On Sunday, I attended my first yoga day course, after being told about the day by my yoga teacher, Morfudd, who trained with the course’s teacher, Geoff Powell. Geoff has been teaching Iyengar yoga since the 1970’s and has trained with the late Mr. B. K. S. Iyengar himself. He then became one of the first yoga teacher’s to practice in North Wales, and is largely responsible for training many of the Iyengar tutors in the area today. (To find out more about Iyengar yoga, read my post here.) With such experience as this, I found myself looking forward to the day’s experience greatly. Set in the mountainous backdrop of Gwynedd county and overlooking the Menai Straits from atop the village, the location for the day was remote and peaceful. A few minutes before the start of the day, I entered the naturally-lit hall, which was already filling with students. Many there attend Geoff’s yoga classes or courses regularly and knew one another already, but everyone was so friendly that I quickly felt comfortable. After a cup of lemon and ginger tea, we settled down and Geoff, who made sure to know us all by name, introduced us to the day.
The morning and early afternoon was filled with just under three hours of posture work, with a brief break part way through. Many of the asanas and progressions were familiar to me from my weekly class, but the extra time and focussed session let us all expand our practice. The time at the beginning spent opening up the back, shoulders and hips set my body up for the rest of the day. I was excited to discover that handstands and headstands were part of the day. I taught myself to hold a headstand over the summer (see my post explaining how to hold headstands here) and my current aim is to be able to hold a handstand. This last week I have started being able to hold myself away from the wall for a few brief seconds, and the work on Sunday really helped. My arms certainly felt it afterwards! I learnt lots of new techniques, some that I was more comfortable with than others. But, as Geoff said, it is the poses that you least want to do that are the ones that you need to practice. So I am now inspired to push myself more in my home practice! The focus on each individual pose was really useful for correcting my alignment and so I found the whole session very helpful.
Lunch was a delicious affair, all cooked by Geoff’s partner, Gwyn, who is a trained chef. There was a carrot and lentil soup that slipped down all too well, along with a selection of flavoursome, hearty salads and cheeses. Geoff and Gwyn had us all well looked after for the whole day! It was hard not to over eat with such a spread, and I wish I had taken a photo now as it was laid out beautifully, and in stonewear bowls. I took a few minutes during lunch just to stand outside and breath in the fresh, clean air.
After lunch, we let our food settle whilst listening to Geoff give a talk on subtle energy, also known as prana in Indian/yogic practice. The topic is pretty new to me, so I listened with interest. Geoff studies the meridian system, a Chinese energy system that holds some resemblance to the perhaps more commonly known chakras. He explained that specific poses helped to open up certain pathways, each of which is linked to an organ or gland. Acupuncture and Yin yoga are both based around the principles of the meridian system. Geoff gave us some demonstrations, comparing our strength or flexibility in a certain area before and after stimulating the relevant meridian, by holding postures or “tapping” particular body areas. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but the physical change that the adjustments certainly surprised me. I would certainly be much more open to trying acupuncture if I start to suffer from migraines or similar. A fellow student also explained to me about reflexology and the nerve endings found on the feet and hands and how it can relieve many symptoms. I really learnt a lot in that hour.
Finally, we ended the day with an hour of Qigong, which holds similarity to Tai Chi. As I haven’t tried Tai Chi, I can’t compared the two, but the steady, fluid movements of Qigong were gently stimulating and helped to loosen up my muscles after the morning’s stretching. Jill, who ran the session with a warm energy, was quietly enthusiastic and very helpful in showing us Qigong, which was new to many of the group. In summer, Jill holds Qigong sessions on Bangor pier and I’m pretty tempted to go -I can’t think of a more energising location to practice!
I really had a wonderful day and would love to attend similar events in the future. One day, I would really love to go on a yoga course or retreat abroad, and this has cemented that desire. Geoff holds regular classes in North Wales along with residential courses in Turkey and Crete, and I would highly recommend his teaching.
All my photographs in this post were taken the day before close to Snowdon when on a walk. I can’t think of a more gorgeous place to live in and practice yoga!