Archives for posts with tag: yoga retreat

Pregnancy is the largest emotional and physical transformation a woman’s body will undergo. A woman also becomes more aware of her body and of the many physical and emotional changes that come with being pregnant. She may start experiencing lower back pain, nausea, slower digestion, fluid retention or muscle cramps. These do not affect all women though they all are fairly common symptoms of pregnancy.

Deep steady breathing such as ujjayi will increase mental focus and deep internal strength.

With the appropriate yoga practice, however, many of these issues can be addressed and slowly the mother will feel more balanced as she harnesses her energy and her body begins to function at a more optimal level.

Gentle and rhythmical movements for the lower back and pelvis ease back and hip pain whilst supported savasana will help with disturbed sleep patterns and give the mother some uninterrupted time with her baby. Deep steady breathing such as ujjayi will increase mental focus and deep internal strength. Focus should always be placed on asana that are grounding and work with the Apana Vayu, our downward energy.

This encourages the mother to stay grounded and helps her body prepare for birth, as this is all about physically and mentally letting go and working with nature’s forces, and not against them.

The mental act of ‘letting go’ and the acceptance of ‘what is’ is useful as it helps to nurture a sense of peace, allowing what is not needed for the next chapter in a mother’s life to simply drop away.

Making space for a baby and for mothering is a yoga practice in itself and should never be under-estimated.

Yoga teaches us to be mentally strong and encourages us to go with the flow. It helps us to realise we cannot control everything and prepares us for the unexpected, allowing us to adapt to unforeseen situations. These skills can be applied at any time of life but are especially effective during pregnancy and birth; it leaves us with more space to enjoy the journey from pregnancy into motherhood.

Sally Parkes

As featured in the September 2014 issue of OM Yoga Magazine

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What core skills and competences do students need to teach? 

There is so much choice these days that when it comes to choosing a yoga teacher training programme that making that the right decision can be quite a challenge. Once you have decided what style of yoga resonates with you the next question a prospective student teacher should ask themselves is ‘am I planning to teach at the end of this course?’

Whilst some people do teacher training purely for self-development and feel that they may like to teach somewhere in the future, others definitely want to teach directly after their course finishes and build a solid career doing so. If the latter is the case for you then you need to consider if the course you are looking at contains guidance on how to actually teach. Whilst this sounds like a very obvious aspect to be included in a course not all teacher trainings prepare you for work afterwards as the emphasis is more on developing your yoga practice. Yes, this is obviously invaluable, but teaching yoga as opposed to doing yoga is massively different and requires a very specific set of skills.

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Communication skills

A great teacher training course should teach you to communicate with students of differing personalities, abilities and levels of yoga knowledge. And it should teach you to be accepting of your participants’ various stages of their journey into yoga.

Teachers should be able to empower their students to accept themselves on the mat as well as be encouraged to progress their practice and enjoy themselves in the process. This can be achieved by teachers whose skills set includes being able to teach in a visual, auditory and kinaesthetic manner whilst incorporating differing levels of each asana into the class. To make your class all encompassing, knowledge of modifications and progressions and how to integrate them is required as is a general knowledge of common conditions such a lower back ache, high blood pressure and knee injuries.

Teaching yoga as opposed to doing yoga is massively different and requires a very specific set of skills

Sequencing asana

Sequencing asana is also a huge subject that should be covered in your chosen course and how sequences should vary depending on what the teacher is trying to convey and achieve. It is ideal that, following a teacher training, you have several sequences you are familiar with so you are ready should you be asked to teach.

In addition to the order in which asana are taught in, the style they are taught in can dramatically alter the emphasis of the class. For example, the same sequence can be taught strongly with a fast pace and with an authoritive tone of voice and this class will come across as challenging. The same sequence can be taught with a softer voice and a much slower pace with an emphasis on relaxing into the postures, and this will again give a different edge. Both ways of teaching the sequence are effective but in different ways and an effective teacher will know how to change it up when it’s required.

Teaching practice

So, if you are considering teacher training with a view to teach soon after the completion of your course, ask the programme leader about these skills and whether they are included within the course contact hours. And find out how much emphasis is given to teaching practice. It’s also very useful to see how many teachers from a particular training school are actually working as yoga teachers as this is very telling of the course content.

