Interview: a Life of Balance with Martine Bounet

1. Please introduce yourself
Hello, My name is Martine and I am a French native

2. What brought you to yoga?
I think I started to develop an interest with anything to do with spirituality from an early age. I am not coming from a religious or spiritual background but I remember always having lots of questions on both subjects. My interest probably also arose from witnessing my elder brothers’ strong interest in meditating and which led him to initially follow a spiritual path. In my early twenties, back in 1997, I lived in the States for a year and this is where I came across a Yoga class. I did not think much of it at the time other than I enjoyed the physical aspect of the practice. I moved to London in 1998 where I lived for 15 years and this is where I felt Yoga was my definitely thing! A discipline that helps you look inwards for answer and helps you look after yourself and others.

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I remember attending a Sivananda chanting session followed by Meditation and that resonated to me. I enrolled into some self-development courses and followed for a number of classes over the years and workshops from an Indian based organisation promoting spiritual awareness. At the same time, I started to follow some Iyengar yoga classes with great assiduity. Those classes were in North London and I was living South. I used to go several evenings after work by bike and I was so into it that a 45 minutes bike ride each way was not to deter me! I was so intense (and probably still is).
The more I practised and the more I wanted to learn. I spent my weekends going to classes and workshops. I studied the Iyengar style for a few years, which helped me understand the basis of proper alignment. But after that I started to branch out as I was looking to explore different practices, learn from different school of thoughts and met different teachers. I studied different styles then from Asthanga, Kundalini, Vinyasa, Accro Yoga etc. I was not one to be good to follow a specific lineage.
I like my freedom of expression and to have the opportunity to create. Some find freedom in painting, singing, dancing…I find my freedom of expression in creating and exploring flows that are experienced from sensations arising from proper breathing and body movement. And it does not mean doing extravagant poses. Anyone is able to tap into that freedom of expression and inner balance that the practices of yoga provides.

3. Why did you become a Yoga teacher and what do you find rewarding being a Yoga Teacher?
I became a Yoga teacher not because of physical issues that Therapeutic Yoga could address but rather through a thirst for knowledge. I met so many great teachers whether from one off classes, workshops or retreats on all kind of subjects but I felt at one point that in order to continue learning I needed to teach. I just felt that if I was to share my experiences, and my passion for Yoga I might come across students who ask questions, which would be the start for further learning… I continue to learn a great deal from my students’ questions. Questions I might not be able to have immediate answers to and for which I would look for answers. I recently had one of my regular students who just could not understand that despite having a regular practice since two years she felt she was getting prone to more colds, sore throat and chest congestion…those kind of questions make you look at angles that you might not have considered otherwise. Alongside my TTC training I also followed a certification to better understand about Meditation.

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I would never pretend to teach someone on how to meditate, it is such a personal experience but I have through this qualification and experiences learnt many different tools on how to tame the Monkey Mind and get into a state of introspection that ultimately could lead to meditation.
What I find most enjoyable in being a Yoga Instructor is sharing my enthusiasm for Yoga as a holistic discipline. Not everyone is practising Yoga for the same reasons but Yoga has definitely something for everyone.
I hope through my experiences and passion, can ignite a passionate flame that might resonate in some students and help them on their own path be their beginners or more advanced practitioners. Yoga is a lifetime practice and we never fail to learn something from its practice…On or off the mat.

4. Tell us about your Yoga Style
My style is not about following a specific school of Yoga or lineage. I did my TTC under Hatha Yoga which is the mother of all yoga for it covers all the aspects of yoga. However, before enrolling into this TTC I had practised for a number of years very different styles of Yoga like Iyengar, Sivananda, Ashtanga, Kundalini, Flow Yoga, Acro Yoga. All those different styles offer different things some are said to be more postural, others more about spiritual awareness. I loved learning from those different styles and broaden my knowledge. I like to say that this helped me over the years build my Yoga Tool Box, which I tap into to provide appropriate Yoga classes, depending on the moment, the students requirements and needs.

5. What is your favourite pose and why?
For someone often considered as rather very dynamic…that might come as surprise I if I say that I love Bidalasana or the Cat’s stretch posture. Nothing too fancy or wild here with that pose…but give it the attention it deserves and this pose is actually quite demanding yet a great one to get to understand about body sensations and how the breath can ignite physical movement of the spine. I often get my students to practice this posture early in the classes during warming up to monitor their breathing and whether they can go further into feeling the asana from within. I tend to ask them to close their eyes when practising Bidalasana as it helps be focused on the now and find more easily this symbiose between breath and flexibility of the spine. There should be that freedom of movement I talked about earlier. This asana helps experiencing fluidity, a feeling of allowing the breath to let go, and to help one surrender into the posture. All too often the movement is held by the head (or should I say the nose!), when what we have to do is taking the time to get into Puraka (inhalation) feeling the lower abdomen dropping towards the earth, keeping on inhaling and feeling the natural openness of the chest as it gently pushes forward and finally letting the gaze reach towards the sky. Keeping that openness in the throat and chest during Kumbhaka (natural suspension of the breath) before comes the time of the Rechaka (exhalation) as the navel goes towards the spine, chest contracts gently and chin slowly tucks towards the chest. When focused on the breath and the movement of the spine it does not take long to get a feel for what Bidalasana is about; this lovely feeling of tuning in with the sensations of the body. Bidalasana is greatly rewarding as an asana as it gets us to better understand the dynamic of the three step Yogic breath according to the three parts of the spine. It helps towards greater mobility in the spine, promoting a better flow of prana around the key energy centers. A great Asana!

