Our recent Retreat in Southern Spain started as a vision back in 2017 and finding the perfect venue was like being part of a love story. I spent many days travelling around Southern Spain checking out various venues and Finca al Limon was the final desitination. A beautiful Finca located 30 minutes north of Malaga in the village of Cartama, surrounded by tranquil fields and rolling hillsides.
Finca al Limon is a special place, where you can immediately feel the love that’s gone into everything and feel a sense of calmness from the moment you arrive. Meeting the owners, Mar and Paul and hearing about how they worked hard to make their dream come true and finally opening the doors of Finca al Limon was heartwarming. We chatted about our ideas for the retreat and talked about our mutual love of Yoga. I could’ve moved in there and then! I came away and phoned my partner at Freestyle Mind and Body, the lovely Amanda Lester. Amanda couldn’t wait to fly out to visit Finca al Limon and I was delighted that we shared the same views of how energetically beautiful Finca al Limon was and still is.
We decided that the perfect time to hold the retreat would be over the Summer Solstice weekend, so we could come together to celebrate all that we’ve achieved and all that we’re about to achieve at this special time and so it was then that our retreat was booked and aptly named The Summer Solstice Retreat.
I was busy organising the Retreat from Spain and Amanda looking after things in the UK. There would be 30 of us at the Retreat in total with many of the guests travelling from the UK. I’d run retreats before but not in Spain and for no more than 12 guests, the task in hand seemed monumental. I set about sourcing information and contacts from friends and acquaintances in Spain and Mar and Paul set about transforming their wonderful Finca to comfortably accommodate all our guests. When the time arrived for our Retreat to begin, both Amanda and I experienced a feeling of jubilation and that feeling continued right until the very last day when we said our final goodbyes.
Everybody who went to the Summer Solstice Retreat was particularly complimentary about the activities on offer. You could come and do yoga, fitness and meditation and indulge in Massage and Reiki Therapies. We ate delicious healthy food. The food was so good, 3 vegan buffets a day with lots of yummy and healthy choices. Everything fresh and locally produced. The chef, Rowena, was a true artist, her food not only tasted delicious but was displayed beautifully. I also loved the little bar, where lovely teas and juice concoctions would appear along with tasty vegan and gluten free cakes and cookies.
Running the Retreat was a rewarding experience, it was all about self-service and in self-service we can gain so much. On the second day of the retreat many of our guests went on a hike to the Caminito del Rey, I’ve done this walk twice before. It’s a stunning hike set in an impressive gorge within the Sierra Rhonda and Antequere mountain ranges. The stunning cliff faces being composed of limestone and Jurassic dolomite and the beauty of the Guadalhorce river form the scenery for this stunning hike along the most narrow of pathways. The beauty of this hike not only inspired our guests on the day but over the years has provided inspiration for numerous artists, painters, poets, writers and movie directors. Some of our guests, however, choose to stay behind (this walk isn’t for everyone, it was once known as the most dangerous pathway in the world and you certainly need a good head for heights). I stayed behind too, there were jobs that needed to be done at the Finca to keep the retreat programme on track and I wanted to make sure all our remaining guests were well served. If you ever have the opportunity to serve others, grasp it, forget about other things that need doing, you can always do them later. I can do the hike later. The hike was a huge success, the feedback was very special but all of our guests (not just the hikers) had a really special day. Taking care of our guests in the best possible way is the most important thing for us at Freestyle Mind and Body and something that we will always aspire to.
On the final day at our closing circle I could feel the energetic atmosphere electrically charged from within us all and I felt a sense of profound peace and love that I’ll never forget. Up until the Malaga retreat, I’ve always kept my spiritual journey quite private. Sharing my own personal feelings about how it’s important for me to live a simple life was something I hadn’t really done before. All my life I’ve always been careful about how much I spend, I’ve worked hard and I’ve always tried not to spend money on things that are unnecessary. Living this way has paid off, now I can afford to spend less time working in so much chaos, more time with family and friends and more time sharing my passion for yoga and health and well-being.