Sally Parkes runs 200 hour Laxmi Yoga (Hatha and Vinyasa) teacher training and pregnancy yoga teacher training. She runs courses in England, Wales, Spain and Dubai (sallyparkesyoga.com)

As featured in the june issue of Om Magazine www.ommagazine.com

As we know there are many benefits to yoga and practising yoga during pregnancy helps with many pregnancy related issues. Common conditions include lower back ache, fatigue, disturbed sleep and slower than normal digestion. With the right asana and pranayama practice however these issues can be much improved and help the mother enjoy her pregnancy and have the energy to focus on bonding with her baby.

It is best to rest as much as possible during the first trimester and so the following sequences should be practised during the second and third trimester only. As with any yoga practice, slow deep breathing is paramount, and even more so during pregnancy. If breathing becomes shallow or irregular during the yoga practice, slow right down and come back to your ‘centre’, just stop and breathe for a few moments. And then continue when you feel ready. Remember pregnancy is not a time to progress your practice, it is a time to slow down and be present, and accept the changes that are happening to you and your baby. Accepting change is a yoga practice in itself and one that should not be underestimated, so be present and enjoy this special time.

Pregnancy Yoga Sequence 1: Sun Salute

1 TADASANA: MOUNTAIN POSE

Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) with the feet hip-width distance apart and the knees a little bent with the pelvis tucked under very slightly. Bring the hands into prayer position with the chin parallel to the floor and the face and shoulders relaxed. Press down firmly though the feet to create a sense of grounding and connection to the earth. Breathe slowly and deeply.

Now separate the hands and reach them out to either side before reaching them up over the head. Bring the hands together and draw them down through the heart centre in a prayer position as you exhale. Repeat three times.

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2 HINDI SQUAT: LOW SQUAT

After the third repetition keep the hands in prayer position and slowly lower the body down into a low squat as you exhale. Pause for two or three breaths. The hands can be in prayer position or on the ground in front of the hips for additional support. Keep the spine as upright as possible and try to feel a sense of grounding through the feet. Engage the pelvic floor and feel the lower abdominals (Transverse Abdominus) draw in for additional support. If the heels lift from the floor during this squat place yoga blocks or similar under the heels. This will help to minimise any stress on the knee joint and help your balance.

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3 SWOOPING CAT

From the Low Squat position, place the hands on the floor in front of the feet and move them forwards whilst moving into a box position. Now inhale and bend the elbows so they point back towards the legs (this will help to engage the triceps) and swoop forwards. Be mindful about the alignment of the back and avoid sinking in the lumbar spine. This will avoid pressure in the lower back area. As you move forwards the arms should feel as though they are working strongly. Now as you exhale press firmly into the hands to straighten the arms, arch the spine upwards and move the hips back towards the heels as in Balasana (Child Pose). Repeat this ‘swooping’ movement at least five times and maintain a sense of a flowing rhythm throughout by focusing on moving with the breath.

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LOW SQUAT/HINDI SQUAT AND ROLL UP

Now move the hands back towards the knees and move into a low squat again. Pause and breathe before slowly coming up to standing. To do this press the feet firmly into the ground, and with the knees slightly bent, roll up slowly through the spine so the head comes up last. It should feel as though you are restacking the spine. The hands can be placed on the thighs for extra support for the lower back. Return to the start position; Tadasana with the feet hip width distance apart.

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REPEAT THIS SUN SALUTATION AS MANY TIMES AS YOU WISH.

Sequence 2: Goddess Flow

1 WIDE LEG STANCE

From Tadasana with the feet hip-width distance apart, step the feet out wide (at least a meter distance apart) with the toes pointing outwards. Exhale and bend the knees whilst pressing firmly into the feet so that you feel grounded. Now interlace the fingers and reach the arms up towards the sky with the palms of the hands facing upwards. You should feel a stretch through the whole of the upper body. The pelvis is just slightly tucked under to help elongate the sacrum area but not so much that balance is compromised.

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2 UTKATA KONASANA / GODDESS POSE

Now lower the pelvis a little more deeply by bending the knees more so the legs start to work more strongly in a wide squat position. Keep pressing firmly into the feet to encourage a sense of stability and ensure the knees are aligned over the ankles. Maintain an even breathing pattern throughout. Now reach the arms out to either side and lift the drishti a little. Keep the feeling of strength through the legs and length through the spine, gently contract the abdominal muscles so it feels like the core muscles are hugging your baby into towards the spine. Remain here for five breaths.

