Hastings has a thriving community of yogis and many of those will be on the open space of the recently reopened Hastings Pier this evening as part of International Yoga Day (set up by the UN in 2014) and the summer solstice celebrations – poised and ready to carry out 108 yogic ‘Sun Salutations’. The event is hosted by the Yoga Pier team; a co-operative of 5 experienced yoga instructors, with the same vision; to bring yoga and wellbeing to Hastings and to the iconic Pier. Hannah Caney, Rebecca Gildea, Monika Mathieu, Lisa Powell, Nina Savarese, and are on a mission to add to the profile of Hastings’ two biggest growth sectors, Health and Tourism. Together they will be running exciting one-off seasonal yoga events as well as weekly drop-in sessions on the pier either on the outdoor deck or the Memories Room.
I’m Hastings-born and my journey into yoga began around 15 years ago when I attended a weekly class at She Health Spa, then situated on Eversfield Place.
For many of us in Hastings, yoga is a vital part of life in terms of feeling well and energised, both physically, mentally and emotionally. I could use all manner of cliches, but the bottom line is; I would not function as well in my very full life as I do if I didn’t practice yoga on a regular basis. It’s fascinating to witness the capabilities of the human body – I’ve seen incredible transformations in all kinds of people including those who may have been told they would never walk again, and after consistent yoga practice for a lengthy time, they sure did.
It wasn’t until 2009 on a trip to India that I fully grasped the power of this ancient practice. In a world where we are bombarded with mental stimulation and often in jobs that involve sitting all day at a desk, we have become disengaged with our bodies and the relationship between body and mind. When you watch an 80 year old man do things with his body that most of us could only dream of, this fact is depressingly obvious.
A common misconception of yoga is that its some sort of ‘hippie, dippie fairy dance’ and you’d only practice it if you enjoy the smell of incense, wearing harem pants, and chanting. Thankfully due to diverse types of yoga that make it more appealing and accessible to the mainstream, it is more widely practiced and accepted as a valuable form of exercise. There is also a great deal of research that provides evidence for yoga as a preventative for both physical and mental health issues.
There is a kind of yoga to suit everyone: Hatha if you are a beginner or prefer a slow and gentle practice, Iyengar if you want to have perfect posture using props, if you enjoy a more energetic and challenging practice you can go for Ashtanga or if you like the dance like movement go for Vinyasa Flow. These can also be combined, for example I mainly practice Hatha Vinyasa which is a slower version of Vinyasa Flow.
One of the things I most enjoy in my practice (with Hastings Yoga teacher Lisa Powell) is challenging my body and my mind to go beyond what I think I’m capable of, to become ever more aware that if I change the way I’m thinking about the posture I’m in, my body can cope with much more. On the flip side, we are also reminded to accept where we are at, to listen to our bodies and to not compare ourselves to others’ abilities, these are concepts I endeavour to take into all aspects of my life.
On the mental side, no matter how tense and stressed I am walking into the class, I can guarantee after a 60 or 90 minute practice all the tension has fallen away, I have more energy than when I walked and am in a much better mood!
Hastings and St. Leonards hosts a number of yoga classes with different teachers, and different styles of yoga. If you’d like a more intensive yoga experience and a chance to fully unwind, I’d recommend a yoga holiday too (I’m returning from one on an airplane as I write this!). A week of yoga generally means 2 classes a day early morning and early evening in often beautiful locations and the rest of the time you are free to do as you please. On the two yoga holidays I’ve been on, the classes have not been compulsory – it’s up you how much or little you would like to do. I’m sure many couldn’t think of a worse way to spend a holiday than doing exercise, however, I have never felt more relaxed, fit and healthy after a holiday than I have doing yoga, and that includes letting my hair down of an evening.
But don’t take my word for it – join one of the many classes and give it a go. If the thought of exercise is daunting, yoga could be a great place to start! Most classes welcome beginners and there are classes with a price bracket to suit everyone – Active Hastings run classes for just a few pounds.
If you’re new to the town and have experience of yoga, you may want to try out one of the more advanced classes, or just get down to the beach to practice some yoga by the sea…
If you read this article in time, come and join us this evening at 6.30pm, 21st June on Hastings Pier. All are welcome regardless of level and experience, if you’d like to come along and do 20 salutations – you’d be welcome! What better way to celebrate the summer (and feeling well) than by saluting the sun on our brand spanking new community owned pier?