Now that our yoga studio in Wareham is up and running, the focus comes back to the land and a regenerative approach to growing food. There are only six acres, but trees are being planted, diversity of wildflowers encouraged, fruit and vegetables cultivated using cover crops and no chemicals whatsoever. More than organic farming, this is looking after the earth and replenishing the soil. Or rather, this is getting out of the way so that earth can look after itself.

It is a case of encouraging a diversity of flora and fauna to strengthen the microbiome of the soil and ecosystem. One of my previous blogs was about the microbiome of the human gut. This blog is about the microbiome of earth.

Soil is enriched when, instead of leaving the field or allotment bare after harvest, it is grown with a cover crop before the following year’s planting. Do you remember learning about crop rotation at school? It was one of the few things that stayed with me from history lessons, and it struck me as so simple and genius that I have never been able to understand why people didn’t still do it. The field was divided into four and crops were rotated, always there was one clover crop because it was thought that it replenished the soil with nutrients.

Brilliant, I thought. And it turns out they were right all those centuries ago. potassium and nitrogen, not to mention the deepening of water retention are built with cover crops. Dutch white clover has become a favourite and is one that I will be trying this year. When you first try growing with no chemicals, it seems that one thing after another comes to threaten crops: slugs, black fly, aphids, tomato blight, greenfly. ‘Where are all the ladybirds?’ was my frequent lament. Looking back to when I was a child there were always ladybirds around yet there seem to be hardly any ladybirds now. It takes time. It takes time for natural predators to return, for the complexity of nature to regain balance away from the awful damage that industrial farming and GM crops have caused, and for the thousands of microbes, insects, creatures of the field to shuffle back into their rightful places.

‘Why aren’t the birds doing their job and eating the slugs?’ is another lament. Give it a year or three. I have faith that if the conditions are right a greater variety of birds will return. So more trees and more shrubbery, more berries and safe nesting places will encourage them to stay around. Richard Mabey puts across the importance of the interconnectivity of nature in his latest book Turning the Boat for Home. Mabey has been writing since the 1970s and his books chimed with me as I was growing up, as did HE Bates Through the Woods, and that seventies classic by John Seymour called Self Sufficiency.

Whether it was books such as these, or the thrill I always feel when surrounded by nature that led me to this place of wanting to be so closely involved with the land, I don’t know. But I do know that there is a direct correlation to how much flavour a crop has and its nutritional value. Yoga has the same holistic approach, and in that sense especially it has always felt right to me. I will watch and listen to what this little patch of earth has to tell me. Sunia is Sanskrit/ Gurmukhi that translates as ‘the art of extreme deep listening’. If I practice this with the earth around me then flavoursome nutritious food will soon be on the table.

Meanwhile there are stags who watch my dogs from the safety of the field, there are geese that fly overhead, ducks, hens, and horses on the farm next door, cats, frogs, toads, deer, woodpeckers, robins, owls, and blackbirds. A diverse array of creatures.

If you are interested to know more about regenerative farming thee is a lovely film called The Biggest Little Farm which illustrates the process in depth.

The streets of Genoa are winding with sudden bursts of sunlight on the squares, shadowy places in the narrow alleyways, impossible architecture, graffiti, fountains, sculptures of the Madonna poignant with azure, turquoise, and gold, ridiculously detailed ceilings, one gorgeous painting after another. The port is busy and smelly, windy and chaotic, fascinating with its huge wheel that lights up like a psychedelic trip in the sunset while you take a circular trip in the night sky. There are endless restaurants tucked in the most unlikely places, unappealing from the outside, even off-putting and yet magically cavernous fantastic and inviting inside with the best menus. Food that is unpretentious, yet deliciously original, healthy and fresh. There are coffee shops that have an atmosphere that makes you feel special as you breath in the aroma of Arabica beans and listen to the Italian chatter above the sound of the steamer, ones that sell awful coffee and make you wonder what on earth you are doing there, and all types in between. Graceful theatres and grubby office blocks, yachts and fishing boats side by side, street poets, swimming pools on the harbour, art galleries to inspire. All is brimming with autumn abundance, and there is a university full of bright lovely intelligent students that spill out onto the streets and grace even the most ungracious pizzerias with life and warmth.

