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Connecting with my south-Asian roots on a conventional Indian yoga retreat within the UK | Yoga holidays



Often after I’ve turned up at varied yoga studios in London, the teams I’ve encountered have been overwhelmingly white, svelte and center class. Maybe I’ve not discovered the correct class, however as a south Asian girl, it all the time felt like I used to be in anyone else’s area.

Yoga originated in historical India, and I needed to attach with my Indian roots, so I began on the lookout for an genuine Indian yoga trainer within the UK. I assumed it might be lots simpler than it was. In a 2020 report about UK yoga, 91% of practitioners who responded to the survey have been white, and south Asian instructors usually communicate out concerning the lack of range within the business.


After some web sleuthing, I got here throughout 36-year-old Ravi Dixit, an Indian yogi born within the village of Ramaipur, in Uttar Pradesh, who now lives in London and runs retreats within the UK. Dixit comes from an extended line of non secular academics often called Brahmins, and was raised with yoga follow ever since he was a small youngster. “I lived the Vedic life,” he says, referring to the faith that arrived in India from what’s now Iran over 3,000 years in the past. “To me, genuine yoga is predicated on the values and rules of how it’s historically practised in India. It’s a roadmap to a lifestyle, not only a bodily follow.”

The Vedanta in Branston, Lincolnshire, the place the retreat happened. {Photograph}: Rishi Lal

And that’s how I discover myself on a retreat in Lincolnshire, alongside 20 different folks, waving our limbs about with wild abandon. Nonetheless barely giddy from the ten minutes of fast, deep nasal respiration that got here earlier than, I open my eyes and see folks in entrance of me laughing, crying or dancing ecstatically. Often that is the second after I assume: “We should look loopy.” However having spent a while with Dixit, “the smiling yogi”, I’m in no way self-conscious. So I shut my eyes and proceed the unrestrained motion till immediately the music stops and Dixit begins throwing his arms down with a loud and highly effective “hoo” sound.

“No matter you are feeling, simply let it come out,” he says. “Within the exterior world, now we have to be so well mannered and hold issues in. Right here you should set free no matter involves you.”

Dixit adjusting a pupil. {Photograph}: Andrew Prod

No footwear are allowed inside The Vedanta, a grand but cosy Grade II-listed Elizabethan manor home close to Branston, so it rapidly appears like dwelling as I lie on the couch by the hearth and run up the huge picket staircase in my socks. My room has excessive ceilings and large home windows overlooking the property’s lake and surrounding woodland. Between lessons, many people take the chance to discover the attractive grounds, in addition to the on-site spa withwhirlpool bathtub. Meals are in keeping with Ahimsa, the precept of not inflicting hurt to different dwelling issues, and so we take pleasure in three meals a day of wholesome and scrumptious vegetarian and vegan meals, with a continuing choice of contemporary fruit and natural tea.

Nevertheless, there are moments in the course of the weekend’s eight hours of hatha yoga after I assume my physique has reached its limits. From Friday night to Sunday afternoon, Dixit leads us by 4 yoga classes, every one round two hours lengthy. I’m a newbie, and whereas it’s a variety of yoga in a brief period of time, Dixit builds the classes up from small, repetitive actions to stretches, to extra energetic flows and holds, earlier than ending with the phrase that appears like a well-earned reward: “savasana”. That is the corpse posture, the place we lie on our backs and Dixit tells us to “give up” our our bodies fully for 10 minutes. “The give up is such an necessary a part of the follow,” he says, explaining how accepting and observing stillness is important mindfulness.


The retreat caters for all capabilities, ages, ethnicities, physique sorts and backgrounds – not my expertise of many mainstream yoga lessons in London. There are a number of different south Asian ladies there, in addition to three males. Throughout our closing class, Dixit explains that in India it’s historically males who practise yoga, fairly than the female-dominated lessons within the west.

‘Meals are in keeping with Ahimsa, the precept of not inflicting hurt to different dwelling issues’ … The Vedanta’s eating room.

A part of what makes the classes really feel so genuine are the Sanskrit mantras Dixit chants. It appears like a ritual that’s been unchanged for 1000’s of years. As incense fills my nostril, and I take heed to his throat vibrating as he thanks totally different deities, I’m transported out of Lincolnshire to India. “Realizing the entire historical past and why you’re doing totally different postures makes it a lot extra fulfilling,” says fellow attendee Narlep Kaur.

Lessons within the west typically focus extra on the bodily ‘asana’ facet of yoga fairly than the broader, holistic follow, provides Dixit. “Many western types of yoga solely work on the bodily facet of the physique, to scale back weight, get a fitter physique, sweating out whereas we’re being fairly onerous on ourselves, and that’s not what yoga is. Yoga teaches us to not be onerous on ourself, however to be form to ourself.”


A key message from Dixit is that yoga must be for everybody. “Though the follow has roots in Asia, yoga doesn’t belong to me otherwise you; it’s for everybody. You don’t want fancy garments, an costly mat, an extended class or to meditate for hours. Yoga is about connecting with your self in anyplace at any time.”

I left feeling related with my physique, thoughts, and tradition in a manner I haven’t earlier than. I didn’t look in a mirror all weekend however really feel like I noticed myself higher than I ever have.

A 3-day retreat at The Vedanta price £550 for a single-occupancy room, or £450pp in a shared room. Ravi Dixit runs common on-line and in-person yoga lessons in Richmond, London, and is opening a brand new boutique yoga resort in Goa in November 2024

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