I thought I would write down a few of my impressions from our “Cambodia Adventure” in July this year. Although travelling to Cambodia was not a new thing for me, this was the first time I have ever organised a trip for other people. I had a few things keeping me awake before we embarked on the adventure. I hoped that everyone would get along, because, after all, most people coming were complete strangers to each other. I was fairly confident I had everything covered in regard to accommodation and travel and yoga, but doing that all via email from Wellington NZ doesn’t guarantee that it will happen as planned when you get there. I was also hoping that no one would get sick or injured while we were there.
Happily, in Victoria, Darleen, Emil, Siobhan, Trish, Kylie, Rose and Reuben I couldn’t have asked for better travelling companions. They are a diverse collection of ages and personalities and yet it worked. We all got on, enjoyed each others company and appreciated getting to know each other. We travelled together, ate together mostly and practised yoga together. Different people organised themselves and others to do things outside of the yoga sessions and our first visit to the temples around Siem Reap that I had arranged. We were never short of options on where to eat and what to do and everyone was relaxed about participating or not.
We had great yoga practices in among the sight seeing while we were there, starting with a gentle restorative Led session at The Peace Café in Siem Reap. This was followed by Mysore style practice every evening while in Siem Reap. We then switched to early morning Mysore practice in Phnom Penh and in Kep.
I was particulary interested to see how people would deal with the heat. Ashtanga Yoga is not “Hot Yoga”. In fact Guruji always said that we should generate the heat within our bodies and that the combination of “breathing with sound” and vinyasa (moving and breathing together) produces this. He talked about the internal fire of agni and how this was very beneficial to good digestion. When asked about the use of heaters he said it was okay to use them to heat the room before starting but then they should be turned off once practice starts. Of course he never experienced the cold of a Wellington winter!
At Te Aro Astanga Yoga studio I like to get the room up to around 20 or 21ºC. If the temperature gets much higher than that I start turning heaters off. My thinking is that at about 20 or 21ºC people practising can still have some control over how hot they get. Everybody is different. Some people enjoy the heat and some find it uncomfortable and a distraction. Heating a room as high as they do in the “Hot Yoga” styles means people are not able to control how hot they get. You then run the risk of dehydration and over-heating, and it can give a false impression of how flexible you are which can lead to over stretching.
In Cambodia we were practising at the ambient temperature in the high 20s. It was interesting to note that everyone with us wanted to have fans running. They needed some air movement to feel comfortable. Still we sweated, but this made the swims in the hotel pool even more enjoyable.
There is no doubt that when the everyday temperature is warmer the practice comes a little easier. The body is never cold, so never stiffens in response to the cold. None the less we were all appreciative of the fans and air conditioning and swimming pools for some respite from the heat. It is also essential to rehydrate and the green coconut juice you can get everywhere in Cambodia is perfect for that. The great thing they do there, that they don’t do in Mysore, is they will chill the coconuts. Chilled green coconut juice is unbeatable!! Good for the digestion, good for rehydrating and it tastes fantastic.
In Siem Reap we did our yoga practice at 5pm in the evening. In Phnom Penh we switched to practicing in the morning with the keen little Ashtanga crew at Nataraj Yoga studio. Most of the people on the trip were evening practitioners back in Wellington, so I was wondering how this would go. I much prefer to practice in the morning. Although I am more flexible in the evening, in the morning my stomach is emptier and so is my mind. I find it easier to focus and easier to twist, and more often than not, once I warm up I am as flexible as I need to be. Early morning yoga practice is the best way to start the day. It means you approach the rest of the day in a good place, mentally and physically. A lot of people have a little mental block about early mornings, but when we travelled to Kep and I asked the group what their preference was, they chose to continue to practice in the mornings. Interestingly most of them are also now coming to morning practice at Te Aro Astanga Yoga. Even in these chilly early Spring mornings in Wellington, there is no better way to start the day than practising in the warmth of the shala, in the company of our Ashtanga Yoga community.