Archives for posts with tag: Yoga

I arrived in Saigon (aka Ho Chi Minh City) on January 26, 2011. I gave myself a couple days to get up to Mui Ne and get myself settled into a home before I was due to start work on Feb. 1. I re-introduced myself to Lex (the studio owner) and he got me set up with a great room and a beater bicycle that I could use to get around which I promptly decorated with yellow plastic flowers and happy face stickers. My schedule was easy, I would be teaching one class a day, either yoga or pilates or a yoga/pilates mix and then have the rest of the day to myself, 6 days a week. I spent the remainder of my days  either relaxing on the beach or exploring surrounding areas, places like the nearest town, Phan Thiet or the sand dunes which you can slide down on plastic sheet toboggans ( a gritty, sweaty affair that is actually quite fun).

About  6 weeks into my stay I got the email I was dreading, my mom wrote to tell me the cancer was back, it was bad, and she was undergoing radiation to shrink the tumours that had moved into her spine. But she insisted she didn’t want to me to come back yet, she had support in the form of a friend who would live with her and help her as needed. So I spent my two months here but by the middle of it I was pretty restless. Mui Ne is a small town, I was ready to move on. Also I figured I would have to go home fairly soon, I wanted to be with my mom.

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Originally published on facebook –  October 28, 2010 at 3:48am ·

Hue – day 19

We tried to get up early with the idea of renting motorbikes to get to the DMZ (demilitarized zone) for the day. On the road by 9am, I’m on the back of Anders bike and he was a superstar making me feel very comfortable there. I’ve been nervous about motorbikes since a tumble I took in Greece back when I was 19. We made it out of the city easily and took a couple rest stops on the way, Saw a thermometer at some point which read 39 degrees, HOT! We needed to travel about 100km to get to the Vihn Moc tunnels, our first goal. We stopped for lunch at a small town, not even a town really, near where we thought the tunnels would be. Some roadside cafe/foo place where the specialty was Beef Pho. It took some work but we managed to get it made without beef (even though the broth was pork) I think the guy who cooked for us thought we were a little weird to not want beef though. He gave us Vietnamese tea which was excellent, very refreshing. The food was pretty tasty though my mouth felt greasy for a few hours afterward, my stomach didn’t feel great either but handled it ok. the best part was that 3 guys came in while we were eating, friends of the chef come to gawk at the crazy travelers I think. Though we couldn’t really speak with them we did manage to communicate a bit through smiles. One man showed me how he was missing the tips of all his fingers on one hand, “bomb” he told me. I said “fucking war” and he laughed like crazy agreeing with me I think. He had a tattoo on his arm of 2 doves intertwined, I touched it and told him I liked it, flashed the peace sign. Got big smiles for that. We asked for and got perfect directions for the last few km to the tunnels, with many smiles and handshakes all round we set off.

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We found the tunnels and paid the entrance fee, we were directed to an entrance but without a guide. As soon as I saw the entrance I got a feeling of dread up my spine. we went in and right away I felt really uncomfortable. It was very narrow and low and hot and I felt the weight of the earth above me keenly. I felt really jumpy and uneasy and it got hard to breathe really quickly. After about a dozen meters there were stairs carved out of the rock leading down and my brain just shut down, no way. I needed to get out, NOW. I told the boys I couldn’t do it, didn’t even wait for their response just turned around and got the hell out as fast as I could. Back outside my heart started to calm down and the air felt wonderful. I went into the museum and saw the displays of what life was like for the Vietnamese who lived and died in the tunnels during the war. There was a guest-book I read through it and the few entries that were in English praised the ingenuity, resourcefulness, courage and heart shown by the Vietnamese people. I wandered around the site outside, seeing the entrances to a few more tunnels, the trails that are dug deep and lined with concrete and quite a few bomb craters. I felt disappointed with myself for not going on in the tunnels and yet relived that I wasn’t down there at that moment. I was so surprised by the way I felt in there, I didn’t even know what to do with it, I never anticipated feeling uneasy, have never felt claustrophobic in my life and was so surprised by the reaction of my body and mind. I hope this prepared me so that when I am in Saigon I can try to go to the other tunnels that are there, they are not as good apparently, having been altered from their original form a bit but I will try anyways.

