Your Mat & Your Life
Often when we think of our yoga practice, we have visions of sun salutations, perhaps of sweat dripping on to the map between our toes and of shaking thighs trying to hold ourselves in strange but appealing positions. After we finish asana, we shower, eat and our practice is rolled up with the mat and we take our shaking thighs out into the day. How do we take what we learn on the mat out and into our environment?
In our modern world we often think of our ‘environment’ as simply the location that we find ourselves in, or simply, what is around our physical bodies. However when we start to see ourselves as an interconnected part of this word 'environment' we begin to realize a deep and spiritual connection with our earth and with ourselves. It is a connection that comes with a responsibility to give back more than we take and is a part of Niyama, or the attitude we have with ourselves.
With this spirit of selfless service in mind, the concept of giving back comes naturally to a yogi or yogini. It is an extension of our practice of yoga and takes yoga from our mat and into our daily routine.
It is the same connection that inspired the Tasikoki Yoga Retreat, an event fusing animal care and yoga being held at an animal rescue center in Northern Sulawesi, Indonesia.
“It is impossible to not want to help when you arrive at Tasikoki Animal Rescue Center”, says yogini and full-time volunteer, Sarah Dixon. “You are in one of the most beautiful natural environments imaginable, yet you are caring for animals that have been through some of the most un-natural and horrible experiences imaginable, thanks to humans.”
Walking through the entrance to Tasikoki Animal Rescue Center is a somewhat surreal experience. The narrow pathway that winds through a seemingly deserted jungle suddenly emerges into the sunshine atop a small hill on the oceans edge. It is breathtakingly beautiful and a sense of peace that is only ever experienced when nature is left to speak for itself descends.
The Tasikoki Animal Rescue Center (a registered not-for-profit) was built to care for animals rescued from the wildlife and bush-meat trafficking trade, working towards their rehabilitation and release back into their native habitats. It currently cares for over 250 rescued animals including orangutans, gibbons, macaques, sun bears, a leopard, birds, crocodiles and many others.
“The animals at Tasikoki have all arrived from a variety of different situations,” explains Sarah. “Our youngest orangutan, Iz, arrived stuffed into a tiny cardboard box with two baby sun bears and a bird. He was on his way to be smuggled out of Indonesia and sold in the Philippines. The authorities were tipped off, they intercepted the trade and he was brought to us.“
“’I’m never sure how on earth they kept Iz in a box to begin with. He is so cheeky and an incredible escape artist. I love spending time with him, he watches you really closely and will play games with you all day long. It makes you think about your own existence, spending time with animals like this. Orangutans are such thoughtful and intelligent creatures capable of just as many emotional responses as we are and you can see it in their eyes.“
Most of the animals at Tasikoki are on various waiting lists to be released. There is a huge amount of time and paperwork that goes into releasing rehabilitated animals back into their natural environments. And their habitats are being destroyed at such a rapid rate, it has become increasingly difficult to find areas suitable for their release. In the meantime, this quiet 50-hectare beachfront jungle is their home.
“When you take away money as your incentive for working, it changes your attitude towards life and really does set you free. As someone who practices yoga, I am also aware of how important simply taking action is. I want to show people how to transfer that energy created on their yoga mat into powerful and constructive change for the environment and the discovery of what yoga really is,” says Sarah.
“Setting up a yoga retreat here seemed like such a natural progression. At the same time as raising much needed funding for the center, we are offering others the chance to give something back to our planet and share the incredible experience of really connecting into your environment. I can’t think of a better way to do it, than here in this amazing place with these amazing creatures.”
With passion, pure intensions and prana (energy) flowing through our bodies we are capable of achieving anything. We are all share this planet with one other and it is our responsibility as educated and aware human beings to do something positive for it. Our strength comes from that quiet, still place inside of each of us; that peacefulness we feel when we slow down and simply let ourselves connect with our natural surroundings. We have no other moment than this one right now.
For bookings and further information about the Tasikoki Yoga Retreat, look online at www.tasikokiyoga.bounce.com.au. The retreat runs from August 28 – September 3 and places are limited to just 10 people.