Yoga in Goa (Iain)

A few years ago I visited Club La Santa in Lanzarote for a triathlon training camp. It was a week of swimming , biking and running. It was a fun week but the accommodation wasn’t great. I was one of six middle aged sweaty men packed into to a room that barely fit four.

As soon as we discovered this we requestes a room upgrade. The new room was better but not by much. I assumed this was as good as we could get.

A few days into the trip I went to visit a guy who was having a holiday nearby. He had access to five swimming pools, four restaurants which were all inclusive and the TV in his room had Sky Sports.

I asked him how much he paid for it. I was expecting it to be allot. It wasn’t. He was paying half of what I was paying.

That night I went back to my my place with its one swimming pool (which I had to book in advance to use), three restaurants which all charged money and I had no TV let alone one showing Sky Sports. For the rest of the holiday I called the resort – Prison Camp La Santa.

It’s fair to say I had trepidation about signing up for a week long yoga camp. Would it be a similar prison like experience?

This was my typical day in paradise. Which isn’t an exageration. It was quite literally where I was as the local beach was called Paradise Beach.

Which is a pretty cocky name to give it. What if there was better beach nearby? They’d think Paradise Beach had got ideas above it’s station. In Scotland we’d be too modest. The beach would be called Nae-bad Beach.

Paradise Beach

The yoga retreat was for 7 days. You can find out more details about the 2019 one here https://yogagoaindia.com/guest-yoga-retreats-in-goa/ (Look for Retreat to the Motherland with Jala Yoga)

A typical day would be

7am – Chanting
I’m not big on chanting unless its at a football match and the chant is “the ref is effin idiot”. So instead I went for a jog on the beach. Goa is very hot (35C during the day) so this is the only time a run was pleasant. I’d try to get 5k in before heading back for …

8am – Asana Practice
Most days this was a mix of ashtanga and yin. It was a good balance of poses/breathing exercises.

Ohm!

By having the same teacher each day I got familiar with her favourite yoga cues for moves. As the same cues would make daily appearances. My favourite the teacher used was:

“You are welcome to stay in this pose for as long as you like but when you’re ready…”

I wonder how long I could stay in a pose for. Would everyone have to wait for me? Maybe I could spend the whole class asleep.

After class I’d head for….

10 am – Breakfast.
Usually an Indian option and a scrambled option – eggs, chickpeas or paneer. I was happy when it was eggs. Less so when it was paneer. They also had nice rolls, and fresh fruits and salad.

The cafe area was the only place for WiFi and annoyingly it had a a limit to the number of folk who could connect. Most days I would go to breakfast hoping to check social media but end up with a “could not start networking” message. The upside of this is that i forced everyone to be social with eachby chatting about how bad the WiFi was.

WiFi is very important to Indians. One time the whole town had a power cut. There was no lights, no TV, no kitchen equipment working BUT the WiFi still worked. They kept that on a battery so it wouldn’t go out. That priorities – selfies first, self preservation second.

After breakfast I’d head to town for a swim in the sea. The sea was a 20 minute downhill walk from the Shala which meant it was a 20 minute uphill walk on the way back. This was a hard slog in the heat of the day.

There was allot of stalls on the way to the beach. As I passed the shop keepers would shout out “hello my friend. Come look. I have great pashminas/sun glasses/shoes etc” or whatever it was they thought I might need.

Strangely the one place they didn’t bother me was when selecting a seat on the Beach. In most Mediterranean countries you can barely look at a seat without someone coming over and asking 10 Euro’s for it.

1400 – Lunch
I’d head back to the shala for lunch. It was a similar selection each day . I usually got the hummus and veg wrap. To balance out the healthiness I’d eat a twix afterwards. At the start of the yoga retreat there were 7 twix’s in the local shop. By the end of the week there were none.

1600 – Workshop
At 4 o’clock there would a workshop on yoga topics ie headstands or mindfulness. They were very useful but I skipped the ones I wasn’t interested in. One day I did an ecstatic dance workshop. As an uptight British man this was a challenge. I’m still too traumatised to talk about it!

1900 – Dinner
The highlight of dinner was deserts. Sometimes they’d have home made cookies but other times they’d go to the local shop and buy chocolate bars and cut them up.

Strangely. They never once had twixs. Someone must have eaten them all.

The twix eating champion

SUP Yoga (Iain)

During the summer I tried Stand Up Paddle (SUP) Board Yoga through https://www.scotlandsup.com/

If you’re not familiar with SUP then Wikipedia describes it as:

“Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) is an offshoot of surfing that originated in Hawaii. Unlike traditional surfing where the rider sits until a wave comes, stand up paddle boarders stand on their boards and use a paddle to propel themselves through the water.”