6. Explain how Yoga and wine is a perfect wellness pairing?
Allow me to first mention that I have been working in the wine trade for over 25 years so whilst some trends seem to emerge about Yoga and Beer, Yoga and Tequila etc…I am dead serious about those two passions of mine;

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The world of Wine and the world of Yoga. It may come as rather bizarre to appreciate that both passions can share some common grounds but they do. Both have deep roots in tradition that dates back thousands of years they are for me an universal language; wine is multicultural, diverse in its making, offering, the same as Yoga in its teaching but both offers a beautiful unity behind that diversity. But what I am interested here is how both passions can enable us to tune in with our senses, to experience what it really feel to be in the moment. I try to look at Wine and Yoga from a sensorial perspective. Both allow us to pause and turn our attention to the object of our concentration.
When I conduct those Breathe and Sip sensorial workshops participants are asked to explore their senses be it sight, touch, smell. That immediately invites them to go inwards, be in the present and feel what it means to really use our senses. How can they be more opened. We are here using wine as the object of focus and paying attention to our senses to better understand how a wine behaves, what it has to say. This in turn helps us understand it better and work on our memory bank. The point is not about making a quality judgement about a wine but allow our senses to open up and appreciate what they tell us at a specific moment in time. This also helps improve on our capacity to learn as we are using our own senses then put some words onto them. Different breathing techniques, such as alternate nostril breathing, some specific guided visualisations leading the participants through this unique sensory experience.
It is well documented that moderate wine consumption is beneficial to one’s health but here the point is not about wine consumption per se but rather a invitation for the participants to engage with their senses. Of course said participants are offered to either swallow or spit the wine out…between you and I…very few wine spitting going on.

7. How did you end up being a retreat leader and what can guests expect from A Life of Balance retreat

I attended an Escape the World retreat back in 2006 and as synchronicity would have it I happened to stay another few days on the Island. I met Claude the owner. I had just finished my TTC and was offered the opportunity to come to Bali and lead my own retreat. I felt very privileged -and still feel- very privileged as it was a great opportunity but also a responsibility. We devised Life of Balance to offer participants a platform where they could practice Yoga and Meditation in a nurturing and serious environment, but without rigidity I am not a fan of too rigid a way of thinking and thus teaching; I feel we have to have a chance to explore different things, even if they initially seem to be a world apart…like Yoga and Wine.
The retreat is very much how I like it…being able to enjoy oneself whilst still learning from a variety of experiences. The participants get introduced to Balinese traditions and cultures (such as Agnihorta, purification at Tirta Empul, balinese offering, Massages, Balinese sightseeing (such as guided walks through rice fields, interacting with locals, wandering in Ubud, going up around Batur Volcano).
There are also activities such the bicycle ride through Balinese traditional villages, being introduced to Ayurveda with a visit to an authentic Ayurvedic clinic where the guest attend an Ayurvedic cooking demonstration followed by lunch in situ with an Ayurvedic doctor (great opportunity for a Q/A session).
The retreat finishes with a gastronomic dinner and a wine sensorial guided tasting…And of course there are morning and evening Yoga and meditation sessions. Each session is different with regards to the content so that I can provide the guests with many tools to use for their own practice for when they are back home. But the structure is always the same with a time to practice breathing (there again different techniques of pranayama are covered), to warm up before getting into the core of the postural practice and finish with a time to relax with guided visualisation, yoga Nidra or other Yogic activity (such as zen walking, meditation on the Chakra, senses etc). The content will depend on the day as to make sure there is an overall balance to the practice. During the Yoga some yogic concepts are distilled here and there so that the participants are introduced to yogic philosophy and yogic art of living. I offer introductory workshops on Chakra, Ayurveda again to provide knowledge, as yoga is way much more than just being about postures.
My humble intention with those retreats is to introduce the guests to the beautiful variety of what Yoga has to offer, be it through the variety of breathing techniques, postures, mantras, mudras, variety of tools to promote greater concentration, relaxation, exploration of the senses. There is also this Silent day which is a just so great, A day when the guests are invited not to talk but rather tune in with their emotions, the environment, getting into introspection. Quite a meaningful day for many who went through this inspiring experience. Tools on how to handle the day are offered so that the participants can make the most from the uniqueness of the day.
This retreat from the outset can seem rather intense but there is also free time offered every day for the guests to either enjoy their spa treatments or just laze by the pools. An extra day has been added to this retreat to enable to participants to explore the area or Ubud on their own should they wish to do so. This retreat is definitely a treat to the senses and a re-treat to oneself. And let’s be honest here…I enjoy those retreats so much…because this is the kind of retreat I would participate in…if I was not leading them… all about balance…serious, intense and fun.

