Sivananda Yoga Retreat

Well, I’m back from my yoga retreat. Quite a weekend, let me tell you. Hard work sometimes (getting up at 5:30am for example) but certainly worth it. And I don’t feel half as tired/achey as I thought I would. Maybe I’m getting better, lol.

gaunts house

It was at Gaunt’s House, which is this big old former country house (now retreat centre) in Dorset. The place is massive, with lots of grounds, a big garden, and good sized rooms. I paid extra for a single and got a room that’s bigger than my flat (seriously, though I do have a very small flat!) with a double bed. Oh the luxury of a double bed! So nice to just spread out like that. I miss having a double bed.

enjoying the view

The grounds were made for chilling out, but there wasn’t much time for that. The schedule kept us quite busy. Check this out:

5:30 – Wake
6:00 – Satsang (meditation and chanting)
8:00 – Yoga
10:00 – Breakfast/Brunch
12:00 – Nature walk
14:00 – Demo/talk
16:00 – Yoga
18:00 – Supper
20:00 – Satsang
21:30 – Finish
21:31 – Bed 😉

Quite a lot to do huh? I tell you, took a little getting used to. You just had to relax and go with it (probably part of the ethos I reckon). And I’m not kidding about the last one. Soon as you were finished it was straight to bed (for me anyway). If I’m getting up that early I needs me beauty sleep.

The whole thing was run very well, which is no surprise from the Sivananda lot. I even helped out with some of it, getting to the centre early to load up my car with stuff (I had pictures of the swamis and deities on my back seat, and every time someone cut me up in traffic, and I swore without thinking, I found myself apologising to ‘the boys’ for my bad language, lol), helping set up when we got there, and finally fiddling with the sound system during the satsangs, swapping wires between mikes and twiddling knobs to get the levels right.

All the yoga-ey stuff was excellent. My ability to do it though, varied from day to day. Funny how some days you can get your toes on the floor when doing the plough, and other days you find yourself completely scrunched up, feet flailing, unable to catch your breath.

nature walk vs fence

The nature walks were nice, though ‘walk’ is a bit of a misnomer. March, stomp or trudge might a better way of describing it. With Swamiji and his long legs up front, striding off into the distance, it was sometimes a task just to keep up. I know for a fact we lost most the group on the first day (and the second day for that matter) and it was just some good guesswork (or the sound of our post-meditative omming) that brought them back to the rest of the group unscathed, lol. 🙂

As for all the chanting, I can’t say I’m entirely sold on that. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good Om as much as the next man, but after 30-40 minutes of it… well, you get the idea. Maybe I’ll get into it one day, maybe I won’t (the Swami himself admitted he had some difficulty getting his head around it in the beginning), I just know for now it’s not the thing for me; and so mote it be.

thai yoga massage

On the last night, instead of a long satsang, we had a talent show. People told stories, played the piano, sang, did demos, and I even got roped into doing a bit of Tai Chi for them. Got to admit, I was a bit nervous doing it. It was a big crowd (about 70 odd) but it went ok in the end. I got plenty of compliments afterwards, which was nice, and maybe some people might feel motivated to give it a try; which would be great, as yoga and Tai Chi are very much sister disciplines.

(more pics here)


On the way back we stopped off at Stonehenge to go check that out. Was nice to see the stones close up, though not as close as I’d have liked, as you’re not allowed near them for some reason; and you have to pay £7:50 for the privilege, which seems a bit steep to me.

And, everyone was walking round with these little recorders listening to a commentary on the stones, which made for an odd sight. Made me think of the Victorians, who would go out into the countryside and, since they only ever saw landscapes in paintings, had to use a little framing devices to look around, otherwise they couldn’t ‘see’ the beautiful views around them.

Still, it was worth a visit, and I’m glad I went. And it was fun to spend some time with Swami Krishnadevananda and the gang not doing yoga or anything like that, just monkeying about a bit.

swami and the stones

He’s such a cheery fella! 🙂

kiki and the henge

Still rockin’ the new do’. 😉

All told a very good weekend, and one I would recommend to anyone who fancies a bit of a yoga retreat some time. They have them twice a year in the UK, and at other times at other centres around the world. Check out their website for the what’s going on.

