Remember I said I was going on a yoga weekend and I was scared I wouldn't be allowed to read books? Well, I went, and I was allowed to read.
But I didn't want to.
Five Things I Loved About Yoga Camp
1) It was beautiful.
This was where we stayed. The ashram is surrounded by forest. Kangaroos and wallabies wander the property, magpies, parrots and kookaburras call, fairy wrens hop through the gardens, and a tiny but insistent frog tok-ked periodically from the pond. (We saw rabbits and foxes too.) The gardens are serene, the simple buildings look out over trees and gardens drenched by gentle rain. No TV, no phone, no radio, no internet. Just being there was refreshment for the soul.
2) The yoga.
Well, the whole experience was all sort of yoga, but I'm talking about the bendy-stretchy stuff. My favourite sessions were Yoga Nidra, where you lie still and someone talks you through deep relaxation and a kind of guided meditation. It was absolutely blissful (and two story ideas came to me while I was in a trance, hooray). Some people fell asleep. Okay, I fell asleep too, but only for a second.
3) The chanting.
I didn't know there was going to be chanting, and to be honest, if I'd been told, I might not have come. But it was great. We chanted mantras, and even though I didn't know what they meant, the experience of community singing or chanting is so powerful and joyous, it didn't matter. Group singing was always the part I loved about church, when I went, and this was just the same (albeit in Sanskrit). It's interesting that different spiritual traditions end up using the same tools - music, meditation, prayer, work - though they might label them differently.
In one session our teacher talked about the yogic tradition of using chanting to alter energy in the body, to create healing energy in the world, and I couldn't resist a private smile as I thought about the magical chantments of my Tremaris books. Maybe it's not so far-fetched after all.
4) Getting up at 5am
No, really. Okay, you'll just have to trust me on that one.
5) Karma yoga
This means housework. We didn't have to do much, just half an hour a day - mopping bathrooms or cleaning toilets. If we'd stayed longer, we might have helped in the gardens (they have an incredible vegie garden, and most of the meals we ate were grown on the ashram) or the kitchen, preparing the vegetarian meals. But it didn't seem like work, because everyone was doing it at the same time. The idea is that, if done mindfully, domestic work can be a kind of meditation too. And I must say, it was lovely to be somewhere that was uncluttered, and tidy, and scrupulously clean. It made me realise how stressful it is to live in the kind of mess that I'm used to at home. I need to re-think my attitude to housework - and enforce it on my family! This might be a work in progress...
In fact, there were more than five things I loved but I won't bore you any further. Suffice to say that I'm very glad I went, and while I won't be joining the ashram any time soon, I came away with a renewed determination to practice yoga every day, and some new ideas about how to enmesh it into my life. Thanks to Elizabeth for asking me to go with her.