When I tell people that I’m a yoga teacher from Darwin, I usually get variations on one response: “Are there a lot of people doing yoga up there?” The answer may surprise you!
I was born in Darwin, and I’ve lived here for most of my life. In the southern states, my hometown has a reputation for being a bit backward, somewhere you’re more likely to find fishermen and beer drinkers than yogis and vegans — but that has been changing for a long time now. Darwin boasts a handful of dedicated yoga spaces as well as healthy, conscious cafés and activities for spiritual souls.
Nestled amongst warehouses in one of Darwin’s industrial areas, Agoy Yoga offers a peaceful retreat from everyday life. Wooden floors are lit by the morning sun shining through a skylight, the space framed with mirrors and the back wall decorated with a sky-blue Om. I join a class by the owner, also named Emily, who takes us through a flow sequence with intuitive transitions and challenging balances. Her voice is confident and calm, holding the space as we flow from one pose to another, offering us challenges but always encouraging rest when needed. She assists one of my fellow students with adjustments delivered with compassion and kindness. On the seven window panels in front of me are the symbols of the chakras, and I find my awareness drawn to Muladhara, reminding me to keep awareness in my foundation as I transition through balances. Without realising I have taken ujjayi breath, and synchronised my breath with Emily’s and the other students. Savasana is earned. In silence we observe our breath and find space to meditate at the end of the class.
After class at Agoy, you might head to Stuart Park for a healthy paleo, vegetarian or vegan meal at Karma Café, where the staff are as passionate about health and wellbeing as they are about creating tasty, healthy food.
Darwin Yoga Space
My first ever yoga classes were at Darwin Yoga Space in Coconut Grove, where I learned to do yoga the Iyengar way. I can still remember Carole, the owner, walking around the room fine-tuning our alignment in her precise, warm manner. Nearly 12 years later, I take a class with the lovely Dominique who guides us through a strong warm-up, followed by some deep backbends. My uncooperative back normally wouldn’t enjoy backbends, but with the assistance of a variety of props, I find myself sinking back into Ustrasana with ease, and lifting lightly up to Urdhva Dhanurasana, instead of my usual struggle. It’s a beautiful space — somehow cool despite being open to the outdoors, with a beautiful garden just outside. It’s at the end of the class that I realise that there’s no music playing, just the sounds of the fountain from the open door. As we move into Sirsasana, I appreciate that Dominique comes to check on me. She helps me set up with props for supported Shoulderstand, and I make a mental note to use more in my own practice — my neck feels fantastic. Darwin Yoga Space is Darwin’s oldest studio, and it’s easy to see why it’s been such a success. And if you were wondering, Carole is still teaching. I was too nervous to try her Level 3 class after such a long break from my Iyengar practice, but I plan to go back!
If you go to a morning class at Darwin Yoga Space, afterwards you might head around the corner for brunch at Eat at Martin’s, another Darwin mainstay where you can find delicious vegetarian and vegan food to feed that post-yoga hunger.
Darwin Yoga and Meditation
At the start of kirtan, Ben from Darwin Yoga and Meditation tells us that meditation doesn’t have to be hard — that chanting is a simple and joyful meditation practice in itself. As I join my voice with those around, I think he might be right. Since I first tried kirtan, I have always found it a beautiful, peaceful practice. Tonight we are led by Ben on guitar and his wife Kalindi on harmonium through a series of devotional mantras. I feel my heart lighten and an old emotional wound heal a little further. Our group is a diverse one of different ethnicities, genders and ages, but we are united in bhakti. We break from kirtan for curry, prepared by our wonderful hosts Kings Wholefood Artisans — Palmerston’s first solely vegetarian/vegan café! There’s nothing better in my opinion than feeding the body as well as the soul. Ben and Kalindi make sure to check in with all their bhakti yogis, and connect with everyone as we eat. I definitely feel part of the community, even though it’s been a while since I’ve joined them. DYM have transformed Darwin’s yoga community for the better, from hosting regular kirtans, teaching affordable community classes and organising Darwin’s Yoga Day Festival. They are beautiful, humble souls who humbly desire to share the practice that they love with everyone.
Of course, you can find more yoga outside the studios and dedicated businesses, although it’s beautiful to practice in a focused space. Even Darwin gyms are starting to see the importance of practices supporting mind and soul as well as body, with many including yoga or meditation classes amidst their group fitness classes. Teaching at the [email protected] and Fernwood Fitness, it’s wonderful to see people connecting with yoga in addition to their exercise programmes.
If you’re a yogi moving to town, a visitor looking to continue your practice, or a local looking to start or get back into yoga, I promise there is a class with a teacher and style that will suit you. If you’re looking to immerse yourself, Agoy Yoga, Darwin Yoga Space and Darwin Yoga and Meditation all run workshops and retreats throughout the year, giving you an opportunity to spend even more time with your chosen practice.
I look forward to seeing you on the mat sometime!