“The way I teach is intuitive. It means that although there is structure with the key elements (breath, asana, inner space and edges), I do not have teaching plans, and each retreat is a little different in how the sessions unfold. So during the retreat, we build, bit by bit, on the elements, weave them together, into a dance, led by the breath, the body following. Initially, people can experience quite a bit of bliss but, as is the nature of an expansive universe (and consciousness), we all, always, find the next edge. Internally, and externally.
I consider myself a guide, we go on an internal adventure, supported by the structure, but very fluid within that.
I work a lot with the “Edge”. Every single body can fold fully into any position. What stops us are our own personal inner edges. These are the tensions, blockages, scars and strains that stop our muscles from relaxing. These edges arise from un-finished emotions, from ancestral scars and blocks. I know this from experience in massage: always, when you release a block, you release an emotion. With breath, you can get at places that are so subtle and are often unreachable for a normal masseur.
But also, these edges define us and present opportunities to allow awareness (consciousness and divinity) to arise. So they are the jewels in our crown. We breathe them into light, we investigate, we caress them, honour them and love them into disappearance. We do all of that through how we use breath, movement and mindfulness. The ancient wisdom traditions (the non-dual Shaivinist tantric scriptures) teach that the true nature of reality is simply a consciousness arising playfully, wanting to become conscious of itself. In order to be able to do that, in essence this divine consciousness hides itself from itself, in order to have the opportunity to discover itself and behold itself as an observer.
We also start from a place of perfection – this is also a tantric teaching. We are good enough as we are. We do not have to be in any way different, we do not have to strive, change or be somewhere else. Let’s just accept, for the duration of the retreat, that we are good enough. From that place of stillness, we then explore outward, allow our edges to come into view, honour our selves and our bodies in the process. Bodies are marvellous things. They hold for us all of those things that we don’t dare, don’t want to or don’t have the strength yet to look at, and to feel. They patiently wait for us to be ready to do the work. And the work is to allow to arise within us, what needs to arise. To finish the feelings that we’ve not completed, and to let them pass through us.”
On making a ritual from food
“Food has become a ritual at Yobaba. A ritual of joy and service. It’s not just about what is in the food or on the plate, it is also about the plates, the cutlery and the bowls themselves. The candles that we light at the beginning of the day, signalling warm morning drinks prior to the morning practice, for example.
We develop little unconscious rituals wherever we go. The things we eat, how and what kind of food we prepare. The kind of ingredients we buy. To become mindful of those rituals, and to cut out the ones that no longer serve us, is a really good exercise. In the same way, building a conscious ritual around your shopping and / or morning cuppa, leading into your morning practice, then onto breakfast, really helps you to find the joy and comfort in having a self-practice, and then really feeling the benefits: calmness, joyousness, better digestion, lower blood pressure, stronger intuition. The documented benefits of this kind of diet, and a solid mindfulness practice are many.
We have a simple garden which supplies us with tomatoes, courgettes, various green leaves, edible flowers, and herbs. We use water from a nearby spring which is known for its beneficial qualities for the digestion (Alet-les-Bains). We make cold-brewed herbal teas: my favourite is hibiscus, ginger and lime. We ferment gram flour with homemade Kombucha to make the fluffiest pancakes and waffles.
I create all the recipes. New ones often arise during a retreat, usually driven by what is, or is not, available.
The diet has a detoxifying effect, and balances the digestion very quickly it seems. We get a lot of people with IBS, and their digestion calms down. IBS is quite interesting, because it is, of course, also related to the parasympathetic nervous system. So the combination of the diet, and the deep diaphragmatic breathing of the embodied meditation practice, really help to calm and tone this.”