Article published in namaskar – Asia yoga magazine

I thought you might be interested to read an article I’ve written for namaskar yoga magazine, based in Hong Kong. It’s a review of my 500 hour training course and I wrote it soon after graduating. It’s now been published.

Happy reading!

500 hours of Absolute Michel Besnard

A personalised approach

namaskar - January 2014
namaskar – January 2014

I was sitting at my desk one grey winter’s day in London within earshot of Big Ben but my mind was elsewhere. A friend had just emailed me a link to the Absolute Yoga website and I was engrossed in reading about the 500 hour teacher training with Michel Besnard at Absolute Sanctuary, Koh Samui.

“Are you ready to take your teaching to the next level?” asked the website. I knew I was. I’d been teaching part time for two years but I felt I needed more confidence to make the transition to teaching full time. The promise of crystal clear turquoise sea and soft white sand lured me too.

Fast forward six months and I’ve now graduated from the training. It’s been an amazing journey. My 13 fellow students came from across the globe – from California to Japan – and Michel Besnard was there for us along the way.

The five-week course was intense and varied. Every day started with a two hour pranayama and Ashtanga Mysore self practice. Some of us had an established Ashtanga practice whereas others – like me – came from different schools and so Michel spent the first week getting us all up to speed.

As the weeks progressed, our morning practices became more personalised. What I particularly appreciated was Michel’s knowledge of both Ashtanga and Iyengar – he’s spent years in India training with both Mr Iyengar and Sri Pattabhi Jois. We used props and he emphasised doing the asanas in a way that suited our own bodies.

He also believes all students should practice elements of the second series. With the primary series focusing on forward bends, back bends such as salabhasana and dhanurasana provide balance in our practice.

Over the weeks, the morning practice continually pushed me. Through plenty of sweat and occasional tears, Michel was there to offer support – and not just by providing physical adjustments.

The rest of the day we learnt about a range of topics. Michelle Lam, a Hong Kong physiotherapist, spent five days teaching us advanced yoga anatomy, we covered Acroyoga and Yin yoga, and we had Carlos Pomeda show us the wonderful world of yoga philosophy. Lucas Rockwood provided many useful insights into the business of yoga and we honed our presentation skills with Akash Akaria, a public speaking expert based in Hong Kong. Suffice to say, the teaching faculty were excellent.

Absolute Sanctuary was a great venue. The infinity pool and steam room were popular for soothing our stretched bodies and we enjoyed watching the stars overhead.

Can you spot a familiar face in there?
Can you spot a familiar face in there?

For me, Michel and his teaching assistant Roslyn made the experience truly special. Their good humour and passion for yoga were ever-present during the course.

With Michel’s favourite phrase being “who cares” he taught us the lesson of acceptance: accepting our bodies and our practice. And where we are today is exactly where we’re meant to be.

Having graduated a few days ago, many of us have flown home to our studios and students, eager to share our new knowledge. I too am looking forward to heading back to London and starting my life as a full time teacher but memories of my 500 hour training will stay with me forever.

For more information about Absolute Yoga visit To find out where Michel is next teaching, visit

Clare has taught yoga in London and Hertfordshire in the UK for the past four years. She completed her 500 hour training with Michel Besnard in Thailand and specialises in teaching Yin yoga. As well as teaching, she is a regular contributor to yoga magazines and you can read her blog at

Have you studied with Michel? What memories do you have of your time together? Feel free to leave your comments below.

Or if you’re interested in finding out more about him, have a read of this post from during my teacher training.

View the full namaskar magazine.

Namaskar article

Teacher training: the end

Three days ago I graduated from my 500 hour teacher training with Absolute Yoga. I’m now relaxing back at the Sanctuary on Koh Phang An. I’m here with my buddy Catherine and we’re having a relaxing time before she heads back to the UK tomorrow. Mentally and physically I am spent and this is a fab place to recouperate.

I’m also spending time reflecting on the last five weeks and I feel a huge sense of both loss and gain.

