Having never been to the ‘old’ Yoga Thailand I cannot compare, but I can tell you that the ‘new’ Yoga Thailand is sublime! It is the stuff Microsoft default screen savers are made of. The center is comprised of boutique-hotel like guest rooms, a juice bar, wellness center/spa, a gourmet restaurant, expansive private white-sand beach and a beautiful yoga shala.
What makes the place so wonderful, even more so than the idyllic setting, is the staff. From the man who makes my cucumber-lime juice, to the grounds keeper who befriended Jason and took him spear fishing to the truly amazing teachers, this place is world-class.
Each day of the retreat begins with an hour-long pranayama session. Pranayama being yogic breath control exercises. After that it’s time for Ashtanga Mysore. There are many different schools of yoga, reading a schedule of classes at your local studio may make about as much sense as in-Japanese sushi menus to English speakers. I’ll take two Hathas, one Vinyasa and a Yin please. Oh and for dessert a Kundalini meditation.
Ashtanga is a series of postures, each one building on the last to open your body and prepare you for ever-more challenging postures to come. There are series within Ashtanga, Primary, Secondary, even-more-scary and so on. As you become more and more proficient the need for a teacher to lead you diminishes and you begin to practice on your own.
Mysore is a form of practice where you guide yourself through the postures by memory in a room full of others who are doing the same. A teacher is there to help you get into any contortionist positions that you might not otherwise be able to convince your body to succumb to on its own. Mysore is sort of supervised peer pressure.
Yoga and I have a love/hate relationship. Some days I can’t possibly express in words how yoga makes me feel, how eternally grateful I am for the gift of practice. After a particularly good session I get yoga stoned – others may call this state bliss, I call it stoned. Should you ever run into me directly after such a session you really might think I had just imbibed in some Alaskan Kind or Canadian fungal tea, but in reality I just had some breakthrough, released some old habit or trauma from my system and my mind has yet to catch up with the new status quo.
Other days, yoga is my sworn enemy. I show up to practice ready and willing and yoga beats me down. Of course it isn’t yoga beating me to a bloody pulp, it is my own mind, but I like to label it yoga on those days, because it releases me from total responsibility. On the dark days I am judgmental, fragile and frankly unkind to myself. I feel like a hack, I mean what self-respecting yogi can’t get her feet behind her head? What yoga teacher can’t get her diagram to do whoopty woos on command?
On these days I reach lows that are crushing and frighteningly dark. They are almost as low as the highs I reach on other days. Thankfully they are not as extreme as the highs and so the lingering euphoria of the good days overpowers the lows and thus I persevere. Yoga is bipolar and as long as I recognize this I can maintain my chosen path.
And so it was that days two and three of this retreat were crushingly low days for me. Days where I was like “who am I kidding… I can’t teach this stuff, I am a phony.” I felt absolutely graceless, like the scarred longhorn bull in the proverbial china shop. At dinner I avoided conversation lest anyone figure out that I am supposedly a yoga teacher traveling the world through practice. I was scared to pass along the greetings to Neil and Paul that I had promised to, because I didn’t want to lessen my beloved teachers by association.
Each morning I struggled to get out of bed and yet I did and by day four I left my ego soundly defeated in a smoldering pile on the edge of my yoga mat. So what if I have to bend my knees in paschimotanasana, who cares if my utkatasana looks more like a lightening bolt than a chair, and if my feet don’t go behind my head, good… I don’t want to join a circus anyway!
Surrender is an amazing thing. When did we as a culture decide that winning, surpassing and clinging were the admirable traits? Someday I will bend forward, stomach and ribs on my thighs with straight legs and that will be a great day. One day my shoulders will release and some past trauma I have been hording in that ball and socket will rise, overwhelm and pass - and if I am lucky, eventually my right hip will open and my ass will sit evenly on the floor, on this day, birds will sing, the sun will shine and if I am really fortunate I won’t even notice because I will have long since surrendered.
My time here at Yoga Thailand has been a real gift. It serves as a reminder that to go within you don’t always have to suffer. You can grow while swathed in nice sheets, you can learn while eating identifiable foods and you can surrender on a white sand beach.
Testimonial. Throughout my journey I have benefited immeasurably from the recommendations and past experiences of others and it is from this space of gratitude that I highly recommend Yoga Thailand to anyone who has any interest in yoga. A week here could serve as both the best vacation ever and one of the greatest gifts you could give yourself. Whether an advanced practitioner or a rogue novice this place could benefit you.
Begin at the Beginning
What do you want to do? A seemingly innocuous question, and yet one that has become the bane of my existence over the last six or so months....
- ▼ 2008 (58)
Visit Rachel at her new studio The Yoga Bar in the heart of Cincinnati, Ohio Yours truly living the dream in her new home of Cincinnati,...
Dear Readers: I am busily working on my first non-fiction book, Yoga Drunk . As such the frequency of posts here will likely suffer. Curre...