(‘To yoga’ is totally a legitimate verb, right?)
After my inspiring (but rather slothful and just a tad reclusive) 5 weeks in Palolem, I decided a little human company and physical movement were in order. Solution? A yoga retreat in Munnar, Kerala, with my fantastic, flexible sister Jenn.
We chose Kaivalyam for a few reasons; Kerala’s monsoon is a little less extreme than in other parts of India, we heard a rumour about a breakfast buffet (breakfast buffet!), and it was cheap.
They don’t run a week-long program during monsoon, so we just tagged along with a group of month-ers. I was a little nervous about keeping up with everyone. Luckily, our group included a small Bangalorean fellow with a pot belly, who spent most of his time yabbering on his phone. So, while I couldn’t (and still can’t) kill crow pose like Jenn could, I wasn’t exactly holding back the team.
Overall, we loved the week we spent at Kaivalyam. Our room was gorgeous, the food was fantastic (and plentiful, which is key), and our instructor, Harish, was great. I left the retreat a little bit stretchier, a little more well-nourished, and maybe even a little stronger.
(Then I went to Cambodia and sat around in hostels, drinking 50c draught beer and doing anything but yoga for a week, but let’s just agree to put that part behind us, okay?)
If you’re thinking of heading to Kaivalyam (or are just plain curious), here are some details:
6:30am: Get up, drink hot lime-honey-salt.
11am: Yoga theory
2pm: ‘Farm work’ (cleaning the terracotta pots, mostly)
8:30pm: Meditation/breathing work
* Meal times get an exclamation mark, because, well, vegetarian buffet!
4 hours of yoga seemed like a lot at first — I imagined multiplying my usual hour long ‘MTV Yoga’ workout by 4, and wasn’t too keen on the idea. But, as you might’ve guessed, Kaivalyam and MTV have slightly different ideas about what a yoga session entails. With about half the class devoted to stretching, breathing, centering ourselves and just lying down, 4 hours of yoga was about perfect.
On Sundays, the yoga crew gets a ‘day off’. While we were there, that meant replacing morning yoga with a walk to the waterfall, and spending the rest of the day reading and listening to the rain. Bliss!
Like I said, the food at Kaivalyam was incredible — fresh, varied, and delicious. Plus, every meal was a buffet! An amazing, all-vegetarian buffet. Oh, how I miss that buffet. There was a slightly worrying moment when I thought they weren’t going to give us (being such healthy yogis) coffee in the morning, but once that passed, we were golden. We always had seconds, and looked forward to mealtimes even more than usual.
Right after we left, the month-ers started a 3 day cleanse — first fruits and veggies only, then juice, then an entire day of hot honey and lime. All this with a healthy dose of neti-potting, intentional vomiting, and various colonic cleansing procedures… Needless to stay, we were happy, nay, ecstatic to get out when we did.
We couldn’t have asked for a better setting — the retreat is tucked away below the main road. The property is covered with tall, spindly trees and cardamom plants. The outdoor yoga hall is incredible — even in monsoon it was a perfect place to stretch, meditate, while trying not to get distracted by the woodpeckers’ and cicadas’ persistent calls.
The actual accommodation was great, too. A massive room, a bed big enough to prevent any accidental sister cuddling, a whole wall’s worth of window, and a lovely wee area for reading or just sitting.
Take a bus from Ernakulum to Munnar (KRSTC runs buses every hour or so, for about 90RS/$1.50) and get off at the tea plantation stop (the dudes on the bus will know what’s up). Ring the retreat when you get there, and some lovely jeep-driver will pick you up and drive you down the long, steep driveway.
We paid 15000RS/$250 each for the week, which took care of all our food, accommodation, and yoga. A bargain!