I’ll start with the gains… although it’s hard to know where to start. If you’ve been reading my blog regularly, you’ll have a sense of what’s been happening but suffice to say, it’s been one hell of a journey. I have learnt so much about myself, my body, ashtanga, and yoga in general. The Mysore self practice pushed me daily. There were tears, pain (physical and emotional), laughs and Michel and Roslyn were always there for us. The guest teachers all added their own sparkle and challenges along the way too.

I don’t think my teaching will ever be the same again and my level of understanding of all things yoga has increased exponentially. Any fears I had before about the course being overly commercial evaporated on the first day.

My prior experience of teachers’ teachers has been of people who are totally committed to living a sattvic yogic lifestyle – often in ashrams. Meeting Michel and Roslyn was so refreshing as they are yogis of the highest order who have their feet firmly rooted in daily life with a love of films and coffee. Michel might even be a bigger fan of the cheese joke than me and throws in the odd expletive from time to time.

And onto the losses. I am missing the gang – my 13 fellow students/partners in crime and Michel and Roslyn. On the evening of our graduation we played a game where we each had to whisper in each other’s ear what we liked about that person. Not unsurprisingly, the fact that I cry at the drop of a hat was mentioned more than once. I had tears running down my face at the time.

Plans have been made for reunions and I know I’ve made 13 really great friends. We’ve had laughs a-plenty – songs, daft noises, little sayings, Swedish vowels (who knew there were so many!), chinchilla tails, my squid impression (it’s special) and we’ve certainly played with the (h)edges. There was even some swimming pool skinny dipping action. Read Mitch’s blog for the details.

I feel blessed to have spent five weeks with a bunch of such talented, compassionate, gorgeous and loving people. I’d go to any of their classes tomorrow.

Finally I’d like to thank Lady Jane for emailing me a link to the Absolute Yoga website. I opened it sitting at my desk on one dreary winter’s day in London town and that’swhen the dream began.

I’ve still got four months travelling around Thailand, Sri Lanka and India before returning to the dreariness. If any of it is half as good as the last five weeks I’ll be delighted.

Hari om.

Teacher training: Stumpy thumbs and yoga… NEW RESEARCH!!

thumbnail of our thumbnailsI am delighted to introduce a co-contributor, Laurie Brockhaus, for this very special and exclusive blog post. Laurie and I have recently made some yoga discoveries. Here we provide you with our ground-breaking research findings.

Last week on our teacher training course we were blessed to spend five days with Carlos Pomeda. We learnt about texts and learnings that are essential to yoga including the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads. Carlos shared some of the folk stories from the ‘Mahabarata’ or ‘The great story of India’.

He also talked us through the Hatha Yoga Pradipika – an important text that mentions the term ‘asana’ meaning a seated meditation posture, and ‘mudras’. Mudras are energy locks in the body and traditionally refer to mula bandha (a tightening of the pelvic floor), uddiyana bandha (a lock in the thoracic back), and jalandara bandha (chin lock). However, more generally, a mudra can be described as a gesture that often involves the hands and fingers.

Through further in-depth research, we have discovered a new mudra, known simply as thummudra. The mudra is characterised by bringing the four fingers in towards the palm and strongly engaging the thumb in an upward fashion. It is used by people with toe thumbs or Brachydactyly type D and draws more prominence to the feature. Thummudra helps toe-thumbed individuals draw more prana (vital energy) into the body and harness their personal power.

Below you will find a series of images showing how the mudra can be incorporated into a range of classical asanas. You will also find further information on the Indian folk legend that inspired the mudra.

Use of thummudra in asanas

Navasana (boat pose) gains more buoyancy with thummudra
Extend strongly through heels and toe thumbs in Upavistha Konasana (wide-angle seated forward bend)
In the standard version of Utthita Hasta Padangustasana (extended hand-to-big-toe pose), the drishti (gaze) is to the big toe. When thummudra is incorporated, the drishti is to the toe thumb.
Thummudra increases the fierceness of Warrior II
A wider thumb in a wide-legged forward fold (Prasarita Padottanasana)
Simple seated meditation incorporating thummudra

Thumbvritta and her thousand stumpy thumbs

Here is the Indian legend that inspired the thummudra. As with many old Indian folk stories, its exact date of origin is unknown but it was probably being told around the same time that Shakespeare was writing in England.

