.

All activities - even Karma Yoga - are optional. The guiding principle is one of self-motivation, and a desire to contribute. In a world where the assumption is that people must be forced to do anything, this is a refreshing change. Most guests do choose to contribute, though, as there is a deep satisfaction to be had in working honestly as part of a group with shared aims.

Accommodation at Anahata ranges from the simple to the sublime. Tent-sites are available, as are shared rooms and the fully private yurt - actually a cabin made of straw bales. This last one has an amazing view over Golden Bay, and is recommended for families. Families are also encouraged to bring their own tents and camp out (the point being that although children are welcomed, booking them into shared rooms is not really an option).

There are no facilities for guests to cook at Anahata. All three daily vegetarian meals are prepared by a resident cook, and eating takes place in the communal dining hall. This is not to say that food preparation is kept secret. As most food here is sattvic, anyone who cares to learn is welcome to chat with the cook, and perhaps do a little Karma Yoga in the kitchen. The ingredients are organic wherever possible, and is either grown on the ashram or sourced locally.

There is a sense of peace at Anahata that is hard to describe. Some visitors came for a few days and are still there months or years later. Others leave with a faithful promise to return. Still others make regular visits that seem almost like pilgrimages. Ashram living is different from a life lived ‘outside’ but it has a depth that is almost impossible to replicate in the outside world. Anahata is like a lighthouse perched on its clifftop location - signalling the direction for the port in the storm.

About the area: Golden Bay

There's only one road into and out of Golden Bay on the spit-shaped tip of New Zealand's South Island. With all the natural beauty of the North Island, including white-sand beaches, thousands of acres of forested National Parks and a temperate climate, Golden Bay doesn't have the same rugged Scottish Highland feel of the rest of the South Island. The area is mostly known for its dairy farms, hiking trails, and small sleepy towns where hippies and farmers rub elbows in a comfortable way. While February temperatures can climb as high as 30 degrees C (86F) and fall as far as -3C (27F) in the depths of winter, a normal summer day will hang around 25 C (77F) which is perfect for an ocean dip.

Image credit: Anahata Yoga Retreat

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