Iyengar Yoga in Gariwerd National Park.

Iyengar Yoga in Gariwerd National Park

By Frank Jesse Senior Iyengar Yoga Teacher

In 1995 with the support of my partner Jane I created the Clifton Hill Iyengar Yoga Studio. It was among the few dedicated Iyengar yoga studios in Melbourne at that time. Over the next 14 years, we built a large loyal following. By 2009, when we decided to leave for the country, it was one of Melbourne's most loved and popular yoga schools.

Leaving such a great group of fellow yogis would always be hard.

Although we loved inner city life, Jane and I felt a strong desire to move into a more natural environment in rural Victoria. We'd both grown up in the country. Developing an Iyengar Yoga retreat seemed like a natural progression for this phase of our lives. Our plan was to offer a haven for people to disconnect from the chaos of daily life and find solace in a natural setting.

We moved from Clifton Hill to Griffins Hill, a lovely six-acre property 1.2 km from the Western Victorian town of Dunkeld. This is Djab Wurrung country at the southern tip of Gariwerd (the Grampian mountains). Gariwerd's distinctly rugged mountains rise from the flat western plains. Today, it is mainly sheep country, but it is an ancient landscape famous for its walking tracks and natural beauty. We believed it held immense potential as a distinctive yoga retreat.

Our passion for yoga and nature spurred us on as we embarked on this new chapter. Everyone who comes to Griffins Hill experiences a slice of the yogic peace we have found. We live alongside kangaroos and other wildlife, including Miles the Emu, surrounded by bush and mountains. Kangaroos graze right outside the yoga studio windows and the National Park walking trails start at our front door.

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Yoga practice in nature

Practice is essential to teaching Iyengar Yoga. Through practice, we develop a deep understanding of the correct alignment and action needed in an asana. We experience the effects of the asana on our body and the nervous system and can guide others towards those experiences. Practicing yoga at the base of the Gariwerd mountains, surrounded by early morning bird calls, adds another layer to the emotional context for my yoga teaching.

Our Iyengar Yoga Retreats are between five and seven days. This means the students have a chance to deeply immerse themselves in the peaceful environment. It's just yoga, delicious organic food and nature. These retreats also allow me to take student deeper into themselves to explore specific aspects of practice, such as inversions or backbends.

Frank Jesse Workshop photo credit Gillian Braddock

Why Griffins Hill is an important place to us

We live below Wurgarri to the west and Mud-dadjug to the North and pay respect to this place by acknowledging the original inhabitants and ecosystems. Peaceful cohabitation with fellow mammals defines 'place' for us and what we do. Our delicately balanced ecosystem is fragile. Australia is quickly losing species, with a poor history of protection. At Griffins Hill, we are involved in a campaign to stop the commercial killing of kangaroos in our area. This is an extension of the yogic practice of Ahimsa (non-violence), and it offers a genuine contribution to 'place'.

After dedicating over forty years to practicing and teaching yoga, I love sharing the spirit of Griffin Hill just as much as I enjoy teaching Iyengar Yoga.

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Griffins Hill Retreat acknowledges and pays respect to the Traditional Custodians of the land we are on, the Gunditjmara and Eastern Maar Peoples and their elders past, present and emerging.

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