The beautiful and clever Thumbvritta was well known in her Indian village for being the child who spent her days imagining and writing brilliant stories that entertained her family, friends and neighbours. As she grew up, she wanted nothing more than to pursue her love of writing by dedicating her life to studying with talented storywriting elders in the village.

Alas, perhaps due to an accumulation of bad karma in a previous life (or just the tradition of the time), at the age of 16 she was forced into an arranged marriage and had to accept her fate of service to her new husband’s family. This severely diminished Thumbvritta’s time for writing due to all the chores her evil tyrant mother-in-law expected her to do. She was always the first up in the morning and spent her days chopping, scrubbing, washing… her work was never done.

But she could not suppress her urge to write. Late at night, she would sneak from her husband’s bed and steal away to a small dark corner of the kitchen to draft her brilliant stories by ghee candlelight. One night, having grown quite exhausted from her chores, she fell asleep with biro in hand (yes, India has always been ahead of the game regarding writing implements). Early next morning, her demanding mother-in-law was shocked to discover her sleeping, rather than preparing the lentil dhal.

In a fit of rage she picked up a heavy iron pan and slammed it down on Thumbvritta’s right thumb. Thumbvritta screamed in pain and ran away from her husband’s home, determined to never go back. She ran the entire day until she finally collapsed in exhaustion alongside the sacred Ganga river. She allowed her throbbing thumb to rest in the cool water and feared that her thumb’s misshapen form would prevent her from writing. The healing waters of Ganga Ma stroked her injured thumb throughout the night and into the morning.

Thumbvritta awoke to find that not only was she no longer in pain, but she had grown a thousand (stumpy) thumbs, each glowing with the golden light of thousands of unwritten stories.

To this day, despairing people from all over the world visit the site on the Ganges where Thumbvritta grew her thousand thumbs. They wish to gain inspiration in finding a new path and to realise that personal power comes in unexpected forms. They also wish they had stumpy thumbs. Clare and Laurie are really lucky to have them.

Disclaimer: Please contact Laurie and Clare directly for academic references (we’ll cobble some guff together and send it to you).

Read Clare’s previous post about when she and Laurie realised they both had stumpy thumbs.

Teaching training: balancing our emotions

Tomorrow we have our last day off before our teacher training course finishes next week. It’s been a busy week with five days of Carlos Pomeda teaching us yoga philosophy and he’s made the subject fun and engaging.

Physically and emotionally however, we’re all struggling. People who have come with pre-existing injuries are listening carefully to Michel and Rosalyn each morning as they practice individually modified versions of the Ashtanga sequence. Trips to the chiropractor have been numerous. I’ve generally been ok – my lower back’s been niggling and my knee’s playing up slightly but nothing really to write home (or blog) about.

Warrior III (from Yoga Journal)

However, the past two mornings I’ve found tears running down my face in standing balancing postures. It’s not necessarily that they hurt, but I find them challenging with my externally rotated (read ‘penguin’) feet and my internally rotated knees. We did a much shorter, led class yesterday and Michel had us in Warrior III. I was trying desperately to engage all the muscles in my legs but I was swaying all over the place. Instantly, tears fell from my eyes and splattered onto my mat. People are so red-faced and in their own worlds in class, I doubt anyone noticed.

But two days in a row? I think it’s because I don’t feel grounded or safe. I feel unbalanced and it freaks me out. I talked to Michel and he said that of course I would find them hard with my alignment. “They will get easier,” he said knowingly. Yoga brings our emotions closer to the surface and tears spring forth readily.

Mitch, my comrade from Mitchigan (sic) in the US, also wrote about the emotion of yesterday morning’s class. Read his blog post here. We came to the conclusion that you were the odd one out if you didn’t cry in that class.

