Maya Fiennes in Healing Lifestyles and Spas Magazine

Maya Fiennes in the January 2009 issue of Healing Lifestyles and Spas Magazine.


Finding Vitality at Carlisle Bay by Becca Hensley

In Maya Fiennes' Kundalini Yoga class the air is so thick with joy I can taste it. Now, even as we leap over and over in the air in a mad frenetic sort or personal pattern, born, I guess, from whatever we need to release, I feel my worldly anger and stress abating.

We stop with the music, endorphins dulling any pain we came to class with, and grin at one another. Just then, Fiennes tells us, "Now, we are going to do something really funny." Following her, we bend over, grab our ankles, and walk like elephants in a circle, around the room. Like children participating in a parlor game, we laugh and giggle with glee. And Fiennes, who surely has done this exercise a thousand times before, guffaws with the best of us. When we stop, surprisingly exhausted, Fiennes demystifies the moment. "This [exercise] awakens everything within you," she says, "It's a great detoxifier."

Beneath the pointed roof of an outsdoor pavilion, with the sound of the sea as our soundtrack, we practice yoga twice daily with this star from the London yoga scene. We've come to Antigua's stylish, luxury hotel, Carlisle Bay, to participate in its first ever Vitality Week - a program that will continue monthly throughout 2009. A four or seven-day exercise regime, the week is meant to infuse well-being and boost health. The program features such activity as hiking in the rainforest, daily yoga and Pilates, tennis clinics, bay swims, beach circuit training, and early morning runs, as well as spa therapies to unravel those well-used muscles. In addition to the summer camp-like itinerary, Chef Grimley preprares more healthful-yet wholly optional-dishes to enhance the program. A personal trainer aids in defining goals. Some weeks have more of a tennis focus, and some revolve around yoga with Fiennes in residence.

Happily, since my forehand doesn't exist - and my backhand isn't much better - I've come for the yoga intensive. The day begins at dawn with a class - and ends with another. As we approach the pavilion, a seductive song wafts from within and bids us to enter. Fiennes, a classically trained pianist and vocalist, uses her own music for her renowned classes. It sets the scene, suggesting a timeless place, ancient and modern, mysterious and magical. Profound, the sounds enter every cell of your body, relaxing and energizing simultaneously. Fiennes, known for her clean teaching style, the contemporary ambiance in her classes, and her open interpretation of Kundalini, the mother of all yoga, welcomes each of us. Still rubbing sleep from our eyes, we stumble to the mats.

But in a matter of minutes, we awaken. This is unlike any yoga class I have ever attended. Not about stretching, sweating, or balancing, Kundalini - especially Fiennes brand of it - unleashes the life force. It combines movement, breath, chants, vibration and mantras to transform and revitalize. It brings a giddy sort of happiness. With each class, we go a bit deeper. Somehow, what we learn helps us swim across the bay and sprint down the beach. It helps us set goals for the future. It even eases our transition to utter relaxation when we stop between activities to melt into lounge chairs and ponder the perfection of the cobalt sea.