8. You have now led many successful retreats in Bali, Why Bali?
I have been leading those retreats one and off at Oneworld Retreats since 2007 and I am nowadays leading two to three retreats a year here. Each time I come and I still feel like I am coming for the first time. Meaning that even though I now know everyone there, they treat me with the same genuine kindness. And this kindness is offered to the participants from their first to their last day. The is no pretentiousness, everyone is just genuinely eager to help and ensure the guests have a lovely stay. There is a feeling of really being taken care of when you set foot at Kumara where the retreat is held and wow that is soooo refreshing and nice.
As a retreat leader it is great as I feel the guests are beautifully taken care of; which then helps me focus on the content and the delivering of the retreat. We all have busy life, schedule, pressures from everywhere, but, at Kumara the guests are just invited to just be and enjoy themselves. All the logistics of things are handled; I remember this bike ride once when the raindrops started to fall and here came almost out of nowhere some of the Kumara staff bringing umbrellas on our stop in the rice fields. The guests were quite impressed but so was I… the magic of Bali! Everything is thought through from the content of each meal (between you and I we do eat during this retreat…but then it is sooo good that it is hard to resist trying everything 😊) to the pace of the activities offering the participants enough to do and yet enough free spare time to relax.

I love Bali for its people, for the natural beauty that shines from their heart but also the beauty of the island itself, such a diverse island where respect of the culture and traditions are highly held in every Balinese. It is often said of Bali that is a very spiritual place, and I believe it is but without artifice. There is no intention to impress. The way they explore and live their spirituality but also their traditions is very natural, this is just the way they are. I have been lucky to travel quite a bit in my life but only in Bali do I always find and still find this genuine smile. A smile from the heart, one that makes me want to come back again and again!

9. What has been the most inspirational moment you have experienced as a retreat leader?
Without a doubt I would say that my most inspirational moment was when a couple of years ago I had as one participant this beautiful lady from Denmark…she was the mother of one of my student who also joined the retreat. This lady came twice to my retreat and the first time she came she was …83 years old! She started doing yoga at 60 years old and trust me…she was wow!! I was so humbled and felt so inspired. She joined every classes, every activities (except the bike ride)…and she was up to make the most from her Yoga sessions. It was so great to have her. I so often hear as Yoga teacher, the ‘I am not good at it, I am not flexible enough’, I am not thing, I am not that’ comment from persons wishing to start Yoga but not doing it…but then Yoga is not about that at all…There is sooo much more to it. I often say…it does not matter if you can or can’t …what matters is starting to put your attention to what you want to achieve and as the saying goes where the attention goes the energy goes…and little by little the mind and the body start to open up to opportunities. The more we refrain ourselves from doing and feeling the more we restrain our capacity to grow. I really believe everyone is good at Yoga because Yoga is not only about postures…as I always say we ought to practice our Yoga on and off the mat. Easier said that done at times I realise, but just paying attention to our breathing to how we behave with ourselves but also others, setting time to stop and appreciate living in the in the now rather than ruminating about yesterday or worrying about tomorrow. Yoga is an art of living and make the ‘what’ seems impossible possible and this lady embodied that… Yoga is for everyone!

Watch the Video on Youtube.

True inspiration 80 year-old woman joining Yoga retreat in Bali

10. Tell us your yoga wisdom/philosophy in life
I do not know whether it is a Yoga wisdom/philosophy per se but I like to sometimes pause and remind myself of some quotes.
– One moment not lived is a moment lost … trying to be fully present in all what we do with passion and awareness
– If not now, when? This is taken from The Talmud….and it helps me remember that sometimes I need to go for things as they present themselves without questioning things or myself too much. This can go to big decisions or smaller ones like taking a break.
– I have a Sankalpa, which I mentally repeat to myself several times a day. A Sankalpa is a short positive affirmation made in the present tense. Repeated with strong conviction as if it is already happening. This reinforces some messages deep within that it is possible, helping to plant the seeds for transformation.


Martine Bounet will be leading the A Life of Balance retreat, 14 – 20 April 2019, 11 – 17 August 2019, and  24 – 30 November 2019

martine-bounet Martine Bounet is a certified yoga teacher. Born and raised in Bordeaux, France, she also lived a long time in London, UK. Here she was able to combine the two big passions in her life, yoga and wine, and to attain great command of both. She greatly enjoys sharing her passions and combines them in her daily life – practicing and teaching yoga and meditation as well as acting in diverse roles in the wine business. Her philosophy in life is that one moment not lived is a moment lost.

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