As post production of images from my latest adventure starts, I already miss the gentle swaying that accompanied living on a 50 ft sailing vessel. As I reflect on the BASEDtravelerBodies and HotYogaMalta Yoga and Sailing retreat. I look back fondly, on seven days of sailing, yoga and exploring Malta, Comino and Gozo; and also my mind, body and soul.
A few years ago, if someone said that I, Paul Porter, would be participating on a sailing and yoga retreat, I would have smirked. I am a skier, a cyclist, an adventurer and explorer. I focus more on adrenalin-inducing activities. I thought that stretching and that quiet time stuff didn’t quite appeal to me.
Well, it turns out that I was wrong. Very wrong.
I have just had the most amazing experience. My skin is a bit darker and my mind is far more open. I have made new friends, seen new things and experienced some new self-beliefs. The tag line for the week was Namastyay, and I found myself using it, a lot.
Our charter, a 50 ft Bavarian sailing yacht named Leading Lady, was awesome! Although a little cramped in places, it had everything that was needed for seven days at sea. We sailed the Maltese coastline, cruising between cliffs and caves and were greeted with amazing sunrises and sunsets. Namastyay 🙂
The sailing was an exhilarating addition to the calm and searching for inner peace from this yoga and meditation retreat. The alternating weather changed a few plans and the itinerary went a bit awry due to this, however Emily and Ritianne, our retreat hosts, worked with Nikolay, the Skipper, and came up with alternative venues that allowed us some special moments that had not previously been thought of. We were treated to locations to practice yoga that were so sublime and mind-blowing such as Roman Age salt flats that harboured a Romeo and Juliet style legend and the cliffs over a beautiful lagoon. These places also gave me great photographic opportunities. Namastyay.
Although the weather did change things, we still found time to push our yacht and ourselves in the elements, to see what top speeds we could achieve. We finally topped out at 6.5 knots. It might not sound like much, but we had that yacht on its side with the sails full of air, there were whoops and hollers and high fives all round as we kept getting faster and faster for another Namastyay.
Admittedly, I struggled at the yoga. Being a new yogi on a yoga retreat, I was surrounded by experienced yogi’s, but I gave it my best attempt. I wanted to show the others that with enthusiasm, I could keep up with the best of them, or at least try. I also wanted to see how this yoga stuff could help me in my everyday life, and if it really could make a difference. Downward Facing Dog, Warrior One and Warrior Two, I put my body through all I could. I felt my shoulders tighten and my legs shake as sweat dripped off my nose onto the green mat below. When the practice got too difficult, I would sit and watch the rest of the group, meditate or step around and take some photographs, I would continue to follow the session, keen to progress myself.
There was a point when I tried a Head stand, I emphasise tried. As this was somewhat unsuccessful, I was advised an easier alternative in the shoulder stand. I found that much easier and reassuring. This helped me feel like I was half way there, and developed further enthusiasm to practice and to get my positions right. Namastyay.
As a photographer, I carry equipment for long periods of time and travel with heavy bags. Even after just a couple of yoga sessions, I started to see the benefits. I found my back and shoulders loosen after the stretching through the yoga and I started to notice improvements to my balance as well. The meditation and breathing skills also enable me to increase my hand-held exposure times. Another Namastyay.
Each person on the retreat was at his or her own level and looking to grow. I was not dismissed for not being a yogi, as it is an individual pursuit and was congratulated and encouraged by everyone along the way. Although an individual pursuit, you could see bonds growing throughout the week. Friendships were discovered over sailing, yoga levels and other aspects of the environment.
I found bonds myself. Being able to share my photography knowledge with others and seeing the improvements in their images and how their ideas would come to life, is what I am known for and my whole reason for photography: “inspiring people to explore through photography”. Again Namastyay.
Although a lot of our time was spent on board the yacht, Emily and Ritianne had planned a variety of shore excursions for us. Walking and jeep tours in religious and historic locations were interesting and well thought out. We also had either lunch or dinner, on shore, in a restaurant each day. The restaurants allowed me my meat and alcohol intake for the week, as the retreat had a healthy vegetarian menu, although I didn’t go crazy – this is a retreat after all. We were able to explore Malta, Gozo and Comino, their religion and their culture. We visited a variety of places, including the odd beach side ice cream place, that were close to the shore and we could walk or we were driven by jeep . One important thing to note, Malta serves American size portions. We ate well throughout the trip. On board, or ashore we were well catered for. Namastyay.
