From the time when 10 Russian tourists landed up to do the 8-day Hatha Yoga program in the Isha Yoga Center in 2016, Isha’s activities in the country have been growing steadily. After an exclusive Inner Engineering Retreat program in Russian for 38 people at the Isha Yoga Center and Sadhguru’s first official visit to Russia, Isha has made significant inroads into the country. A 7-day Inner Engineering program was recently conducted in Moscow for 54 people. Below, volunteers share some interesting stories from the first ever Inner Engineering program in the land of the Volga.

“It was windy and pitch dark. The temperature had already fallen to nearly -18 degrees, and there was snow everywhere outside. But the atmosphere inside was so joyful and festive, that it felt as if the volunteers were arranging the hall for a Christmas celebration,” said Yuri, a full-time ashram volunteer, who had gone to Moscow to translate the class content in Russian.

54 people from 16 cities in Russia, and three neighboring countries Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan, turned up for the first ever Inner Engineering class in the country. As soon as they entered, they seemed overwhelmed by the warmth with which the volunteers welcomed them. Some volunteers helped them take their coats and shoes off and put them in the racks, some ushered them to their places, while some simply stood with folded hands embracing them all.

The venue, located in a posh central location close to the Kremlin area in Moscow, was arranged by a participant, who had done the Surya Kriya program earlier.  It was new, relatively small and not yet equipped to handle more than 55 participants, so the registration had to be stopped at 55, leaving another 100 on the waiting list. “It feels like people in Russia are waiting for this,” said Anna, one of the Inner Engineering teachers there for the program. Sadhguru had also mentioned after his visit to Russia that there is a palpable sense of seeking in the people there.

“I was amazed how they were so eager to grasp everything that was being offered in the class – be it the practice session, or Sadhguru’s videos or the teacher’s session – they were full of intriguing questions. They were so involved in the class that each time Sadhguru would ask in the video, ‘Yes or No?’ they would all loudly say, ‘Yes!’ in Russian,” said Yuri.

“It was reassuring that not even one person questioned Sadhguru’s photo and the lamp – something not usual in Russian culture. Most participants had been watching Sadhguru’s videos on Youtube for sometime already, and I feel they were already exposed to the science behind yoga and spiritual wisdom. In fact, all 25 Rudraksha malas that we carried from India were sold out. It didn’t feel like the first Isha Yoga class in the country,” said Anna.

On the initiation day, the games were held on a frozen lake in a park nearby. The atmosphere was really charged up and attracted many onlookers. During the program, most shared that they experienced high energy states within them – something they had never experienced before.

While the class was ON, the volunteers were ON too, ensuring that everything happened smoothly. Except for two of them, all others were first-time volunteers. Starting from hunting for Indian spices and other ingredients to arranging the shoes, everything was new for most of them. Sujatha, an Indian based in Moscow for 20 years, shares below some interesting behind-the-scene stories:

A Makeshift Multistoried Kitchen

In the process of preparing banana-peanut porridge for the participants on Saturday, we realized that the largest of the 3 blenders available was leaking. We were left with 2 small blenders for 70 people. Since the kitchen was small and close to the hall, the noise would have been audible in the class. Thankfully we had 2 hand blenders with us as well. We split the team – 2 people went with the blenders and peanuts to the basement and 2 with the bananas and hand blenders to the first floor, while a hot drink was prepared on the ground floor. After the breakdown of some equipment, nerves and teams, the bananas, peanuts and teams merged to serve the best tasting porridge breakfast.

It was wonderful to see how much the participants enjoyed the completely vegetarian food.

Shoes and Smiles

While entering the center, we requested the participants to take off their shoes and leave them in the small cloak room. This arrangement worked well when they were walking in a few at a time. However, since they would all leave at the same time after class, the small area would be a bottle-neck for those trying to put on their shoes and those putting on their jackets. While they were still in class, we spread some old newspapers all along the corridors and neatly arranged their shoes in rows, so they could easily pick out their shoes before proceeding to the cloak room to wear their jackets. The participants were deeply touched by this gesture and left with a smile despite the cramped space and associated inconvenience. Perhaps it was the first time in Russia that someone arranged their shoes with so much love.

A Hot Lesson

When you are a volunteer, it is never a good idea to sit back and relax, as one of our volunteers found out the “hot” way. As he leaned back on a window sill, which had a burning candle on it, people around started smelling something burning. It couldn’t be the food, as it wasn’t cooked at all! It took a few minutes to figure out that it was the outer layer of his several t-shirts and sweat shirts that he had put on to keep warm in -20 degrees – and owing to the many layers he didn’t feel the burn!

The Hired Volunteers

The owner of the center, who was a participant in the class, and his staff at the center were deeply touched by what Sadhguru had to offer, and the way our volunteers were. They were very cooperative and went out of their way to help us organize the class. We shared our food with the staff, and the owner in turn had them leave us fruits every day in the kitchen, lest we felt hungry. They became so much a part of us, we at times forgot that they were not volunteers.

A Young Friend

This sharing would be incomplete without mentioning a young friend who has not undergone Inner Engineering himself but is a natural volunteer. Though he is working towards his Masters in Aerospace Engineering, he was the first one to come to the center every morning and left after all the volunteers had gone. He was involved in the AV setup, registration desk, kitchen and any other area that demanded some attention. He has offered to help with the second class too, while he waits for his turn to undergo the Inner Engineering class himself. All the volunteers were deeply touched by his dedication.

The participants were hugely grateful and inspired by the dedication of the volunteers. Some of them hugged them as they left, shedding tears of gratitude.

Editor’s Note: The second Inner Engineering class in Russia happened from March 22-25. There were over 100 people on the waiting list for this program also, so we can expect more Inner Engineering programs in the country soon!