Amsterdam view from Amsterdam Tower

Amsterdam view from Amsterdam Tower
The view from Amsterdam Tower

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Weekend Yoga Retreat at Cu Chi

My introduction to self-healing such as Jin Shin Jyutsu, yoga, meditation etc... started when I had back pain in 2005-2006.

The pain was gone and came back again.  I went to see doctors, took some medicine including pain killers and had physiotherapy treatments. Then I met with my friend who is a self-healing practitioner. I attended his self-healing classes.  After some private consultations, the great news was, he found out the root cause of my pain.  It was the anger I had in me toward someone.  Yes, he could tell exactly what it was.

Sunrise at Baturiti Center, Bali


The back pain reduced and came back again if I started to get tense.  Finally I decided to attend the same meditation course as the one he attended.  In 2006, I started to attend the regular Bali Usada meditation course in Jakarta.  It is eight week program and we have to attend weekly session at 8am every Sunday for two hours.  It is 30 minute meditation, and we listen to some theories about our body, mind, health and meditation.  

On and off, I practiced yoga and attended sessions on self-healing programs such as Jin Shin Jyutsu, Tapas Acupressure Technique (or TAT), etc.

View at Pacung (Saranam Eco), Bali

In August 2006, I went to Bali to attend a more serious and complete program.  It is Bali Usada Tapa Brata “7 day 6 night meditation course” in which “6 day 5 night” is noble silent; no talking, no phone, no reading, no writing.  Questions related to courses can be addressed to the instructors only. 

The back pain disappeared.  As long as I recall, it came back once or twice for a few hours or a day, when I was so tense and did not practice meditation.  Positively, the pain is the sign of imbalanced life.  It is a reminder.  May all beings be happy.  Semoga semua hidup berbahagia.

View at Pacung (Saranam Eco), Bali

Meditation creates addiction.  If we do not practice it for some time, our body and mind would tell.  I attended the same program in August 2009, and the last one was before I moved to Vietnam in June 2011.


When moving to Vietnam, one of the goals was to spend more time in yoga.  It is the law of attraction.  I go to some yoga classes in Ho Chi Minh City.  Wherever, the basic yoga is the same.  At the beginning of my stay, I was smiling when I heard the instructor’s instruction when doing some yoga poses.  Just for a small reason.  In Indonesia, for example, when we do the warrior pose, the instruction is always focusing on the right leg first.  However, in Vietnam, the instruction starts by correctly positioning the left leg.  Small thing, it is perhaps a mind habit, but it distracted my attention.  However I better smiled and get focus again -:)

I was introduced to a good yoga teacher of Sivananda yoga. I practice regularly with her.  We like to chit chat and once in a while we go to vegetarian restaurants.  She recommended me to join the Yoga Retreat Weekend Program in Cu Chi. 

I was worried that most participants in this retreat would be in advanced level.  However, I stick my mind to go.  I wish to practice yoga more.  It is a shame that I have not done it more consistently.  What the worst thing could happen to me in yoga retreat?  Other than realizing that my body is too stiff?

Yoga Retreat

The 3 day yoga retreat was held in a resort place in Cu Chi.  It is 45 miles northwest of Ho Chi Minh City. It is about 1:30 to 2 hour driving from Ho Chi Minh City.

Around 6:15 am on Friday, we gathered at the yoga center in Tan Dinh Street, District 1.  I met with other participants; a lady who used to live in Australia but now live in Ho Chi Minh City, a lady coming from Hanoi, an American lady working in Indonesia, me an Indonesian getting lost in Vietnam, and the rest are mostly living in Ho Chi Minh City. 

The Wellness Center (Ba Thoung), Cu Chi

On our way to Cu Chi, my mind was wondering around to my first trip to Cu Chi.  I visited the Cu Chi tunnel two years ago.  FYI, the tunnels were created during the Vietnam War and were the location of several military campaigns.  It was the Viet Cong's base of operations for the Tet Offensive in 1968. 

I still remember the ‘aura’ of the tunnels area.  The vibe is different than the aura of the yoga Wellness Center.  It is like 360° opposite side, as an extreme example.  Personally, I think it is a good idea to hold the yoga and meditation practices in Cu Chi in order to balance the aura and to clean up the vibes.  Well, I am not an expert on this.  My comment is something like coming in to right ear and out from left ear.  Jadi komentar saya mending masuk telinga kanan keluar telinga kiri kali yaaaa….

The Wellness Center (Ba Thuong) is often used for yoga retreat.  It is a big area of 7 ha of a quiet and green landscape.  There are different types of accommodation.  Some looks like a mini bungalow of four rooms with separate doors.  Some looks like dormitory.   