If all this gets too much there is a castle on a hill that gently commands an overview of the city, the port, wheel and sea, the hills in the background and the winding park pathways upwards. It is a place of cool calm contemplation away from the bustle. It is a different world. You can sip tea or wine as you gaze through the arches at the intriguing view. You can stroll the gardens and the art gallery, and when you feel strong again you can wend your way back down into the crazy centre of Genova. Should you be weary you can take an ingenious contraption of a funicular ilk that shunts you along and down in a little enclosed cabin. Not only that but all of the workings are there for you to see: the wheels, steel ropes, cogs, tools, all sorts of things laid out in glorious dirt, grease, and disarray as you glide past. It feels like a metaphor for the city.

If that is the case, then what does Genoa in turn represent? Well, the reason for traveling to Genoa was to see Paolo Conte play. The opportunity to hear him sing Genova pr Noi in the city itself was one I was so grateful to have. Not to be missed. There is something about a mise en scene or a qua qua that appeals to me. Of course the audience went wild at the opening phrase of that song. The buzz in the auditorium, the air palpable with joy, it made me sit up and pay attention, sent tingles down my spine. Genova per Noi is ostensibly a song in the voice of a character who is confused by the seedy side of the city, dubious and mistrustful, yet strangely lured because life in his own area of Piedmont had reached an impasse. Genova is in Liguria, Paolo Conte is from Asti in Piedmont, and though these places are only 100 miles apart there is a huge difference between them. Provincial Italy is brimming with character, and Piedmont is neat, clean, ordered. The streets make sense, are direct. There Paolo Conte was a lawyer, spending too much time in the place growing up, he longed to go further afield and music was a way for him to explore.

Genoa on the other hand with its winding roads, complicated street levels, hidden parks, ubiquitous bins, dusty shop displays, sunshine and smells, where even the weather is different, is other. The other. The one that we are suspicious of, wary of, maybe repulsed by, and yet we want to know. We have to, because all closed systems eventually atrophy. In his book Enlightenment Now Steven Pinker sites the second law of thermodynamics: systems entropy as temperature differences within them decrease. He drew the parallel with human interactions: families, tribes, societies, countries. The character in the song knew that if he stayed in his own town he may not see enough sunlight

Genoa for us,
those who live deep down in the countryside
those who rarely have the sun shining on the town square
and for the remaining time are drenched by rain
Genoa, as I was telling you, is just one of many ideas.

It is the willingness, even if reluctant, to engage with new ideas that reveals the humanist thread in Paolo Conte’s music. In his book The Blank Slate Steven Pinker writes that an organism must respond to its environment to thrive. Combinatorial and recursive thought in humans is imperative for our social progress. He reminds us that we are infinitely flexible and responding to fellow human beings as broadly as possible is the way to move forward. Humanism can occur because we are endowed with empathy. Darwin points out in his On the Origin of Species that this empathy leads us to care about the wellbeing of our family, friends, and gradually this will spread to a worldwide scale and there is no reason why the well-being of the planet and every life form on it should not be in the scope of all humans.

The song goes on:

that odd expression
we have when we observe Genoa
and every time we're there we sniff it
we move cautiously
we feel a little like stray dogs.

The resistance is not denied, he worries that the city will swallow them up and they will never return home. Like so many of his songs the tone is nostalgic. What is nostalgia good for? It might hook us in the first instance, appeals to our base instincts, but then the song guides us via irony towards unity in the least didactic way possible:

Yet we are somehow related
to the people there
and deep down they are as cantankerous as we are
but we are very afraid of that black sea
that moves even at night and never stands still.

