Yoga – Koh Phangan

Yoga globally is growing in popularity; Yoga in Koh Phangan is no exception.

Throughout the island there are a number of Yoga practices, from established Yoga retreats to independent Yoga teaches. Personally Yoga was at the top of my Bucket List of things to do whilst staying on Koh Phangan. Why? Well for starters it ticks the following boxes –

  • Improves muscle tone, flexibility, strength and stamina
  • Reduces stress and tension
  • Boosts self esteem
  • Improves concentration and creativity
  • Lowers fat
  • Improves circulation
  • Stimulates the immune system
  • Creates sense of well being and calm

Difficult to argue against those benefits!

Before I dive into my experience it’s important to understand that there is a number of different Yoga systems that target different requirements. The following list and descriptions is by no means exhaustive but gives you some idea of what’s out there. As per anything in this world wikipedia is an excellent resource if you want more detail –

Hatha Yoga –  Class is also likely to be focused on slow and gentle movements so it’s a great type of yoga to wind down with at night.

Vinyasa Yoga – Commonly called “Vinyasa flow” or just “flow”, you’ll definitely be moving, flowing from one pose to the next. Other than starting with a sun salutation, no two classes will be alike. It’s the most popular style of yoga in America.

Kundalini Yoga – “Kundalini” refers to the energy of the Root Chakra, which surrounds the area around your lower spine. Expect lots of work in your “core” area and classes are known to be pretty intense.

Ashtanga Yoga – Commonly called Power yoga, Ashtanga is definitely physically demanding. It’s probably best suited for an ex-athlete or someone looking to really push their body.

Iyengar Yoga – Expect lots of props with this type of yoga such as blocks, harnesses, straps, and even cushions. There’s also a lot of focus on alignment so Iyengar can be great for physical therapy.

Anusara Yoga – Founded in 1997 by John Friend, Anusara is epitomized by “the celebration of the heart. Expect many “heart-opening” poses like backbends and more talking by the instructor in class.

Restorative Yoga – Looking to wind down after a long day of work? Or perhaps you want to quiet your mind? Restorative yoga might be the answer as it’s focused on relaxation.

Jivamukti Yoga – Jivamukti is mostly practiced in NYC as it was founded there in 1984 by Sharon Gannon and David Life. It’s a mix of vinyasa flow sequencing infused with chanting and a vegetarian twist.

Prenatal Yoga – If you’re an expectant mother then Prenatal yoga is probably for you.

As for me my requirements were quite simple. Build strength and flexibility whilst exploring the meditation aspects of the practice.

After a little bit of research, and some advice from my excellent Kite Boarding instructor, I contacted Agnieszka who runs loveyoga.org, to talk through my requirements and see if her practice was the right fit for me. Annieszka (Agi) runs two classes (at time of writing) and recommended Ashtanga (she also does Vinyasa classes).

Trikonasana

Agi with one of her students.

Ashtanga, as the description above indicates, is more focused on strength and you know that you’ve done 90 minutes of intense exercise when you’re melting into the floor during your final pose, the corpse pose (Savasana), only to pick yourself up off the floor feeling utterly revitalised.

In total I did 6 90 minute sessions and would have ended up doing a number of further classes if it wasn’t for a rather Yoga unfriendly Shoulder Dislocation mid way through my stay in Koh Phangan.

As you can imagine dislocating your shoulder is pretty debilitating in that there is very little you can do for a period of time. Without question not being able to continue with my Yoga practice was my number one frustration. Agi was very focused on empowering me through my posture and breathing and even after 6 sessions the mental and physical changes were obvious. Fortunately the limited Yoga exposure I had in Koh Phangan @  loveyoga.org was enough to ensure that Ashtanga Yoga will be part of my life moving forward (as soon as my shoulder permits!).

So if you’re in Koh Phangan and like me want to give Yoga a try there really couldn’t be a better place (maybe India – but I really couldn’t comment!). You’ve got plenty of practices to choose from but if you want something a little more intimate then get in touch with Agi – i’m sure she’d be more than happy to help 🙂

Savasana (Corpse Pose)

 

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