2014 Event Reviews

CSMV Wantage CPD Weekend, Meditation - September 2014
Domus Mariae Weekend - June 2014
Highgate House Yoga Weekend - April 2014

Domus Mariae CPD Weekend,  Subtle Energy - February 2014 

CSMV Wantage CPD Weekend - Meditation, September 2014 - The Beauty of Silence

I was lucky enough to attend the lovely Meditation weekend led by Astrid Willis at Wantage in September. Along with about twenty others – mainly Yoga teachers - I had a weekend of complete indulgence. I can think of nothing better than to be led in meditation, as I teach it myself, and it’s so wonderful to receive for a change.

St Mary’s Convent is set in the most beautiful grounds and on arrival we were warmly welcomed and fed tea and biscuits before being taken to our rooms. My room was warm and comfortable with everything I needed with a shower room just across the corridor. The sun was shining so I pottered about outside for a while, wandering among the apple trees, resting on a bench in the golden light and sitting by the pool just soaking up the peaceful atmosphere.

The staff were friendly, helpful and kind and the Sisters were delighted to have us staying with them. They admired our eating dinner in silence as Astrid requested one evening. I enjoyed that peaceful meal too and felt it fitted with the Yogic way of life.

Saturday and Sunday mornings started with the usual stretch classes and I’m reminded how wonderful it is to start my day like that even though I don’t usually manage it at home most days!

Astrid led us though several sessions of meditation, gave us information about Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga, told us about 8 different forms of meditation from creative to heart centred, and included ideas from world religions and included a reading list which was added to by course members.

Although she made us work really hard – in a relaxed way of course – Astrid has a great sense of humour and there was lots of laughter too. She introduced the Whoa moment, and the Mindfulness session included ‘6 ways of knowing’ which is a “cure for hardening of the attitudes” and a great way to open your mind to different perspectives. She told us that according to research about 90% of the thoughts we think are just repetition of thoughts we’ve had before. So you could free up loads of time by just not bothering to think so much.

As always there was plenty of time to chat with the other participants and share our Yoga stories as well as sort out world issues and the price of bread! The food was excellent and plentiful plus tea, coffee and biscuits were always available.

I always enjoy these weekends of learning, socialising, eating food that someone else has cooked so if you have the opportunity to attend one of these yoga weekends do take it, I’m sure you’ll find it as indulgent as I do you will be pleased you did.

Ruth Chambers

CSMV Wantage CPD Weekend - Meditation, September 2014


On the encouragement of my good friend I found myself travelling with her towards a convent for a weekend of Meditation and yoga. The challenge was on – no alcohol, mobile phones or wi-fi for a whole weekend – the question was - would I survive?

The agenda was read and absorbed – the main day on the Saturday started at 7am and finished at 9.30 pm – I was excited, nervous but most of all wanted the outcome of the weekend to be that I was fully refreshed, batteries recharged and ready to take the world on again.

On arrival we were shown around a beautiful building, which in the past had served as a convent, a school and a refuge for women in need. The gardens around the building were peaceful and we all had our own comfortable rooms. The main rules - no mobiles or smoking - the smoking did not worry me but I did find myself hanging out the window talking in whispers on my mobile to let the family know I had arrived OK and that they would not hear from me again until my return – not sure what they thought I was up to!

There were 18 people on the course and we all gathered together for the first time over dinner on the Friday evening. Some people already knew each other but I was made to feel very welcome and felt that we would all become friends by the end of our weekend together – this was definitely the case.

Our journey on the meditation course started that evening after dinner. I have on several occasions meditated and been part of a meditation group and really enjoyed the first session which firmly brought the group together. Most of the participants were teachers of yoga and wanted to expand their meditation skills to share with their classes. I have been practicing yoga for some years but only weekly and then only when the time allows. My background was entirely different as I work full time as an MD for an engineering company. So I decided the weekend was a gift to me from myself to bring peace and mindfulness into my world.

The facilitator for the meditation was very knowledgeable and led us through many sessions and practices on different ways of meditation. By the time we finished the sessions on Saturday evening I certainly felt I had learnt something – but wasn’t quite sure how to bring myself off the ceiling – an early night was the answer.

Overall the weekend was filled with fun and laughter and I met some really inspirational people.   I thoroughly enjoyed the work we did and felt what I had learnt would really help with my busy life and taking more time for myself.   I have come home smiling and am still smiling whilst holding a glass of wine and looking at the husband (which is worrying him slightly!)   It was a relief to be away from technology – even the boarding school food was good.   I am definitely going to participate in future courses with YHET – I love their ethos and the way that everyone was made to feel a real part of the group.

