Monthly Archives: September 2012

Day 12 to 14 – Change is the only constant

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It’s day 14 today and we are into our third week of the course already! I am amazed at how fast time flies, how a lot of people have difficulties distinguishing from one day to another (it must be the island and the gorgeous surroundings that lulls you into a state of presence – always in the now that you kind of forget what was happening before that) and the progress that I am observing both within myself and with the other YITs in their own practice.

For starters, I am constantly waking up to achy hamstrings but I can now reach just a little further than I used to be able to in a standing or sitting forward bend. I may be slightly more flexible than I was when I first arrived. My wrists are whinging from all the downward dogs and arm balancing we have been doing, but I believe they are growing stronger too. I imagine tiny strings of muscles growing all around my wrists so that I am more supported in all the poses that requires me to be on my hands. My core muscles still shake in a boat pose, and they require most work of anything else, but I believe I can hold it there just a tad bit longer than before.

I did my unassisted plough in front of Kosta after evening practice today, about 13 days ago I was gripping hard on both of his shins going into the pose. Today I accidentally uttered an ‘oh shit’ when I momentarily lost my balance and he said ‘no, no shit here’ in his Russian kinda humor and continued to watch me complete the pose. Kirsten helped me into my headstand today, as I am slowly working with him, George and Kosta to confidently get into it on my own. I love the way each of these difficult poses takes away just one more of my fears and make me feel that much more – well fearless.

Change, while not always something to be celebrated for, almost always does everybody good. Even when we don’t feel like it while in the process.

I am also falling in love with this island a little more each day. On our second day off yesterday, a bunch of us found ourselves on Lamai side of the island. We did a bit of street shopping, saw a rock that looked like a penis (and subsequently became a ‘nature’s attraction’ according to the sign they put up for tourists there), drove up the mountain side and found Magic Garden and Ta Nim waterfall, had amazing authentic Thai food for lunch (finally!) and got acquainted with one of Maude’s friends who owns a charming cafe called Lolamui that makes the most amazeballs pumpkin custard and coconut cake.

Graduation day will come by sooner than I’ll realise, and the one change I am not looking forward to is the bunch of us separating and going on our own ways after this. But that too will be a change which I am confident that will result in many great outcomes as each of us incorporate this experience into our own lives and hopefully spread a little bit more happiness into the world

With the gorgeous YITs on our off day in search of the Magic Garden on top of the mountain

Grandpa Rock – Spot the penis

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Day 11 – Sound of Music

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Before starting on this one month yoga teacher’s training certification (TTC), I had no idea what to expect. Coming into day 11, I realised TTC’s can be very challenging. It is hard. But it is not something I am complaining about though, if in fact, this is one of the most hardest things I have ever attempted AND enjoy it thoroughly.

A lot of my fellow YITs have trouble recalling the day and date and sometime the time of a given day. Like we each remember that we had some bananas in coconut milk for desserts, but for the life of us can’t recall the night that it was served for dinner. It is as if time has been meshed into one single occurring event, present moment melting into the next present moment. Eckhart Tolle must have been on to something, because being in the here and now truly does allow you to savor every single conversation, every single encounter.

My day here starts early at 6am. Sometimes it’s 5.20 am when I join the early group for practice down at the beach.

Practice led by fellow YIT on the beach at sunrise – photo courtesy of George Anthony

On days I don’t go down to the beach, I sit in quiet corners around Vikasa before morning practice begins at 8am until 10.30am. Then it’s brunch. Theory class starts at 12 and goes on to 2pm. Evening practice begins at 4.30 and runs until 7pm. Dinner is served at 7.30pm before I return to my hut and it’s lights out by 10.30pm.

It’s eat yoga, drink yoga, breathe yoga, sleep yoga. Yoga as  a lifestyle rather than just the typical yoga as a once/twice a week asana practice that I am used to before.

In the last 11 days I have learnt what it means to see beyond the physical, to go past my fears, to challenge learned limitations, to be vulnerable by sharing deeply personal stories and viewpoints with people whom I have just met. Today, I rediscovered the art of listening. Not listening to someone in a conversation, but listening to what is going on around me. To nature and the subtle sounds that it makes which too often go unnoticed because we are always too busy entertaining our own thoughts.

It had been raining for the best part of today, and all through the evening practice. When we finally got into our Savasanas, I worried for a second how we were all going to climb up that 108 stairs for dinner in this rain. Then I realised rather than worrying about that (because we will HAVE to eat at some point!) I decided to focus on what I can hear at that moment instead. And you know what? I counted almost 10 different distinct sounds – the sound of the crashing waves, rain pelting onto the nearby swimming pool, frogs and toads croaking and crickets singing….

