The Yoga Retreat – Koh Phangan

‘Because I knew you
I have been changed for good’

(lyrics from For Good, Wicked the Musical, Stephen Schwartz)

So after my short holiday in Goa I hopped over to the Thai island of Koh Phangan where my good friends, Teresa and Kes Kennard, have a yoga retreat. They had offered me the chance to work on the retreat as a teacher and I had offered to help them with their online presence and social media.

The Yoga Retreat is a very special place nestled in the jungle in the North West of the island, but only a short distance from the beautiful bay of Haad Salad. When I say it’s a very special place I really, really mean this, not just because I work there or my friends own it, but because it has a wonderful energy and since arriving here in April I have seen it make such a positive impact on so many people’s lives that I feel it really deserves that accolade.

Focusing on Ashtanga Yoga the retreat offers daily Mysore style classes and beginner’s courses with KPJAYI Authorised teachers, so you can see why I took up the offer to work here with them, to continue to practice 6 days a week on the beautiful jungle shala with experienced, authorised teachers.

 

set up for yin practice

 

They also offer daily Hatha Flow classes (of which I teach on Friday’s) and Saturday’s and Sunday’s I teach a restorative Yin Class to work the connective tissue and fascia so to support people in their Ashtanga practice (let’s get those hip and hamstrings open!)

At the risk of sounding like I’m writing a review, the food on the retreat is some of the best food I’ve eaten. EVER. Deserving a post of its own, and definitely stealing some recipes for my health and nutrition posts, they offer vegan, vegetarian and raw options for the health conscious yogi…..cacao bowl breakfast, hummus salads, vegetable wraps, cacao and avocado mousse, raw pad thai, I mean seriously good stuff…mmmm I’m getting hungry and I only just had my cacao bowl!! (Have I overused the work cacao here?!)

 

veg wrap

 

So, yes the yoga is phenomenal, the food outstanding, but the real thing I love about working here? The people I have met. This is the joy of not only yoga, but travel, like-minded people from all over the world coming together and firm new friendships being made.

I have connected with people here who I hope to be friends and stay in touch with forever. A yoga retreat is a very transient business, which can be hard as you are always saying goodbye to somebody. You have to rejoice in the fact that you met in the first place, and that somehow you have made a positive impression on each others lives. And of course, now we have social media we can keep in touch with each other all over the world daily so in fact they only ever leave you in a physical presence.

 

run and jump bottle beach

 

the gang at sunset july 31 2016
*photo credit Fee Saxby

 

looking out at sunset happy beach

 

If I have tempted you with my story, then you can find out more about the packages on offer ‘change your life yoga’ here

 

Travelling Yogi

So the point of starting the blog was to be able to write about my time as a travelling yogi, meaning how I hope to be able to see the world via teaching and sharing my love of yoga. Firstly, let me point out that I am pretty well-travelled, I did my backpacker bit way back when from 2002-2004 (I know, I’m old right?) so I could write about my experiences from then, but as the world is changing at a ridiculous rate, what I tell you about the countries I have visited just won’t be relevant, or current, and you may end up going somewhere and it being nothing like I remember it! So I will really only speak of my travels this year, from February 2016 and keep adding to the blog as I move around, or indeed stay in one place (which I’m still classing as travel at this point as it’s not my home town – get it?)

I started the travelling yogi journey in Mysore, India and have made many blog posts about my time there back on my old blogger page: ye olde blogge I will do a whole post about this wonderful city and how it really took a piece of my heart and kept it there. I am hoping to return at some point towards the end of the year. I would say, although I heart Mysore, as a non yoga tourist you may only want to factor in a few days here. Really, it’s all about the yoga in Mysore for me.

Here’s some gratuitous pics from Mysore just to spice up this page/post

 

I am currently in Koh Phangan, teaching and working on a wonderful Yoga Retreat, of which I will also dedicate a whole post to…but for those of you when you hear Koh Phangan think ‘Full Moon Party’ with lots of young people drinking way too many bucket cocktails in neon vest tops, think again, the ‘other’ side of Koh Phangan is a deeply spiritual Yoga haven.