These days it is difficult to hear an image of the frightening sea without thinking of immigrants. Genoa has many immigrants. It looks out to towards Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and further out lie Serbia, Syria, Lebanon, Israel.

Let’s say, Shylock the Jew spoke for himself and his kinsmen “if you prick us do we not bleed’ Othello the Moor killed Desdemona, of all the characters in the play did he act in the most reprehensible way? No, it was Iago, one of the most loathed characters in Shakespeare. Like the lyrics in Genova per Noi, a narrative sets the scene, so that the sense of humanity goes deeper into our hearts, reaching beyond our first nostalgic impulse to keep things the way they are because that is how they have always been.

This next point will not be liked by many. It makes me squirm as well, but it could be true and if it is true we could open up a new world beyond the suffering we cause ourselves in this one. If we all come from the same place, we share life force, draw our soul from the same pool, then even a terrorist has to be embraced. Very difficult to think of. But what is it that leads a young man to be like that? No hope for a future as a boy, manipulation from the state, possibly unenlightened parenting, the wrong environment (by that I mean the inner world as well) a psyche gone awry because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Wiring in the brain that leads to psychopathic tendencies. It is exactly the same place that a man who beats his wife, a government that will send soldiers to fight in Vietnam or Iraq, a person on the streets of any city in the world who rapes or murders, fundamentalists who will stone a woman to death, satanists who will torture children, leaders who live in luxury while their country starves, where people who commit the most despicable crimes come from.

If reason, science and humanism lead to progress, where is the place of intuition and knowing? It could be that intuition is empathy and that knowing is a sense of how all other entities in the world are flourishing. It is why we need all the Shakespeares and Paolo Contes we can get to tap into our empathy and encourage us to see beyond. Where do these crimes come from? From all of us. Solzhenytsyn had such perspicacity when he said ‘“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

Deep inside we all know this. It may be part of what propels me to travel a thousand miles to hear Paolo Conte and the excellent musicians with whom he shares the stage perform his songs. Keep listening, and keep reading.

If you like reading Ernest Hemingway, I leave you with this: Hemingway

Estia is a haven in the busy streets of Jericho. Tucked away behind Walton Street, it has a calm and thankfully a clean air environment. When the windows are opened in summer there is not a slew of traffic passing by, instead you can hear the birds sing.

When I first explored the space I admired the cork floors and peaceful atmosphere, the companionable plants, the interesting products for sale, and the experience of the teachers. It is a studio for people who are working to improve every aspect of their health, body, mind, and heart. It embraces you, enfolds you into it’s safe subtle space and nurtures.

Estia has an intelligent approach to wellbeing. The ethos is holistic, which is why Kundalini Yoga fits in well. Kundalini Yoga is a technology that works on many levels to balance the psyche, the hormones in the body, the spiritual needs of the soul (without being religious), and the function of the brain.

If you live in or near Jericho and winter strikes cold, get yourself to Estia on 6 King Street and feel better as soon as you walk through the door. I hold Kundalini Yoga classes at Estia on Fridays 5:15 – 6:15pm and at my studio in Summertown 52 Lonsdale Road on Saturdays 10:30am. You are most welcome to both.

The transitions between seasons offer a wonderful chance to re-align with the flow of nature and can help with difficult emotional hurdles such as acceptance, and letting go.

As the number of autumns in my life stack up I recognise the season as a way to frame loss and death. Things become less painful, or at least I am more able to accept the pain and be content with it. The dogs at that timeless structure Stonehenge yesterday reminded me of the paradox: seasons pass, but all is now.

In the Prelude Wordsworth said ‘nature never did betray the heart that loved her’ It is true. Not that pain and illness, loss and confusion won’t assail us all, but that you will have the resources to accept and merge with what does happen in the end. If you can flow with nature, so can your difficult times. Everything passes.

