Tag Archives: Mindfulness

Yoga & Canoe Poster

6 Day Yoga & Canoe Retreat


Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Spectacular cliffs on the Célé river, Lot France

Combined Yoga & Canoeing Vacation

New for the 2017 season we are introducing this tour which brings Yoga sessions to one of our favourite canoeing tours on the Célé river in the Lot region of the south of France.

It is a 5 Night, 6 Day tour which combines morning and early evening yoga sessions with gentle and relaxing paddling down the beautiful Célé river.

Our instructor, Elizabeth Reed is an Inner Axis yoga teacher, focusing on breath work and non-competitive movement to increase well being, strength, flexibility and relaxation. On this tour she concentrates on general well being; specific postures relating to issues identified by individual participants and postures for warming up and preparing for paddling. It is suitable for beginners or those with some experience of yoga.

Elizabeth is a fun and knowledgeable teacher who focuses on learning and enjoyment, with tips and techniques you can take away and use to benefit your health in a number of ways.

We will explore the little known Célé valley by both canoe and foot and visit its beautiful villages and see its wonderful wildflowers & butterflies & dragonflies. We will also visit the famous cave paintings at Pech Merle.

A brief description of the tour is given below but more details, including dates, prices, maps and photographs can be found on our Yoga & Canoe Retreat web page.

Riverside Yoga Position

A Riverside Yoga Position

Benefits of Inner Axis

In physical terms Inner Axis Yoga has positive effects on back ache, stiffness, blood pressure, diabetes,  and balance. It can further aid the digestive system, and your strength, flexibility, posture and gait. The concentration on controlled breathing aids asthma and other breathing related difficulties. In general it helps towards a leaner and more toned body.

From a mental and emotional point of view Inner Axis Yoga provides a calmer mind, with less anxiety, which is more resilient to stress and life issues. It overcomes a depressive and negative mind set which contributes towards better sleep and gives an improved ability to relax and focus. This in turn instills greater personal confidence.

In social and spiritual terms Inner Axis Yoga builds community spirit, dispels resentments and old patterns which prevent happiness, promotes being your best self in relationship to yourself and others, and fosters gratitude & enjoyment of life.

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

The Abbey in the village of St. Cirq Lapopie, Lot, France

Features of Inner Axis

Inner Axis is jargon free, taught in simple, clear and concise language and does not use Sanskrit terms.

Inner Axis teaches a variety of breathing exercises and correct breathing techniques, which are scientifically recognised to have a hugely beneficial impact on health and well being.

Inner Axis uses slow and safe yoga movements that are adaptable to your physical needs and condition whatever your age or your level of fitness. It uses props such as blocks, straps, bolsters etc to facilitate faster development.

The focus of Inner Axis is on healthy alignment and the explanation & reasoning behind the methods used.

Inner Axis uses mindfulness and inspiring visualisations.

Inner Axis is non-competitive and fosters an attitude of kindness to yourself and others.

Inner Axis is for everyone who desires inner health as well as physical health, no matter what religion or ideological beliefs they may hold.

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

On the ‘English Trail, in the Célé valley, Lot, France

Tour Includes

  • A Trail & River Guide whilst on the river & trail
  • A Fully Trained Yoga instructor
  • Full minibus support throughout, to transport us to & from the river and transfers to and from our departure point (local Railway Station or Local airport).
  • Includes all accommodation in a local farmhouse
  • Includes all breakfasts, lunches and evening meals
  • All necessary equipment for Canoeing the remote valley and stream of the Cele
  • An opportunity to hike along the route of the Way of St. James
  • Join your guides for a pre-breakfast walk
  • Visit the ancient cave paintings at Pech Merle
  • See the beautiful villages of Marcilhac, Espignac, Cabrerets and St. Cirq Lapopie
Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Family fun on the Célé river, Lot France

Tour Description

Everyday of the tour will be book-ended by a yoga session. The friends of the Célé organisation have arranged that the river is set aside for fishing before 11am and for canoeing thereafter. We will use these morning hours for our Yoga sessions, often by the riverside, and for short walks.

