July Greetings from Shankar

The peas are head high, the strawberries are ripening and the first meal of new potatoes can’t be far off. The swallows’ nest just outside the kitchen door has been home to scores of swallows over the years, and has entertained countless staff and guests, and more than a few wide-eyed children. Now the latest batch of fledglings are ready to take their first step into the hitherto unknown world of flying. Meanwhile inside the main house, 39 new students, from as far away as Thailand and England, are taking their first steps in our Yoga Teacher Training program, now in its tenth year. Based on our experience over the years, this will be a life-changing program for most of them. Many find out about us by word of mouth from our graduates in the community at large. An increasing number cite our new website as the way they were attracted to the Centre. This may also explain why more first-time guests are coming to our Yoga Getaways.

Last Sunday the Centre hosted Dharma Sara’s Annual General Meeting featuring an excellent series of reports from the different operational areas. Progress at the Centre has been steady throughout 2010 and the first half of 2011 and this newsletter has given updates on all our building and renovation projects. Less obvious are the major changes in work scheduling and this has made the scheduler’s task far less stressful. The KYSS program has also been streamlined with fewer sessions, fewer KYs and session-long schedules, again simplifying the administrative load. With improved efficiencies in all areas we will be better prepared to take on some of the larger building projects the Board is considering, such as new KY and guest housing and a new hall/asana space larger than the satsang room.

Babaji and AD (Anand Dass) demonstrating asanas on a table in the tennis court at the 1977 yoga retreat in Oyama.

At the Centre on Thursday July 14th, starting at 8am, we celebrate Guru Purnima, the special occasion each year when we honour Babaji and all spiritual teachers. Two weeks later on Thursday July 28 is the start of our annual retreat now renamed the Annual Community Yoga Retreat. On a summer day in 1974 Bababji said to a small group of us: “If you have a retreat, I will come.” Enjoy reading some of Sharada’s memories from those first memorable  retreats in this article. For 33 consecutive years Babaji attended, so in 2008 when Babaji stopped traveling it was hard to contemplate a retreat without him. This is now our fourth retreat since then and this annual event is still a wonderful community event. Last year with the return of the Hanuman Olympics and the concert by Sachdev, the bansuri master, the retreat was exceptional, as you can see clearly from these photos. Come to the Centre July 28th and join us for this 37th joyful gathering of our extended community.

In peace,

Yogurt & fresh herb dressing

Perfect for dressing the salad greens springing forth from your garden or purchased on the weekend from your local farmer’s market, this creamy dressing features fresh herbs like parsley or dill.

(Makes 3.5 cups)

  • 2 cups yogurt (use low fat yogurt for a calorie conscious option)
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup chopped leeks
  • 1 Tbsp tamari
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2-3 rounded Tbsp honey
  • 1 cup fresh herbs like parsley or dill weed

In a blender, combine all ingredients until smooth. Enjoy!

Recipe reproduced from The Salt Spring Experience: Recipes for Body, Mind and Spirit.
If you would like to purchase a copy of our popular book, contact us and we’d be happy to send you one.

Photo by Whitney in Chicago.

37 Years of Yoga Retreats: A look back to the beginning

Our first yoga retreat was way back in 1975. Babaji had told us when he visited in 1974, “If you have a retreat, I will come.” What more incentive did we need? None of us had run a retreat before, but we learned by doing. The first retreat was at a camp we rented in White Rock, outside of Vancouver. It lasted 10 days and rained for 9 of them. We had a few teachers and a lot of naïve enthusiasm. I can’t remember how many people came, but it was probably around 200. We had a great, if wet, time – and we learned a lot!

We held the next few retreats at a children’s camp in Oyama in the interior of BC. Before the retreat, we’d gather for what we called pre-retreat, which was both a special time for us to be with Babaji and a time to pack vehicles with materials we’d need for the retreat.

The camp wasn’t available to us till 1:00 pm, and we’d open the doors for registration at 4:00. In those 3 hours we’d scour the camp from top to bottom and set everything up. There was no such thing as pre-registration in those days. People just showed up; those who wanted to help were assigned jobs. Between 300 – 400 people came.

Babaji and AD (Anand Dass) demonstrating asanas on a table in the tennis court at the 1977 yoga retreat in Oyama.

Yoga classes were held wherever there was space, including the tennis court and a large tent. There were no yoga mats (yoga mats didn’t exist yet) so folks did asanas on blankets or foamies while Babaji and Anand Dass demonstrated postures on a table.

During the day there were all the same classes we have now – shat karma, pranayama, meditation, yoga theory. We also had our famous canoe races – the beginnings of the future Hanuman Olympics.

At meal times everyone sang kirtan while waiting for the food line in the dining room to move. Babaji sat with the children at a table in the middle of the room and entertained them by flipping paper plates with a fork while the adults waited for their food. This did not exactly calm the kids down, but they had a great time – and the parents couldn’t say anything because it was Babaji causing the excitement.

Kirtan in the evenings was very lively, with lots of people dancing at the back of the large hall. We had other evening entertainments as well, with many a hilarious skit that was created and “rehearsed” during the retreat.

Registration at the first retreat at the Centre, 1982. The caption underneath says, "Freedog (my dog) registering for the retreat."

After a few years Babaji directed us to buy land. The story of the search for and purchase of the land is another story, but we finally did buy the land on Salt Spring in 1981. We held our retreat that year at a camp on the Sunshine Coast. The first retreat at the Centre was in the summer of 1982. Despite running out of water that summer, it was a fabulous retreat in our new home.

Back then there were no computers, and people signed up upon arrival. Over time we became more efficient, but some things haven’t changed. Retreats still offer excellent classes, a program for children, amazing organic food, and a chance to get together to study and play. Some people return every year and new people continue to join us.

A whole generation has grown up with the experience of the annual yoga retreat. Now some of those people, along with other young people, are taking on responsibilities in all the areas of the retreat.

Babaji came to our retreats every year for many years. We have many fond memories of sitting with him under the maple tree and working on projects like rock walls, all of which were built during summer retreats. Now he’s 88 and doesn’t travel any more, but his teachings are embedded in the very air we breathe at the Centre.

Sitting under the tree with Babaji, 1975 retreat.

This year is our 37th annual retreat. The name has changed a few times, the original name being “the yoga retreat”, then for a few years “the Annual Family Retreat”, and now, to better reflect the fullness of our community, “the Annual Community Yoga Retreat“.

This year we are also celebrating the Centre’s 30th anniversary and the 100th anniversary of the program house built by the Blackburn family from Scotland all those years ago. We’re anticipating another wonderful retreat and we look forward to seeing you here.


Enjoy some photos of last year’s retreat.
Find out more about this year’s retreat, which runs from July 28th – August 1st, 2011.