The Berkeley Lecce
Yoga with Julie Chereath Meo
On February 25, a chill Sunday morning, the Berkeley group rose early and, in something of a daze, made its way toward springtime and renewal. The starting point would be the lovingly restored Masseria Coccioli that sits in a beguiling mix of old Salento and the wider world four kms of olive groves and vineyards from the sea. The Swedish hosts, Wenche and Jan, have opened its 15th century gates to winds from afar. Meditation and the practice of yoga now occur against the background of the ancient stone and arches of one of Puglia’s former fortified farming estates. There’s magic in the fact that what was once a haven from marauding pirates now knows the ascetic par excellence of peace and harmony.
In morning-after-the-night-before mode, the Berkeleyites, taking timid steps toward enlightenment, were quickly put at ease by Julie Chereath Meo, who would be their guide. A native of Kerala, Lecce resident and relaxed cosmopolite, Julie can be said to have lived a life of yoga from childhood. She would confirm her method under eminent teachers in South India, Los Angeles and London. Her scholarship is broad and deep, but she began the session with a simplicity befitting the neophytes before her. Given the fundamental concepts in clear language, they began their adventure with the basic movements.
For beginners practice turns out to be a time of discovery. The group discovered their own bodies. It came with a certain wonder and regret. Why had they not been aware of their own possibilities? They harbored powers they had never developed. They had been lazy. The morning left them asking themselves if it was too late or if maybe--why not?--they could go a little way down the path, always forward.
The Berkeley group went away to Sunday lunch with more than the awareness of unused muscle and tissue. They now knew about the coming full moon in scorpio when change and renewal reach a peak. They knew of the shamanic circle that occurs in beltane, at the beginning of May, when the earth exercises it optimum power and, like the Salento countryside, hints that no change is beyond us. Perhaps most of all they will remember the balm of Julie’s voice, in itself a very convincing reason to pursue the study of yoga.