I fight time. All the time.

I frequently negotiate in my mind how I can squeeze in one more activity/outing/date—and how I can get from one place to another without factoring in travel time. I underestimate how long it takes me to transition from swimming to getting on my bike and dashing to teach in Covent Garden—not once, but weekly. I think I have an uncommitted day coming and quickly lose it in an avalanche of projects. Hours set aside for writing and research collapse into answering emails, laundry and – I don’t know? Responding to Facebook messages, organising Scout’s social calendar, re-shelving books.

 

Last year, my friend & Salonista, Jackie, started running Yoga sessions in her home. I didn’t think I had any time, but I dipped in… in another lifetime, I had a yoga practice that I enjoyed; it was one of the parts of my life that was lost in the shuffle of changing continents.

I have continued with Jackie’s class for a variety of reasons—making time for it (there is a phrase that should be questioned: you can’t actually make time & it is dangerous to think you can..) on Saturday mornings.  Jackie is a gifted teacher of yoga. Her attentiveness to each body and mind in the room is impressive; she walks into the positions with us and gives us detailed proposals to use in manouevering our bodies for deep stretching and awareness.

The hour & 20 minutes I spend in her living room allow me to open my body and quiet my mind. I didn’t realise it was SO LOUD in there until the clamorings trail off. There are moments (I know, I know, it should be the whole time) when I am truly able to focus on my body’s movement and how each posture ripples across joints and muscles—pulling here, releasing there. I am in awe of the movement of the body—its strength & flexibility when I am really attending to its flow.  I f I arrive at class caught in the maelstrom of a bad moment, the practice settles me down. This can be healing—but it can also create an unexpected release: one time, Jackie placed her palm on my back in the midst of a posture and said quietly: ‘let it go’….I burst in to tears. In that moment, nothing had ever felt so relieving.

 

The time in the class also does what I often miss in social interactions. At parties or meeting friends at the pub, time feels sped up—encounters are glancing, skating on the surface—there is too much stimuli as you move from topic to topic, amongst various diverse people—I always feel the jagged fragments of unfinished conversations after the gathering.

At the yoga session, we speak briefly at the start—and then slip into the realm of movement and concentration. I can think about the interactions I had with friends at the start—and be more thoughtful in my responses after the class ends. I can hold their words and feel the weight of the thoughts and experiences of others—not just dash to the next anecdote or life challenge.  The experience of the yoga expands time –and I can relax my shoulders and taut spine into the moment, the fellowship.

 

Yoga practice dovetails with the deep awareness a good Salon session offers. So when Ann Moradian of Perspectives in Motion in Paris approached the London Literary Salon to collaborate again on a retreat bringing together the study of great literature and a deepening sense of self through movement workshops, this seemed like a perfect moment. We have organised the retreat—at a beautiful chateau on the shores of Lake Annecy—around human connection to ourselves and the natural world—a troubled and powerful relationship—and a crucial one.  The literature we will discuss uses The American Transcendentalists (Thoreau & Emerson) as a starting place for a philosophical view of our identities in nature; then we will turn to the contemporary writer Marilynne Robinson for a sustained meditation in her fictional work Housekeeping on grief, healing & radical re-imagining of our idea of home.

For more information and registration, please go to the listing for Reading the Body Retreat on the website.  ** Please note: the date for the Retreat has been changed to late June 2018**

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