YOGA IN THE WEALD OF KENT
By CHANTAL COOKE
Standing on one leg, threading one arm round and back and trying to pull the other arm so far around my back that I can grab my other hand, and then attempting to stand up… no it’s not the contortionists’ convention, it’s a weekend yoga retreat.
Personally I don’t consider myself a yoga person, and have never found it a particularly appealing form of exercise, but to be fair, I haven’t really tried it either. So a weekend retreat with SACRED MASTERY YOGA in Oxon Hoath in the Kentish Weald was a baptism of fire. And one I’d be willing to repeat.
Joey Miles was our teacher for most of the weekend and he explained and demonstrated the postures clearly – but more importantly he explained the aim of the posture. And to my surprise it’s not all about who can bend furthest, or touch their nose to their toes. It’s about maintaining the position and, most importantly, maintaining the correct breathing; if you are finding a posture difficult think about the breathing; if your muscles are screaming focus on your breathing; and if you’re finding it all very easy and relaxing – make sure you are breathing.
At the end of Friday evening’s two hour session I was feeling stretched, strengthened and quite exhausted – but also far more interested in what yoga has to offer.
The Saturday morning session was intense and at times a struggle of mind over matter as I attempted to calmly ignore the fire in my muscles and focus on my breath and other parts of my body – in other words the parts that weren’t screaming at me. But by the end of it, it all seemed worthwhile. My body felt lengthened, my back was softer and more relaxed and every joint felt as though it had just a little bit more movement.
The key to a good yoga session is a good teacher. That means one that can explain and demonstrate the postures as well as correct a posture if you aren’t quite getting it right. But there’s more to it than that.
It’s easy to go to any exercise class and compare yourself to the other people in the room. Are they fatter or thinner? Are they bendier or stiffer? Can they squat with their heals on the floor, or thread an arm around and through their bent leg and grab it with the other hand? It’s human nature to look and compare and compete. But this isn’t always healthy, and it’s certainly not the best idea in yoga. Each posture is individual to the person. There will be some where you will be super-flexible, and others where you’ll struggle to move at all. It’s irrelevant. It’s about doing what you can do – and breathing! And a good teacher should make sure that everyone in the class feels comfortable with their own level and doesn’t feel judged or in competition. My experience of most exercises classes is that this ability to remove judgement from the room is a rare talent. Fortunately for us yoga newbies in the class, it is a talent that Joey possesses.
Oxon Hoath is a great place to attend a retreat. The stately home is set in lush, well-kept grounds with breath-taking views across the valley. Fields and trees roll away into the distance and you can almost believe that you are back in the early 1800s with no cars and tarmac roads to litter the countryside.
Plus the food is delicious. All the meals are home-cooked, vegetarian and bursting with flavour. There is tea and coffee on tap all day and extra snacks if need a top up.
I may have arrived on Friday a yoga-sceptic. But by Sunday I was ready to book my next retreat.
Sacred Mastery Yoga – http://www.sacredmasteryyoga.com
Oxon Hoath – http://www.oxonhoath.co.uk/
About the Author:
Chantal Cooke is an award winning journalist and broadcaster with a passion for the planet. In 2002 she co-founded the award winning radio station PASSION for the PLANET and in 2009 Chantal was awarded London Leader in Sustainability status. Chantal also runs a successful communications agency – Panpathic Communications.