This was the highlight of my January programme and I was honoured to welcome along a wonderfully warm and wise group of yoginis. With a whole day to spend together we had time for introductions before I offered some thoughts on living consciously, the Dharma I’ve chosen to take through my teaching this year.
A yogic lifestyle requires Satva or truthfulness and, in my opinion, there’s no better place to start than with ourselves; to be our own wisest teacher requires us to stay watchful for ego, guard against lethargy and to observe carefully, without judgement. I see these as the foundations of a truthful practise – one that expedites self-awareness and allows us to find out for ourselves where we can give more and when we should “back off”. The key tool is our breath, our inner guru, and so the day began with a class to awaken and cultivate steady, rhythmic breathing before aligning this with movement in a continuous flow sequence.
The first session was designed to be gently warming; as we took a break for tisanes and healthy nibbles I could see I’d done my job – everyone looked radiant! It was at this point that I wondered if my reboot description had been clear enough! There were clues in my choice of words though – “fat-torching sequences to sculpt and tone upper body, abs, butt and thighs” a slight giveaway that signing up might involve some work!
We started the second strengthening sequence with our hands placed on our stomachs. In ancient times this was considered our “fire centre” and Ayurvedic practitioners stress the importance of a strong digestive fire or Agni. So, forming the Agni mudra, to help stoke up our inner strength and draw upon our fierce spirit, we began! Infusing traditional, time-honoured poses with some 21st century body conditioning, we worked towards strong peak poses using “Vinyasa Krama” sequencing or a step by step approach so that each yogi could choose a level of effort just right for their body. Eighty minutes later there was an arc of motionless yogis in restful Savasana and an air of blissful calm.
Lunch was a salad of radicchio, rocket, red grapefruit, walnuts and Kalamata olives served with cashew cheese and baobab dressing. It was a chance to chatter and moan (about the harsh yoga teacher!) as well as sharing life experiences, humour and warmth amongst ourselves. The calm of Savasana now replaced by laughter and noisy energy.
After lunch I’d promised a talk – this is the bit that always makes me feel nervous. I’m used to sharing my views on healthy eating and tips on yoga but what I don’t often share is the stories and events through my life’s journey that have shaped my philosophies and strengthened my self-reliance. For me, finding resilience in adversity has played a pivotal role and so I felt I had to share some of my improbable but true stories!
There was just enough time left for a final calming practise; a change of music dictated a slower pace giving us time to move into poses more deeply and remain in some restorative poses for longer. Finding the space between effort and relaxation is where we learn to surrender to the pose without struggle or harm – giving in rather than giving up!
I had rashly promised that everyone would leave feeling renewed – perhaps that was euphemistic! But everyone did leave smiling, with a little bag of yoga treats and a Yoga Magazine to curl up on the sofa with!