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3 GODDESS POSE WITH SIDE BEND

Now lightly rest the right forearm onto the right thigh and reach the left arm up and over until the spine is in a lateral flexion (side bend) position and lift the drishti upwards. Maintain a sense of lifting through the upper body by avoiding putting too much weight through the right arm. The stretch should be felt on the left side of the rib cage. Hold for three to five breaths.

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4 VIRABHADRASANA II / WARROR II

Slowly bring the upper body back to centre and straighten the legs so you can set the feet for Virabhadrasana II. Turn the right foot out and the left foot in around 45-degrees. Reach the arms out so they are parallel to the floor and bend the right knee deeply. Again press firmly through the feet and really lengthen through the arms. Hold for three to five breaths.

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5 TRIKONASANA / TRIANGLE POSE

Now slowly straighten both legs and extend the upper body towards the right. Lightly rest the right hand onto the right shin and extend the left arm up towards the sky. There should be no pressure in the lower back. If there is discomfort through the lumbar spine area then bend the right knee slightly so the right leg offers more support. Rest the drishti to whereever is comfortable for the neck. Hold for three to five breaths.

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6 GODDESS POSE

Now bring the upper body back to the centre and whilst the legs are straight turn the feet out ready for Goddess Pose again. Bend the knees and extend the arms gently out to either side with the elbows a little bent. Draw the shoulder blades down away from the ears and pause for one or two breaths. The legs should feel fatigued at this point so straighten them and lower the arms for several breaths to recover.

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7 Once your legs have recovered, come back to Goddess Pose before moving into Goddess Pose with a side bend, Virabhadrasana II and Trikonasana on the left side. Move slowly and with awareness throughout and really focus on connecting with the breath, using Ujjayi pranayama if you can. From Trikonasana come back to Goddess Pose before straightening the legs and gradually bringing the feet back towards one another. Relax the arms by your side and take five deep, slow breaths to recover and help the heart rate return back to normal. Move into relaxation when you are ready.

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As featured in the May issue of Yoga Magazine www.yogamagazine.co.uk

SALLY PARKES 

SALLY, BSC, IS REGISTERED AS A SENIOR YOGA TEACHER WITH THE YOGA ALLIANCE UK, AND IS THE FOUNDER OF LAXMI YOGA TEACHER TRAINING SCHOOL WHICH OFFERS HATHA, VINYASA FLOW AND PREGNANCY YOGA TEACHER TRAINING COURSES. SHE ALSO RUNS RETREATS, IS A HEALTH AND FITNESS WRITER, AND TEACHES PRE AND POST-NATAL YOGA FOR ONLINE YOGA CHANNEL MOVEMENTFORMODERNLIFE.COM. FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT SALLYPARKESYOGA.COM

PHOTOGRAPHY: ALIWPHOTOGRAPHY.CO.UK

In the West hemisphere yoga has become a very popular form of physical exercise and it is easy to think that yoga is only about twisting and stretching the body, breathing practices and a little chanting here and there. However, these are simply tools to assist us on our path to eventually stilling the mind.

The ancient sage Pantanjali said:

Yoga citta vrtti nirodhaha

The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is yoga

This quote tells us that practices of asana, pranayama, chanting, kriyas (cleansing techniques) are ultimately stepping stones for reaching a point where we can control our mind-stuff, our thoughts. That is the ultimate goal of practicing yoga. It is very beneficial for us to become physically and mentally stronger, more flexible and of clearer thought, but if the mind is still constantly busy and unsettled, there is still work to do.

For the last twenty years yoga and traditions rooted in spirituality have always been of interest to me. I always felt there must be more to life and I just couldn’t buy into the idea of a ‘set life plan and then you die’ idea, it just didn’t make sense to me. I knew there was another path for me. I had always enjoyed regular exercise and loved the high it gave me as I often found I felt the most relaxed mentally during my long distance running or cycling sessions. I would find the chatter of my mind would start to finally become quite and I felt totally inspired and happy, but several injuries soon made me realize that this path was not sustainable on a long term basis.

I had already enjoyed one of my first yoga books, ‘Moving into Stillness’ by Erich Schiffman, when I started to attend Iyengar Yoga classes. I found the classes very challenging and so I was totally engaged mentally. Over the first two years of regular Iyengar yoga practice all my injuries healed themselves and my body became pain free. I was a yoga convert!

