I put thoughts of lying on a Zanzibar beach to the back of my mind and before I knew it, I was getting off a train from Paddington and waiting for a taxi in a damp and grey Castle Cary, eagerly awaiting a few days of sattvic rejuvenation.
And the retreat didn’t disappoint. Lila and Dory’s asana classes are wonderful – both energising and meditative, taught in the Sivananda hatha style. I read books, went on countryside walks and relaxed in the hot tub and sauna. We set off lanterns around a bonfire, there were reiki and massage sessions and Nick’s astrological readings for 2012 made us feel.. well, erm, hopeful and a tad depressed about the nation’s outlook for the year ahead.
Now I’m not saying that I didn’t notice the mention of ‘five rhythms dance’ on the website, I guess it’s more that I didn’t pay it a huge amount of attention. I started to regret this when I was standing in the yoga studio with about eight other women and one of the three men on the retreat – a loyal boyfriend. Liz the movement therapist had her mac and music lined up and I heard her say, “We’ll start by bringing the awareness into our toes…”
I opened one eye and caught glimpses of people swaying. And then she said, “… now bring the awareness into your feet… connecting with the sides of your feet, your heels… start to discover new ways of walking.” I had never done anything like this before and I could only think that I looked like a complete muppet as I attempted to do as she said.
It was now that I realised why I’d never been tempted by friends’ suggestions of going to five rhythms classes in Vauxhall on a Thursday night. I mean, give me a wedding and I’m the first on the dancefloor. I’ve done swing and salsa classes but the idea of free, expressive movement has always felt scary and fills me with dread. But then give me some Sanskrit mantra chanting accompanied by a harmonium and I can’t get enough of it. Hare Krishna eat your heart out.
It continued. “… now move your knees… be free in your body… allow your knees to interact with another set of knees in the room…” Closest to me was the sole male. I began to move towards him with slightly bent knees. I looked up at his face and I saw It in his eyes: the look of fear. I recognised it immediately because I felt it too. I looked at the clock and only five minutes had passed since the music started.
As the music picked up the pace, people closed their eyes, spun around, slid around the room on their hands and knees, reached for the sky, lost in their own internal rhythm. And then I too gradually became lost and succumbed to the movement. I closed my eyes, breathed deeply and brought my attention to how my body could move. I stretched my fingers, rolled my neck, placed awareness in every single step, let my wrists and knees and head relax. I moved my hips and waist, all the time flowing, locking, bending, stretching, grasping and I found comfort and release through the simplest movements. I felt grateful for being fit, healthy and most of all, I felt grateful for being alive. The remaining 55 minutes flew by and I felt happy.
That night, in the run up to 2012, we wrote down our positive intentions for the year ahead. As we placed them into the fire I resolved to care less about what other people think and be more open to trying new experiences.
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