Give ’em a go! You’ll meet some lovely people, learn some new stuff, get a bit fitter, and have a right laugh whilst doing it. What more could you need? 🙂

30 Days of Kiki : day 24

day 24- a letter to your parents

Dear Mum

Thanks for teaching me how to cook. I forgot it for a while, the baking bit anyway, but now I’ve gone vegan it’s coming in very handy indeed. I feel lucky I learnt at such a young age, so it comes kinda naturally, and I’m still a little surprised by people who don’t know how. It’s just something I thought people did.

Dear Dad

Thanks for teaching me to mind my surroundings and know where I was going, especially when going somewhere new. It came in pretty handy when I was in Peru. More than once I used my skill to find my hotel again. I mean I still get lost, sometimes that’s part of the fun, but at least I know how lost I am and can find my way home again.

Cheers both of you. See you at Christmas,


30 Days of Kiki : day 7

day 7- a picture of someone/something that has the biggest impact on you

There are a few major influences I’d like to have mentioned – like Bill Hicks, Robert Heinlein, Alfonso Cuaron, Gandhi – but I can’t go into them all so I’ll just concentrate on two for the moment; one a someone, and one a something.

day 21 - peace

With Buddha I’m going to have to include Gandhi, as he came first in my life, and in terms of pure physical practicality he has been the most influential. (NB: If you haven’t seen Richard Attenborough’s fabulous biopic of Gandhi go see it now! It’s an absolute must see.)

Both men talked about understanding the truth about humanity, about knowing what it is to be alive. I cannot pretend I’ve even begun to get to grips with some of the concepts they have presented to me, but I have already been influenced by them in many, many ways.

It was Gandhi who helped me give up smoking, something I mentioned in Day 1, and it was the Buddha, through the Dalai Lama as portrayed in Seven Years In Tibet, who made me realise I had to become vegan.

beginning buddhism

Their knowledge and understanding is a living thing, and to experience it is to allow it in. Read the books, see the movie (at the very least they’re interesting in and of themselves) and if you don’t learn anything maybe it’s because you knew it already. 🙂


My ‘something’ is this, the geodesic dome. Propounded by the great comprehensivist Buckminster Fuller, geodesic domes are one of the strongest and most versatile ways to enclose a large space (without internal support!).

They get exponentially stronger and lighter the larger they get – for example, the domes pictured above at the Eden Project are in more danger of blowing away than they are of falling down – and when tested by the American military to see if they could withstand the high winds and extreme conditions of the Arctic, by attempting to pull them down from the inside, the testing equipment broke before the domes did.

But the most amazing concept for me is this: If you built a dome one quarter of a mile across that was a complete sphere, made out of the most light-weight materials, and you were able to seal it efficiently, the buoyancy provided by the warm air that would accumulate inside (it being a big giant greenhouse after all) would be enough to make it float! Imagine, it’s entirely possible that some time in the future we could be living in floating cities, circumnavigating the globe, true citizens of the world. Wouldn’t that be wild! 😉

30 Days of Kiki : day 1

I’ve decided, as a kind of action of discipline/contrition for dropping the idea of doing weekly blog reports, to do the 30 Days of… thing as propounded by the lovely Seitanic Vegan Heathen. It goes a little something like this.

Every day you do an entry that fulfills the following criteria.

day 1- recent picture of you and 15 interesting facts about yourself
day 2- the meaning behind you blog name
day 3- a picture of you and your friends
day 4- a habit that you wish you didn’t have
day 5- a picture of somewhere you’ve been to
day 6- favorite super hero and why
day 7- a picture of someone/something that has the biggest impact on you
day 8- short term goals for this month and why
day 9- something you’re proud of in the past few days
day 10- songs you listen to when you are happy, sad, bored, hyped, mad
day 11- another picture of you and your friends
day 12- how you found out about blogging and why you do one
day 13- a letter to someone who has hurt you recently
day 14- a picture of you and your family
day 15- put you ipod on shuffle: first 10 songs that play
day 16- another picture of yourself
day 17- someone you would want to switch lives with for one day and why
day 18- plans/dreams/goals you have
day 19- nicknames you have and why you have them
day 20- someone you see yourself marrying or being with in the future
day 21- a picture of something that makes you happy
day 22- what makes you different from everyone else
day 23- something you crave for a lot
day 24- a letter to your parents
day 25- what I would find in your bag
day 26- what do you think about your friends
day 27- why are you doing this 30 day challenge
day 28- a picture of you from last year and now, how have you changed since then?
day 29- in this past month, what have you learned
day 30- your favorite song

