When Dennis told me he wanted to do either a yoga retreat or a meditation retreat, I wasn’t sure I was actually keen to do it. I was scared I would be surrounded by people who are experienced, who might judge me, who might be patronising and therefore it would ruin my experience.
Still, I knew Dennis really wanted to do it, so I started researching a few of the retreats around North Thailand. We found a few, but because my Rough Guide was recommending Xhale Yoga Retreat, we decided to look into it (website and Tripadvisor). Eventually, we opted for this retreat more than the others because it was longer than the other ones we found, and it had excellent reviews online.
It is with all my apprehension and expectations that we arrived on Monday the 3rd of November at the retreat, 7 kilometres from Pai. We stayed at In Pai Resort – which ironically is not in Pai.
My first thought was to be happy to see someone I had already talked to at Ellie Bum in Chiang Mai. She had mentioned at that time that she was thinking o going, and it was nice to see a ‘familiar’ face. I knew she was kind.
My second thought was about the type of people that I could see around me. Some people were yoga teachers and some people had never done yoga in their life! All of a sudden, I thought that my lack of confidence was silly and I shouldn’t judge myself straight away. It’s the first lesson amongst many that I learnt during this retreat.
In order to illustrate all the lessons I have learned, I will quote some passages of my journals, as I do believe they speak for themselves.
As I am enjoying my first lemon tea, we are all starting the first day of this yoga retreat […] The first part of the day […] is silent and I find it quite relieving.
I have decided to carry my camera today. Not because I want to take pictures off what we do, butt rather in the hope of capturing the atmosphere or the energy in some form or fashion.
[…] we did breathing practice and five minutes of meditation. I feel extremely relaxed and ready to learn more.
[…] I enjoyed discovering what my body can do. All the possibilities that I never knew were possible. It’s like discovering an other side off yourself.
[…] Maybe this i what I needed after all; to take time for myself. To contemplate, to write, to think. My life has been going so fast lately, maybe it was time for me to brake, to just be, to observe. The few years that have just passed have changed me greatly and maybe I just need to find myself again, to recall who I truly am.
[…] Today we did the Hatha Yoga which was torture for my muscles. My muscles were freezing and achy and it was hard to keep going but I did it.
[…] we did the Yin Yoga […] It hurts a lot so I can’t really say I enjoyed it on the spot, but I felt so relaxed after, that I understood why it is beneficial. […]
This is the first time I have actually managed to meditate. It was confusing at first because I didn’t know what to do. But then I followed what my meditation book says – and what Bhud said – and I just observed my thoughts, tried to understand them, acknowledge that they’re here or try to find their origin, and then I let them go and see what comes next in my mind.
Suddenly, I felt like energy was flowing through my arms and int my hands, and I just opened palms to let it go. It was such a strange feeling, stronger than anything I’ve had before. […] I managed to let the sound be a sound and to let go of everything and just follow my flow of thoughts.
[…] Strangely enough, the most powerful thing I felt was that I was finally connecting with my body. All these years I have felt like my life was just a movie and I wasn’t in control. And it seems that this meditation session has changed a lot of things. Of course it will take time and practice, but I think it will really help me in my everyday life.
[…] Truthfulness is my name during the yoga retreat. It is written on my yoga mat. It is written on my water bottle. It is written on the postcard I will receive at home.
I have always had such a weird relationship with truth, ultimate truth and being honest – not that I am dishonest, it’s just that I don’t want to hurt people, and I always think it’s my fault – that I find it quite interesting that I got this name.
Yesterday, I found the Yin Yoga easier. […] Maybe it’s because of the intense yoga sessions, maybe it’s because I’m finally letting go.
The chanting was also quite amusing and interesting. It was a beautiful moment when we all hugged each other and gave love and kindness.
[…] Today I thoroughly enjoyed the Hatha Yoga session. It was more of a work out […] My body is gonna hurt even more tomorrow but it feels really good!
Yesterday, we wet to the Lua Krathong Festival in town (candles and lanterns) and it was great. […] The hotsprings were nice, although I got really hot. I couldn’t really feel comfortable because of all the beautiful girls around […].
[…] This morning after the breathing exercises, we didn’t do the normal meditation but sound meditation. It was actually a techno track we were listening to. At first, it felt weird because I had memories of parties coming to me […] and a lot of colours. Then slowly I concentrated on my breath and tried to just get into the beat, and it started to resonate inside of me, like my whole body was in tune and the beat of the music was matching my breathing and my heartbeat.
I let myself get lost into this, observing how my body functions. It was a really soothing experience for me […].
Then we got to listen to an other track, which I found was quitte ”violent”. There were harsh sounds in it […] and all the thoughts that came to me were very negative and it was all about the relationship I have with my body and who I am and how I always judge myself and hate myself.
[…] I realised how I am always judging myself […] I should just focus on how I feel about myself. If I am comfortable in my body then so be it, and if I want to change my body then I should give it time and love and do what is needed to achieve what I want […].
[The meditation] was so strong and deep that after the Om chanting, I stayed in my meditation. I didn’t want to get out of it […].
[After the meditation] the feeling was so still so strong that I felt like crying and I needed some time by myself […].
I am very proud of myself today because I managed to do a headstand against the wall, and then I managed to do the scorpion pose. […] it was good to realise that I can do it. I just need to trust my body and let i do it, without fear.
So this is the last day off the retreat. It makes me feel sad because I wish we could have just an other day […] but at the same time it’s going to be nice for my body to finally rest.
[…] I am definitely not giving up yoga.
“Give love to yourself, it resonates” -Bhud.
So this is what I wrote, more or less, in 5 days of yoga retreat. I spared you some useless details and some personal things.
My conclusion to this post is that in less than a week, I have grown more than I have in years. At least I have grown differently.
I realised that when I teach and I can’t reach the students the way I wish I could, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I try my best, and I should be content with that, because if I am content, the kids feel how much I gave and that I am proud of my work, and therefore they might, in return, give more.
I also realised that I need to love and respect my body. I need to appreciate how beautiful my body is – whatever people think, whatever society’s standards are – and do what it takes to make it more beautiful, if I wish to and in my own terms.
I am more keen than ever to stay a vegetarian, and I am considering implementing more vegan dishes in my everyday life. I am also thinking about having soup for breakfast (it was so good). Oh, and nuts. I need more nuts in my food! Cashew nuts and all these little beauties.
Finally, I have met wonderful people who will always have a place in my heart, because what we shared really matters. What we shared changed my life. I wish these people all the happiness and love in the world.
I do believe that the yoga retreat was only a part of my life changes, hence the title: 30% complete.
Final advice, if you’re in Pai, do the Xhale Yoga Retreat. Just do it, and enjoy every moment!