Return to Koh Pha Ngan

In June (2016 to clarify) I came to Koh Phangan (Ko Pha Ngan/ Koh Pha Ngan or any combination thereof) for a workshop at Agama yoga studios, one of the more popular on the islands. Now four months later I’ve returned to get deeper again in touch with myself and to take up some of the yoga therapy and counseling they offer at the healing center. This island is completely magical and always full of enriching experiences for me. I will write more about it in later articles, but here is what my experience was yesterday.

Oh wow. What an amazing day. It never ceases to amaze me the magic of Koh Phangan. In a frantic rut to find my wallet, I missed the yoga class I was so keen on going to this morning. But, as they say, blessings come in disguise of tragedy. Minor tragedy in this case. But I continued to have my breakfast at my favorite juice spot on the island, Art of Juice, where I got a Facebook message from one of my girlfriends asking if I could be a model for a friend of ours today. So naturally, with my “try everything” attitude (thank you Gazelle a.k.a. Shakira) I said yes!

She told me they were meeting at the nude beach, which was apparently by Gaia yoga studio, and that I could find them out in the sea. So that was the premises for the rodeo I was about to get into. Did I mention that I met them in a tantra workshop?

Every day a new adventure.

So after thirty minutes of wandering I find the Gaia studios and then took a walk along the beach until I found a group of four that I could only assume was them. At first I was hesitant in fact because they were wearing bathing suits and I had not expected that. But it was the right group!

My introduction to the scene was the sight of two ladies in swimsuits, one lady holding the other in the water and floating her about. I had no idea what we were doing today. But it reminded me of that episode of New Girl when Nick makes best friends with an elderly Asian man and the man cures him by floating him about in the pool. I was about to become the Nick in this scenario. Only more naked. And by that I mean completely naked.

The instructor was a man with extremely tan skin and a very caring disposition. He stood in the middle, my friend and I to the right, and the other two to the left. We began, naturally, with an awkward start, me leaning into her arm, floating in her arms. It was really magical, almost romantic, definitely intimate. I was instructed to relax, which is something I struggle with a whole lot. Relaxing my neck is perhaps the most difficult thing for me to do. She moved me around in the water, conducting the water through me, first in gentle circles, then in more rapid processions. I tried my best to relax and let the water work through me, feeling the magical caress of the water as it pushed past me. There are techniques they do for this, that’s essentially what I was modeling, as it turned out. Just being a person for her to practice with but also for her instructor to teach her with.

It feels extremely therapeutic, to really let go and be safe. So many things are happening and so much is rushing past you, but you relax. You gain so much mobility in the water, so they work with that and manipulate your body in all of these incredible ways, opening up your hips, she even a few times had my leg completely behind her head while she was conducting me through the water. Stretching out my neck, which was great exercise for me to relax it, pulling me around by my hair, wiggling me back and forth by my head, bending my legs behind my head. It was just incredible. Then we began to move on to the more underwater portion. Submersion.

This part was amazing. I’m sorry if my description falls short on this, but there’s just so much and its a bit indescribable. My best response would be just to go experience it for yourself somehow. Essentially it was a procession of holding my breath and being fully submerged in the water and then manipulated in the water, all while relaxing. Here they switched a lot between her and the instructor, which was great for me because he really knows his stuff and I love being a part of the learning process. Seeing her learn, and she’s really astute at picking up on the technique really, really well, was great AND I got to be thrown around even more, which actually I love.

So at first she gave me the brief rundown, I put a nose piece on, and she would squeeze me three times, that’s where I should inhale as deep as possible, and then she would submerge me. The first few felt more like warming ups, very necessary, where she just put me in the water like Achilles being dunked in the River Styx, swirled me around a bit, and bought me up, gasping for air. It’s really a good thing I’d been practicing Pranayama all month because as this process became more and more real, I’d stay under for longer and wanted to just keep under for as long as possible. But what with me being a pretty anxious person and all, holding my breath under water was another good opportunity to practice relaxing. The first five goes were really difficult, but then she did one where I was completely head under water, near the sand, swirling me around and I just let go. It was amazing. Then they switched and his words were to “make your body like jelly” and so I tried. I think for the most part I did but afterwards they both noted how difficult it was in the beginning for me to give up my rigidity. All too true.

And then it went on, waving and shaking, I felt like a jellyfish being pushed into a big wave, my legs going woosh-wooh-wheesh-whoosh, up and down, bending and expanding, circles in every direction, different positions, head between their legs, and relaxing. Only a few times, more towards the end, I became too tired to hold my breath for so long. We took a brief break, the other pair left, and we continued more on perfecting the techniques for about twenty minutes, and then it was so cold I was turning blue so we all agreed it was time to pack up.

I was completely exhausted afterwards. I walked back to my little bungalow and took a one hour nap. I spend about ten seconds writing the first two paragraphs for this before I collapsed on my bed. I can still feel the presence of this ritual working its magic, the frequent reminder that it’s okay to loose control, to let the flow go, life will always be okay.

There’s a difference, I see, in going with the flow and looking for a flow to go with. I think I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find a flow meanwhile I’ve actually always been in the flow I just need to relax, accept the nature of the flow, be it turbulent or billowing, gentle, boring, rapid, or pleasant. Resistance is futile. It’s also another reminder that I have come very far in my spiritual journey but I still have plenty of room for growth.

And, of course, this isn’t just me, nothing really is (perception!), this can be applied for anyone, in my opinion. In the end of the day I felt amazing, full of clarity and relaxation, most importantly self reflection. Really, really, I’m always amazed by the wonders this island has to offer. 

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