Yoga For People Who Do not Do Yoga!
I do not do yoga, or I should say I do not do yoga but I do now. Until I went on a yoga retreat in Spain, I thought yoga was definitely not for me even though I had never tried it. I had seen the pictures in the books my partner bought home and I knew that my body was not invited to bend in the way the lithe and obviously double joined contortionists in the books did. The reasons for this were clear and simple. Firstly I was a man, secondly I was over 45 and thirdly I was significantly overweight.
But against my better judgment I was enticed to attend a "Yoga for Health & Wellbeing" retreat. The website promised "gentle" yoga, beautiful mountain scenery, healthy local food and the company of like minded individuals. The person we talked to on the phone echoed this reassurance and seemed friendly and warm so we took the plunge and booked.
On arrival the setting exceeded our expectations. Charming & comfortable rustic Spanish houses set in the mountains with stunning views and the ability to walk into the adjacent National Park. I was relieved to see that, even if I did not like the yoga, I could relax and unwind in this delightful environment. The other wonderful thing was my fellow participants – my fears about being surrounded by young fitness freaks were unfounded. Everyone was warm, friendly and perfectly normal so I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
The next day our first yoga session was scheduled for 8am before breakfast – it is better to do yoga on an empty stomach! Out teacher, Jennifer was delightful and quickly put us at our ease. "Yoga is not a competitive sport, never mind what anyone else is doing or how far they are bending, just pay attention to your own body and only bend, stretch or twist as far as is comfortable."
We started with some gentle warm-up and breathing exercises which were enjoyable and proved to be a wonderful way to wake up. Jennifer demonstrated everything from the front and then came round and gently coached us till we were doing things properly and safely. I must admit that the focus on "paying attention to your body" was extremely calming and I for one fell into a pleasant semi meditative state.
Next we were introduced to a few simple yoga postures which I was guided to discover even I could do with a modicum of finesse! The names of these postures were intriguing and sometimes downright funny – The Tree, The Dancer, The Mountain, The Lion and my personal favorite, The Corpse. As we held each position we were encouraged to move into the post a little bit more with each out breath. Jennifer's encouragement that "In yoga, one millimetre is progress" was a great comfort to a generally inflexible person like me- and it worked. As the days progressed, the postures got easier and my flexibility was much improved.
In addition to daily physical yoga, Jennifer also led an informal teaching group into the philosophy behind yoga. This proved to be as beneficial for the mind as the physical exercises were for the body. I found myself looking at the world and how I operated in it with new eyes! We had some fascinating discussions into the areas of mind body connection and the human tendency to live either in the past or the future rather than focussing in on what was happening now, in the present.
I have to say that I had a wonderful time. The yoga was energizing and was always within my physical capabilities which were stretched as the week progressed. The discussions cave me new, spiritually nourishing perspectives on my life. The food was out of this world, light, healthy, beautifully presented and always extremely tasty and the company of my fellow guests was stimulating and great fun – I have not laughed so much for a long time.
As a result of this course I have started to practice yoga at home and have joined a local class to maintain my progress. Would I recommend it to others in a similar position to me – Unequivocally yes!