Yoga reaches dizzy new heights (or lows?)

“Look at this,” said a male non-yogi friend of mine, thrusting his iPhone screen towards my face. “You can do yoga up The Shard!”

I looked at the screen. There was an image on an email: slender, young, women in tight yoga gear, opening out in warrior two whilst taking in the vibrant lights of London far below.

He continued, “This is what you should be teaching. How cool would that be!”

I looked up at him scrunching my nose. “Nah, I’ll pass thanks. If you did yoga up there, you’d spend the whole time looking out at the view whereas yoga’s about looking within.”

He replied, “Oh I wouldn’t want to do any of that looking in stuff. That would be well scary. I don’t want to go there. But The Shard… that might tempt me to try yoga.”

I liked this conversation. It made me smile. Here was a bloke – a hardcore Arsenal fan (not that I’m stereotyping, of course) – considering yoga because of the cool location. The very location may be so distracting, that he misses the whole point of yoga. But if it gets him on a yoga mat for the first time, then what’s the harm?

Swami Sivananda sitting by the mighty Ganga - not the Thames.
Swami Sivananda sitting by the mighty Ganga – not the Thames.

I heard the other day about yoga classes being offered in a brewery in London. You do a class, then have a beer afterwards. My first teacher training was with the Sivananda school of yoga where even eating garlic is considered a huge no-no. Yoga in a brewery? Swami Sivananda would be turning in his grave if he hadn’t been reincarnated.

I was in Thailand before Christmas and I practiced overlooking some stunning scenery – the incredible beach with the white sand and the glassy sea in the early morning golden light. But those practices were some of the most unfocused practices I’ve ever had. I was so overwhelmed by my surroundings that I was wobbling all over the place.

It’s funny how far ‘yoga’ has come. It’s hip and everyone wants a piece of the action. In London, it feels like yoga’s being offered anywhere and everywhere just to get people through the door.

Give me a scruffy, sweaty, beaten-up old room any day. Just my body, my breath and my mat. That’s what works for me. And who knows – some of those brewery yogis may find that they enjoy the practice in that room with me.

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

Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together

Some of you may be wondering how I’m settling back in to life in the UK after five months away. Well, I can say that’s going alright. I went away to deepen my yoga practice and I feel that it’s paying off.


Last weekend I skyped my thumb chum Laurie who I met in Thailand doing my 500 hour training. We talked about how our five weeks of learning ashtanga has benefitted our yoga practice immeasurably.
Michel adjusting me in class
Michel adjusting me in class

A year ago I was tentatively dipping my toe into a beginners ashtanga course prior to going away.  Now when I practice ashtanga, it feels like a pure meditation. Every movement flows with the breath and, ok, so I forget the sequence from time to time but it works. It makes me feel so alive.

Since being back in the UK, I’ve had teachers come up to me at the end of classes telling me that they could watch me practice all day. They’ve asked me where I learnt ashtanga and I tell them to seek out Michel Besnard. I am so grateful to him and Roslyn.

I remember him saying that the gift he was giving us was an ashtanga Mysore self practice but really he’s given me so much more than that. I’ve learnt so much about myself and I love Michel’s motto of ‘who cares!’ Who cares if you can’t do a backbend/sit in lotus/ lift your leg as high as the person next to you etc etc. Just enjoy your practice.

Laurie was saying the same thing. She’s based in St Louis, Missouri, and is now on the teaching faculty of a 200 hour yoga teacher training at the studio where she works. We feel so lucky to have had the experience.

Yoga Hall St Albans

This week I covered my first class at the Yoga Hall in St Albans. Run by Laura and Finlay, they follow a disciple of Swami Vishnudevananda’s, Faustomaria Dorelli.

I feel that everything that I’ve learnt over the past few years is coming together in my teaching. Before my time with Michel I would never have focused so much on standing postures or suggested to

Swami Sivananda
Swami Sivananda

students that they lift their middle toes to engage the muscles in their legs. In the class at the Yoga Hall I threw some yin postures into the mix, whilst also teaching some Sivananda-based pranayama and relaxation.