I met up with the guys after a bit and they told me about it and showed me some pictures. It was 3pm already and we had another 100km drive to get home so we got back on the bikes to get to it. We thought about making a detour to the National Cemetery on the way back to Hue but by the time we got to the turn off we could tell rain was threatening so we pressed on. About an hour outside of Hue the rain hit and it started to get dark we decided to stop for a break and pulled over at a small street cafe. A lot of these cafes are family run and it’s actually the porch in front of their house that is the cafe, that was the situation here. A woman and her young son  were there and we tried to order coffee without condensed milk, tricky. She obviously didn’t get a lot of travelers and I had to come into the kitchen with her to help her make it, I thought she had it too but she somehow snuck a bunch of sugar into the cups when I wasn’t looking. Back at the table Anders raised the question of whether the coffee was made with safe water, I figure it would be ok, Alex did too and we toasted each other and downed it, Anders soon followed suit. The sweet lady offered us some Vietnamese tea, which is really what we should have gone for in the first place, and we all heartily accepted. As we were drinking our tea her young daughter rode in on her bicycle. Soon after the little boy came up and placed a folded piece of paper in front of me on the table. I opened it and in perfect penmanship it said “Hello, what is your name?” I scrawled back in my less then perfect writing, “Laila, what is your name?” I never got a response and I didn’t get to keep the paper either. But I did get to say goodbye to the girl as we left, I shook her hand, her mothers and the little boys too, incredibly sweet.

Back on the bikes for the final stretch, we arrive at the hotel filthy,wet and sunburned, great day. After showers we got out for dinner, drinks and some pool, turns into a late night, tons of fun.

Hue to Hoi An – day 20

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Got a morning bus to Hoi An, great bus with beds side by side , nice and big and long and we all stretch out and nap most of the way. Got a great room in Hoi An, wandered a little bit in town and had dinner. At dinner we tried one of the specialties of the region, White Rose. They are kinda like Ha Gow, shrimp wrapped in white rice noodle and steamed with a dipping sauce, we all love it. We get convinced by a bar tout to try out the Sun Bar, he promises it is 100% excellent. Once we are on the motorbikes for the free ride to the bar he backpedals and says, well, maybe 99% excellent…uh oh. At the bar it’s super loud and only tourists, we stay because there is a pool table and free vodka shots, lots and lots of free vodka shots. I “discover” the “baby bucket” a mixture of vodka, coke and lemon in a jar with a lid and a straw sticking out of it. I decide it is the perfect drunks drink as it is virtually unspillable. Another late late night, I’m beginning to think that traveling with two 24 year old guys might be the death of my liver.

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Hoi An – days 21, 22, 23 & 24.

Day 21 is a bit of a write off for all of us, I try to get some shopping done but am too hungover and end up with the boys lounging in our room watching stupid movies on tv, we only venture out to eat.

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Day 22 it’s raining we go wandering through town, Anders orders 5 pairs of custom made running shoes, Alex orders 1 and I order a bunch of stuff I can’t tell you about because they are Christmas gifts. At some point Alex and I lose Anders. We look for him where we think he might be but he’s not so we decide to hang out by the river and eat some late lunch. We have Cao Lo, another specialty of the region, it’s only made here because the noodles are made with water from the Bai Lo well, located nearby. It’s noodles with herbs and veg and seafood, the sauce is superb, kinda cinnamony or something, we are not sure but ti is so good. We hang out here for quite some time, hiding from the rain and we start to drink beer (I know, me, drink beer, it really happened, 5 beers actually, a record for me). We are joined at some point by a guy I met on Cat Ba, Pawel from Poland. He joins in the beer drinking and we get hungry again so we order some White Rose and a Seafood Hot Pot for us all to share, yum. We sit and talk about everything under the sun, politics, religion, love, human nature, etc. It’s lovely. Before Alex and I know it we’ve spent 5 hours in this restaurant and figure we should go and find Anders. We pay up the bill and start to walk beside the river to go back to the hotel, we’ve gone about 3 stores down and we see Anders sitting in a restaurant. We join him for a couple beers and then Alex and I are restless, we want to go out, Anders says he’ll join us in a bit so Alex and I head back to Sun Bar. It sucks as badly as it did the other night but I chat with people anyways. We enjoy a few free shots, a couple baby buckets and some pool and then catch a motorbike taxi back to our hotel, Anders never joined us.

