Category Archives: yoga

Silence, Urban Vibes and Travel Deceptions

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San Cristobal de las Casas

It has been another eventful month. I finished model 2 of the spiritual path that is Hridaya yoga and afterwards I did a 10-day silent retreat, as I felt in the groove. The retreat officially confirmed to me that I am a recluse, as I loved spending my time not speaking and being internalised. It’s a bit like being stoned. I did find it a challenging experience on a different level.

Surrendering in Silence

I had moved accommodation and the new place I was staying at was extremely hot and the ceiling fan only seemed to circulate the hot air. Despite leading a terribly healthy lifestyle I was dealing with some skin issues and the combination of the heat and dermatological challenges resulted in sleepless nights. Only six weeks ago I manage just fine with little sleep being on a total roll. This time the sleep deprivation lead to an inability to go deep into meditation, which is a big part of the retreat. This I found a rather frustrating ordeal after having had a pretty solid meditation practice for more than two months. After 10 days in silence many retreat participants raved about the life-changing process they had just experienced. For me it was mainly about surrendering. A submission to the current state of the process, that might not be to one’s liking, but it is what it is. So one accepts what is, observes what is and is aware that one is not one’s experience.

Finally leaving Mazunte… or not

After the silent retreat I stayed in Mazunte for a couple of days and then I had planned to travel to San Cristobal; A colonial town, the capital of the state of Chiapas and another place labelled pueblo magico. Despite my profound experiences at the Hridaya yoga centre, I had enough of the heat, the dust and the small-town-es of Mazunte and I was dying to leave. I left the accommodation that was too hot to handle for me and went, yet again, to neighbouring beach town Zipolite. I would just chill in a hammock the whole day and catch a bus in the evening from the nearest bus terminal in Pochutla. However, when I arrived at the bus terminal after a 40-minute taxi ride, there were no more tickets left for the night bus to San Cristobal and I was forced to spend yet another night and day at the Oaxacan cost. The next night was the night that I boarded a bus to San Cristobal de las Casas for considerably milder weather and urban vibes.

Urban living in San Cristobal

I planned to do some hiking and other day trips from San Cristobal, but for the week I was there I made the city my home. I did yoga on the roof terrace of the hostel I stayed at and worked from my laptop in funky cafés enjoying absolutely delicious, yet overpriced, hot chocolate and other treats like cocadas, which are coconut sweets, and to-die-for passion fruit macaroons. It was pleasant spring weather during the day and slightly colder in the evening. After five days of sunny weather, the sky became overcast and the rainy days had come to town, which was a sign for me to leave and I embarked on the monster journey to Tulum at the Caribbean coast.

Hot faux- hippy farts in Tulum

Tulum, another pueblo magico, has – or rather; had- this legendary reputation of a laid-back hippy mecca and I planned to stay a considerable amount of time before leaving the country to my next destination. Tulum is known for its Maya ruins and its clear-blue coloured ocean. Right at the beach you can find the expensive resorts and condos, while lesser mortals can be found in Tulum town, an urban development about three kilometres inland on both sides of the motorway, that leads to Cancun travelling northbound. I stayed in a lovely hostel very close to the bus terminal, as accommodation at the beach cost a mint. The hostel, the ruins and meeting up with resident Alberto, who I got to know in Mazunte, where he worked in the kitchen at Hridaya as a karma yogi, was what I liked about Tulum. Besides that I find the place overpriced and highly overrated. I imagine Tulum to have been that bohemian paradise 20- or perhaps even 10- years or so ago. I’m sure it’s still a paradise for bohos with very fat wallets, but the more it is about the moolah, the less boho it gets. Tulum is not a pretty or scenic town and the road to the beach is one straight, busy and boring stretch and it takes you at least 20 minutes by bike to hit the beach. When I was in Tulum, that beach was either sandy and covered in seaweed or rocky and sharp for you to injure your feet and other body parts. I was seriously underwhelmed and went immediately in search of some beach paradise considerably less pretentious and far more affordable. So after five- rather than fourteen- days, off I went.

