Since I have restarted my yoga practice, I thought a yoga retreat would be cool. Never done one of these bad boys before. I need to better my technique. I practice mostly at home, on my own, and direction is required! So I found a yoga retreat that does my type of yoga: Ashtanga Yoga. Up in the Scottish highlands, in Argyll: The EcoYoga Centre http://www.ecoyoga.org/
Took the 930am train from Euston to Glasgow. Four and a half hours is all it takes. Amazing you can get from one end of the country to the other in such speed. First class of course! (cost £2 more than regular class…don’t ask me why).
Books for the retreat:
My yoga manual by David Swenson: essential!
The Master Cleanse book: because I am fasting in January,
The Sudoku book: because I am trying to understand the advanced techniques. X-wings, swordfishy’s and other weirdness like that.
Dust by Hugh Howey: This is the third in a trilogy, the first being the awesome book: Wool.
First reserve book, I case I finish the above: Nasher Says Relax. A Frankie Goes To Hollywood memoir. Looking forward to that. One of my favourite bands from me youth!
I am currently reading ‘Plot and Structure’; a book how to plan and plot writing a book. On the train I struggled through just 20 pages in two hours. The problem was it gave me so many ideas that my mind was twirling with ideas. Oh my! I have had a plot whizzing around my head for 4-5 weeks now. The plot for my next, my second book. Exciting eh! Fiction this time. I have actually written out the rough plot line already. I hoped the plot book would help. It did!
I’d read a paragraph but before I finished it and plot idea would fizz up to the surface and my head would flip into the clouds, plotting and scheming. After a couple of hours of this random time wasting, I though sod it: time to start getting words on paper. Page one. Line one. Let’s roll! And that’s what I did. I started my second book. Awesome! Got down 500 words. We have officially started! Chapter one has begun. Boom!
Excited! Every excited about that indeed. I have had the plot in my head for weeks now. It will not go away. It’s bursting out of me. Funny that. That was how my first book came out: bursting. Anyways, time will tell how that pans out. I do so enjoy the process of writing, especially when it’s bursting!!
Anyways; four and half hours to Glasgow. Successfully found the transfer minibus, then drove for three long boring hours up to the yoga retreat. Pissing with rain, in a minibus with tinted windows, so I couldn’t appreciate any of the awesome views. Boring and dull travel drudgery.
Arrived at the yoga centre in the pissing rain and pitchblack. Nothing to see because we are in the middle of nowhere. Not the greatest of beginnings, but dinner was delicious: Turbo-veggie heaven!
I seem to have a room directly next to an invisible and massive waterfall. The noise was terrific, but it was so dark I could not see where the rushing water was coming from. Could I get swept away? It was a surreal experience after the long boring bus ride.
Met some fellow yoga retreat bods. Everyone seems nice enough. Had a nice chat. In fact, had a whole life story chat with a nice lady I met: Alisse.
Early to bed at 1015pm. Yoga starts at 830am.
29th Dec 2013
Up at 615am. Brush teeth. Foot massage with golf ball. Arm stretches done. Light fruit breakfast at 630. Shower. Need to get it down and digested prior to the yoga. Otherwise general chilling beforehand.
In preparation for the retreat my body decided to give me a stinking cold: wonderful. Luckily it’s at the back end, but still, I am coughing and spluttering, blowing bucket loads of snot outta my snozzler. It’s been getting me down, yoga may be impossible with this cold? We will find out shortly!
Yoga was ok. I took it very easy. Going at about 60pct power. Nose blown 25 times. Not ideal at all…but, and a big BUT, I did it! Phew! Money not wasted. Ego intact.
The practice was the full primary series, including all the many vinyasa’s. Hardcore but cool. I have only ever twice done the full flow. Both on my own at home, both without direction, both weak exploratory experiences. I did get up a fair sweat this time, but nothing wild. My blocked nose stopped any serious breathing. Calm Ujjayi breathing was just about possible. Anything heavy was stopped by the snot.
But, lovely work out, and a happy man I am to have made it.
Breakfast at 11am was my dream come true: awesome veggie heaven. All these funky salads. Very unbreakfast like: perfect for me.
