Archives for posts with tag: meditation

It was around this time last year that I packed my bags and headed off to Sri Lanka, ‘the finest island of its size in the world’ according to 13th century explorer Marco Polo. Needless to say, it didn’t disappoint: the climate, the wildlife, the people, the food, the beaches…I’d go again in a heartbeat.

I spent the first ten days at Villa de Zoysa, or ‘the White House’ as it’s affectionately known (it’s literally a huge colonial white house). This is a relaxed and affordable yoga retreat centre, and a great place to meet fellow travellers – I made some great friends during my stay. The yoga is very much optional, it’s not a strict programme; indeed, I had to take a few days off due to a surfing-related injury! The White House is situated on the south coast, a short tuk-tuk ride to the Dutch-colonial city of Galle. Here are my travel snaps of the coast, the retreat centre and Galle city.

After my stay at the White House, I took a taxi to the centre of the island, just north of Kandy. I heard some worrying things about the trains in Sri Lanka, and decided not to take the risk. I then spent a week at Ulpotha, a blissful eco-village in the heart of the Sri Lankan jungle. It was just magical. Read my full review for Queen of Retreats here.

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I spent the new year at Sharpham House in Devon – a beautiful stately home surrounded by acres of rolling hills, with breathtaking views of the River Dart.

I attended a five day meditation retreat, which involved 30 minute seated meditation sessions before breakfast, lunch and dinner. The retreat was ‘semi-silent’: the silence would begin at 9pm each evening (after a 30 minute yoga nidra session), and last until 10am the following morning. We also spent new year’s day in silence. It was divine!

Highlights: wandering in the grounds, long sleeps, delicious home-made vegetarian food, spending hours in the library curled up with a good book, having amazing conversations with the other retreat guests and making new friends, playing the piano in the music room, breathing in the fresh Devon air and having the time and space to think clearly and plan for a fun and fruitful 2017.

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There’s been something exciting going on in the London yoga scene over the past few years. There seems to have been a growing realisation that the big central London yoga studios are great for guest workshops and teacher training programmes, but when it comes to drop-in classes, they can sometimes feel a little anonymous. Fine for a gym, not so fine for a yoga studio. Throughout history, yoga has always been about community or ‘satsang’. A direct translation of satsang is ‘true company’, and the term is generally used to describe a group of like-minded people coming together to practice yoga with positive intentions.

Several small, boutique yoga studios have begun popping up in various communities around London. Down to Earth in Tufnell Park and Yoga on the Lane in Dalston are good examples.

Down to Earth studio reception

Down to Earth studio reception

I visited Down to Earth just before Christmas to take a vinyasa flow class with Clare Dobson. Down to Earth is a cute little yoga centre a few minutes walk from Tufnell Park tube station. It has just one practice room and one treatment room, but the clean, white decor makes the studio feel spacious and light.

Down to Earth yoga studio

Down to Earth yoga studio

Clare’s lunchtime class was a beautiful, flowing practice with interesting variations on classic poses, such as placing one hand on the heart in plank pose, and extending the arms out to each side in bridge pose. Clare also encouraged us to explore each pose fully and respect how our bodies felt today. I found the practice to be both strong and peaceful.

Parsvakonasana

Parsvakonasana

I’d definitely recommend visiting Down to Earth and some of the other boutique studios opening up around London – they offer great opportunities to practice in a quiet, peaceful environment, meet new people and support new health and wellbeing start-ups 🙂

In English culture, owning your own house and garden is a big deal. We don’t always pay enough attention to the beautiful green spaces that anyone can visit – regardless of their income, career, age or social status.

Image by Anne Marie Briscombe

Avenue of Plane Trees, Green Park, by Anne Marie Briscombe

There are eight Royal Parks in London: together, they make up 5,000 acres of opportunity for fresh air, picnics, exercise, getting in touch with nature and, of course, mindfulness practice.

Pelican in the sun, St. James's Park, by Anne Marie Briscombe

Pelican in the sun, St. James’s Park, by Anne Marie Briscombe

The Royal Parks press office gave me permission to share these excellent images of the parks: in this post I’m sharing spring and summertime images from Green Park, St. James’s Park and Hyde Park, in the next post I’ll share images from Regents Park and Greenwich Park.

The parks might not look quite this picturesque every day, but they definitely beat spending your lunch break sitting hunched over a computer, gobbling a Pret a Manger sandwich 🙂

Boating on the serpentine, Hyde Park, by Indusfoto Ltd

Boating on the serpentine, Hyde Park, by Indusfoto Ltd

The Royal Parks are also ideal for trying out a walking meditation practice. To do a walking meditation practice, you simply need to devote your full attention to your present experience whilst walking. Notice the soles of your shoes as they make contact with the earth, notice any sensations in the body, any external sounds in the park, the shapes and colours of the trees, water and animals. Every time your mind wanders away to past or future thoughts, take it back to your present experience. That’s it – nothing too complicated!

Horse Guard's Parade, St. James's Park, by Indusfoto Ltd

Horse Guard’s Parade, St. James’s Park, by Indusfoto Ltd

I recently came across the following advice for walking meditation by Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh:

“In our daily lives, we usually feel pressured to move ahead. We have to hurry. We seldom ask ourselves where it is that we must hurry to.

When you practice walking meditation, you go for a stroll. You have no purpose or direction in space or time. The purpose of walking meditation is walking meditation itself. Going is important, not arriving. Walking meditation is not a means to an end; it is an end. Each step is life; each step is peace and joy. That is why we don’t have to hurry. That is why we slow down.”

Would be great to see rush hour tube travellers adopt this attitude!