Wellies and yoga pants – Soul Circus 2019
Hello! How was your weekend?
I spent mine with big daughter at Soul Circus, a yoga and well-being festival held in Gloucester. Not content with doing her degree, her part-time bar job and volunteering at a national counselling helpline, big daughter is also training to be a yoga teacher (this is how I know she’s my daughter – she wants to do All The Things! 😀) and this was an opportunity to meet up with her course buddies and also try out different aspects of yoga and wellness that we don’t usually get to experience. (Warning – this is a long post with lots of photos!)
The festival didn’t start until the Friday but we wanted to go to one of the earlier workshops so we set off on Thursday evening, albeit a bit later than we intended. Big daughter drove, I sat in the passenger seat and knitted (two and a half hours of gifted knitting time – bliss!) and we chatted about this and that. By the time we arrived, there was a beautiful, huge golden moon in the sky – and we set to work putting our tent up in the dark.
Perhaps not one of our better ideas, but luckily we’d had a practice run with the tent (we bought a smaller sized one for the two of us so that we wouldn’t have to put our big family one up on our own and had a hilarious time trying to put it up in the living room) and we managed far better than we expected. We’d just finished and had brought all our stuff inside when the wind got up and the heavens opened. Goodness, it didn’t half rain! We were very glad to be inside, and very glad that we’d checked our tent for faults before we set off!
In the morning, it was still raining and the wind was even stronger, but we were very pleased that the tent was still standing. This was our little home-from-home for the weekend – we bought it earlier in the year from Go Outdoors. There is plenty of choice in the way of small, pop-up festival tents these days and they’ve very cheap too (which probably is one of the reasons that there’s a huge abandoned tent problem after some festivals), but we’d done a bit of research into what we wanted and knew we needed a bit more space than the bare minimum. This is a 3/4 person tent (seriously, though, I think they would have to be 4 small people!) – we chose it so that we knew there would be enough room for our camp beds (my years of sleeping on a roll mat are over!) and our clothes in the inside bedroom area and because there was a small porch area to put our wellies and – most importantly – our stove so that we could have a brew.
We didn’t sleep too badly in our tent, once we’d remembered that camping involves sleeping in All The Layers. There weren’t too many other tents around us – the festival didn’t officially start until Friday, after all, and we expected that lots more people would come later. Everybody staggering out of their tents in the early morning seemed to look a bit like we felt; a bit wild and woolly after a night of high winds and rain, and a bit damp around the edges. I put the kettle on.
The festival information requested that people didn’t take their own food as there would be adequate places to eat, but a brew isn’t food in my opinion, and there was no way I was leaving my stove behind. My husband sent us a text to see if we were OK and this is the picture I sent back – so he knew that we were! 😀
Anyone could be forgiven for thinking that I drink gallons of tea, and I really don’t – only about 3 or 4 cups over a whole day – but I do enjoy a brew in the morning and a big proper mug of tea when you’re camping is one of the best brews you can have. My stove is a Trangia, and I’ve had it for more years that I care to remember – many years ago I was a Venture Scout leader (when Venture Scouts existed) and I’ve done the Duke of Edinburgh Award (I got my gold award and went to London to meet the Duke of Edinburgh – get me!), and this little stove has travelled many miles with me in my rucksack. Mine has got two pans, a frying pan and a kettle and it all packs up into a neat size which has served me well over the years. It runs on methylated spirits and is surprisingly efficient, and even though it spends most of it’s time in a cupboard in the garage these days, it still remains my favourite piece of camping kit – apart from a water-tight tent, that is!
Fortified with tea and a breakfast cereal bar to keep us going (these ones – soo good!), big daughter and I were ready to face the day and headed off to our first class. Inside the festival site, there were lots of large tipis which were used for different types of classes – the different “varieties” of yoga, breathing, gong meditations, hot yoga … there were so many to choose from! The priority on Friday morning was to find a class where you could get right inside – yoga in the rain is great as long as you can hear the rain on the canvas, not actually be doing the yoga in the rain!
It all felt a bit sad and dismal, to be honest, as we bent our heads against the rain and made our way across the field and I wasn’t entirely sure what the weekend was going to bring. I was already a bit worried that it was going to be full of young, beautiful people who could bend themselves into pretzel shapes whilst I felt more middle-aged and inflexible than I wanted to, and the thought of being permanently soaked at the same time didn’t fill me with enthusiasm. Even the Soul Circus sign looked a bit sorry for itself.
