Another Adventure


I’m sitting, once again, in the middle of nowhere on a pair of old car seats that have been reassigned as chairs. A mangy dog is sniffing for leftovers and sunburned tourists are snacking on junk food. I left Yoga Thailand at 12:00 this morning (afternoon?) after a last led yoga class in the shala and a brunch of fresh carrot-apple juice, corn pancakes with ghee and honey, and sweet fried rice with raisins. After saying goodbye to my fellow yoga teachers, I climbed into a taxi with four others headed to the ferry dock in Nathon. There I had to say goodbye to them as well, over mango and papaya shakes, since they were taking a train to Bangkok and I’m arriving by bus. Three of them are going north to Chiang Mai and Pai, then India, and one is headed to the Philippines and eventually South Africa.

The ferry ride was nice. An hour and a half of sitting on the deck with the sun shining down and little fish jumping out of the wake. I did some breathing exercises and before I knew it we were pulling up to the Suratthani pier. I boarded a large coach bus, which took us a hour to where I am now… Wherever that is. I was told a hour wait for the next bus that I’m hoping will take me all the way to Bangkok.

12 hours later…

Well I made it to Bangkok easily enough. Only one bus this time (compared to the four it took me to get down to Koh Samui). We were dropped off on a street corner at 5:30 in the morning somewhere in the city, so I was pretty glad that I had made a hotel reservation before I left Yoga Thailand. I climbed into a Tuk Tuk, still half asleep and took a short ride to my hotel, where I am now, drinking coffee and catching up on e-mails. I can’t get into my room yet since it’s so early, but I’m happy to relax until then. Tomorrow I meet up with my Gap Adventures group and begin my journey down south through southern Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia!

Dance Party and Qi Gong


What happens when a 65 year-old woman gets in front of a roomful of yogis? It turns into a full out dance party. That’s what happened this afternoon, at least. It’s Friday and everyone was tired, especially after a two and a half hour practice this morning and then sitting through four hours of anatomy lecture this afternoon. So when Dorian, the resident “guru” came into the shala dressed in a bathing suit and leggings, we didn’t really know what to expect. Then the music came on and she started to dance. I mean really dance! Pretty soon everyone was doing the steps, legs were flying, hands were in the air, and sweat was spraying in every direction. It was hilarious and so much fun. Dorian is amazing. She started yoga and meditation after a bad car accident in which she should have died, but walked away unscratched. She took that as a sign to change her life before she really did end up dead. So now she lives at Yoga Thailand and does counseling and therapy, as well as kicks off the occasional dance party. I doubt there are many 65 year-old women who can do the moves she came up with today.

After we were spent from dancing, Dorian led us outside to the beach where we calmed down and cooled off with several Qi Gong exercises. It felt kind of surreal, with the ocean before us, the white sand under our feet, the sunset lighting the sky red, gold, and pink, and 39 sweaty yogis doing Qi Gong on the beach. Something I’ll definitely remember.

After, we plunged into the salty water, clothes and all, then squeezed some more sweat out in the steam room. And tomorrow we have a day off!

Learning Chakrasana and Practicing Forward Jump


We’ve been focusing a lot on each individual pose of the Ashtanga Primary Series in class and I’m slowly beginning to see improvements in my own practice. Today we went over Chakrasana, or backward somersault. Everyone had a turn at the front of the room with one-on-one help from Paul. It was a little intimidating, but very helpful. After class I also spent some time practicing forward jump, which Aoy, a friend from Bangkok, recorded. I included it at the end of the blog, so you can see what I’m spending 3 hours + of my day doing!

As for everything else,I think everyone is settling into the schedule and place. We’re becoming more relaxed and getting to know each other better. We had a free night a few days ago, so we watched The Fountain in the lounge area. It’s a good movie, but quite eclectic and mind-bending. On our (minimal) time off we go swimming in the pool or ocean, sweat in the steam room, study, and eat at the amazing buffet. One of my favorite (non-buffet items) is a fresh coconut, served with spoon and straw. First you drink the coconut water, then scoop out the meat. So delicious and all for $1.25! I’ve learned that coconuts are amazingly good for you, even though they’re high in fat. The oil helps fight diseases and viruses (including HIV), lowers the risk for heart disease, reduces cholesterol, aids in weight loss, among other feats. So eat lots of coconut!

Thats it for now… We have a day off on saturday, so hopefully I’ll be able to get out and see the island a bit!

PS – If you want to watch a really good movie about food and our food industry, check out Real Food. It’s very good!