While students laid in savasana, I speedily made herbal tea in the kitchen for everyone after class. Swami Sivananda looked on with his reassuring eyes from a picture on a cupboard door, and a postcard of Swami Vishnudevananda was blu-tacked onto the wall above the mugs. It’s a lovely place and I feel at home there. Their satsang/chanting evenings once a month are wonderful too.

Yoga Harpenden

I’m also lucky to have met an ashtanga teacher out near me in Harpenden who is fast becoming a good friend. In jolly proper Harpenden you’d be hard-pressed to find many Californians who’ve lived in  ashrams and follow silent gurus… but I found one! April is inspiring me to keep up my daily practice and we have plans to run a local ashtanga/yin yoga workshop together.

I’ve also decided that after ten years, I’m done with living in London. I’m happy to work in an art gallery there for a couple of days a week but it feels too busy and stressful. Hertfordshire’s fields, fresh air and friendly people are a-calling. I just need to work out how I can afford a car and a flat. I can’t live with my parents forever…

Any of my 500 hour training buddies reading this? How has the training affected your practice and teaching? Feel free to leave your comments below.

Om shanti.

Top 10 Thailand

I’m currently in Sukothai, half way between Chiang Mai and Bangkok. Sukothai dates back to the 13th century and was the ancient capital of Siam. There’s temples to rival Cambodia’s Angkor but today it’s raining and I’m sitting in a cafe thinking about how this is my penultimate day in Thailand.

Yes, the end is near! I am leaving for Sri Lanka on Wednesday. I was only meant to be in Thailand for two months but one thing led to another and I’ve been here for three. I’ve compiled this top ten Thai things that I’ll miss.

1. Dodgy car stickers
Seriously, why would Thai people feel a need to dissuade others from certain activities in their cars by using stickers? Take this example on a privately owned vehicle:


From left:
– No smoking is fair enough.
– English readers may think the next image suggests no in-car conker matches. But no, this refers to durian fruit. A stinky, big, prickly fruit that people seem to either love or hate like marmite.
– And onto no sex.
– No weapons allowed in this car… because it’s naturally ok to have them in any other car.
– Now it gets very interesting. Does this suggest that women aren’t allowed to whip men in this car? But can a man whip a woman? It’s all very Fifty Shades. When I was doing my teacher training on Koh Samui, Abu Debbie and I hired a taxi to go to the visa office. It displayed a sticker that crudely told passengers that oral sex was off the menu.
– The final one baffles me totally. No livestock? No hypnotised animals? Answers on a postcard please.

2. Smiley happy people
I would say that nine times out of ten, if you smile at a Thai person, you’ll get a smile in return. You can’t guarantee that they’ll have any teeth, but it’ll be a big beaming smile. The people are so welcoming and if you look lost (like I did in Chiang Mai’s bus station the other day), they’ll ask you if you need any help.

3. Things that go bump in the night…
I talked about the night time noises when i was first at The Sanctuary in July. That was in the jungle but even in Chiang Mai, a bustling city with close to a million people, there was a resident vocal bullfrog that I’m sure was sitting next to my ear as I tried to sleep at night.

4. Hello you want massaaage?
If you’ve been reading my blog regularly, you may have gathered that I’ve really enjoyed getting massages here. They’re so cheap and so good. Who would have guessed that I would end up doing a Thai massage course . And who would have guessed that it’s so difficult to do well. I take my hat off to all the Thai ladies who have massaged me over the past few months.

5. Hopelessly devoted
Thailand is a devout Buddhist kingdom. There are shrines everywhere – at the sides of the road, on top of hills, outside wreckers’ yards, and outside people’s homes. On shrines are offerings including flowers, cans of beer, plates of food and incense.


On my bus ride to Sukothai, we passed a giant gold statue of a meditating monk perched high on a hill. It must have been about five stories tall. As we approached, the bus driver honked his horn and he and all the passengers brought their hands to prayer at their foreheads, bowed, and ran their fingers through their hair. Even the bus driver. Fortunately we were going straight at the time.

