Monthly Archives: December 2009

The Yoga Experiment Part 3 – Koh Phangan, Thailand

My third week was a bit of a blur. I was going through some serious emotional overload and it had to get worse before it got better. I started spending a bit more time with my classmates and bonding with them but I think this may have done more harm than good. Perhaps I would have been better off to have faced my fear that others would think I was anti-social.

Of course, there are the typical dramas that play out when you get a bunch of egos together. I was determined to stay far away from any cliques that were forming so I declined most invitations to socialize. However, I was curious to understand why certain people triggered me the way they did. Somehow I got it into my head that I should learn to accept and like all the people around me. After some light reflection I came to the conclusion that there are some personalities that just don’t mesh. This solidified my resolve to keep distance from those vexatious types.

I guess because we are supposedly “shifting” so much energy that issues are bound to come up. I found that I was much more aware of who was feeling what but had no idea why. Was everyone seeing the circus that was unfolding around us or was it just me? I found myself getting frustrated with petty annoyances and then got down on myself for being so judgmental. It was a vicious cycle.

I had to dig deep to find compassion for those who seemed to be oblivious they were imposing their negativity on others. At one point I stopped to consider that maybe if I am going to attempt sainthood, first and foremost I had better start practicing compassion with myself. Maybe in order to give it you must have it in abundance first. Nevertheless, this is a new idea for me and it takes constant effort to reprogram flawed habitual thinking such as this. Suffice to say, I spent a lot of the week very confused.

I found that most of the people who were at this course had traveled all the way here to Koh Phangan solely for this reason. Most of them seemed to be searching for something or running from something. I, on the other hand, just kind wandered in out of curiosity so my investment was much lower. I guess the fact that I have much lower expectations and had no preconceived notions set me apart from most of the others.

For a while I struggled with the subtle feeling of disconnect from the group but then I began to see it more as a gift. I have spent some quality moments with a select few but for the most part, I am content to be politely removed from the politics that seem to occur naturally in these types of environments. Still, it was a bit of a struggle for me as I am a social butterfly by nature.

The asanas started getting more difficult and my body was feeling it. Somehow the postures I used to loathe move up the ladder when each day they introduce something even more challenging. Infact, I find myself looking forward to the respite of poses that just last week used to push me to the edge. Funny thing how perspective works.

My will power is still going strong and I am able to keep my postures until instructed to come out. However, I observe serious bouts of anger when it feels like the teacher has completely forgotten she is teaching yoga leaving us hanging for what seems like eons.

I had to laugh once or twice with the bizarre thoughts that would lure me towards a mental tantrum. I continue to struggle with my focus and concentration. One hot afternoon when my legs were burning from salabasana (locust pose) I heard the happy tune blasting from the ice cream bike as he puttered by. My body was quivering from the exertion and beads of salty sweat dripped onto my mat. I tell you, it was all I could do to keep from running out of that room yelling “Wait for me Mr Ice Cream! Save me from this yoga hell!!!”

The lectures this week covered topics like vegetarianism, karma yoga, and the yamas and niyama. They keep introducing us to these purification techniques which I do admit are getting stranger and stranger. The theory is that the more pure we are, the less we will resonate with lower energies. Since I figured it couldn’t hurt to increase my odds, I attempted to step up my pure factor. I resolved to perform them all at least once as a good little investigative yogi should. Something that is good for me could really feel *that* bad, right? What could be worse than having to twist and squeeze into Garudasana for five minutes? But afterwards, my body was very clear (in more than one way) that I’d better be selective with which ones I will keep in my routine.

Now I am heading into my last week. I am kind of excited and also a little nervous. I sense that I am on the verge of a breakthrough of some sort. At the very least, we get a few very interesting lectures I am keen on such as lucid dreaming. We also get initiated into some new kind of meditation I haven’t heard of before. Hopefully my mind and my body start syncing up so I can absorb the final stretch.

Grateful for purity.

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The Yoga Experiment Part 4 – Koh Phangan, Thailand

The last week of the course got better for me from an emotional standpoint. I began to find more peace in my practice and more stillness in my soul. I am not sure where it came from or how it happened but I suspect its because I just let go.

One particularly arduous day when I had eaten too big of a lunch, I thought it best that I just skip the afternoon. I reasoned with myself that I would not be able to do the asanas anyway. I justified my absence by telling myself it was more important to be gentle with myself. Playing hooky for just one class wasn’t going to kill me, right?

Well, something inside me saw it was a trick. I dragged myself to the yoga hall and made myself a deal. If I could just attend the class, I could at any point lay down on my mat and rest. Lots of people do it especially the ones who are doing a detox. There would be no judgment except from within my own mind.

I released the idea that I had to be perfect and get it all right. I gave myself permission to come out of a posture early if I felt overwhelmed. Knowing I could take a break somehow eased the pressure I was putting on myself. Surprisingly enough, I only exercised that “rest stop” card once for about three minutes.

I am thinking the difficulty was more of a mental thing and that by ignoring that little voice of defiance made it louder. Instead of getting frustrated and angry with my resistance, I honored that it too was a part of me. If I just listened to it and showed a bit of compassion without indulging it completely, it was somehow satisfied. I didn’t necessarily have to agree and obey but there was a part of me that just needed to feel heard.

So when the end came and the month was finally over, I felt like I had done what I had said. My manipura was stronger than ever and I had succeeded with my tapa. I was definitely more flexible though that was merely a happy side effect. I was really pleased with my sense of balance and my increased concentration. Those to me are invaluable.

I was really excited about learning to do headstand, King of the Asanas. At first, I snuggled up to the wall just to be sure I wouldn’t fall over. But after a couple days, I was confident enough to perform it on my own, with no insurance. After class, a few of the more advanced students paid me compliments leading me to the conclusion that I had succeeded. Ofcourse, this is one posture I will keep handy in my back pocket to work on regularly. Ultimately, I would like to be able to hold it for an hour.

The closing ceremony was beautiful and serene. We got called up one by one to receive our certificates. When I heard my name, there was loud applause and hoots and hollers. I was surprised that I had made so many friends even though I wasn’t really trying. After getting a blessing, flower lei, cookie, t-shirt, protection bracelet and third eye marking, I posed for a photo. It was a good feeling to have accomplished this and I was grinning from ear to ear.

So 20 asanas, 240 sun salutations, 40 hours of lectures, 7000 baht, and 24 days of yoga later, I feel properly yogified. I had toyed with the idea of continuing on to the second month but I have decided against it. I plan on taking some time for it all to sink in and developing my own personal practice. I am pretty sure that I have reached my saturation point. Rather than plowing forward with the school, it seems more important for me to assimilate what I have just learned. Maybe I am not as hardcore as some of my fellow yogins but I think that being a mellow yogi suits me better. They call me Carmellow the Yogin…

Grateful for shifting energy.

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