I couldn’t find any info about who invented SUP Yoga but I’d guess they’re American and that they have an Instagram account as it’s a hobby ideally suited to warm weather and looking good in photos.

It definitely wasn’t invented by a Scotsman as my first reaction when hearing about it was – “You want to do what? Float on an ironing-board and try to do a handstand in the loch? In winter? You must be mental!”

So why do SUP Yoga? According to experts (also known as a Google search of the phrase “why do SUP Yoga?”) there are 10 reasons to try it. Google’s reasons are in bold and my response is below each one

1. SUP and yoga keeps you in the present….
It did. It kept me present fearing falling off the board into the water.

2. A greater sense of mindfulness will develop….
It did. I had to pay attention to every breath and body movement, every placement of a foot as I was mindful that any mistake would mean I would fall in the water.

3. You don’t have to be an advanced yoga student.
That’s true. I received praise for doing something I would consider easy. I was praised for standing up! The last time I got praise for standing was when I was a baby or that time I had 10 pints and fell over. “oh look – he’s standing. Well done you!”

4. Advanced students can bring another level of challenge to their yoga practice.
True – I thought I was okay at yoga but doing it on a board is so difficult my downward dog became a drowned dog.

5. The pace of your practice will slow down.
Because I was scared of falling in the water.

6. The same muscles are challenged, but in a different way.
Because you’ll say to them,  “please muscles don’t fail me and cause me to fall in the water”

7. It’s like Hot yoga but with instant refreshment.
Not in Scotland – it’s cold yoga with instant refrigeration!

8. No practice will ever be the same.
They will all be the same. I always spend my time thinking “please don’t fall in the water”.

9. A chance to experience the beauty of the outdoors.
What outdoors? I was too busy concentrating on not falling in the water that I didn’t even realize I was outside.

10. SUP and yoga is fun and challenging.
Its great fun and once I fell in I realized that falling in was actually fun too. I highly recommend people give it a try but maybe not in winter!

Aerial Yoga (Iain)

On vacation I tried aerial yoga. Which is also known as trapeze yoga, flying yoga or “OMG, I’m going to die yoga!”

It’s a modern style of yoga that incorporates a low-hanging soft fabric hammock as well as a mat. Moves are done on a combination of mat and hammock or just hammock.

download
Not me

There was only four of us in the class. My partner, who is a yoga teacher, a German girl who is a yoga teacher and the yoga teacher. I’m not a yoga teacher, I’m not even a particularly good yoga student. I realized I was more out of my depth than a dolphin summiting Mount Everest.

The teacher asked me to test the aerial hammock by sitting in it and then spinning round 360 degrees in the air so he could see if my head touched the ground as I spin past the floor. This didn’t seem the most safety conscious method of testing a hammock. It’s like testing a gun by pointing it at my head and asking if I see a bullet comes out when the trigger is pulled.

I spin 360 degrees in the hammock. My head flew past the mat. My hair nearly touched the mat. The teacher said “you need a higher hammock!”

He adjusted the height higher to remove the risk of decapitation but kept it low enough that there was still a chance of serious head trauma.

We started with some sun salutations. Some moves were done with the hammock i.e. leaning on it, or putting a leg up to it. This meant the moves were harder and more intense than a normal sun salutation.

“Good. Now you are warmed up we can start the class.” The teacher said.

I thought that was the start! I looked at the clock to see how long I had to wait until I could escape my aerial  deathtrap. Those salutations better count towards my time.

“We will do some inversions. Sit in the hammock. Put your hands like this.” He demonstrated a way to wrap the hands round the hammock. I copied him.

“Now spin round. Don’t worry, you won’t fall out”

I wasn’t worrying about falling out. I was too busy concentrating on my hands but, now that he’s mentioned falling out, that was all I can think of!

I tried to spin. I failed miserably. I can’t get my legs over my head. The instructor came over. He watched as I feebly tried to do it again. When I failed he grabbed my legs and before I could say “NO! I DON’T WANT TO DIE” he’s spun me 360 degrees!

“Excellent,” he looks pleased. “Now do it by yourself”

He went to help someone else. I tried to spin. I failed. So instead I stomped my foot loudly on the ground. He assumed the noise came from me stopping after doing a spin. “Did you succeed?”

I looked him straight in the eye and told him the truth “Yes – all the way round. I did it twice just to make sure”

“Great. Do it again so I can see.”

“Umm. I’m tired now….ummm…I’ll show you next time.”