And it most definitely is a ‘kingdom’. Man alive, they love their King and Queen. They are everywhere. The national anthem is played twice a day on the radio and you’re expected to stand for it. Stepping on a coin is sacrilegious as you’re stepping on His head. If you’re Thai, it’s likely that you’ll have a photo of them above a doorway in your home and their image sits alongside those of Buddha on altars.

6. Dude looks like a lady…
Nowhere in the world have I seen such convincing transgendered people. I think I’ve used the correct terminology there. Here is a photo of me in Chaweng with a beautiful young lady. I told him that he had better legs than me.


And of homosexuality, when my sister Katharine was with me, we went for a massage at a place run by a bloke from the West Country and his Thai wife. He was telling us that apparently 30% of all Thai men are gay. He then started talking about hormones and why levels of oestrogen may be higher in Thailand but he lost me there. Basically there aren’t enough men to go around and that he’s had Thai women asking him if he wanted a second or ‘lesser’ wife.

7. Beach and boats
When I was growing up, Katharine would talk about wanting to visit ‘see-through sea’. I was so happy to spend two and half weeks looking at the stuff with her. The sand was white, the sea was warm and crystal clear.

I also have particularly enjoyed arriving on these beaches on beaten-up, brightly painted longtail boats. The boat speeds into the shallows and the driver cuts the throaty engine. Whilst bobbing on the gentle waves, you jump over the side into the water and lug your stuff off the boat. You then have to wade ashore trying to look as graceful and elegant as possible with wet shorts whilst avoiding stepping on the occasional stones on the sea floor.


8. Scooters
Scooters are the life blood of this country. Everyone drives one… normally at the same time. The cities are very two-wheeled friendly (as I discovered in Chiang Mai) and people also manage to earn their livelihood from them. Some have umbrellas and food stalls attached and owners set up shop and start cooking wherever they fancy.

9. Did someone mention food?
Oh the food. Where to begin? Probably with a fried egg on top. Whatever you order – be it pad thai, yellow/green/red curry, tom yam soup, noodle with cashew nut, sticky rice with mango, banana in coconut, black rice pudding… sorry got carried away there. Where was I? Oh yes, everything’s better with an egg on top.

10. Pleased to meet you…
And last but by no means least, I have had the pleasure of meeting so many wonderful new people. Even back in July and going to yoga classes with Aurore, Julie and Mathieu at The Sanctuary – that was just the start.

My time on Koh Samui was truly awesome because of the great yogis with whom I shared the experience. I love you all. I well up just thinking about it.

I had the chance to meet more people back on Koh Phang An, and Jay, a Mancunian urban radio DJ and vortex and reiki healer, stands out for sure.

My time with Katharine was brilliant and thanks to my seven massage buddies and Dot Po in Chiang Mai. It was a giggle and at times rather ragdoll-ish.

And so on to Sri Lanka! I have a week there where I’ll catch up with my Sivananda teacher training room mate, Sherylee, and then onto India until just before Christmas when I’ll fly home to London.

Have you been to Thailand? Any thoughts or memories that you’d like to share? Just enter your email address below to post a comment.

Massage school – week two


I must say that I’m enjoying my Sunshine Massage School experience. I’m also enjoying the studying and the daily routine that goes with it. It feels like I’m actually living in a foreign city.

Every day my alarm goes off at 7am, I do my yoga practice, make some toast and a cup of tea then head out for my daily commute to school.

I’ve hired a bicycle! “Not that unusual” I hear you say. Now let me tell you that the last time I did any cycling on roads was during my Cycling Proficiency Test at Church Hill Primary School. Ok, so it was in my last year, but Gallants Farm Road in East Barnet doesn’t really compare with tackling the mayhem of Thailand’s second largest city. At least they drive on the left.

Picture this: There’s this moat that encircles the old city and a dual carriageway on either side of it. Think London’s North Circular. To get into the old city, you’re on the dual carriageway surrounded by hoards of scooters, tuk tuks and songtaews (little jeeps that pick people up). You have to cross the moat by scooching into the right (ie fast) lane and then whizzing over intermittent bridges over the moat and directly into the oncoming fast lane. Then you do a left off the dual carriageway. Not easy at all. But so far so good!

