elysia, greece’s top yoga event: presenting garth hewitt

Picture ruggedly stunning Amorgos, the easternmost island of the Cyclades group, known for its cobalt waters, wild nature and blinding-white architecture, its “special energy” and the memorable movie set of Luc Besson’s ‘The Big Blue’. Then add to that a sprawling, elegant, family-run hotel standing on the hillside of sparkling Aegiali Gulf, with a spa called Lalon Idor and a restaurant called Ambrosia and terraces facing the sea. And finally sprinkle that with some of the world’s best, most experienced and scintillating yoga teachers, musicians, holistic practitioners, organisers and participants coming from near and far in pilgrimage-mode and you have the annual Elysia Yoga Convention. Entering its third year as of March 28th and until April 4th, this remains the only event of its kind in Greece.

The visionary behind the Elysia Convention, Mat Turner

Elysia is an event created from the soul,” says Mat Turner, who dreamed up the idea of Elysia several years ago while working at Aegialis Hotel & Spa as a Concierge, after leaving his professional career and life in the UK behind. Turner’s passion and devotion to yoga is undoubtedly immovable, as he says it literally saved his life after he suffered from depression for over 25 years before discovering how yoga could transform him. With so many yoga teachers heading to Aegialis Hotel & Spa, it was only a matter of time until he began to practice yoga himself and discover its innumerable health benefits.

The hotel’s co-owner, Irene Iannakopoulos, returned to Amorgos with her husband after a decade in the US, at a time when Aegialis had no electricity, healthcare facilities, shops or telephone connection; a time when reaching Amorgos took 36 hours by boat. Nonetheless, both natives of the island, they dedicated themselves to build their holistically-oriented hotel there.

Aegialis Hotel & Spa, by now a renown wellness destination in Greece

Today Aegialis Hotel & Spa is known as one of Greece’s most splendid and relaxing wellness destinations and has received the Green Leaders Badge on TripAdvisor for its eco-friendly approach and organic-only policy. The award-winning “Ambrosia Gallery” restaurant serves a plentiful breakfast buffet, specialising in flavoursome traditional Greek and island cuisine, which is rich in local herbs and spices. They also offer a great choice of vegetarian and vegan options and cater to specific dietary preferences.

Another added bonus is the hotel’s impressive Lalon Idor Spa facilities, with a hammam, sauna, Jacuzzi and beautiful indoor salt-water pool (with a flow stream and water cannon), picturesquely surrounded by traditional Cycladic, tiled arches. The spa, which makes the hotel even more visitable throughout the year, has gained a top reputation for its team of skilled and qualified beauty and massage therapists and lavish treatment menu.

“We’ve been hosting yoga retreats since 2011; yoga and wellness are part of our ethos at Aegialis Hotel & Spa philosophy and we’re always coming up with fresh ideas emphasise on this,” says Iannakopoulos. “We have six beautiful yoga shalas and an outdoor rooftop available, all which come with yoga props and magnificent sea views. Yogis from all over the world love to come here for their retreats because it’s the perfect destination for wellness, tranquillity and luxury at once.”

In just a few years, the Elysia Yoga Convention has made Aegialis a key destination for yoga fans because of its very special teachers, programming and ambience at once. “Elysia is not about making money,” Turner says, “it’s not an event that squeezes hundreds of people into a sports hall. Elysia is about creating a community and a beautiful family rapport that exists before, during and after the event.”

When I ask Turner how Elysia has ‘evolved’ since it started off two years ago, he says: “This year’s schedule is fantastic,” he adds, “with fewer classes and more free time for explorations and rest, but still so much choice. Classes won’t overlap so participants won’t have to decide between one and another experience.

All the teachers flying to Greece from around the world to teach at Elysia are very skilled, charismatic and special. As of today we will start featuring just a handful of the great range of teachers who will be presenting there to offer a deeper look into their own practice and their reasons for coming to Greece. We start with Garth Hewitt, who is returning to Amorgos at the end of March to present his Shiva Power classes.

 

Presenting: Garth Hewitt

Your name:  Garth Hewitt

Your life’s motto?  Breathe into every moment.

