I’m a multi-tasking mum, marathoner, part-time yoga teacher and a professional writer. So I live life a bit uptight and at race-pace. I’m always running races, racing the kids to school or dashing about to get stuff done. I love making the most of every moment but I know I need to learn to sit still more, savour the moment, relax and unwind. You know, have less ants-in-the-pants.
So when I spied the Experiencing the Art of Stillness yin yoga class on the schedule at the Wanderlust O’ahu festival in Hawaii, I knew my yoga mat should be rolled out there.
Yin yoga is a slow-paced yoga with poses (or asanas) that are held for long periods (about five minutes per pose). This releases tension and tightness, increases circulation, improves flexibility and movement and some say this slowing down improves your emotional wellbeing too as you can reach an inner-bliss. It’s like a more meditative/restorative style of yoga that’s great for the mind and body. It’s the opposite to the faster and flowing vinyasa yoga classes you often see.
I feel blissful just turning up to this class. I’m with about 30 other yogis at Turtle Bay Resort and I’m in paradise. The sand is pristine white and aqua waves rumble and crash onto the shore. I can see wave-after-wave for miles out to sea and foam and sea spray spitting up wildly into the air. The salty Hawaiian sea air is invigorating to inhale. My stress-levels go down a gear just simply being here.
It’s 7am and the sun is rising, but the air is warm. Candles glow and incense releases a spicy and sweet aroma.
Local yoga teacher Sara Phelan greets the class with “aloha” and then adds “this is not just a hello and goodbye greeting in Hawaii”. She explains “alo” means presence and “ha” means breathe. So the literal meaning of aloha can be “the presence of breath”.
How appropriate then that Hawaii hosts a Wanderlust yoga festival because a key to doing yoga well is using your breath well to guide your movements. This helps you move and stretch with more ease. It also makes you feel good.
Sara guides our class through a series of gentle and well-known yoga poses like “downward-facing dog”, “pigeon”, “side stretches” and “happy baby pose”. Her quiet voice calms me down another ten notches.
She tells us to remember to “slow down” in life and “to let go of things in our minds that are not serving us”. To live a happy life …
During the class it’s like Sara reads my mind too when she says “don’t come into the deepest stretch you can do. Back off a little. Come to the place the body naturally stops”. This makes the yoga more achievable and enjoyable.
The more I relax, the deeper I sink into the yoga poses. Near the end of the hour session we close our eyes, lie on our backs and enjoy the peace and stillness (called savasana). I’m so calm and chilled-out that I’m almost asleep. My body feels revived and my mind is calmed.
This was just one of many classes I loved at the festival. Sara was among a number of talented yoga instructors leading different styles of yoga classes from acrobatic yoga to rhythmic vinyasa yoga, lessons on doing inversions (i.e. handstands) and even StandUp Paddleboard Yoga (with an instructor who has taught singer Lady Gaga).
A photo workshop was also part of the programme where fellow yogis took pictures of each other on the beach doing yoga while a trained photographer gave tips. Here’s a pic of me doing a warrior yoga pose in the water.
The beautiful Turtle Bay Resort (www.turtlebayresort.com) where the festival is held is a great base for your stay. Here you can get a marine-infused product massage at The Nalu Kinetic Spa on-site (while you gaze out to the sea crashing on the beach) and make sure you dine at this resort’s North Shore Kula Grille restaurant (there’s exquisite food here). My fave dish was the beef tenderloin (rubbed with Kona Coffee) with a confit of onions and hamakua mushrooms, crab stuffed kahuku prawns, whipped goat cheese and mashed potato.
So if you’re interested in going to a stunning location to soak up yoga, healthy food, live music, inspirational speakers and where you can learn to live life more mindfully then Wanderlust O’ahu is an amazing four-day festival to put on your bucket list.
The next Wanderlust O’ahu festival is February 25-28, 2016.
Air New Zealand flies direct to Honolulu Airport (about an 8-hour-flight/NZ is 23 hours ahead in time difference during daylight savings hours)
Photography by Shannon Cumming, Amanda Bjorn and Amanda Michaels for Wanderlust Festival.