At that time I was reading a lot of texts by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of the Krishna Consciousness Yoga System. The more I read the more I realized that I began to understand the philosophy of yoga and it was thanks to such texts and The Yoga Sutras that I finally discovered what yoga was actually all about; it is a journey through the Eight Limbs, a yoga system that gives us tools to keep climbing the yogic ladder and allows us to deal with whatever is thrown at us in a more effectively. The result of this being the fluctuations of our mental stillness gradually become less and less as we become less re-active.

It is when mental stillness is attained that yoga really starts to filter through to our thought, word and deed, and we start to really embrace the yoga philosophy. We start to see The Eight Limbs with new eyes and our journey into yoga starts to come to life, as it reaches all corners of our life.

And so with this in mind I feel The Yoga Healing Bible is an invaluable guide to your journey into yoga. The asanas have been carefully compiled into an order that will gradually strengthen and open the body and balance the nervous system. There is emphasis on correct breathing and relaxation which are paramount to an effective yoga practice. All these elements lead to a well rounded yoga practice and are as important as one another, and are greater than their sum.

The practice of yoga makes your world shine a little more, and you begin to treat yourself and others with more kindness, you are more at ease in your body and the continuous chatter of your thoughts starts to, little by little, become more quiet. I hope you enjoy your journey into stillness.

Sally Parkes

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Blending The Art Of Teaching With The Science Of Yoga

I have been fortunate enough to learn with some great teachers and have done some wonderful teacher trainings including courses with the Sitaram Organisation and Centred Yoga in Thailand. I loved what I learnt on these courses and felt that it would be fantastic to have a yoga teacher training that blended elements of Sports Science and Pilates principles with yoga asana practice, philosophy and Auyerveda, along with sharing effective teaching and communication techniques I have learnt along the way. And if I could also assist student teachers to set up as self employed teachers and actually earn a living doing what they love, even better!

if a client were extremely flexible, Laxmi yoga would work to create strength and stability within the joints 

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My Journey In Yoga

After several years of hard gym workouts and in fitness instruction and personal training, I had knee and shoulder injuries as well as persistent back pain. So I started attending a weekly class the gym I used to work at. I was instantly hooked and yoga asana practice soon replaced my daily gym workouts. Over the next three years or so I healed my injuries and built a solid practice in both Iyengar and Ashtanga yoga. I also fell in love with the spiritual side of yoga and really feel that should be at the heart of our daily practice. I have been practising and teaching yoga asana and pranayama in earnest for 10-years now, and am still really blown away with how life changing a simple daily yoga practice can be.

It is a comprehensive, all encompassing, thorough and honest approach to yoga and how to teach both Hatha and Vinyasa 

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My Journey To Laxmi Yoga Teacher Training

I have been fortunate enough to learn with some great teachers and have done some wonderful teacher trainings including courses with the Sitaram Organisation and Centred Yoga in Thailand. I loved what I learnt on these courses and felt that it would be fantastic to have a yoga teacher training that blended elements of Sports Science and Pilates principles with yoga asana practice, philosophy and Auyerveda, along with sharing effective teaching and communication techniques I have learnt along the way. And if I could also assist student teachers to set up as self employed teachers and actually earn a living doing what they love, even better!

And So To Laxmi Yoga….

And so after much thought I put together Laxmi Yoga 200 hour teacher-training. Named after the wonderful goddess of abundance, Laxmi yoga is a new teacher-training program, which after running successfully at the Dru Yoga centre in Snowdonia, is now heading to the beautiful mountains of the Andalucia and will be held at The Hacienda Retreat Centre. It is a comprehensive, all encompassing, thorough and honest approach to yoga and how to teach both Hatha and Vinyasa. It is both rooted in yoga philosophy and subtle anatomy, as well as including the latest research in exercise physiology and anatomy, and demonstrates how certain approaches to yoga can be used to marry traditional yoga techniques and approaches with modern day exercise science.

As a teacher-training provider, Laxmi yoga promise to:

  • Treat all teacher-training students with love and respect.
  • Deliver both traditional and new approaches to yoga asana and pranayama practice.
  • Teach traditional yoga philosophy and Ayurveda.
  • Provide on-going support and provide work placements where possible.
  • Provide students with solid and effective teachings and the tools to ensure they are the best teacher they can be.