Yoga and canoeing through the gentle waters of the Célé are the perfect companions to bring the mind into the body, to refine our awareness and deepen mindfulness. This tour teaches you techniques that can be practiced and used in the hurly-burly of our everyday lives.

After our day on the river we will have time for another yoga session, or you may relax if you prefer. Our accommodation has a small swimming-pool but we can also wild-swim if we wish too. Evening strolls are also possible.

When we are on the river or trail you will be accompanied on the river by an experienced river guide who will make sure you see all the interesting places along the way. If necessary we can provide top-up/reminder paddling lessons if it’s a while since you paddled, or indeed if you have never paddled before.

The rivers are easy paddling and suitable for inexperienced paddlers. The emphasis on this trip is to enjoy the rich history and natural history of the region from the unique viewpoint of the river.

Cave paintings at Pech Merle, at Cabrerets on the Cele river, Lot, France

Cave paintings at Pech Merle, at Cabrerets on the Cele river, Lot, France

We shall enjoy lazy days meandering down the river and take our time to enjoy all that we see along the way and taking the time to visit many of them as we go. We will certainly visit the world famous caves at Pech Merle and see the ancient cave paintings.

Everyday we will stop for a fabulous picnic lunch and in the evenings we will enjoy a home-made dinner in the farmhouse where we are staying. We will take dinner out one evening too.

The Célé is a small winding stream that flows down a steep sided valley into the Lot. On the way it passes through several small and picturesque villages such as Espignac, Marciilhac, Sauliac and Cabrerets.

Along the same valley a long-distance trail winds its way. Sometimes besides the river but mostly up high along the valley’s edge. This is the GR651 which is a small deviation off the famous GR65 more commonly known as the ‘Way of St. James’ or the ‘Chemins de Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle’.

In an adjacent valley flows the Lot river with the famous cliff-hanging village of St. Cirq Lapopie.

We will explore the dramatic scenery as the river winds its way through a deep limestone valley stopping at pretty villages along the way. We will watch the birds along the riverbank: herons, kingfishers, wagtails, dippers and various hawks and admire the glittering colourful damselflies and dragonflies.

For those so inclined we will have a pre-breakfast walk and before we start canoeing each day we will have our yoga session. If we have the time and inclination we will also explore the trails along the causse above the valley and find dolmens left by ancient man. We will see plenty of colourful butterflies in the meadows and in the season plenty of wildflowers too, including some exotic orchids, like the Lizard and Bee Orchids.

The Célé valley is a quiet and largely undiscovered small valley and we shall probably have the river all to ourselves. If it is warm enough we can find some beautiful spots for wild swimming.

Our evenings will be spent discussing our day over a family style evening meal with plenty of opportunity to make the conversation flow.

Yoga & Canoe Poster


Mindful Canoeing

A Swan on the Dordogne

A Swan on the Dordogne

What Is Mindfulness

“The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.”

“A mental state achieved by focusing your awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.”

This is what wiki has to say: “The practice of mindfulness involves being aware moment-to-moment, of one’s subjective conscious experience from a first-person perspective. When practising mindfulness, one becomes aware of one’s “stream of consciousness”. The skill of mindfulness can be gradually developed using meditational practices that are described in detail in the Buddhist tradition. The Five-Aggregate Model, an ancient link between mind and body, is a helpful theoretical resource that could guide mindfulness interventions. The term “mindfulness” is derived from the Pali-term sati  which is an essential element of Buddhist practice, including vipassana, satipaṭṭhāna and anapanasati. It has been popularized in the West by Jon Kabat-Zinn with his mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program.

Mindfulness is also an attribute of consciousness long believed to promote well-being. Large population-based research studies have indicated that the idea of mindfulness is strongly correlated with well-being and perceived health. Studies have also shown that rumination and worry contribute to mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, and that mindfulness-based interventions are effective in the reduction of both rumination and worry.