Teacher training: Rihanna and the ladyboys

You know how you can have too much of a good thing? I can hear you saying how you wouldn’t mind spending five weeks in a swanky resort in Thailand, jumping into the infinity pool when things get too stressful. But more recently between classes I’ve been retiring to my air conditioned room and collapsing on the bed. Thirty minutes later I can be heard muffling into my pillow, “Is it really time to move again?”

With only one more week to go, we’re tired and cabin fever has crept in. Now I don’t want you to think that I’m moaning but sometimes an escape is required. And that’s exactly what happened last night. After dinner, myself, Rachel (who loves musicals as much as me) and Pearl (previously described as Thai and huggy. This still applies.) bundled into Pearl’s car and zoomed off down the drive.

We made the ten-minute journey to Chaweng singing Rihanna at the top of our lungs. An hour earlier I’d led the group in chanting the Gayatri mantra. Versatility is a yogi’s middle name.

As we drove down the main drag of Chaweng I felt overwhelmed. Our cocoon is so sattvic – peaceful, healthy food, no alcohol, inoffensive lift music accompanying our mealtimes – wheareas Chaweng at night is brash and in your face.

Taxis and scooters vied for space on the road. We passed a McDonalds, a Burger King and a Haagen Das. The electricity cables for the entire street hanged precariously above us between lamposts. Bars and restaurants’ neon signs flashed uninvitingly and glamourous women encouraged Westerners to enter some seriously dodgy-looking clubs. Hang on a minute… those women are men! Ridiculously high heels, immaculate make-up, long toned legs and tiny sparkly dresses. They suggestively stroked their well-conditioned dark hair. They looked amazing. “This is Thailand baby!” says Pearl. “Everyone happy and welcome here!”

Western tourists looked all dolled up for a night on the town after a day in the sun. I was just looking for a massage after a day on the mat. I found a place and opted for a Thai massge with tiger balm. Now I don’t know if you’ve ever had a massage in Thailand but the little cubicle where you have your massage is a bit like being on a hospital ward. There’s a curtain around the raise platform and you can hear – but never see – what’s going on next door. This can be amusing. The other day I had an Aussie couple nearby:

Aussie lady to partner: ” Oh she’s wondering what the deal is with your mesh.”
Aussie man to Thai masseuse: “Ah it’s where a bit pops out?”
[Thai girl giggles]
Aussie man tries again: “Err do you understand ‘hernia’?”
[More giggles]
Aussie lady: “I don’t think she understands.”

I never had the chance to see their faces but I think I know more than enough about him.

So I had an hour of back cracking, gentle pummelling and I came out smelling like a pot of Vicks vaporub. It was great. After, I was sitting drinking my cup of herbal tea in the reception watching the female staff chatting with the receptionist. Lo and behold, one of the masseuses was a bloke, as was the receptionist. As I left, my masseuse was standing on the doorstep ready to say goodbye. I had a good look and she was definitely female.

The three of us drove home accompanied by Rihanna and I came back to find Catherine sitting in bed calling me a dirty old stop out. She’d spent the evening chatting on Skype and looking at the pictures of Prince Harry. We were in bed by 10pm but I just kept thinking about being under my umbrella-ella-ella-eh-eh-eh-eh.

Teacher training: Yin Yoga

We’ve just finished five days of Yin Yoga with Yogi Nora and it’s been a funny old week.

The classes were great – two hours of complete bliss doing a handful of poses aimed at increasing our flexibility by holding for anything between three and 20 minutes.

In Yin, you use bolsters and blankets to feel supported and there’s little emphasis on alignment. The poses work on stretching the body’s tendons and ligaments and, by holding for extended periods of time, you’re safely working to open these connective tissues. You breathe through your abdomen and there’s no mention of mula bandha. It all felt much more familiar to me than the regimented exertion of Ashtanga. Nora warned us the practice was very deep – opening both physically and mentally and the experience was emotional for many of us. 

