Monday, September 26, 2011

Navasana – Boat Pose. Yoga and Sailing in Chester, N. S.

The weekend of September 16 to 18 was spent in a kind of heaven.

 Invigorating autumnal weather glowed as about 40 yoga teachers and students from all over the Atlantic area, Montréal and Atlanta, Georgia, arrived in Chester. The reason?  Another weekend with Fr. Joe.

 This was my third year to experience and share in his intensely mindful and personally disciplined yoga teaching in the Iyengar tradition. His fluidity in attaining postures and his many supported poses are a joy to observe and learn from.

 Fr. Joe is an amazingly spiritual man; a Catholic priest and yoga teacher, who worked with Mother Theresa and continues to study with B.K. S. Iyengar. He now devotes most of his time through his Kripa Foundation in India to helping and healing people with HIV and Aids, drug and alcohol addicts. Using the many restoring Iyengar poses, and his own outstanding compassion for all humanity, Fr. Joe encompasses all this in every class he teaches.

 His annual workshops in North America raise funds for Kripa.

 Every time I study with him I leave restored, re-affirmed in my teaching and re-invigorated to be with my students. In my Warrior Women classes, for women fighting and surviving breast cancer, I use many of the supported and restorative Iyengar postures.

Chester is one of the most attractive seaside towns in this region.

You are never far from the sea in all its varied majesty. Tree-lined streets are filled with charming houses; studios and galleries offer a variety of crafts and the harbour is filled with vessels of all sizes.

I always stay at the Windjammer Motel. Just out of town it offers a quiet haven. The owner gives me an end unit looking out over parkland, great for a picnic lunch and a short walk down to his private lake-side space, where his ship-inspired cottage is taking shape – all built by himself.

Teak the friendliest dog gives me a happy bark of welcome.

This year I had the special opportunity to observe all aspects of Fr. Joe. Classes as always were a mixture of detailed demonstration, exhortation, humour, song – Jim Reeves’ ‘Take My Hand’, quotations from Mother Theresa  and Juliana of Norwich and his personal faith.
 Photographs in class are not allowed but this is the hall at St. Stephen’s Church in the quite moments before we began.

On the Saturday evening I was invited to go on a “boat trip”. Not quite sure what this might involve, and with only thin yoga clothes, I begged the loan of a sweater and waited. Our ’boat’ was a beautiful 57–foot sail boat, superbly outfitted and captained by Glen, a workshop participant with his wife Margie. Stephanie, another student, Annaleah and Dealy, to whom thanks for some of these photos, were also on board.

Leigh Milne, the yoga teacher and her husband John, who organize this wonderful weekend, attempted a impromptu partner yoga pose.

Fr. Joe was relaxed and laughing, we all were, and arrived back at the Yacht Club dock two hours later, refreshed with new friendships blossoming.

It was perfect way to end the day. Calm waters, warm sunshine and delicious food floated us along into an amazing sunset. Boat Posture was never this easy!

Sunday morning some of us attended  Mass at St. Augustine’s Church. Fr. Joe was invited to celebrate mass and his ecumenical approach welcomes people of all faiths, whether practicing or not.

I arrived early and sat assessing some aspects of my life; my teaching commitment, my hopes and needs, those of my partner. Moments of quiet personal reflection. Fr. Joe talked about his work with Kripa and we received the Host from his hands. Another beautiful connection.

Then it was back to the yoga mat for three more hours of yoga postures, and pranic breathing, before reluctantly saying our farewells and beginning the long drive back to Moncton.

As I drove my thoughts soared as sails above the weekend; considering postures and finding thoughts I want to share with my students in coming weeks.

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