A Yoga Retreat on a Tropical Island

January 20, 2018

After a few rather lazy days spent in our little villa and exploring the island of Koh Samui, 5 intense days of yoga and other fitness training started for me at Samahita Retreat. I had booked myself on the Yoga Core Cycle program at Samahita, which includes, as the name says, yoga, core training and cycling/spinning classes (plus optional meditation classes), taking place early morning and late afternoon every day, in total about 4-5 hours of sports per day. All food – vegetarian (sometimes also fish), very healthy, some of it targeted specifically at detoxing and losing weight – was also included. We had most of the classes on a covered terrace right by the beach with a direct view of the ocean – the stuff of dreams, really. While the pain in my muscles was sometimes closer to nightmare level, the combination of the two ended up being… bearable, and at times even enjoyable. Here is a day-by-day account of the experience.

Day 1

I check in at noon, so I can join the sport classes in the afternoon. The first one is core training. After the instructor explains the exercises, I start jumping up and down and doing all other exercises together with my colleagues in suffering. To my surprise, I notice I can keep up – yay! I tell myself this is going to be great.

After half an hour of core exercises, we go on to half an hour of cycling, in the classical style of spinning classes. After 10 minutes, I’m thinking I could kick myself for having chosen the bike that’s farthest away from the door. Why did I not think ahead and put myself close to the door, so that, if necessary, I can leave more or less without the others noticing? After 20 minutes, I’m sure this class will be the end of me. I try to tell myself that what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger, and then have to laugh at the irony of it. Well, at least I’m laughing, sort of.

Through some kind of miracle, I survive 30 minutes of cycling/spinning, and then we go on to the restorative yoga class. Thank god, because my body needs a lot of restoration right now.

Day 2

Ther is a breathing and meditation class starting at 7:30, but there’s absolutely no way that I will get myself out of bed by that time. So I join only the yoga class starting at 8:30. No, seriously, 8:30 in the morning! I am not a morning person. I can’t remember the last time I did sports at this time – or if I ever, in my adult life, was in a sports class at this time.

But, it’s 8:25, and here I am on my yoga mat. Maybe this is the start of a new me. Maybe I’ll turn into a fitness guru, who trains in the mornings and in the evenings. Yes, I can already see it!

Except that, 10 minutes into the yoga session, I’m sweating so much that my t-shirt is completely wet, my yoga mat is wet, my palms are so wet I can’t be in down-dog for more than a few seconds or else my dog lands on its belly. Why did I not bring a towel?!? And why is this soooo difficult?!? I do yoga pretty regularly, I thought I was relatively in shape. Never mind, I’m sure this is just the most difficult part of the class. Will be over soon.

30 minutes later, I’ve given up hope of the session getting easier. I’m too proud to go into child’s pose to rest, so I somehow fight through the rest of the poses, wondering how on earth I’m going to get through the afternoon sessions, let alone the next 4 days of this…

Between 10 am and 4 pm there are no sport classes, so we have time to eat, rest, chat, etc. I spend most of the time sitting/lying on a bean bag and somehow the downtime does its magic – by the afternoon I’m ready for a core class again and I somehow manage to get myself through it without any thoughts of imminent collapse. I skip the cycling class though, because, really, yesterday’s class was almost the end of me. Instead, I spend that half an hour in a hammock on the beach, congratulating myself for the idea to skip the class. OK, so I’m still me, and I probably won’t become a fitness guru after all…

Day 3

Everything hurts!! As if all the sessions weren’t hard enough when I’m feeling good anyway, now I have to do it all with every muscle in my body aching! It was the worst idea ever to book myself on this program. At breakfast, I talk to the other girls, and it seems I’m not the only one who has muscle pain everywhere – at least that’s some consolation. During the sport classes we look at each other, make funny faces, roll our eyes when the instructor wants us to do something very difficult, and somehow support each other with going through the program. I realize again that there is a lot of strength in group support – so much that it might get me though 5 days of this after all.

Day 4

Maybe I’m just imagining this, but I think the muscle pain got a bit better. I somehow manage to attend all sports classes of the day. Even though it didn’t get easier on my body, I think it got easier on my mind, which now knows what to expect and how to help the body get through the most difficult parts.

Day 5

This is my last full day here. I try to cheer myself on and tell myself this is the final sprint. I wish I could see some indication that the last few days brought something in terms of muscle tone or weight loss in the parts of my body which need that, but I don’t find any indication of those things. Oh well, I guess that’s not realistic after just 4 days. Nevertheless, just like yesterday, I think the biggest gain has been in my mind, which definitely got better at dealing with the effort and getting through the most difficult parts of the training sessions.

Day 6

I have to check out this morning, so I only attend the 7:30-8:30 meditation and breath work class – a nice relaxing end to my stay here. I say good bye to the few other women who I’ve shared this experience with, some of whom have become friends.

And then, in a matter of minutes, I’m out of the protected bubble of the resort and out again in the real world, with its traffic, fast food, and queues for tickets… And I’m on my way to the nearby island of Koh Tao, where Daniel has been diving for these past few days. Can’t wait to see him again – and, honestly, I’m also really looking forward to doing no sports for the next 1-2 days. I’m still me, after all.

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