Coconut Crazy

I was at the beach the other day, at a place called Caletas just outside of Corcovado National Park, when one of our naturalists walked by with an unopened coconut. I pretty much grabbed him as he passed and asked where he had gotten it. Fresh coconuts are one of my favorite things on earth and now whenever come across one, I’m transported back to Yoga Thailand where we would line up at the juice bar after our morning Ashtanga practice and order a fresh, chilled coconut. Coconut water (what sloshes around into the inner cavity before the coconut is broken open) is extremely high in electrolytes (basically salts that are essential for controlling fluid balance within the body). So after a hard workout and a yoga mat drenched in sweat, a fresh coconut filled with nutritious coconut water was heavenly. But back to Caletas. Miguil, the naturalist, offered me the fresh coconut juice for which I was very grateful. He had one of the Ticos (Costa Rican’s) chop off the top with a machete and then he drained the fresh juice into my empty cup. Yum! After the coconut was drained, he broke open the shell and cut out hunks of coconut flesh for everybody to try. Once again, I reiterate, fresh coconut is one of my favorite things on earth. But it gets a bad rap. There is so much fear in our society about fat, and coconuts are laden with it, particularly the “bad” kind – saturated fat. But I don’t think that it’s necessarily the natural saturated fat (or any unprocessed fat for that matter – think avocados, nuts, etc…) that are the problem. The problem comes from when we process that fat and make it into things like hydrogenated oils and trans fats. That’s when our bodies rebel and treat the unnatural substances as artificially dense forms of energy. The processed fats are what pack on the pounds.

I thought I would do a little research in our small library on board (and some Internet browsing), to see what else fresh coconuts provide for our bodies and health. There has definitely been a coconut health craze in the works for the past few months, and even though I’m always a little skeptical about new health crazes, I think coconuts deserve more (positive) attention than they get.

There are two ways to enjoy a fresh coconut. One is a young, or Thai, coconut that isn’t all the way ripe and the other is a fully mature coconut, or the one that has a brown, hairy outer shell. Young coconuts have a more jelly-like flesh and more water in the center while mature coconuts have a firmer flesh and the water is slightly less sweet. Coconuts are also rich in lauric acid, which is known for being anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, and boosts the immune system. They are high in fiber and surprisingly high in iron, which I wouldn’t have guessed, as well as phosphorus and zinc. If you think about it, like all other nuts and seeds, coconuts have all the nutrients and minerals needed to create an entire new tree or plant. So how can that powerful concoction not be beneficial to your body?

Aside from fresh coconut, the healthy nut can also be consumed when dried (desiccated), as coconut milk, coconut cream, coconut oil, and coconut butter, which is a combination of both oil and meat (my favorite).

Just don’t sit under a coconut tree 🙂

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!

Only One Week To Go!

I can’t believe how fast these past three weeks have gone. It feels like I just arrived at Yoga Thailand, but now we’re all studying hard for the final exams. Tomorrow we have our teaching practical where we have to teach an hour-long class to five or six students. Then Monday we have our oral and written exams. I’m not too worried because I feel like we’ve been well prepared and I’ve been studying quite a bit too. It’s amazing how much we have learned, though.

I’ve also gained a much greater appreciation for breath-work – called pranayama. My teacher said something the other day that really made me step back and think. He said, “what if we’re not born with a number of years, but with a number of breaths?” It has been shown that breath-work reduces stress and increases life span. Many of the ancient yogis lived to 90 or even 100. My teacher also brought up the point that a dogs age is compared to a humans by multiplying it by seven. Think about how much panting they do. Whales and elephants, though, take long, deep breaths and they can live as long, or even longer than a human. It’s something interesting to think about. I know my pranayama practice for the past three weeks has definitely helped me in my yoga practice and daily life. My teacher will give us each our own practice depending on what we need, so I’m excited to make that a part of my day too. I need to get back to studying, buy here are a few more photos to enjoy!

Blood, Sweat, and Tears

Ok, maybe not the blood or the tears, but definitely the sweat. I’ve never been to a yoga class where right after the class I was sore. It has always taken a day or two for the soreness to set in. But not here! I was sore after the first class on the first day! Not because our teacher, Paul, asked us to do anything extreme – actually it was a quite basic class – but because we had to hold the poses for so long as he explained all the details of doing them correctly. I’m not complaining by any means (well maybe a little, but some of you might think I enjoy pain…). So far everything has been amazing. We have a pretty full schedule – get up at 6:15 (I do at least, we don’t have to be at the shala until 7), fire ceremony at 6:30 (optional), pranyama (or breathwork) for half an hour until 7, yoga practice until 10 (yes, that’s 3 hours!), brunch until 12:30, chanting and yoga philosophy until 2:30, half hour break, asana study and practice teaching until six, dinner, educational movie, homework, bed! It’s a busy day, but it goes by super fast and everything is so interesting. Paul is an amazing teacher too, which makes all the sitting and listening easier. He’s originally from Ireland, but has lived in India for a number of years and now lives in Thailand with his wife and kids. But he still travels a lot and teaches around the world. He’s hands down the best teacher I’ve ever had. The other (38) students are really nice too. It’s hard to get to know people because we’re so busy, but I’ve met some great people. And as I said before, the retreat is beautiful. I went swimming in the ocean last night at sunset and it was warm, but refreshing.

Since it’s monsoon season we’ve been getting a lot of rain. Today it pretty much poured all day and the grounds got flooded, but I don’t really mind because my focus is to learn and practice yoga. If it was beautiful out, I would want to be on the beach rather than sitting in the shala. And it will make the nice days even more special.

I’ve used up all my free time 🙂 I need to go eat dinner and watch a movie on the Ashtanga primary series. Then it all begins again tomorrow!

When it stops raining I’ll try to take some more pictures.