The kind of sound that someone might buy off a CD to help them meditate. And I have it streaming on live (on nature podcast! haha). So yes, practice has been hard and challenging, inversions are scary, boat poses shake the muscles in me that I don’t even know I have. But to be in the moment and listening to all the melodious cacophony around me, on top of all these other things that I have come to understand about myself and others makes it all absolutely worth it.

 

Day 10 – “It’s the laughter that keeps us coming back for more”

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It’s Day 10 in Koh Samui. I have discovered some spots around the Vikasa ground which I have come to call my own in the early stillness of the morning. There is a section which overlooks the rocks and the sea, a quiet little corner where I can sit, and enjoy the morning sun and the sound of crashing waves. This is one of the many things which I have come to appreciate about my teacher’s training course on Vikasa’s ground. The quiet corners which allows time for self reflection.

Of course there are things which I do wish I could change too about my experience here. Like how I wish my bamboo hut was either somewhat sound proof (quite impossible I know, but wishful thinking for now won’t hurt), that the mozzies and bugs will find food elsewhere instead from my blood, and that I can sleep in beyond 6am because that is when the restaurant from the next door resort starts operating and playing Backstreet Boys song as my alarm wake up call.

Charming on my first day maybe. Not so charming when every muscle in my body aches and wanting just a tiny bit more rest for recuperation.

With that said, I see this as a tiny glitch in the grand scheme of things and the unfolding experience I am having right now. And more than anything else, and I keep talking about this in almost every entry so far, are the amaaaazing people that are on this journey with me right now.

Clinton taught me Shanti Kicks this morning, as a preparatory exercise into a handstand. And let me tell you, there ain’t no shanti in those kicks. But they were good, and I can foresee, with practice it will eventually get me into a handstand. Tee cracked up when some of us were taking photos in the shala before theory class started at noon. Amanda and I ventured out of Vikasa for a short walk and discovered ‘The Rabbit Room” just 2 mins walk away from homebase. I ran into Tee on the way down to my hut before evening practice, and he asked “How was the Rabbit Hole?” which totally cracked me up.

Diggin’ to desserts – Vikasa style (photo courtesy of Tone Lise)

At dinner, Maude surprised us with raw papaya thai salad and some really amazeballs desserts. I had my first coconut cake, with REAL coconut flesh as fillings in between the layers. It was one of the craziest, most amazing cake I have ever tasted in my life. I don’t know which did it for us, but Tee brought up the camera incident and that got us laughing and continued with all these other funny things we have been observing so far.

Chandra had headed out for dinner with a couple of others but she knew I needed some warm shower tonight since it’s ‘wash my hair’ day. She left her room door unlocked so I could go in even after she’s left. Back in my hut and typing this up, I have come to realise, the reason that I keep raving about other YITs on this course is that each of them has shown kindness (whether it’s directly to me, or to one another) without any underlying agendas. It made me think of the word ‘genuine’ and what I have been experiencing and observing so far has been just that. Kindness without any other reason but to be kind to one another. And the experience of this in itself is truly a gift.

Day 9 – Seeing beyond the physical

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Day 9 began with a wonderful conversation I had with Clinton, over oatmeal on his balcony. I had initially went knocking on Chandra’s door to look for hot water (ah life in a simple bamboo hut) not realising that she had went down to the beach to join the early morning group for some meditation and swim in the sea. I ran into Clinton and we ended up on his balcony talking about what we think of the course so far. Somehow our conversation steered towards teachings, and mastering new poses.

Before I arrived in Koh Samui, a friend of mine had heard about my practice and had wanted me to teach him and his partner yoga asanas. His request was to learn hand stand. And amongst other poses which I have been struggling with since time immemorial, is of course inversion poses. Hand stands, head stands, anything that requires me to see the world upside down.

But through my conversation this morning, I realised that yoga is more than just mastering poses. “If it’s only hand stand he wants to learn, tell him to go to a gymnastic class instead” were the wise words of my fellow YIT. And I can’t agree more. I had been a little down from previous evening practice, losing a little bit of motivation as I watch the rest of my fellow YITs fly up to a hand stand, or just casually relaxing on a head stand and had questioned my ability of becoming a good yoga teacher. And it occurred to me that one of my favorite teachers never needed to teach us any of those difficult inversion poses (largely because the age range in the group) but I still loved his classes, and I still appreciate the little anecdotes he reads to us while we are in Savasana at the end of each practice.