Weather was sunny, so went for a long walk up the hill, along the roaring river. Talking of roaring rivers, yes, there is a roaring waterfall next to my room. About 50 yards away down the gorge. Beautiful. It is incredibly loud. It’s only a little river, but it has a mighty roar!
Where was I? Oh yeah, walking up the hill. Lovely walk. Met some fellow yogi’s on the way, came back about an hour and a half later. Got some lunch. Hot soup and hot tea; it is after-all winter in Scotland. Unfortunately my body did not like this. Did not like my cold, then the full-on almost two hours of yoga, followed by a long beautiful, but tiring walk. The hot soup and tea overheated me and heart kicked off into that horrid racing heart $hit. Very un-cool. Very un-pleasant. Odd though, and I notice this every time it happens: everything else in my body seems to work fine: just the heart racing. And it’s always after I over-exert myself. Always when I am too hot.
Sat outside drinking water in the cold fresh mountain air. Drank 2 pints of cold water. After about 45-60 minutes i had cooled down internally and heart returned to normal. Phew!
That kinda pissed me off for the rest of the day. Dinner was wonderful, amazing veggie heaven again, but I was distracted and disappointed. There is always something wrong. Always something fucking things over. I didn’t fancy small talk, so I left dinner early and chilled in my room. Put some heavy chillout-meditation music on and continued writing my as yet un-named book. That was wonderful. I do so enjoy writing. It’s a wonderful feeling, letting the words rip and surge out of my mind. It is like a dam has been breached: once unleashed the words will not stop coming.
No idea if it’s any good, but that’s not the point. The point is the words are flowing, and flowing is fine. I wonder what will happen this time? With this book? Who will I get to help me? Aine? Pat? Kate? Will it be any good? Will I try and get it published? How long will it take? Will I give up after a while? Who knows?
I don’t like to pressure myself. There is no goal. I am not jacking the job to write full time. This is a hobby. Lets just see what happens, see what people think. I will get things moving early this time. I will find advise/help sooner rather than later.
I am fasting in January: that will sort out the weird heart thang. That’s the plan anyways.
430pm was time for more yoga. This time yoga theory. Nick the boss man went through Surya Namaskara A in minute detail…and corrected loads of all our mistakes. I learnt a lot, especially about hand and arm placement in downward dog. Rotating the elbows and what that does to the palms. Amazing what such minor changes do. Very happy I came here.
30th December 2013
Losing track of the days out here in yogi-land.
Still have a cold, but less snot.
It is beautiful up here. When the sun comes out, which it does a couple of times a day, then it’s stunning. View is across to the loch: very and totally Scotland. Bleak in the winter, but beautiful. Makes me feel like going commando and wearing a kilt! In fact, I have schemed up with one of the lads to nip into town and get a wee drab of whiskey for the New Year celebrations: Nice! There is a plan for a midnight dip in the hottub with a bottle of bubbly too. Sounds like a good plan in theory, but I am unlikely to last until midnight. The yoga is full-on and I need and want my beauty sleep.
Yoga this morning? I wonder whats gonna happen today!
We did the same as yesterday: the full primary series. That’s 63 different postures, all linked together with vinyasa’s, plus a load of sun salutations! This time I did not stop at the Boat. This time I went all the way to the end! Awesome! Lovely. Really lovely to do that. I was hot, sweaty and happy. Got a good sweat on. Not the sweatiest sweat, but a respectable amount of wetness to my shirt afterwards. I did manage more of the vinyasa’s too. Not everyone, but I put in a decent amount. I was pretty proud at the end. That was a respectable and good work out. I checked my hands on downward dog, remembering yesterday’s lesson with Nick. Lifted my knee caps occasionally too. The practice was much faster than I am used to on my own. Meri was leading the show again today.
Two hours yoga! That’s full-on where I come from!
Afterwards I had a chat with Derrick in the chillout/tea room.
“Did you get into full lotus!?” he asked excitedly.
“Hi mate, err no. Didn’t even think about it to be honest. I can’t do it, so I didn’t try.”
Then he sat on the floor and showed me how he did his first full lotus the day before. I had chatted to him yesterday bcoz I’d noticed and commented on his really cool full lotus, in full lifty up mode. I thought it only polite, so I sat down with him, in the chillout room, in front of the fire, in front of a load of other people and I attempted full lotus too. And whatdoya know: Boom! Full lotus achieved! Nice! That’s how I roll! You can call me Yogi!
