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Posting of the Month - My Retreat with Firooza Ali Razvi

29 May 2023

Photo of class in headstand at Firooza retreat march 2023




Just squeezing in to May, here is our Posting of the Month.

Our Student Representative, Honi Loudon, shares her experience of joining a retreat with Firooza Ali Razvi in a Tibetan Buddhist Centre, near Dehradun in India.


My Retreat with Firooza Ali Razvi by Honi Loudon

I was so very lucky to go on an Iyengar Yoga retreat with Firooza Ali Razvi in India in 2018. That experience gave me so much more than I could possibly have anticipated that I signed up the day I left for the next retreat! 

This was to have been in the autumn of 2020 but, of course, the COVID pandemic struck and all of our lives changed and the 2020 retreat indefinitely postponed. So, it was extremely exciting to find the retreat rescheduled for this year, March 2023. Almost all the people who had been on the 2018 retreat, were signed up to come again.

It was a bit daunting, especially after all the lock-downs and crises people had suffered during the pandemic, to set off on such a journey to Dehradun. Also, I had a bit of a worry in the back of my mind that it could never live up to the transformative experience of the first retreat.

As it turned out, it was even better and Firooza herself, a most modest person, said that she felt she had taught her best retreat yet this spring. 

The retreat is held at the lovely Tarab Ling Institute, a Tibetan Buddhist Centre, near Dehradun in India. It is described as "a serene, green, peaceful place of contemplation and study in the foothills of the Himalayas", which is absolutely true. 

Tarab Ling sits on a hillside looking down over a wide river valley where subsistence farming is still the mainstay of life. The woods below are filled with birdsong all day long and goats wander beneath the trees foraging, while family groups of monkeys swing through the trees on the look out for something to eat! Outside my bedroom were three lime trees all in blossom attracting a stunning collection of butterflies with their sweet scent. 


But the main point, of course, was the yoga!

Rising before dawn, soon after 4am, gave enough time to make a cup of tea and do a bit of stretching and warming up before the paranyama class started at 5 and ran until 7am. There were about 40 of us in the hall sitting in silence until Firooza started the opening Oms and we followed her through a series of chants. Then we were instructed in and enjoyed the benefits of breathing exercises for two hours. 

This, needless to say, meant you started your day on a completely different plain of contemplation and wellbeing than we can usually afford in our daily lives. I always felt like I was walking on air when it came time to leave the hall. But a good appetite after morning practice meant we were all soon assembled again in the dining room for hot tasty parathas, bowls of curd and fresh chopped fruit and wonderfully warming chai. 

People took their time and chatted and sat on the terrace catching the first warmth of the morning's sun before our Asana class started  - another 2 hours - but this time with lots of headstands, forward bends, twists, shoulder-stands and so on. Always a rich mixture with a particular focus and where we helped each other in twos and threes to get the most of each pose and understanding not only the 'how' but the 'why' of each pose. 

Everyone was always aware of being under the beady eye and strong instruction of Firooza. She can certainly be stern and has high expectations of effort from each of us, but she also has a quirky and sometimes mischievous, sense of humour which could quickly have us all laughing through our exertions. 


After lunch, which was often slow and full of good conversation, everyone did their own thing - making notes on the grass under the mango trees, sleeping, catching up with family back home, walking around the little village. We were on the edge of where the main work at that moment seemed to be harvesting fresh green coriander seed pods and setting them out in the sun to dry. Some made dashes to town for shopping and many a beautiful woven shawl went home in the packing. 

From 4:30 - 5:30 Firooza held a Q & A philosophy class which was fascinating and student-led. We were encouraged to give her questions in the morning or the day before and she would talk on the subjects we had raised. 

With a Masters in Philosophy, her deep understanding of the Yoga Sutra’s of Patanjali and other ancient texts forming the basis of yoga, meant these sessions were of great interest. They illuminated not only her own teaching but also her experiences with B.K.S. Iyengar over the many, many years she worked with and for him.

Our last class of the day was a second paranyama class from 6 - 8pm. A few days after the arriving, Firooza decided to make the retreat silent from the start of this class until the end of the first class of the morning. This was a new experience for me, and many others, and had the most wonderful effect of consolidating and holding whatever peacefulness and openess of mind we had achieved during the class. 

Supper was held in silence and, as night fell early and the air got cold, we were all happy to be tucked up in bed with our hot water bottles (40 of them filled nightly) around 9pm most nights.

We were taught by one of the finest teachers of Iyengar yoga today and looked after by a crew of the kindest, ever-willing local workforce under the gentle management of the Institute's director Norbu.

I feel sure that everyone of us who was lucky enough to be there will feel great gratitude for such a marvellous and enriching experience.




Honi Loudon
EiYC Student Representative

Photo of Student Representative Honi Loudon