It’s 2.00am, we’re en route to Manchester Airport – somewhere around Lancaster – and it seems as though dawn in breaking already. It’s only now, living in a dark back road, as yet unpolluted by too many home or street lights, in a county which generally has huge areas of blackness come nightfall, that I notice the unrelenting glow of civilisation as I head south. Back home, when the lights go out in our communal car park – as they frequently seem to – it’s truly black out there.
Reminds me – as many things do it would seem – of our first bed and breakfast stop along that Coast to Coast walk. We were in Ennerdale Bridge, in the sort of cottage most people imagined I’d moved to, on leaving Manchester – a picture-postcard idyll of wisteria and ceiling beams. No street lights. No noise. Perfect blackness. Perfect peace.
Which didn’t suit our fellow guests, as we discovered over breakfast. Unnerved by the darkness, they were not happy at all to be woken in the early hours of the morning by the exuberant chorus of birdsong. Turns out they lived above a newsagent’s shop in central London, better used to the early morning clatter of delivery wagons and night-time illumination as bright as day.
Here in Vassiliki, where we now are, the nights are even blacker. And a torch is a must else you disappear down a fifteen inch-diameter hole in the ground (some sort of pipe leading somewhere), inexplicably located – and completely unannounced – in the centre of a grassy thoroughfare between the village and our hotel. That’s if you haven’t already inadvertently stumbled into the river outlet – not a place you’d want to stumble, even in broad daylight, trust me…
NHS, we love you
In fact best not to stumble anywhere, as our friend Jacquie, one of the yoga teachers here in Vassiliki, discovered last week when she fell off her flip flop. Concerned she may have broken something, colleagues whisked her off to the local hospital, to find 60 people ahead of her in the waiting room and the doctor not yet in the building. ‘All the doctors,’ she was told, were ‘on holiday’.
So they left the hospital in search of a private doctor, who swiftly confirmed no break, just a sprain. In and out in ten minutes. ‘It was grim’, said Jacquie.
We should consider ourselves lucky.
Yamuna balls rock
Back at base and the latest offering on the Healthy Options menu for this year is Yamuna ball rolling – two classes only because the instructor flew back home to Blighty mid-week. Bit of a scrabble to get on the list as Lynne only has ten balls and there’s a group of three families (comprising an infinite number of teenage girls), who appear to have delegated one of their number to write everyone’s name on the list, making it slim pickings for the rest of us. But somehow I wrestle my way in and grab the pen.
So glad I did. ‘Think foam roller meets tennis ball,’ says Lynne Gentle, the instructor. ‘Osteopathy and physiotherapy in a ball.’ And having spent the last several months writhing around on tennis balls, prickly balls and a variety of back nobbers, not to mention the fortune spent on physiotherapy, chiropractic, osteopathy and Pilates classes, to address a niggling back problem, this sounded appealing. Another instrument to add to the torture chamber!
The rubber ball is about ten inches in diameter and firmly inflated – with just enough give to be able to squish with your body weight.
We start on the right sit bone, allowing our centre of gravity to sink into the ball. Then it’s a routine of rolling and ‘squidging our bum fat’, ‘strumming our hamstrings’ (first on the right, then left), finding ‘junk in the trunk’, and ‘scooping our bellies’ as we writhe around the mat for an hour, trying not to yelp, eventually winding up with the ball – having worked its way up our spines – now resting under our necks as a welcome pillow.
And the effect is frankly amazing. It’s been quite some time since I stood straight up without feeling as though an invisible hand has a fistful of muscle locked in its unremitting grip to some degree or other. I suspect I will indeed be adding this ball to our home torture chamber.
Lynne Gentle is an American ‘movement specialist’ who now lives and works in London, working with individuals through her own ‘Gentle Movement Clinic‘ and teaching classes at Triyoga. She trained in Yamuna ball therapy in New York and remains one of a very few who teach it in the UK. And she is passionate about it.
Yamuna Zake began developing her eponymous therapy thirty-odd years ago, in her twenties, when her left hip gave out, three days after her daughter was born. She too tried orthopaedics, chiropractic, acupuncture and other healing systems for two months, but nothing worked. Convinced her body could heal itself, she set about finding ways to facilitate that. Yamuna Body Rolling is now just one of a whole fleet of exercise and therapy systems under the Yamuna brand.
Lynne chanced on body rolling following an injury which wouldn’t heal. ‘I haven’t had to go for physio since,’ she says. ‘I use it at the end of every day. It keeps me out of trouble. For me it works. Releasing restrictions, targeting niggles, aches and pains’. She talks about how the ageing process causes us to collapse in and compress. ‘Yamuna keeps that space open’.
Amazon, here I come!
I love the way supermarkets here style themselves as ‘super markets’, that letter space making all the difference. Because they truly are glorified markets, all you could possibly need for a sunny summer holiday – lots of Mediterranean fruit and veg, big, juicy and inviting at the front door, everything else arranged in haphazard, tumbling display behind, all under one ramshackle roof.
But the thing about foreign supermarkets? It’s all that stuff you’d never dream of buying back home, suddenly so enticing. Look! A 5.3kg plastic bottle of green Halkidiki olives in oil! Only €16.60! Look! Tinned octopus in ‘natural juices’! Look! OMO! They still have OMO here!
But what’s this? Twinings Breakfast? PG? Step aside Liptons Yellow Label. Finally, there’s a decent cup of tea in town… (With apologies to my readers in Yorkshire, whose esteemed leaves haven’t yet made the journey).