Beginners Mind; Essential Spiritual Practice
The Essential Elements of Ashtanga Vinyasa Practice and Philosophy - a retreat with Chuck Miller
27 April to 4 May 2024
This will not be your usual Ashtanga Workshop....we will start as we always do in Ashtanga Yoga, at the Beginning
We will develop the practice from here, the Beginning. There is a lot we can learn by going deeper into the beginning. You can expect something different, and I can say confidently that it is not merely different but much more profoundly aligned with Traditional Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga as taught by Sri TK Krishnamacharya and Sri KK Pattabhi Jois.
It will help students of all levels. However, it is easier for the ‘beginners’ to accept and it will be more challenging for the more experienced. Beginning students love it and the expert students who are willing to slow down benefit tremendously.
The practice sessions will start slowly with a focus on seeing, identifying and reconditioning of habitual patterns, what we yogini understand are called Samskara.
We will learn some new vocabulary to help make changes possible.
We will explore the nature of these Samskara as well as the nature and personality of Samsara, Maya, Mara. We will learn to identify Mara sooner and treat this Mara Spirit with kindness and compassion to better enable the transformation we endeavor.
We will look deeper into the aspects of our practice that help us to understand, develop and cultivate the important aspects of practice that help not only to learn the outer forms but to penetrate the essential elements that will help us with everything we do in life.
This will have the ‘side effect’ of helping us in the physical practice, to evolve our physical abilities as we focus more on the less obvious but ever so much more important, and ultimately more enjoyable, subtle aspects.
“All great things are made of many very small things.”
There are a small number of Essential Practices contained within the practice of Ashtanga Yoga that are always present and yet not always on our mind in practice.
This retreat is open for all levels of practitioners – from beginners to advanced.
Morning Practice daily with an Afternoon Clinic.
Saturday 27 April 6pm - Introduction meeting followed by dinner.
All students should aim at attending this meeting, since we will spend some time Saturday night creating a common vocabulary.
Ashtanga Yoga conducted class moves too quickly to give much instruction in the flow and so we need to create a kind of ‘Short-Hand’ communication to add more intelligence to our practice. The practice becomes much richer as a result. The intention is to give the students valuable seeds that they can take home and cultivate to grow this beautiful practice passed on to us by our lineage of teachers.
The mornings will be for practice and the afternoons will be time for questions and answers. The students questions will guide the afternoon discussions. We will also take time in the afternoons to look deeper into things we found challenging in the morning practice sessions.
Day by day we will move through the Traditional Series clearing the way, to polish the practice.
The Beginning is more important than the end! If the beginning is not understood and practiced well we can not sustainable go very far. With a good foundation the practice will grow and unfold beautifully.
The students will need an open mind and a willingness to practice in a new way. This will likely not be what they are accustomed to. It will help students of all levels to progress in a safer and more fulfilling way. Many students want to run through their Mysore Style practice. They can do that on their own anytime they want. This will be different.
This retreat aims at giving information and tools to continue to improve long past our short time together.
“This is not merely physical exercise! It is mental clearing, cleaning, a Spiritual Practice!” Sri K K Pattabhi Jois of Mysore, South India.
This will not be your normal Ashtanga Yoga practice!
Preliminary weekly schedule
3pm Check in starts
6pm Introduction meeting followed by Dinner. Please aim at attending this meeting.
Normal day schedule Sunday 28/04 to Friday 03/05
4pm Afternoon session
Check out from rooms before breakfast
We wanted to shorten Chuck's biography, however it is a wonderful read. Hope you enjoy it. To know more about Chucks's teachings, please visit his website www.sama-ashtanga.org
"I don't know exactly when I first got interested in yoga. It seems the urge was there from a very early age. I think that is true for many of us. We don't know what it is that is calling us and yet we definitely feel it. What is interesting is what makes us answer the call! What you can no longer ignore!
My best friend and I, in 4th grade, decided, for some reason, that we wanted to sit in padmasana, so we did. It wasn't easy for us at first but we kept trying.
I found myself years later, in high school, like many of us in the 60s, dissatisfied with the world I found myself living in. I was searching for some other way to live and grow, to evolve as a human being. I could not relate to the religion I was born into and started reading books about eastern thought. Authors like DT Suzuki, Suzuki Roshi, Alan Watts, Herman Hess, Chogyam Trungpa and many others. I became a voracious reader at an early age.
In 1971, at the age of 17, a friend and I went to hear a free lecture on Transcendental Meditation in our local elementary school, Killington, Vermont. A very small rural town in the Green Mountains of 'New England.' The man was talking about following one's thoughts back to where they came from, as they bubbled up through multiple layers of awareness until they surfaced into our consciousness. That it might be possible to get to the source of thought! To be able to perceive the world, to respond and even think from the origin of thought, instead of from the outer shells. To act from a deeper place, without being trapped in the realms of pre-conditioned, biased, cyclic thought! They were trying to sell us on returning the next day, paying our $35 to take a short course and receive a free personalized mantra.
I didn't go but the concept intrigued me and I began to practice it, on a giant rock in my back yard. It was an amazing experience for me. I began to realize that all the different voices in my head were all my own voice. I was talking to myself. I realized this is how people believe they are talking to spirits or gods, or also what can make people think they are crazy! I started to understand where these 'voices' were 'coming from!' That this is very deep, very ancient...