Clinical psychology and psychiatry since the 1970s have developed a number of therapeutic applications based on mindfulness for helping people who are experiencing a variety of psychological conditions. Mindfulness practice is being employed in psychology to alleviate a variety of mental and physical conditions, such as bringing about reductions in depression symptoms, reducing stress, anxiety, and in the treatment of drug addiction. It has gained worldwide popularity as a distinctive method to handle emotions.

Clinical studies have documented the physical and mental health benefits of mindfulness in general, and MBSR in particular.  Programs based on MBSR and similar models have been widely adapted in schools, prisons, hospitals, veterans centers, and other environments.”

At the Chateau Belcayre on the Vezere river

At the Chateau Belcayre on the Vezere river, Perigord, France

Mindful Canoeing

Let me first say I’m not an expert on mindfulness or a Clinician or Doctor or Psychiatrist of Psychologist. Everything I say here you must take with a pinch of salt.

However I do think messing about in boats on easy tranquil rivers in the bosom of beautiful countryside is a way to live ‘in the moment’ and to leave the busyness & business of life far behind.

Our canoe tours leave all the complicated decisions behind on a relaxing vacation where perhaps your only concern is whether you want to paddle bow or stern on this particular day and whether you should think idly about paddling with someone else.

We take you from lovely inn to lovely inn, very often, with the inn being right on the river. Your luggage miraculously appears at our next stop. As if by magic we pull over on the river bank to find our picnic lunch already prepared and ready. The only decision to make being whether you fancy a glass of wine or would rather have a sparkling water today.

On the river we generally paddle in tandem. You don’t even have to paddle half the time. The river taking us in the right direction even if you have to work ever so slightly to keep the boat straight and away from the edges.

Our rivers are exceedingly quiet. We usually have the river to ourselves, we sometimes pass a sleepy fisherman and in the height of summer a small beach of sunbathers and children & dogs swimming. Even the villages we pass doze in the summer heat. The sound of traffic is far away. Perhaps an aeroplane drones in the summer sky.

All we hear above the susurrus of the river bubbling and the murmuration of the leaves in the riverbank trees are the quiet trills of songbirds, the occasional agitated quack of a duck or the crawk of a disgruntled heron forced to move on downstream. In the spring a collective warbled song of frogs sometimes arises, as if from nowhere, and then finishes again.

Generally the air is silent. No sound accompanies the fluttering dragonflies and damsels dancing in the light between the river shadows. Silent are the anguished flights of butterflies as they flit across the river.

The swooping flights of the wagtails lull the lazy to sleep. The flash of an azure kingfisher brings the observant alert once more. You might hear a plop here or a splash there. A water-vole perhaps or an otter. Perhaps even a late-season quince dropping off the tree.

It’s easy to be mindful in such an environment. To idly drift down river, one hand in the cool stream. Dreaming of nothing on the one hand and watching the world go by on the other.

The sun glints and sparkles on the water. You slide the boat over beneath the shade of the overhanging trees if it starts to get too hot. If it gets too hot you can dangle your hands and feet over the side. Trail your hat in the water. Put a wet hat on your head. Sometimes we stop for a swim where the river lies deep. Sometimes we swim & walk downstream push our canoe in front of us. Water fights often ensure. Shovelling the air full of cool crystals.

We usually paddle two by two in tandem canoes. You can go solo if you prefer. If we are an odd number on the river (!) then I usually guide solo but it is often fun to swap your canoe partner on some days.

I think paddling tandem has a nice element of mindfulness about it. With two in the boat you don’t always have to concentrate on paddling and keeping your boat straight and out of the tiny troubles of overhanging branches, shallow reaches and that rock which seems to lure your canoe towards it. Your partner can take the strain whilst you doze in the warm sun or think about taking a photograph if only you could be bothered to rummage around in the water-proof bag for it.

Also their is something very therapeutic about not facing one another in a canoe. Somehow this makes talking about things much easier. Any topic can be brought up and your conversation stays on the boat and even another boat quite close by cannot overhear a thing. I’ve often found almost complete strangers can open up and talk about the most personal things when they have their back to the interlocutor – and vice-versa too – when you are talking to the back of someone.