There are two halls which are used for yoga practice and lectures.  There is a spa with steam and sauna, one medium size of building for group reception, lotus ponds, and big green garden which is often used for pre-wedding photo sessions.   

Everything looks peaceful.  I was told that there are some retirees live in this resort.  They rent the bungalows for months and live a peaceful life.

Can you see the big hall across the bridge?

The Program

Swami Sitaramananda, who has been serving for more than 25 years worldwide in the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Ashrams & Centers, gave lectures and led the meditation sessions.

The program was held in Vietnamese language with English translators who are also yoga instructors.  It made sense to have it in the local language as there were more Vietnamese than the foreigners.  

When we started the afternoon session with introducing our self, it was interesting.  People came from different background, age and skills.  There were working people, yoga lovers, a teenager, housewives, and husbands.  Many of them are beginners in yoga, and some others are intermediate practitioners.  They came with different motivations; a teenager who was sent by his father, husbands were forced to accompany their wives – LOL

My personal goal was to have a peaceful and healthy yoga weekend.  In three days, we were eating healthy vegetarian cuisine and practicing yoga twice a day.  Not to mention the ‘inner’ relaxation while doing the chanting and meditation.

Yoga schedule starts early in the morning.  Wake up call is at 5 am, we then started the morning meditation at 5.30am and followed by chanting and lectures.

The plant seems like twisting his body? Just like yoga pose.

The complete daily schedule is below:
5 am:  Wake up call
5:30 am:  Satsang: meditation, chanting and short lecture
8-10 am:  Yoga Class
10 am:  Brunch
11 am:  Karma yoga (helping in the ashram)
1-2 pm:  Workshop
4-6 pm:  Yoga Class
6 pm:  Dinner
8-10 pm:  Satsang: meditation, chanting and short lecture

As reading materials, it is recommended to read “Essentials of Yoga Practice and Philosophy” by Sivananda Ashram Yoga Farm.  It is a helpful introduction to beginners.  I read the book during free time in the afternoon.  I found it helpful and it helped me to understand the lectures better.

Happy butterfly flies around the green garden at the Wellness Center

The Lectures, Workshops, Theories

During the lectures, we were taught about what Yoga is, the five points in Yoga (Yogic life), life, freedom and happiness, health, the three bodies and three gunas, ‘mind, its mysteries and control’, thought power and positive thinking’.

Some of the lectures are probably something that we already known.  However most of the times we think they are so simple, either we do not realize it or even we just ignore it.

Beautiful Lotus at the Pond at the Wellness Center

During the lectures, we were taught about i.e. positive thinking technique.  We can try to concentrate by meditation, to know the present, and to change the negative thought to positive.  Isn’t it peaceful if most people have positive thinking; love, forgiveness, joy, happiness, patient, encouraging, laughter, good, empathy, care, compassion, discipline, understanding, etc …

During one of the Q&A sessions, I asked a question to Swami Sita about the energy that we spend in writing, especially if we write something emotionally.   This question represents me as blogger, LOL.  She replied; at first, for example, if we write a diary, it is messy… but it gets clearer.  When it gets clearer, that means we got answers to our questions.  Of course it takes energy.  It is different with meditation.  In meditation, we download good energy without giving it out.  However, it is better to write or having conversation with ourselves than talking with people.  Because having conversation with people, it will add discussion and add more things to ourselves.  It is better to solve problem within ourselves before talking to other people.

Peaceful Pond at the Wellness Center, Cu Chi

I also like her answer to my other question.  For an example, if we are in a meeting room where people are debating, arguing and angry, I could feel the tenses among each other and it gives me the headache.  What is the best way to handle this situation?  Simple answer: when our energy is high, whatever energy in our surrounding that might take away our good energy, it will not impact us.  When we are low, of course the negative energy outside will absorb our energy away…

Wellness Center, Cu Chi

Thank you

After three days of peaceful yoga weekend, my worry about my body being too stiff was gone.  I was healthy both physically and mentally.  Some of my yoga poses are improved. 

I got to know more friends who also like yoga.

Thanks to the vegetarian meals – I came back slim with flat tummy, LOL.  Thanks for introducing the bean sauce to me. It is called thuong hot (my apology for the wrong spelling/tones, but another person told me it is called nước đậu because it is from đậu phụ (tofu).  It is taste similar to ‘tauco by the way.  Tauco is a paste made from preserved fermented soybeans in Chinese Indonesian cuisine.

Wholeheartedly, I want to say thank you for this refreshing retreat.  I came back fresh and inspired to face the day to day busy city like Saigon…

Peace, peace, peace…

Links that might be useful for references (listed based on alphabetical order)

Bali Usada Meditation:

Sivananda Yoga Vietnam:

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