An Islander’s Journey to Yoga
Ensconced amongst Bryher’s rugged coastlines and at one with the elements, Hell Bay makes an evocative base for a wellness retreat. This September, islander Gem Hansen will lead our first yoga & meditation break. Here, Gem shares her journey to yoga, and emphasises why yogic practice and island escapism go hand in hand.
"As a child I adored classical ballet and dreamt of being a dance teacher - the progression to yoga happened naturally in my early twenties. Living on a remote island meant access to yoga classes was challenging; I usually sought out yoga when choosing holiday destinations but also attended classes on St. Mary's, travelling by boat, whenever available.
My home practice evolved in synchronicity with my lifestyle from marathon training to pregnancy and post-natal yoga. By the time I had my third child, I was captivated by hypno-birthing which gave me further insight into the internal practice of yoga, incorporating meditation, mantra and breath work. I began to understand the entirety of yoga, the union of mind and body, and nature.
A turning point
A couple of years later, I filled out an application form for yoga teacher training in Cornwall.
For the next ten months I travelled to Falmouth once a month for a 250 hour teacher training. This teacher training, run by Keren Cooksey at Falmouth Yoga Space was the most credible, creative and comprehensive course that I will be forever grateful for attending and I credit Keren as the teacher who opened my heart to the holistic concepts of yoga.
The journey of teacher training is an intense and all-consuming adventure that can be exhilarating and incredibly revealing on a personal level. I had begun a personal transformation that brought me to the heart of yoga, known as the journey of the self (Bhagavad-Gita). In yogic philosophy this is called svadhyaya (self study) and for me it echoed my Classical Greek studies at university; the Oracle at Delphi "know thyself".
Through yoga we learn how to live better. We learn to release thought patterns (such as anxiety) that are not serving us and find absolute peace of mind. Throughout the training process I started to make sense of the world and its opposing forces, beginning to understand everything on an energetic level and opening my heart and my mind. It is the transformational power of yoga that I wish to share by teaching and also explore further by continuing to be a student of the discipline of yoga.
The Classes & Retreat
I run classes every week on Tresco and Bryher, two islands very special to me that my family have lived on for 58 years. Classes are open level (beginners welcome) and balance conscious alignment with blissful relaxation. The style of yoga is a slow flow vinyasa, each class includes postures with alignment (asana), breathing techniques (pranayama), relaxation (savasana) and an integration of yogic philosophy.
I aim to offer a balance of strength (sthira) and serenity (sukha) in my teaching. I enjoy relating the practice to the environment, such as visualising the breath as the ebb and flow of the tide, and honouring the mythic qualities of asana (poses) that were inspired by nature, from the fearless lion to the reticent tortoise.
The three night yoga and mediation retreat at Hell Bay this September will offer a balance of restorative and rejuvenative yoga, including energising sun salutations at sunrise, and candlelit yoga nidra at sunset.
The half board accommodation at Hell Bay is exceptional, with spa treatments, sauna and Jacuzzi on site. Bryher exhibits the spellbinding contrast of wild Atlantic waves to the west and serene sandy bays with clear waters on the leeward side.
We will take advantage of the natural environment as well as the hotel’s exquisite studio to offer the ideal getaway for quiet contemplation, meditation and yoga practice."
Gem runs weekly classes in our yoga studio – call us to book your space (01720 422947).
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