Conversely this seating arrangement is also eminently suitable for not saying anything. For sitting quietly in the rhythm of paddling. Letting the slow strokes measure the summer beat of time, the gentle movement and soothing sounds amplifying a smooth gliding drift of both thought & mind.

Being on the river will soon bring the feeling of not having a care in the world. A personal care that is, for it should certainly bring forward the thought that this, the river, and the environment that makes it, forms it, and the flora & fauna that depend on it, is where our care should be.

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Black-eyed sheep under the Chateau in Cabrerets, Lot, France


As mindfulness has become something embraced by companies and all the people frazzled by anxiety, I wonder how many of us believe that it is possible to buy inner calm and contentment.

The difficult commercial thing about meditation is that you don’t have to pay for it. You just need space & time.

But how can it be worth it if you don’t pay for it?

Hence Mindfulness.

This ancient Buddhist practice, sounds fine. But there’s something so offensive, so limp about the way it’s marketed, and even more, the way we have leapt at it. Why are we so keen to turn ourselves off? Why are we so desperate to stop thinking? And why are we so keen to pay for it? I’m sure most of us could benefit from meditating for a few minutes a day, but rather than buying tools to teach us mindfulness, can’t we simply work out the method from the word?

The end result of this paid-for passivity is surely a world where, rather than noisily trying to change the world, we are all content silently within our own heads, earbuds in, and eyes closed.

Hence Mindlessness.

Horses on the Cele

Horses on the Cele

Alternatives to Mindfulness

Before Mindfulness became so ubiquitous if you had anxiety or depression, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) was seen as the solution.

And there is indeed much scientific evidence for its benefits in treating depression, anxiety and addiction.

As with most things it’s not for everyone and there are alternatives.

Before CBT, Freudian psychotherapy was the ‘thing’.

If none of these appeal, you could try these  other options.

Solution-focused hypnotherapy

This builds on the idea of a short-term talking therapy, adding a layer of hypnosis to achieve relaxation, and then neuroscience.  After an initial consultation, the process starts with a physiological explanation of stress.

The practitioner describes the vicious cycle of going to sleep agitated, not getting enough REM sleep and operating in fight or flight mode, allowing the primitive part of our brains to take over and fire negative thoughts. A mixture of positive thinking, lying down, and being read relaxing visualisations and positive messages calms you enough to get a proper night’s sleep and get you out of the stress cycle.

Breathing exercises

Seven-10. For 10 minutes every day, inhale for seven counts and exhale for seven counts.  Many breathing exercises like that have their roots in mediation, and the ultimate breathing exercise is, perhaps, doing hatha yoga.

Exercise and diet

Never underestimate the positive psychological impact of spending a little time taking care of yourself physically. There have been a number of studies recently about the impact of exercise and diet on depression and anxiety. They can make a bigger difference than antidepressants.

Don’t have to go sports mad – it’s just about increasing your activity levels. Even walking can have amazing results. Team sports, meanwhile, provide human interaction, endorphin boosts and raised adrenaline levels.

Likewise, sugar and caffeine feel like essential crutches in tough emotional times, but only make you feel lower. When Cardiff university psychologists gave one group of subjects fruit snacks for 10 days, and crisps and chocolates to another, the fruit group experienced less depression, anxiety and emotional stress than the crisp gang, who reported greater fatigue and cognitive difficulties.

Creative therapies

Music, dance, drama or art can help people express themselves, feel connected to their bodies and find a way to process more difficult emotions.

Horse riding

Equine-assisted therapy can relieve negative emotions, with recipients learning to read non-verbal cues, trust, nurture and be assertive, while gaining greater self-esteem, self-control, empathy, self-awareness, emotional awareness and the ability to stay in the present.

Horses are sensitive animals, so to be able to hang out with them and influence their movements, you have to overcome your nerves and be physically assertive. Communing with most animals brings psychological benefits, but there’s a theory that the bigger the animal, the bigger the boost.