16/10/13: Fawcett Mill Fields Yoga Weekend October 2013

Sophie Parkes has kindly written this blog for us on last weekend's Lake District Yoga Weekend...

A yoga weekend.

I wasn’t sure.

I’d always enjoyed yoga, but it was something I’d picked up, on and off, over the years. I’d dipped in and out of a mixture of traditions and disciplines, with a variety of associated teachers. I’d done it every week for several months, and I’d had long periods of not doing it at all. In short, I wasn’t committed, I had never taken a class by Tara or Leonie, and the idea of a 7am start at a weekend wasn’t too appealing.

But my Ashtanga-enthusiast boyfriend had other ideas, and gently persuaded me to accompany him. With a nod, I had signed up, quietly wondering whether a glass of wine or two would be seen to be heathen contraband.

I needn’t have worried. We arrived at 8pm on Friday evening, just as the majority of the weekend participants had taken their seats and their wine bottles were already threatening to empty. Vegetable tagine was being served up and we joined our fellow students at the table eagerly, as our new neighbours introduced themselves and congratulated our impeccable timing. After dinner, our instructors for the weekend, Tara Barton and Leonie Clements, took us through the schedule for the weekend, emphasising the informality of it all - we were invited to participate in as much or as little as we liked. The evening gave way to a few more glasses and get-to-you-know-you chatter.

There’s something about a seven o’clock start when you know it’s not a day of work that lies ahead. We all congregated in one of the three living rooms for a light meditation session before retiring to our respective yoga classes: jivamukti with Tara or hatha and pilates inspiration from Leonie. I chose Tara’s class, having never experienced jivamukti, and enjoyed the challenge of the pace fuelled by her carefully chosen playlist. The class was truly mixed ability, from those who knew what pose was coming next and could stretch their willowy limbs like a cat, to those - like me - who gave it their best shot, with complementary grunts and groans. It was invigorating, refreshing, and two hours later, at 10am, I was wide awake and ready for breakfast. Porridge, toast, croissants and fruit salad was served by Tara and Leonie who barely had time to wipe the sweat from their brows.

Many of the group chose to spend their subsequent free time reading in front of the living room woodburning stoves or sweating it out in the resident sauna, before 2pm when those who wanted to left on a walk guided by the two yoga instructors. Having arrived in darkness, it was only once we stepped outside did we realise the breathtaking beauty of our weekend accommodation and its surrounds. Fawcett Mill itself is a collection of stone buildings nestled in a valley through which a river runs. The garden, ferny and full of turning autumn leaves, held picnic tables, a balcony, a campfire and a packhorse bridge, all for residents’ use and led straight out onto farmland.

Again, it was a case of as much or as little as participants chose: some decided not to come at all, while some strode to the top of the nearby Knott Hill, with another small party waiting at the base of the climb to rejoin the group on their descent. At Gamelands Circle, a neolithic stone circle in the shadow of the hill, we took the opportunity for a quick group ‘om’, smiles on our faces.

Back at the mill, there was the opportunity to partake in a relaxation session, and the quick head and shoulder massage provided by Tara was welcome as the unfamiliar exertions of the day wormed their way into our muscles. After dinner - homemade mushroom stroganoff, apple pie and cheese, of which the vast majority had a second helping of each course - conversations filled the living rooms as the most weary took themselves off to bed.

It would be a lie to say that the second early start was easier than the first, but the meditation session, on a different theme and using an alternative technique, certainly lessened the blow. A number of participants decided to try out the yoga class they hadn’t yet sampled, but I stuck with jivamukti - mainly to see if yesterday’s class was typical and understand what other challenges could be in store. With the theme of transformation, there were plenty of twists and turns - and a recurrence of those grunts and groans.

The final session of the weekend before our departure was a walking meditation, courtesy of Leonie. It was the perfect opportunity to get out again into the grounds of the mill, saturating our senses with the fruits of the autumnal chill, silently paying attention to the things we had previously overlooked, before coming back to Leonie and learning to withdraw from our senses - that focus so important to yoga practice.

And then it was over, all too soon. After bidding goodbye to our fellow participants, we heaved our bodies - aching in flesh, awake and enlivened in mind - to our cars and home.

A truly relaxing, refreshing weekend in a sociable, attractive setting, and one which I’ll be booking again for definite.

Sophie Parkes - www.sophieparkes.co.uk