Later that year I found a book, "Be Here Now," by Baba Ram Das, which included simple pranayama and asana practices which I also included on a daily basis. I was hooked! It connected many of the missing links I was struggling with. The title of the book became my mantra! "Be Here Now!"
In 1974 I found the book Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar. The Introduction was one of the most profound things I had read up to that moment. I began working through the practices contained in there. They were laid out in weekly routines, with photos in a different part of the book and descriptions for how to do the postures in yet another place! Complicated! It was later edited to be more usable. The book became my constant companion, I had created a special pocket for it in my backpack. It was complicated but I was motivated and after about 3 years I had managed to get to the recommended week 35 or so. I thought that I must be a very slow student! Years later talking to others who tried the same I found that actually I had done pretty well!
In 1980, intrigued that here was a man who had studied with the same teacher as Iyengar, I met Sri K Pattabhi Jois. When he asked me who my teacher was I replied "book." What book he asked. "Light on Yoga." Oh, you are Iyengar student! So he called me that for the first month as I began practicing Ashtanga Yoga. I continued with him intensively for many years and intermittently until his death.
In March of 1988 I got permission from Guru-ji to teach Primary Series and was pushed into the yoga room and began teaching Ashtanga Yoga. I taught in the same school, almost the same time for 17 years. Many of the students came for years and years. It was a great experience for me. I hope it was for them as well!
After selling the school and moving to Hawaii Island, "The Big Island," I began accepting invitations to teach in other cities around the world and continue to do that today.
Having the belief that Ashtanga Yoga is strong enough, with enough internal integrity to withstand scrutiny, I studied with many different teachers and tested those teachings on my own mat... that continues today! I found the same internal truths in the deeper realms of all great practices and started calling the conflicts between them "semantic differences."
Today I like to point to what I call "Sama," as that sameness that exists everywhere.
Finding the sameness between Philosophy and Practice continues to inform my practice and thus my teaching."
Practical details about the retreat center
Currently the internet at the retreat is not reliable. If you are dependent on internet for work, we ask you to bring your own data on your phone, to which you can connect your laptop, if needed. Phones work very well. There is also a cafe 10 minutes from the retreat with good internet, however, it is a busy cafe and not very suitable for work.
Finca Naranjas (previously Cristoforo), our retreat centre is a very simple yet beautiful place, built by an architect named Denis Devaris, who had an intention to create a meeting point for Spiritual seekers. Built slowly over 30 years using volcanic rocks from the island, the rooms are all unique with their own distinct personalities featuring beautiful details and personal touches. Given the nature of these types of buildings, imperfection is to be expected with a plumbing system not quite up to modern standards! However, set right into the land with a wonderfully lush garden, Cristoforo really is an oasis in South Tenerife. When packing for your retreat, make sure you add warmer clothes. From December till March the mornings and evenings can be quite chilly. The rooms are not heated, but are equipped with cozy duvets and hot water bottles for the beds. All rooms are equipped with a water kettle.
The food served at the retreat will be mainly vegan and completely vegetarian, prepared freshly everyday by our wonderful retreat chefs. We try were possible to use local and organic products. We sometimes use eggs or dairy in the kitchen. If you have food allergies/sensitivities, please let us know. Gluten free options are available. We have a self service tea & coffee station for guest use and try to provide fruit for snacking during the day.
You have the option to enjoy your food either inside or outside in the beautiful garden.
Maximum number of students is 25.
Morning classes will be taught with maximum 16 students in each class.
Practice will take place inside the beautiful wooden garden Shala. Savasana is usually taken outside to make space in the Shala, especially during full retreats and occasionally afternoon workshops will take place outside. Make sure you pack warm practice clothes for Savasana.
Arrival day and check out.
The rooms are available after 3pm. The retreat starts with an introduction meeting at 5pm, followed by dinner at 6.30pm. All students should aim to arrive for the introduction meeting. The first practice is on Sunday morning and the last practice is on Friday in the morning. The check out is on Saturday at 9am.
We have 4 different accommodation options. The list below shows the rooms that are available to book.
The premium rooms are the largest rooms at the retreat. These rooms have attached indoor bathrooms.
Shared: 1250 GBP
Currently available: Venus, Casa Blanca
Single: 1550 GBP
Currently available: Danae 1, La Granja, Casita 1, Casita 2, Palmera
The standard rooms are smaller than the premium rooms. These rooms have attached, indoor bathrooms.
Shared: 1050 GBP
Currently available: Ficus, 5 Peldanos
Single: 1350 GBP
Currently available: 6 Peldanos
The budget rooms are the smallest rooms at the retreat. Some of the rooms share bathrooms, a few of them are outdoors bathrooms. In a few of the rooms there may have disturbance from the road.
Shared: 900 GBP
Currently available: Consulta 1, Fuente 2, Peregrino, Pino de Oro, Bella Dormiente
Single: 1200 GBP
Currently available: Consulta 2, Fuente 1
Dormitory ( 3 persons sharing)
The dormitory is a spacious room for 3 persons. It has an attached bathroom.
Shared: 780 GBP
Currently available: Danae 2
The accommodation price is all-inclusive (includes accommodation, all meals and yoga). There is an option to pay a deposit of 50% of the full amount to secure your place. The deposit is non-refundable and the balance must be paid at least 4 weeks prior to the start date.
Please note that we have a limited amount of single rooms for this retreat. Before booking a single room confirm availability with us on email@example.com.
To book this retreat, follow the link below and complete the form to make your payment.
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