My plan was to be guided by big daughter over the weekend. She is far more knowledgeable about yoga than I am (as you would hope, being a trainee teacher), and I trusted her not to take me to a class that would break me into little pieces, and she didn’t let me down. There were classes for all ages and abilities, and as it was a family festival, there were people of all ages there, from the youngest of young to much older than me. We started off in a flow class which used essential oils – a flow class is one where the movements flow into each other and is very similar to the class that I go to at home, and using essential oils during the class is a lovely experience. We rubbed cedarwood onto our feet to ground us and get us ready for the festival weekend, and then we rubbed wild orange into our hands to uplift and inspire us, and by the time the class was over, I was much more well-disposed to the whole place – despite the rain bouncing off the tipi roof. Look, I even made it onto the Soul Circus Instagram story!
The weather didn’t improve much over the day. Everybody did their best to stay under cover, but the atmosphere started to change as the day wore on. People started to smile at each other as they relaxed, and even joked about the rain. Classes were cosy as everybody huddled under the canvas.
The tipis were great spaces. They were huge canvas tents, held up by wooden poles and decorated on the inside with foliage and dream catchers and I noticed over the weekend that as the day wore on and the sky darkened, the lights inside made them look quite magical.
More than once, I found myself thinking about the crocheted mandalas that hang outside the Auction Mart at Yarndale, and there definitely is something quite hypnotic about watching them as they move gently in the breeze.
After our flow class, big daughter and I headed for the cafe for some breakfast. We chose the veggie full breakfast and checked our programme to plan our schedule for the rest of the day. That’s Turkish baked eggs, toast, beans, a hash brown and a mushroom sausage you can see there, and it all went down very well!
And then it was time for another brew.
Sitting around in yoga pants and wellies is surprisingly comfortable – I could get used to it! There was time to get a bit more sock knitting in before our next class too. This is the Cascade pair that I started waaaay back in May and I decided that it was high time they were finished. I was on the second sock and had managed to get pretty much all of the foot done on the journey to the festival, so it was case of finishing off the toes. There was some urgency to this by this point too, as I’d only taken one pair of socks with me and they were damp by now!
One of our best choices of the day was to sign up for a mala bead-making workshop. As the rain battered down, we were under cover and best of all, we were doing some craft!
I didn’t know what mala beads were until I realised that I did, if that makes sense. They’re Buddhist prayer or meditation beads, and are also used in various forms in other religions – Catholic rosary beads, for example. They’re used in meditation (or prayer) as a way to count mantras or prayers, or to just help you sit in silence as you move the beads around your hand and that distracts your “monkey mind” from making shopping lists and thinking about what you might watch on TV later.
Helen, who was guiding the workshop, was calm and patient and coped very well with a big group of soggy people who had more trouble stringing beads and tying knots than we felt that, as grown ups, we should have!
We started with a meditation to set the intention for the beads. Meditation is spoken about much more widely these days, and there is still the view that it involves peculiar humming, or clearing your mind of all thought completely (which generally makes more thoughts appear) but actually, it’s just about sitting still for a few minutes and being aware – of what’s going on around you, of the thoughts in your head, of how you are feeling. I always imagine that it’s like sitting by a river full of fish. You can see the fish (your thoughts) swim past, but you don’t have to catch them, and just noticing the fish (your thoughts) is enough to let them go without them filling your head. Shopping lists can always wait a few minutes.
There was a lot of “setting intention” during the weekend and if that’s something that’s unfamiliar to you (and it was to me at the beginning of this year), then I want to tell you what a lovely thing it is to do. It’s something that we can do every day as we wake up – it doesn’t have to be as part of a yoga or meditation practice – and is a very powerful way to focus on what you want your day to be like rather than being battered by emotions or events like a tiny ship tossed about on a stormy sea. Setting an intention simply means to ask yourself what you want to get from something – a class, a festival, your day – and taking a moment to focus on it before you get started. Easy, eh?