Even the uncomfortable awareness of ageing is ameliorated by witnessing the rhythms of flora and fauna around us. WB Yeats, an Irish poet deeply immersed in Celtic and Classical mythology, meditated on the passage of time in The Wild Swans at Coole:

All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight, 
The first time on this shore, 
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,

Yeats allows himself the melancholy that meditation on death might bring, while simultaneously acknowledging the anchoring effects of nature:

Their hearts have not grown old; 
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

Swans represent beauty because of their grace. They stand for power with their incredible wings. Living on the water they are connected to intuition, awareness, and creativity. Their ease and calm on the water show unity of body and mind, and their silence represents the grace of the soul. In many cultures they symbolise harmony, and healing. In Celtic mythology they are a symbol for transience and all things concerning change.

In the end Yeats is poised, like the wing-beat of the swans, his resistance to change and growing older suspended.

Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake’s edge or pool
Delight men’s eyes when I awake some day 
To find they have flown away?

He accepts the mystery. It’s a fine line though, between surrender and asserting the will. In kundalini the practical approach is that you create your own destiny, for example with postures such as archer pose you strengthen your focus to aim true. All of the kriyas have an underlying structure to develop your grit and determination, so that you have the will power to manifest things in the world.

Yet in the practice you are also encouraged to deal with whatever comes up with grace. There is a certain joy to be felt from spontaneity and the freedom that not being set on a specific outcome can bring. That is why often kriyas contain moments of improvised dance or random movements. It is not just about will-power. It is about making your nervous system strong so that whatever occurs in life can be assimilated without knocking you to pieces. It is about seeing beyond apparent polarities to being able to work with all the paradoxes of life. Postures that emphasise Manipura (3rd chakra) strengthen will power, but there are seven other major chakras that given the chance to shine, will bring you all you need to live a joyful life.

‘Healthy, happy and holy’ was Yogi Bhajan’s motto for the organisation he started in order to lift up humanity 50 years ago in 1969. That is why it is called 3HO. He established drugless drug rehabilitation centres, and was a tireless advocate for world peace. In 1994 3HO became a member of the United Nations, and Yogi Bhajan started several businesses (Yogi Tea was one of them) to generate income for charity. On the 3HO website you can find accurate information about all aspects of Kundalini Yoga, Yogic philosophy and psychology.

That is where I go for some ideas. But in the first instance I always go to nature.

If the only thing that truly exists is now, the space around us and our connection to Source, then most other things must be distractions.

You are probably familiar with the idea that most people are ruled more strongly by their negative minds – the mind that wants to keep us safe, warns us of imminent danger, and ensures we don’t repeat things that hurt us in the past. That’s why stories we make up about ourselves and our history can get in the way of us reaching for our infinite potential in the present, sabotaging ourselves before we even look into trying.

There are some people who have wonderfully open positive minds, who will see opportunity, be energetic about exploring new things, and ignore the long list of “but what if “ calamity scenarios that tend to arise.

Then there is the neutral mind, which is what yoga helps to bring. Meditation in particular gives clarity of insight and dissolves imaginary blocks. The Yoga Beat has an Instagram page, but posts are infrequent, as most often when there is free time this yogi is meditating! It is why Facebook and Twitter do not feature in the diurnal round of The Yoga Beat, and I am pretty sure it is why life generally feels good. The only way to some amount of serenity is from the inside. No amount of external reward, trophy, or stimulation can achieve the peace of being well attuned to your Source. So why not do less of the internet and more of the innernet?

Yogi Bhajan wisely said “vibrate the cosmos, the cosmos shall clear the path” A yogi recently asked me how do you vibrate the cosmos?

Through mantra, meditation, celestial communication, and looking at the stars. All of these put you in alignment with the vibrations of the cosmos. There are other things too, certain acts of love. You recognise them. You access the innernet.

He didn’t say the cosmos will clear your path. He said the path. A nice distinction which goes well with the shift from me to we that the Aquarian age is said to bring.

