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Thoughts on Yoga Thailand in Koh Samui…


I was attending the ‘Pranayama–the full practice of yoga’ retreat.

Studying pranayama is new to me though of course I breathe… At my ‘home’ shala here (Yoga Shala at Yan Kit Road) James Figueira’s approach to pranayama is pretty strictly according to Patanjali who says in his writing that the practice of Pranayama should only be taught at the fourth stage after you’ve mastered not just the asanas but are observing the Yamas & Niyamas… all of which I am far, far from achieving.
Plus I’ve also heard it can be ‘dangerous’ when practiced the wrong way.

But having listened to O P Tiwary (assisted by Paul Dallaghan) at the Evolution conference I wanted to find out more & I’m very glad I did.

Why did I find it so great?

-Being anal, analytical as well as having been brought up Methodist, it matters to me that Paul Dallaghan teaches Ashtanga as he was taught by Sri K Pattabhi Jois, teaches Pranayama as he was taught by O P Tiwary & respects the lineage in both cases.
(plus when I said I practiced with James Figueira in Singapore he said yes, good, he knew him from Mysore)

-I didn’t mention my medical condition/history or the medication I’m on now (yes, I know you’re supposed to ‘disclose’ all this stuff according to the I-won’t-sue-you-if-I-break-my-neck-form but I wanted to experience this week as a normal healthy person) but Paul took my pulse (he did this for all of us as part of assessing what each of us needed most in our personal practice) & gave me what seemed an excessive number of reps in a certain exercise, (how I knew this I’ll explain later). When I asked about this he said he said it was good for alkaline blood due to medication esp post chemo!

-I realised during pranayama practice that I’ve been dreading several things–so good at suppressing the fear I was not even aware of it & just thought I was very very tired. The SWF Singapore Drama talk–do I do a ‘safe’ presentation or talk about what I think is true & possible & necessary in Singapore Drama today? According to ‘Satya’ or truthfulness the answer is obvious.

And I’ve also been thinking about turning 50 in a few years–not dreading it so much as wondering how this happened & being afraid that if I blink again I’ll wake up & find I’m 70 already…

But after a post pranayama savasana it came to me so clearly: I don’t have to worry about turning 50 because that is going to happen anyway, nothing I do or don’t do will change that. What I can do is look at what I am doing now & how I want to reach the age of 50.
I know it doesn’t look like much here but it was incredibly freeing.

-the daily mysore practice was good too. It’s easy to fall into habits when practicing with the same people at the same time every week.

I learned I tend to do twists with my shoulders rather than my torso (focus on where your navel is pointing–that is where the twist goes especially in warrior & Mari C & D) & I’ve been hyper-extending my knees without realising it.

‘Active’ legs in seated poses is more than keeping my feet flexed; I should get into the habit of leading with the balls of my feet in a way that keeps my legs active from the hip joint down.

-it was so incredible to start practice with the tide way out but lying in savasana listen to the sound of waves washing up & breaking against the shore.

–& I think I actually started to ‘get’ the pranayama lock. One thing he stressed was not to do online searches & try to go too far too fast without guidance so I won’t write more about it but I was struggling, struggling & Cecilie (bless you, C!) was patiently, patiently going through the different locks to me & I was on the verge of being sure I had an abdomen with a different nervous system… when yes, I think I really think I felt for a moment what I was supposed to be doing!!

And aside from all the stuff I learned (which I’m still digesting. Got up at 6 am this morning to try to practice!) I really really loved the atmosphere there.

The sea is literally at the door step & it’s a ‘healthy’ beach–walking on the sand at low tide there were soft crabs & hermit crabs & little fish in tidal pools and holes with tracks leading out of them and dogs digging for crabs…

I also loved the animals there. Put-Put the cat walked around & occasionally joined people on their mats for savasana & Shadow the dog came to visit (only outside).

The people were from all over (Singapore, Malaysia, Canada, Denmark, Holland, Austria, Australia… ) & at all levels from absolute beginners to Intermediate & up.

And yes–how we knew each others’ ‘private’ pranayama recommendations… our yogi brother from Austria (incidentally, most of the females & at least one male at the workshop described him as ‘one of the most gorgeous men’ ever) was excitedly comparing his pranayama sheet with everyone else’s so we all started looking.

I’m also happy because I got to try out my new Vibram 5-finger ‘barefoot’ running shoes & they were so great on the beach, on the grass & flat rocks & on the sandy tracks.

Some people had the energy to go sightseeing/shopping/scuba diving but the only thing I did during our ‘free’ afternoons was a beginning Thai massage class… I can now do my own feet (very nice cross-legged elbow technique he showed us), hands & neck & head… really what I need most since I count on practice to take care of my back!

Oh, and the food was my idea of what will be served in heaven–organic vegetarian (with occasional fish dishes, but these were clearly indicated) & delicious!

I’m already trying to figure when I can go back–I should probably practice on my own for at least 6 months to make it worthwhile but I would really like to spend at least 2 weeks there the next time… or even a month!

(Calculating… I don’t have to go to Evolution again, I don’t have to take more than 3 mysore classes/week, do I really need a car?)


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