My First Yoga Experience Was at the Lamu Yoga Festival

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We are fea­tur­ing per­son­al sto­ries from guests, teach­ers and vol­un­teers who attend­ed the fourth Lamu Yoga Fes­ti­val March 8–12, 2017. Send us your sto­ry, too!

By Adri­an Kibai

The fast dash of the plane on the run­way can be unset­tling if you are not used to it. The lift-off of the small com­muter jet that trans­ports pas­sen­gers between Nairo­bi and Lamu might make you a bit dizzy, not to men­tion the dips of air pock­ets just after take off and before land­ing. But there is a sil­ver lin­ing to it all once you hit the right alti­tude: up there, you are high enough to see the snowy peaks of the Kil­i­man­jaro in its glo­ry, the clouds obscur­ing the net­work of paths below, and the rivers as they snake on their course. I was only accus­tomed to see­ing trees rush by on the road, so for me this was a sight to behold. Things move slow­er up there, but I could feel just how fast we were mov­ing when we hit the ground and jerked to a break at the end. Land­ing at Man­da Air­port in Lamu makes you wish for a few more min­utes on the plane because the heat wave rush­es through the opened door with no warning.

Still, my trip to Lamu has been amaz­ing and I will tell you why. I came for the Lamu Yoga Fes­ti­val and while some found heal­ing and relax­ation from the yoga class­es, I found my bliss in the island’s ambiance. From how the trees sway in the after­noon breeze and how noth­ing ever moves too fast. You won’t fail to notice how clean the air is from zero auto­mo­bile emis­sions and noise. Life is tak­en easy, no mat­ter where you are on the totem pole. And you can eas­i­ly walk a long way before real­is­ing you nev­er took your shoes with you.

Pic­turesque Shela vil­lage is so small that every place is lit­er­al­ly a 5 minute walk. The streets are bare­ly wide enough for you and a laden don­key to share. It’s easy to go in cir­cles on the first few days, but once you know your turns and short cuts it’s easy to fig­ure out. Amu town, the UNESCO Her­itage Site just a boat ride away, is where life moves faster, but still not fast enough if you are used to city life. Peo­ple are all chilled dur­ing the day, hid­ing from the swel­ter­ing heat and scorch­ing sun — but every­thing comes to life after 3pm, when they pick up where they left off around 10am.

What most vis­i­tors hard­ly know is that Lamu island, where Shela vil­lage and Amu town are sit­u­at­ed, is just one part of Lamu Coun­ty. Like some for­eign­er might refer to Africa as if it’s a vil­lage, instead of point­ing our the exact coun­try and place, it’s a con­fu­sion watu wa bara or for­eign­ers will only have resolved after the brief schooling.

At the fes­ti­val there were Swahili meals and yoga ses­sions, but I got lost in the sun­set med­i­ta­tion on the dhow, a tra­di­tion­al sail­boat. The full moon wax­ing from the east as the sun set in the west can be so beau­ti­ful that the med­i­ta­tion comes easy, while the boat rocks on the ebbing tide. The dusk and dawn here give you a sense of yel­low-mel­low con­nec­tion to nature on a whole new level.

My first yoga class includ­ed aro­ma ther­a­py, and I kept look­ing for­ward to the breath­ing ses­sions because the stretch­ing for me was tak­ing it a bit too far. I am told it’s what all first timers expe­ri­ence. I man­aged to catch the Zum­ba class with Alexan­dra as it was end­ing, and got to join the Free­dom Dance class with Joanne, where I felt more free with most of the sho­ki and oth­er rou­tines being famil­iar. I knew noth­ing about yoga when I came here, and now I can freely say my favorite stance is the war­rior and down­ward fac­ing dog, for all the good and pure rea­sons. I may have even chan­neled my chakras (inner ener­gy) through some of these asanas (stances). And maybe I’ve learned enough San­skrit, the ancient lan­guage, to ask for water and say namaste after every sentence.

My fear of drown­ing would not let me try Stand Up Pad­dle yoga, as the tide was high by noon. What was the beach just min­utes before was sud­den­ly a har­bor, and the pad­dle boards and yogis bobbed in the water. I had the chance to catch it on cam­era and the pos­es con­trast­ing with the blue sky­line are life itself.

Lamu’s gov­er­nor, Hon. Issa Timamy, dropped by and expressed his sup­port for such fes­tiv­i­ties on the island. The trav­el advi­sories have hurt the tourism sec­tor great­ly and see­ing peo­ple come in from over 20 coun­tries for the Lamu Yoga Fes­ti­val real­ly made him glad. Lamu is called the island of fes­ti­vals for a rea­son — it now hosts the Arts, Cul­ture and Food fes­ti­vals at var­i­ous time of the year, and Maulid, a reli­gious cel­e­bra­tion that draws peo­ple from all over the coast.

The one thing that I regret not try­ing in Lamu is speed boat­ing. I am a speed freak. I thrive on torque and adren­a­line. It was prob­a­bly for a good rea­son — oth­er­wise I’d have relocated.



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