So, that’s basically a heads up before I start to do separate, more specific posts on the cities and islands I have been to this year. I don’t want to become a blog of ’10 bests’ I really want to try to write more holistically about the feel I get for a place, the Yoga in that place, and of course the food on offer in that place. If you like the sound of that, give me a follow – and thanks already for your support by just reading this post!

Woman Has to Leave Sight of the Shore

Or Man, it’s not gender specific. But I recently posted this quote on my Instagram account and changed the gender – just felt like having a feminist moment.

Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to leave the shore. A quote by Andre Gide. The sentiment is there, you cannot discover new things in life until you can let go of the old things, the routine, the norm. I suppose this quote can be related to life in general and not just travelling. I found it perfect for me, especially when I was leaving sight of one shore (job, home, family, friends) and heading out to discover the new oceans out here.

IMG_20160609_122540

It’s so easy to stick with what you know, but you know, what you know will still be there should you wish to return to it after you have done a little, or a lot, of discovering. I’ve been away almost 5 months and I really feel I haven’t actually travelled that much! MY plan was always to study in Mysore for a month, go and check out Goa (as in my previous trip to India I didn’t get there) and then…well, there was no major plan, but it involved getting a job teaching yoga somewhere in the world, and if I could also get some surfing done, even better. Well fate had me end up in Thailand for now, where I am teaching at the wonderful Yoga Retreat, and having a ball. As I sit on my balcony with a view of the Gulf of Thailand across to the mainland I think how lucky I am to be ‘brave’ enough to have left the comfort and security of the shore. And how there is so much more out there yet to discover…..

All Those Who Wander Are Not Lost

Since I was young I have never settled in one place for too long, my parents moved about quite a bit, I went to lots of different schools and lived in many towns before we finally settled so I could stay at the same school for my secondary education. My parents moved away when I was 16 and shortly after at 18 I moved to London alone to take my higher education at Laban Trinity in London. This upbringing was probably what gave me the wanderlust, and also makes me very independent at the young age of sixteen.

I did manage a whooping 12 years on and off in London, sliced up with my first living and working overseas experiences in mainland and the Greek isles, Portugal and Japan. I knew I was different from many other people in my approach to getting on like a local when I arrived in Japan and my colleagues ordered pizza rather than try something Japanese, I was horrified and ashamed.

At the ripe age of 32 I had met a like-minded soul and we went off on our travels together, South America, New Zealand, Indonesia, South East Asia and India before returning home promising to leave as soon as possible. It’s only taken 11 years and thankfully I am on the road again, this time as a solo traveller, and also trying to fund my way to foreign lands with my career in yoga teaching.

The thing is I see the world as one big massive adventure, I can’t recommend travelling enough. And I want to immerse myself in local culture and traditions, learn from my experiences, and as a massive foodie I want to try everything that the country I’m in is offering on a plate, or indeed bowl (within reason – I am now a vegetarian, although not strict)

red sunset

For some, there 2 week package holiday, if you’re lucky, a couple of times per year is enough to satisfy their wanderlust. For me, I want to get my teeth into the heart of the country and experience them for that little bit longer, maybe see if we fit together or whether we are to have fleeting romances and I’ll be off again to the next one.

This hopping about doesn’t mean I’m on a massive mission to ‘find myself’ at my age I’m pretty clear about who I am. Yes, my month in Mysore was like one long therapy session, but I can find that on my mat every morning, no matter where in the world I am. No, I’m referring to the quote by JR. Tolkien that I have quoted in the title, not all who wander are lost, it’s just we see something bigger than one town, and are happy being nomads, travelling and experiencing new things all the time, not stuck in the groundhog day of western society.

We are happy to settle down in one place, but not be afraid to admit that it’s not working out as you expected it and it’s time to move on, or it is working out well, but maybe, just maybe you might find your forever home at the next place?

I can only hope to inspire you reader to go out there and experience more than your own town, village, settlement, four walls, don’t be afraid and don’t think what if, just find out.

Wander on, and don’t get ‘lost’