The intention for the festival was “transformation” and all of the classes and workshops were themed to encourage some sort of change, whether in thinking or moving, and my personal intention for the weekend was “balance”. I’ve been feeling quite out of balance recently; that there’s too much to do and not enough time to sit and recharge my batteries even though I’ve been doing my best to do that with a brew or some knitting for even ten minutes during the day, and I was keen to restore some of that.
We were making half malas, which means that there were 54 beads in total rather than 108 on our string of beads. We chose a Guru bead which was larger than the others, represents a student-teacher relationship and denoted the bottom of the bead string, and then 10 other beads from a selection of crystals, based on what thoughts came to us during our moment of silence at the start of the workshop. It was the strangest feeling – I’m always drawn to purples but I very definitely wanted my beads to be shades of orange. I chose carnelian, citrine, white jade and tiger’s eye, and in between the crystals were wooden sandalwood beads which smell gorgeous. The tassel is important too, and I was very pleased to find exactly the shade of orange that I wanted to complement the rest of my beads.
The stringing part was simple enough, but you needed to create knots at certain points to stop the beads moving and that proved to be harder than it looked to get them in just the right place. Once or twice I managed to do it perfectly – and then it would all go wrong and I would spend longer unpicking the knot than trying to make it. I wasn’t alone, and Helen was in high demand for help with undoing knots!
This is what it looked like when I’d finished.
You can see the crystal stones better in this picture that I’ve taken now I’m home, and I’m only sorry you can’t smell the sandalwood beads as the scent seems to be getting stronger by the day. It’s a very tactile thing and there’s also something very comforting about moving the beads around in your fingers.
After making our beads, big daughter and I had a couple of talks lined up (on psychic skills and self-love and respect in case you’re interested) – sitting on a yoga mat wrapped up in a big fleecy blanket (I had wanted to take my crocheted Neat Ripple one but was very glad I had changed my mind as fleece dries faster than yarn!) is a very pleasant way to spend a Friday evening – and we had planned to go to the “Strut like Little Mix” dance class (I can see you laughing) but by that point we were hungry and had had enough of the rain so we went to look at the dinner options instead.
We chose to eat from a stall called The Indian Guy – Indian street food – and oh my life, it was fabulous! (so fabulous, in fact, that we had the same dinner the next night!) I was always a fussy eater as a child and even now that I’m old enough to know that being fussy means you might miss out, I still get a bit nervous when faced with food that I don’t recognise. Big daughter is far more adventurous and we decided to take the “bit of everything” option so that we could share and if all else failed, I decided that would eat all the naan bread and then the packet of biscuits in the tent.
I was too full to eat any biscuits because we both cleaned our plates! This is what we ate (the pani puri had already gone by the time I remembered to take a picture) and we both thoroughly enjoyed it, so if you’re ever at a festival and this food stall is there, I can highly recommend it!
We were glad to shut our tent flap on the day. A few more tents in the field, a few more rain clouds in the sky. Tomorrow would surely be better.
And it was! At first, we hardly dared to believe that we could see the sunshine …
but there it was!
Oh what a difference a bit of warmth and sunlight makes! 😀
We were more than happy to be outside of the tipi for the morning chakra-opening vinyasa class (another type of flow yoga), feeling the sun on our faces as we sat on our mats waiting for the class to start. Chakras are the main energy centres of our body and there are seven main ones which ideally should be kept open and flowing freely so that we can feel at our best. There are many ways to do this, yoga being just one of them.
And look! New socks!
I was very glad to have them finished! They’re lovely and soft and best of all – dry! 😀
And do you like my bag? I made it years ago out of some cotton yarn that was originally a jumper that didn’t suit me at all. The pattern is a free one on Ravelry – you can find it here. I haven’t used it very much as the strap is a bit stretchy and if I really did use it as a market bag for holding fruit and veg it might well end up dragging on the floor. I think that if I made another one I might well make an i-cord strap – but it was perfect for squishing my blanket and water bottle into.
After our class, which was actually my favourite one of the weekend, we checked our schedule and headed to our next workshop. It was like being at a completely different festival! People spilled out of tipis in all directions, everywhere felt calmer, and people were talking to each other rather than huddling in raincoats. It was lovely!
