If you had said to us a year ago that we would eventually have to consider yoga mats as part of our baggage allowance, we would have told you ‘that’s never going to happen’. We had never tried yoga and to be honest had no inclination to do so. Our training consisted of high-intensity workouts only, and due to our hectic London schedules, we allowed ourselves very little time to actually stretch and recover. BIG mistake. Not too long before we were leaving on our travels I (Charlotte) began to experience serious pain in my lower back. A visit to the chiropractor revealed that my spine had in fact been twisting over time, causing a condition called spinal cord compression. And I was told that I would have to have regular chiropractic treatment for the rest of my life.
This came as a bit of a blow, as not only was this treatment going to be extremely expensive at a time where every penny counted but what would we do when we were actually on the road? I couldn’t exactly rock up to the chiropractor every 2 weeks, and we had heavy backpacks that we needed to carry. Fortunately after some intense (and expensive) treatment, the pain subsided; however, as we travelled the discomfort returned. Constantly being on the move, sleeping in uncomfortable beds, or any form of exercise could leave me in pain for days. It was highly frustrating and as any person with back problems will tell you, it can really suck the joy out of your days, no matter how much of a positive person you are.
AND THEN SOMEBODY SUGGESTED WE TRY YOGA…
By this time, we were prepared to try anything, so we opened Google and searched for yoga retreats for beginners in South East Asia. Of course, this returned 100s of results, but one, in particular, caught our eye… WONDERLAND! Having fallen down the rabbit hole on many occasion, and both being as mad as hatters, we knew this was the place for us. I mean our parents even threw us an Alice in Wonderland themed leaving party!
ARRIVING AT WONDERLAND HEALING CENTER
Wonderland is buried deep in the Koh Phangan jungle in Thailand, and as we arrived we instantly felt the tranquillity & calmness that one feels when immersed in nature. We were greeted with smiles at the front desk, shortly followed by a delicious frozen fruit shake, and promptly shown to our room. We had opted for the dorm room as this experience was already way over our usual weekly budget, and were pleasantly surprised to find it was immaculately put together. The room was clean, bright and had the aroma of a therapeutic spa. The single bunk beds were of a good size, with plumped pillows & a crisp white duvet, and were easily the most comfortable mattresses we’d slept on throughout our travels. We were in HEAVEN… Or should I say Wonderland.
We were left to enjoy our afternoon by the pool and that evening joined the welcome meeting being held in the restaurant. There we were told everything we could expect from the week, along with an impressive timetable of the classes available each day. There was every kind of yoga and meditation class you could think of, running back to back throughout the day, and we were relieved to find that there was plenty of choice for us beginners. We felt instantly convinced that we had made the right choice, and we’re looking forward to seeing what the rest of the week would bring.
WONDERLAND MAP LOCATION
A LIFE CHANGING EXPERIENCE
Little did we know we were about to embark on an emotional and physical roller coaster that would change our lives forever…
The first class was, how can I put this… a shit storm. Well for me anyway! Natalie actually took to it like a pro, while I, on the other hand, stood there looking like I was trialling for the high school netball team. Before I could even grasp what the teacher was doing, they’d already moved on to the next pose! I thought to myself, how the hell am I going to get the hang of this? But I attended the classes regularly and before long was moving fluidly through the basic poses.
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” William Arthur Ward
Thankfully, we were fortunate enough to have some incredibly skilled and inspiring teachers at Wonderland. Not only were they patient and encouraging with our group of beginners, they were also pleased to offer one on one support & guidance. I was able to explain the issues I had been experiencing with my back and they were able to guide me safely through my practice, as well as demonstrating the specific postures that I could benefit from. My initial concerns that I would only be able to practice gentle yoga due to my condition were unwarranted. Instead, my anxieties were replaced with hope! I was told that if I listened to my body, not only could I expect to see an improvement in my back pain, but there were no limits to how my yoga practice could develop.
This was encouraging news and determined to leave Wonderland with the basic skills and understanding to continue yoga, we practised for 3-4 hours a day. We had been naive at the start to think that yoga was going to be ‘easy’ in comparison to our regular workouts. When in-fact we couldn’t have been more wrong. Not only is yoga physically challenging, but mentally as well, requiring patience, persistence and understanding. There were times of tears and frustration. However, each day, as we began to notice improvements in our strength, flexibility and posture, these emotions were replaced with motivation.
By the end of the week, we were hooked. Accompanied by yoga & meditation classes, a vegan diet and revitalising treatments, Wonderland left both our bodies and minds feeling calmer & lighter. There was even a noticeable improvement to my back pain and I remember wanting to cry with relief. We will be forever grateful for taking those first steps into our yoga journey, and we can’t thank the team at Wonderland enough for making our experience so enjoyable and rewarding. I would like to point out that we are in no way being sponsored by Wonderland for this article. We just absolutely admire what they do there. And if you’re a beginner, looking to take those first steps into yoga, we cannot recommend them highly enough. You can read more about Wonderland and the packages available HERE.
1 YEAR LATER…
So there, immersed in the Thai jungle, encompassed by nature and spirituality, we discovered our love for yoga. And determined to continue our yoga journey as we travelled, we purchased 2 yoga mats from Wonderland. It has now been almost a year and we continue to practice 3-4 times a week. It’s a great way to exercise when you travel, as all you really need is your matt (which we now carry proudly), and we have noticed many positive changes to both our body & mind. I am relieved to say that my back pain is now far more manageable than it was before and we’ve both come a long way in our practice. The next step is to eventually spend some time in the yoga capital of Rishikesh in India, where we would like to embark deeper on our journey.
THE MANY STYLES OF YOGA
Having never tried yoga when we first arrived at Wonderland, we were keen to try out all of the different styles to find out which worked best for our bodies. Here are some of our favourites:
HATHA YOGA incorporates a number of different styles of yoga and is generally a quite slow & relaxed practice. It’s perfect for beginners who need some time to adapt to the new postures.
VINYASA YOGA is similar to Hatha Yoga, however more physically challenging, as you tend to move quickly through the positions. It is recommended you adapt to the postures through Hatha before attempting Vinyasa.
YIN YOGA is a slow-paced practice where poses are held for 5 minutes or longer. Although it is gentle, it can be physically challenging due to the length of time held in each posture. It is particularly good for stretching the body and improving flexibility.
ALIGNMENT YOGA is a class all newbies should attend. Its purpose is not only to coach you on how to hold your yoga poses but also how you can improve your posture in day-to-day life.
LAUGHING YOGA – Yes it’s a thing and the idea is to laugh for no reason until it becomes real. Laughter is known not only to increase happiness but also strengthens the immune system, reduces pain and lowers stress.
BENEFITS OF YOGA
Discovering YOGA has been a life changing experience for us and if we haven’t done enough to convince you already, I will round this off with some more of the physical and mental benefits of regular practice:
- Improves flexibility
- Builds Strength
- Increases muscle tone and definition
- Improves balance
- Helps maintain a balanced metabolism
- Supports Joint Health
- Protection from injury
- Improved respiration, energy and vitality.
- Fosters mental clarity & calmness
- Reduces Stress
- Relaxes the mind
- Increases Self Confidence
- Sharpens concentration
Well, that concludes our blog on how yoga changed our lives, however, if you have any further questions we would be happy to help. Please leave them in the comment section below.
Happy travels and namaste,
Charlotte & Natalie x
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