The others stare at me knowing that I cheated.

The teacher heads back to the front of the class. “Lets do some High Intensity Interval Training….”

“Let’s not,” I think.

He demonstrated an upside down hanging in the air stomach crunch.

“Do it 20 times!!!”

I successfully crunch zero times.

Whilst hanging upside down trying to crunch I notice a man staring into the studio. I imagine he’s saying.

“Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No – its Superman….sorry. No. On second glance it’s not superman, it’s Iain. It looks like he’s hanging from the ceiling in a hammock. He doesn’t look well. His face has turned a funny color of red…”

At the end of the class the teacher asks “how are you all doing for time?” He doesn’t wait for an answer “Great. Lets continue!”

Noooooooooooooooooooo!

After another ten minutes of “flying” we get to leave. As I head my partner asks if my stomach muscles hurt after doing the HIIT crunches. I say “No – they feel fine!”

They did feel fine….until the next day when I feel like I’ve been used as a punchbag by Anthony Joshua.

Try anything once – Mysore yoga (Iain)

A wise man once said: “You should try anything once.”

What a stupid saying! There’s loads of things I shouldn’t try – not even once.

Should I poke a sleeping lion in the stomach? No, I’ve been mauled by my cat for giving him a friendly tummy rub. Imagine what the king of the jungle would do if I poked him in the guts and called him a fattyfatty bum bum.

Should I paint my body blue, stick on a white beard and demand everyone call me Papa Smurf? No – I’d look look like a fat extra from Avatar.

Should I attempt one of the hardest extreme triathlons on the planet? DOH! I entered Norseman.

So, when given the opportunity to do Mysore yoga I asked will it kill me or open me to ridicule? Thankfully, the answers were “no” and “maybe.” I was worried about the maybe…

In a standard yoga class a teacher leads the students through a sequence of moves. In Mysore a student leads themselves through a sequence at their own pace. Everyone in the class follows the same sequence but the pace may be different.

The class started at 0630 but I could join anytime up till 0700. I need as much beauty sleep as I can get. I turned up at 0659. This meant everyone else had already started.

The Mysore sequence is like building IKEA furniture. If you don’t do it in the right order then a bit won’t fit where you want no matter how far you bend it.

Now imagine building a Kvlar wardrobe but only having the picture of a wardrobe as your guide. That’s Mysore.

I knew I needed to start by standing at the top of the mat. I also knew I had to finish by lying flat but I couldn’t remember the steps in between.

I looked around the class. One woman was bent over in a position her chiropractor would call “a broken spine”. Another girl was wrapped so tightly together only a can opener was going to get her unwrapped.

I decided to do neither of those moves. I attempted a bend from the hip. No one laughed so I thought I might be onto something. I do a few more bends to waste a few minutes. The teacher comes over “what are you doing?”

“Warming up?”

She says “Let me give you a guide”.

Great! That’ll help. She hands me some pics of people in positions that would be called pornographic if there was a partner involved. She says “Just do two of these and then three of these.”

I look at the diagram. It might as well be in Hindi as I don’t understand any of it. It turns out it is in Hindi.

I do a few more hip bends. I think I might be the best hip bender in the class. In fact, I think I might be the biggest bender here. Ummm that doesn’t sound right…

She come back over. “What are you doing?”

“Still warming up?” I reply.

“No your supposed to be doing this sequence.” She demonstrates it.

“Ahhh, it’s that sequence. I understand now.” I don’t.

She leaves. I bend my hips some more. I think if there was a hip bending competition in the Olympics I’d win a gold medal.Unless there was a Russian hip bender. He’d probably cheat and I’d get silver. I’d be gutted when I hear the Russian national anthem as we stand on the medal podium. Years later it would be discovered he was cheating! He’d get disqualified. I’d be the belated champion but it wouldn’t be the same. Instead of a podium I’d get my medal through the post. Damn you, Sergei!

She interrupts my daydream, “what are you doing?”

“I’ve warmed up!” I confidently state.

She takes pity on me. “Just lie down. Do you want a blanket to keep warm?”

“No thanks, I don’t like blankets of any size,shape or texture. You you might say I have a blanket ban…”

She doesn’t laugh. It’s probably too early in the morning for chuckles.

I give it five minutes and when she’s busy adjusting/torturing another Mysore student I sneak out.

The wise man was correct to say “do anything once” but he should also have said – don’t do it twice!