Big daughter was keen to go to a gong meditation but it was so busy that we couldn’t really hear the gongs (although we did get the full benefit of the ABBA soundtrack from the clothing stall next door!) and we didn’t stay long. Whilst we were there, though, we had a few moments lying in the sunshine and looking up at the sky, it reminded me of the first ever Monthly Musing that I wrote for the Winwick church magazine. If you scroll down this page, it’s the one written in August 2010 called Feeling the Sky, and that’s exactly what I was doing (yes, the page does need updating, I’ll add it to my list!). I didn’t realise until I got home and small daughter pointed it out that there’s a heart shape of blue sky in those clouds. Seems about right.
Big daughter and I had a lovely time over the weekend.
We went to talks on nutrition, on becoming firm in your personal values and yoga physiology. We listened to a fascinating talk by lady who has worked as a medium for many years and blends spirituality with science, and whilst I know that this can be an emotive subject for some, my choice is to believe that there is something more than what we can see around us. I still chat to my parents and other relatives who are no longer here, and according to Claire the medium, that is something that they like. I did worry that my Dad might think that I was mithering if I spoke to him too often or asked him too many questions (he wasn’t a big talker when he was here, I couldn’t see that he’d be different on the other side!) but Claire said that talking or asking questions is like sending a text which they can pick up when they’re ready as time works differently in other dimensions. It’s enough to frazzle your brain – but why not? Why shouldn’t there be any more than we can see, and why shouldn’t we find out if there is or there isn’t? I think that part of the magic of being alive is that there’s always more to know.
We went to breathing classes that involved drumming our hands and feet on the floor, we went to coaching classes that made us think, we spotted another lady with a pair of hand knit socks on (hello if that was you in the mala beads workshop!) and we laughed and enjoyed each other’s company. It was all a bit special. Transformational, perhaps, and totally in balance.
There was music both evenings – headlined by DJ Goldie on Friday and Chainska Brassika on Saturday – but we were too tired to stay up (all this relaxing is exhausting, you know!). We could hear it all very well from our tent, though, so we didn’t miss out.
On our last morning, we were up very early to go to a yin yoga class in the hot tipi. The hot tipi was completely enclosed with blowers that sent warm air into the space although unfortunately, I think the blowers had just about blown themselves out and it wasn’t as warm as we’d have hoped – and we’d left our blankets behind. Yin yoga involves holding a pose for a long time, and whilst that might sound like some kind of torture, the poses were all ones that were comforting in some way – the child’s pose and the butterfly pose, for example. It was a very calm way to start the day.
In fact, by this point, big daughter and I were feeling super-calm generally. We watched the sun rise in the sky whilst we drank our morning brew (it was a very early class!) and felt quite sad that we’d have to take our tent down and head home within a few short hours.
Soon, it was as if we’d never been there. It made me think of the saying “take only pictures, leave only footprints”, and the other version of it which is “take only memories, leave only footprints”. We were doing both.
I don’t think either of us had realised quite how relaxed we had become until we stopped at a service station for some lunch on the way home. Gloucester services is owned by the same company as Tebay, my favourite services on the motorway (I don’t care if that sounds crazy, I’ve been going to Tebay services since I was very small on our journeys to Scotland and I love it!) and has a very good farm shop that we always like to look around. Even though it wasn’t crazy busy, we still felt as if we were walking around in a calm and rather spaced-out bubble whilst everyone rushed past us – it was a bit like being underwater! The fish and chips were good, though 😀
And then we were home, and trying to fit ourselves back into “normal” life. I think there is a whole range of “normal” and we each need to find what that is for ourselves. I also think that “normal” can change and whilst change can be scary, it can also be exciting. I’ve got a lot to think about after this weekend, and I’m looking forward to seeing where that takes me.
One thing that I will be doing is trying my best to keep the sense of balance that I have come home with – and you can remind me of that in a few days when I’m back to chasing around like something daft! I’ve got a new sock on the go for in-between commission socks – this yarn is hand-dyed by HeyJay Yarn which I bought from The Fibreworks in the Cotswolds a couple of years ago. I don’t think I took a picture of the skein but one of the fun things about a hand-dyed skein is that you never know how the yarn is going to knit up and I didn’t expect it to look like this. I’m not complaining at all, though, I think it’s great! I also bought a copy of Claire the medium’s book which big daughter and I are going to share; I’ve grabbed it first as she’s got studying to do and shouldn’t be distracting herself with other things … 😀
And today I am writing this so that I can look back and remember. And feel blessed.