Welcome back to another term of uni. Easter is over and those interesting things one may or may not have been up to are now a thing of the past. As a time to relieve stress, I took the chance opportunity to join the Newcastle Yoga Society on a week long retreat in an eco-community in Greece.
The schedule consisted of a daily morning run, yoga by the beach, unlimited fresh fruit with Fouhata—a honey, tahini, hazelnut and carob spread—followed by more yoga at the specially-made canvas white dome overlooking the sea.
The Free and Real project is all about sustainable living; so their way of life relies on using local produce with a low negative impact on the environment. Free time is spent making natural toothpaste, soaps, jams and reading or producing art. The site uses compost toilets and has an unlimited supply of fresh herbs which can be used to make teas of such combinations as pomegranate, plantain and eucalyptus.
It feels a bit like the best parts of a festival; the hippy workshops and the connections with nature. The diet is vegan, mostly raw and features a large evening meal with a mixed salad and fresh bread with oil and chilli salt. Examples were baked aubergines, vegetable pasta, spiced rice burgers and mushroom soup.
The sleeping field was a short drive from the eating area and contained four consecutive yurts complete with bunk beds, log fires, and soft blankets. One of them was built as a treehouse and if you stood on the wooden pole of the top floor you could see the coast. The field is used as a testing site for ways of natural and semi-natural building before they are brought to the main site of the project, on top of the mountain.
We unlearned ‘the lie we live’, watched La Belle Verte; a French film dramatising the idea of human aliens visiting our dystopic cities, and were brought close to tears at the story of a personified plastic bag. A workshop explaining the eco-sanitary protection of the mooncup and reusable lotus pads was given alongside a group rendition of The Circle of Life in a field of trees and daisies. To describe the occurrence as both idyllic and surreal would be an understatement.
To sum up the lessons we were given, it was gently outlined that each individual is responsible for their impact on the planet. Be that through food waste, excess plastic, tissue, light, or heat, each person makes a difference to the weight of the carbon footprint. The idea of the vegan lifestyle was also to reduce the need for medicinal input by maintaining a healthy body accentuated by daily movement. The project effortlessly displayed how this way can be easily and enjoyably possible.
Our first yoga session was led by Thanos, the friendly Grecian rock band drummer with a ‘fuckin gonuts’ t-shirt and an unkempt beard. Before beginning practice, he told us of the Laghoo Shankhaprakshalana: the intestinal wash. This involves the consumption of one litre of salt water followed by a series of stretches repeated eight times in a cycle of three. We didn’t complete said wash during our stay as the number of toilets was limited to a total of three.
However, to finalise my personal cleanse from any toxins acquired previous to the trip, I took Tuesday morning to try out this questionable practice. Two teaspoons of sea salt into a teapot* of hot water, I poured the solution into my favourite mug and diluted it with some cold. Gulping as fast as possible, the saline liquid travelled into by body as I prepared for the movements of the bowel.
1.Tadasana. Stand with arms raised overhead, fingers interlinked and the palms to the ceiling raise and lower the heels quickly.
2. Tiryaka Tadasana. Stand with feet apart, arms raised overhead, fingers interlinked and the palms to the ceiling. Bend to left and then to the right.
3. Kati Chakrasana. Standing waist rotation. Arms out to the side, and twist in pushing the alternate shoulder back.
4. Tiryaka Bhujangasana. In bhujangasana (cobra pose) with legs apart and toes tucked under. Twist to look over the left shoulder at the right foot then return to centre before twisting to look over the right shoulder at the left foot.
5. Udarakar shanasana. Squat with the hands on the knees. Drop the right knee to the floor and twist to the left. Return to the centre and then drop the left knee to the floor and twist to the right. If this is not possible then move fists from elbow forward and down whilst clenching.
These actions are repeated eight times each, in three cycles, drinking two cupfuls of the prepared water first. After the dance, my stomach was yet to speak so I sealed the deal by drinking another mug of himalayan salt water and running to the shop for bananas. I returned in still a steady state but after 20 minutes heard the water in my stomach. Toilet time was minimal and an unexpectedly smooth transaction. I did three poos. Not the gushing load of shit I was hoping for, though the results will be different for everyone as it depends on a multitude of factors such as current diet, time last eaten, level of fitness, etc. I later learned that three litres in total are required for the cleanse. I only used one which probably accounts for the lack of dramatic success.
It’s cheaper than a colonic and is an amazing natural way to clear the body. Who needs laxatives? After the process one can lie in Savasana for 30 minutes or as long as desired. Then food can be consumed and the daily routine commenced.
The body is capable of so much more than we use it for; a multitude of languages, physical skills, healing, and survival abilities. Our current special powers tend to involve the controlling of smartphones or superspeed touch typing. While this has its uses, why not do more? It upsets me a little that I can write a 3,000-word essay but can’t do a backwards crab walk.