Theory class today saw the arrival for our 3rd teacher, Ram who will be teaching us yoga philosophy until our Anatomy module begins. Asanas, according to Ram is just one arm of yoga. And that spoke volumes to me, revealing to me even more than before that to teach yoga is to teach beyond the physical perfection of Asanas. It is, again according to Clinton “seeing beyond the physical” and feeling our way through our own practice and teaching it as we feel is best.

Seeing beyond that which meets the eye

Day 7 & 8 – Of yoga hickeys and acro yoga

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I had another lightbulb moment today – I am probably going to come home much more browner than I had left, my mum would probably have trouble spotting me in the airport. Haha. Just kidding. My lightbulb moment occurred today sometime in between learning acro yoga and getting a one-to-one coaching from George on how to get in and out of a headstand safely.

And that is, our quality of life and the way we experience it is probably largely determined by how much we allow our fears to control us. Granted that at appropriate times our fears arises as a sort of protection mechanism, so as to not hurt ourselves, be that physically or emotionally. But sometimes I think these fears can also limit the things we experience from life.

We were introduced to acro yoga this morning and George did a fantastic job demonstrating with Yuko Nolte, another resident yoga teacher at Vikasa. In acro yoga, you would typically have a person who acts as the ‘base’ that supports the other person who is the ‘flier’, or the one that is doing all the cool yoga poses in mid-air.

George and Yuko, in bat pose – photo courtesy of Tone Lise

I was lucky that the team I got to work with were all strong ‘basers’ (if you may call it that!), an important skill to have if you were to get into acro yoga full swing. Another thing we were taught as the ‘flier’ is the person should not ground his/herself while in mid-air because that will put off the balance the base has to hold the other person up. But despite knowing each of their strength, I had troubles shaking off the nerves. One of my YIT, Eugene could sense that I was a little scared which make me think .. wow I am either shaking in mid-air or this vibe is practically jumping all over and out of me that even the other two YITs who were there to catch us in case we fell off the pose kept repeating to me – don’t be scared. Relaxxxxxxx

Once I got into it though, and all upside-down, with my head stuck in between Eugene’s knees (exactly as the photo above, with maybe less finesse as Yuko), it was just a feeling of.. WHOA, THIS is accomplishment.

I am learning so many new things on this training course, more than I had thought I initially had signed up for. All of them amazing, and wonderful, mind opening things of course. One of these is also getting acquainted with the yogi language. Beyond just memorising asana poses in its Sanskrit version, I learned last night that there is this term called “yoga hickey”.

My immediate reaction when I heard George said that in class was to giggle and went “are you serious?!” out loud while the rest of the class sort of just smiled a little and maintained their composure. It made me think maybe I am the last person on this earth who just heard of such a term. Haha!

In any case if you were wondering what that means, it is when someone who leans on the slim and ‘bony’ side does a shoulder stand for long periods of time that his/her top spine (C7? I can’t remember the specific name) presses into the floor too long that it results in a red circle forming on the skin, somewhat similar to a bruise.. hence the hickey!

Day 5 & 6 – Night out and Raw Food Cooking Class

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Friday is our last practice day of the week before we have our 1 day break on Saturday. A number of us decided that it would be a good time for us to go out and explore the night life in Koh Samui, so after dinner we all bunched into Vadeem’s pick up truck/tuk tuk (since we ARE in Thailand after all). Since he was on his way out to collect some new arrivals to the studio who are staying for the weekend, we made plans to be dropped off at the Fisherman’s VIllage in Chaweng.

Yogi-in-training night out

Fisherman’s village, on a Friday night looks like Petaling Street on any given night. Hawkers selling hot food, home made ice cream, hand made jewelry and other curiosities line the street until the end where the beach is.   Jade, one of our yogi-in-training Vikasa family knew of a nice little place to go to at the end of the Fisherman’s stretch. It was a cozy little joint, with bean bags and low coffee tables placed right on the sand on the beach.

Our pretty art for the lantern

We saw some lanterns being lit up and set to fly into the sky in a bar nearby so Rodney somehow got the group one and we wrote our names on it before lighting it up and sending our intentions high up into the night sky

Vikasa TTC Sep 2012 lantern ready to be set free

The lantern certainly added a nice touch to the night as it gave us some symbolic way to show our appreciation of being here and on this training. And I don’t mean that in any fluffy, wishy washy that-was-a-nice-thing-to-say kind of way but rather in a way that we all seem to agree to. That we are all here for the same reasons, beyond things that are larger than just a series of coincidences.