Yogi Bhajan also said “there is a way through every block.” It is a shrewd insight. A PhD in psychology as well as a kundalini master, he saw how we place limitations on our abilities by closing down our vision with stories that do not serve us. Our perceived handicaps slow us down. Distractions take us away from the intuitive clarity that meditation brings – or any activity that helps us vibrate the cosmos. Usually practicing silence, or pratyahara, withdrawal of the senses, and dharana single pointed focus.

Social media dulls the senses. Pictures are often edited to make colours more intense, light more brilliant, experiences are curated to show only the best bits. It induces stress: there is always more to look at, and someone is always having a more fantastic life than we are. You will always need a brighter photo to follow the last one.

With yoga you know that everyone is having the same life, you know that there is nothing to keep up with except cosmic consciousness, and everything really does look more brilliant and intense because your eyes are healthy and your inner eye is perspicacious.

Just as your mind should serve you, so should your social media. If you choose, you can let the internet be the slave, and let the innernet be the master that leads you to freedom.

When we practice our yoga at the Oxford studio the feel is relaxed and friendly. Being just round the corner from the shops is pretty convenient, and the busy Summertown environment makes it easy to run errands or visit a favourite coffee shop after class.

Right now the studio is being expanded and underfloor heating installed, ready for cosy autumn yoga sessions. By September we will be in the swing of classes again.

At the same time work has been going on apace at the barns in Wareham. Fourfields Barn is ancient, the farm goes back to the Domesday Book and is listed as Beastewell. This is a name I am particularly fond of, because it conjures up an image of healthy animals drinking from the rivers nearby. Work has been continuous since last autumn: planting and harvesting vegetables, expanding the flower garden, cleaning and restoring furniture, fixing up the barns, planning retreats and hosting friends, writers, and yogis for relaxing visits.

The barns have lovely large oak beams and brick walls with lime mortar, they are a perfect size for yoga classes and recreation. It has been a labour of love bringing the barns back to their original beauty during the summer break from teaching.

The angle is often held in kriyas and meditations. It is the angle of the sun to the earth in the two hours before dawn when many kundalini yogis like to practice their sadhana. 

Sadhana is any daily activity that puts you in touch with your higher self. It usually involves some exercise, some meditation, some creative activity or form of gratitude. It means you decide your day, it gives you mental stamina. As a result your day is more original and meaningful. Mindfulness is a huge result of a daily sadhana, and if you try it you will see results immediately.

Don’t feel pressured to be doing a huge fancy practice each morning at dawn though. It is your thing entirely. For some it is a walk in nature. For others a swim in the sea or a river. Others may want to be silent and meditate. Others create music or art, surf or ski, skate or run. There are yogis who love to chant and that is how they reach their inner guru. It changes too, so what works for you for a few weeks/ months/ years might morph into a different activity as time goes on.

You probably do a sadhana of your own without even realising it. Those times when you have felt most together and in control of your destiny, it is likely that you spent some moments each day sustaining and enriching your Self.

Back to sixty degrees. When sun’s rays hit the planet before dawn at a longitude and latitude of sixty degrees, the power available for you is huge and it is when you will get the most return out of your sadhana. For maximum results use these ambrosial hours to your advantage, and find it so much easier to be in your Truth all day long!

Kundalini Yoga uses a lot of angles and straight lines for the most efficient energy flow, so sixty degrees is part of that. There are also meridians in the body that are stimulated when you hold your limbs at different angles. 

So for ego-eradicator, you hold your  arms out at sixty degrees and breathe kapalabhati. This strengthens the heart and lungs. It also strengthens the nervous system. Not only that; it is called ego eradicator because it opens the heart centre and brings balance.

When you lift your legs up by ninety degrees the higher glands – pineal, and pituitary – are stimulated. It is also good for your memory.

A bit less than a ninety degree lift and you stimulate the thyroid and parathyroid. Above two feet you affect the lungs, heart, and stomach. Under two feet you stimulate the gall bladder, spleen, liver, and pancreas. 

