Yoga retreats in Ukraine help bring fresh perspective to life
The main rule: don’t make a sound for 10 days. For the first three days, she focused on all the things she had failed to do or had not done in time. For the next three days, she focused on her body and how it feels to be alive. After six days, a new feeling arose.
“I felt at peace with myself, the kind of peace I cannot describe in words,” says Maria Ulyanovska, 24.
Ulyanovska’s life-changing experience came at a yoga retreat in 2014. Then, and at a second retreat in 2016, she learned how to cut herself off from the constant flow of information that bombards people.
Under the guidance of experienced practitioners, retreat participants attempt to disconnect from the bustle of everyday life.
A retreat can last from three days to a month or more. Often it involves staying silent and not using smartphones or tablet computers. People go to secluded places outside the city and meditate in groups.
In some cases, clients are directed by a yoga teacher to fast for a day or two, and sometimes they must eat only vegetarian food.
Ukraine offers plenty of options for a yoga retreat. Here’s a guide:
Ulyanovska went on a Vipassana meditation retreat. This type is one of India’s most ancient as a remedy for many ills. Courses are free, run solely on a donation basis. Vipassana is taught at 10-day residential courses. In Ukraine, the courses take place in Kyiv Oblast.
Ulyanovska said she chose this type of meditation to experience spiritual growth. “There are lots and lots of people who want to practice this meditation, that’s why all the places are usually booked by the end of the first day when the registration opens, two months before the course,” she says.
Ulyanovska said the experience is not for everyone. At the retreat center, people wake up at 4 a.m. Three times a day they have meditation hours during which they are forbidden to move, while the rest of the day they meditate in silence, eat simple food and go to bed.
Groups can be as large as 150 people. For the course schedule and registration form, go to www. ua.dhamma.org.
Not all retreat centers are so strict. The Yantry Retreat Center, located in Zakarpattiya Oblast, is surrounded by picturesque views of the Carpathian Mountains.
Visitors can decide how many hours they are ready to devote to meditation and silence.
It’s not just Ukrainians who are attending such yoga retreats.
Mario Wekker, 40, from the Netherlands, was looking for a place to escape his busy life. He had considered a Buddhist retreat in the United States, a Tai-Chi-Chi meditation course in Thailand and even dog-sleigh racing in Lapland, but found an advertisement for Yantry Retreat Center and attended a course in the winter of 2016.
“It was almost a dream came true,” Wekker said. “The hotel was built in Tibetan style, the serene atmosphere carried me away, with all the incense, and the sounds of the little bells and singing bowls made me feel so much at home that I decided that this would be the best place to spend my holidays.”
Tourists can choose whether they want to live in a single room, a double room or in a hostel with up to six people in a dormitory. Cost varies by season, but ranges from Hr 200–1400 ($8-$54) per day, food not included.
www.yantry.com, email@example.com, +38067 420 4534, +38066 631 2321
The Nisagra Center arranges retreats up to five times a year in various locations, even outside Ukraine. In Ukraine, the most common locations are hotels in Kyiv Oblast or the Carpathian Mountains.
“There are two types of people who like to come to retreat practices,” says Denis Milovadov from the Nisarga Center. “Those who have earned enough money and who have started to worry about their spiritual growth, and those who feel lost and yearn to sort out their feelings.”
The Nisagra Center’s retreats last from a week to more than a month. People stay silent, communicate only with their mentors and meditate at least a couple of hours per day in closed spaces in silence. They also have to follow a vegetarian diet.
“Don’t think that the retreat practice is something that has come to our culture from the East,” says Milovadov. “Christianity also embraces such a thing as seclusion.”
The price of a place on a Nisarga Center yoga retreat is $300–400.
Other places to go
There are other retreat centers catering to Ukrainians’ desire to find inner peace through Oriental traditions.
The Gayatri Center offers a threeday retreat, a one-day yoga class, and instruction in the fundamentals of yoga.
The three-day retreat, bed and board included, costs $100.
The Minkovka Retreat Center in Kharkiv Oblast caters to people with some experience of the practice of yoga and meditation. To attend, clients have to learn basics about the practice of yoga first.
People do yoga in the Yantry Retreat Center, located near the village of Rakhiv in the Carpathian Mountains, in June 2017. (Courtesy)