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A Yoga Retreat full of Heart...
by Sharon Henshall

IMAG0357Winding country lanes finally guided me into the long driveway leading to Braziers Park – a striking gothic mansion which had once been home to the family of 007's creator Ian Fleming. I wasn't here for any secret missions or for a martini, 'shaken not stirred'... instead, my time would be spent on a devotional yoga retreat led by Inspired Times' yogini, Lila Conway. Mr Bond would no doubt agree that Lila has all the wisdom of Judi Dench's 'M' character, but with much more youth and flexibility on her side.IMAG0347

Braziers Park holds a close-knit community which shares responsibility for running the Grade II listed mansion house, 55 acres of land, an organic kitchen garden and livestock. The group also facilitate retreats, courses and other events as well as welcoming volunteers from across the globe. Woody was our personal host and his warmth, attentive nature and twinkling eyes represented his community well.

My fellow yogis and yoginis trickled in as they arrived from different parts of the country. Murmurings indicated that Satnav had a rather 'hit and miss'IMAG0351 success rate on guiding participants directly there, with a few 'please turn around' moments – but everyone still made it in good time. We met for the opening meeting, each having a moment to introduce ourselves. Some had been doing yoga for years, others were complete novices... but all were warmly welcomed by Lila. She brings such heart to her retreats that it soon softens the atmosphere and allows everyone to relax. I love the way that such a mixed group of personalities from such a variety of backgrounds can soon fit together. There's something so valuable in connecting with people we'd never normally spend time with.

During our stay, yoga classes were held morning and afternoon, as well as meditation and chanting, walks in nature (the grounds are stunning!) and free time to relax. Justine Bonner joined Lila as the resident masseuse. Thai, Deep Tissue or Lomi Lomi massages were on the menu. Those who received one of her treatments all looked suitably blown away by her masterful and magical handiwork.

IMAG0359Delicious food was plentiful and created with love. We gathered around a large wooden table for mealtimes with our newfound family, and the house's history was palpable. I'm sure that if walls spoke, they would have many tales to tell from years gone by. Someone had mentioned that the place had even been raided during a party with Mick Jaggar and Marianne Faithful back in their heyday.

The weekend was over too quickly. To close the retreat we grouped together on the circle of tree stumps in the middle of the lawn. Lila never fails to bring out the best in those that attend her classes and retreats – she reminds us of a deeper connection inside us all... to something other than flesh and bone. We'd all leave with the richness that challenges, laughter, new friendships and introspection can bring. Following one final chant and plenty of hugs, it was time to hand ourselves back to Satnav and those winding country lanes, which awaited with a backdrop of blue skies and expansive farming land. This time I would be more than happy to hear 'please turn around'... yes, let's do it all over again!

Lila's next retreat is in September and will be held in Shekinah Ashram, nestled in the heart of Glastonbury. You can book yourself a place at here

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