"Still need to shift body, mind and soul? At Ponta Mamoli in Mozambique you can do it with dolphins", writes Steven van Hemert, The Sunday Times.

“Nooit bru, yoga ain’t for sissies, hey,” groans the once fearless dive master from our morning snorkel, and my body aches in agreement. Dripping with sweat we scrape ourselves sheepishly off the deck after our first class of the retreat, the bravado from earlier in the day obliterated after just 40 minutes of awkward stretching. In contrast, the regulars from Clara Woodburn’s Yoga Warrior studio in Johannesburg move off blissfully towards the beach for a cooling sunset swim; they have travelled nine hours to this remote Mozambiquean dive resort for the chance to practise yoga in surroundings both meditative and energising, and the class certainly seems to have fulfilled their expectations.

Peaceful Yoga Warriors copyright www.woodburnphoto.co.za


I had moments of such bliss during the class, and was left feeling a little regretful that I wasn’t capable of doing the full routine. Lying face down on the mat in the resting foetal position, as I did often during the class, Clara focuses our minds on the sound of the ocean crashing behind us. The combination of her voice and the position transported me back to the underwater Eden offshore, the movement of the water a meditative moment in a surprisingly exhausting routine. As Clara explains, this is the idea behind her yoga retreats. “In the city, you come to yoga class with the stress of your day — doing yoga in a retreat environment allows people to return to the elements, the basics, instead of the layers we create through our lives.”

 Child's Pose to the Sound of the Ocean copyright www.woodburnphoto.co.zaOn this particular afternoon, we brought a near mystical encounter with a pod of wild bottlenose dolphins to yoga class. Launching through the shore break shortly after sunrise, we found a pod at the northern end of the 7km range, Numsan the dolphin-spotting Jack Russell, barking to signal their presence. Following the experienced Mamoli dive masters into 15m of water ahead of the pod, and putting the memory of a giant Tiger Shark encounter on a previous Mozambique visit out of my mind, I waited for the approaching dolphins, breathing heavily through my snorkel and peering into the shadows ahead.

As if choreographed by a Sea World trainer with a sense of the dramatic, the pod emerged from the blue, stacked floor to surface in a column of over 40 individuals. Stretching my arms wide as instructed in the dive briefing, the columns disintegrated as the dolphins swam towards our group, circling through us, under us, and coming in close enough to clearly see the marks on their bodies and the curious smiles with which they regarded these unusual marine mammals. We were fortunate to spend about 15 minutes in the water with the pod, their presence evaporating my nerves and filling me with a sense of peace I’d never experienced before; a truly transcendental moment.

 

The dolphin encounters are the reason Clara brings her classes to Ponta Mamoli. “The synchronicity with yoga is immense. Everyone is looking for love, everyone is looking for peace. When you go into the ocean and you meet these beings in front of you that are reflecting that back to you, it’s a union. Yoga means union, it means to yoke, to join, and I think it creates the harmony that we look to find through our yoga practice — the union of body and mind.”


Sharing tales of our dolphin encounter with the rest of the group over dinner that night, the union Clara speaks of seems less esoteric. Bonded by the experience, we fast-living city folk speak openly and freely, making connections with people who we may otherwise never have found common ground.

Some retire peacefully to their cabins, and others head to the bar, perhaps looking for love, but whatever we do that evening, we are all bound by the rhythmic crashing of the ocean that permeates the air."

Dolphin swimmers copyright www.woodburnphoto.co.za