Amazing. Really happy with my first full lotus. Second foot just popped over and got into the mostly right position. Even did the lifty up thing too. That’s a pretty cool fun. I guess the reason it worked now, was because:
1) I’m away at a yoga retreat,
2) I had just had a two hour sweaty yoga session,
3) I have been doing these foot stretching exercises with a golf ball twice a day for the last 3 weeks. 2 minutes each side: opens up the ‘plantar fascia ligaments’. As recommended by Katie my osteopath.
4) Because I tried.
Full lotus only took me 12 years to achieve! Wow! Thats deep man! It’s been a journey: no doubt about that!
The 430pm afternoon yoga theory was good again. We did all these special moves to prepare for the full lotus. I even managed to kiss my own foot. Only the left foot. Right didn’t reach. But, I can officially kiss my own feet now. Next up: kissing my own arse!
Did the hot tub and did two semi plunges in the cold tub: Mental!
Heart was fine. I made sure I did not overheat today. Drank plenty of water. Took fresh air. Even managed a 15 minute breathing meditation of the bench next to the chillout room.
Veggie tagine for dinner: amazing. Food is quality here.
Had a good chin wag with a couple of the girls at dinner. We were the last to leave the table at 815pm. Everyone is knackered and going to bed really early. Me included. It’s 845 now and I’ve done enough writing. Time to read in bed with a little mediation music in the background. I ache. Right between the arm and the chest. Tomorrow will be worse. That’s something to look forward toJ
Good night folks!
31st December 2013 – New Years Eve
Last day of the year. I went to sleep too early last night: I did a short 35 minute yoga nidra mediation at 9pm and went to sleep in the middle of it. That’s no big deal at all, but then awoke at 1030, 1230, 0245, 0545. Had a nightmare too. Dreamt I got scammed on my health. I was told….errrmmm. In fact, I’m just gonna forget that unpleasantness. If I don’t record it, it will fade from memory tout-suite.
Still coughing, still have a blocked nose. Bit of a headache threatening. Grumpy. Not a great start to the day. My morning routine: Pint of water. Green tea. Carrot. Orange. Pear. Shower and a shave. Neti pot. Plus 10-15 minutes fresh air to clear the old snozzler. I was contemplating skipping the yoga this morning I felt in such a funk.
Eight thirty and everyone seemed in the same mood: the practice area was silent as a ghost as we sat waiting to start. Day three: same as yesterday: full primary series to be done. Vinyasa’s galore. They actually do them after every posture, including in-between the left and right side of each asana. Wild & full-on! Vinyasa’s are the linking moves between each posture. Lots of upward and downward dogs. Really strengthening, really knackering!
I started slow because of the funk, but the nose cleared after a couple of snorts into my tissues…and once my nose cleared, the full ujjayi breath kicked in just perfectly and just fine. And I had a hard but wonderful practice. Everything flowed nicely and I was really in the groove. Sweat flowed pretty good too. Had a little sore throat coming on, so I backed off a little, but a fabulous practice. I did the full flow, including all the vinyasa’s in-between each pose, except not the middle of the left/right pose ones. I have never done the middle ones, instead I just did a little lift-up-the-bum-thang.
Got into some slightly more advanced positions because everything was flowing so well. Nick and Meri noticed I was on full-steam-ahead-mode and gave me a boat-load of adjustments and help. Lovely headstand at the end: nice and long. My favourite position by a mile!!! Also did the lifty-up thing in full lotus at the end. One sec, that’s called ….Tolasana. Nice! It wasn’t the most comfortable thing to do with my legs and feet, all tangled up like that, but it’s a start. Did the full 10 breaths. Or I should say, I did the full 10 breathes that Meri counted out in double quick time. Interestingly she speeds up the count for the tricky positions!!
I guess that is probably the longest, deepest Ashtanga practice I have done. I have done better ones, back when I first started and things got very funky, but I have not done the full flow like that. The one’s I did at Hamish’s place in 2003-4-ish would have been better, but they would only have lasted one hour. Not almost two hours like this morning. Phew! I feel tired just thinking about it!
After that, more fresh air to cool down. Nice chat with Nick’s wife and then breakfast. Again the food was amazing. They have gone to great effort to make the food so good. Very impressive. I would call it ‘living the dream’.
