Being Light: An interview on yoga, play and wilderness
This summer along with my dear friend Loose Baker, I am delighted to offer Being Light: A weekend of yoga, play and wilderness. It’s the first of it’s kind! As far as we know nobody has ever combined these two disciplines (with the third being nature) into a weekend experience. It was something that felt immediately right to us, and something that we had to explore.
We have had a lot of excitement and intrigue from participants about what it might entail but also a lot of questions and dare I say it some fear has raised it’s ugly head of what this might involve, or as one yogi put it, “what awful embarrassing things might you make us do…?”
Without wanting to give away too much, here is a little interview with Loose and I, to share a little about what Being Light is, and why we are doing it.
What is yoga?
Amisha: Yoga is literally translated from Sanskrit to mean “union”. It’s the union of our whole self including the bits we don’t like. It’s the union of our physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual, so we can live in alignment and authenticity with ourselves. But it’s also the union between us as individuals with everything that is bigger than that, meaning just the whole universe..! Or if you like our environment, or the community that we are part of. Yoga is more than exercise, it’s partly the asana (doing the physical poses), but it’s also about pranayama (breath work), meditation, mantra (chanting) and the great myths. It’s a practice through which we really learn about ourselves, and find that the experiences that we have on your yoga mat open up things in our life. Common side effects include freedom from physical pain or from annoying self directed angry thoughts, more emotional stability, better sleep and strength. Not bad from a little bit of “stretching.”
Isn’t yoga serious?
Amisha: One thing that I have really noticed on my “spiritual path” is that the more enlightened a teacher is, the more light and damn right funny they are. Whilst the practices of yoga and meditation require dedication and attention, they also reveal the playful nature of life. I have noticed that the really deep seated yoga teachers or monks that I have encountered have an ability to be very silly, to make a well placed joke and to laugh at themselves. The Dalai Lama for example is known for his sense of humour and infectious laugh. When I teach, I like to bring humour into my class as it can actually take us deeper into ourselves, and help us to look at and clear the patterns in our mind, body and life.
What is play for “grown ups”?
Play is a state of being but quite practically, what will we be doing? Children play so naturally and learn buckets about the world through playing, we’ve all seen children experiencing this. Often, due to the conditioned idea of what being a grown up is, we forget the value of play. In my work I put play at the centre. During ‘Being Light’ we will be playing lots of games. People are often dubious about the idea of games, as they fear they are going to be forced to have fun – games aren’t just about fun (although it is often a happy bi-product!) there are games that are slow, meditative, done alone and thoughtful, as well as chaotic, wild, within a group and physical stuff. We’ll play name games, games from the playground, circle games, we’ll throw balls, play tag and also try out some creative, improv and clown-based exercises. All the games I play are not about being ‘good’ or funny or being highly skilled, they are a way to step into your playful self and see yourself and those around you in new ways. These games are not childish but a child-like essence is to be found through play.
What is the power of play?
Loose: Connecting to my playful side has helped me through many tough times in my life – from grief to exhaustion to frustrations over who does the washing up! Further to that growing my playful spirit through simply playing lots and lots of games has been a hugely freeing experience which has made my life day to day a lot more enjoyable. In my eyes, everything can be more playful and is better for it! I hope that those who come on this retreat will feel how powerful play can be but also, quite practically, everyone will be able to take away with them a host of games that you can then play with your own family and friends – you’ll be the centre of the next dinner party before you know it!
Loose, What is a fool and how did you become one?
Loose: We all have a fool within us, I guess for me it was a path that seemed to leap into my way as opposed to another. I fell head first into the world of the fool around 6 years ago when I found myself in a room with Master Fool, Jonathan Kay and was totally drawn in by his playful spirit, the magic he created and the world he could draw an audience into. Before you knew it, I joined his Nomadic Academy of Fools and travelled and trained with him over the course of a year. The best short description of a fool I heard was ‘speaks the truth through humour’, both of which are things I seek in my life and so it was a natural step. The fool is always just behind my left ear (!?) waiting to jump out when it feels like the time is right. When I look back over my life I can see how the fool was always with me and it’s a powerful, playful and eye-opening world to continue to explore. The clown and the fool are different beasts and during ‘Being Light’ I will give a taster into both of these worlds; playfulness is a connection between the two. Something people often fear is that they will be expected to be funny within this work – humour is a part but playfulness can manifest in many ways and the objective is never to make jokes or be the next Russell Brand!
Why did you want to work together and combine these two disciplines?
Loose: In part, Amisha and I have come together for ‘Being Light’ as we’re old friends and wanted to have the chance to work together. If I dive in deeper, as I see it, the two disciplines work together through three things – flexibility, healing and freedom. Yoga and the playful world of the clown and fool are both empowering practices, can become a way of life and can teach us many things about ourselves and the world around us.
Amisha: I have long been interested by Loose’s work, having seen her in action over the years running games nights, hosting fabulous charity talent shows and running The Village Hall at festivals. I have always admired the playful quality and courageous heart that she has, and if I am being honest, I used to take myself far too seriously. I opened up a lot for myself in 2012 when I did stand up comedy and shaved my head for charity. It led me on a much lighter path in my own life and lay down the ground to becoming a yoga teacher. I have encountered Jonathan Kay, and became very interested in The Fool. I feel that the world of play has a huge amount to offer anyone on the yogi path, and that Loose is a great facilitator to hold this space. As we got together and started to plan the Being Light experience, I was blown away by how the different activities we have planned will compliment each other. I think it will be a truly unforgettable adventure.
Why being light?
Loose: ‘Being Light’ seemed to sum up something about both yoga and play – to hold oneself and our experiences with a lightness, to create a lightness between your physical, emotional and spiritual bodies and being light is something that both Amisha and I would like to bring through our facilitation. Both of these practices can surface many things for people and can be a heart opening experience; so we hope to create a space where light can shine on these things and also keep a light buoyancy around whatever may arise so that things can flow in and out with a gentle ease.
Where does Wilderness come in? And what can we expect over the weekend?
Amisha: We both felt that including nature as a third element was really important. So we picked an incredible site to host the first Being Light. Wasing is deeply enchanting and has an ancient sacred forest and a beautiful lake. We will be spending time in the trees and wild swimming. We will learn to meditate, have morning and evening yoga sessions, an introduction to the art of the Fool and the clown, play sessions, dinner party games and a fancy dress feast! We will be nourished all weekend with veggie organic food, and there will be time to lie-in, rest and rejuvenate too. It’s more of a treat then a retreat.
Being Light will take place on June 5th-8th. Imagine a tiny festival in a cosy farmhouse.