Thursday, 14 October 2010

I am here: Here I am.

In the month of so before I discovered ashtanga yoga I was going through a rough time (lost my “dream” job, broke up with the one I thought was the one, yada yada) and some of the time I was struggling to hold it together. But without even realising what I was doing I developed a personal mantra that helped me stop from falling apart (at least in public). Many was the day I spent my journey to work on the tube repeating under my breath “I am here. I am here,” as I attempted to keep flashbacks at bay and stop tormenting myself with thoughts of happier times. It’s stood me in good stead as I remember it often now, and when an asana is challenging, or life is, I can sometimes keep connected enough to remind myself of it: I am here.  I had a moment in the early hours of this morning standing on the tarmac of Mumbai airport boarding a flight bound for Bangkok where I felt this so strongly but in a new way – as I zipped across the globe I felt almost like I was sending off a signal into the night sky, like a flashing map pin..."HERE! I’m here! But not for long...".

So for today when I say I am here, actually I am in Thailand!! Just in case I didn’t mention that I was coming here ;) (oh, I think I may have done...once or twice) the lowdown is I’m in Koh Samui for 10 days, 7 of which is going to be a retreat with authorised teacher Clayton Horton. I added on a couple of days at the beginning to allow myself to get over the LONG journey and goodness me am I glad that I did? My travels began with a 4.45am alarm call (tough even for this morning mysore person...), a 90 minute train journey across London, an easy peasy check-in, then flight #1: London > Mumbai. I had opted to fly with Indian airline Jet as I was so impressed with them on my last trip to Goa, plus the price was good, and despite the extra part of the journey the overall transit time didn’t work out that much longer than more direct options. What was lovely was getting the DELICIOUS Indian vegetarian food on really!! The 2 meals served within my flight (a rather early lunch and a “snack”) were so so good! Lunch was paneer masala with rice and something lentilly, the snack was some sort of dark green patties (spinach?) with things that looked like new potatoes but actually contained all sorts of things including corn. I have no idea what I ate, only that it was great. I had a very friendly neighbour too, a young british asian guy from up north who told me that he was going on a boys’ trip to Hong Kong to get away from the missus “who was soon to become the ex”. Anyhoo he was telling me that Mumbai is his favourite city in the world (compared to New York, London, Paris...he was obviously well travelled) describing it as like the west end of London put through an Indian washing machine. Maybe I will have to try it when I get the chance :)
The other notable things about the flight which are hilarious and happened on my last Jet flights too are that they played BAD bad piano music versions of popular songs while you take off and land (“Bright Eyes” being a prime example...) – does anyone know who Richard Clayderman is? (I'm so sure it's actually him having just looked him up on Youtube!!) And also they have all these coloured lights, it’s too funny – when I went to Goa they actually did a crazy light show as we took off, the lights are under the overhead lockers and they cycled through all the colours (to the bad piano music) – with no explanation! We were spared the light show this time, but there were some episodes of the blue cabin...and purple....where they just brought in these coloured lights for a short while. I would love to know why they do it!
The flight went quickly, I watched 2 movies: Bad Ass (not something I’d normally watch and with a very high body count, but really fun!) and Entre les Murs (English name – The Class) which was interesting too (I love French films...). Anyway despite my major paranoia that my three leg journey would be problematic, changing at Mumbai was simple, the only drawback being no ATMs between International arrivals and International transfers. Good job I had 80 leftover rupees which was enough to buy some water and the precious cardamom tea I have been craving since I discovered it at the airport in January! It’s black tea with milk (which I never normally drink) but comes out of some cruddy cappuccino type machine so is frothy, and sweet and cardamomy...yum, and a complete bargain at 20Rs.
I used the flight from Mumbai to Bangkok (4.5 hours) to listen to a couple of Kino podcasts and try to sleep. Interestingly enough one of the podcasts ties in with my “I am here” notion. It’s ostensibly about the challenges of beginning meditation, but she talks about how the practices of meditation and ashtanga is all about staying with the body, understanding that the spiritual path asks you to stay in difficult places and just sit there, which was kind of like being on a plane for me, especially when I can’t quite believe my luck that I am going on this trip. 
A crazy part of my brain kicks in and says “this seems too good to be true. But it’s happening, so what does that mean? It means something is going to go wrong. SERIOUSLY wrong...” and I spend 18 hours with a thoroughly morbid full-on death wish. But despite this feeling being pretty strong, I was able to not freak out, I felt more relaxed in my body (I can feel if I am holding tension in my hips and just let it go – but at least I am aware of it!) and alongside these fears I had some moments of complete acceptance. OK, I told myself, let’s say the plane turns into a thunderball and it’s game over – then I accept it. I found some grace to accept whatever unfolds, and although it didn’t make the fears go away (though they were soon replaced with "OMG will my luggage have made the transfer??" fears) I certainly felt better. So after listening to the podcast I popped on another which is a guided meditation, and having the a seat spare beside me I had space to cross my legs, so I could join in with the meditation. Predictably enough I kept falling asleep, and slept/meditated for a while after it finished which was great until the person behind me got out of their seat clumsily and clomped me on the head and shoulder. Bit of a shock when you are in a deeply relaxed state!