In the first afternoon session Nora talked about the principles behind the practice – one of which is about how you shouldn’t engage your muscles. This was totally at odds with the anatomy that the ninja Michelle Lam taught us a few weeks ago –  ie the only way to avoid injury is by engaging all your muscles as if your life depended on it. Many on the course have pre-existing injuries and were wary/sceptical of Nora’s teachings. This clip from Paul Grilley explains the theory of Yin well.

I was trying to stay open and positive as I was enjoying her classes despite her use of words such as “crotch” and “gut” and phrases including “you need to lift like a mother, man”. But maybe I’m being a reserved Brit.

As the week progressed, we played tag as we each taught different poses to the rest of the class. It’s a different ballgame when there’s little to say about alignment. Our goal was to keep students focused in the poses without letting them die, man. We read spiritual quotes, invented meditations, encouraged them to “let it all hang out” and “inhaling and then exhaling blurrrrghhh…blurrrghh…blurrrrghhhhhhh”. Drooling on the mat is totally ok in the world of Yin.

Yesterday, four of us missed her final class. Lovely Abu Dhabi Debbie’s stepmum died unexpectedly and Lucy was mugged by two guys on a scooter on the road outside the resort. The other two were visiting the chiropractor. Morale is quite low but Michel and Rosalyn have been marvellous offering hugs and support to those in need.

We ended our five-day week by Michel showing us the film Siddhartha, an Indian spiritual Ben Hur, and I loved it. Watch a trailer here:

Siddhartha eventually gains enlightenment working as a ferryman taking people across a river. Over breakfast today I discussed the film’s messages with Michel and he talked about how whichever way we try and row our boat, the current will always take us in the correct direction. We can go against the flow, but it’ll get us in the end. Things happen because they’re meant to happen and it’s what we learn from the experiences that’s important. We also discussed our love of cats and that was nice too.

Has anyone else done Yin? Any thoughts? I’d like to include Yin in my personal practice and teach it on my return home.

Teacher training: Liquid/solid Acroyoga

Some time has passed since my last post and we’ve now survived three days of acroyoga and a day off. For anyone who’s unfamiliar with ‘Acro’ as those in the know call it, it’s some way between Cirque du Soleil and goofing (I’m spending too much time with Yanks) around in the school playground. Have a look at my photos on Flikr to see what we got up to, but suffice to say it was fun and at times a little scary.

I also enjoyed the partner/trust games we played. One was called ‘liquid/solid’ and one of us would strike a yoga pose and the other would do a pose that intermingled with it. For example, I would be in down dog whilst 6ft 3in Swedey Chris would be in up dog in the space underneath me. It got rather cosy when he tried to fill the miniscule spaces I made.

Thanks to Philip, liquid/solid is now also a term we’re using to describe our bowel movements but probably the less said about that, the better.

Have a look at my pics on Flickr but in the meantime, here’s two to give you a taster.

From left: Lucy, Mitch, me and the teacher Ariane. My main concern was the correct placement of my foot on Mitch…
One of Philip’s amazing handstands and Michel being a dafty.

Teacher training: Madonna inspires Sanskrit chanting

An ashtanga class normally starts with an opening mantra chanted by the teacher. Michel’s been leading the chant each morning but he now wants us to take turns.

Mitch did a sterling job this morning and, as Michel gazed around the room looking for the next victim, his eyes met mine. “Clare, how do you fancy volunteering for tomorrow?” I wasn’t totally sure that that was how the concept of ‘volunteering’ worked but I dutifully accepted. I’m turning to youtube for help as Michel is certainly no Krishna Das (read a previous post about his chanting).

Anyway, I wanted to share these clips with you just so you can see what I’ve got to work with.

Guruji himself, Sri Pattabhi Jois, opens a class:


A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…. some yogis tried to learn a Sanskrit chant. We also have the Star Wars version:


A nice, sensible karaoke version:


And finally, the Madonna version! I would so love to do this version tomorrow morning. I’m thinking backing singers, dancers, the full monty.. well erm, not quite the full monty. It might be a bit early for that sort of behaviour but we will be scantily clad. There’s no sign of baggy, loose fitting clothing here.


