We had a chat with Sumita Williams, Barefoot regular from Harborne and a part-time GP , after her return from the Barefoot yoga holiday in Ibiza earlier this month – this is the story of her first ever yoga holiday experience.
Tell us a bit about what brought you to yoga, and where you are in your journey right now.
I came to yoga about a year ago, my parents were both very ill, it was hard to cope. So really I was looking for both physical and emotional strength. It was a difficult time, and I knew yoga would help avoid negative coping mechanisms.
When I first started I was never really committed, I’d do it maybe once a week, or every other week. It was only when I made a commitment to a 12-month membership at Barefoot that I started to really get into it. The more you do it, the more amazing you feel and it just keeps bringing you back to practice.
I’m now doing my teacher training with the Friends of Yoga Society International. As a medical practitioner, I’m interested in the links between yoga and medicine, so who knows – maybe in a few years I’ll be the resident Barefoot GP, giving out yoga prescriptions!
Just like in a regular practice, setting an intention for your yoga retreat can make a huge difference to your experience. Did you have an intention for this yoga holiday?
I wanted to be able to “do headstand” – in inverted commas, because it’s more to me than just physically having the core and arm strength to lift up and balance upside down! I wanted to break the internal fears, doubts, get comfortable with the concept of legs going overhead, in the air.
I hear some things didn’t go as expected: weather, completely new style of teaching, and you even got stung by a jellyfish swimming in the sea! What did you find was the biggest challenge, and how did you overcome?
Surprisingly enough it wasn’t the jellyfish, though my arm did balloon up massively! The biggest challenge was expectations. I was hoping for a bit more meditative, philosophical exploration. As mentioned above, I had some intentions set for the more internal work on myself.
So while there wasn’t the opportunity to really work through the more personal stuff in a group setting, I’m grateful that we had the time and space to wander off and do our own thing during the breaks, in between the yoga. One evening a couple of us were quite naughty, we stayed out for a glass of wine and missed a session – and that was fine!
It was all very fun, light-hearted, with plenty of giggles, but perhaps the more serious lesson I learned was about flexibility – not just in the body but in terms of being okay with things going differently than expected, being willing to improvise. One night it rained so heavily the mats were soaked, puddles everywhere. Faye improvised the class so that it was all standing up, even the meditation was standing – it was different, it was brilliant.
Would you say you’ve changed or experienced transformation having been on this yoga holiday?
We went on long walks exploring the island, headed down to the beach, and hiked up this big, woody hill where Helen, Rose and I broke off from the group to take pictures of a giant mushroom – and got ourselves very, very lost indeed. We did manage to find our way back eventually, but it was on that walk that I had a personal epiphany.
A year or so ago I used to be much heavier – I definitely wouldn’t have been fit enough to go up that hill, to enjoy that long walk, let alone to enjoy the adventure of being lost! If you’d asked me a year ago to go on a yoga holiday, my immediate thoughts would have been, ‘I’m too fat, there will be people there who will look at me and judge me’ – but now somehow that’s just gone. It was on that walk that I realized how drastically my mindset had changed in the past year, from a strongly negative “can’t do” to this bright, reassuring “can do”.
The transformation didn’t happen all at once, it was gradual, but I hadn’t really been aware of it till that moment. So I’m really appreciative of the experience.
We’ll be going on more yoga holidays in 2016 – let us know in the comments below, where would you like to go next?