Charity Keita struggles to keep up with her elderly dad as she endures the trials and tribulations of a yoga weight loss retreat on the Thai island of Ko Samui.
“I never signed up for this!” I feel like shouting, as I huff and puff my way through a level 10 hill during a cycle class at seven in the morning. “I want Ayurvedic massages! I want Indian gurus with long white dreadlocks chanting! I want, I want, I can’t!”
When I agreed to go on a retreat with my dad at the end of last year, I had imagined a gentle affair befitting his seventy years of age. Instead, unbeknownst to me, he made a last minute u-turn and ended up booking us into what I can best describe as Thai yoga boot camp.
Mornings start with a jolt and the aforementioned intense half hour cycle class, followed by another half hour of “breath work” (which in truth is extremely gentle) and then, on alternate days, either half an hour of core practice and an excruciating hour long vinyasa flow class (not for the feint hearted) or a two hour ashtanga class. Around ten, a delicious buffet breakfast is served with a vegetarian spread that would make even the most hardcore bacon lovers salivate. Yogis heap their plates with thick slices of homemade bread, oodles of homemade peanut butter, ghee, fruit salad, pancakes, weird raw vegan crackers and delicious servings of eggs made exactly to your liking. Except of course Papa and I get to eat none of this because, as if the boot camp wasn’t enough, he went and signed us into the weight loss program, so we only get to eat what is on our meal plan while we look on, occasionally weeping and enduring the smell of warm toasting bread.
After breakfast we have most of the day to play, sunbathe or if you are me, catch up with work (sometimes being a freelance really sucks). We are then expected to turn up at 4:00pm for the remaining high energy cycle, core and yoga drills of the day. And believe that when I say ‘drill’, that is exactly what I mean. The main fitness guru here is a 30 something ex-British Army guy who seems determined to transform us all into lean, mean and super toned killing machines over the course of the short two weeks we have here.
Of course I’m making this sound so much worse than it actually is. The truth is that I couldn’t imagine a more complete and well balanced retreat if I tried. Mixing up the daily yoga with other more modern forms of fitness is a delight, as it alleviates the monotony of doing the same twisty bendy sun salutations over and over again. Since getting here I have realised how much I’ve been missing those core classes I used to love so much back in the UK (listen up whoever is thinking of opening a gym in Nairobi, we need more core classes and equipment!). With regards to the weight loss meal plans, the food is better than I could have ever dreamed of. We get eggs and fruit/vegetables for breakfast, or a power smoothie, or granola, followed by a lunch of delicious green papaya salads, or omelettes, or rotis with chickpeas, vegetarian sushi and sometimes the odd grilled fish option thrown in for those of us who can’t imagine beach life without. We then end our day with a tiny bowl of soup for dinner. Okay the tiny bowl of soup was at first a hard pill to swallow given my usual fine wining, cooking and dining ways. During the first few days I’d rush to bed at 8:00pm just so I didn’t have to look at the buffet a second longer; but by day three my stomach must have shrunk because I haven’t had a food craving in over a week and retire happy, with just the smallest of hankerings for a bar of dark velvety Ecuadorian chocolate.
Sometimes I dream of deliciously greasy hamburgers accompanied by heaps of chips fried to crispy perfection, but moving on, I’m feeling increasingly inspired to really try and shift my diet into a plant-rich direction (calm down I ain’t going vegetarian quite yet) and trying to maintain as holistic and organic as possible a relationship to the food I ingest. More on that next time though…I’m late for Mysore practice!