And I’m pretty sure I spotted a Madonna/Britney mash-up rajasic version in the search results somewhere…

Anyway, think of me tomorrow morning at about 7.30am Thai time. That’s 1.30am UK time. I expect you to set your alarms.

Teacher training: The anatomy of a yogi

This week my teacher training has been all about bodies! I have certainly learnt a lot about my own.

Revelation of the week number 1:
First of all, at dinner the other evening I was sitting next to Laurie from Saint Louis, US. I was attempting to free a lychee from its red hairy casing by digging into it with my thumbs. “Oh my goodness! We have the same thumbs!” exclaimed Laurie.

Laurie and I with our thumbs
Laurie and I giving a thumbs up.

Now anyone who knows me will know about my ‘special’ thumbs. I’ve grown up with my loving father calling me ‘stumpy thumbs’. As a result, I’m on first name terms with most of the staff at Childline. But Laurie’s are even stumpier than mine. She tells me that our thumbs are technically called ‘toe thumbs’ and that there’s loads online about them. Even the Hollywood actress Megan Fox has them. Apparently one in every thousand people have them and girls are disproportionately affected.

Revelation of the week number 2:
This week we’ve had five days of Michelle Lam teaching us anatomy. She’s Hong Kong Chinese and must be about 4ft 10in. I feel like a giant next to her. When she gives you a private treatment session she turns into a ninja inflicting levels of pain that make you cry for your mum (according to Philip, an American grown man with too many injuries to name).

The learning experience has been very practical and we’ve all been demonstrating poses up in front of the class. Michelle then asks everyone what they see. The list has been endless: weak core strength, disengaged bandhas, wonky shoulders, pathetic muscles, flat feet, knock knees… total body assassination. And then the marker pens come out and you really are left black and blue.

Philip was observing the action of my sacrum by drawing dots on my lower back. He couldn’t work out what was going on. Michelle to the rescue… I have an unstable pelvis on both sides! Not a sacro-iliac problem as previously thought! This means I have very mobile hips and I have to engage my mula bandha and all my leg and buttock and abdominal muscles to stay stable. I also have incredibly tight hip flexors (psoas and iliacus). Lucky me.

Back bends – particularly sethu bandhasana (bridge) and urdva dhanurasana/chakrasana (wheel) – have been causing me pain this week and I’ve felt a bit fed up with my lower back, my sticky-out ballet dancer’s feet (I’ve never danced), and my externally rotated knees. But as big Michel says, who cares if you can’t do certain poses. We just have to deal with the body we’ve got at the moment. It’s not to say that we won’t be able to do those poses in the future. My damn ego’s getting in the way.

Revelation of the week number 3:
Doing my sun salutations in the morning, when I’m in down dog and then I jump through to bring my feet up to my hands, I’m managing to tear the skin on the bottom of my big toes. Some people make holes in their mats, I make holes in my feet. It’s due to a (current) lack of flexibility in my toe joints.

Natalie says to me, “Oh I used to do that! You need superglue!” For my mat?! “No, for your toes!” Cue a trip to 7 Eleven and it’s the best tip ever. Supergluing your skin is ingenious.

These are my bodily revelations from week two. As Michelle would say, the take-home messages are:
1) All the best people have stumpy thumbs
2) I have an unstable pelvis to rival Elvis
3) Ignore the packaging for superglue. It ain’t just for wood, metal and plastic.

Om shanti.

(Read about last week on my teacher training)

Teacher training: one week down, four more to go!

Well I’ve survived my first week of my 500 hour teacher training. It hasn’t been easy and I’ve certainly been challenged. Here are some of the highlights/key points:

Michel Besnard
Think Clint Eastwood as he is now. But French. Mischievous blue eyes that glint when he’s being cheeky. According to Ayumu (Japanese, this is her second course with him), he’s currently being gentle with us. That’s a scary thought.

