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? 🙂

Garlicky Green Salad

Ok, confession time, I totally nicked this from the coffee shop on the high road. They sell it as a cold salad in a tub, but it tastes just as good warm with Shepherd’s Pie (as pictured).

garlicky green salad

1 courgette, sliced
1 head of broccoli, decapitated
1 cup sugar snap peas
1 tbsp olive oil
3-4 cloves of garlic, crushed
salt and pepper
2 tsp sesame seeds

On a medium heat fry the courgette and garlic in a large frying pan until the courgette has softened. Be very careful not to burn garlic. Stir often and turn heat down if necessary. Take your time with this. There’s no rush.

Steam the broccoli and sugar snap peas. Do the broccoli for 4 minutes, then toss in the peas and cook for a further 4 mins. Alternatively you could boil these veggies if you don’t have a steamer, but you’ll lose some of the nutritional value.

Toss the drained, just cooked, veggies into the frying pan and mix with courgette (to coat with galricky oil).

Put in a bowl, season with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with sesame seeds. Toss lightly then either serve or allow to cool for a tasty snack.

Serves 3-4.

Blacks and Rasps Pie (filling)

This is a lovely, tangy fruit pie I made with blackberries I foraged from down by the canal. You can’t say no to free food, especially when it’s so damn sweet, now can you?

blackberry and raspberry pie

250g blackberries
250g raspberries
70g unrefined cane sugar
30g plain flour
1/4 tsp almond essence
1 tbsp lemon juice

1 pack of pastry from Sainsburys (weight to follow)

Pre-heat oven to 220C. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to a thickness of about 3-4mm. Using your rolling pin lay the pastry over a 9″ (23cm) baking tin and press into edges gently, being sure not to break it. Cut away the excess round the edge with a knife.

Re-work and roll out remaining pastry into a sheet and cut into strips to make lattice.

In a large bowl mix all the filling ingredients completely until well combined. Pour into pie tin and spread out evenly. Place ‘weft’ part of lattice work across pie. Lay on the ‘warp’ part line by line, working it over and under the ‘weft threads’ (not as in picture, as I messed it up, but you get the idea). Allow pastry to rest for 15 minutes.

Put pie in oven for 25 minutes. Once pastry has browned and filling is bubbling a little remove from oven and allow to cool.

I’ve said this one is just the filling because I bought the pastry. Haven’t quite got my head around doing the pastry by hand yet. Tried it once and it was a bit of a pain. But now I’ve got a blender there’s nothing to stop me!

I did mess up the lattice work as you can see, but it still tastes nice so who cares, right? I also forgot about the pie and left it in a bit longer than necessary, hence the very ‘golden’ look of some bits of it. 25 minutes should do the trick, give or take. It’s up to you how you like it. And don’t be surprised if the filling bubbles over a little too. I removed half a tablespoon of lemon juice from the recipe to cut down on the amount of liquid, but that might not rectify the problem. Not that it’s much of a problem. Pies bubble over sometimes. Such is the way of things. 🙂

Week 26: In which our hero sorts himself out (a bit)

Ok, I’m a bit late with my report this week. No excuse really. I’m just having a bit of trouble keeping track of time at the moment. Maybe it’s the summer days, maybe it’s the lack of markers (I’ve been spectacularly un-busy these past few weeks), but life had just been slipping me by. I’ll go to reply to an e-mail I just got, and realise I’d received it a week ago. Or I’ll be talking about next week, and realise I mean tomorrow. It’s both confusing and calming at the same time, for just as I’m “out of time” so I must conversely be “in the moment” and that’s not a bad place to be. 🙂

Truth be told I didn’t do much last week. More life maintenance – dentist, osteopath, barber – stuff like that. I did manage to do a recipe, the very fresh tasting Cabbage and Carrot Summer Salad, which is nice: And I managed to sort my recipes page out properly (link at top) so that you can actually find things instead of being confronted with a long list of recipes that even I couldn’t make head nor tail of. Now if you want to try something from a specific continent, or time of day, there it is, easy as pie. Mmm… Pie..!

I intend to do more stuff this week coming. I don’t think one recipe is quite enough for a week’s work, do you? I think a recipe a week plus something new is more the order of the day. And maybe something else too. I’m thinking about bringing film reviews into the picture. I’ve been doing the odd review on and off on my LoveFilm profile page and I think they’re ok, so I may incorporate more filmy stuff into the blog. I mean it’s what I’m into, what I know about, and you should always play to your strengths eh? Might also spur me on to do some more writing, you never know.

With that in mind I’ve been thinking about a list of Movie’s You Have To See! No point doing a top ten because you can’t put one above the other. For one thing I wouldn’t know what criteria to use. How do you compare genres? Budgets? Experimental against mainstream? It’s a fools errand. So I’m just going to make my recommendations and the rest is up to you.

With that in mind, if you haven’t seen Out Of Sight go get it right now! To me it’s the finest collaboration between Steven Soderberg and George Clooney. An amazingly stylish and ultra hip adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s novel, it deserved it’s oscar nominations just as Jennifer Lopez deserved the kudos she got for her superb performance.

There’s no way in which this movie doesn’t work. The writing, the editing, the colouring (Soderberg used different style for each city in the movie – bright colours for Miami, washed out blues for Detroit), every tune on the soundtrack is a gem, every character full and engaging, it has stood up to multiple watches and I expect to watch it many times more.

Also, it has in it one of the sexiest scenes ever committed to film. Clooney and Lopez are so cool, yet so vulnerable, and so into each other, it really gets to you. The writing is simple and direct, the lighting and camera work concise and unobtrusive, and it was for the editing of this scene that pretty much got the editor her Oscar nomination (I believe). But never mind all that, it’s just so damn sexy! If you need any more convincing to give Out Of Sight a go check out the scene below, but if you think you might give the movie a go try to hold off. Within the proper context, once you know the characters and know what they’re talking about, it works oh so much better!

Ok, so there you are. My first recommendation. Feel free to agree/disagree with the me as much as you like. And if you’ve anything you’d like to recommend yourself I’m all ears. 🙂

Cheers y’awl.