My First Yoga Retreat

So in the grand tradition of me, I started my zen week by rocking into the yoga retreat with a two day hangover, still wearing last nights’ make up under my sunglasses and hat and arguing with a cab driver who was trying to rip me off. Pretty standard entrance really. They showed me to my room, I got changed and I went to my first session. We started with meditation. My meditation went something like this “Shit! Did I have my ukulele with me in the room….? I don’t remember seeing it. Hmmm…. did I take it off the taxi? Fuck! What have I done with it? If I left it in the taxi then I am never getting it back cause the arsehole has probably sold it now to make up for the fifty baht he tried to extort from me that I wouldn’t pay him. Fuck fuck fuck! Ugh, I want to go check on it now but I have 2 fucking hours of this shit to get through before I can and I think this is going to kill me…..”. Time dragged along…. Anyway, I found my ukulele. I left it on the table with my water bottle that I also couldn’t find. Drunk brain has been hiding things again.

The evening was spent meeting people and going out for a shared dinner of amazing Thai food before heading to bed early. You see, there is sunrise tai chi every morning at 6am and I was getting up for it…. Why am I doing tai chi you ask? Because it is the only way to get fed before 10am if you are only getting up for the 7:30am yoga and I don’t think I can handle two hours of yoga unfed. Tai chi it is.

Morning tai chi

My early morning tai chi was actually pretty awesome. I think it is my favourite part of being here. It is kind of like a martial art form in many ways and takes me back to my days of doing kung fu. In the mean time you have the most amazing sunrise going up over the sheer -cliffed mountain islands in front of you. It is quite incredible. And so we are standing there listening to a speel about how the sun is energy and the sun and the earth create this energetic ‘magnetic’ field around you that shields you from evil things and thoughts and that the more you do tai chi, especially in the mornings, the bigger and greater your magnetic protection shield of energy from the sun becomes. I felt like a kid in class who wanted to put their hand up and say…. “ahhhh, the sun has nothing to do with magnetic fields because it is a giant ball of frickin gas. Gas has no magnetic properties. The earth however has a giant core of iron which has unpaired electrons in its orbitals, thus creating a magnetic field due to the accumulative spin of these unpaired electrons….. Last time I checked a human does not have giant iron cores or currents of electricity running through them with the exception of the small electrical impulses running through nerves but this is not enough to give a person a protective fucking magnetic shield around them from the evils of the planet!” Yeah I was that kid. Deep breath, heed my friend Rachel’s warning about keeping my mouth shut, say nothing, laugh internally, cry internally. Go to first and more vigorous morning yoga sessions.

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Sunrise on the beach during morning tai chi

I can say four things from this. 1. My hips are horrible. 2. My balance is horrible. 3. My lack of patience is even more horrible. 4. At least I still have my sense of humour.  At one point we were doing this stretch where you take a wide stance and then put your chest to the floor. You then get your partner to pull your hands through your legs to give you a deeper stretch. So you literally wind up with someone’s arse in your face while you are assisting. And we are all sitting around talking about how it ‘feels’ to do a partner exercise and how you really need to ‘trust’ the partner helping you and it is all about trust. I was thinking ‘like yeah, I am trusting you not to fart in my face. Awesome’.

And so it rolled on as I sat during the day in my hammock jamming on my ukulele, swimming a bit and being all round chilled. I listened to the Australian news, got mad about politics again and before I knew it, it was time to go back to the afternoon yoga session.

It is hard to know whether to laugh or cry when your instructor is being so introspective that she can’t figure out whether she likes the inhale breath or exhale breath more, but what I did know was that I wanted to find and steal her drug stash. After a myriad of stories about ‘Daddy’ I was about done and happy to retire for the day.

And so my days here continued. Get up, tai chi, two hours of yoga, breakfast, steal left over breakfast and hide it for my lunch, afternoon nap, play ukulele, go for a swim at high tide, more yoga, go out to dinner. I did meet some pretty cool people here, some of them as rational as I am. One friend and I sat there and giggled up the back like naughty school children which is funny because we are both teachers. It is hard not to laugh at times with some of the things they say. So they say ‘it is time to go into plough position (oddly enough lying on your back with your legs all the way over your head). “It is not recommended that menstruating women do this position”. Of course nobody wants to admit to this and we all do it anyway and I am up the back chuckling so hard I can’t stop shaking, “hear that Pat? No ploughing on your period, hahahaha”. Laughing so hard I can’t even plough properly.

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My favourite yoga position…. apparently meditation. I call it ‘nap time’

There were some moments I wanted to stab my own brain out with a fork it hurt that much. I think one of the worst initial times for this was during “froggy” which I used to do at Crossfit as a hip opener so I knew what was coming. Ten minutes later and we are all still sitting in this excruciating position and I am having subtle suggestions sent my way that yoga is about stillness and I am tapping my feet, tapping my hands, moving my head and being an all round ADHD child. Stillness with circulation issues…? Stillness when my process of dealing with pain is to divert it with movement….? Not happening.

By day 6 I was on the brink. I had been rock climbing the day before and my body hurt. I was tired as I hadn’t slept properly in days, constantly having bad dreams and waking multiple times through the night (apparently the yoga is spiritually stirring something up in me emotionally… hmmm… how about frustration as an emotion?) I was also hungry. And then hungry turns to angry for me. ‘Hangry’ as I like to call it. As I am sitting in this circular meditation and I think everyone could see on my face that I was done that morning. I did not want to listen anymore about how my head has a satellite dish on top of it that is channelling ‘spiritual Google’. I did not want to ponder what the self is and how to reach enlightenment. Instead of all the ramblings about “checking in”, I was “checking out”. I just wanted to go to Nepal and hike a goddamn mountain. I was done here.  And yet I was not done. I still had four more sessions and 8 more hours of yoga left to go before my departure and as shitty as I was, stubborn me was determined to see it through because I had paid for it already and because I knew that physically it was still strengthening my body for my upcoming adventure.

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Rock climbing on Koh Yao Noi

On day 7 I started to be a little more relaxed. The instructor for the day would challenge us to think about the morals of stories from Greek mythology or stories from Rumi and it was way more interesting than most of the other sessions as it worked my brain in a way that didn’t make it want to die from the silence. I realised that over the space of the week I was challenging whether you can be non-spiritual and still manage to incorporate some these techniques into your life, especially when everybody has different interpretations.

On my last day I got up and watched the sun rise over my last tai chi session. I had my last session of yoga for the morning and was happy to be up the back with the girls hunched over in forward fold laughing ridiculously at the instructor who told us to ‘start to feel places on your body that haven’t been touched for a while’. It was the most unmotivated session I had had all week but I guess that happens when you can smell the end.

And so I survived. I have three days now until I get to Nepal. And what I take with me is expanded lungs, stronger knees, ankles and back, and a whole bunch of new friends who kept me sane for the week. Not anywhere near as bad as I had suspected, but I am pretty sure I won’t be checking back into a yoga retreat any time in the near future. I think I will stick with punching things and lifting weights.

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