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Tulum as in the brochure

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‘Accidental’ Search for Enlightenment (Without Drugs)

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Hridaya logo

 

A bit more than two years ago I went in search of enlightenment in the jungles of Peru by means of ayahuasca. I didn’t quite meet the divine as expected, but an insightful experience it was nevertheless. Five weeks ago I came to Mazunte, a neighbouring village of beach-bum town Zipolite, in total lazy-arse mood very much ready to get into some yoga action. That ‘action’ was of quite a different nature than expected, yet profound nevertheless.

 

A spiritual practice from the heart

Back in February of this year I booked myself an intensive 24-day yoga course as part of my location- independent Latina Dark Fairy Ball. I expected to do some thorough exercise and learn some yoga theory alongside it. As I said, that is not at all what happened. The school I am (still) attending teaches and practices what I call ‘extreme hatha yoga’. Extreme in the sense that it is not about the movement. To the contrary; one is aiming to keep the pose for as long as possible while maintaining stillness, as if the pose is meditation. The school is called Hridaya, which means heart in Sanskrit and is, as you can guess, very heart-centred. Hridaya teachings aim to fulfill Self- realisation, with capital S, or union with the Divine, using the heart-centre, located in the middle of the chest one-finger-width to the right, as a portal or trigger. In Hridaya yoga one practices self-enquiry, which entails always genuinely asking the question: who am I? I am not the body, I am not my thoughts or feelings, I am not my experiences, so; who am I? The objective is to truly experience the Self or Divine, rather than ‘just’ knowing about it on an intellectual level. Although I aimed to stay open-minded and especially open-hearted, I did experience some resistance, especially in the first week. Resistance against the ‘lack of’ movement and resistance to such an open-hearted vibe. All the teachers had this faint smile on their faces constantly emitting love, which is not quite the experience in the ‘outside world’. I had a room to myself on site and throughout my stay I felt considerable resistance against the dustiness and the creepy-crawlies in my room. I am by no means squeamish, but when it comes to super-sized cockroaches, scorpions the size of two-fingers and decaying lizards falling from the roof onto the bedside table, there is only so much I can take.  Despite the resistance I stuck with it and was treated to some very valuable tools and ways, to maintain a holistic and profound spiritual practice and be a better and more fabulous person in the process.

On the Path towards the Divine Self

Besides hatha yoga classes, we had lectures, did a lot of meditation and were fed a strictly vegan diet. The diet, meditation and hatha yoga practice, which can be considered a meditation, had a very clear and strong effect on me right from the start. I’ve always been a person who loves to sleep and needs her eight hours. Whether I got it or not, I was always up for a nap. I didn’t sleep well at all in my room at the centre throughout the course. Not only didn’t I feel entirely comfortable, I also felt terribly wired. With the exception of a couple of nights I didn’t sleep more than four or five hours a night and the most extraordinary thing to me was, that I didn’t feel tired during the day and I didn’t feel like napping. Since my early teens I have always had issues with my reproductive organs and these issues have given me great discomfort off and on in the last six years or so. When I travelled through South America a bit more than two years ago, my symptoms diminished significantly and since I have been in Mazunte they have been non-existent. As the aim is to cultivate a sense of detachment from your body, personal, story, your thoughts; all that, that could be considered the ego, as that is not what we are really are, it becomes easier to place certain experiences and mental and psychological issues into perspective.

It’s All About the Community

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Yogic Paradise: view on central plaza at Hridaya

I was lucky to be a part of a fabulous group of people from all over the world in all shades, sizes and ages and all with wonderful hearts and great stories to share. You might guess that the hippiness level was high, yet it weren’t only hippies attending, but people with an interest in yoga and spirituality. It’s a true blessing to gain profound insights in a truly kind, warm and welcoming environment. To me this form of yogic spiritual practice is ‘just’ a form of mysticism; how to experience the divine directly without priests, a ‘holy’ book or any dogmas. I’ve might just become a Self-chaser and a follower of the mystic path.

imagery: Hridaya yoga

 

Sail & Discover in Warriors One Two and Three

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Fire, Water and the Cross By Paul K Porter #paulkporterphotography