You get the picture. Meridians and the finer energy centres, or chakras are a big part of the reason for the shapes in Kundalini Yoga. It is a science of angles, and the subtle body is strengthened as well as the physical.

Enjoy your mornings!

When you walk in the moonlight the feeling is so different from a walk at dawn. Even when the light is cool and water shimmers from a low winter sun, the quality of light from the moon evokes more reluctant blue thoughts, blue, and subconscious.

The full moon coming up on Tuesday is often called a snow moon as it tends to be the coldest part of the year. February moons really are distinctly strange and strong. This super moon is closest to the earth and appears large in the sky. It is obdurate and solicits you to enquire within. 

I walk with my dogs, their white markings glow like beacons. The moon could have me howling; it’s been a tough couple of years. Geese fly over our heads and I remember how my mother used to love seeing them too. I think of matriarchal winter, the triple goddess in the moon. Maid, mother, and crone: my grandmother, my mother and me huddled in coffee shops together, sharing moments. Letting the moons pass by in each other’s company, our lives intertwining and finally unraveling. 

Walking under this moon I recall how strong my grandmother had been in the face of all that she dealt with in life – and it was a lot. Even when she lost her only child my mother, she kept herself going day after day. It was because I saw her so selfless as she accepted the finality of my mother’s death with such fortitude, that I was able to hold myself together when inevitably I lost her too, almost a year later.

No, however inevitable something might be, we still struggle against it. I felt like an orphan of course, still do, but compared to what my grandmother dealt with, I’ve had it pretty easy. What’s easy about death? The moon makes us face it. The moon month after month tells us make the most of now because there are only so many more moons in your lifetime. It’s why I will always walk in moonlight. I was so abject after last year that I allowed myself some new companions: the sort of dogs that I grew up with, dogs that I have been promising myself ever since I left the family home thirty years ago. Thirty years of promising. That’s about 365 full moons.

On full moons now some yogis and friends gather, we build a fire on the meadow, the moon shining up at us from the river. Sometimes we dance, sometimes we write. Sometimes we just sit and chat and drink mulled wine. It has happened a few times that the full moon coincides with one of our yoga retreats, and then it is a magical combination;of mantras and dance and feeling fit. It’s a good feeling to know that every full moon is spent with people I care about and admire, because pretty soon my life will be spent too, and I wouldn’t be able to hide any regrets from the stark blue light of the moon.

The only thing that’s real is what is present in deep dreamless sleep.

Do you find you sleep better after a bracing walk; a swim in a cold river or the sea; a day of fresh air, tree-climbing, and open sky?

Do you notice that if you brave the cold, literally and metaphorically, you come out feeling better for it, more relaxed?

Those moments in my life when I have felt complete repose have been after such times. Which is why I like Wim Hof for the authentic inspiration that he is.

He braves the cold. They call him The Ice Man. He’s admired by the intellectual dark web. He’s not distracted by the swamp of post modernism and culture wars or a misunderstanding of the paradox of polarities. He just gets on with uniting himself with something greater than himself, something vast, awe-inspiring.

He swims in freezing cold oceans. He climbs Everest in shorts. Now even death  holds no fear for him.

If you’re beginning to sense Jung in the background, yes of course you’re right.  It’s not just your organs you flush out when you immerse in cold water. It’s your subconscious too. You are doing shadow work. 

Wim Hof has shown in laboratory conditions that he and a group of people he trained with his cold water swimming techniques, combined with meditation, that they could trigger the vagus nerve at will. This enabled them to immunise themselves from a virus that was injected into them. It took only 15 minutes for results to show.

What happens on a cellular level happens on a psychic and a spiritual level too. That’s why shadow work is so important. In Kundalini Yoga, a large part of our Level 2 training is shadow work. We address it throughout our teaching lives in White Tantra. It is also integrated into the kriyas (sets of physical exercises, mantras, and breathing techniques) This is reaching in to the most abhorrent disgusting self loathing awful monstrous parts of the sub- and unconscious to face what we absolutely do not want to face at all costs.

