During this summer’s Shaftesbury Fringe, fifty people took part in an open air yoga session in the Rose Garden on Park Walk. For some of the participants it was their first taste of this ancient practice for improving mind, body and spirit. The impressive turnout made an impression on Kirsty Elliott, the experienced yoga instructor who led the event.
“I thought it would be just me and that I would end up dragging my husband to do it as well. But people just seem to turn up, turn up and turn up,” Kirsty recalled.
Kirsty, a former professional horse rider, has been a yoga teacher for eight years. She said she was pleasantly surprised by the interest in yoga in Shaftesbury. As soon as her Fringe session ended, she decided to offer regular, free yoga sessions over the summer. The first event takes place on Saturday, 4th August.
“Everybody has to have a go at this. Everyone has to have time to connect into that lovely place where they take a deep breath,” Kirsty said.
She says she’s doing this simply because she loves yoga and wants other people to benefit from the calming experiences and sense of peace she enjoys from the exercises. “It’s my passion. Yoga has given so much to me and it’s my time to give something back. My drive is seeing people being able to take that deep breath and for them to think everything is okay. That’s why I’m doing it.”
Kirsty will be offering the Dru from of yoga. It has its roots in Hatha yoga and the name means ‘stillness’. “What life throws at us gets stuck in our physical bodies,” said Kirsty.
There will be two elements to Saturday’s sessions. “The first sequence will create a space within you. If you have back, joint or physical problems come along. That first session will give you the most amazing feeling within your physical body. The second sequence will connect you into the earth and offer a feeling of peace. You’ll get to a place where you can take a deep breath and completely let go. You’ll find stillness within you. That is so special,” Kirsty said.
Kirsty says participants don’t have to worry about being fit, flexible or fashionable. “The beauty of this yoga is that you don’t need to be super bendy or super stretchy and you don’t need to be wearing a special outfit. You can just come, be you and move.”
If you’re self conscious because you don’t feel that you have a great sense of rhythm or good balance, Kirsty says that should not dissuade you from attending. “The coordination that you do on Saturday will be perfect for you. I will be demonstrating what we’ll have to do. You just move in the way that you move. I’m not going to come around and say ‘you’re not doing that right’ or ‘your right hand is moving when your left hand should be moving.’ Move your body in a way that feels good for you. Everybody will be moving completely differently because everybody is completely different,” she said.
Kirsty is using the Rose Garden, opposite the Abbey entrance, for the session again because she feels that part of Shaftesbury has special qualities. “It’s got a beautiful energy. It used to be part of the main Abbey. The Abbey has got strong feminine energy, too. There are ley lines running through the space. It’s a place of peace,” Kirsty explained.
If the session was held on an industrial estate with an urban background the effect wouldn’t be the same as yoga on Park Walk. “It wouldn’t be such a potent experience. You would have the same effect on your physical body. Your breath would give you that lovely spaciousness within your body but it wouldn’t be as ‘volume increased ‘as it will be on Saturday because Shaftesbury is beautiful,” Kirsty said.
Kirsty is based in Berwick St John and she knows Shaftesbury well. She feels that it is a town where people are receptive to practices like yoga. “When people here are connected in a group, everybody is connected to each other. People don’t seem guarded. They have a feeling of wanting to be together. That makes Shaftesbury amazing.”
Kirsty understands that some people may be cynical about yoga’s benefits. She says that anyone unconvinced should turn up on Saturday and try it. “It’s free,” Kirsty exclaimed. “ Yoga was designed for you to feel good. Everybody has a body, everybody is human and everybody has a flow of energy in them. This yoga is designed to create that. If you don’t believe in the energy and you think it sounds ‘airy fairy’ then come and feel it. I guarantee 100% you will feel something that will make you feel better. Your mind will feel quieter. It won’t be racing quite so much. You might feel peaceful.”
Saturday’s mid morning session will last 45 minutes. “It will start at 10.30am and run until 11.15am. Just bring yourself and a friend or two. The more the merrier,” smiled Kirsty. “If you have a yoga mat, bring that. Or bring a blanket. At the end you get to lie down. Wear loose and comfortable clothing, bring some water and an open mind.”
The sessions will run on the 4th, 11th and 25th of August and 1st September. Kirsty says if the summer events are successful she will extend the yoga into the autumn. “Hopefully, if everybody has enjoyed it, we might have one session each month or every couple of months to keep it going,” she said.
You can find Kirsty’s website at TheYogaWithin.co.uk.