On a daily basis I’m bombarded with emails and adverts selling yoga and fitness products, retreats and services that are disproportionately expensive. These adverts often contain extravagant promises and images predominantly of skinny women looking super fit and flexible with expensive outfits and makeovers. Don’t get me wrong I’m all for women harnessing their sexual, intellectual and economic power in anyway they choose, the models, the marketing executives as well as the service and product users and I absolutely form no judgement. Some of these images are indeed very beautiful and sales pitches inspiring but we need a little more truth. For example, the goal of Yoga for many Yoga students is learning how to master the headstand. The truth is that the goal of yoga is learning how to stand on your own two feet and the Summer Solstice retreat for many of our guests was indeed about re-establishing this concept.
It’s always tricky setting down a budget for a retreat because the process feels so prescriptive. We organised a Fire Ceremony celebration for the last evening of our Summer Solstice retreat. This ceremony was led by two great musicians, one of which has an incredible talent for making musical instruments. As a result of our successful retreat I was able to buy one of the musician’s beautiful drums as a gift to a Sangha in Southern Spain. These drums can be used as wonderful sound therapy instruments, children in particular are very receptive to them and we hope it will serve the Sangha well. I also bought one of these little drums which now takes pride of place in my new Sangha based in Dore village which I look forward to sharing with you all soon.
So as Amanda and I move forward with the planning of our next event, I’m filled with excitement and wonder. Excitement that I can continue sharing my passion for yoga and health and well-being and wonderment at where all this will lead. One thing I’m sure of, is that we will always ensure that yoga philosophy and up to date sport and medical science will remain at the core of our teachings and if we do progress along the route of marketing our services it will be with authenticity and respect for our clients. We recognise that power and beauty comes from within.
We were fortunate that we didn’t need to do any marketing for our Freestyle Mind and Body, Summer Solstice, Malaga Retreat, as the group of lovely ladies that joined us were all friends (or friends of friends) and each and every one of them, were from the outset, powerful beyond belief, being the best beautiful versions of themselves. So, if in the future marketing becomes part of the bigger picture for Freestyle Mind and Body, we hope that we will continue to treat you, our clients, our friends, with respect, no pseudo spiritual nonsense, no manipulative marketing, no tedious sales pitches and if we fall short of our promise please let us know. For more information about our 2019 Freestyle Mind and Body Retreat please contact Amanda@freestylemindandbody.com.
Peace, Joy, Love and Light.
I founded Freestyle Mind and Body in 2012 and am delighted that Amanda Lester has now partnered with me to deliver our 2018 Summer Solstice Retreat in Southern Spain.
It's great to focus on my classes, events and workshops at Dore Sangha but Freestyle Mind and Body allows me to take my teachings away from the centre to a wider audience and gives me the opportunity to work with some amazing people.
Amanda is a passionate Health and Wellbeing advocate. She has the ability to motivate to another level with her up to date knowledge in the fields of mindfulness and fitness. Amanda and I also have a great team of people on board ready to deliver a unique retreat experience in the heart of Andalucía at Finca al Limon Ecolodge. With guaranteed sun, this countryside ecolodge is just 20mins drive from Malaga airport. There will be yoga, fitness and meditation classes alongside inspirational talks and a stunning hike, culminating in a spiritual party celebrating the summer solstice. Amanda will be looking after all enquiries and bookings as we get ready to cater for up to 30 guests who will have exclusive use of the Ecolodge facilities.
So as the first half of the year and the last half of the year are about to come together at this special time the Summer Solstice, why not take a moment to reflect upon all that you've achieved and all that you're about to achieve.
I recently had the pleasure of visiting Swami Satchidananda's Ashram-Yogaville in Virginia, USA which is the headquarters for Integral Yoga. Here, people of many faiths and backgrounds come together to study and practice the principles of Integral Yoga. Integral Yoga, as taught by Swami Satchidananda is a complete Yoga. It combines the many facets of Yoga including the practices of Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga, Karma Yoga, Japa Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Jnana Yoga. This spiritual centre and it's teachings are designed to serve as a model of how we can live and work together in harmony, while still enjoying and honouring individual differences.
