Unexpected discoveries In Thailand Yoga Retreat
By Kirsi Astren
“The Chinese Yin-Yang philosophy teaches that everything has to be counter-weight. There is no night without day. All opposites alternate and this create a balance of life, where things are as they should be.” I was soaking in the information and trying to relax in the yin pose called swan.
“Each Yin prepares us for the next Yang movement. Night prepares us for the next day and deep relaxation enhances peak performance, from easy to difficult, from dark to light. The dynamic yoga needs counterweight passive, long-Yin exercises.” What did he say in the beginning of the practice? Yin Yoga was not a relaxing practice? It is quiet, but challenging. The insights Gabe was providing sure helped with the strain.
Yin Yoga counteracts the excessive sitting we do in the Western world. When my daughter and I visited a local Thai home, we did not see the chairs or sofas at all. All sitting took place on the floor.
It was my daughter, Julliana, who recommended we seek out Thailand as our first destination to travel together. She wanted yoga to be a significant part of the program but without the power of it all. After an extensive research she discovered the Finnish resort, Aava Resort & Spa, which is set in Thailand’s secluded, and still undiscovered, Khanom region. In addition to the high praise about their diverse wellness program, we were surprised to discover our week fell on the same week as the yoga retreat by American Yoga Master GabeYoga!
I thought I’d attended other Yin classes in Helsinki, where positions were held for long periods. However Gabe’s sequences, the lapping waves, soft music and his stories that fed the imagination left me feeling incredibly good and immensely renewed. Without using notes, books, or the Internet, Gabe shared anecdotes from old Buddhist wisdom, facts about the effects of yoga on health, Sufi poetry, ancient Yoga texts from what I later found out were part of the ancient Upanishads, as well as spiritual humor in the form of jokes.
Yin Yoga was part of the evening yoga classes, and the day began with a dynamic Yang-style, BikYasa practice. A yoga practice, developed by GabeYoga, that combines principles of Hot 26 and Vinyasa Yoga, perfectly balanced with silence and modern music. BikYasa has been the most attended yoga class at the Helsinki Festival and is offered at the popular Yin Yoga Studio throughout Helsinki. Julliana and I discovered that BikYasa activated our muscles in a most intelligent and powerful manner, establishing an energizing feeling to start their day.
As the week progressed, we experienced a remarkable development. Our bodies began to bend at places that only saw freedom as teenagers while our minds discovered a calm and peaceful satisfaction.
Aava was born by chance when friends told Kati and Atte (the owners) about the magnificent and quiet region of Khanom. Soon the couple traveled there 70 kilometers from Surat Thani airport by a local rickshaw called ‘tuk tuk.’
Khanom is a fishing village; with a maximum contribution is an authentic Thai country life. Long sandy beaches are among the longest in Thailand, and the tops of coconut trees towering to the sky. The area and its surroundings offer amazing nature experiences, which are easy to access.
The yoga classes felt as if they were designed just for the group and each experience was inspiring and unique. When I interviewed Gabe to hear how he achieved this unique ability I discovered he talks in a clear, firm voice and takes advantage of the full spectrum of yoga history and philosophy which include the Upanishads, ancient Indian poetry or prose texts, explanations and guidelines in life. Gabe skillfully cultivates them as a part of yoga classes as a whole. He told us these different ways to describe the divinity, beauty and love are the most essential part of yoga instruction.
I also discovered Gabe tailors the journey to the relevant people and uses his teachings to illuminate participants’ growth.
He started practicing yoga from the spiritual side and emphasizes it over and over. At age 19, as a psychology university student, he became interested in yoga philosophy and went on to get more information on India.
Gabe often, and graciously, credits various teachers. Yin Yoga’s Paul Grilley shed light on the power of connective tissue, while Pichest Boonthume, Master Thai Massage teacher, evolved Gabe’s understanding of Yin ideas’ origin with Thai Massage spreading through to China. From Ashtangi David Swenson, Gabe made the connection between the physical practice and philosophy of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras; from Tim Miller, with whom he practiced Mysore for two years, he learned “yoga is not about the pose.” Then, from Anthony “Prem” Carlisi, Gabe learned about Ayurveda and through Pattabhi Jois he learned, “Yoga is to find God.”
For my own divine moment – I walked over to Julliana and gave her the kind of hug that only a mother can.