July 24, 2011

Part 2: Yoga Teacher Training Now More Dangerous than Originally Thought. ~ Kristina Chandler

A teacher training odyssey in six parts.

Part 2: In which I realize I am an idiot and then brush my teeth

For all the allure of its name, Bungalow No. 7 was a 12×15 foot shack with unfinished wood walls. The wood planks bowed and gaped, and grey evening light seeped in through the cracks. There was a lumpy mattress on a platform in the corner with ill-fitting sheets with faded pink flowers and tattered embroidery that read, inexplicably, “Hotel Pansy.” A small pink gecko perched on a knotty mosquito net dangling from the ceiling, and a small shelving unit sat at the foot of the bed. That was it.

I dropped my suitcase and stalked to the bathroom. This was not the rustic oasis I had imagined.

I found a 4 x 12 rectangle with no windows, murky blue tile, a toilet, a hose, a bucket and a drain. The toilet didn’t flush (that’s what the bucket was for, I would determine shortly) and there was no hot water. There was also no sink, no mirror and no toilet paper, although I could purchase some at the restaurant.  A long, thick trail of ants motored steadily from a crack in the wall to a crack in the floor. I sighed as a bead of sweat glided down my back. It was 95F, too early in the year for it to be this hot. The weather had been unpredictable lately.

I emerged sourly from the bathroom and flipped the switch for the fan.

No electricity, either.

I flopped down onto the bed and stared at the ceiling. As the ants moved feverishly in the bathroom and the gecko leered at me from above, I wondered if my acute decision-making skills were at work again.

Maybe this was all a spectacularly bad idea.

The next morning I woke to the sound of retching.


I pried open the shutter next to my bed and looked out.

A 40-ish Thai man – to be identified later as the owner of this establishment – was showering in the open-air bath of the building below mine. Apparently his showering involved some sort of intense throat-cleansing regimen. It could be worse, I thought, pulling the pillow over my face. I then wondered how that would be.

And then something scurried over my mouth.

“IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!” I flew out of bed and glared at it from across the room. I ventured gingerly back. Whatever had crawled on me was fast and small. Could there have been…I wasn’t sure… BEDBUGS?? What do bedbugs even look like? Is a bedbug a specific bug or a category of bugs, based on location? I didn’t know. I stepped gingerly forward and squinted at the bed. Nothing was cruising around that I could see. Maybe it was just that I couldn’t see it. Or them. Maybe there were bacteria, wiggling there, worming around right in front of my face. I ripped off the sheets and cast them to the floor. I didn’t want to think about it.

Anyway, it was time for yoga.

I sauntered into the bathroom and squirted some toothpaste on my toothbrush. The ants were still there, busy as ever with the metropolis they were apparently building just beneath the floorboards. I cranked up the hose and sprayed them at maximum volume. They fell to the ground and then surfed into the drain, tsunami-style.


“What is breathing?” the teacher, a perky blonde twenty-something Australian occupational therapist, inquired of us. The yoga training schedule consisted of three hours of asana in the morning, a lecture or meditation or yin practice from noon to 2, and a teaching workshop for three hours in the evening. It was only the afternoon of day one. It was going to continue like this, every day, five days a week for four weeks.

“How do we breathe?” she looked around at us, grinning toothily.

I swear this was an actual question.

To be honest, I couldn’t believe she wanted a straight answer. I was positive if I said, “Um, our lungs…?” she would reply, “Well, yes, of course our lungs, silly!” and wave me away like I was a nincompoop who needed to get with the program. But if that wasn’t the right answer, I couldn’t fathom what was, so I just sat there, waiting for the yoga to begin and thinking about what I would eat later. The food is really good and Thailand – glass noodles and curries and tangy Tom Yum soup, fresh papaya smoothies and coconut milk, fried vegetables and fresh barracuda. And because of all the tourists from the U.K. and Germany, you can find a pretty mean schnitzel or some beans on toast for about 120 baht ($4), if that’s your kind of thing. The farang (Thai for gringo) food is pretty pricey, comparatively speaking.

Because of my culinary daydreaming I missed the rest of the stuff on breathing. I thought she would do a quick review at the end of class and I would catch it on the back end, but she moved on. I think she saw us all breathing fine and figured we were pretty much set.

Stay tuned for part 3.

Read part 1: In which I arrive with great expectations and they are dashed almost immediately

Kristina Chandler is a lawyer and certified yoga teacher who began practicing yoga in 1994 to rehab an injury, fell in love and has been hitting the mat ever since. She’s practiced yoga all over the globe, from Bali to Sweden and many places in between. Check out her other musings on yoga here.

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