Griffins Hill Retreat yoga and food blog
The flexible farmer
By Kath Walters
Three years ago, sheep farmer Colin Agar started coming to yoga classes. The family has owned a property near Penshurst, about 30 kms from Dunkeld, for 150 years, which Colin runs with his two brothers, his daughter, his niece and her husband
Colin was starting to feel the tough, physical work of sheep farming more and more.
The Agar’s run between 15,000 and 18,000 head of sheep. “The work fluctuates through the year from heavy to very light,” Colin says. “The heavy work is during the shearing, crutching and lamb “marking” times. By end of the day, you feel like you have been hit by a semi-trailer.”
He felt so stiff and sore in the mornings, he was struggling to get dressed. “When you were 30 you didn’t notice the work,” he says. “But I was feeling stiff and my joints were starting to ache. I couldn’t bend. I didn’t want to be youngest person ever who couldn’t bend over to put on his socks.”
Colin kept looking at a little brochure he'd received in the mail from Griffins Hill Yoga Retreat that sat on the table for weeks. Colin says: “I kept looking at it and thinking, should I or shouldn’t I? I had heard of yoga but I didn’t know what it involved.”
Eventually, he picked up the phone and gave Frank Jesse, senior teacher at the retreat, a call. He explained that he was a farmer, and was 56 at that point, pretty stiff and didn't know if he could do yoga or if it would help.
Frank was encouraging, but it was when Frank mentioned that one of the women in the yoga class was in her 70s and doing just fine in the class, Colin decided to give it go.
Joining the Thursday evening beginners’ class was pretty out of character for Colin. “I forced myself just to see what was out there. I am not a risk-taker, not into trying new things.”
Although he could not go far into the poses that first yoga class, he immediately saw that a yoga practice would do him good. He felt an immediate sense of camaraderie with the others in the class immediately, and now enjoys catching up with the regulars as much as the class itself.
“We love seeing each other every week, and Frank is so nice. The atmosphere is a loving, caring one and the social side is important. When I did my first handstand there was a lot of joy in the room.”
A man of habit, Colin has come to every class in every semester since his first and always puts his mat in the same spot if he can. “I have a particular spot, and if someone has pinched it, everyone will joke about it. It is not dead serious. We can have a laugh.”
Blokes in leotards
Colin’s yoga practice is a “running joke” among his farmer mates. “ ‘What do you look like in leotards’, is the usual question,” Colins faces in company. He doesn’t care. When he talks one-on-one with his mates, most of them confess they’d benefit the same way if they came along.
Yoga is still seen as a bit of a “chick” thing. About 80% of yoga students are women. But Colin says he doesn't feel self-conscious in the class.
Physically, Colin is a lot fitter and suppler, and has discovered a number of unexpected side benefits.
For one thing, his golf and tennis games have both improved. He reckons he’s extended his working life by a few years, and he’s happier, calmer and more productive in his work.
He’s also more aware when he needs to take it easy, noticing just how much harder his yoga practice is after a hard day of work on the farm. “I've worked out what knocks me around, what I am going to do to modify it ... get someone else to help!”
Colin and Dave inspecting wool