Simple enough eh? Well, with that in mind, here goes:

day 1- recent picture of you and 15 interesting facts about yourself

have a cherry

I’m just showing off now. 😉 Still so chuffed I got to feed the animals at the London Tropical Zoo! The lemurs especially were my favourites.

Ok, now 15 facts!

1. When I was at art school I was on the verge of being kicked out. I had to do some extra work to hand in at the start of the following year to be able to stay on and complete the course. Over the summer holiday I forgot. By accident I handed in my current work to be marked and my new tutor, not realising the mistake (and not caring either), marked it and I ‘passed’. I went on to pass that course, and eventually get a degree. Technically I shouldn’t have.

2. Somewhere out there is a documentary in which I did the voice-overs for a Russian scientist and a bunch of random nazis. This came about as I was working at a post production house and the clients didn’t have enough artists to do the whole thing. I’ve also voiced a displaced African tribesman, a pirate, and a spy.

3. Reading Gandhi’s autobiography inspired me to make a solemn vow to give up smoking, on the 23rd of May 2005, and I haven’t had a cigarette since. Nice on G!

4. I’ve got a tattoo of the Chinese symbol for Tao on my left shoulder blade. I’m also thinking about getting another tattoo done on my right shoulder.

5. I always have a notebook on the go in which, as well as ‘organising’ my life, I record random sayings and one-liners that I think it would be amusing for as yet uncreated characters to say say in as yet unwritten movies.

6. I fantasise about building my own house. It will be a geodesic dome!

7. I built my own bed. I made it out of two wooden pallets which I had to cut down, sand, and varnish. I did it all by hand. It was a couple of years before I put legs on it, but now I have and it’s way cool.

8. Lava lamps fascinate me.

9. I like to go to the coffee shop round the corner, scootch down in one of their sofas, and spend hours just sat there drinking tea and reading noir crime novels (usually one of Richard Stark’s Parker stories).

10. When I was 10 my twin brother and I were almost killed by carbon monoxide fumes. The heating system in the house, instead of venting the exhaust fumes outside, was pumping them back into the house. We were exposed for a few hours (my mum went out to visit her dad in hospital when my dad and two older brothers came back from work, so they all had less exposure thank God) which gave us headaches and a ringing in the ears. Then we collapsed (separately) and couldn’t get up again. I know what it feels like to be paralysed! Fortunately my dad and brothers took us outside and got us some air while the ambulance was called for. We spent a couple of days in hospital but in the end were fine. The heating system didn’t fare as well. Within 24 hours it was a big pile of metal in the lawn. And good riddance I say!

11. There used to be 3 films that made me cry – It’s a Wonderful Life, Scrooged and The Abyss. These days pretty much any episode of Extreme Makeover Home Edition gets me going (which is especially embarrassing when I’m at work).

12. I met Neil Gaiman once. I was dying to ask him some questions but every time I started his phone went and I got interrupted. Then I had to leave. I was a bit gutted about that.

13. I worked for the Edinburg Film Festival in 1997 and 1998, and I had the best time. If you ever get the chance to do something like that I heartily recommend it. I met so many lovely people, saw so many new films, and drank so much free booze. One of the best ideas I ever had.

14. I want to ride an elephant and see the Northern Lights before I die (but not at the same time, that’d be weird).

15. I quite like my new moustache. It may stay.

Man, that was tough. Fifteen is a lot of facts, and trying to remain interesting… phew! Stay tuned for 29 more days of random Kiki action. Tomorrow, what’s ‘my brand new life’ about?