Hariharalaya is a yoga retreat situated about five dollar’s east of Siem Reap in a tuk tuk. That may not actually be a normal set of directions but then the seven days we spent here was anything but (what we know as) “normal” ourselves. So before we continue with another “He says vs. She says” let’s quickly explain a little bit about the retreat (you can read more on their website here).
There are three types of people at the retreat; Volunteers, these guys stay the longest (we’re talking months) they have certain responsibilities in maintaining the retreat, like gardening or cooking for example and some even held classes themselves. The second were the Student’s who had to commit at least two weeks (they can stay longer) and have to go to every class and read listed books as well as doing daily Karma Yoga, which basically means household chores like washing up and cleaning etc. and finally Guest’s… this was flexible, classes when you like, and best of all no chores! They recommend five days minimum so with only seven days to spare we entered the retreat as guest’s.
Every Saturday was a meditation intensive day. This day was spent completely in silence from the minute the morning bell rang to 7pm when it was dinnertime. The retreat was packed full of relaxing and therapeutic activities. They had a music room, an art room and a library to keep everyone busy and distracted from the silence.
He says: For anyone that knows me, I imagine you think I’m about to poke fun at this experience… which is probably true but before I can do such things I have a confession… It was… My… Idea…. to do a yoga retreat, there I said it. Clean conscience and all, I can continue.
My first impression was surprise at the average age of everyone, along with the number of American’s. In total over our brief seven days we were a group of 30 odd people, 80% American and about 70% under 25 years of age.
A day and a half into the retreat we had a class on “compassion”, we were asked to breathe in the said adjective and breathe out our worries and stresses… along with breathing through my fingers this was something I struggled to do.
“Ok I can do this… In compassion….” out of nowhere my 36 hours of veganism hit me and cold turkey took hold of my thought’s. “In compassion and out…. out?” I’d breathed out a few times, at this point of the 36 hours came over me like a dark cloud. “And out the sigh of relief from a medium rare steak…. no that’s not quite right. Breathing in compassion and out… out the smell of a burger with onions” Can you even breathe that smell out?! None the less my mind wasn’t up for participating. It went on like this for longer than I’d like to admit. Eventually I managed to straighten the tie on the immature little Steve that was playing around and breathed in compassion and breathed out cynicism… it actually worked and for the next fifteen minutes I was actually meditating… or being quiet and not giggling to myself. Same same. The next few days were tough, I may have even pulled a muscle but all in all I do believe the seven days had a good impact me.
I heard sentences and words that blew my mind, I heard a slow talking Texan (who was a cool guy) ask someone else how they opened their Kundalini… I still don’t know what that means and for my new favorite word, SOULGASM (yeah that deserves Capital letters). I was involved in conversations about near death experiences, Aliens and Coconuts and things I may have poked fun at before but the environment was perfect for such open conversations (like you have never had a deep and meaningful conversation about coconuts…).
For me it seems a little ironic looking back at it all now, as the people who were at the retreat were fully versed in the art of compassion, relaxing, just being calm, collected, nice people and the irony I find is that those people at the retreat were not the people who needed it the most. It’s all the cynic’s, idiot’s and meat eaters; basically people like me that would benefit from Hariharalaya the most.
She says: As Steve said this WAS his idea, but I was more than happy go along with it, especially since I hadn’t seen the inside of a gym for over two years (well since I met Steve actually!) and since the start of our travels we had got into some bad habits, including a lot of over eating and beer drinking!
I was excited to finally get into a routine (the obsessive planner that I am). So for the seven days we were in the retreat this was our routine….Up every morning at 7.30am, yoga from 8-9am followed by half an hour of sitting meditation and sometimes chanting and then breakfast. Lunch was at 1pm every day and dinner at 7pm and all the time in between was our free time. As Steve said this was nothing like a normal day for us, which usually consisted of having no alarm set, waking up around 10am, eating a banana pancake and drinking an iced coffee and starting our day in the peak heat of midday.
We have yet to mention that the retreat was 100% vegan…..something we definitely were not previously acquainted with, no meat, no dairy, no eggs! I had no idea what we would be eating, but I was pleasantly surprised with the amazing meals that the Hariharalaya kitchen laid out on a daily basis. We were still eating chilli and spaghetti bolognese and other dishes we were used to and sometimes we couldn’t even tell the meat was missing!
The biggest challenge for me did not come from the yoga, the meditation, the chanting or even the food. It was the bugs keeping me on my toes! Before we arrived at the retreat we had read many reviews and the only negative point was the huge spiders living on the retreat grounds. For anyone who knows me, you know that spiders are one of my biggest fears so I was constantly looking around for said spiders, however as the week went on I could feel myself relaxing and paying less and less attention to the possibility of these creatures and by the end of the week I can honestly say the fear of them was much much less. The Hariharalaya team have created such an amazing, peaceful atmosphere for all their guests that everything else became insignificant.
The team themselves were fantastic, our daily yoga classes were always fun and the best part about it was that we NEVER felt like beginners, from the moment we arrived everyone made us feel welcome and we were never afraid to mess up or have to ask someone to repeat something. We met some amazing people there and definitely managed to correct some of our bad habits, well for seven days at least!
We have now picked up our own yoga mats and we’re on a mission to maintain all the amazing things we had learnt……..did it last……keep reading our blog and checking our pics to find out!