He’s a sucker for British comedy and loves Ricky Gervais and The Think of It. He quotes Fawlty Towers over breakfast and Allo Allo during class: [adopt French accent] “Leeeesen very carefoooly… I will say zis only wunce…”

As I’ve mentioned already, he seems to like prodding and slapping bottoms and probably rightly says that he’d get sued if he taught in the States. He has taught all over the world and spent years with Iyengar and Sri Pattabhi Jois. I’ve never met anyone as knowledgeable about yoga poses and he’s so humble. I think this is my favourite line of his so far: “Eeef anyone ever tries to keees ma feet, I tell dem to fack off.”

Rosalyn, his Chinese girlfriend and glamorous teaching assistant, is the bendiest person I’ve ever met. They’re a great double act.

We’re being trained so that by the end of the course, we’ll go away with an Ashtanga self practice comprising the primary series with the odd bit of the second series thrown in to provide balance. We’re all at different levels. Some people, like me, have hardly done any Ashtanga whilst others would scare my Dad.

I’m learning that the practice is truly beautiful. It’s so graceful. I’m also now aware of the benefits of a Mysore style class. We all do the set poses in sequence at our own pace. Michel and Rosalyn walk around the room giving adjustments and reminding us of the next posture when we forget.

I’ve learnt so much already and much is contradictory to Sivananda and other styles of yoga. As Michel says, we’ll do what he says for the next five weeks and then take away what we want – a lot of it makes a lot of sense though. Some of his teachings:

  • Mula bandha (pelvic floor to you and me): “Are you engaging your mula bandha?” If I had a Baht for every time I’ve heard that this week I’d be able to… erm… buy a banana.
  • Breathing into your abdomen? Forget it! How can you engage your mula bandha if you do that?!
  • Move the flesh away from your buttocks? That’s how you stretch your hamstrings beyond their capacity. Instead, roll the flesh away from your thighs, moving it upwards.
  • You think you know how to do Warrior I and II/Camel/Utkatasana/Sarvangasana/[insert name of almost any other pose]? You’re doing it wrong!!

It’s been a steep but amazing learning curve and we’ve all been put on the spot.

Utthita hasta padangustasana
Utthita hasta padangustasana (image from Yoga Journal)

The S.I. sisters
Lucy and I are in the special needs corner. Lucy is from Atlanta and enjoys DJ-ing when not teaching. Michel and Rosalyn are so astute. On day one they noticed that we both had problems with upward dog as we have sacro-iliac joint problems. We were given a modified practice. For sun salutations and vinyasa sequences we replace the troublesome dog with sphinx -> childs pose -> downward dog. We miss out utthita hasta padangustasana as we work our way through the standing poses. It’s about doing the poses in a way that suits your body and accepting ourselves as we currently are.

The resort
We’re very comfortable here with our air-con and our laundry service. I would probably go as far as to say that it feels a bit sterile and you could forget that you’re in Thailand. I haven’t seen one milipede.

But the pool and steam room are going down a treat after dinner most days. Chris (6ft 3in blonde haired, blue eyed Swede) has had his underwater camera out and we’ve been larking about practicing asanas in the pool. Another learning: no-one looks attractive in underwater photos.

Laughter yoga
We did this on the last day of the module with Michel. He  had us all going “haaaa haaaaa heee hee” whilst clapping at each other in a slightly demented fashion. Pearl (Thai and very huggy) clamped the sides of her face with her hands to prevent laughter lines/crow’s feet. Pearl was funnier than the laughter yoga.

The schedule
We’re in our Mysore class for 7am until 9.30am then we get an hour and 30 minutes for breakfast and a break. This week we’ve been spending the rest of the day with Michel but for the remainder of the course we’ll have the 11am – 1.30pm and the 3pm – 7pm sessions with different tutors. For the next five days it’s anatomy then we’ll have a day off.

Well that’s it for week one. My fellow students are all fab and bring their own thing to the table. Mitch for example is quite the linguist. He can speak Orcish and Elvish. This is a joke. Mitch, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry I started it. We’ll soon get bored of it… maybe by the final week.

I hope you’re all enjoying the Olympics. I should be at the athletics today but instead I’m here!