Located near the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Ashram is situated in 750 acres of serene landscape and offers a number of sacred spaces dedicated to contemplation and meditation in particular the beautiful Light of Truth Universal Shrine (LOTUS) which is built in the shape of a lotus blossom. Each major faith is represented by an altar within each petal of the Temple, upon which rests a carved scripture of that faith. In the centre there is one altar that holds a central light which sits below a beautiful yantra in the ceiling. Swami Satchidananda is regarded as one of the greatest Yoga masters of all time and as an apostle of peace. Many speakers from all over the world who share his vision of peace have visited the LOTUS to share their wisdom of different faiths and deliver the message of harmony among all people of all faiths. Truth is one, paths are many.
When I arrived at the Ashram I felt like a silent witness to all that was happening around me. It was like I could see the pureness within those around me and I could feel the peaceful vibrations. It was through these silent observations that I could feel my mind sharpen like never before. I attended talks, meditation & contemplation, chanting, spiritual study and spent time doing yoga and walking along beautiful trails. These trails lead through woodland into open spaces where Swami Satchadananda once lived, practised yoga and where his tomb is situated.
During these peaceful walks, the clarity and connectedness not only to nature but also to the knowledge of the higher self, I'm not this body, I'm not this mind, I'm an observer, was liberating. As a Radiographer, I've always had an understanding and passion for atoms and have questioned for many years "who am I amongst others, how are we connected?" I grew up having little respect for religion, I often associated acts of wickedness with religion. Moving into my professional career in Radiography and then into my Yoga practice opened up a doorway which allowed me to study, analyse and reflect upon how 'I' as an atom am connected to the Universe. I knew I felt a connection to something but I didn't know how to make sense of it. Einstein famously said "the important thing is to never stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing."
At the Ashram I had much time to contemplate. I can see that having greater knowledge and wisdom that comes with self-analysis and spiritual study, I've really been able to deepen my Yoga practice. I can now make more sense of where I fit into the world. Although I will continue to question and analyse, I now see my life merely as a play and my visit to the Ashram as a scene from that play where I've been part of the most wonderful Act. Shakespeare said "all the world is a stage, and all the men and women merely players, they have their exits and their entrances and one man in his time plays many parts."
Over a Year ago, during my Raja training I took on my spiritual name of Shanti Sahar (Peace Awakening) and during my visit to Swami Satchidnanda's tomb, I was blessed with my spiritual name. I'm dedicated to the teachings of Swami Satchidananda and moving forwards I will continue to embrace any opportunity to share my knowledge about the essence of Integral Yoga and it's wonderful teachings. My practice of Bhakti Yoga, Japa Yoga, and Jnana yoga were beautifully embraced during my stay and my visit to the Ashram will stay with me forever. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to share in the experience of peace, joy, love and light that living a yogic lifestyle offers and as I return to my usual day to day life, I am left with a neutral feeling, where I feel blissfully centred and grounded.
Earlier this year I was involved in organising a children’s yoga and relaxation class at a local homeless shelter. The shelter does some amazing work in the community to support vulnerable children. It was a pleasure to be with these children and work with two fellow yogis who are each great yogis.
Children’s yoga is always fun. I’ve worked with many different teachers and what’s great about being with kids is that as teachers we get to be childlike and parents can get involved too. Being childlike we get a glimpse of our own true nature, we see ourselves childlike again, roaring like lions, moo-ing like cows and meowing like cats, brilliant fun.
A personal favourite of mine is where we sit like Little Frogs, trying not to move, being really still and quiet. Sometimes as Little Frogs we can feel vulnerable but we can be tough as well, like a strong tree. As Little Frogs we can imagine the most beautiful places to sit, maybe next to a big strong tree where we feel good and safe. Little Frogs Yoga & Mindfulness classes are available upon request.