Emily and I have collaborated before, and it was great to meet her in person. She has so much energy and can hold yoga poses that I did not realise were even possible. She is very knowledgeable on the island, and created a great retreat with Ritianne. Emily’s yoga sessions really focused the mind on the environment. She utilised the surroundings and included them in the practice. To me, it felt the environment and yoga collaborated into a story every time and it was very easy to get lost with her in her sessions. I found Emily’s sessions to be eye-opening for me as a beginner. Also, watching her teach yoga on a stand up paddle board (paddle boards courtesy of SUP Yoga and Fitness Malta) is something else, it is like she is glued to that thing. Namastyay
Ritianne of HotYogaMalta is tiny and so so strong. She is a calming yogi who makes great food, regardless of how rocky the boat is. She will tell you that she is not a good cook, but she is lying really. Everyday the breakfasts, lunch or dinner, were healthy and plentiful. Her yoga lessons were thorough. Watching her hold a head stand on a rocky path without a mat was inspiring. Ritiannes poses were very impressive and you could see how the other attendees were in awe and wanting to progress to Ritianne and Emily’s level. Ritianne helped me by correcting my posture and opening my shoulders encouraging me into some new yoga positions (no head stands for me yet, but they will come). Namastyay
Nikolay from Malta Charters was the perfect Skipper of this ship (and being the only other guy on the boat, my lifeline for the week). His life experiences and singing bowl skills, made him the perfect storyteller, and you could tell people enjoyed his carefree, but safe, approach to life and we all looked forward to his stories. If you want to experience singing bowls, or need a skipper for a charter boat, he is your guy. Namastyay
paulkporter highlight of the week
SUP, Stand Up Paddle boarding, was a riot. Our boards were supplied by SUP Yoga Fitness Malta and I had so much fun on that board, I cannot wait to do it again. It is so easy to get wobbly, but it works on your core muscles and focus to prevent you from falling off. Emily insisted that the group practiced yoga on the boards before paddling around, and she was right to do so. An hour of finding our balance points, allowed us to stand up easily and get motoring once the meditation was done. Of course, I fell off and got wet, but not before my determination found my shoulder stand lead to my toes reaching over my head and touching down on the board (fortunately there are no photos of this). I was determined to get that position and was met with cheers when I was successful. I have since learned that I found my Halsana. Namastyay
My photography workshop was broken up into individual workshops, which allowed me to help those who needed it. Attendee’s camera’s ranged from Hasselblads to iPhones and everyone had different questions. From understanding simple camera modes to composing and critiquing images, we had fun utilising all aspects of our surroundings. As I helped the individuals hone their skills, it felt rewarding when they would come to me throughout the retreat with questions or to show me the images that they had made after my advice. I was even the subject for some fast shutter water splash test shots when no one else was available. Of course, I still made time to get out and make some images myself – Namastyay:
The Yoga and Sailing Retreat in Malta was a blast.
I made new friends and shared some new experiences. This retreat showed that regardless of your position in life, yoga is a way of calming, maintaining focus and building strength. Being strong inside reflects outside, making you a stronger individual overall. Breathing, stretching and focussing your mind within yoga are transferable skills that I feel will help my quality of life.
Will I do sailing again?
Of course I will.
Will I do yoga again?
I am on assignment next week, but I have already enquired about beginner’s yoga at my local gym and will be signing up when I’m back. So yes, I will do yoga again.
If you have the opportunity to attend a BASEDtravelerBodies and HotYogaMalta Yoga and Sailing retreat, I highly recommend it. You get out of it what you put in, and it has potential to make you a lot stronger both inside and out; more than you could have imagined.
Oh and one final note, I was also deemed quite smart taking this assignment. I mean, photographing women in the sunshine while sailing the Maltese coast is a hard life, but somebody had to do it :).
NAMASTYAY Indeed 🙂
Would you like me to join your retreat and photograph it for you? Get in touch here
And remember to follow my journey