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Day 23 is the boys last day in Hoi An they are heading down to Nha Trang a day ahead of me, I’ll meet up with them there. The weather is still crap but we run chores picking up our custom stuff, doing a little more shopping and sitting and eating an awful lot. The boys catch a bus at 6:30pm and I take myself out for a lovely dinner where I try Vietnamese pancakes for the first time (not the last). It’s a rice flour pancake fried with shrimp and beansprouts inside. It comes served with rice paper wraps,fresh herbs and satay sauce, I ask my server how to eat it and he shows me. I cut the pancake in half, wrap it up inside the rice paper with some of the fresh herbs and then dip in the satay sauce, incredible! The pancake is rather small and I start wishing I had ordered more when mama-san comes running out of the kitchen with another pancake on her spatula, she slides it onto my plate and winks at me. after the second one I’m feeling pretty good, and then she comes out with one more, heaven, I’m stuffed silly.

Day 24 I sleep late, pick up my final items and spend a ridiculous amount of money to ship them home, must stop doing this. On the bus at 6:30pm for an overnighter to Nha Trang. Top bunk of course but at least my other pair of Havianas didn’t get stolen this time.

Nha Trang – day 25

Arriving at 6am is not nice. I shake off the hotel touts and head out to find some food before I get a hotel. That taken care of I know the area the guys are in so I find a beautiful room on the 4th floor of a building 1/2  block from the beach, I have a massive bathroom and a stunning view. Pleased. I nap for a couple hours and meetup with the boys for lunch. Anders heads off on a motorbike for the day and Alex and I laze around on the beach. In the late afternoon we go far a little walk through town. It’s actually a fairly large city, I don’t like it very much, it seems to be pretty much a party town for tourists. we discover baguette sandwich carts and fall in love with them. Alex tries 2 different carts, at one he gets the meatwich and at the second he follows my lead and gets the egg. It’s a freshly scrambled egg stuffed inside a warmed baguette with cucumber, tomato, and fresh herbs. The baguette is liberally squirted with soy sauce and chili sauce and it is delicious, I’m grinning from ear to ear eating it and Alex laughs at me a lot. Back to the beach I read a bit while Alex joins in a soccer game with some locals. It gets dark and we head back to the hotels to freshen up and meet Anders so we can go for dinner.

We pick a street stall where we can point at what we want to eat, it’s decent and super cheap. Later we head out for just a “couple” drinks and some pool as we have to be up early the next morning for the bus to Mui Ne. Of course it ends up being more then just a couple drinks and we are all happy and starving as we head back to the hotel. Luckily we stumble across another baguette stall, the boys have 2 each, I only need the one and it’s soooo tasty. We need this in Vancouver instead of greasy pizza at 3 am.

Nah Trang to Mui Ne – day 26

Up at 6:30 am for a 7:30m bus we grab a quick breakfast of (you guessed it) egg baguettes and coffee. We eat it waiting for the bus and when we get on are practically the only passengers, we commandeer a row of seats each and sleep our way through the next 5 hours to Mui Ne. We find a great hotel/bungalow. It not on the beach because those are quite expensive but it’s brand spanking new, there are still stickers on the toilet, sink and fridge. Mui Ne is really just a stretch of road about 20km long with large resorts on the beach side and smaller guest houses and restaurants on the other. Right now is just the very beginning of the busy season so it’s slow and lazy, I can see that it will be pretty busy during the high season. Kite surfing is huge here and lots of places are offering to teach it, something I will definitely NOT try when I come back (I have had a job offer).

Mui Ne – day 27 to 36

We spend the next couple days being quite lazy. There is a typhoon up north right now and the weather is rainy a lot of the time. When it’s nice we hang on the beach and when it’s not we hang in restaurants, the guys eat like it’s going out of style. We play lots of cards and read, update journals etc. I meet a guy who runs a yoga studio here and he offers me a job. The guys leave after a couple days, they are heading to Saigon briefly before moving into Cambodia because their visas are running out. I’ve had my visa renewed so figure I will hang out here for a bit. Big hugs to the boys, it’s been fun.