After breakfast we had a tour with Nick down to his power-station. Yes, he has his own power-station. Yes. A power-station. Now that’s what I call cool, funky and dedicated. Water is taken from the small river about a mile up-steam. It comes down in a meter-wide pipe under the road and into a real concrete power-station house thing. Big turbine generates the energy. All very modern, cool and efficient. Not something bought off ebay for two bob! This is the real deal. 10 pct is used for all the Ecoyoga centre’s energy needs. The remaining 90pct is sold into the Scottish grid. The power station cost £1.2million pounds and is funded, via a bank loan. The bank loan is completely covered by the money he gets back from the grid for selling them the energy. So…all the power we use is taken from just one mile of a little river, and the rest of the energy remaining pays off the loan that was need to take out to build the thing in the first place. Fantastic! Wonderful! And I have to say I am mighty impressed. Took a lot of time and effort to sort everything out…but the result is awesome. Off-grid and self-energy-suffient. Impressive.
Next I had a bath. A different kinda bath. The best bath in the world. Al-fresco, naked, down the gorge, beside a roaring waterfall, piping hot water, generated from the river, from the power station, that cost nothing, birds singing, steaming rising, spray spraying and to top it all: the sun came out and shone through the bare trees onto my bare body. Amazing. Truly an amazing experience. Had the bath full to the brim, then topped up when it got cold. Was in there for a good 45 minutes: heavenly. I need to pop down again some time and take a few pic’s because that was a spectacular experience. One I will remember for a long while.
In the afternoon theory session I learn how to do Bhgujaoidasana. That’s the ‘arm pressure posture’. That’s when u sit your bum over you arms, hands flat on the floor and you sit your hamstrings on your elbows. Or something like that. I balanced and lifted both feet off the floor, so just balancing my whole body on my hands. I also got a round of applause for my efforts. Cool!
Dinner was again awesome. We all had some bubbly too! Nick made a lovely bonfire. It was very wet indeed, petrol did little, but a whole vat of cooking oil really got things going. Wonderful stuff. Face all rosy from the heat.
Next in the days events was New Years Eve in the hot-tub, drinking whiskey with four women! LOL! Yoga retreats! Lovely. Lovely. Lovely. I did not stay up though. By 1020pm I was done for, so retreated to my room. No way will I make to midnight. I am happily light headed as I type this.
Pretty cool last day of the yearJ
1st Jan 2014 – Happy New Year!
Another day, another year. My oh my, how the years fly by! And another good practice in the morning session. Since my ujjayi breath has come on strong with my cold receding my practices are getting deeper and better. Nick and Meri keep adjusting me and I found space! Space out of nowhere! Meri adjusted me in one of the seated twists. Holy cow! I have gained a whole extra foot in twist. With her gentle assistance I gained massive space and swung right round. It was as if a door had been un-jammed and swung open. I felt free and airy as I twisted through to face behind me. Absolutely wonderful. Very liberating too. Amazing to feel my body open up so.
Again I did the full primary flow, with only a couple of missed postures due to blown noses. It was nice to have a break, to catch my breath. When I break for 30 seconds, the next set of asana’s are easier and freer and smother.
Breakfast was again amazing, then I headed out for another al-fresco bath. This time I hit the top deck. A different experience, not quite as exciting as the lower waterfall session, but still: al-fresco, naked bathing, in the Scottish hills, in mid winter, and in the rain too!
I filled that bath up to the brim and had a good 45 minutes soaking in this super-long, fully reclined and stretched out bath. After the water cooled, I did as Nicks wife had instructed: top-up with hot and stay even longerJ Remembered by iPhone and got a lovely little video too. At the end I heard bagpipes! Wonderful! I could tell it was the real deal as when a song finished, the bagpipes kinda fizzle out like an out of tune wet fart! Brilliant!
I have to say: that was fabulous experience. One I think I will find very difficult to repeat that kinda of al-fresco bathing experience.
The afternoon yoga theory session was deep and funky today. Nick spent almost an hour speaking about “Omm”. About finding the odd nothingness in-between breaths and at the end of the Omm. Deeply freaky indeed, but I am familiar with this mysteriousness as I have experienced some of this weird-world of energy in my previous travels. Nice to know I am not alone with these thoughts! I didn’t expect to actually glimpse it so soon, but I did the very next day. More later!!
