1. I was pleasantly surprised when you reached out to me, and I wanted to share your endeavors and lifestyle with the readers. Would you please share more about yourself, and how did you get into yoga?
I was born in Barbados and moved to London to study Social Anthropology at the London School of Economics and Political Science, I was the first black woman to study anthropology at the LSE. I developed an interest in shamanistic healing exploring the way in which people are able to heal themselves and others. After this I married and studied further in Applied Anthropology, became pregnant and had my first child. Life is often stressful for first time Mums with jobs and businesses and homes and I was looking for a way to look after myself. Yoga with a new baby seemed perfect and so the journey into yoga began. Yoga has further led me towards other healing arts, such as Acupuncture and Massage.
2. There aren’t many Black women who have business ventures into owning yoga studios, let alone own a yoga retreat in Portugal. What has that experience been like, and what is your ultimate goal for the retreat?
The experience has been a steep learning curve and a tremendous delight. Many people think of yoga as simply a form of exercise performed on the mat, but the principles of yoga are much deeper than this. Building and creating a home, managing a Forest and retreat space is a formidable expression of Karma yoga, the yoga of action. We have a beautiful space in the mountains and hope that with time and continued effort it will be enjoyed by many people in need of rejuvenation. As a black woman, it would be great to see more black people on yoga retreats. We have a tremendous amount of energy, creativity and physical stamina; yoga uses all of these qualities and in return gives us stillness in our busy lives.
3. Joseph isn’t as into yoga as I am, but he will attend a few classes with me. He is open to venturing into other styles of yoga, and we’re both very open to attending a retreat. Would you please describe what a day would be like at your retreat, and what are some benefits that should be expected once someone completes the duration at your retreat?
After waking up in the forest, it’s particularly magical in the mornings, we begin with yoga class – a relatively Yang (more vigorous) Asana practice of 1 and a half hours of practice and half an hour of meditation. Followed by a healthy oats and fruit breakfast. Before and after lunch, if you’re not booked in for a massage or acupuncture treatment, you have plenty of time to explore and enjoy the surrounding wild forests with stunning views along the river Zêzere and up to the Serra de Estrela mountain range.
The afternoon yoga classes are relatively Yin (less vigorous) practices including meditation, breath awareness and Yoga Nidra or guided relaxation. Dinner usually is taken under the stars around the fire before lights out by 11pm to ensure we are well rested for the next day.
Excursions further afield can be arranged in the week. During the summer we usually head once a week to the River Zêzere off road to a piece of isolated paradise for a swim with the kids and the dogs. Clay baking yourself in the sunshine is delicious for the skin and a highly recommended experience.
We live in a remote place. In the forests. In the mountains. In one of the least ‘discovered’ parts of Europe. It’s normally a long journey to get to us. But people make the trip because they know how they’ll feel after a week of yoga in a place like this, so far from the maddening crowds.
4 .I was introduced to Vinyasa yoga in high school, but I didn’t start to take the practice seriously until August of last year. I’ve taken a variety of classes, and I’ve found my niche in Bikram yoga. Even though I love it, I don’t love the fact that Black women are highly underrepresented in the general practice of yoga. What do you think of this, and what is it that needs to happen for more Black women to become engaged in the practice?
I think that perhaps the problem with yoga and culturally women of African decent is a complex issue with several factors to consider such as demographics, education, health awareness and so forth. People of African descent are very drawn to rhythm, it is life. Yoga however is not necessarily associated with music as traditional Indian practice is about austerity and purification where music (beyond simple chanting) is thought to ignite sexual excitement rather than contemplation. However considering that one may be trying to reach an audience more inclined to take up activities that allow a little music perhaps the solution to guiding more people of African descent into yoga studios is to consider merging healing music (normally associated with massage) and yoga practice. It would also be good to see more yoga taught in local schools and youth groups or centers as part of sports education, it would be particularly beneficial for young women less inclined to take up more traditional sports.
5.I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, I come out of class with a clear mind, a sense of peace, and a good workout. What are some benefits yoga has for women, and how could they incorporate those practices at home and work?
Emotionally, exactly what you have felt. Ultimately, we are all trying to be happy and to reduce the levels of stress and anxiety. Psychologically, breath awareness is perhaps one of the most valuable tools in yoga. As we become more in tune with our breathing we are more able to gauge and consequently guide our emotions and actions. Equally yoga helps women to feel very strong inside while being more aligned soft and feminine on the outside. This is very good. Anatomically the exploration of some of the internal practices for the pelvic floor are beneficial to all women of all ages. Practically, clarity of mind allows us to more accurately gauge what we want out of our lives and so doing we are less likely to be blown around like fluff in the wind. Spiritually, yoga is not a religion but if the practioner is of a religious inclination then yoga is a good time to offer prayer and perhaps receive a little enlightenment, perhaps.
6.Recently, I read of something called “yogasm,” and I thought it was a joke until I looked it up. It seems to be very…pleasing for an appropriate term. Could you explain what “yogasm” is, and how could it be beneficial to your intimate life?
The yogic system is designed to switch off our analytic minds and encourage our meditative mind. Equally practice encourages the parasympathetic nervous system to do its job, namely relax the bodymind complex. The asanas if well taught will trigger various nerve centres particularly in the lumbar spine, pelvis and pelvic floor if relaxed enough a woman can orgasm. The female orgasm is a complex matter. Truth be known yoga can make a person feel extremely orgasmic in themselves, this is when the yoga student is moving away from yoga as a form of exercise and yoga as it is truly meant meaning Union with the self, I am not surprised many women actually orgasm when they relax enough to meet themselves.
7.Yoga encompasses the totality of the being in mind, body, and spirit. I work in mental health, and depending on the diagnosis, I will suggest the patient incorporates yoga into their treatment plan. What are some poses that you would suggest to help people in their daily lives to bring their focus on those three facets and to also decrease symptoms that are common to depression and anxiety disorders?
If a person is feeling very depressed or anxious then simple postures easily accessible by the body are best. Child’s pose if it is comfortable for stilling the mind and encouraging and internalisation of awareness to quieten the mind. Tadasana (simply standing at the front of the mat) and concentrating on grounding of the feet, alignment and the looking of the eyes out of the head. This encourages the spine to be well aligned and for the individual to have the correct relationship between their eyes and the world thereby encouraging internal strength. Meditation and guided relaxations are also very good for anxiety. Breathing practices and exercises for depression are good. Mild depression may be salved by inversions or balancing postures that encourage laughter and playfulness. Finally it is always helpful to roll around of the floor like we used to do so naturally and easily when we where children. Yoga helps us to tap into the deep well of strength that we all have inside of us.
To find out more information about the Winter family and their yoga retreat, please feel free to visit Yoga at Moses.