Confession time. What happened to my intention to maintain my yoga practice during my trip to Thailand? Well the truth is that things went rather pear-shaped on that front.
Everything started off OK. I arrived in Chiang Mai and there was room to lay out my mat in my room. I did a half Ashtanga primary series practice on the first day, and a virtually complete practice on the second day. So far so good. Except that anyone who knows primary series will know that it is pretty tough on the hamstrings. No problem: I was expecting to be a bit sore after not practising for a while.
Then I started studying massage with Ajahn Pichest. Within minutes of meeting me he had spotted that I’d been overdoing it. He prodded my shoulders “Terrible, terrible!” he muttered. Then he touched the back of my legs: “No Yoga!”. Later in the day he showed me some packs of Diclofenac Sodium, an anti-inflammatory, and was saying how good they were. I presumed he was saying that he found them useful himself. Only later did I realise that he was recommending that I took them for the inflammation I had caused in my own muscles.
It’s not that Pichest is anti-yoga, or anti-exercise generally. Though he does sometimes come across that way. What he is against is damaging your body and the Western goal-oriented approach to yoga poses. Where there is inflammation of muscles or tendons he proclaims “Do Thai massage? Make worse! Not possible to work on body like this.” He equally points out how it is easy to cause problems to yourself when giving Thai massage – a lesson he had to learn the hard way himself.
Anyway, that put a stop to any more yoga practice for me for the time being. Pichest did some work on my hips a few days later, particularly the tendons of the quadriceps where they cross the pelvis. Also some work to free up my neck and shoulders.
On the Sunshine Network course there was an hour yoga class each day after meditation and before breakfast taught by Christina. It was a lovely time to be practising: just as the sun rose over the hills across the valley. Christina tailored the content of the sessions to match some of the moves we would be using during that day’s massage training.
There wasn’t really space in my room in Jomtien to practice. I contented myself with a short seated sequence. Each day, however, I went to the beach and had a one hour Thai massage from San, one of the qualified and licenced masseurs. It became an essential part of my day.
So now I’m home and thinking about where to take my practice from here. The lesson from Pichest has to be: gently. Finding an edge to the poses that doesn’t trigger inflammation is key. Having said that I shall probably start with Mark’s “Ramped up Vinyassa” class at The Freestyle Yoga Project in Tunbridge Wells tomorrow.