Adventures in becoming a yoga teacher in Koh Samui, Thailand
January 1, 1970
by Ashley Hills
Travelling to Koh Samui, Thailand
I decided to get certified as a yoga teacher so that I could share my love of yoga, health and wellness of body and mind with the world. I’ve always wanted to go to Thailand so when my sister and I decided to both embark on this little adventure together it was an easy choice for our training.
The countdown began. I gave my notice to my job and waited patiently for our departure date to arrive. It finally came! Giddy with excitement, we both packed a carry on bag and all of a sudden we are on a 28 hour journey to the other side of the world.
Three flights, one sleepless night in a hostel in Bangkok, and one more flight later, we arrived in beautiful Koh Samui. We got picked up from the airport and driven to Vikasa Resort, where we would be staying for the next month. We had chosen the cheapest option for accommodation but were thrilled when we were brought to our private bungalow huts! They were made of bamboo and wood and had tin and grass roofs. The walls didn’t fully touch each other and the roof didn’t quite go down to meet the wall in the bathroom but we didn’t care! We had our own bed with mosquito nets, a couple of small shelves, a little table, a kettle with some coffee mugs and a bathroom. We were hut neighbours and we immediately became friends with the girl that was on the other side of my sister.
As we walked around the property we saw a beautiful infinity pool that overlooked the ocean. Big boulders stood below, between the ocean and us, and we saw the water splash against them. The humid air surrounded us and the sun beat down on our skin. This was the first taste of travel for me. We got to know the local area and loved how cheap living here was. There was a laundry mat and convenience store right across the street where we would go to escape the higher prices of the resort. There was also a reggae bar right across the street which turned out to be owned by the same locals who owned the laundry mat and convenience store. The owners were really friendly, played awesome music and it was a good escape when you got sick of the same buffet food each week.
Lamai Beach and Market
We ventured into the markets on Sunday nights hopping into a tuk tuk, the cheapest form of transportation there. You have to be careful about taxis and locals trying to rip you off so make sure you barter down the price ahead of time. Most of the time if they tell you one price, if you just say no and start walking away, they will yell after you and lower their price. Find out what the price should be before going to a place to ensure you aren’t overpaying. Another thing we noticed is that locals never walked anywhere, and they thought you were crazy if you decided to. Lamai market was only about a 20-30 minute walk from where we were staying but the problem is the shoulders of the roads are used for motorbikes not for walking. When we got to the night market people filled the streets and stands were set up selling everything you could possibly want including interesting looking food, clothes, bags, shoes, jewelry etc. Mango sticky rice was my favourite thing that I found. It was delicious! Vibrant coloured fruit sold on stands were a common thing in the streets of Thailand, perfect for a vegan. There were beat boxers performing on a stage and crowds gathered around to watch and listen.
But best of all, Thai Massages! You could find thai massages basically on every corner. Different spas or people at the beach were trying to sell you massages left, right and centre. 15 baht for an amazing hour long massage?! Yes, please! I got addicted. It was basically combining the best massage I ever had with the feeling of doing yoga. These ladies really knew what they were doing. But don’t get one if you just want a light, relaxing massage. They specialized in pressing hard and getting all of your kinks out while stretching you in ways you didn’t know could feel so good. My favourite place that we got one was Lamai Beach. There was a little gazebo on the sand where they were selling massages and they were by far the best that we got. They served us fruit and tea afterwards and chatted to us about where we were from. I really loved that about Thailand. You will notice that all of the locals work incredibly hard and really try their best but they always have a smile on their face and they are always excited to talk with you.
As the month and our training progressed I realized it was as much, if not more, of an emotional test as it was a physical test. At least 3 hours of physical practice each day, plus lectures, lessons, meditation, pranayama, homework and studying. I’ve never been so engulfed in something in my life. It was a real struggle at certain points and I have to admit, if I wasn’t half way around the world in a completely different Country, I may have considered quitting. But I also knew that I couldn’t, not just because of location.
Blessed by a Monk
Something that I really wanted to do before I left was get a Sak Yant. I read about this in blogs before leaving for Thailand. A Sak Yant is a spiritual tattoo done by a Buddhist monk, traditionally with a long metal spike or bamboo, by hand. The monk chooses your design and the location of your tattoo based on your aura. There is also a ceremony involved. This sacred tattoo is meant to bring you what you need most in your life. These tattoos have specific and spiritual meanings. I received the Yant Hah Taew or Five Sacred Lines from Ajarn Panthep Phruekthara. Each line carries a different meaning depending on the monk and the desires of the recipient, making each Sak Yant specific to each person. My five lines represent balance from the five elements, love, success in all aspects of life, good luck and protection against evil spirits.
First you go through the ceremony which includes burning a piece of paper where you write down what you want most in life, meditation and some other rituals, and then the monk starts the tattoo. You are blessed by the monk as he continuously dips the spike into the ink and tattoos you by hand. Was it painful? I get asked this all the time. Yes, of course it was painful. I have other tattoos done the conventional way and they are both painful, but different. Something about getting this tattoo was calming though. As the monk was chanting, blessing me and tattooing me I was chanting my own mantra. I got into a meditative state and the pain no longer bothered me. This tattoo was a very profound experience for me. I did feel as it gave me the discipline and balance I needed to get through my yoga training.
To new beginnings!
Graduation day came and my sister and I both received our certification. The following day our whole class completed the meaningful 108 sun salutations that represent new Beginnings. This was a new beginning for me, a new life that I knew would bring many more travel adventures.