Saturday morning, 7 of us arranged a raw cooking class with Ta, a woman who owns an organic cafe down near Lamai beach. We had heard of her from a fellow YIT who had attended a 7 day detox prior to the TTC and had had her own cooking class with Ta. As soon as we arrived, Ta greeted us at her lovely home that reminded me more of a modern version of a rumah kampung you would find these days in Malaysia. And what a warm woman she is. We were given two large bowls of raw almonds that were soaked overnight to peel and the 7 of us spent close to 90 minutes peeling it clean. We talked, and made jokes, and exchanged thoughts on what we feel of the course so far. I think this is what it must’ve feel like in the olden days when people get together to prepare and cook their food. Except in this case, it wasn’t so much ‘cooking’ but rather mixing together different ingredients to make really, really good food.

Raw Tom Yam

When we had arranged the class with Ta earlier in the week she had given us a list of items we could pick from that we wanted to learn to make. One of them was raw tom yam. Ta chopped open about 5 young coconut, for its juice and its flesh and put in the typical spices and herbs and vegetables you would normally have in a cooked tom yam. What is even more amazing is that Ta grows all her vegetables in her own garden. Aside from the nuts and other things which she can’t produce on her own like raw cacao powder, everything we made and ate today came straight from her garden. The raw tom yam tasted incredible. Despite my initial thoughts of not knowing what to expect as I have never eaten raw tom yam before, it tasted…AMAZEBALLS. Like real tom yam only 10 times better. The raw coconut flesh, the coconut water, the keffir lime leaves and bird’s eye chillies came together into what could possibly be THE best tom yam I have ever tasted in my entire life.

The next challenge is of course to replicate that when I get back home.

Towards the end of the day, we found ourselves at the north side of Chaweng to collect our laundry and do a little bit of shopping. I had told myself that there will be no shopping and whatever I needed I can get back in KL. But of course that never works. We sat down for coffee and juice after our little trip and found ourselves in really deep and engaging conversations, about the course and other things related to life. That is one of the things which I completely love about this course and the people on it. It’s like having easy, accessible deep conversation partners on tap. I had a big AHA moment today, like a lightbulb that has been turned on, thanks to Ryan (who is by the way, a life coach back in his ‘real’ life in Bali) and the 3 girls I was with.

My experience so far has been really personal and engaging. Both within the course and with the other fellow YITs which I feel I have come to love in less than a week. What a blessing it has been.

Day 4 – Sharing is caring

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After calling an early night yesterday, I woke up (albeit slightly later than I had initially planned!) early in the morning today to join the smaller group lead by George for an early morning practice by the beach at sunrise. The session was completely optional but I had wanted to see at least a few sunrises while I am here in the beautiful Samui.

There were about 8 of us and we walked down the hill to a beach 10 minutes away from Vikasa.

Sunrise at Koh Samui

Individual practice at sunrise

I love the colors from this last photo. The light from the sun rising and the deep blue from the ocean gives a nice contrast and silhouette to the poses.

Theory class was exceptionally great today (I think I am also running out of words to describe how great each practice and theory class has been so far). It’s only George today and for the next few days until Kosta returns from his trip in Russia. We were split into groups of 4 and discussed our experiences on what has contributed to the way we frame our perception of the world and how yoga came into our lives and/or fits into it. And I am surprised at how open and ready everyone is at sharing their most personal experiences. At the end, we realised it’s through these discussions and sharing of perceptions and viewpoints of the world do we really come to a greater understanding of what it means to be practicing those asanas, and to be putting our bodies through all that stretches, arm balances and funky poses. It was like the glue that brings everything together.

It seems every day I am forming relationships with each individual at a greater level. Today Clinton and I spoke in class about hanuman tattoos, what it means to be carrying symbols on your bodies for the rest of your life, and a piece of nugget offered by him as a reflection of myself. At dinner, a couple of us who were on the same table started discussing about the eagle pose and the conversation got lively. It’s only at the end I said “you know you love yoga so much when you actually continue to talk about in during dinner way after class has ended!” and that cracked Amanda up so bad. Haha.

Evening practice today made me realise I am surrounded by people who genuinely care about each others progress. While attempting another plough on my own before George arrived, Tee offered to help when he saw my feet hovering a few inches off the ground but never really touching it. So I positioned him where he could catch me if I accidentally roll off. Rodney helped from behind and kept saying words of encouragement. He even slide through a block and said “see, your feet is 4 inches off the ground, a bit more!”. And I got all these helpful feedback which I would not have known otherwise, like how my left hips are lower than my right – so NOW I know why I always have that sensation of toppling over to my left side.

I’ve been thinking I should be writing about life outside of Vikasa, about Lamai and Chaweng beaches and what I get up to in between breaks. You know in case you think all we do here is just asanas, pranayamas, deep philosophical conversations and more asanas. Maybe that would be a post for tomorrow 🙂