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When I was at school, a friend’s mum used to scare me witless when she stood on her head or chanted. Yoga wasn’t
even a word I’d heard of. Then, back in the 90’s, when my life was unravelling, a friend suddenly said. ‘I’ve met
this amazing yogi - she’s over 60 and she can stand on her head!’ I went along to one of her lessons, with some
reservations, and was instantly impressed with the 60-year old woman who’d been semi-paralysed in a car accident, but
had rehabilitated herself with yoga. Over the next decade I began to practise yoga regularly - and interestingly enough,
life improved significantly.
Yoga is all the rage nowadays; from calming stretches and breath-work to the hot, sweaty power stuff, it’s caught on
globally with all age groups. Even my daughter and her boyfriend join me on occasions. I may not be able to stand on
my head, let alone tie myself into granny knots while balancing on one hand, but I do what I can manage - and that’s
what it’s all about. Yoga also generates a magical mix of calming and energising. If I practise it before my day begins, I
know I’ll have a good day.
I was one of 108 people attending the first Lamu Yoga Festival in 2014. The organizers were excited by this figure, a
sacred number in Hinduism and yoga.
APerfect Place OfPeace
Lamu's Unique Yoga Festival
Words & Image s by Juliet Barne s
Traditionally garlands of prayer beads come as a string of 108 beads
(plus one for the guru bead, around which 108 beads turn like the
planets around the sun). Renowned mathematicians of Vedic culture
viewed 108 as a number of the wholeness of existence. The average
distance of the Sun and the Moon to Earth is 108 times their respective
diameters. According to yogic tradition, there are 108 sacred sites,
throughout India and 108 sacred places of the body. It boded well for
the future of the yoga festival.
At that first opening I stood amongst people of all ages and races
in Shela Square. I met a Kenyan woman who’d come by bus from
Maralal, another young man who’d cycled here from Mombasa. A
representative for the County Governor made a short speech, white
sails drifting past the sea wall behind, where a blue sky met a sapphire
blue sea. ‘Yoga unites all people,’ he said, ‘Christians and Muslim.’ A
pair of flexible and fluid young Kenyans performed some yoga moves.
They were part of the Africa Yoga Project, which empowers people
through yoga, teaching it in prisons, schools, special need centres,
HIV/AIDS support groups, deaf schools and rural villages.
Three years on this festival has risen to international stature and
anyone who wants to attend needs to book early: Lamu’s Yoga
Festival is now number one out of Five Yoga Festivals Worth Traveling
the World For, ahead of those in San Francisco and New York City.
Yoga is a Sanskrit word meaning union of the self and universe.
There are many different types of yoga and the great thing about this
unique festival is that you can hopefully find one that resonates, and
create your own inner harmony in an incredibly special place. Lamu
Island - a UNESCO World Heritage Site - with its ancient ambiance
and tangible sense of peace, offers the perfect venue to learn this
ancient science from India. The festival is centred in Shela village,
an easy boat ride or hot walk from Lamu town. Like Lamu town’s,
Shela’s old narrow streets are safe to walk around at night and the
tangible atmosphere of peace is compounded by no cars. Transport
is by donkey. And like Lamu, Shela is steeped in atmosphere. Local
legends speak of Hadibu, an ancient Arab city buried beneath Shela’s
The inspiration behind this festival is Monika Fauth, originally from
Holland, married to Banana from Lamu. ‘I believe that Lamu is going
to become the well-being destination of East Africa,’ Monika told
me. Over the years, she’s been involved in many projects including
starting Shela Bright Girls School and the Hands Up for Kids project,
as well as organising litter clean-ups, and environmental work. She
also teaches yoga at their beautiful retreat, Banana House.
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