Home' Travel News : December 2016-January 2017 Contents 44 travel news december 2016/january 2017
december 2016/january 2017 travel news 45
Monika Fauth the inspiration behind the festival says ‘I believe
that Lamu is going to become the well-being destination of
I accompanied Monika along sandy streets to the school: There are no donors or
sponsors, this is not a money-making venture, it’s purely a service to Lamu. ‘We do
our little thing,’ she said. Set among sand dunes behind the village, Shela Bright Girls
School is neat and clean, with light and airy classrooms. As well as planting trees and
tending to their organic garden, the girls can learn pranayama - the art of breathing
correctly. I watched Monika lead 25 girls in baskika breathing. ‘It refreshes our minds,’
a senior girl told me afterwards. The head, who also ran a jigger project, told me that
those girls who took regular breathing classes performed better in class and had fewer
It was good to see that the very reasonable fee we’d paid for our festival tickets was
going towards worthwhile projects. Another is Safari Doctors. A nurse, clinical officer
and visiting specialist embark on monthly safaris, across the sea and along rough
roads, to provide medical care to remote communities in Lamu County.
In August 2016, Umra Omar, its founder, was selected a CNN Hero.
My ticket offered five days of different types of yoga classes at different venues – four
a day if I could drag myself out of the warm turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean - as
well as breathing and meditation sessions and various evening entertainments.
Amongst others I tried a JIP flow class at Banana House with William, an AYP teacher.
I ended up drenched with sweat, in awe of those younger, leotard-clad Americans, who
seemed able to bend their bodies into impossible pretzel-shapes. ‘Breathe and smile,’
said William as I panted and grimaced.
Much gentler was Dru yoga with Paul, at Diamond Beach on Manda Island. A boat
was provided to ferry us across. We focussed on raising the fire within ourself, using a
fluid movements and breath work, and I finished up feeling very empowered. Ashtanga
yoga on Shela’s Msafini Hotel rooftop, was taken by Felix, who also teaches Capoeria,
a Brazilian practice combining martial arts and dance. In this yoga class he taught us
to work with our core strength. I was astounded how much I had, once I tapped in to
it. I also tried Kundalini yoga with Christel at Fatuma’s Tower, afterwards feeling both
grounded and elated by the yoga, breathing and chanting.
One evening we sailed out with a flotilla of five, flower-decked dhows, each filled with
people from all over the world; some doing yoga for the first time, others fully-fledged
yogis. As we reached the channel mouth, the sun set and the full moon cast its silvery
spell. Everyone fell silent. Leyla, a yoga teacher from Uganda, led our boat’s meditation,
guiding us to ponder upon our dreams, our life, things we needed to let go of. We cast
bougainvillea blossoms into the water, watching them float away beneath the hypnotic
The energy around us was powerful, palpable; even the boat crews
were quietly pensive as we sailed back to Shela.
Another evening there was a full moon meditation on Shela beach. Afterwards, physically
uplifted and emotionally and spiritually cleansed, we walked back along the beach, the
sand soft beneath our bare feet, to boats waiting to take us to Diamond Beach for a
barbecue, then dancing on the sand with DJ Banana.
So 2016 found me returning to Shela, with my husband and some friends, to the
Lamu Yoga Festival. One single male friend agreed to come ‘because there’ll be lots
of fit-looking women’. There were. But he ended up more interested by the yoga and
meditation classes. There were new classes, including pranayama (breathing) and
paddle-board yoga. (If you think it’s hard to balance on your head, try it while you are
bobbing about at sea. Apparently it’s easier!) Early bird yoga on the beach before
sunrise took a lot of beating. The Swahili dinner, served beneath the stars as we sat on
palm-matting, eating in traditional Swahili style, was one of the best dinners I’ve had.
There were more venues this time too, including in Lamu town.
The final night’s celebration, with Banana as DJ once again, was held on Shela Beach
outside The Fort. Dancing and feasting with new and old friends, beneath the shooting
stars, having enjoyed a week that had uplifted our bodies, minds and souls, felt within
easy reach of perfection.
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