Connexion readers Oliver Ellis and Lucy Ellis-Howell moved to France almost two years ago to set up a yoga retreat, in their cosy cottage in the Aveyron. “We have quite a lot of land and eventually we would like to have tree houses and yurts equipped with wood-burning stoves so that we can stay open all year round,” explains Lucy.
“But of course, getting the paperwork sorted will take a while.” In the meantime they offer personalised homestays for up to four people at a time during the summer. (This year they will be open from May 5th to September 22nd.)
Both are qualified yoga teachers. “We share the teaching, but Oliver is really calm and yogic; so I tend to do more of the (vegetarian) cooking. We grow a lot of our own vegetables, and in fact visitors often enjoy helping in the garden.” They do yoga twice a day and Lucy says you don’t have to be particularly fit or bendy, or even have any previous yoga experience.
“Yoga is currently in vogue, and people think it’s all about achieving very extreme postures and getting thin, but in fact it’s about reducing the impact of the world on you. Through controlling your breathing, your movements and holding postures, you can calming your senses, and get in tune with the quietness inside you. The physical movements are a way of calming your body and the breathing techniques calm the mind because the breath and the mind are connected. So when you control your breathing, you can enter a meditative state.”
It is a way of learning how to reduce stress, which can then be taken back into daily life. “You don’t need special leggings, or even to be very fit or even especially experienced. You just have to disconnect from everyday life while you’re here in order to connect with something else, and then learn to take it home with you.”
She and Oliver have ambitions to grow their business, and become more integrated into the local community. “It’s quite an ageing population round here, and many of them had never heard of yoga when we arrived.
“At first we considered buying or renting a barn but we quickly realised the benefits of doing yoga outdoors so we have terraced some of the land and installed wooden platforms where we can do yoga. We have two bedrooms, so can accommodate up to four people at a time, which makes the experience very personalised
“We’re optimistic about the future. The countryside around here is so fabulous, and we love eating fresh produce and spending time outdoors and we’re sure that other people will love it to.”
Even if you are not able to indulge in a seven-day yoga retreat, there are yoga classes all over France. Ask at your local mairie or boulangerie, check the library, or explore www.yogajournalfrance.fr, where you can learn French yoga vocabulary and find a suitable class near you... in which to master the chien tête en bas.