Sun, sea and salutations: Learning yoga on the beach in Spain
There’s more to Ibiza than banging tunes and boat parties
The plane to Ibiza was packed with young people, talking excitedly about the superstar DJS they were going to see. But I wasn’t flying out to the legendary party isle to dance the nights away – hell, no! I breathed a sigh of relief as my taxi sped past the famous nightclub Amnesia. Soon Ibiza Town and its thumping nightlife were far behind me as I headed north to the unspoilt bay of Benirràs.
A huge yoga enthusiast, I’d booked into a week-long yoga holiday. I’d opted to go slightly out of season, when the Spanish sun beats less fiercely – and it’s cheaper, too. My usual yoga class back home involves Asanas (postures) then a short meditation. I was hoping to learn some breathing techniques on this holiday – and to relax and unwind, too.
As I unpacked my possessions in my room at the stunning Villa Rocca, I wondered what the next few days had in store…
Next ext morning, I headed to the outside yoga deck for my first three-hour session. The teacher, Jemma Jane Gore, asked the group of five if we had any injuries, so I mentioned my sore knee. ‘Go at your own pace, don’t do anything that causes pain,’ says Jemma. ‘It’s your yoga, your body. It’s not a competition.’ I nodded at the sound advice and we began our opening exercise Kapalbhati, or ‘breath of fire.’ ‘This breathing exercise, or pranayama, oxygenates the blood, increases lung capacity and energises the mind,’ Jemma told us. We sat crosslegged with our eyes shut, and exhaled the stale air from our lungs. At the same time, we pulled in our tummies tightly.
Inhaling, we reversed the process. It was hard work and I struggled to develop a rhythm, but after several rounds, I started to feel strangely calm.
Next, we tried Nadi Shodhana, or alternate nostril breathing.
‘It It settles the mind, reduces stress and clears the airways,’ Jemma explained.
I closed my right nostril with my right thumb and breathed in through my left nostril. Then I closed my left nostril with my ring finger and held my breath for a moment before breathing out through my right nostril. It sounds complicated – but I got the hang of it in the end! ‘If any thoughts come let them drift away,’ said
Jemma. ‘If it helps you can focus on a mantra like Sat Nam, which means truth and identity.’ ‘Yoga means unity. You use the breath to still the mind, calm the body and get behind the thinking mind to the soul,’ Jemma said as we opened our eyes.
Next, Jemma took us through a series of postures including sun salutations, twists, standing balances, seated postures and fun variations of headstands like tripod.
Her style of yoga is called Dynamic Vinyasa, meaning that the postures all flow together. It’s challenging but Jemma tailors the class to the different levels.
At the end of the session we lay in a pose called Shavasana, which aids relaxation. As my body sank into the floor, I thought, ‘This is bliss.’
Yoga helps you develop detachment
Every day, Jemma added extra exercises to our sessions including Bhramari, or the ‘bee breath,’ which uses a humming sound to quieten the mind, and a chakra visualisation where you see each of our seven chakras as different colours.
‘When you reach your crown chakra, imagine your body filling with light. See this light coming out of your heart into the world through compassion and love,’ Jemma told us.
At the end of every session, Jemma said a few words about yoga philosophy. On the final morning, she told us about the Eight Limbs of Yoga and how yogis are able to remain detached from worldly problems and remain in balance.
‘The problem may not change but you can change your reaction to it,’ she explained. I suddenly realised what she’s talking about – you see, if something problematic happens, I immediately try to ‘fix it’. What I should really be doing is taking a step back and viewing the event with detachment, so it doesn’t throw me off balance. I made a promise to myself to try and change. At the end of the holiday, I might not have been a fully-fledged yogini, but the retreat certainly brought me a step closer to finding inner calm. Om.