Curry for dinner, I had thirds! Last day tomorrow and we leave at 1030am, so an early 7am yoga is scheduled in the morning. Means an early night tonight, so decided to have an early whiskey with dinner!
Lots of chats at dinner, especially with Nick’s wife Rachel. Comparing gardens and I felt quite the green finger gardener as I showed off my veggie plot pics off my phone.
Next we retired to the hot tub! Last night was so much fun, and everyone was getting on like a house on fire, so we hot tubbed again. This evening we got eight in there! Plenty of room too! Some of the girls had a spare bottle of champagne so we polished that off in double quick time.
We spent a good hour and a half in there, chilling, laughing, drinking gently and having a whale of a time. The cold plunges got quite extreme. The cold plunge tub was outside and fed from the steam: totally freezing cold in the Scottish winter! Full emersion was obligatory: that’s full body and head under, followed by hollering and shouting as you leapt out and dived back into the hot tub to tingle and fizz after a full re-emersion into the baking hot tub.
I did four cold plunges, three of them with head under too!!
Wonderful evening was had by all.
We slopped off at 1010: so much for an early night!
2n Jan 2014
Last day. Last practice together.
I got up at 530am to prepare for the 7am kick off. I felt great, nose cleared of snot and full ujjayi breath in full force, so I went for it! I included all the vinyasa’s! Even the middle ones! Afterwards I counted them: There are potentially 32 vinyasa’s: I recon I did 28-29 of them!!! And I did the full flow! That was a turbo intense yogic experience! Very hot, very sweaty and even more space found as my body un-crimpled and opened up. Nick and Mari both helped adjust and open me, greatly deepening my practice. I am very impressed with both of them and feel privileged to have had them teach me. So to recap: I did 5 x Surya Namaskara A’s, 3 x Surya Namaskara B’s, 63 postures and 28 vinyasa’s! Boom!
Finishing postures done and now for the lying down chill in the savasana. I was energised after such a long, hard, wonderful workout. Nick put on a chant CD, echoing what he had talked about the night before in the theory session.
I lay down, relaxed and did a mental check and release of all the different parts of my body. Started with my toes and worked upwards: arch of my foot, ankles, calf, knees, thighs, hips, pelvis, stomach, lower, middle, upper back, ribs, fingers, palms, wrists, forearms, elbows, upper arms… all the way up to my crown. When I got to my crown, I didn’t just relax it, I opened it. When I do this I mentally open it like you would a cardboard box. Lifting one flap at a time. When I opened all four sides up, it coincided with one of the Omm’s from the CD, and deep funkiness hit me squarely between the eyes:
Ohhh yes baby! That hit the spot. That certainly hit the spot. Hit the spot in a BIG way!
Just for a few moments bliss hit. It was a long hard, sweaty, deep, opening practice and something wonderfully fun happened here. It lasted a couple of seconds, then faded a little, but came back a little less intense for a little bit more. A little bit of magic. Some spiritual moment of magic, found at the end of some space. No idea what to call it, but it was kinda like an orgasm. Kinda, but not a sexual orgasm at all; more a spiritual orgasm after the deep yogic voyage.
I was last getting up from Savasana, last off the mat, and last out the room as I struggled to come back to the real world. Spaced! Dave even asked if I was alright because I was looked totally out of it. A lovely spaced out though!
What fun eh! That’s what I love about this funky little world. So many cool experiences to be had eh!!!! Cropping up out outta nowhere too! I had a cup of tea, showered and returned to normal upon eating breakfast, but I’d had a ‘moment’ and it was a ‘moment of magic’.
What a cool way to end my five day yoga retreat!
What a cool way to start the year!
Overall the retreat was good on all levels: food was amazing, people fun and interesting, location beautiful, bathing amazing, teachers excellent and of course the personal yoga journey was inspirational. Never thought I could develop and progress my yoga so quickly. My practice is significantly better now. Never knew I had it in me!
It’s nice being back, nice to be able to do this kinda thing. 12 years I have been practicing yoga and only had the health, balls, time and energy to do this now. Next time I will drag the wife along too, she would love it just as much as me.
Have a great year everyone!
That’s all folks!