Arriving in Bangkok was strange – I was here ten years ago at the age of 22 and I’d forgotten the vibe, the signs in another script (with English when you’re lucky), the anjuli mudra given by everyone who sells you a bottle of water :) Thankfully my luggage did arrive OK (though with a hole in – and the bag is brand new! So that was something else to be paranoid about..."will the hole get bigger on the next flight? should I get it shrink-wrapped?? Or does that look a bit...well, y’know..." . But having checked in (without shrink-wrap) I made my way to the lounge for free coffee and pastries. I have to say between these flights I never felt so well fed whilst travelling, I’m not even sure how I crammed the pastries in – but they were small! After a quick internet check where I looked up BBC news to see that the miners they had begun to rescue when I left London were all now freed and I cried standing at the terminal, I decided I needed me a little yoga. My hips were so stiff and my body was just crying out to stretch. So I found a quiet corner, took off my shoes, hung out in downdog for a bit and then went into headstand. I think there were a few people around but they didn’t bother me and I didn’t bother them ;) So a bit of sirsasana, then some stretching, a bit of pigeon (OUCH my hips!!!) some very gentle baddha konasana sitting against the wall, and it was time to go check in for my last flight.
I hadn’t really meant to write a blow by blow account of my journey (how many of my posts end with a sentence beginning “I didn’t really mean to write about this...”??) So consider it a diary for my own benefit. If anyone else is reading then it’s an unexpected bonus ;) But now I’ve written too much and I haven’t even arrived yet! Time to hit fast forward...
Suffice it to say I arrived safely in Samui, so did my bag, and although I tried to fight it I slept for half of 45minute taxi journey from the airport to Yoga Thailand so I have no idea if anything looked familiar from my trip a decade ago. After checking in to my lovely room I took a shower (outdoors!! But fully private...) then climbed into bed and slept for 2 hours, cursing the AC which I couldn’t seem to switch off and actually made it rather chilly. I was awake in time to get to the 5pm restorative class conducted in the small open-fronted teaching space that faces onto the sea and my body appreciated the chance to stretch and breathe, but funnily enough the thing I enjoyed the most was the last posture:  a different version of my current nemesis! We took supta baddha konasana with arms outstretched, palms facing down, as the teacher explained that this is also known as the goddess posture and allows us to be fully connected to the earth...and laying there listening to the sound of the sea and the gentle breeze I didn’t even have to remind myself...I am here.


  1. What a WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL way to end your journey! I felt completely sucked into your travel adventure and now wishing I could hear the waves in goddess posture too.

    Enjoy your 10 days in Koh Samui, and I can't wait to live vicariously through you so you better keep writing about it! :) :) :) xxx

  2. Ahhh, just went through the journey again myself - the lounge at Bangkok airport and cute little Samui airport and the lovely rooms at YT (though my shower was indoors!)

    The aircon and fan do switch off by the way, hope you've got that figured out.

    ENJOY!! xx

  3. Hi Mel,

    Wow you made it, now you know why we raved about it, its beautiful isnt it. I had the outdoor shower as well. AC switch was by the bed.

    Love that you did yoga in the airport.

    Enjoy yourself, enjoy your practice, oh and enjoy the chocolate things from the Tuck shop :-)

  4. I figured out the aircon! I was pointing the remote control at it pressing off but nothing was happening...eventually it decided to respond :)
    No chocolate treats yet Kevin though I did have a coffee today. How do people come here and do fasting and detox, they must be crazy!!