Testimonial from a current Laxmi Yoga student:

For me Laxmi Teacher Training has been transformative. I am already teaching yoga so I came to this course having attended other teacher trainings. This training delivers what it promises and more! Sally’s depth of knowledge, wealth of experience, inclusive and non-dogmatic style has encouraged each of us to find our unique voice and develop our own style, and also the ability to adapt to teaching different markets. Added to this, with Sally’s ongoing guidance and support I have gained invaluable advice on the business of yoga and actual teaching work – teaching on Sally’s retreats and gaining work with clients. I am incredibly grateful to have found this course and shared this experience with a wonderful group of fellow yogis! Paula Hines. 

Applications for 2013 training courses are now open. For enquiries please visit sallyparkesyoga.com 

Early bird discount: Book now and save £300!

As featured in the January 2013 issue of Yoga Magazine www.yogamagazine.co.uk

Yoga is massively popular and includes several disciplines such as meditation, breathing exercises, self-study and cleansing techniques known as ‘kriyas’. Whilst these are all important and beneficial aspects of yoga, the element of yoga we are most used to in the western hemisphere is the practice of yoga postures, traditionally known as ‘asana’.

Thanks to its recent popularity and media coverage we are hearing more and more about the physical side of yoga and it is now very common to have several classes a week on the gym timetable. In addition, more and more studios and teacher training courses as well as retreats are cropping up all the time.

The current popularity of yoga can only be a good thing. The more flexible and strong on a physical level we are, the better our brain chemistry is, resulting in the most amazing physical and psychological benefits. These are often reported as feeling more calm and clear minded. Other physical effects include improved sleep, digestion and recovery from injury and illness.

starting your yoga practice…

So the obvious question is ‘why aren’t we all doing yoga? More often than not people do not practice yoga because they literally don’t know where to start. There are so many different styles and many classes are described as ‘general level’, but still require some experience.

I believe the best course of action is to find a beginner’s class and if it feels like the correct class for you, stick with it for at least three months. You may well be physically strong or extremely aerobically fit but yoga asana work and move the body in a very different way to regular exercise and learning the basics will take time, dedication and most importantly patience.

should I retreat?

Another effective way to learn yoga asana is to immerse yourself in a yoga retreat. Yoga retreats are big business right now thanks to increasing demand and there is now a huge choice of venues and yoga styles to choose from. As well as being an enjoyable way to get away from it all whilst staying active, by dedicating a weekend or several days to mainly yoga, you can really achieve a breakthrough in your knowledge of the asanas. All this which will help you when you are back in your regular class. If you feel you would also like to try another activity whilst away, there’s also a lot of choice with some retreats now including Pilates, hiking or even surfing on their schedules.

How to choose a retreat:

Like choosing a yoga class, choosing a suitable retreat also requires a bit of shopping around. There are so many teachers and businesses running retreats that as with anything, some are good and some not so good. Remember you are not only investing your money but also your time, so you deserve a fantastic experience. Here’s a guide to what you should look for in a retreat.

a suitable teacher

Checkout your prospective teacher’s experience and if they are fully qualified. There should be evidence somewhere in the retreat’s organisers marketing material to show that the teacher has at least 200 hours of yoga study under his or her belt. Furthermore, yoga teachers that are new to teaching should not be running retreats, as they will not have yet gained the work experience required to deal with a relatively large group of people that they don’t know. So check experience too.

style of yoga:

As mentioned there are many styles of yoga and all are effective in their own way but this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are correct for you. So do your research or maybe ask your yoga teacher to recommend a retreat or particular style to you. Iyengar Yoga is a challenging kind of yoga but is also excellent for beginners – it’s so instructive with a lot of attention on alignment. Ashtanga, Jivamukti, Sivanada, Anusara and Dynamic styles are all also wonderful, but ensure the teacher is happy to give guidance to students of your level. Ask what the general level of the retreat is and ask to see the intended schedule so you can see if it has enough scheduled activity for your requirements.

other factors to lookout for:

Check how long the retreat company has been established for and if they have any testimonials and recommendations on their website. Check what the cost includes and how much extra services are such as transfers, massage and single occupancy room rates. Ask if they have a cancellation policy and if so what is it? If it’s nonrefundable look into getting travel insurance as you would do so with any other trip or holiday. Also check your travels costs and whether or not guests are collected from the train station or airport.

As you can see there are several factors to think about before you book a yoga retreat, so we have selected several well-established retreats that will meet your needs and deliver a worthwhile experience. All retreats are inclusive of twice-daily classes, food and accommodation and are suitable for beginners up to intermediate levels. Prices are based on two people sharing but single occupancy is also available.