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I’ve been taking yoga classes and even taught one to give Lex (the boss) and idea of what I do, he likes it and renews his job offer so I figure to come back here at the end of January 2011 to stay for a minimum of 2 months, cool. I’ve meet a few great people and the weather has improved. It’s been all too easy to loose whole days here, lovely town. I’ve eaten snake (it’s rubbery and kinda tasteless, but it was a small snake so maybe the big ones are better, will give it another try for sure) I’ve drank rice wine (Vietnamese vodka) with snake blood in it. Discovered lots of good restaurants, read some books and generally had a very relaxing fun time. I’m leaving here tomorrow to go to Saigon where I will be for Halloween. A couple of the people I’ve met here are going as well and we already have a party invite, should be good, just need to find a costume now.

Originally published on facebook – May 20, 2009.
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You all want to know about the first week of yoga training so here goes…. Our first day was Sunday (a half day) we show up in the afternoon and meet our teachers. One of them I can tell right away is amazing, beautiful energy, very able, and open, the other I instantly have some reservations about but I think, maybe I’m being judgmental, give it time before forming an opinion, try to find out who she really is. Turns out a few of us ended up having difficulties with her, however we all seem to be working through them and trying to let go of any differences. The important thing is we are here to learn and part of that learning process is to deal with different personality types and to be accepting of them. She has a lot to teach us so we are trying to stay open so we can learn. Don’t want to write too much about this so I will tell you a little about what we have been up to.

During this first class we sat in a circle and introduced ourselves, our names, where we are from etc. We did our first Asana practice together and we did three “communication” exercises. In the first one we had to choose a partner, someone we had never met before, and then we had to sit in front of each other with our eyes closed and meditate on the other person, trying to feel their energy, for 5 minutes. This was pretty easy to do except most of us found that instead of trying to connect into the other person’s energy we ended up just going into ourselves. The second time we had to partner with a different person and do the same thing except this time we had to keep our eyes open, looking into the other person eyes, harder for sure. A lot of people ended up laughing, my partner and I had a small chuckle at first and then we got into it. I tried to think about sending her heart energy, I visualized it as if our two hearts were connected by a loop of firey energy and we were opening to each other. I was thinking about the idea that what you put out is what you get back , energetically, and I was trying to send out pure love. It worked, but after a while I began to feel anxious, uneasy (maybe too open to a woman who was, after all, a stranger) and started breathing quite shallowly. Involuntarily I had to break the eye connection and inhale a deep breath, my hands moved as if to pull more oxygen into my lungs. She noticed this obviously and right away I sensed her sending me calming energy. I noticed her make her eyes smaller and I thought about how I had read that to calm an aggressive or scared cat you can half close your eyes and it soothes them. It worked (I’ve always thought I was part cat) and I felt calmer and started trying to allow the connection to happen again, unfortunately our 5 minutes were up a very short time later. We talked about it a little afterwards and she told me she had felt the heart connection initially as well, and had tried to send calming energy to me when she realized that I felt anxious. Was quite beautiful really and brought me near to tears. For our last exercise we had 3 minutes with a new partner and this time one of us was to try to stay in meditation while the other did anything they could (except touch) to make the other break concentration. Being the person staying in meditation wasn’t so hard at all, it was being the other person, the person who had to be silly, that most of us found challenging (myself included for sure). We talked about our experiences at the end and then finished for the day.

Day 2, really our first full day. We started our day at 7am with a 1-1/2 hour Asana practice. Afterwards we did a little talking about what we would be covering that afternoon and our teachers told us a little about themselves and their experiences both with their personal yoga practice and with teaching. we break around 9:15am and then come back at noon for 5 more hours (this is the typical times we are in class). In the afternoon we cover various things, sometimes we break down poses to learn how to make corrections or increase sensations for our students, sometimes we cover theory like, the 8 limbs of yoga, or philosophy or anatomy (both physical and energetic, eg: chakras) as well we are expected to learn all the Sanskrit and English names of poses (tricky!).We also have to start to learn and memorize sequences of poses like the Sun Salutations.There is so much to learn it is sometimes a little scary. I am struggling with the Sanskrit, my brain just does not seem able to retain this stuff very easily, it appears that it really is harder to learn and memorize once you get older! Old dog, new tricks….. We have started trying to design our own sequences of poses, eventually this will lead to designing full classes, sometime soon we are going to actually teach parts of our sequences to the entire class, good practice for the real world. We are breaking each exercise down and learning how to make adjustments in the poses as well as moves that will help students feel the poses more deeply and bring them into better alignment. We have to learn variations and modifications on all the poses as well as which chakras are associated with them and, as well, what the benefits (physical, mental and spiritual) of each pose are. There is more, much more but I’m kinda done writing about it…lol.

