x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Observing Life: Taking time out to find myself

Yoga is hocus-pocus, you may say, but this ancient Chinese practice accounts for what we lack in our consumerist societies: inner calm and mental balance.

In any city, it's easy to get caught up in the daily rush of life. Friends are "too busy" to spend quality time together while we run around trying to do so much, but in reality, achieving very little.

This is no different in Dubai, where there are endless things to tempt us, from amazing restaurants to fitness classes, beaches or simply the biggest mall in the world.

Sometimes, I like to take some time out, whether this is a yoga retreat in Sri Lanka, a philosophy retreat in the Himalayas or simply my yoga classes close to home, so when I heard that Andrew Fretwell, a Wuji Gong practitioner, was coming to Dubai, I had to meet him - there are just 130 teachers in 16 countries around the world.

The ancient Taoist art focuses on balance; balancing the brain's dominance over the heart and the physical imbalances we carry between our left and right sides and front and back, our physical yins and yangs.

Hocus-pocus, you may say, but this ancient Chinese practice has been handed down more than 800 years, generation to generation, and accounts for a lot of what we lack in our busy, consumerist societies, inner calm and mental balance.

After going through some of the movement sequences, which are probably most similar to tai chi and moving meditation, Fretwell explained to me the symbolism of each, all rooted in the environment. The energy it invokes is quite remarkable for a series so slow and gentle, mainly rocking side to side, back and forth to centre our body's energy. The Earth series, with its 12 parts, each represents the 12 months of the year and 12 hours in the day, while in the Heaven series, our 10 fingers represent the 10 stars which are connected to the Earth. Fascinating, but it was a lot to take in. This isn't something I am going to master overnight, taking years of focus and practice, although Fretwell tells me 15 minutes a day will make me more centred and aid my quavering sleep patterns.

He talked to me about the importance of visualisation, visualising ourselves at the age of 90, looking back on what we've achieved in our lives and what values were important to us and those we stayed true to. Do we even know ourselves? In life, we are so ruled by social expectations and constraints, whether in our role as employee, partner, friend, mother or father and so on. The idea of Wuji Gong is to bring ourselves back to who we really are. We have generations of DNA that make up our personalities, making us who we are without our even being conscious of this, which is apparently why we act like our parents. This doesn't have to be the case, though. As Fretwell explained, through more self-awareness, we can focus on our values such as love and connection and certainty, and find who we really are, not what society wants us to be. Ask yourself whom you admire and why, and apparently, we can at least start to unlock the answers.

Andrew Fretwell is holding a two-day workshop for all levels this weekend at Balance 360 in the Oasis Centre, Sheikh Zayed Road – for details contact yogalatesdxb@aol.com / 050 3289 642

mswan@thenational.ae

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