PC 74 Thoughts on meditation and Ommmm

My eyes are closed in meditation. “Empty your mind, let the thoughts that come just pass through, creating no judgment or comment.” More easier said than done huh? “As you breathe in, imagine the word ‘let’; as you breathe out, ‘go’”. Or we’re told to focus on ‘So ….. Hum’. (A Vedic mantra meaning “I am that” which can be inverted ‘hum …. so’ to mean “that I am.” in Sanskrit). Ten minutes and I open my eyes, look up …….. and take in the scene.

Twenty four people, four men and …… well you do the maths …. have come to southern Portugal for a week’s yoga retreat. Each for their own reason, each with their own but common goal, to do two sessions of yoga a day for six days. For those of you who have never got ‘into’ yoga, it’s never too late, you’re never too old.




The orange trees

Quinta Mimosa lies west of Faro in the Algarve, in the hills above the little town of Almancil. The 10 acre estate contains three separate houses and pools, connected by orchards containing orange, olive and almond trees; you could simply stroll into the rough grass and pluck an orange off a tree. You could swim in your own pool or take a taxi to the nearby beach. The spacious nature of the place ensures that it feels delightfully empty and we gather at yoga sessions rather like yachts on an offshore race, converging from various directions to round a mark on the course.

The studio is in the old stable block and its heritage is apparent. Large French doors on the south side, a reed-covered ceiling and tiled floor; hooks on the wall that used to take riding tackle now hang with props for Iyengar yoga practice. The occasional ant runs across the old tiled floor …. and you hope it doesn’t come in your direction as you lie is Savasna, ready for the next posture.


The Yoga Studio


We are all so diverse in what we do, if you tried to describe us for a novel you wouldn’t get the group’s coincidental nature. The research biologist at UCL, an investment banker with Lloyds, two pairs of sisters, one from Walthamstow the other from London, a civil servant from the cabinet office, the blonde running a brand- awareness Internet business, a film editor for TV footage, the doctor running a health care trust, a nanny from Thailand, an Australian Chinese, a photographer, an accountant, an operations manager of a health care company, a French woman married to a Brit, a psychotherapist ….  some with children, some single with ages ranging from 29 to 58 (apart from the author!); all drawn to Portugal in June for a week’s stretching and breathing, to improve one’s practice and so one’s health and posture.

‘Ooommmmmmmm’ – the sound resonates through my chest, as we finish our hour and a half session and just let the breath out.

Food is as one might expect, vegetarian. Actually it’s simpler that way, rather than catering for the likes and dislikes, the allergies and fads, just platters of vegetables fruits, salads and cheeses. The local supermarket is visited by those who need wine or beer to complement the gorgeous food provided by Wendy and her helpers. The routine is yoga, brunch, ‘free time’, yoga, and then a well-deserved supper. We sit at a long table by a swimming pool, the warm sun setting over the hills to the north west. Conversation flows among us, one minute strangers, the next bonded by the power of a yoga practice.

Despite three different routers, the internet provision is poor. You might think this should not matter on a yoga retreat ….. but the majority of us are wired in to emails, digital newspapers, Whatsapp, and Facebook and, between the yoga sessions, you find little groups clustered around a hot spot like wives of miners on the news of a pit collapse or some such.


The common threads are yoga and Paul, our teacher. Students are from three London studios where Paul teaches and over the week we exchange our own experiences of this hot yoga and why we got into it! Interesting! Some are back for their second or third year such is the uniqueness of this week.

Paul recognises that there needs to be a little levity during our practice and introduces us to ‘earthquake’ when we suddenly have to drum our feet on the floor as quickly as possible. He also takes us on a ‘walking meditation’ reminiscent of Buddhist monks; we walk slowly, silently through the orchard and around a huge ancient gnarled olive tree, round and around. I sense that northern Europeans find ‘meditation’ a little too alternative, but after a daily 10 minutes before each yoga session one begins to understand not only its benefits but also the difficulty of clearing one’s mind of the chatter – monkey mind as some people think of it.

And so the week draws to a close and thoughts turn to the normality of our lives, so distinct from these glorious self-indulgent days. Back to work, back to families, back to children, back ……. home.

After each yoga session Paul had spoken the word ‘namaste’ … and we would respond ‘namaste’. Namaste is a gesture acknowledging the soul in one of us by the soul in the other. With his desire to keep the sessions lighthearted, at the end of one he simply said: “Namaste …… motherf**kers”.  I think we’ll all be back next year!


Richard 15th July 2016                                                   richardyates24@gmail.com



2 thoughts on “PC 74 Thoughts on meditation and Ommmm

  1. Hi Sounds like you had a lovely and relaxing time. My mum and dad used to live 2-3 miles to the north-west of Loule – it is a beautiful part of the world. Best wishes Hayley Hayley Stimpson 07800 699662

    Sent from my iPhone



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