Archives for posts with tag: yoga

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.

dscf0099dscf0100dscf0235dscf0108dscf0181

dscf0101dscf0173dscf0108dscf0117dscf0132dscf0136dscf0138dscf0154dscf0156dscf0164dscf0166dscf0187dscf0189dscf0168dscf0211dscf0208dscf0216dscf0221dscf0243dscf0252dscf0254dscf0256dscf0281dscf0286dscf0287dscf0292

 

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.

img_1394img_1434

img_1398img_1395

img_1396img_1399

img_1407img_1402img_1430img_1450

img_1425img_1448img_1444img_1423img_1471img_1441img_1466img_1454img_1447

img_1457img_1439

 

 

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 🙂

I recently discovered tai chi and kinda fell in love with the practice. I found it to be very similar to dynamic flow yoga, the style of yoga I teach in Cambridgeshire, in that it incorporates mindful movement, using the natural breath cycle to improve posture, heighten awareness and quiet the mind.

I attended a tai chi class at the East London Community Wellbeing centre, a new social enterprise in Bethnal Green, set up to offer low-cost yoga, Pilates and wellbeing classes to the local community. Read my review of the class for Healthy Living London here.

 

 

For my third post on mindfulness in London, I thought it was time to do some yoga, so I visited The Life Centre in Islington to take a Sunday night class with Sarah Scharf.

There’s something very soothing about a Sunday night yoga class: by that time you’ve had a good 48 hours to meet with friends and family, catch up on lost sleep, get some exercise and outdoor time, and generally release any tension from the week. This makes the energy of the class completely different from a mid-week practice: Sunday night is an opportunity to really tune into your body and explore the deeper elements of yoga.

What I really loved about this class was the structure: a grounding vinyasa sequence followed by a still, restorative practice: this framework allows the student to work on strength, balance, alignment and deep relaxation all in one class.

The first hour was a slow, mindful flowing practice, with real attention to detail on key elements such as lower back posture and proper alignment in downward-facing dog pose. We also did some gentle detoxifying twists: a beautiful way to wind down before a restorative practice.

The restorative part of the class comprised just two poses, held for more than ten minutes each. The first was a gorgeous supine pose with legs slightly elevated on two bolsters, a slight internal rotation of the thighs to help release tension in the lower back, head and neck supported by a particular ‘wrapping and tucking’ set up with a blanket, another blanket covering the body up to the neck, arms in a downward-facing V and an eye pillow to help relax the face. This pose felt quite different from a typical ‘savasana’. Sarah writes in detail about the benefits of restorative yoga here, and one of the key elements of this style is to let go of any muscular work and feel fully supported by an array of bolsters, blankets, etc.

I was having such a relaxing time in this pose that I didn’t take the option of progressing to a second, prone pose, which involved lying on top of a couple of bolsters. I found the first pose to be an excellent place to practice mindfulness, and didn’t want to leave!

Sarah closed the class with a short reading from a book called ‘Comfortable with Uncertainty’ by a Buddhist nun called Pema Chodron. The reading describes how the distance between our expectation and reality can be an opportunity for growth, rather than a place of disappointment or fear. It’s a great reading. Here’s an extract:

“There’s a discrepancy between our inspiration and the situation as it presents itself. It’s the rub between those two things – the squeeze between reality and vision – that causes us to grow up, to wake up to be 100% decent, alive, and compassionate. 

The big squeeze is one of the most productive places on the spiritual path and in particular on this journey of awakening the heart.” 

Pema Chodron