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Becoming my own sculptress

 

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Learning Thai massage techniques from Master Wong as part of a Chakra workshop in Paris

It was time for two and a half days of Wong time, attending a Chakra workshop series taught by Master Duncan Wong in Paris. I was there for the two base Chakra sessions: Muladhara (roots) and Swadhisthana (pleasure and self-expression). Having attended Duncan’s teacher training as part of a retreat in Italy I knew what I was letting myself in for – lots of energy, action, passion and knowledge. The main thing I felt during the workshops was my lack of strength and power. But I was in the right place to work on this.

 

As well as these two days of intensive yoga practice, my trip to Paris included a visit to the Rodin Museum to see the work of this nineteenth century master sculptor and painter. I clearly still had yoga on the brain because the toned muscularity of these sculptures  was what struck me most, alongside their beauty and the skill of creating them. Some of the sculptures bore striking similarity to yoga poses…

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Eight things to know before embarking on a yoga teacher training course

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Daily self-practice is an important part of teacher training

Since completing my yoga teacher training, a few friends have said they would like to take the plunge too. They always admit this with some trepidation, as if it might be an unachievable goal, which of course it isn’t. This makes me smile because I know that if their heart is in it, they will have an incredible, positive experience and no regrets. So, for any prospective teacher trainees, here is my honest take on what it is like to commit to the mat and learn to teach yoga.

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Shifting seasons, rooftop ramblings and a trip to a Mickey Mouse police station

This is a new idea for my blog. A mini diary of my week recording a few of the daily highs and lows of life in France.

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The importance of Patience: Lessons learnt from Capoeira

It was with great reluctance that I first stepped into the Roda; a small circle of French people clapping their hands and singing in Portuguese. The prospect of someone aiming a kick at me while I sheepishly ducked in the centre of the group didn’t fill me with joy.

But when you are living in a small village in a foreign country you are more willing to try new things to make friends. So it was that our estate agent Olivier (one of our closest friends in the village) convinced us to join him in his weekly Capoeira class.

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Taking on the teacher: My first Capoeira display

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The best wild swimming in the South of France

I’ve always had a thing for water parks. Ever since I was first introduced to the gargantuan slides at Aqualand Ste Maxime (well, they seemed larger than life to a skinny seven year old girl) I’ve sought out aquatic adrenaline-kicks. True to form, one of the highlights of my recent yoga retreat was jumping off the top of a waterfall and swimming in the fresh water below.

And so this summer, I made it my mission to seek out the best spots in the South of France for fresh water fixes. My most prized discovery was the Bain du Sémitea bathing spot, near Saorge in the Alpes-Maritimes. This natural waterpark had the clearest, freshest water I’ve ever had the pleasure of submersing myself in and a series of magnificent waterfalls (or cascades, in French) to explore.

Noticing the inscription, 1892, I pondered on the bathers who might have enjoyed its qualities over years gone by. On doing some research, I found that some mischievous soldiers had added the inscription “Le Bain du Sémite, 1892” themselves just before the First World War. It is said that they named the spot after a friend of theirs; a Jewish soldier, who apparently had a penchant for riding his horse naked into the waters, even in the icy depths of winter. There were no naked soldiers on my watch but the experience was made extra special by the presence of clusters of yellow butterflies gathering  at the ravine that day.

Natural water playground near Saorge
My favourite natural water playground: Bain du Semite near Saorge

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Seven days; seven benefits of doing a yoga retreat

I’ve recently come back from a yoga retreat in Umbria, Northern Italy. I love getting away from everything and giving my attention to my body and spirit. In fact, I think the world would be a much better place if it was obligatory for everyone to do a retreat every year (practicalities and cost aside). So here’s a mini summary of my experience in an attempt to get more people seizing the opportunity to retreat from their daily lives and get their OM on.

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DO go chasin’ waterfalls on your retreat

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Californian Road Trippin’

Memories from a Californian adventure

Took a long time to get to California

Eleven hours on a jet plane.

When we arrived

I ran through the spring rain.

Took a detour down ol’ Skid Row

Sad souls in sorry states

Not somewhere you’d want to go.

Headed North on Route One

Sunsets, seals, the wild ocean.

Skipped down the boardwalk pier;

More burritos, another beer.

Time for San Fran’s Golden Gate

But it’s shrouded in mist,

Guess we got here too late.

No wonder they’re proud

Of Yosemite Falls,

Towering above, deafeningly loud.

Now through the desert,

Death Valley’s road

Stock up on gas, you’ll need a load.

Vegas was a sham, came home broke.

The table was rigged

Or too much rum and coke?

Onwards to boho Venice Beach,

Soya latte in hand.

As the sun sets on California

This distant land.

A bad poem about my recent road trip to California, where we drove up High Way One from Los Angeles to San Fran, through Yosemite, Death Valley, Vegas and then back to LA. The thing that struck me, aside from the amazing landscape, was a kind of emptiness to Los Angeles. It is a place where you can get anything you want (if you have money). An extreme example of consumerism coated in a thick layer of superficial human interaction that is very hard to break through. Or maybe that’s just me. Either way, I enjoyed my California road trippin’ and found plenty of cool little towns straight out of the Wild West and filmic roadside locations off the beaten track.

Death Valley
Soaking up the view at Death Valley

 

Ancient beauty; modern times

On a gusty Sunday in January we took a long and ambling walk along one of the most stunning stretches of the Côte d’Azur – the national park that runs from Cap Lardier to Plage de Gigaro. Here are some pictures to try and capture just how beautiful it is here. Tip: If you visit out of season you’ll get the place almost to yourself!

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The stretch of coastline from Plage de Gigaro to Cap Lardier

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Sketchy days: Beating the winter blues

Biking through the vineyards of Provence
Fond memories of biking through the vineyards of Provence

We’re now starting to understand why the locals in our village look at us with some concern when we tell them we are here for the whole year and are not just sun seekers on a jolly holiday. It gets pretty quiet here in January. The plane trees, which give such an iconic look to the whole village, are raising up their bare branches, as if they’re asking themselves where the sun has gone. Most of the restaurants have closed their doors for the season. And the villagers have retreated behind their shutters seemingly to hibernate for the winter. I’m sort of doing the same, staying in most evenings, watching old episodes of Twin Peaks and soaking up some bleak vibes. So, yes, it appears that even in sunny south of France you can catch the winter blues.

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