There are some beautiful sunsets on this island and, if you move up to a more elevated position, your vista expands, and the sunsets are even more spectacular. This is where I found a small yoga studio; located halfway up a hill, looking out across the sea to the mainland of Thailand. How idyllic, I thought.
Don’t ask me what type of yoga it is, I don’t know. I have only dabbled in yoga in the past, a class here, a stretch there. But in a moment of enthusiasm I committed to (and paid for) a month of yoga classes. ‘They’ say the benefits of yoga are huge, especially for an inflexible, aging body like mine. And so I joined three, sometimes four, Thai ladies, where we are put through our paces by a fine-looking young Thai instructor.
We start with a short stretch and then it’s time for ‘salutations’ and we turn to face the sunset.
Oh that sunset … just gorgeous; the red-pink sky, the distant islands, the mainland a hazy purple …
“Take a big step forward.” Three dainty Thai feet step silently forward.
“KER-KLUNK!” My large foot lands with a thud on the wooden floor, the instructor’s head jerks up.
“Who made that noise?” Small smiling faces look towards me. “No noise, CONTROL YOUR CORE.” I concentrate harder.
“Look at that sunset tonight,” he says.
But it is our fifth ‘salutation’ and I can no longer see; my eyes are blurry and the sweat is pouring in great puddles onto my mat, my muscles are crying out. I DON’T MUCH CARE FOR SUNSETS RIGHT NOW!
By the tenth salutation, in a never-ending series of salutations, I HATE all dogs and their upward and downward poses.
Then we ‘hold the pose’ and I see his feet approach me from my awkward sideways angle.
“So this is how it is meant to feel,” he says as he pulls my arm straight, twists my hips around. “Now hold it here.”
“Err-aarg!” I moan.
“I know, I know it hurts. It feels just like a knife through your butt, doesn’t it?”
“AAR-GUG!” I reply.
“Good! Breathe into the pain … deep breath in.”
But I don’t have enough breath, I pant, feeling the pain spread into every musty corner of my body. Pain is everywhere, everywhere. Around me thin, lithe bodies twist and turn, stretch and hold, hardly a drop of sweat on their pretty young brows.
“Now we are going to have some fun!” come the dreaded words. For this means extreme body twisting, or balancing on two fingers, or turning upside-down, or a mixture of all three. The only memory my muscles have of ever being in a similar position, if you can call it a memory, is from the time I was in the womb.
“No Cathy, left arm around left leg, right elbow under right knee then twist it behind your back, then push down and pull up.” I look up bewildered, little laughs twitter behind tiny hands.
“Aah-huh, aah-huh! You see the blood will rush to your head – that’s why people who do yoga look so young.”
Oh yes, yes … the benefits of yoga … but all of that is just a distant memory. All I can focus on right now is balancing on a part of my body that has never been balanced on before.
“Right, now for some strength exercises – ‘burpies’.”
“Plink, plink, plink.” The Thai ladies land as softly as small birds.
“Cathy?!” The class comes to a standstill, my neighbour giggles, my face bright red.
“No sound when you jump! In yoga you keep control, at all times. Now … jump higher, reach up. This will get your pulse up.”
My pulse up? Where to? My heart is already beating in my head, my whole body is pulsating!
“And we’ll end off with some very fast (incomprehensible Indian word) breathing. Use your abdomen to push the breath out, PUSH-PUSH-PUSH.”
I don’t get this breathing business? I really don’t – the air rushes in and my head feels dizzy, but at least I know that we are coming to the end.
Oh great, he’s bringing out the ‘golden bowl’ for our ‘AAH-OOOMMMMS’. We close our eyes, sit up straight and say three ‘ooommms’ in unison and a Thai prayer. I am full of gratitude, that I made it through another session and pray that my wobbly legs will reach the car.
It’s been three-weeks; my body is sore and aching in places that I forgot were part of me somewhere in the 1970’s.
“I hope I’m going to lose some weight with all this exercise,” I say to Stefan as he rubs my back with arnica oil, brought with us all the way from South Africa.
“Oh no,” he scoffs. “If you want to lose weight you will have to do some REAL exercise.”
KOH SAMUI, THAILAND: 30-05-2015