These are the things that some of us would spend our whole lives avoiding. These are also things that some of us would rather die than acknowledge. It is deeply uncomfortable work. It is work that has to get done on a cultural level too. Carl Jung talked of collective shadows.

Some socio-cultural analysts say we are stuck on the road to nowhere in the current post modern relativist egalitarian atmosphere. They say that it is preventing us from moving forward to our collective higher consciousness. Some would say it is a necessary step towards higher consciousness. 

Relativism can take us only so far. Humans cannot function without absolutes, whether we like it or not. Doctors decided that alcoholics were doomed to their fate, that the struggle would be pointless, until Alcoholics Anonymous took on the Jungian recommendation to acknowledge a power greater than themselves. It helped recovering drinkers exercise mastery over their shadow monsters instead of being at their mercy.

It’s not just a cold swim, or an icy walk. It’s being in awe of the sea and the mountain and at the same time wanting to be subsumed. It is getting out of your own way, leaving ego aside to reach a truer Self. Yes, it is getting in touch with the absolute.

Wim Hof


Yoga & Creativity Retreat

Puglia, Italy / 22 – 29 September 2018

Stella Shakerchi and Chris Leuenberger invite you to join them in their yoga & creativity retreat held at Casina Settarte, a permaculture paradise and retreat center for somatic dance and performing arts in the beautiful nature of Puglia, Southern Italy.

Enjoy relaxing yet focused daily yoga sessions that will fit your yoga needs. Surrender to the flow of your innate creative potential and try somatic dance and/or creative writing.

While on your leisure time you can go for extensive strolls in the surrounding pine woods and olive groves, swim and play at the nearby beach and maybe after dinner join mantra chanting to calm your mind.

You will go home inspired and recharged!

Stella Shakerchi teaches creative writing and yoga in Oxford.
Chris Leuenberger is a Swiss dancer / choreographer working internationally. Both are 500hr RYT yoga teachers.

Janu Sirsasana

Casina Settarte is a place where the sun is reflected on the white roofs of the Trulli sprouting here and there amongst the green of olive groves. Here daily life is marked by the principles of love for the land, mindfulness and care for every living being.

Founded in 1993 in Puglia, Italy, Casina Settarte is a centre for creative development and education alongside the practice of sustainability, a place of creative research and experimentation surrounded by nature.

Comprising two dance studios and multi-use outdoor spaces, the centre focuses on movement, arts & crafts and permaculture with a particular focus on dance and contact improvisation.
Casina Settarte runs projects, courses and workshops throughout the year, lead by the Casina staff and visiting teachers.

Practice Spaces
– One large dance studio / yoga shala of 200 square meters with wooden floor. The space is protected from sun and rain and has open sides with blinds that can be pulled down for further protection from wind, rain or sun.

– One small studio 7x5m with wooden floor, central heating and a wonderful view.

The Land
Casina Settarte is surrounded by 2 hectares of land with Olive groves, fig trees, wild herbs (thyme, capers, oregano), almond trees and an organic garden which you can use for relaxation, research and creation.

The Geodesic Dome
The Casina Settarte community recently built a Geodesic dome 7 meters in diameter for open air activities. The wooden structure is comprised of a complex network of triangles, hexagons and pentagons and is particularly suitable for energy work and meditations.

During this retreat you will have two daily yoga classes with Chris and Stella. Experience extensive sessions of Vinyasa yoga, kundalini, restorative yoga, and celestial communication (mantras with extended mudras) in the evening.

To make full use of the life-affirming benefits of a regular yoga practice and to help unleash your creativity, we offer a choice of workshops in creative writing or somatic dance on three afternoons.

