The public mini van up to Nong Khiew was everything you'd expect from a journey in Laos. Late, pot holed, and stunning views. Heading north east of Luang Prabang we bumped our way for four hours, picking up Laos people on the way. I met two other yogi bears on the bus, Tracie and Tessa and ended up asleep on Tracie's shoulder; she's welcome.
Nong khiew is sleepy Laos to the extreme. A village on the edge of the river surrounded by beautiful mountains and jungle, it's all chickens and dogs on the street, fires ourside houses, very quiet and very small.
The retreat was at Mandala Ou, a beautiful set of ten bungalows that the owner Nick had built himself over the course of three years. Mine was opposite the herbal sauna, much needed as it was soooooo cold. The yoga shala overlooked the Nam Ou river. I can't begin to explain how peaceful it was, the only sound was the...rain. Yep, it didn't stop raining for four days.
We did some very wet exploring, cycling up to the caves where the village lived during the second indochina war. An enterprising group of kids showed us around, asking incessant questions. I shut them up by taking some cave selfie ( I'll add some photos when the wifi is less patchy.)
The yoga has been intense but amazing. 6.30 am meditation and pranyama breathing exercises and hours of pretty challenging yoga asana (postures) and philosophy. It's a fascinating practice. The philosophy of yoga is that three elements, the meditation, breathing and postures are essential on the path to being a better you. This I knew, but often western classes merely focus on the physical which in itself is against yoga philosophy . the aim is to manage the physical to have a greater awareness of the spiritual. Peace man.
I've met some awesome people here, the British GP who is working to build a children's hospital in Luang Prabang, the outspoken Thai yoga teacher who had to leave her job in Bangkok because of her political views and the genuinely lovely freelance Aussie barrister who had everyone in stiches. The teachers have also been amazing and themselves have such interesting stories about coming to Laos. If you're ever in Luang Prabang you can take one of their classes www.luangprabangyoga.org.
So, what am I going to take with me?!
1. I'm bad at meditation. But so are most people. After our early morning meditation one of the guys told me he kept thinking how he wanted to kill the cockrel that had woken him at 3am. Clearing your mind is not an option for most, just acknowledge the waterfall of thoughts but don't feed it.
2. Yoga is a great way to live your life, just be nice to yourself and others.
3. My abs are in agony. I can now plank with the best of them. Well, I can do a version of a plank.
4. Don't come to northern Laos in January. It's freezing.
I sent my good intentions to all of you so I hope you had a little moment of peace over the past few days, with love from Laos. Namaste.
In Luang Prabang tonight then off to Vang Vieng tomorrow morning. Mwah.