I have just returned from a week-long Bikram yoga retreat at Göcek, which is near the coast of Fethiye, in Turkey. This was a beautiful location — up in the mountains, where the crickets rattled maracas in the heat all day long, the sound of a male tenor voice signalling the call to prayer of Ramadan echoed through the valleys at 3am each morning, and the tinkling bells on the necks of goats rang out as the herd wandered across the dry dirt and sparse grass around the mountains. Meanwhile the heat was a duck-feathered wall that comforted, held and revived me. Reaching 39 degrees on one day, it was an excellent excuse to work hard on losing my pallor by (meditatively) lounging by the pool at the commune. But most of all, the Bikram yoga practice was magnificent. As Hasan said (in ‘Balancing Stick’): ‘Like a ‘T’ for Terrific, the Terrific Turkey Troupe, not a broken umbrella!’.
The renowned Bikram guru, Michelle Pernetta, was our leader. Her instruction and inspiration, in particular, was an enlightening experience. She also has a wicked, wry sense of humour that was constantly insightful, sometimes hysterically funny or satirical, and always witty. Here are some photographs, a poem about how my yoga practice felt at the peak of this retreat (during the final class, to music, with Michelle, on Sunday evening), and the plans I will take forward in response to the things I learnt during this epic holiday.
Michelle told me some very scary stories about how much harm my addiction to aspartamine and other sweeteners is doing to me. Did you know that sweeteners can cause brain seizures, and cannot be digested by the body, so they remain lodged in your gut?!
I also learned about different yogic practices, homeopathy, massage techniques and ‘ayurveda’ (I am a ‘Vata’ type, which means that I should eat certain types of food to regulate my basic constitution).
Most of all, it was a wonderful holiday. I learnt that I am taking too much medication. The caffeine detox (I decided to give up coffee, tea, diet coke and all sweeteners) left me so drowsy that it hurt to keep my eyes open, I felt dizzy some or most of the time, and my drishti blurred so it was harder to balance and maintain each posture. But I return to England feeling strong, energised, refreshed and enlightened. I have thrown away every product in my flat that contains any kind of sweetener. I return to the hot room tonight, at the 5 o’clock class in Cambridge (with my dearest comrades Jennifer and Theo, who (as Michelle said) have taught me so well). I will put to the test what I learned about how to practice from Michelle, and exercise my newly refined postures and extroverted, energised will to power.