In a nutshell, please describe who you are & what you will  be offering @ Elysia 2019? Why Elysia?  I came to Amorgos and to Aegialis Hotel and Spa to lead a yoga retreat in 2015.  Mat and Irene invited me to present at the first Elysia Yoga Convention 2 yrs ago.  It was such a special experience.  I wasn’t able to attend last year due to an illness in my family but I’m so excited to be coming back this year.  I’ll be presenting one of my signature Shiva Power® classes.  This is a vinyasa based flow class that emphasizes concentration and going into the fire.  All of my classes focus on the bigger picture of yoga — quieting the mind and experiencing the true nature of the Self.  There will be something for everyone in this practice.  Some intense long holds, playful arm balances and inversions, deep backbends and forward folds and some meditation after a long relaxing shavasana.  

Is it your first year?  No. This will be my second year and my 3rd time visiting the Aegialis Hotel & Spa.

How would you describe the Elysia Concept?  I think this experience is more like a retreat than a convention. I love how intimate and personal it is because there isn’t 1000 people attending. It feels like a big retreat, led by teachers from all over the world, who each have brought a few of their students with them. The first convention was an amazing experience! I absolutely loved it!

What makes it a notable event globally?  I think this convention is very special because it is so small and intimate and it brings together such an interesting mix of teachers from all over the world.  Amorgos is also a very special island. I feel like I have journeyed back in time when I come to the island.  It doesn’t feel at all like it has changed in the last 50-100 yrs. It doesn’t feel overly crowded or feel like a tourist destination. I think the island is very peaceful.

What personally inspires you most about being present there?  Connecting with the people and just being on the island are very inspiring. I teach all over the world right now and I love how universal the practice of yoga is no matter where you are or who you are.  It’s always wonderful to see the practices working. That’s powerful. Yoga is for everyone.

What are your greatest aspirations for the Elysia Yoga Convention this year & overall?  I think this will be another great year.  I hope there are a lot of new students who come and can experience this amazing convention and take back a little piece of the island with them when they return home.  I’m looking forward to practicing with the other presenters. Seeing what everyone is sharing and how their practices have grown and shifted in the last 2 yrs.  I love the community and I’m looking forward to connecting with everyone again.  My aspirations are simply to continue what I’m doing now. Sharing the teachings of my teachers with as many people as possible and with anyone who is looking for growth, transformation, and getting deeper in touch with their Self.

I think yoga has the power to change the world and touch so many people.  Everyone is affected who comes into contact with the one person in their circle who practices yoga — who is better able to concentrate, who is more kind and compassionate, and who is more present and open.  Let’s spread yoga as far and as wide as we can.  

Tell us something we didn’t know! 😉  My roots are in Canada.  I’m a Canadian and American citizen.  I’m based in LA these days but I grew up in Canada and a lot of my family is still in the Toronto area.  My first yoga class was in Toronto about 17 yrs ago.  I thought it was one of the hardest things I’d ever done in my life and I found it fascinating.  I was pretty much hooked from the first ever class.

yes, coach!

At one of the most challenging points of my life, a period when I felt that the foundations I had built a significant part of my reality upon came tumbling down from beneath my feet, I had the pleasure and good fortune of meeting someone who would inadvertently aid me to reclaim my balance. Enter Konstantina Kanaroglou, who has introduced the prestigious Coaches Training Institute’s (CTI, which is accredited by the International Coaching Federation) and their Co-Active Coaching (their own brand) method to Greece. This, after Kanaroglou went to a coaching workshop abroad and returned feeling so transformed and thrilled by the holistic and strategic approaches she had learned that she wanted not only to train as a coach herself but also to bring the entire coaching system to Greece.

Today, Kanaroglou runs Leadership Coaching, which offers coaching solutions through the Co-Active method to individuals (for personal development), companies (for corporate retreats and workshops), families (for business and family dynamics) and educational institutions (with seminars aimed at the educational staff, parents as well as kids).

Infused by her enthusiasm about Co-Active Coaching – something I liked the sound of especially because of its holistic base – and curious to take an avenue of positive and pragmatic problem-solving that I had not explored before, so I chose to try sessions with a certified coach in Athens. To be very honest, because coaching has boomed so much in Greece over the last decade, my opinion of it was not at its highest. As with everything else, when something that was unknown to a place is suddenly everywhere, and many of those involved vow to bring “life-changing effects” after having received minimal or iffy training and have near to no experience as instructors or organizers, I can’t help but question the validity and effectiveness of what’s on offer. This can be said for any other business as well, from yoga and watches to souvlaki.

Yet I was well prepared to give this particular  – new, reliable and internationally-validated  – form of coaching, which requires years of intensive study and practice on the part of the coach before any certification is handed out), a go. Karnaoglou kindly introduced me to certified coach Susanne Sideras, with whom I arranged to meet online once a week for just over one and a half months.

