Charlotte Metcalf abandons her inhibitions on a Body & Brain Yoga weekend in Surrey
Korean yoga weekend at Dahn Yoga in Epsom
In a nutshell: This is a two-day, non-residential intensive workshop on Korean yoga which happens once a month at Dahn Yoga’s centre in Epsom, Surrey. It’s non-residential, but you can stay nearby in a B&B, and you need to have done some Dahn Yoga before. Unlike Indian yoga, Korean Yoga has less of an emphasis on movement and more on cooling the brain and achieving inner mental strength and higher energy levels by focusing on the core and stomach area. Shim Sung’s USP is that it surprises everyone who does it with its strong spiritual component – everyone comes away believing they have taken an extraordinary journey into themselves and discovered a capacity for happiness and self-knowledge.
Who it’s best for: Anyone wanting to feel happier and more grounded in a hectic world. It’s about finding an inner map for a way forward. It’s best for those who already practise Body & Brain Yoga and want to reach the next level, for it’s a bridge between the introductory and the basic phase, when you start to incorporate the practice more seriously into your lifestyle and reap its benefits.
Who it’s not for: Cynics – as the retreat involves having to suspend any sense of shyness and restraint, join in with team games and expose your feelings to strangers.
What you do: Shim Sung workshops happen once a month, take about 20 people, and deepen and enhance the practice of Body & Brain Yoga. The two days are very structured and involve intense teamwork or working in pairs. You will get to know the people you do it with very well.
You are led by a Korean ‘master’ (in our case a woman) who sits in a ‘throne’ and supervises proceedings, making sure everyone is completing their own inner journey, and there is a very large team of yoga teachers to guide you through the two days. You are urged to give 100 per cent, and you play a series of games until they reckon you’ve abandoned your self-consciousness and are doing your best.
Some of the exercises are tough and it’s not unusual to become quite weepy and emotional at times. At times you work with a partner and are asked to delve deep into your past and areas of emotional pain. It is remarkably effective, in that all of us felt we had shifted inner blocks and fears and come nearer to forging a way forward. It’s a retreat designed to help you take control of your life – looking deeply inside with a lot of intense meditative exercise to discover who you really are and what you need and aspire to.
Where you stay: You turn up at Body & Brain Yoga’s centre in an unpromising-looking building behind the Odeon cinema in Epsom. If you are coming from far afield, they suggest you stay in a B&B nearby.
How was it for us: Much of it is excruciating. For the average shy Brit prone to apology, it’s fairly alien to be forced to shout at a stranger while staring into their eyes and holding their hands. There are also the team games that involve having to abandon your inhibitions entirely or be sent back to the beginning. Yet the environment feels entirely safe, because the teachers are supportive and everyone is there to achieve the same end so even the most timid eventually join in. Some of the exercises push you to your limits but no-one fails.
The high point for me was without question the intense final meditation exercises during which everyone came face to face with an important personal truth. We genuinely all felt ecstatic by the end of Sunday evening. People looked and sounded very different from when they first arrived.
What we took home: We went home feeling that some kind of profound change had taken place. I for one felt far more certain about my future, extremely positive, happy and confident I would be able to adhere to a simple yoga regime to keep the feeling alive. Of course, the emotional high fades after about ten days, once life’s routines kick back in, but I have certainly continued to feel stronger and more optimistic.
Would we go back: This is a once-in-a-lifetime workshop.
Food view: It’s not about the food in any way. They give you a light entirely unmemorable lunch on the first day and on the second day you take your own sandwiches. There are snacks of of grapes, raisins and nuts. You’re required to sit down and eat everything incredibly slowly.
What’s lowly: At times having to listen to some very sugary poetry or a cringe-worthy sentimental song by someone like Celine Dion – you really have to kill any skeptical urge and just go with it to reap the benefits.
Insider tip: Once you start Body & Brain Yoga, they’ll soon encourage you to go on this retreat. Do it sooner rather than later as it really helps you to improve your general practice thereafter – I wish I hadn’t waited three years to do it as I feel much more committed to my practice now.
Price: £295 per person for the two day, non-residential workshop.
Value for Money: It’s an elusive and extraordinary experience that is impossible to quantify financially.
Sister retreats: Shim Sung currently runs at Epsom only but if more than ten people who practise Body & Brain Yoga wish to do it, they can arrange to run the retreat at a venue of your choice.
Reviewed by Charlotte Metcalf
© Queen of Retreats