There is nothing like reconnecting with nature to make you feel alive. Read about the Sweat Studios Summer Yoga Festival set in the serene Buckinghamshire countryside…
The gentle breeze swept through the reeds and made its way into the tipi. Softly brushing the tips of her toes, carrying a buzz of insects and the sound of ducks quacking with laughter in a nearby field. It opened her mind to the present and all the sounds around. Lying face up with eyes closed towards the top of the tipi, she could hear the wooden beams creak with the wind, the ropes rhythmically tapping the sides and the planes flying in the clouds overhead. For an instant, she pictured herself sat in seat 30f gazing out the window at the clouds below as she had the day before…
For the first time in a long while, my mind felt fully connected to my body, which sounds strange to write or even say out loud. As someone who has an active mind, always a constant hive of activity, I often find it difficult to truly be in the moment. This is something that brings out my creative side, though, the influx of thoughts can at times make me scatty and my ideas can often drown out the voices of the people around me.
I was invited to the Sweat Studios Summer Yoga Festival in a beautiful lakeside setting in Newton Longville, Buckinghamshire. A haven of peace and tranquillity, the yoga and mindfulness teachings were held in a country tipi surrounded by fields.
This was an entirely new experience for me, I had never attended a yoga class before now, let alone a summer yoga festival in such a picturesque setting. There are a few yoga poses I practice in the gym but my knowledge and practice of yoga is limited, to say the least.
My interest in self-care mindfulness and, more recently yoga, has come about after a few burnout moments I’ve felt during the past year. Attending a MIND workshop, reading Rebecca Campbell’s book Light is The New Black and listening to podcasts including Sahara Rose’s podcast The Highest Self has really opened my eyes to the importance of self-care. We can all be driven and committed to our goals and achievements, though, taking time out for yourself and to cherish those around you is equally, if not more important.
Yoga and mindfulness come hand-in-hand as the practice of yoga has a deep-rooted meditative and spiritual core. With ancient Indian origins, the practice of yoga and meditation is far from being an activity practised only in India or by hippies for that matter. Gone are the days of yoga being embraced only by celebrities such as Moby, Madonna & Sting. Yoga has become a global phenomenon, enriching people in their journey to self and is also known for its holistic qualities to help people overcome stress and anxiety.
The summer yoga festival provided the opportunity for Mum and me to try out some stimulating exercises designed to calm both body and mind. As well as, an opportunity to get rather creative with some face-paint! Who needs Henna anyway…
Mindfulness encourages you to be in tune with your body and mind. Our group sat up on our yoga mats whilst concentrating on breathing in and out. After a few moments, it’s only natural that the mind will begin to wander. Instructor Sarah K-Hirji explained to us that the key is to acknowledge to yourself when you realise the mind has wandered. Concentrating on the tip of your nose or on breathing movements will direct your concentration back to source. Feelings of anxiety and stress can often result in short sharp breaths being taken from the chest. Practising deep breathing meditation techniques from the stomach can help reduce anxiety panic attacks as deep breathing helps to open up the chest.
Whether you have practised yoga or meditation before, these techniques can be applied to everyday life, helping all in overcoming stressful situations.
In the afternoon, instructor Sophie Free, led an uplifting yoga sequence, encouraging attendees to complete to their own comfort levels, whilst explaining higher techniques for those that wanted to advance the pose.
The movements worked our entire bodies and, a few days on I can still feel an ache in my thighs and waist, exactly the areas I want to target. It really does give a full body workout, toning and sculpting the body in a sequence of relaxing movements.
Whilst there were some moves I was unable to do (plow pose I’m thinking about you here), on the whole, I did ok and found the mix of abilities in the class made me feel less worried about my own.
Lunch at the summer yoga festival was provided by Peel Juice Bar, in the form of a vegetarian picnic with a bagel station, fruit and healthy snacks.
The break for lunch gave a prime opportunity for those attending to mingle and take time to soak up the beauty of our lakeside surroundings.
I put my trainers to one side and sank my toes into the grass as I looked out to the water sparkling in the sunlight.
I soon came to the realisation that yoga might actually be a form of exercise I could wholeheartedly enjoy. I’m not known for my physical pursuits (I always have my WMGT Lake District hike and GO Outdoors camping experience to reference in support of this) but the yoga Nidra, more commonly known as ‘yoga sleep’ is something I could get fully on board with…
Other than finding it near on impossible to lay face-down for more than a few minutes (a trial and tribulation of having big boobs), I found the yoga sleep to be utterly therapeutic. It’s a strange feeling as the yoga sleep takes you to a place halfway between being asleep and awake; it’s kind of like being lost in a daydream.
It is not unusual for people to fall asleep during yoga Nidra and laying on my mat I could hear the slow snores of someone a few mats down.
I had no idea that yoga was quite this relaxing and I love the way it embodies meditation to soothe both the mind and soul. Another thing I loved about the session is that it encourages you to be in touch with your senses and be in the moment, rather than looking back on the past or too ahead to the future.
Coming away from the summer yoga festival, I feel compelled to incorporate these teachings into my daily life.
Whilst, I’d love to as much as possible practice in nature as we had during the summer yoga festival (nothing gives me peace like spending time outdoors in fresh air), we all know with the Great British weather this is not always possible.
The summer yoga festival was a special one-day event. However, Sweat Studios hold a number of classes at their studio at The Hub, Milton Keynes to suit all abilities. By leaving the gongs, incense and chanting at the door, Sweat Studios focus on the aspects of yoga that have been medically proven to improve health and wellbeing, both physically and mentally.
Click here or on the picture of the team below to find out more about their classes and schedule.
*Picture provided by Sweat Studios*
I now need one of these tipis in my back garden! If you want to check out the tipis for yourself and find out about the events in which you can hire one, Country Tipis are having an open day on Sunday 16th September – click here to find out more.
Special thanks to Kirsty and the team at Sweat for inviting us to the Sweat Studios Summer Yoga Festival, we both felt better for it.
Feeling more relaxed and taking time out from our busy schedules can help us all feel alive and less stressed. Do you practice any wellness activities? Let me know below.