Yoga on the Island.

Churchill Island, a small island located in southern Victoria, is the perfect place to relax. The island is accessible by a wooden, single-lane bridge in Westernport Bay from Phillip Island. The Boonwurrung/ Bunurong Aboriginals used to frequent the area before Europeans settled it for wheat farming in 1801. It is now a popular tourist attraction, with its original settler’s buildings, old trees, rose gardens, and wide lawns. The farm is still in operation with Highland cattle and sheep, as well as horses, chooks, and turkeys.

A Nature Parks ranger asked me in 1998 if I’d like to take a Yoga class there on a weekend morning during the summer holidays. The class was scheduled for 9 am before the island opened to tourists. Yoga With The Birds was the name of the class. We soon had regulars because the setting was so peaceful and beautiful.

Victoria’s weather is not always consistent, so we knew that we would need some shelter on rainy days. We were able to use a large tarp that was strung between the trees because the heritage buildings were too small, and the sheds had animals in them. It was best to have students arrive early so they could place their mats far enough away from the edge of the tarp. Rainwater would collect on the low spots of the tarp, and when the wind blew, it would lift the tarp like a sail, and a torrent would pour over the sides.

With the construction of the visitors’ center, we were able to run the classes all year. A group of locals attended the Winter classes, but the Summer classes were very popular. On a beautiful sunny day during the holidays, we broke a record by having 57 students on their mats. The flies, the mossies, and even heat and cold couldn’t compete with the natural beauty of being surrounded by nature, looking out at sea.

Another day, Highland cows stampeded into our classroom after escaping from their paddock. The cows and students scattered in confusion. Once the farmer collected the herd, we were able to regroup.

The peacocks that lived there would show off between the mats. They would peck at people’s shoes and leave small landmines in the grass.

A koala was the most memorable of all visitors. About halfway through the class, he made his way across a field that had been plowed, under a fence, and up a nearby small tree. He waited until everyone had gotten into Savasana and then climbed down, satisfied with his curiosity.

My partner brought my son in a stroller, and we had all the farm animals for ourselves while I taught the class. I then breastfed him at the end. By the time I was pregnant with my second child, I decided it was time for me to hand over the class to someone else. The class ran for several more years under a new name, Yoga At Churchill Island. It ended after nearly 20 years since those first classes were held under the tarp.

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