Skip to main content

My 5 days of non-yoga at the Ashiyana Yoga Retreat in Goa

I tried... I really tried. Taking classes at this amazingly beautiful yoga center called Ashiyana, here in Mandrem Beach, Goa, India. 
Believe me, I was all excited, up for it, into it... all of it. 
But.. it just didn't work out for me. 
I had set myself up for taking 7 classes. Potential 21, as I imagined myself blissfully getting more and more zen-ed out and peaceful and yogic with each and every incense-hazy class.
I got a babysitter for my two little boys, as I didn't want to have to arrange with their daddy each and every time, as he is kind of too flexible in his lifestyle when on holiday for setting up exact timings with. 
So, all arranged, all perfect. First morning at 8 am I came with not such high expectations. I thought I'd just go and enjoy having this 2 hour class time to myself, introspective, you know, meditative.. Quiet mind.. peaceful, beautiful place.. All Buddhas and palm trees and lotus ponds. 
The class was packed, the room was full, the teacher was a British male and quite hot, long hair and nice body, it was great. I enjoyed. Felt very British Wheel of Yoga-ish, with those "shapes" they do, and everything kind of more "dance-movish" than proper asanas. But OK. He was funny enough and hot enough. 
The second day the teacher was a female, Danish and sweet, and I felt so much guilt for leaving my two little sweethearts with a babysitter, and I ran out of there before it even ended to go and scoop them out of the babysitter's skinny arms into mine. I hardly remember the class for my feeling of needing to get out of there. There was a lot of shaking the legs-out, stomping the feet-kind of stuff. Didn't capture my attention whatsoever. I only saw the eyes of my two little diamonds. Bluer than the deepest ocean, greener than the greenest forest. How I love them. 
The third day the teacher was Indian, male and also kind of hot, also with long hair. He decided to do tai chi- or was it chi gong- for a full hour instead of yoga. I was super annoyed. "I'm paying for yoga and he gives me... this shit!!!" We were "moving energy" for a full hour with these sweeping, long movements up and down, side and side. And the sweeps had animal names. The class' final hour was Iyengar style, so we did like.. 3 asanas. Ok. I found the women in the class very entertaining to watch though; they seemed so in love with the teacher. They were giggling so hard and for so long at his jokes. Like, embarrassingly long giggles. Lasting for minutes. The girl in the leotard was making sexy sounds all the time on her exhales. 
The fourth class was an afternoon class and it was Yin. Great- I love yin. The teacher was probably Dutch- it took some enormous strength to stop trying to figure out where she was from- my mind just wouldn't shut up- she has some Eastern European in her?- maybe Serbian? Latvian? Or Belgian??- and the yin was way too soft. I barely felt a thing in any posture. Just annoyed at why I couldn't place her accent. She was beautiful like a forest fairy. But from which bloody forest??
The last class I managed, was with the first, male, hot teacher, and this time the class was in the "open air" shala and since I was 13 minutes late, I had to squeeze into a corner together with a jungle of frangipani, coconut trees, mango trees, and like a 55 hectar of banana plantation. Every single sun salutation was like a battle of Lara Croft trying to move through the vegetation in that lush corner. And even worse; I had the sex-starved girl in the leotard next to me, who was moaning and groaning as soon as the hot long haired male teacher was in the vicinity of the banana tree that was my destiny. 
That's what broke my Camel's back, I think. The moans from the leotard girl. I just couldn't stomach it. 

The next day I just couldn't bring myself to go there. 
I looked myself in the mirror, and realised I had started losing muscle. I'm naturally very weak in my upper body, naturally overflexible, naturally I have a huge potbelly and this super attractive apple-shape including love handles and swimming-pool floatie toys around my upper torso.
If I don't push myself in my yoga practice to do lots of strengthening stuff, I'll soon start to pout in the wrong places, and skin is starting to hang around the arms, and all my joints go wobbly and weak. My shoulders jumped out of place for a second that day- that's when I realised that all this "soft" stretchy yoga classes, without any focus on strength, was just taking me way off balance. I become a wobbly fat apple. Great! Throw me ojn the apple cart and take me to Nirvana, someone, please. 

I need more strengthening than stretching because of my body type. Most people need the opposite. 
I guess many people come to Goa to "do yoga" but maybe they don't have their own personal yoga practice at home. The teachers are forced to do some kind of general, overall practice, that actually doesn't really go deep. It didn't touch me in any sense, to be honest. 

I'm sure it's great if you're a beginner, if you're very tight, if you're looking for something new in life. 
As for me, it was again (!) a great reminder that I am my own best teacher. I've practiced for 13 years, almost daily, tried all styles, tried different amount of time daily, overdid it for years... And I found my middle path. Everyone's middle path is different, and a very general class might only actually be good for a small percentage of those attending. 

So now I'm on a punishing asana sequence routine where I do 108 pushups a day, squats, core strengthening flows... I need my strength back, I need to get all that hyperextension and hybermobility back into a support system of muscle holding it together around the joints. 

