Is it just me or is the anticipation of a holiday a major part of the overall enjoyment? Just dreaming of those blue skies and padding about in flip-flops can be enough to keep you sane when sitting for prolonged periods at your desk or when standing nose pressed to the door in the tube.
So, this year, as the time approached for the long-awaited yoga holiday in Ibiza, would I finally manage a digital detox and relax into a complete break away? In the weeks before the holiday, attempting to manage the streams of emails before my absence, a pure digital detox with no access to email seemed sorely tempting. At the same time, the prospect of hundreds of emails piling up for my return was enough to perhaps persuade otherwise. So, what are the benefits of taking time out and banning our digital gadget friends/foes?
Day one of the holiday and I am already feeling much more relaxed than in a long time. Perhaps it is the beautiful venue- the view of the sea from the pool, the sound of the crickets and fragrant smells of nature. The first night's sleep was a little disjointed- settling in, getting used to the new venue and the heat. But the first morning lesson the following day feels like coming home. A reminder of what really matters when you peel away the layers of distraction.
And so the yoga holiday schedule unfolds; time seeming to stretch out delightfully. We have generous yoga sessions twice a day: in the morning before brunch and late afternoon before dinner. The introduction of mindfulness techniques such as becoming more aware of each sense (the air on your skin, the smells and sounds around you and the taste in your mouth) early on in the holiday are well-timed: a reminder of how re-connecting to the breath and mindful awareness of, for example, our senses, can help to calm the busy mind. It is so easy in the modern world to become engulfed in thought or occupied by anxiety or regret (both of which, by definition, can only exist in the future or past as opposed to the present). Mindfulness techniques and conscious breathing bring us directly back to the present moment; a safe haven to return to whenever we need it.
In between the yoga sessions, we have time on our hands, in this beautiful remote spot with nothing to do aside from swim, read and perhaps take a stroll around the grounds. What an amazing luxury. And how did we adapt? I confess to opening the iPad more than once, but I did succeed in keeping emails unseen for at least a few consecutive days. Time really did then take on a new dimension, allowing space to simply be.
As the yoga progresses, the group energy fluctuates in waves, with most of us feeling heavier (or 'tamasic' in the language of the gunas) or stiff on certain days. But by the end of the holiday, there is an undeniable glow on everyone's face, as we each progress on our own yoga journey. Working on many levels- physical as well as mental and emotional- yoga brings profound changes that alter how we view the world and live our lives.
So aside from living on a permanent yoga holiday (when can I start?!), what can I take home? I am thinking at least one day a week of pure digital detox. And a reminder of how a regular, unrushed (where possible) yoga practice and conscious breathing help to keep us grounded, calm the mind and nourish our whole being. Delightful in Ibiza, but also very possible at home with a little resolution to allow the space for it.
Sian O'Neill attended a yoga retreat at Shunya in Ibiza organised by esteemed teachers, Liz Lark and Jean Hall.
Sian teaches a flowing hatha yoga class in Borough Market and Islington. Go to www.yogawithsian.co.uk for full details.