End of Month Report: January (Iain)

My plan for January was:

  • Bike (on average) 75 miles a week.
  • Run (on average) 13 miles a week running including at least one 10k.
  • Do yoga at least once a week

It looks like I’ll finish the month:

  • Bike (on average) 100 miles a week.
  • Run (on average) 16 miles a week including four 10k+ runs.
  •  Most weeks I’ve managed two yoga sessions

Overall, I’m pleased with the start to the year. The weather has been unusually good which is reflected in my better than average performance. There hasn’t been a day when it’s not been possible to commute to work by bike. In previous years I’ve lost at least a week in January due to snow and ice.

My plan for February is:

  • Bike (on average) 100 miles a week.
  • Run (on average) 16 miles a week including a 10k+ run once a week.
  • Do yoga at least once a week
  • Swim twice a week.

My plan is to slowly increase bike mileage every month. I might not be so lucky with the weather in February so I’ll make the goal the same as what I achieved this month.

I’ve joined a swimming pool so I should be able to swim twice a week as its on my way to and from work. I won’t put any distance down for it as I just want to enjoy the first few weeks back.

This month training was also good for photos. Here’s a selection from my training. If you want to see more then follow me on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/imacivertodd/ 

Andrew is not on Instagram. I think he’s worried about how many likes I get in comparison to him 😉

 

 

Is Yoga is all about me? (Iain)

What do yoga instructors have for breakfast ?

Ommmmmmmmmmmmmm….lette!

“Om” is a mystical, spiritual sound often heard in yoga classes. Another sound often heard in class is a fart, but this is neither mystical or spiritual. If they were then eating beans it would be a much more enlightening experience.

I try to go to yoga once a week. I often fail. Yoga is about your own personal journey. In my case it’s a journey with many stops, detours and wrong turns.

During the class I tend not to pay too much attention to the spiritual side of yoga because I’ve got enough on my mind trying to work out where my arms and legs should be.

But I did pay attention to one statement: the teacher mentioned that one of the aims of yoga is to have an absence of Ego.

That’s a great goal!

Just one minor point – if yoga is the absence of ego why is the yoga studio named after them and why is their name in massive letters above the door?

How to get hot and sweaty! (Iain)

Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs credited his long career to afternoons getting into awkward sweaty positions. He claims he was talking about yoga but the super-injunction he raised in the High Court said it was hotel romps with Imogen Thomas.

I too would like to extend my fitness “career” as long as possible. Unfortunately. Imogen Thomas has not replied to any of my tweets, letters, or standing outside her house holding a Boombox playing the song “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”

So, instead I do yoga (occasionally)

I first tried yoga ten years ago. It was in Edinburgh and I signed up for a ten week course. The tutor handed me an A4 bit of paper on the way into the class listing all the positions I’d need. As I attempted each position she would come over and tell me I was doing it wrong. I wasn’t interested in spending 10 weeks getting told I was wrong so I never went back for the other nine lessons.

It was years later that I returned to a class. This time the tutor went through the moves at the front of the class and all I had to do was copy her. There was no A4 paper and no telling me I was wrong.

Since then I’ve tried different teachers/classes with varying levels of success.

One tutor was so hungover he did the whole class leaning on a wall and sitting on a block.

Another tutor got us all to shut our eyes at the end of the lesson and then went round massaging everyone head! At least I hope she did everyone else and not just me! On second thoughts, I also hope it was her and not some phantom head groper who saw an opportunity.

But, the strangest experience was hot yoga. A sessions runs for exactly 90 minutes and consist of a set series of 26 postures (performed twice each). It takes place in a room heated to 40C with a humidity of 40%.

It’s so hot all I needed to wear was a pair of shorts. I stripped off. At this point I got confused as I could see a fat man in the mirror looking at me but I didn’t see him when I turned around. He must have left.

A fellow middle-aged man nods in my direction. If that happened in a pub we might become “mates” or “friends” but here it feels sordid because we’re the only men in a room of scantily clad young student girls. I think I’ve just joined his “ring” and you only ever hear that phrase when men get busted by the police. A hot yoga “ring” was arrested today….

The poses start easily enough. I lie on my back and breathe. Which is so easy I could do it in my sleep. Actually that is how I sleep. As the poses get harder the sweat runs off my body like rats from a sweaty ship. It pools on the floor all around me.

Is everyone else this sweaty? The instructor says we can finish with some more lying down exercises but this time face down. I have to lie down and put my face into a pool of my own sweat. If he was an interrogator and this was a torture scenario then I would confess anything.

At the end of the class I lie in darkness and contemplate what I have just achieved. The instructor said take as long as I need. It takes me two seconds to think – if I leave now then I’ll get into the showers before anyone else. I’m away and out before you can say “Sa Ta Na Ma Shanti