Karma Yoga and Cool Photos


This afternoon several of us went down the road to Laem Sar Pagoda to do some karma – or selfless service – yoga. The golden temple is right on the beach, so the waves wash up a lot of trash and debris. We spent about an hour picking up pieces of glass, plastic, rope, styrofoam, and other random objects that aren’t biodegradable. It was pretty eyeopening even though I consider myself pretty environmentally conscious. Like straws, for example. I love drinking out of straws, but after picking up one after another on the beach I’m definitely going to limit my use of them. Plastic bottles, too, were plentiful, as well as lighters and small pieces of styrofoam. It was impossible to pick up all the tiny chips of broken apart plastic, but I tried because I’ve learned that birds and other animals think that they are food, so they eat them and eventually die because of all the plastic accumulated in their stomachs. So please, be conscious about what you buy and when possible, reduce, reuse, and recycle!

On a happier note, I found an amazing app for my iPhone. It’s called Histamatic and it let’s me take pictures with different lenses, films, and flashes. It’s addicting, but here are some of my results. Enjoy!

Paradise


Complete and utter paradise. That’s where I am. After a long and slightly sketchy trip south from Bangkok (I’ll explain more later), I arrived on Koh Samui, an island in the gulf of Thailand where my yoga teacher training will be held. I hailed a taxi and was relieved when he nodded and he said he knew where “the yoga place” was, because I wasn’t sure of the exact address. 20 minutes later I arrived in paradise. The friendly receptionists took my bags and sat me down at the desk to check in and a moment later I was handed a cold towel to wipe my face and a sweet refreshing iced tea. My room wasn’t ready yet, so one of the attendants showed me around the retreat. We passed a nice gift shop stocked with yoga clothes, mats, props, books, and some beautiful locally made jewelry that I might have to splurge on. Next on the right was the wellness center where we can sign up for massages, detox treatments, etc… They look tempting, but a little pricey after my 7 dollar foot massage. After the wellness center was the juice bar and restaurant/lounge. The juice bar offers (for an extra price) fresh juices, smoothies, whole coconuts with a straw and a few sweets. The restaurant is buffet-style and is open for several hours, so you can come and go as you want. There’s a nice open-aired place to sit with comfortable cushions on the ground that looks out over the ocean. Across from the restaurant is the yoga shala where I’ll be spending much of my time, I’m sure. And finally, just before you reach the white sandy beach lined with palm trees, there’s a blue tile pool with lounge chairs and a steam room.

Not having eaten a real meal since lunch yesterday (Cabbages and Condoms!), I browsed the buffet before choosing granola, homemade yogurt, and toast. It tasted great after having eaten greasy noodles and rich curries this past week. There were a lot of people milling about, so I introduced myself to a few. In all there are 39 students in the yoga teacher training course, plus more just here for a retreat. I met Caesar from Brazil who now lives in Australia, another video game programmer originally from New Hampshire, Eva from Holland, a girl from Ireland, and Janet, who happens to be my roommate as well as a massage therapist. She was born in Holland, but now lives outside of Banff.

Now when I say roommate, I mean we share an entrance and a bathroom. Oh, and a balcony looking out at the palm trees and water (are you jealous yet Mom?). Our ‘rooms’ are more like suites. There’s and upstairs, where Janet sleeps, and a downstairs, where I am. We have a refrigerator that gets filled with fresh water every day, lots of closet space, an outdoor shower, safes to lock our valuables, and a wooden Buddha at the head of our beds that gets illumined when we turn on the reading lights. I don’t even care that it’s raining out right now.

To take a step back, though, let me tell you about how I got here. I take back what I said about easy traveling in Thailand. It may be relatively easy, but it’s definitely not straightforward or fast. After being dropped off on a street corner last night and told to wait, I stood there for two hours with Ariel from Barcelona and Mark from England for the supposed bus that would take us south. After an hour I began to get worried, but then other (white) people started to arrive and I succumbed to the wait. At 7:15 the double-decker bus finally arrived and we all boarded and found seats. One advantage of traveling alone is that I usually get my own seat, which were actually pretty comfortable when reclined all the way. At around 11:30 we stopped at a roadside… restaurant isn’t the right word… for a half hour break, then got back on the bus for another few hours. I think I must have slept a fair bit because the next time we stopped we were told to get off and change buses. Since there were people going to several different places, they divided us up and sent us off in what seemed to be random vehicles. Myself and two other guys had to wait an hour before our minivan arrived. Then we were taken five minutes down the road and told to board another bus, this one full of travelers bound for the islands. An hour on that bus brought us, finally, to a dock where the ferry would transport us to Koh Samui. It was a nice ride even though the sky was grey and it looked like it might rain at any second. I sat outside on the deck and enjoyed the cool breeze and rocking of the waves.

We arrived in Na Thon just past 11 and I didn’t have to walk far to get a taxi. Like I mentioned before, he knew where I wanted to go and even the price was expensive (relatively, I guess. It was only $17), I was ready to be done with traveling.

So here I am now, resting a bit before we all meet in the yoga shala for introductions and an opening ceremony. Did I mention I was in paradise?