Oh and traffic lights? What traffic lights? Whole families on scooters just nip across where there’s a gap in the traffic. They seem very adept at it and car drivers are very accommodating of all these two wheelers everywhere. I just pootle along sitting very upright on my squeaky Raleigh, map close at hand in my basket. Even the old blokes cycling rickshaws manage to overtake me. Their calf muscles are a sight to behold.

There’s cobblers (complete with sewing machines) sitting on the pavement and I pass street food stalls selling all sorts of weird and wonderful things. You can buy a bag of fruit for 12 Baht (22p) so I sometimes stop at her stall or there’s always the Thai favourite: 7 Eleven. It beats the District Line, that’s for sure.

Today at school we focused on The Face. All of us took turns to run fingers over temples, rotate thumbs on closed eyelids, stick fingers in ears, do ‘the hair shampoo’ and hold chins. You should have seen us afterwards – hair sticking out at right angles, looking totally spaced out. Bliss.

We’ve now learnt all the moves for a basic Thai massage and now we just have to remember them. We’ll spend tomorrow and Thursday practicing and then we’ll be tested on Friday.

There’s so much to remember – not only the strict order of the body parts, but what things you do to them, how you get the person into the position and just as hard is remembering how you’re meant to be positioned.

And I’m teaching yoga there! There’s a free class taught by one of the tutors and he’s asked me to teach. I haven’t taught for months and it’s so nice to start sharing Michel and Roslyn’s knowledge.

In the evening, some of us may meet up, or we do our own thing. Tonight I went to a local place for a quick plate of rice and veg and I was the only Westerner in there. I spoke to my Mum on Skype and did some dull admin.

But I like that. I like the sense of routine and we’re all creatures of habit. On Sunday, I rode an elephant, went bamboo rafting and did a walk to some hilltribe villages. So there you go. It’s all about balance.


Massage school

I have survived the first week of my Thai massage course. It’s been intense – 9am – 4pm every day with an hour for lunch. There’s eight of us students and we’re taught by Dot Po. Think small and quirky Thai lady in her late 40’s (or early 50’s). She talks slowly and quietly and says things like, “if patient has belly like mountain…” and, “you have beautiful hair but it messy”. When we come back from lunch we find her curled up asleep in the middle of the room – it’s not surprising seeing as she spends her evenings studying for a degree in Thai medicine.

Yesterday she told us that she used to be a Thai dancer. It took no encouragement for her to be up, curling her hands and fluttering her eyelashes whilst singing a funny little song about the energy lines.

I feel like I’ve been pulled in all directions this week and that’s probably because I have. We watch her expertly massage one of us and she talks us through it. We frantically scribble notes and then have a go on each other. “Na-ah-ah-ah!” Dot attempts to shout across the room “What are you doing to her?!”

We have to commit to memory a sequence for the whole body and we’ll be examined next Friday. It’ll take about two and a half hours to perform the entire thing. It’s going to take a small miracle for me to pull this off.

In the meantime, here’s a clip of Dot performing ‘the pike’ on yours truly.

Chiang Mai massage: An eye-opener

I have just had the most amazing massage. Let me tell you about it.

At today’s lunch break of my thai massage course (day two), three of us went to the local cafe on the corner. It was hard work explaining that I didn’t want anything with meat but I was happy when my food arrived. This was an improvement on yesterday when I chose fried rice and kale only to be confronted with a load of pork. Some explaining was required.

Anyway, so we joined Horacio, a Spanish guy who’s also at Sunshine Massage School but is a week ahead of us. He said that they’d been told that they had to get as many massages as possible whilst in Chiang Mai and next on his list was a massage at the School for the Blind. “I’ll have some of that!” I thought.

And so after class finished at 4pm and some Googling later, I was in the back of a tuk tuk heading for a dark street within the old city walls. The driver pointed me towards a white backlit sign and zipped off into the humid night.

A gecko darted across the sign and, as I approached, a lady sitting behind a desk greeted me. “You want massaaaaage?” I chose a standard hour’s Thai massage and I paid the astoundingly small amount of 180 baht (about £3.60).