From our very first meeting, a more social chat to establish whether we had the right chemistry, I felt confident that I could trust, communicate with and learn from her. Sideras is a German who has lived in Switzerland, Australia, the US, Greece and Dubai over the past 20 years, returning to Greece since 2015. “Living and loving in different countries on various continents with all the new beginnings and challenges involved definitely had a huge impact on how I am today,” she says. …”Mind you I grew up in a Bavarian village- a very beautiful one but still a village. I always loved travelling, meeting people from different cultures, backgrounds, mindsets and I always loved (and still do) stories- life stories.”

As a coach, it’s essential not only to be culturally open and flexible, being able to communicate with people of all varieties, but also to have an experiential and clear understanding of some of life’s greatest challenges. “If there is one constant in my life it actually is change… Change and new beginnings. They excite me, bring a lot of joy once I’ve left my comfort zone- which can sometimes take a while.”

The result of our coaching sessions? Sideras managed through her sessions, to help me in a non-psychoanalytical way but rather, more like a wise, objective friend, to see through the emotional tornado of my situation at that time and develop a more structural, functional and assertive outlook. As the Co-Active Coaching method encourages, I was guided by her to build certain skills in how I processed my own emotions and ideas. For example, I was repetitively guided (until I finally started doing it automatically!) to say “I” when talking about something instead of “you” or “we” or “one” – essentially, owning my feelings. “One does not get frustrated when one feels let down…I get frustrated!” and so on. This is something I continue to practise today, many months after our coaching. Taking responsibility for how I feel, think and act is crucial and should not be pluralized!

Another important aspect of this coaching method is how the coach consistently reminds the coachee to connect with what’s going on physiologically and emotionally while they express ideas and feelings. The coach asks questions such as “where do you feel that right now, that sadness you mentioned?” or “what colour is the feeling you had for your friend, and how does it feel?”. Giving ideas, words, thoughts and feelings a texture, colour, location, feeling and even more serves to give them a more pronounced identity, and thus they are easier to examine, see, face, before you can decide what you want to do with them, how much they actually do or do not serve you and whether they are even real.

I ask Sideras what drew her to coaching: “One of the main things that drew me to coaching was that throughout my life I was always interested in people and their development. I felt there was so much to learn about myself by helping others. Since in my twenties I was drawn to yoga and spiritual development, so I’d had some tasters of how wonderfully blissful certain situations are once you are in touch with your true core and essence. I assume I wanted more of those for myself and others and knew that it always starts by going within and exploring your unique beliefs – especially about our self. Our thoughts create our reality and this I find so powerful. I believe we are all here for a reason and the world needs our specific gifts. I understand coaching as a wonderful opportunity to tap into your unique light and let it shine.”

We didn’t always have a specific topic to address. Most often than not we returned to the larger issues I was facing, but some days I literally felt I had nothing to say – until I was guided by Susanne in a seemingly “random” conversation brought out experiences or feelings that was affecting me but that I had unknowingly brushed under the carpet.

For example one day I told Susanne how upset I was after an interaction with a man who was giving out bracelets on the street. He offered me one and I said no thanks, but then persisted he was giving it to me as a gift, as a token of love and peace. I’d experienced this ‘trick’ before from gipsies practically forcing roses into my hand, but chose to idealistically believe him nonetheless. As he tied the bracelet around my wrist me he asked for money, and I cringed. I gave him the bracelet back, feeling not angry but heartbroken by humanity (I was having a bad day, OK?!) and told him what he was doing was horrible, and that he was acting like a liar and a thief. He started to swear and scream at me as I walked off, feeling devastated by the scene and what had caused it.

I talked to Susanne about the event a couple of days later, almost ashamed to have experienced it, and she warmly reminded me that I had done nothing but stand up for my value system and that sometimes that can yield unpleasant results, but that it’s important to have those values. “Whatever action I take or not is based on my values and belief system and has an impact on me and everybody around me,” she affirms.

“The co-active approach appealed to me since what is most in fundamental in co-active coaching is the relationship the coachee and coach are building and living in the time they “work” together,” she adds. “Co-active coaches believe everybody is naturally creative, resourceful and whole and that implies people are capable of finding their own answers, of choosing, of taking action, or showing up as they wish, or taking responsibility, of learning, or being and doing. As a coach, I am here to keep the agenda of and for the client, to be the accountability partner. It is proven that accountability helps to bring actions to fruition. I’m here to remind the coachee of their inner light and wisdom and help them re-discover it, even and especially in times when even the most resilient person only sees the high mountain in front of him/ her and feels challenged.