Typical Day Schedule
You will start your day with a 90 minutes Vinyasa class in the morning sun. After your class and relaxation session you will have your breakfast. There is sufficient time to rest, go for a walk in the surrounding nature or treat yourself to a massage until lunch. If you can’t get enough of the yoga, we will give the option of taking a shorter Kundalini yoga class right before lunch.
Should you wish to spend a larger portion of the day swimming and relaxing at the nearby beach or going on an excursion for trekking or sightseeing, we can arrange a picnic lunch.

In the late afternoon you will have a choice of creative writing or somatic dance workshops (Monday, Wednesday, Friday).
On Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday we will offer a 90 minutes restorative evening yoga class with meditation or yoga nidra.

After dinner you’re invited to join us for 20 minutes of mantras with music and mudras.

In this retreat healthy vegetarian yogic food will be served. The cuisine is

typical of Puglia, based on genuine daily products – lots of fresh vegetables and fruit naturally grown on the Casina Settarte permaculture farm.

The following meals are included in the price: breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks Should you have special dietary requirements, kindly send an inquiry to Chris:

Casina Settarte has various accommodation options available:

  • The Trullo: a beautiful traditional southern Italian home. 3-4 beds, 1 doubleon the ground floor and 1 double/ 2 singles on the mezzanine, a bathroomand kitchenette; for close friends or couples
  • The Craniosacral Studio: double bed with ensuite bathroom next to thestudio, recommended for couples
  • The Lamia: quaint stone dormitory. 4 single beds with a kitchen andbathroom
  • Il Grottino / Cave: 3 – 4 single beds in a room carved into the rock
  • The Fish House: a rustic wooden bungalow with 3 single beds and seaviews on clear days
  • The Pine Forest: a perfect camping ground with shaded areas and flatsurfaces that can accommodate up to 10 tents

Accommodation Options and Cost:

Camping (up to 10 tents) EURO 499 
Fish House (3 single beds) EURO 559 
Il Grottino / Cave (3 – 4 single beds) EORO 559

Lamia (4 single beds) EURO 595 
Trullo (2 double beds or 1 double/2 single)  EURO 635 
Craniosacral Studio (1 double bed) EURO 635 


What’s included:

  • 2 daily yoga classes Vinyasa, Restorative (and kundalini for those who want)
  • 7 nights accommodation
  • daily yogic breakfast, lunch, and dinner
  • choice of creative writing or somatic dance workshop on 3 afternoons
  • mantra singing and celestial communication sessions after dinner
  • teas, coffees, and water
  • use of all facilities
  • free pickup from Ostuni train station
  • Wi-FiWhat’s not included:
  • airfares / train journeys to Ostuni
  • alcohol
  • excursions
  • massagesThings to doThere are many options for you to spend your free time on your retreat:
  • You can use the large Casina Settarte permaculture estate with its pine forests and olive groves for leisurely walks / hikes and to explore your personal meditation, mindfulness or movement practice.
  • We can arrange trips to the beach, to the famous whitewashed town of Ostuni or to the …. Valley for more extensive trekking and sightseeing.
  • Maybe you feel like treating yourself to a massage. Massages are offered at favorable retreat prices.

Arrival & Departure
Arrival is on Saturday afternoon, September 22nd. Departure is on Saturday, September 29th by noon-time.

Getting there

As we are in a remote place we can help you arrange your travel plans so that we can all save time, money and the environment.

We provide a free shuttle service from the train station of Ostuni (15 minutes from Casina Settarte).

The nearest airports are Bari and Brindisi. From Bari and Brindisi it is easy to reach Ostuni by train (half an hour from Brindisi, 1 hour from Bari).

Renting a car:

Car sharing makes the cheap rental cars even cheaper. At Brindisi or and Bari airport you can rent a car starting from 80 € per week. We will send an email before the trip and put all interested participants in contact.

Payment by bank transfer or Paypal

To confirm your space please text Stella 0740 212 6826

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