And that's my physical explanation to why I didn't manage more. 
Why didn't I see how much I was struggling each day with different hang ups, emotions and stresses?
Why didn't I do my punishing asana sequence after the class, and why couldn't I keep going to the classes to explore more of my fears, pressures, issues that all arose, on by one, in each and every class?
The different teachers brought up different issues in me. Competition, boredom, anger, questioning. 
And why did I escape all of it, explaining all of the above in physical terms to myself?
My mind was RACING in each and every painful two hour class. There was nothing to capture my attention- challenge- to pull the reins of my babbling mind into focus. So, instead, it was doing this galloping all over the bloody place. 
Now, what did THAT teach me?
I don't dare to think about it. I chose to escape it. It was too scary. 
We all probably think OUR mind is the loudest one. But I swear to god, mine must be a little bit worse. I'm so overly restless in my body. If I don't use up all that abundance (or is it a curse) of amount of energy I am given each morning, it seems to turn into a stack of ants inside my body, crawling up into my mind, driving me insane. 
I guess this is why I still love yoga, after 13 years. IT still didn't bore me. IT keeps challenging me, teaching me, focusing me, unfocusing me, making me realise, forcing me to watch that mind work its craziness. 

Phew.... I really need to meditate. EVERY DAMN DAY.

Popular posts from this blog

Linda meets a "real" sadhu on the banks of the Ganges

So it's early morning, before sunrise, in Varanasi. i'm staying at the Yogi lodge in goudalia, the old, smelly, labyrinth of Varanasi old city. my travel companion, Katja, is sleeping sweetly on her thin, stained mattress, bundled up with a trillion dusty blankets.
i'm hunting for a real Aghori baba.
I did my dissertation at uni about the Pashupatas- the really nasty, crazy renunciates, who follow Shiva. they eat dead flesh, they live at the burial grounds, they smear their bodies with ashes from the funeral pyre. they drink water from a human skull, and they behave in different funny, weird ways, to be like Shiva. they scare people and they give respect.
apparently, these sadhus only exist today in Nepal, in the Pasupatinath.
but, I had read and heard, that another, related tribe of sadhus, called "Aghoris", still could be found in Varanasi, close to the burning ghat, where human bodies were burning day and night.

So I was walking, early that morning, toward…

the "fake" aghori baba turns out to be "real"

ok. I wrote this blog a few years ago. the moment was one of December 2008- so a while back.
I was up early, sunrise, just me and the monkeys and the pilgrims and the babas and the chai-wallas...and i guess yeah, it's normal to be up at sunrise in Varanasi, despite the fog, despite the cold- or maybe precisely BECAUSE of these things. No point staying in bed. The monkeys wake us up anyway and it's goddamn freezing, so let's get a warm, energizing chai, and let's pray that we get out of this suffering called life- where it's cold, foggy, and the annoying monkeys steal our bananas.

So I was on the lookout for this type of dude. I had written my dissertation at uni (SOAS, amazing SOAS!) about these kind of babas, admittedly not existent anymore in India, but in Nepal, in the Pashupatinath, yes. I had been told by my Hinduism professor that yes, some of them did still exist in Benares, eating dead flesh, and doing their weird laughing. I love it! How weird and creepy…

getting drunk on absinthe in Bar Marsella

Also called the Green Fairy, from the French- La Fee Verte. Others called it the Green Goddess or the Green Muse.
But the Green Fairy isn't just another name for absinthe; it is a methaphor for artistic transformation and enlightenment. It opens up the mind to a freer state, a place where exploration of poetical pathways and new inspirational ideas can grow wildly. To the Parisian bohemians of late the 1800's, the Green Fairy was a guide into their artistic world, where new, groundbreaking art was created. Absinthe was to the artists of the time what smoking weed was for the hippies in the 60's; their "revolutionairy guide" and what they believed was the substance that "opened their minds".
Artists, poets and writers reached for a glass of the Green Fairy for inspiration to their creative works and during "the green hour", in the late afternoon, many glasses were consumed in Parisian bars and cafes- but not just that, apparently, s…

I finally went on that life-changing trip

I first came to Puglia in 2008, I think it must have been early October. I'd had an awesome time in Tuscany and Rome and Calabria and was arriving there by train, filled to the max with beautiful experiences and electric connections, not really expecting much else than just a half-boring yoga teacher training that I had signed up for, not really knowing what else to do with my life after finishing my degree in Indian Philosophy at SOAS, University of London. 

As the train cut through Basilicata and into Puglia, the amount of olive trees that swooshed past started to be shocking. After a while, I realised that it just wasn't going to end. Endless amount of them, large, proud, thick. Planted in perfect rows, with no sigh of the end, or the horizon. 

My eyes widened as I started to think I was hallucinating. Was I going insane?
It went on for hours. Endless olive trees. I felt as if there was a movie on repeat outside of the train window. 

As the train finally stopped in Bari, I wait…