So, here we are on Koh Tao, staying at the Southern end of the island in Chalok, chilling our beans in tropical temperatures – not! (It’s a cool 30 degrees.)
Having decided we need to improve our general fitness and searching for boat friendly exercises, we signed up for weekly unlimited yoga lessons at Ocean Sound Yoga School reading that “Yoga’s combined focus on mindfulness, breathing and physical movements brings health benefits with regular participation.” Not to mention, better sleep, circulation and improved liver function. Who could ask for more?
At the appointed time we tentatively peak our heads in at the first session.
We are by far the oldest and greyest in the room. Sorry, ‘space’. I feel incredibly self-conscious as I spy other people are sitting in the lotus position, eyes closed, practically hovering off the floor, even before we’ve started the lesson.
However, I go with the flow.
We are asked to sit in a comfortable sitting position – I am struggling to sit comfortably. Crossing my legs is awkward and painful. My knees jut up insolently. I am conscious of excessive belly blubber being bunched up and out of my leggings, like rising bread dough.
There’s lots of new vocabulary with quite a bit of Hindi thrown in. No mention of chakras yet, but we need to arrive in the place.
Anyway, I focus on my breathing, as I am encouraged to do, finding that despite my best efforts to concentrate wholly, I am constantly distracted by invading thoughts that randomly pop into my head.
We begin the session with some deep breaths and then we have to bring our hands to a prayer position at our heart’s centre and start the practice with an ‘Om’ – to get the vibrations moving around the space.
It’s all Ian and I can do to stop ourselves sniggering childishly, positioned as we are, at the back of the class, like proper delinquents. I try not to look at Ian – he’s a bad influence. No one else seems perturbed or in the least embarrassed, just us! We try to focus and be more mature.
Anne-Marie, our teacher, encourages us to be positive and grateful. ‘Gratitude is the attitude’ – which is a sentiment I like and can see the value in aspiring to. We are urged to try and think about what we are grateful for and dedicate our practice to somebody whom we love. Hmmm, who to choose?
So far, so good. Lots of thinking, focussing, positivity and gratitude. Love it! Oh, but don’t forget to breathe!
Gradually, the pace is picked up and we are swooping up to Down Facing Dog! Bums aloft, heads dangling down. From here, in time with our breathing apparently, we move to Cobra with a chest dip, slide and elevation to lift the heart up. Smoothly followed by a push through the pelvis, back up to Down Facing Dog.
Ian and I are struggling to keep up with the instructions and the breathing.
Once in DFD we are looking in the wrong direction, and in any case, our eyes are bulging with the strain, and sweat streams into our eyes to blur our vision. We can’t see what’s being demonstrated.
Come on! Focus on the words!
Excellent and clear instructions are given. Others in the room swiftly flow their movements. Legs kick back and up, then under and through, inhale, lengthen, fold, breathe, plant the hands, step or flow back, high plank!!!!, breathe, hold, lift, hold, lift the other foot, (but put the first one down first!) hold, breathe, lower knees, swoop through to Cobra, lift up to DFD. Start again! Somehow, we are always behind by at least a beat.
So we continue five! – More! – Times! (No wonder there are so many exclamation marks in this piece.)
We attempt poses like Warrior, Eagle, Crow, Triangle, Pigeon, Humble Warrior, all supposedly flowing without pause, one into the other. Sweat drips from my nose, sweat drips from my cheeks; I am glistening like a salmon. I am wobbling like a jelly fish. Limbs aching.
Breathe, try to forget that this practice goes on for one and a half hours!
Finally, we can relax in Child’s Pose or, if we prefer, we can do some fun inversions. Attempting to balance on our hands, our forearms, our head and hands.
Ian and I just rest and marvel at everyone else’s energy.
Gradually, the speed of movements begins to slow and we start stretching out every part of our body.
The mats are slick with sweat. Bare backs on the mat make squelching, trumping noises – further temptation to giggle from the immature amongst the gathering.
Lastly, we recline, completely supine and allow all our muscles to flop and relax, concentrating on the breathing. Aargh, this is more like it.
I am woken by a snore! I discover that the noise came from me and try to pretend I have a sniffle. We wriggle our fingers, wiggle our toes and stretch ourselves back into this world. Slowing sitting back up, we complete the practice with an ‘Om’ and three ‘Santi’s.
No further giggles from us…we haven’t the energy.
As a previous practicer of gymnastics, I am astonished at how the techniques and positions we are learning for the yoga poses are exactly the same as those I was learning for gymnastics. Every pose is a perfect example of excellent form. Whether it is splits, hand stands, head stands, planches, bridges, lunges, straddles and pikes. All the techniques are spot on. I wish I had begun to practice yoga at a much earlier age. By now, I’d be able to wrap myself up and tie myself into a Bowline; which might be quite handy on the boat, I believe.
We’ve attended classes every day so far and are definitely improving in muscle tone and flexibility. Our initial cynicism has waned. Even Ian can talk about his third eye, his spiritual heart, enlightenment, manifestation, and the servant gliding up and down his spine in time with his breathing, without the faintest curl of his lip!
We aim to sign up for the remaining time we have here. At this rate we will be svelte, gorgeous and completely enlightened by the time we leave.