So my recommendation is give yourself a treat – if you have never done this kind of work before – try it – it is truly amazing. If you have done it before then I will see you on the next weekend.

Caroline Webster


Domus Mariae Weekend, June 2014

Due to family commitments it had been a long time since we had been able to attend a yoga weekend. The last time had been at Ickwell Bury, of which we have very happy memories indeed. But we need not have worried. After a stressful journey of traffic and motorways it is true we arrived feeling fraught, but from the moment we entered Domus Mariae we immediately felt more at ease. We were greeted by friendly and helpful people, and we felt safely enveloped in the peaceful atmosphere of the place.

We soon found the gardens which were calm and quiet, well-tended and full of flowers and trees. There were benches dotted around and sunny secluded spots for quiet contemplation. Best of all was the wonderful new labyrinth. Beautifully designed and laid out, with each small paving stone cut to just the right size to make a perfect spiral path for a walking meditation. We made great use of this every day and have decided that we would like to have one of our own!

During the weekend we joined in the various yoga classes and meditations. We thoroughly enjoyed all the sessions and it was interesting to have different teachers with their own variations, each one bringing something new to our practice. The Saturday night 'entertainment' was mantra chanting and devotional singing led by Ian Burgess. What an uplifting experience, especially when, to close, we chanted 'OM' together. This was not chanted in unison but by using the length of our individual breaths - thus all the elements of this magical sound were being made at the same time. This proved to be a very emotional experience and afterwards the room was literally ringing with the energy and vibration of our voices.

Everyone we met during the weekend was friendly, chatty and good company. It's so good for the spirit to spend time with such nice people. Of course the time passed quickly and all too soon it was time to leave. We felt a bit sad to have to re-enter the real world again, but we set off with recharged batteries, smiles on our faces and much lighter in spirit.

Glenda Baker and Christine Gibson

Highgate House Yoga Weekend, April 2014

What a memorable weekend! I was invited by my good friend Jo to come to Highgate House, my first visit. I had been to Ickwell Bury a few times, so I had some idea what to expect. My first impression of the hotel was of a beautiful old building in a stunning situation, rolling countryside, lovely views and lots of friendly, helpful people with freedom to wander in the grounds and admire the garden.

Having found our room, large, very well equipped with comfortable beds, we had our first stretch with Ally - a great start to the weekend. Everyone was so friendly and our dinner was a happy occasion, great food and a lot of talking. After the meal, Jacqui gave an introduction to the theme of the weekend which ran throughout the weekend and helped to bind the classes together.

After a good night's sleep and a lovely stretch before breakfast, I managed a swim in the warm pool - towels provided! I enjoyed Happy Hips with Jacqui and there was never any pressure to do anything that was not right for you. Meditation before lunch was very grounding, after lunch I think I would have nodded off because there was so much lovely food!

"Energy following Mind" with Martine gave me new ways of doing moves with meaning. The good thing about yoga is that you keep on learning - the OM session with Ellen was a first for me and I found it very powerful. The free time was spent talking and discovering the main house - amazing. After more food at dinner we were happy to drop into bed.

Final stretch with Ally - perfect. Calming words and music with Bill & Gill before a more energetic class with Les. A lot of humour and no pressure again to force yourself. Our last meal - again so much choice. Sad goodbyes but hope to meet again next year.

I came home very happy, positive, invigorated, energised, full of wonderful food and very grateful that I had been able to take part.

Thank you to all who made this possible.

Margaret Holt

Highgate House Yoga Weekend, April 2014

A big thank you to all involved in the lovely weekend at Highgate House in the rolling countryside of Northamptonshire. I have now been several times to this annual yoga weekend and it never fails to deliver. Ally and her team of Trustees and the hotel staff work really hard to make the visit truly enjoyable. The food was delicious. Plenty of choice to suit all tastes, and throughout the day fresh fruit, snacks and drinks were available. Cold bottled water could be collected at any time.

The theme of Mindful or Mind Full was supported by all the skilled yoga teachers and the variety of such good teaching was a real bonus. It was useful to have a pen portrait of the teachers and guidance on the level - strong /gentle – to help when choosing the session to join. I never felt overwhelmed and enjoyed being pushed to make the body and mind work a little harder, with the constant reassurance to rest if we needed to.

