Daily Archives: 2009-11-15

The Yoga Experiment – Koh Phangan, Thailand

So a week ago I decided to try something drastic. Well I didn’t know it was that intense in the beginning but its proving so. I had originally planned to sit on my butt and do a whole lotta nuthin for a couple months. Well that didn’t last long. About 3 days to be exact.

I kept driving past Agama Yoga school which is just down the road from me, so I decided to stop in. Both times no one was around so my queries went unanswered. I decided it wasn’t meant to be and let the idea go. Then I started meeting all sorts of people who were involved with this place in one way or another. I decided to give it another try.

It just so happened that the one month intensive course was starting on Monday. And the first day was free. Well honestly, how could I refuse. I decided to attend the first day fully intending not to like it. If the place wasn’t full of egotistical self proclaimed spiritual gurus then surely the students would be cliquish and/or resentful that such a lightweight like myself was their wasting time asking the stupid questions. Somehow they would hate me for slowing them on the sacred path to enlightenment. At the very least I would wreck their “chi” with my clumsy self. Last time I set foot in a yoga studio I slashed my toe open making a bloody mess. Not very Zen, let me tell you. Besides all that, what business do I have going to a yoga school? I don’t even know the first thing about yoga!

Um so yeah…I was wrong. On all accounts.

The first day I was a little intimidated by the heavy silence as we waited for our teacher dressed completely in white who was perched cross legged at the front to open his eyes. I nervously snuck a few sideways peeks at the other new students and was quite surprised by the obvious range in the demographics. I could sense that there were some that were just as green as I which made it a little easier to relax.

Once the class started, it didn’t take long to realize that I had potentially opened Pandoras Box. The overview had grabbed my interest promising to cover everything from diet to natural healing methods to cleansing techniques to psychology to music meditation to yin/yang balancing to philosophy to mental concentration. AND we would learn about all the different kinds of yoga like Hatha, Kriya, Kundalini, Laya, Tantra, Karma, Nidra, Bhakti, among others. But when he mentioned that we would even talk about lucid dreaming and how that was connected to a type of yoga we would be studying, I was hooked.

I guess I was really excited that we would be spending so much time with theory. I have done “yoga” in the past but it was really more just like gymnastics because I didn’t understand why or what I was really doing. Bend like this, twist like that, hold it and breathe. Well, that just didn’t do it for me. Here we would learn only one new asana (posture) a day and we would look at it from every angle: physically, mentally, emotionally, scientifically, historically, spiritually, and symbolically. I was keen, let me tell you.

If there was something to this yoga, I was going to find out. Jens, our teacher, invited the skeptics (such as I) to take a challenge. He encouraged us to give it a month. Make it an experiment. For heaven sake, don’t take his or anyone else’s word for it. Test it out with an open mind. It was this type of thinking that sold me.

I made the commitment to trust their system while giving it my all. In the very least, I would become a little more bendy. If nothing happens, then I haven’t lost anything but a couple hundred dollars. For six hours a day, six days a week of instruction, information, exercise, and potential enlightenment (or at least a good start), it seemed like a heck of a deal. So, why not?

The first few days I admit, were a little strange with trying to get used to the “warming exercises”. They included shaking your head around violently which kinda goes against everything I had ever been taught about neck safety. At one point, I was pretty sure my head was going to fly right off. Also we have to poke around in our chest with our thumbs to release some toxins. I had trouble with this one because my nails are too long and didn’t want to slice myself right open.

One thing I learned was how hard it is to just stand still. I felt like a wobbly mess and wondered if anyone else was having the same problem with standing. Oh god, how ever will I be able to do the actual bendy poses without falling right over. Luckily everyone is supposed to have their eyes closed which help us focus and concentrate. I also think it is to keep us from breaking out in hysterical laughter. I can only imagine what 20 people whipping their heads around in unison must look like.

I loved the lectures which ranged from technical information to esoteric to philosophical ideas. Another bit of info we were given was how to purify our bodies. I am now tongue scraping, sea salt rubbing, neti potting, and eye flushing. Its peculiar but at some level it makes sense. I guess if I want to be a yogi for a month, I better smell like one.

We learned several different poses like pascimottanasana, trikonasana, and bhujangasana which the technique I was already familiar. But now I understand which chakras they work on and what the effects as well as benefits come with each pose.

We also learned sahaja agnisara dhauti which works with bioenergy. We area supposed to deep massage around our bellybutton which will activate the manipura chakra. Yes indeedy, I felt very odd bent over working away furiously looking for that elusive little chakra. It has got to be in there somewhere but heck if I can find it, let alone wake it up! Once when I was feeling particularly naughty, I snuck a look at the rest of the class all hunched over wiggling away like a bunch of chickens. It was REALLY hard not to laugh out loud but I managed, filing that memory away for a later time when I may need some comic relief.

The first day, I felt seriously nauseas after the first 5 minutes which indicated in itself that something major was happening. I cautiously pushed forward and by day 6, I made it through an entire session with composure. Sure, I am drenched in sweat but hey, that’s all par for the course.

I can now stand still without feeling like the leaning Tower of Pisa. I learned that my voice actually sounds quite pretty when I am singing the sun salutations. I think something is happening with my heart chakra because I felt something very unusual the other day. Maybe it is the fact that I am taking such good care of myself in such a heavenly environment.

The yoga hall is quite open so we experience nature consistently through our 6 hour day. From uplifting birdsongs to chirping geckos cheering us on to sudden heavy downpours that beat the roof like a million drums. Often curious bright colored butterflies flutter around during the rising crickets chorus just before our final relaxation. It is quite inspiring, to say the least.

Grateful for experiments.

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