Dong Shan is my second home

You are soon getting your backbend! I can feel your back movement now which is a far cry from one month ago when your back felt like a steel plate to me”, exclaimed Cheuk Na the yoga teacher at Dong Shan (Dong Shan Forest Zen Monastery)!

I couldn’t believe one month has gone by so fast!

It was 9 pm on March 18, 2018 when three of us – Gary (my husband) and my mom – arrived at DS in the drizzling rain and were received by a monk whom I mistakenly thought was a porter carrying luggage. Not until the next day did I know that he was actually the assistant yoga teacher called Yan Rong. We walked quite a fair bit in almost complete darkness until we reached a flight of wooden stairs to the student resident block where I would stay for the next month. The room was so much better than I thought! Our room has big windows with two nice big queen-sized beds. Washroom however was simple with no shower curtain.

Day 1

The next morning at 4:45 am, we were led by the receptionist through darkness to the next building which housed the yoga shala on the 3rd floor. It’s a nice huge room with heated parquet flooring! What a luxury to practice yoga in such a comfortable environment! This started me off with a nice daily routine waking up at 4 am, leaving my room at 4:30 am for Mysore class.

Someone warned me of the exceptional short breakfast time lasting for only 15 minutes from 7 am! Hence, we quickly finished off our morning Mysore yoga class to quickly follow our nose to the dining hall only to find quite a few people, monks included, orderly queuing up for food from the breakfast buffet. We piled the food before us and right when we were just about to dive in, someone signalled us to be silent and to wait until the morning chants finished. I began to like the pre-breakfast & pre-lunch chant a lot and joined in later.

Life in Dong Shan was actually quite busy! Cheuk Na added one yoga workshop for new students and an afternoon restorative class. In addition to 1-2 meditation slots coupled with washing and reading time, each day seemed to fly by! Evening highlights in the form of drumming & bell singing for half hour from 9 pm put me to sleep nicely like a lullaby!

I achieved great breakthrough in Dong Shan retreat in the following areas:

  1. My mom (78) enjoyed it immensely and got back her long-lost headstand toward her last few days at Dong Shan.

  2. My yoga improved a lot with great teacher Cheuk Na! I have seen quite a few celebrity yoga teachers including Guruji & his grandson Sharath. I felt Cheuk Na who has wisely incorporated Master Nan’s breathwork teachings into her yoga teachings makes the whole practice viable & feasible for dummies like me! In particular, my backbend is now less of a struggle and I actually began to enjoy it now!

  3. My legs began to be much more agreeable for my meditation posture. I can now do padmasana (full cross-legged sitting position) for 20 minutes before changing legs to complete a full 50-minute meditation.

  4. Fasting (absolute abstinence from food & juice intake) for almost 4 days was one of my major breakthroughs! I drank only water and I could feel my mind clearing & emotions calming down. People said I look younger too!

  5. My habits improved with sleeping & waking up earlier!

  6. Good excursion trips to Lushan (庐山) & Wuyuan (婺源): Lushan (庐山) is a pretty mountainous retreat favored by important historical figures like Mao Zedong (毛泽东) & Chiang Kai-shek (蒋介石). Wuyuan (婺源) is dubbed the prettiest old town in China.

Lastly, I very much enjoyed making friends with the ten monks, whom I found much more fun-loving & cuter than expected. I owed my pleasant stay to the kitchen staff and all the assistants in Dong Shan who helped make it a near-paradise for me. I now call Dong Shan my second home!

Amy Yip 葉嘉儀
April 20, 2018