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Transformative Bliss: A Journey into Happiness at the Art of Living Retreat Center

Updated: Feb 27

At the beginning of November, Dr. Birch and I were invited to experience the Happiness Retreat available at the Art of Living Retreat Center in Boone. Words could never do it justice, but the experience was nothing short of breathtaking—quite literally. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains on 380 acres of pure wilderness and tranquility, the AOLRC was founded by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, a noted and beloved spiritual teacher. He established the Art of Living Foundation in 1981 as an international nonprofit, educational, and humanitarian organization with regional centers in over 150 countries. Luckily, one of those centers is right here in Charlotte's very own backyard in the beautiful area of Boone.

Appalachian mountains rolling in blues

Sri Sri states his mission with this organization is to promote world peace, and this message is boldly evident in every facet of the retreat center. From the Ayurvedic cuisine, rolling hills, to their immersive programs promoting total body wellness, this center is truly making a positive impact in the holistic healing space.

The Happiness Retreat is one of many available retreats at the AOLRC, and this program specifically consists of a 3-day immersive pranayama (breath-work) workshop. The breath-work taught is specifically The SKY method, a breathing pattern designed by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar after undergoing a ten-day silent retreat in nature. In this ten-day vow of silence, he said the breathing method was "revealed" to him. Now, I know to some, that can seem a little "woo-woo," but the proof is in the pudding. They have since taken this practice to the masses as it has been shown to decrease depression and anxiety. Some incredible findings indicate that those who have participated in this regimen experience a 33% increase in immune cell count, 21% increase in life satisfaction, and a 57% decrease in cortisol (the stress hormone). This practice has been so successful that even Yale has done a study on it, and if you are interested in learning more about that study, click this link.

SKY breath is a trademarked practice, and although I cannot take you through a step-by-step process, I can give you some insight into how this practice has affected me personally. As someone who has lived with a dysregulated nervous system for as long as I can remember, I can honestly say this practice has changed my life.

Getting through your first few sessions can prove exhausting and tedious, but with patience, the practice creates a life of its own. I had my major breakthroughs with this practice when I returned home and did the practices alone. During these sessions, my entire body gets tingly, and it is almost as if I can feel every cell and every atom working in bright unison. The inner vibration is so intense that, in the beginning, I found myself opening my eyes just to make sure I wasn't violently shaking, as it felt like I was. Upon assessing my physical self, I was as still as could be.

When the breathing commences, you lay down in savasana to meditate. During this passive phase of the practice, the inner roaring is strong but then quickly subsides and gives way to the most calm and serene inner space I have ever experienced. A truly meditative state. Doing that nearly every day has had its compounding effects. Now I am at the point where I come home and I crave the practice because my body knows the reward will be an inner calmness and space that is truly priceless.

Forgive me for the pop culture reference, but the best visual example I can give to describe this newfound inner space is the Cardigan music video with Taylor Swift. For those of you who are not "swifties," essentially she is playing her piano and then she opens the top of the instrument and climbs inside. The video then cuts to a scene where Taylor finds herself in a magical enchanted land where she plays her piano in complete solitude and peace. Once you cultivate this inner space, anytime you close your eyes, you can go back there. I can't begin to describe how incredible it is to have something like this in my emotional regulation toolkit, and I know many of you out there are looking for that kind of peace and resolve too.

A couple of things I feel worth mentioning are: show up to the practice as you are that day. Don't compare it to "that one really good session" and allow yourself to show up as your current self. That's where I'm finding the real magic lies, in radical acceptance of yourself. Secondly, music is a great tool to utilize during these sessions. I like the Self Care Package by Londrelle and any album by Beautiful Chorus. You will experience beingness in a new fashion that I believe can truly make you a happier individual. If I learned anything from this retreat, it's that happiness is a choice. We don't need anything to be happy, just the air in our lungs and the love in our hearts, and the rest will follow.

If you are interested in experiencing this magic for yourself, I would suggest checking out the AOLRC and booking their signature Happiness Retreat. Click HERE for $100 off your retreat when you partner with IVY Integrative!

Author: Mickey Hardy  


This information is generalized and intended for educational purposes only. Due to potential individual contraindications, please see your primary care provider before implementing any strategies in these posts. 



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