We just had our Spring Awakening Yoga Day Retreat at the weekend which was now my sixth full-day yoga retreat. If I have the time I like to do a little write-up about it purely for posterity, as even though each Yoga Day follows a similar layout now, they always feel different on account of the different people attending and the yoga practices themselves changing according to the season we are celebrating.
This retreat day was themed around the transition to Spring, with the Spring Equinox having passed a few days earlier on Wednesday 20th March 2019. This is celebrated as the first day of Spring and is regarded as the “Festival of Balance and Potential”: “balance” in terms of it marking the point of perfect balance when day and night are equal in length and which leads to a feeling of union and harmony within us, and “potential” in relation to reflecting upon what we might want to awaken in ourselves over the coming months leading from the Spring Equinox to the Summer Solstice.
By tuning into the transitions of the seasons we create the perfect opportunity to align with the powerful energies that Mother Nature and the Earth provide and by combining our yoga practice with the cycles of nature and the seasons this helps to keep us connected to the energy of the Universe.
In itself Spring is a “yang” season as it marks the return of the light, the warm air and the Earth awakening after a long Winter. It is our first opportunity to cast off the layers after an introspective Winter, and to lay ourselves open to new possibilities and opportunities, encouraging us to listen to what is yearning to come forth and blossom within us.
Our day began with a Hatha Yoga practice which was at times a little more “yang” in nature in order to build heat in the body and to prepare the body for a few challenging “peak” postures which included Hanumanasana (Monkey Pose) and Eka Pada Koundinyasana II (Pose Dedicated to the Sage Koundinya, also known as the Flying Splits), made accessible to all with the use of various props and modifications. However, there was also time for some Pranayama and a lovely relaxation at the end.
Our first session led us through to a break for lunch, after which we resumed our group practice with our now familiar group chant. I decided to revisit a couple of the chants we had explored in previous Yoga Days which were the Mangalam Chant and Adi Shakti and it was so wonderful to see everyone giving it a go and I could really see for those who have experienced Kirtan with me previously that they were really embracing the practice this time and really chanting from the heart. Chanting, or Kirtan, is the Yoga of Sound and a beautiful way to unite everyone in the room. I really do enjoy including a little chanting in these yoga days as for many it can be a completely new experience and the resulting sound with everyone’s voices combining and chanting in sync is so wonderful to experience.
Our chanting led into a Yin Yoga practice which was sequenced around the Wood Element which represents the energy of Spring and which relates to the Liver and Gallbladder meridians. I introduced the concept of a Chi Massage and included a forest meditation before taking time to explore and set up our Yin postures. In a Yin practice you take time to find your edge within the various postures and hold each yoga pose for a few minutes. By holding the postures for longer periods of time than would usually be held in a general Hatha practice your body is given time to open up and get deeper into the connective tissues and ligaments and allows for deeper release. Relaxing and challenging all at the same time.
After another short break we moved towards the final part of our day which was a short Yoga Nidra, or “yogic sleep” guided meditation leading into a healing sound bath. Both designed to the bring the body and the mind to a deep state of relaxation.
I have accumulated various instruments over the years for my sound baths and this time I blended the sound of my frame drum, crystal singing bowls, Tibetan singing bowls, planetary Gong and chimes to help to transport everyone to a deeper level of rest. The feeling of peace throughout the room during the sound bath was amazing. The basic idea behind a “sound” bath is that the frequencies and sounds emanating from the instruments become so complex, resembling a variety of instruments played at once – even when played individually – that the brain struggles to categorise them and so our brainwaves begin to “entrain” to the slower frequencies which in turn slows down our thoughts and encourages us into a deeper meditative Theta State, a state in which healing is possible.
Our sound bath brought us to the end of our day together and after everyone had been roused from their deep relaxation we closed our practice with a group “Om” and I managed to grab a quick group photo before everyone headed home.
Another lovely day spent in great company with wonderful people – I received lots of lovely feedback from many of those attending and as always it is a pleasure to share all that I love with those who join me. ૐ