She led me into a back room with about eight beds lined up. Four were taken with Thai people receiving massages. The masseurs and masseuses skillfully moved around the bodies and the customers were like zombies – dead weights being pulled and stretched in every direction.

The lady pointed to a bed and I was introduced to my masseur – a young guy of probably no more than 20, wearing an earpiece that I guessed went to a mobile phone in his pocket. I’d already said to the woman that I wanted a soft massage as I’d read online that they were known for their needlepoint accuracy and deft touch.

I was pleased I piped up as I dread to think what a hard massage from this guy would be like. But, boy, he was good. We’ve been learning so far on the course about massaging the legs – working with the flows of energy or ‘sen lines’ and you massage along these to remove blockages. Yesterday I was struggling to locate sen line 1 and 2 on Alan, a 6ft 3in muscley American guy. This masseur could have found them a mile away.

He worked around my body using his palms and thumbs and released knot after knot. At times he was standing on the floor and then he would clamber up so he was kneeling on the bed next to me. The fact that he couldn’t see made me feel more able to obviously watch his technique.

The guy on the bed next to me was dying. The woman working on him seemed to be performing some kind of magic fast-fingered combination on his knees which made him cry out in agony. He resorted to stuffing a towel in his mouth to stifle his groans and when he saw me looking at him, he pulled the curtain in front of his face. I’ve always been told not to stare. I never learn.

An hour later and my masseur’s speaking clock told me it was over. I thanked him and walked out. I stopped to talk to the lady on the door and asked where was good to eat nearby. She suggested a place down the dark, silent road and I set out with trepidation. I’m now sitting in what can only be described as a goldmine. It’s a place called Huen Phen and I’m surrounded by beaten up Buddha statues, treadles from old Singer sewing machines, pot plants and wooden Chinese dragons. There’s old french posters on the walls and Nina Simone playing. It’s like sitting eating in an ethnic antique shop in Camden Market. There’s also printed articles on show from when it’s been featured in Conde Nast Traveller magazine and some Japanese magazines too.

I was brave an ordered papaya salad with local crab. I think it was a step too far. The crab was chopped up and its tiny pincers clawed at my papaya. With tea, It came to less than £2. Anyway, good to try these things!

I guess that’s the case with my entire evening – you’ve got to give everything a go or you’ll never know.

So far I really like Chiang Mai. If only it wasn’t quite so steamy hot…

Goodbye Thailand’s islands

As I write this I’m on the upper berth of a clattery night train heading out of Bangkok to Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand. There’s a Chinese couple on the bunks below and we’re desperate for the sheets and blankets to be given out as the air conditioning is so fierce. Around us, I can hear various languages being spoken – Thai, Chinese and the unmistakable drawl of Australian English. And now a knowledgeable Yank has piped up: ” I rode these trains before and they don’t know how to turn the air-con off. Like, at all.”

This marks the end of over two months loving the islands and beaches of Thailand. Today I said goodbye to my sister on Koh Samui. We’ve had over two weeks sunning ourselves up the east coast of Koh Phang An.

In my previous blog post, I talked about our experience at The Sanctuary and from there we travelled on this little almost dead ferry up to Thong Nai Pan Noi. It sputtered up onto the beach and we stayed in some bungalows next to what Tripadvisor calls the number one choice of accommodation on the island. We learnt that no beach looks nice in the rain, but it can look a bit better when you’re sipping a sneaky smoothie at the Anantara. Boutique chic eat your heart out. Each seafront villa had its own plunge pool… and intercom. The area in between the villas was so beautifully landscaped – think foot bridges, palms and koi carp. Yes, we had a good old nose about. My sister could review hotels for a living.

Then the sun came out and we felt compelled to stay for almost a week.

I also managed to secure my first bit of freelance yoga writing work so I’ve been spending time typing away whilst looking at beautiful turquoise sea. Much better than a desk in Whitehall.

We risked life and limb by getting back on the almost dead ferry to travel back down to the southern tip of the island, just close to the place famed for full moon parties – Had Rin. Thankfully we missed the party but I’ve still managed to see enough neon to last a life time. T-shirts, sunglasses, shorts, even a sign on our bungalow door saying ‘if floresant paint on sheet pay 600 baht’.