Adjustments to the rapport between a coach and coachee are always welcomed and necessary for a fruitful, trustworthy and honest relationship. This is an investment in time and energy for both, the coachee and the coach and it works best if both give their all. Sideras says “I personally do have a, like some clients say,: “no-nonsense but very caring approach”. I am trained to evoke transformation, ask to go deeper and deeper and will not forget the clients’ agenda at any given moment. Confidentiality is honoured at all times unless I sense any danger for the clients or other people’s life. I which case I am obliged to inform someone according to the ethical standards of the ICF (International Coach Federation), where I am a member and “monitored” for ongoing training for professional and personal development. Coaching focuses on the here and now and where the person wants to go. Of course, we are “products” of our past and have our packages and stories we carry with us, but in the coaching session, we are not delving deep into the past or not at all really. In coaching, we concentrate on what the impact of past experiences have on you in the here and now and what you want to do to move forward.”

Susanne coaches people in person, but works mainly online via Zoom or Skype with people in Greece and globally, in English or German. She’s had and has clients based in Greece, Portugal, the UK, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Canada and the US. I ask her whether in her experience, coaching can offer long-term solutions, and if so, in what ways. She decides to quote Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operations Officer at Facebook: “We cannot change what we are not aware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change”, and adds, “A change of mindset and the transformation that is happening in clients who start on their journey to a life with purpose and fulfilment is, of course, a long-term process, and is not reversible. It happens by creating awareness of one’s own power and leadership qualities, by exploring and reconnecting with your value system, which guides your every decision, your inner wisdom, your true essence. By reconnecting you with YOU.”

Got curious?

Connect with Susanne Sideras for a complimentary clarification session on susanne@siderascoaching.com

+30 6945 136029. Check out her Instagram account @siderascaoching.com or find her on Facebook under Susanne Sideras Co-active Coaching. Her website is under construction and will be available soon.

validation.

For years I’ve been hearing and reading the phrase that “what other people think of you is none of your business.” My reaction to it was always the same. Something like “WTF?! Of course it is!” As an individual with a warrior spirit, I could never fathom how if someone had negative, warped or harmful feelings or beliefs about me it shouldn’t be something that concerns me. Surely, I would have to instantly wack out my light mirror shield and flash -bam it all right back where it came from?

And then one morning I got it. My marriage had ended over eight months earlier, and the night before I had seen a video about a new trend in England of holding “divorce ceremonies”. Like marriage ceremonies, these involved the couple in question inviting family and friends to a gathering during which the pair would announce in public their parting words. Their thanks for all they had experienced as a couple, and their reasons for needing to move on. Tears were shed, knowing, supportive smiles were spread and the couple then wandered off into a forest together, soon parting ways by walking in different directions. I would never wish to hold such a ceremony myself, but I was deeply moved by the intent behind it. Touched, and a little emotional overall, I sent the link to my ex and wrote him a message that was like what I would have said to him if we were to have had such a ceremony. It was a message of pure, heartfelt love and appreciation, clear intent, and considerate thought. I felt liberated and happy by writing it and sending it.

There was no catch, no hook, no hidden insult or secret agenda. The following morning I woke up and saw that he had read it but not replied. My emotional habit in the past, my trigger-reaction, would have been to feel a little miffed that he had not responded. But this morning, I felt at peace. Still in the same mood as I was the night before when I had sent it, I thought to myself that he may have felt he had nothing to say, or that it had taken him by surprise, or that he needed time to process it. Nonetheless, my mind set in. ‘Maybe you shouldn’t have sent it,’ the survival mechanism said. I opened my deck of Archangel Michael oracle cards and picked one. ‘Forgive Yourself.’ it read, ‘You Have Done Nothing Wrong.’

