After last week's blog post about my experience of a 1-to-1 yoga lesson thanks to Yogi2Me I'm giving you a little round-up of the next stage of my yoga journey - a whole immersive weekend at Soul Circus yoga festival.
I won the tickets thanks to a competition run by Nutritional Therapist Jodie Brandman and wondered who I'd take with me. My sister has her 30th birthday approaching and so I text her. Cheap present?! Here's how the conversation went:
Vicky: What are your thoughts on yoga?
Ella: I love it. And wish classes weren't so expensive and I need to make more time to do it more often so I'm less stressed.
Vicky : Aaaaaaand how do you feel about festivals and camping?
Ella: Nooooooooooope. Queuing to pee in a porta-loo all weekend with no access to hot showers or electricity or water or a mattress is literally my idea of hell.
Vicky: Okay, so the two together is a no go?
Ella: I mean... I'd maybe stay in a peaceful well equipped yurt on a yoga retreat. But how can you relax doing yoga when you are wearing muddy wellies next to people drinking beer at 7am? And then there is super loud music all day.... Are you planning a yogafest??!
Vicky: No... I won tickets to this: *sends Soul Circus link*
Ella: SHOCKED EMOJI There is a hotel option!! And Moet and Chandon sponsors it! And people don't look muddy! And under amenities it says posh loos and on-site cleaners so it's MUCH better than a normal festival... COUNT ME IN!
Soul Circus is billed as a yoga and wellness festival set in the heart of The Cotswolds in Gloucestershire offering a range of classes & workshops, food & entertainment.
I have absolutely no doubt the festival is going to become massive in the coming years with the growing interest in health and wellbeing. 2017 was the first time the festival has been run fully over a weekend and the site and concept has bags of potential for growth.
Here are my top five thoughts from the weekend, and for a bonus I've given you 5 mini-bites at the end too. There's even a video... it feels like you were really there!
1. You can do a lot when it's all inclusive
Like most people´s attitudes to hotel breakfast buffets on an all-inclusive holiday or an open bar at a wedding: when it's there for the taking you want to get your money's worth.
Every day at Soul Circus there were at least three yoga sessions running simultaneously which could fit anything up to 150 people at any one time. Yes some sessions were popular, but there was absolutely no reason you couldn't find something to join from 8am to 8pm for three days straight.
The tutors we had were fantastic (Zoe from Psycle London doing FIX yoga and Jess Morris doing a Flow and Grow session) and even though I was a total beginner I felt able to take part at my own pace and level. I really hope this openness and constant availability of yoga 'on tap' continues in future years as more people attend.
When I look back at what we did across the weekend it's amazing to see what we packed in and we weren't even hard-core! And let's be honest, we peppered it with loads of other fun stuff too, here was our itinerary:
If yoga / Pilates / spin / general wellness was made more widely available and didn't have a price tag hanging over it would we all be doing more of it? Obviously a festival is an intensive environment but it did make me think about our attitudes to fitness sessions and what we prioritise in our lives.
2. Food is important to EVERYONE
Going to a tent pitched in a field in the middle of nowhere, miles from a supermarket, conventional restaurant or (heaven forbid!) a takeaway makes you realise how important food is to everyone.
The food offer wasn't as great as I think a wellbeing festival could be and is an area that can definitely be expanded for future years. We only had the choice of two stands - the official kitchen serving delicious veggie and vegan food throughout the day and a tandoori chicken stand, the latter of which ran out on Saturday night with all the dancing and revelry!
There were a few speakers talking nutrition and the festival could 100% benefit from a dedicated foodie tent with a proper demonstration area. There was loads of interest and I managed to get to three sessions: one with Nutritional Therapist Angelique Panagos, one with Nutritional Therapist Jodie Brandman and one with Food at Heart creator Meredith Whitely.
Seeing the interest in nutrition first-hand made me really inspired to start doing demonstrations myself of easy healthy recipes, and finding places where I could do that. Or even creating events of my own to demo at. Watch this space...
And if anyone from Soul Circus is reading this, I would be MORE than happy to collaborate on organising a whole weekend of amazing demos and speakers talking all things nutrition and food!
3. The people I've met through social media are awesome
I am so happy that the weekend gave me a chance to hang out with two of my favourite people that I've discovered through social media.
Firstly Lauren Barber who ran two fab sessions - one on intentions (you should totally check out her free e-book for intention setting) and the second on body acceptance. Sending love to a part of your body that you dislike had some really profound effects on the participants in the second session.
And secondly Meredith Whitely who I have followed on social media for a while and then learnt more about thanks to a podcast from Ashanti and the Women in Food network (listen here). Meredith and her husband were such fun to be around and Ella and I loved her cacao tasting and pesto recipe and demonstration which I raced home and tried out the next week.
For all the negativity that's spouted about social media and how it can make you feel, if you find the right people it can be a hugely inspiring place to be. And on the whole I have found that people I love engaging with online are just as wonderful, interesting and fun to be with in person as they are in their digital space.
4. I'm still definitely not a camping person
Because we won our tickets to attend the festival I thought we would treat ourselves to proper digs. Sorry hardcore campers! But staying outdoors for 3 days just wasn't quite for us.
We stayed in an absolutely stunning Air BnB in Gloucester just 20mins drive away and we made friends with lots of lovely local cabbies who all thought we were slightly crazy doing yoga in a field. If camping isn't for you, there's definitely ways to do this festival without it.
5. Yoga is something I want to include in my life
The whole weekend, combined with my Yogi2Me experience have given me the most amazingly positive introduction to yoga. Where I might have poo-pooed it before I would absolutely be open now to taking part in classes wherever I see them, provided they're more vinyasa flow style to keep things challenging and moving (I wrote more on scary yoga words last week).
I would definitely now see yoga as a great form of exercise and one that ties together nicely Pilates / strengthening and toning I look for in work-outs, with mindfulness and meditation that I'm making part of my daily routine too.
Anyone else fancying joining me at Soul Circus next year?
Five Soul Circus quick bites