Weekend retreats in the UK

Sally Parkes Yoga offer twice monthly retreats in Sussex and has been established for seven years. All programmes include Dynamic Yoga and Pilates, as well as more restful Hatha Yoga. With only twelve guests on each weekend, every guest receives proper instruction and all venues are in great areas for walking, running and mountain biking. Easily accessible by car and public transport, retreats are held in Lewes, Arundel and Seaford and are run by teachers with ten-year minimum yoga experience. Costs are from £277pp. www.sallyparkesyoga.com

Five Day retreats in Morocco

Satvada Retreats run popular five-day retreats in Morocco at two different venues. One is just thirty minutes from Marrakech with stunning Atlas mountain views from Hotel Tigmi. Yoga classes are taken on the roof terrace allowing you to enjoy the scenery and fresh air. Costs from £545pp. All rooms are large and en-suite and your stay can be extended by booking extra nights at the hotel for a discounted rate.

Satvada Retreat’s other venue is a selection of luxury boutique Riads just outside the coastal town of Essaouira. The spectacular beaches are widely used for activities including camel trekking to watersports, including kitesurfing and wind-surfing. Costs include airport transfers, an hour’s hammam/spa experience and a half-day’s cookery excursion. Costs are from £680pp. Both are fantastic retreats for those looking to chill out as well as stretch out. www.satvada-retreats.co.uk

Seven Day retreat in Spain, Andalucia

Set high up in the Andalucian mountains, this retreat offers a complete getaway from everyday life. The purpose built Hacienda Retreat Centre has a rustic and welcoming feel and offers an infinity swimming pool, large yoga studio, sauna and meditation area. Twice daily yoga and Pilates classes are dynamic, inclusive and fun and are taught by Sally Parkes. With plenty of opportunity to go hiking as well, there is something for everyone. Cost from £699pp. www.sallyparkesyoga.com

As featured in the November/December 2012 issue of Ultra-FIT magazine

Sally Parkes Yoga retreat

Paula Hines finds peace and good chocolate on a yoga and cookery escape to the Sussex countryside

As featured in OM Magazine www.ommagazine.com

You can tell the food is good when the dinner table falls silent. The meal is asparagus and pea risotto expertly whipped up by chef, Lucie. The dinner table is in the dining room at the beautifully cosy and charming Marsh Farm House near Arundel, West Sussex. It’s not my usual Friday evening. I am on Sally Parkes’ yoga and vegetarian cookery weekend retreat (sallyparkesyoga.com). Just moments ago the table was buzzing with chatter and then…the food arrived.

I love yoga and I love food, so what better than to combine the two? I’ve been lacking inspiration in my own cooking and with certain food sensitivities revealing themselves last year, working out how and what to eat has at times been a challenge. When I heard about this retreat it sounded like a perfect opportunity to come away with some new recipes (and eat some very tasty food, of course).

Added to this, being on a tight budget, getting away on a yoga retreat seemed like a pipe dream, but the added beauty of this was it being a pocket friendly weekend away in pretty surroundings – great for those of us who want a retreat experience but aren’t able to jet off to far flung places.

As we tucked into our risotto, the itinerary for the weekend was explained. There would be yoga early (but not too early!) on Saturday morning, before breakfast. Then after some free time we’d have our first cookery workshop where we would make our lunch and later on help to make the dessert to accompany our dinner.

All the recipes in our workshops would be vegetarian, as with all the meals at Marsh Farm over the weekend. Lucie said she could also offer alternatives, taking into account any additional dietary requirements (vegan, wheat/gluten free etc). It all sounded good, but one pressing question remained: could we get the recipe for that risotto?

Saturday afternoon sushi

I awoke feeling incredibly rested on Saturday morning and noticed something different: birdsong. Actual ‘not being drowned out by city traffic’ birdsong. I hopped out of bed to check out the view of Marsh Farm’s garden from the window and in the field beyond I spotted a horse. Getting this excited by ‘nature’ showed me just how overdue this break away from the city was. Just as well I was in the ideal place for some rest and renewal. During a hearty breakfast from the range of options on offer (I went for the gluten free bircher muesli), I soon realised that the catchphrase among us for the weekend would be: ‘can we get the recipe for this as well?’

