All our prayers were well and truly answered yesterday; not only was the weather perfect for the much revered Yoga "class on the grass" held in my parents' beautiful garden yesterday, but we also managed to raise an incredible £541 for the Nepali Yoga Women's Trust and have lots of fun in the process!
Arriving for a 10am start, the grass was soon covered with different brightly coloured mats and over 40 participants ranging in age from Ellie at 7 years old, through to Tabitha, Caitlin and Ailsa at 13 to a gentleman of 64 and a lady of 65, and there was even a pregnant lady - it really is true what they say, Yoga is for everyone!
The class began with the participants lying in Savasana (corpse pose), and becoming aware of their surroundings - the sound of the birds and the leaves rustling in the trees, the smell of the sea air and the sensation of the sun and the light wind upon their skin and the earth below them, plus of course the odd ant crawling over them, all very grounding!
Breathing in the fresh Guernsey sea air, we came up to sitting and cranked our ankles and massaged our feet, and even planted a compassionate kiss on our big toes, to really encourage a connection with the earth through the soles of our feet, before moving into Marjariasana (cat pose) to gain a greater connection with, and opening of, the heart space as well as embracing the movement of the spine, releasing tension and encouraging the energy to well and truly flow.
From here into Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog), though Santolanasana (plank pose) and down onto our stomachs, navel to earth, and inhaling into Bhujangasana (cobra pose) to further encourage that opening through the heart space and release through the lower back and sacrum, before exhaling back into downward facing dog. Walking hands to feet, the adults lengthened the back body through Uttanasana (standing forward bend) while the children/teenagers came into the Gorilla pose, upper body hanging, knees bent and swinging their arms from side to side!
We stood in Tadasana (mountain pose) connecting feet to the earth and feeling the length through the crown of the head all the way up to the sky, before balancing on one leg in Vrksansana (tree pose) - usually students have the comfort of the wall to balance against, but out here in the garden, there was no such prop, and yet incredibly (or not as the case may be what with feet on the earth), everyone managed to balance easily.
To honour and give thanks to the sun for being the provider of life and shining so brightly on us this glorious day, we practiced a few Surya Namaskar (sun salutations) before standing strong and grounded in Virabhadrasana II (Warrior 2), lengthening the side waist and encouraging the joyful opening of the chest and shoulders in Utthita Parsvakanasana (extended side angle), embracing the liberation of the heart space in the "pose of joy", Utthita Trikonasana (extended triangle pose)and radiating energy from our centre in 5 different directions, before moving gracefully into Ardha Chandrasana (half moon pose), simultaneously reaching up to the sky and down to the earth.
Calming it all down we moved into Prasarita Padottansana (wide legged forward bend) so we could see the world from a different perspective, before balancing on one leg again in the graceful Natarajasana (Lord of the Dance Pose) and crouching down in Malasana (Garland Pose) and having some fun with Bakasana (the crow pose), Bhujapidasana (the arm pressure pose), Ubhaya Padangusthasana (both big toes pose), Navasana (boat pose), Kurmasana (tortoise pose) and Table Top Pose - well done to the girls for showing us how these are practiced!
Calming it all down and encouraging the open hearted nature of the practice, raising money for the women in Nepal, we practiced Setu Bandhasana (bridge pose) while some ventured up into Urdhva Dhanurasana (upward bow pose), before lengthening the legs in Supta Padangusthasana (reclining big toe pose), opening the heart to the sky in Ustrasana (camel pose), releasing forehead to the earth and massaging the internal organs in Balasana (child's pose), nourishing the mind and spirit in Viparita Karani (upside down pose), twisting it all out in Jathara Parivartanasana (stomach revolving pose) and releasing in the very un-yoga-like "dead bug pose"!
While some sat in meditation, most lay on their mats relaxing in Savasana,feeling the sun on their faces and enjoying the opportunity to rest in nature, back of body to earth, front of body to the sky, energised and yet nurtured by the sun, what a magical way to begin a Sunday morning!!
Coming out of relaxation, we all sat together in one big circle, palm to palm - the hands being an extension of the heart space - eyes closed, and moving energy from one to the next all around the circle, before releasing hands and creating chi balls with the energy between the palms of our hands - the children/teenagers have been practicing this regularly at the end of our weekly children/teenage class and can now play with their chi balls, moving it from one hand to the next - before placing it to our heart space.
To end of the class, in honour of the women in Nepal who we are supporting, to ourselves and to our teachers for the gift of Yoga, we bowed forward in the pose of humility and chanted "Om" together to unify the energy at the end of the practice.
Most stayed to enjoy a hearty and wholesome vegetarian brunch lovingly prepared by my Mum and her helpers. In fact there was far too much food - freshly made muesli and a selection of cereals, cow's milk, rice milk and soya milk, organic natural cow's yogurt and soya yogurt, fresh organic and homegrown berries and apricots, as well as fresh pineapple and mango. And then a wide selection of breads and home-made jams and conserves, and homemade carrot and fig and almond cakes washed down with all sorts of teas, coffee and fruit juices. What a feast!!!
Of course the main intention for the class was to raise funds to support the Nepali Yoga Women's Trust, which was established by my friend and fellow Yoga teacher, Devika Gurung, and myself in 2007 in Pokhara, Nepal, to focus on overcoming the social issues women face in Nepal.
The role of Nepali women is mostly confined to their domestic obligations including cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the family. This lifestyle prevents them from maintaining a part-time job, contributing to the household income, and ultimately from living independent of male support.
The Trust provides opportunities for local women to discover and develop ways to improve their socio-economic situation. The women learn holistic therapies such as Yoga and holistic massage, self-healing techniques and handicraft skills. These activities provide them with a step towards inner-transformation and self-confidence.
Over time, the women become self-sufficient and less reliant on others and a regular income offers them economic independence. This allows the women to participate in family decisions and allocate money for personal needs and their children's education. In the future, it is hoped that these women will not only inspire other women to work for their independence, but will be in a position to train new participants in the Trust.
Please see http://www.nepaliyogawomentrust.org/home/ for further information.
I would just like to take this opportunity to say a huge, huge thank you to everyone who supported this year's Yoga "class on the grass" and donated so generously - plus of course a big thank you to my Mum and Dad, and to Nick, Gilli, Ewan and Sheila who gave so much of their time and energy to make the class and brunch such an enjoyable, nourishing and uplifting experience. Om Namah Shivaya.
Love and light.