Everybody has their own energy field which sometimes needs a little care and attention and this one to one Mindfulness Acupressure Therapy which involves the 5 senses, will help you re-energise and re-balance the mind and body. The 5 senses I speak of are taste, sound, smell, touch and sight.
It’s quite usual to have more affinity with one sense more than another, for example eating as opposed to listening to music or watching tv. Do you experience the human touch as often as you’d like and how good is your sense of smell. This therapy awakens all of the 5 senses in order to strengthen your identity with your whole self allowing you to self heal.
I begin the Therapy by awakening the sense of sight with with some basic eye movements to help focus the mind. What then follows are some basic yoga postures. Having trained extensively in anatomy and biomechanics, I deliver my Yoga practice from a modern movement science perspective where I'm both respectful of my beloved traditional Yoga but also mindful that some practices need to evolve. Thai massage using acupressure techniques are then incorporated at this functional stage of the Therapy. I introduced Thai Massage into my Yoga practice after visiting Thailand and falling in love with the practice. I studied the traditional method from the school of Chang Mai which has its roots in Ayuveda from India. Incorporating Yoga Thai Massage and Acupressure into this lovely Therapy awakens the sense of touch and adds that human interaction and connectedness which is necessary for letting the energy flow freely within us. This particular part of the practice is particularly great for easing lower back pain as well as restoring the natural energy flow within, as access is gained to the body's meridian and chakric energy systems.
Flower essences are also used to awaken the senses of taste and smell. The flower essences that I use are energetic signatures of flowers and plants that have been captured and preserved. These essences can bring about a sense of calmness aswell as heightening your awareness of how you need to bring about balance and get your energy vibrations 'back in tune'. What then follows is the use of tuning forks to subtly awaken the sense of sound. The Tuning forks are also used gently on points of the face to lift, tonify and firm the face.
A period of contemplation and meditation then follows. We then consciously withdraw from all of the 5 Senses by turning the mind inwards. We mentally cease moving forward or backward in time and space. Our Consciousness becomes far more sensitive when it detaches from the senses. As the senses withdraw our intuitive mind awakens, a mind that is less fragmented, more receptive, and more whole. The energy within us can really then flow freely and heals us from within.
Each of our senses are then re-introduced in the final part of this therapy, where we will feel fully awaken to each of our 5 senses. The sense of sound is introduced with much more vigour at this stage, as we enjoy the sound of the gong and singing bowls. Sound waves from the tuning forks, gongs and bowls can travel deeply in our body along our energy pathways that effect our entire physiology and reach places not easily accessed by traditional medicine. Breathing exercises are conducted in the final stage of this therapy as our body becomes fully restored back to its natural vibration, back to its optimum level.
If you're interested in making a therapy reservation or would like more information please email email@example.com
A year has passed since I completed my Raja Yoga training and what an amazing year it’s been. Studying Raja Yoga (the Science of the Mind) has really allowed me to focus on furthering my yoga practice off the mat. There’s been a lot of charity work. I’ve been astounded at how rewarding to my wellbeing this charity work has been and being able to see some of the measurable results of my Karma Yoga practice.
I discovered that practising Karma Yoga (selfless service) and being involved in charity work has really allowed me to focus on leading a more simple life. Each day I’m grateful for the simple things in life, food on the table, a roof over my head, good health and precious times with family and friends.
Revisiting the Raja course a year on was an incredible experience. It allowed me to reflect on my achievements and really understand that opening oneself up to the teachings of Raja Yoga has allowed me to develop my own virtuous qualities that have really brought about the best in me. I will continue with my studies in order to further develop my practice of Jnana Yoga (reflection and self enquiry). I'm really being to feel the subtle and profound results of the teachings of Swami Satchidananda and the Six Branches of Integral Yoga; Hatha, Raja, Karma, Jnana, Bhakti and Japa Yoga.