Only one week earlier I had been told the same by an angelic spiritual teacher friend whose teachings have slowly but surely been changing my outlook in life. “Authenticity and vulnerability are your power,” she had told me, “and there is nothing wrong with expressing them freely.” And right then, an affirmation crystallized in my heart – one that was not a thought, or a string of beautiful words like a diamond necklace to sparkle around my expression chakra but a message that felt completely and utterly true: “I do not need validation from anyone or anything, to know and feel that I am loved, lovable, powerful, desirable, abundant, beautiful, healthy and blessed!” And as I repeated it out loud I felt an entire universe of wealth, health, beauty, miracles and love within me. Yes, that’s where it all is! Inside. Not outside! What others think of me is none of my business, because that’s inside them. What’s inside them has nothing to do with me, because it’s theirs, and what’s inside me is my own. Unless I am open and willing to receive from the other then it does not touch me.

This was a breakthrough for me, one that I had never experienced in any form throughout my life until now. Until now, I have sought validation. What others think, feel, see, hear, smell, dream, fear, and how they project that on me, whether randomly, subconsciously, recklessly or calculatingly I have permitted it to affect me, because it was some form of contact, and my nature is to be open and responsive to contact. Even when I have known or sensed or intuitively foreseen that a form of contact could hurt or endanger me, I have been curious, courageous and sometimes desperate enough to discover more, to live it out in earnest. Why? Because it was a way to offer me a sense of existing, of participating, of being active, alive, recognized, acknowledged, taking a role, co-creating, experiencing. But what I didn’t allow myself to see during some incredibly beautiful as well as some stupidly damaging experiences was that I didn’t need so far to feel rewarded, and validated, when all the time the love and validation and honour that I craved has existed only within myself.

Certainly, being human, it doesn’t mean that having had such an a-ha moment changed my entire, complex wiring instantly. Of course, I still seek external validation. Acknowledgement, compassion, love, support, respect and so much more, and I probably always will. Practising the art of validating myself has only just begun, and will require discipline and practise, commitment and vision, flexibility and innovative thinking, like any other commitment. But it’s a start. Especially having felt the bold and beautiful truth of that affirmation within me in all its very real and palpable and eternal dimensions, knowing that what already exists within me is enough, is an incredible place to start. We all know so many of our own merits, yet we choose to forget them all the time, in our haze of thoughts and going through the motions of life. It takes focus to keep coming back to that point, reminding oneself with love and kindness, patience and faith, breathing, believing and repeating forward steps along a new path.

Happy New Beginnings!

 

convertart: vegan & gorgeous

What happens when an artist roams aimlessly around Votanikos’s auto repair shops? She picks up an old motorcycle tire and, on the spot, turns it into a soft, pretty belt, that’s what.

“In 2012 I took a car to the mechanic, and started messing around with one of the many spare tires that were lying about. As I waited, I asked the mechanic if I could use one and borrow some of their tools; they agreed, and I came up with my first upcycled creation! ” designer Marina Griponisioti says.

Shortly after, when one of the sound speakers she always carried with her on her travels broke down, she opened it up to fix it and ended up making some jewelry instead.

img_8650-edit

With a lot of encouragement from friends and positive feedback from clients, her startup upcycling company ConvertArt, was created in Xylokastro, Corinthia, in northern Peloponnese. As of this January, ConvertArt’s entire range can be found in Athens at the new store opened in the Psyrri district

 Deeply inspired by the materials she uses and how they can “ change life”, she has created various collections with names like Urban, Freight, Luxury, Comfort and Cruises, that consist of handmade accessories and utilitarian objects, such as“polymorphic” (adapting to the body by shortening or lengthening the straps) bags and jewelry, wallets, agendas, tobacco cases and coasters.
5-red-cufflink-from-monitor-part

Her creations, many of which look like they’re made from black leather or colored rubber with interesting textures and designs, have a stylish, modern edginess but can appeal to all ages and lifestyles.

Exclusively using recycled inner tubes, tires, electrical equipment, wood and aluminum, her products are not only completely unique but also 100% eco-friendly.

“I believe that by now, when everything is mass produced, handmade products are naturally far more prized,” Griponisioti adds.

The items she creates are cleaned in five different stages so that they are completely safe when they come in contact with the skin.

2-clutch-bag-from-used-motorcycle-inner-tube-and-motorcycle-helmet-speed-clip

Marina Griponisioti 
ConvertArt Psyrri Store:
Pallados 24-26 Psyrri Square, inside stoa Pallados

Opened Tuesday – Saturday
Apart from selling online via the website, ConvertArt objects can also be found at around 35 sales points around Greece, and have been presented at fashion industry events like The Athens Trade Show, the Meet Market and The Fashion Room Service.

As first published in Greece Is (www.greece-is.com)
04-necklace-from-tv-copper-windings-and-pc-cables