I wanted to share with you about my first meditation experience, because really it was pretty darn cool! We were on a beach in the early part of our day, I made sure to separate myself from the others walking about 30 or 40 meters down the beach so I could feel space around me. We had 30 minutes. This is what I wrote in my journal immediately afterwards….

Meditation #1 – Difficult. Started cross-legged (Perfect Pose). After about 5 minutes my right hip started to really ache. I tried to bear it but only lasted another couple of minutes, then allowed myself to straighten my legs forward. Initially i tried to focus on my breath and count without thinking. (The idea is to count to 10 breaths without thinking, if you have a thought that you chase you return back to 1). I never made it past one. Sometimes I barely made it to one at all. After 5 or 10 minutes with legs extended I brought them back to perfect pose. My right hip started to ache again within minutes. I was still trying to count. I felt it wasn’t working for me, I felt myself beginning to get frustrated so I thought about trying to look at my third eye instead. Very quickly I noticed that everything was yellow. I kept focused on trying to look where my third eye would be behind my forehead and I noticed that there was a more concentrated light there, kind of like a ball. I remember thinking about the fact that the light was yellow and how that related to my golden tree of light (I won’t get into this but some of you know about it already). At some point I became aware that my hip no longer hurt and of course because I became aware of that it started to hurt again. I realized that I had the power to ignore that discomfort, so I did. I returned to the light. At some point a wave of pinkish red rose up and I immediately thought of the root chakra. Then I had a conscious thought, I wanted to work my way through the colours and up through the chakras in my body so I started to trying to see orange and pretty much failed. I guess when I started trying to control the experience I lost the connection. As I was realizing thiswhen my teacher walked by and whispered “It’s time”. So time was up. The first 15-20 minutes seemed to drag on but the last 10 went so quickly. I actually felt like I was doing something even though there was still thought. At a certain point I felt like an observer, being taken on a very cool ride.

So to add to that I’m pleased that at points I was noticing things and thinking them but wasn’t following my thoughts, I was allowing them to happen and then letting them go, this is what I have been told is “proper” meditation (and I was doing it!) thrilling! We are apparently going to do this every day, working up to 2 hours by the end of the program! I am not sure how many of these I will share, it kinda depends what comes up but I thought you might find this first one exciting, I know I did!

The other students are lovely, I relate to some more then others of course but I look forward to getting to know all of them better as this month goes by. I am glad that I have rented my own place away from everybody, it is good for me to have a place where I can be away from them sometimes as we do spend so much intense time together.

We have a lot to cover this next month (written portion – 8 quizzes, 1 midterm and a final exam, practical testing – I don’t even know), it is intimidating and I am worried about how I am going to learn it all and how this teacher is going to be. But I also know that I am going to do my very best to ace this program and to get along with this difficult person. Wish me luck! 🙂

Namaste….

P.S. It’s now our second Tuesday and the teachers are starting to split up the days a bit more, one will teach the morning and the other the afternoon. It seems to be working out quite nicely for both them and us. The “difficult” teacher is doing better this week, I think she realized that a lot of us were struggling with her personality and she seems to have toned it down in some ways. You can tell she is making an effort to be more accessible and light, so things are looking up! After my first awesome meditation I haven’t been able to get back there, kinda disappointing, I suspect I may be having problems because I now have expectations about what meditation will be like, having had such a great first time. So I’m thinking I have to learn to be more in the moment and not to expect or anticipate what might happen, I just have to let whatever will happen, happen. We are working our asses off, my wrists are in rough shape from all the poses we do. Yesterday we did an hour and a half asana practice, then we did a abs and headstand workshop and then we did 7 sun salutations A and 7 sun salutations B. Today same thing except this workshop was on arm balances. Tomorrow we have TWO, one and a half hour asana practices, an hour or so of breathing exercises another ab workshop and god knows whatever else they throw at us! I think I will be either made of steel or broken by the time this month is over!

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