On the final day of training, I was honoured to be invited to deliver a gong meditation to this lovely group of people and the vibrational energy in the room that day was very special. I wish them all well in their year ahead and hope that with their new found knowledge, their year is amazing too. There is one thing I'm certain of, is that as they continue to grow, I too will continue to grow.
I recently completed work on a Mini Golf project at a local homeless shelter. The shelter does great work to support the homeless in a very positive way. I began the fundraising with a hike challenge. The challenge was to walk to the summit of the iconic La Concha situated directly behind Marbella in Southern Spain. The first attempt involved five of us battling the elements. Unfortunately after reaching the halfway point we had to abandon due to low cloud which made the walk too dangerous. The second attempt, just a week later, rewarded the 14 of us with a stunning cloudless day with spectacular views of Marbella and beyond to Morocco.
Next was a charity golf day organised by Lady Captain and Captain of The San Roque Golf Club. The support of the captains and the amazing support of a local construction company and local volunteers enabled us to raise enough funds to complete the project. It was also great to be part of the winning golf team on the day.
It is hoped that now the project is completed, the mini golf can be used not only by the local residents but also the wider community providing long term fundraising for the centre.
Working on this project has been hugely rewarding, it’s not only the people of La Linea that have gained from this. Being involved in this project has allowed me to practice yoga in its truest form and I’ve gained a real sense of well-being. I’ve meet some amazing people, there really is so much good that goes on in our community and I’m delighted our support will continue through our new Hiking Group Don’t Look Down.
The Don’t Look Down hiking group formed very naturally due to my involvement in a charity project and I’m delighted that this has happened. It all began when a group of us got together to walk up La Concha.
La Concha is one of Andalucía’s classic walks. We began the walk at the Refugio del Juanar and climbed up to to La Concha (1215m) - the imposing bulbous peak that dominates the Marbella skyline on the Costa del Sol in Southern Spain. The weather conditions on the day were perfect and provided the most amazing panorama up and down the coast and across to Africa. It wasn’t a trivial walk, with sections of dramatic exposure and steep drops, and a bit of scrambling along the sides of rocky ridges. Highlights of the walk included; an initial ascent through a pine forest, dramatic cliff-face traverse section with precipitous drop, an exciting ridge approach to the summit as well as the spectacular summit panorama. There were 14 of us in total and there were many ‘Don’t Look Down’ moments on the walk and much camaraderie as group members offered each other support at challenging moments. The La Concha walk was a huge success in raising much needed funds.
The La Concha walk give me the inspiration to formalise a hiking group aptly named ‘Don’t Look Down’. We have many more walks and activities planned in the coming months and the leftover change in our Kitty from our walks will go to the homeless shelter in order that we can continue to support the amazing work that they do. So a big thank you to all that have joined this group and for supporting this cause.
The primarily aim of the group is that likeminded people in our community can come together and enjoy the outdoors and connect with nature whilst providing fitness, fun and friendship for us all. If you’re interested in finding out more about of hiking group please take a look at our Don’t Look Down group on Facebook.
After introducing juicing to my lifestyle back in 2013 and noticing the benefits to both mind and body I became interested in raw food and set about finding out more about the benefits of eating a raw food diet. The findings would prove useful in updating my knowledge in the Sports Nutrition domain. My studies in the field of Sports Science and Nutrition gave me a very early understanding about the necessary building blocks for our bodies to function at an optimal level; enzymes, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, protein, essential fats and fiber.
In my research I discovered that when food is cooked over 45 degrees we destroy most of the enzymes from within the food. This is clearly not good as the enzymes we eat are responsible for converting the food we eat into a structure that allows it to be passed through our cell membranes in the lining of our digestive tract and ultimately into our bloodstream to help transform and store energy.
