What is it? Many people who visit Sri Lanka want to get involved with the spiritual side of this beautiful country – and when I visited this month, I was one of them. I decided to try Chanaka Rukshan’s class, combining various methods of yoga such as hatha, vinyasa and kundalini, during my stay in the gorgeous Southern coastal town of Mirissa.
My experience: A visit to Rukshan Yoga begins with a 100-step climb up to the hilltop temple, where daily 9am classes take place. My efforts on the ascent were rewarded with stunning views across Mirissa beach, and a nice early morning look at the temple.
When I first arrived, I had a minor panic thinking that I might be the only person in the class (although for 1,600 rupees – about £8, I guess one-to-one training would be a bargain!). However, a steady stream of classmates – tourists from all over the globe – arrived after me. In total there was seven of us taking part, mostly fairly new to yoga. You don’t need to bring a mat, but yoga-friendly clothing and a bottle of water are advisable.
When Rukshan entered the room he had a lovely positive energy; one of those people you could never imagine losing their s**t because they’ve lost their plug adaptor for the 15th time. He started the class by taking us for a guided meditation around the temple, which was a totally new experience for me.
It started with us walking towards the temple and focusing on each foot as it reached the floor – ‘left, right, left, right’. So far, so mindful. Next we were handed incense sticks and asked to walk around the temple chanting.
At this point, I have to admit, my British reserve kicked in, and I was doing that church congregation thing where you mouthe the words as if you’re singing a hymn but without any actual sound (just me?) Luckily Rukshan was singing so loudly at the front that the pressure was off, but my confidence definitely increased as the class went on (yes there was more chanting to come) and by the end I was basically the Mariah Carey of chanters. In my opinion.
The meditation ended with us offering our incense sticks up to the Buddha and wishing for ‘freedom of mind’, which, as a mega-worrier, was a request I could really get on board with. Then, we walked back to the hall where the yoga class takes place, this time concentrating on moving in time with our breath.
Once we got inside we moved on to more familiar styles of yoga, such as sun salutations (I LOVE these) and poses based on various shapes including ‘the tree’ and ‘the triangle’. The class was suitable for beginners but still challenging, and Rukshan offered more advanced variations for experienced members of the class.
Then, another new activity for me – couples’ yoga! We had to pair up and create various poses, which sounds fairly hideous if you’re the type of person who hates a) partnered exercise or b) touching other people, but was surprisingly fine. As a freakishly tall girl I ended up partnered with Rukshan, which was great, but meant that I had to do all the demonstrations with him (just picture me huffing and puffing my way into a stretch with six pairs of eyes on my gurning face and you get the idea!). Those stretches though – wow! So much more intense than you can achieve alone. I will be forcing my boyfriend to try the couples’ yoga with me asap.
Next we moved on to laughter therapy. Yes you did read that correctly. Again this had potential for cringe, but there was such a positive vibe in the room that it was actually really fun. We sat opposite our partner and Rukshan guided us through a series of laughing exercises. To be honest the whole scenario was so weird that breaking into a giggle wasn’t hard, and I have to say I did feel really great for having a good belly laugh.
The session ended with a shavasana where we chilled on the floor for a bit, before we were all handed tea and sugar to enjoy before leaving. You don’t get that in the UK!
I burnt: I didn’t take my fitness tracker on holiday, but it’s definitely more for the toning, strength and peace of mind than calorie-burning this one!
Fitness level: Anyone can try this class, and Rukshan alters the lesson according to the ability level in the room.
More info: Here.