All the recipes in our workshops would be vegetarian, as with all the meals at Marsh Farm over the weekend. Lucie said she could also offer alternatives, taking into account any additional dietary requirements

With a bit of a wander around the garden I could appreciate, up-close, all the spring blooms out in force and the Alice in Wonderland-style hedge, which made me smile. Taking advantage of the gorgeous weather, we brought our ingredients out to the big garden table where Lucie taught us how to make vegetarian sushi – much easier than I expected and a lot of fun. Now we knew how to make California rolls with the best of ‘em. We rewarded ourselves by eating said sushi out in the sun.

Our free time after lunch allowed for exploring the ‘secret garden’ I had failed to spot earlier around the back of the farm house, while some of the group took a walk to the village. I opted to curl up with a book, something I rarely allow myself time to do at home. So, I sat in the garden with my horsey friend from earlier over the fence for company.

Our afternoon cookery workshop was making chocolate orange and avocado tarts, every bit as delicious as they sounded. And vegan too.

Sally’s mellow yoga class before dinner was the perfect way to round off the afternoon. Her classes welcome beginners and cater for all abilities so it was lovely to see the range of ages and yoga experience among our group from regular practitioners to those whose first ever yoga class was that weekend.

Some yoga nidra from our instructor put us all in a sufficiently chilled state for the evening ahead and our delicious meal of shepherd-less pie with wilted greens. Oh. And chocolate orange and avocado tarts. Happy taste buds all round.

Sunday spelt scones

Sunday morning brought more gorgeous Sussex sunshine, so after breakfast I stepped out into the garden, feeling the dew underfoot and taking the opportunity to soak up the stillness. A real reminder of how little I (like many of us) allow myself to pause during my day-today hustle bustle. Another bonus of this retreat: having some time and space to reflect.

Our last cookery workshop: surprisingly quick and easy to make spelt, sundried tomato and spinach scones. They accompanied our roasted tomato and lentil soup, roasted vegetable salad and carrot and sultana salad for lunch.

After we were all packed up and ready to go there was a surprise. Some of the chocolate orange and avocado tart filing was left over. A few spoons came out to help rectify that situation. Chocolate is a terrible thing to waste, after all.

Before we said our goodbyes, a learned member of our group of yogis translated the Latin phrase above the door in the dining room: “Divine help remains with us always”. I often feel in need of divine help in the kitchen. But Lucie’s explanations and demonstrations throughout the weekend made all the recipes so accessible. And with store-cupboard advice and even tips on knife skills too, I came away feeling that I could recreate all the recipes with confidence.

I’d arrived frazzled on Friday but returned home feeling frazzled no more, armed with some inspiring recipes and memories of delicious food, laughter, great company and of course, lovely yoga.

The Goddess Laxmi

Hi yogis,

I have spent that last several months thinking really hard about how and what my first teacher training manual is going to say, how it is going to reflect on the yoga tradition and whether or not I am being true to what I feel the world of yoga is to me. It has taken a lot of mental energy but it has been really wonderful to get back to the core of things. I have been so busy teaching and setting up retreats these past couple of years that it has been so easy to not reflect as much as much as I used to, so the process of writing the teacher training manual has been a big learning curve and a process that I have enjoyed and learned from.

The first thing I realised is that to be true to what I have learned over the years is that I would need to amalgamate everything that resonated with me and that I felt could be useful to others, for the training to be coming from the heart, as this is the only way to instill an honest yoga practice. Now that has been challenging! I love all yoga and to whittle down the information I want to share with future students has probably been the most difficult part. At the same time though I wanted the way the postures are taught to be different from other schools of yoga and work from the perspective of stability being as important as flexibility, but more importantly that all the eight limbs of yoga are of equal worth. And that this awareness of the eight limbs should be demonstrated on and off the yoga mat.

And so I have devised a yoga teacher training called ‘Laxmi Yoga’. Laxmi can also be spelt ‘Lakshmi’ and according to the Vedas, Goddess Laxmi is the one who has the object and aim of uplifting mankind. She is the Hindu goddess of wealth, prosperity (both material and spiritual), light, wisdom, fortune, fertility, generosity and courage; and the embodiment of beauty, grace and charm. I doubt I need to explain why I felt Goddess Laxmi was a great symbol for my yoga teacher training course.

My teacher training start in the beautiful setting of Snowdonia in Wales on 10th July 2012. And I will be writing small blogs about different aspects of it over the next few weeks so please do have a read. I would love to hear your feed back or any questions you may have at all. I will also have more information on my website: http://www.sallyparkesyoga.com

Sally Parkes BSc, Sally Parkes Yoga

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