I started gradually introducing more and more raw foods meals into my daily lifestyle and loved the effect on my body. I found the foods easy to digest and I loved not having that sluggish feeling that I sometimes would get after eating. I attended a Raw Food course which has been very beneficial for both personal and professional growth. The photo shows some of the delicious things I cooked Raw Crackers, Sweet Beet Soup, Mock Tuna Salad on Raw tacos with cashew 'sour cream' and raw tomato salsa, Nori rolls with almond pate, Turmeric Tea and Chocolate and avocado strawberry mousse cake.
Occasionally I’ll have days when I eat only raw food. It’s on these days that I feel that I have more energy and more mental clarity. My Body is clearly being nourished at a cellular level which as well as feeling more energised and more mindful, this Food Lifestyle also assists with weight management, having clear skin and a general feeling of absolute amazingness.
LOVE RAW FOOD....
The basis of Ayurvedic Fitness is that you are exercising mindfully. Prana should flow effortlessly into every cell of your body via the breath. It is the correct use of the breath during exercise that allows us to bring harmony between the mind and body. Try and keep your mouth closed and use nasal breathing to enable you to fully utilise the breath into the lower lobes of the lungs.
When you are exercising if you are forced to breathe through the mouth, you should slow down and recapture the original breath. Once it's re-established then you can try and push yourself again but keep slowing down if your breathing becomes laboured. Eventually your body will accommodate a higher level of fitness.
Understanding who you are can help determine why type of activity you are best suited to and how much. If you choose to exercise to improve cardiovascular health then you should ensure that you consume a good diet with many antioxidants to combat the effects of free radicals.
We all have a different body-mind type; Kapha, Pitta, Vata. Choosing the right exercises to suit your mind-body type will give you the greatest benefits and enjoyments. Many people pride themselves on their rigorous exercise routines but you should ensure that you are following a routine that is in line with your Dosha (mind-body type). Following the correct regime will ensure that you are less fatigued with better stamina and strength, you will feel more energised and blissful and will look forward to exercise. To summarise;
Vata Dosha types tend to have bursts of energy but tend to tire quickly. They can push themselves too hard and feel dizzy and exhausted. Vatas are averse to cold because they don't have much fat and muscle to protect them as they are often of slight frame.
Kapha Dosha types tend to have strong, steady energy and great physical strength. They can excel at endurance events and long distance running although may have some lack of motivation to exercise.
Pitta Dosha types tend to like challenging exercise and playing sports because of their competitive nature. They can handle cold better than Vatas being of larger frame. Pittas tend to have less endurance then Kaphas and prefer moderation. Swimming and skiing are ideal to cool the heat of the Pitta.
Yoga and Ayurveda are two interrelated healing disciples from India. Each has it's own function but overlaps on various levels. Yoga is ideal for all body types because they balance all the three Doshas. I teach Integral Yoga that has an integrative approach which encompasses pranayama. Pranayama can be called the 'internal medicine' of Yoga. Pranayama directly impacts the Doshas (vata, pitta and kapha) and can have a powerful impact on physical and psychological systems.
Bring Ayurveda concepts to my Yoga practice has brought about some suptle changes. I now always do some Yoga as soon as I wakeup and I drink herbal tea afterwards to aid digestion. I never miss pranayama out of my daily practice and often now do this as a stand alone practice aswell as combined with my Yoga practice. Gaining an understanding of my doshic make up and how it can overlap and change with seasons has allowed me to balance and adjust my practice. My one to one clients are benefiting too, I can now teach more self-love and body acceptance. The deep stillness of Savasana is helpful to calm and balance Vata. Backbends and twists are great for releasing heat in Pitta and Sun Salutations are great for balancing Kapha. I've also added more massage to my teachings to help students to feel more grounded.
Yoga and Ayurveda are beautiful branches of the tree of Vedic knowledge that encompasses all of human life and the entire universe. Allowing these mindful practices into your life will bring about balance and harmony to mind, body and spirit. But ultimately, whatever exercise you choose, you should always remember to exercise mindfully.
What Our Clients Are Saying
"Shanti's approach to wellbeing is wholesome. She takes you on a journey to awaken the body's natural healing potential. You will leave feel centred and blissfull".