A couple of weeks ago I did something rather impulsive. I don’t consider myself an impulsive person, but when it comes to travel and adventure I’m keen to take on pretty much anything you throw at me, even- or especially- when it’s planned as a last minute experience. The yoga studio I train at in my overpriced and overrated neighbourhood full of foreigners, of whom many call themselves ‘expat’ – and if you want to know what I think of those, please check earlier posts on my life at the African Med- had organised a yoga- sailing retreat around the Maltese isles. As I am considered a loyal customer- and if you like yoga and know what hot yoga exercise costs in London Town compared to this island, you would be too, I was invited to join the enterprise at last minute for a very friendly price. My corporate jailers looked upon me favourable and I was released for a week to go on a yoga- sailing adventure. There were a few firsts for me, which I didn’t quite realise until a couple of days into the retreat. Although I am a keen yogini I had never been on a yoga retreat. I had never been at open sea on a sailing boat that small- the yacht had space for 10 sleepers- and I never had been on a boat for more than a full day.

The Retreat I went on- I bought it

What first became apparent was the clientele. As sailing is not a cheap hobby and inexpensive yoga retreats in Europe are very thin on the ground, most of my sister yoginis- as yoga tends to be a chicken fest- where boss-women with salaries to match. Think Destiny’s Child’s

“All the women who are independent
Throw your hands up at me
All the honeys who makin’ money
Throw your hands up at me”

Some of these honeys reserve plenty of time and funds to go on retreats as a solid investment into and for the betterment of themselves.

What’s Water Got to do with It?

Besides the boss-women honeys, there is the fact that one is on water and if you are used to steady land at all times, this can feel quite  unfamiliar and unsteady. On our first day the sea was unusually rough for the time of year and I got sea sick for the first time . Then there is the space, or the lack of it. Space on floating vehicles tend to be limited, unless you’ve booked a luxury cabin on a floating city. Although people are my favourite animals, I am a closet hermit, who needs her space and to some this can come across as anti-social or moody behaviour.

Beware the Zombie Collapse

As most of the power honeys were terribly attached to their mobile phones I was forced to deal with my pet peeve and what I consider socially accepted anti-social behaviour. It can be considered weird by some to physically remove yourself from a group, yet for most it seems totally accepted to mentally remove yourself from the group by finding the pettiness – in most cases- on you mobile device far more interesting than the people around you. I don’t get how real, face-to-face human interaction could every win it from interaction in cyber space between profiles, that are often just fabrications and half truths in an attempt to make oneself look good in cyber space, because one fears that the real ‘thing’ will never do. You might think I’m exaggerating, but the zombie collapse is here and it ain’t a joke.

Sailing, especially sailing for several days in a row in summery settings, forces you to connect with water. When it comes to the zodiac, I am an earth sign and I have been told that both the moon and the rising sign at the time of my birth within the same system are fire signs. For what this knowledge is worth, there is not a lot of water going on in my character. I both admire the wideness and depths of the sea and, as I am not a confident swimmer, they fill me with trepidation at the same time, but that trepidation might be a common sentiment amongst sailors and other sea-folk. Despite this sense of fear I believe that water has healing and transcending powers and that connecting with this element could be good for me, especially after getting rather frustrated after a sup yoga session, which is yoga on water on a longboard.

The Salt of the Earth

When I came back home, which was never far away, I felt that something had shifted and wondered what is in a holiday that can make you ‘shift’? What is in a challenge and what makes people change? Holidaying seems a necessity of life and it doesn’t seem to matter whether you work or lead a life of leisure or whether you love your occupation or vocation or not. As human creatures we seem to like a change of scenery and as everyone- who can afford it- seems to be doing it, it could be considered weird if one preferred to stay at home. Although we might be creatures of habit, I seem to learn and discover most if I break with my current routine. Besides not going to the corporate prison, this can entail engaging with people, you might normally not engage with or choose to live on water when you’re used to the steadiness of land. Or do yoga in the outdoors, where you can be effected by the elements, let it be wind, the sun or mosquitoes at dusk.

I’ve always considered Malta an interesting and pleasant Rock one needs to escape from ever so often. For this adventure I didn’t escape from Malta. I just saw the islands from a different perspective. For now, it’s my salt of the earth as it has given me well-being and great experiences and above all; it reinforces the idea to stick to the written word to set me free and avoid the smartphone zombie collapse in the process.

Namaste, sisters and brothers.