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Why I love Lamu! #1 yoga festival worth traveling too

The call from the mosque gently draws me from a sweet sleep. The voice of the muezzin so full of emotion that my skin instantly covers in goosebumps even though the air is already balmy and warm. The clock says 5am, the moonless sky is indigo blue, the stars like tiny holes in a heavy nighttime curtain. I decide since I am awake to attend the early morning beach yoga. I descend from the rooftop of Jua House where I am staying, wrap a sarong modestly over my shoulders and weave through the maze of alleyways. Dodging donkeys clattering through the streets, stepping over cats, greeting mama “Jambo” as she hurries on her way baskets laden with coconuts and hands artfully decorated with henna. I recognize the cerise bourganvillia cascading from the rooftop and know I am heading in the right direction, this path meets the Indian Ocean. I slip off my flipflops, wriggle my toes in the sand and deeply inhale the salty ocean air. There is nowhere else I would rather be. Sat nam – I am peace, I am love, I am eternal.

The sky is a riot of colour, I settle on my kikoi beside 30 others who have come to this practice. Monica the festival organizer is leading and we are soon rotating, twisting and folding together until we finally rest on the sand in savasana. When I open my eyes the sky is powder blue, I spot yogi friends from various countries. Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan and Dubai, we hug and discuss what classes we will take after breakfast. There are a few styles of yoga I am unfamiliar with on the programme, I am curious but equally as excited to be sharing a space with the familiar teachers that inspire and motivate me. I wipe the sweet mango from my lips, finish my Madfu (drinking coconut) and hurry to Banana House where I am teaching a vinyasa practice. I arrive 15 minutes early but already there is barely floor space. I encourage the yogis to wriggle their mats closer to one another, reminding them and myself that we are one and only the body separates us. As more and more people arrive the class extends out into the shady garden. Cicadas and the sound of the ocean provide all the music I need. We breathe, stretch and move together through a creative heart opening flow, finally coming into mermaid.

“I can’t believe it—I never thought I would ever be in this pose!!” Faces are glowing with what was thought unattainable suddenly becoming attainable. My heart is bursting seeing them. Mermaids are no longer a mythical Indian Ocean creature but rather a stunning reality on the mat.

I check the schedule, I can fit in laughing yoga meditation before I am teaching yin at sun down. There is nothing like laughter to keep you present. 1 hour slips by as we giggle, chuckle, laugh hard and cry. Savasana is an amusing relaxation pierced by the occasional snort as someone tries to keep their laughter in. Finally we all settle into peace.

I walk along the beach front to Peponi where I am teaching my last class of the day. The yoga shala is outdoors in the shady, breezy garden. I lead the yogis through a 75 minute hip opening, twisting practice all in supine. The sun is low, the clouds are a stark white contrast to the deep blue sky. I encourage everyone to softly gaze at the ever-changing view above them. I am reminded of the impermanence of life as the landscape moves. “The good changes, the bad changes – nothing stays the same.” We emerge from savasana slowly as one. A few yogis want to sit quietly alone, holding onto the transformation that has happened and manifesting it a little longer. It does not mater that we don’t always know what has shifted, this is the magic of the practice. Not labeling or judging just allowing. I slowly roll up my mat and gaze out to sea. I am in no hurry to go anywhere.

Curious onlookers are at the gate, I smile at them encouragingly. This is the 3rd Lamu Yoga Festival and it is growing in its acceptance and popularity. There are classes for women only on offer and plenty of free events for the community to join. I wrap my sarong over my shoulders as I have seen the local women do and head back to Jua House to shower before the evenings Swahili Buffet. I pass the bazaar where the women are already preparing for the grand party. The sun is losing its heat, the drummers are arriving, the food smells fragrant and delicious I identify, ginger, tamarind and coconut my belly rumbles, I remember I missed lunch. I hurry through the alleyways my imagination running amok; imagining a time when princesses and empresses would have floated through the streets dressed in chiffon and gold. Chased by princes and sultans longing for their hand in marriage.

I let those daydreams linger as I shower and head out to join the festivities..

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