We stayed in a rickety bungalow perched precariously on the side of rocks overlooking crashing waves and, in the distance, Koh Samui. It felt like the end of the world.

And then onto Koh Samui for one night. On the island I pointed out every sight that was ever-so-slightly related to my teacher training:

“We ate on this beach one night!”
“We set off lanterns from right here!”
“I bought your ripped-off Muppets DVD from this stall!”

I would like to formally take this moment to apologise to Katharine for being a yoga teacher training bore. She was very understanding and made all the right noises.

I was sad to say goodbye to Kaths. We travel well together. I’d get up early to do my yoga practice and then we’d see each other at breakfast. We’re both very happy to spend time sitting relaxing although I’m much more of a shade-seeker than her. We’d have a dip in the sea, then lie to dry off. It’s a tough life. She’s off home to London in two days’ time but I’ll be seeing her and the parents in Kerala in November.

Anyway, I’m on my way to Chiang Mai in order to do a two-week Thai massage course. I’m intrigued and I’ll let you know how I get on.

Oh and we now have blankets! And I’ve had the opportunity to remember how challenging it is to use a squat toilet on a moving train! Night night sleep tight.

Clackety clack… clackety clack… clackety clack…

Creatures seeking Sanctuary: part two

To give you an update, yesterday my sister Katharine and I left The Sanctuary. I can see how easy it could be to stay there indefinitely but Katharine rightly said it was time to see more of Thailand. The Sanctuary is wonderful – there’s interesting people, the place has a bay to itself, the food is amazing and the staff bend over backwards for you (and they’re not the yogis). It brilliantly caters for people who are interested in detoxing, alternative therapies, yoga and spa treatments. It also could be a great place to get material for some new-age sketch show or parody. I heard both these comments on day one:

“Do you actually like the taste of wheatgrass?”
“My dream is to set up a commune. Wouldn’t that be the coolest thing ever?”

One girl had a daily ritual of topless hula-hooping on the beach whilst doing a great impersonation of whalesong. Another seemed to ethereally float around the place and, instead of saying hello, she’d serenely smile and slowly close and open her eyes and glide on by.

One morning she tried to separate two cats who were fighting outside her bungalow and they turned on her. She was covered in bruises and bloody scratches. This prompted a debate about whether she should jump in a boat and go to nearby Had Rin for a tetanus jab. Katharine, with her obscure medical knowledge, shared how if you contract tetanus your entire body seizes up – hence it also being known as ‘lock jaw’ disease.

The girl decided not to get the jab as she didn’t like the thought of anything unnatural in her body. She saw the cuts as a physical manifestation of the inner torment she’d been feeling over the previous few days. As you do.

At The Sanctuary there were also many women who wouldn’t have looked out of place in Primrose Hill or Chelsea. They had that hippy-chic-effortlessly-cool-yet-bohemian-yoga look. Some of us can only dream of looking that amazing in a mosquito-infested jungle doing yoga in humidity that leaves you a gorgeous shade of beetroot.

Katharine and I discussed the need to invent a word to describe this phenomenon. “We need to smoosh the words ‘yoga’ and ‘glamorous’,” said Kaths. She then had the brainwave of ‘glamoga’. I took it one step further and ‘yo-glam’ was born.

As an adjective: “she’s very yo-glam”
As a noun: “there’s loads of yo-glams here”

Feel free to incorporate as you see fit. I believe that if a word is used in common parlance by many people for a few years (note my use of specific details) it’ll enter the Oxford English Dictionary. Let’s make it happen people.

We left The Sanctuary yesterday on a dinky ferry for Thong Nai Pan Yai further up the coast. Kaths said goodbye to one guy who looked like Robinson Crusoe. Peeking out of the top of his ever-present drawstring bag was a bamboo flute. I never found out whether he could play it. “Where are you heading next?” Kaths asked him. “Erm well, I think it’s more important to live in the present moment. I’ll let the universe decide,” came his reply.

I love The Sanctuary.

Read my previous post about The Sanctuary from when I was there before my training course.

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.