Despite having been to yoga classes for over 50 years I always learn something new. This year ‘terrier tail’ and ‘whippet tail’ as part of the cat posture was one! After 5 hours of yoga on Saturday I fell into a comfortable bed and slept soundly, waking in time to go to the ‘Early Morning stretch’ the next day, followed by an excellent breakfast. I met up with old friends, and made many new friends, and we look forward to meeting again next year. I would thoroughly recommend this weekend as a chance to just be yourself, in beautiful surroundings, in a warm atmosphere of love and friendship and to enjoy sharing yoga practice, relaxation and meditation with like minded people.

Om shanti

Jo Fradley

Highgate House Yoga Weekend, April 2014

Can I say I have just returned from a wonderful weekend at Highgate House hotel with my very good friend Jill. I was a bit daunted before I went because it was my first time on this type of residential and it has been at least ten years since I last practised yoga but I need not have had any doubts.

Everyone was so friendly and helpful and I really felt part of the group and relaxed right from the first session on Friday. The food was great, the programme was great and the company was great what more can I say but thank you for easing me back into yoga and for making me feel so relaxed and happy.

Katie Guest

Domus Mariae CPD Weekend on the Subtle Energies of Inner Yoga, February 2014

For a long time I've been receiving tempting emails from YHET about the residential weekends at Domus Mariae in Woodford and finally I managed to book for the Subtle Energies from 7th - 9th February. I could not have picked a better weekend, spent with old friends and new, including many staff who had taught me at Ickwell Bury.

I found the venue, Domus Mariae, accessible by public transport from S E London though many participants had driven there. The site is sprawling but the parts assigned to us were clustered close together. I was taken aback to find my bedroom window looking out on to a brick wall but this was a minor detail. The food was plentiful and delicious, the staff helpful and efficient and the accommodation warm and spotlessly clean.

This all provided the perfect setting for the wonderful teaching by Tracy Gent who has worked with Dr Bhole for 15 years. She is a teacher gifted in her ability to explain complex and subtle yoga concepts in clear, relevant ways and to guide her students through practical experience of these concepts. We spent a lot of time lying on the floor learning to pay real attention to our body structure and breathing. This apparently simple, repetitive and graduated approach touched on great depths and potential for us to pursue through future practice. Tracy's excellent visual presentations on a large screen were reproduced in a handbook for us to take away and use for future reference. Personally I found that Tracy was able to pull together in an integrated way many yoga concepts I'd heard of (and many which I hadn't) which at last made sense: rather like joining up the dots in the old "painting by numbers". So thank you Tracy for an illuminating and enriching weekend which I hope will be followed by others.

As ever it was heartening to be able to share our learning and experiences with others safe in the knowledge that we share a common and growing understanding in yoga. Thank you to all at YHET for enabling this to happen.

Om shanti

Janet Harris

Domus Mariae CPD Weekend on the Subtle Energies of Inner Yoga, February 2014

How do they do it? Another brilliant weekend of yoga. The normal start of a yoga stretch at 5.00pm did not take place due to another group at Domus Mariae for the weekend, so reception was very busy. We yoga arrivals collected in the sitting room to wait for the room keys to be sorted out. I think this turned out to be of benefit as the opportunity to get to know those with us for the first time and to chat to the regular attenders.

The weekend was quite intensive, a lot to take in. As I made it to the 7.00am session on Saturday and took the early morning session on Sunday I may well have nodded off occasionally during the day. The aspect of inner yoga was new to me - and fascinating.

Some of the practices we explored were:

The perception of light before closed eyes: Close the eyes and learn to perceive oneself from the inside.

The body scan: Be aware of each part of the body just as a structure, without moving it.

The effect of asana on the perception of light and body awareness: This involved circular movements of the body, clockwise and anti-clockwise from the sitting area, pelvis, stomach, mid chest/base of the neck, top of the spine/base of the skull. I found that the practice literally stirred me up, raising emotions that made me tearful without knowing exactly why.

Experiencing pranayama Kosha: Involved breathing and observing its effect on different levels of the trunk, making me very aware of the relationship between the movement of the breath and the movement of the body that the breath causes. This experience is of movement in the horizontal plane, prana and apana vayus. New to me was the udana vayu, experienced as vertical expansion and retraction, arising from the direction in which the fibres of the stretching muscles run.

Experiencing the vertebral column: Dynamic crocodile poses from the semi-supine position and from supine position, comparing the effect of changing the focus from the periphery of the trunk to the area of the vertebral column.

There was much, much more contained in the weekend programme, one of the must do events of the Yoga for Health and Education Trust. (But hey, aren’t they all must do events?)

Many thanks to Tracy Gent who had worked very hard to present a fascinating programme.

Greg Shore



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