Yoga Immersion and Bamboo Tattoos in Koh Phangan, Thailand


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February 3rd 2018
Published: February 3rd 2018
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It was a forty hour journey to get from our home in Regina, central Canada, to our first overseas destination in Bangkok, Thailand. The first fifteen hours involved a two hour flight to Vancouver airport on New Year’s Day, followed by a dozen hours waiting for our after midnight flight to Bangkok, via Taipei. All connections went well, but the additional twelve hours of waiting around the airport was a gruelling time extension to an already long flight plan. However, when we finally arrived Bangkok mid-afternoon two days later it was only a matter of minutes before we fell asleep and remained in that state for the next eighteen hours, ready to commence a new day in a new country relatively fresh and revived. Jet lag was not noticeable.

It is always a delight to start our travels in the Koa San Road area of Bangkok, which attracts a multi-aged backpacker crowd and a broad variety of eccentrics, leaving us consistently feeling like we have just arrived at someone’s summer party. The street food is good, the live music vibrant, and the temperatures deliciously warm and humid. We stayed for two days before undertaking our next excursion of planes, buses and boats to reach our ultimate Thai destination - the island of Koh Phangan in southern Thailand - where we would remain for the rest of the month.

We had visited Koh Phangan last year, and were drawn to its beauty, its laid back vibe, its great routes for bike touring, and, most importantly, its yoga schools, of which there are many. But one in particular stood out for me, so I spent a week taking part in classes. It was enough of an introduction to bring us back to this remote island a year later, ready to commit to the Level One Immersion Course. And commitment is what it takes, as it is an entire month of study dedicated to introducing the fundamental premises upon which the science of yoga is built - its history, philosophy, physical and spiritual aspects, along with a comprehensive introduction to the asana practice. With four hours of hatha yoga practice per day, and nightly lectures, six days per week, for twenty four days, the course was more comprehensive than any other I have experienced in my lifetime of yoga studies in several traditions and countries over the years. It was demanding and exhausting, leaving us no time to do much else over the month, but it was very, very informative and deeply inspiring. Some describe it as life changing. I am most proud of my husband who fully committed to the program, attending every asana practice session and the lectures, and very much earning the Agama Level One 150 Hour Immersion Course Certificate of Achievement.

The Level One Intensive lays the foundation for a continuum of hatha yoga courses in the curriculum. And curriculum it is, for the Agama Yoga School (agama.com) is really a spiritual university, with eight teaching halls on its campus, in which 24 levels in Hatha Yoga are offered, each a month long, along with a diverse, extensive, and ongoing offering of workshops and several degrees of teacher training courses. The campus attracts people of all ages and backgrounds from around the globe. I feel myself back at university again. A very different university indeed, but one that seems to to be a fit, as I have found my happy place. We look forward to returning next January for a longer period, to continue our studies after having the upcoming year to digest and put into practice the knowledge we have acquired to this point.

Another very special experience I took with me from this island was getting my daughter Tessa’s Memorial Blue Rose tattoo restored. After some extensive research, I found an artist whose vision for the restoration matched what I have had in mind for the past few years, and we proceeded with the plan. Perhaps the most unique aspect of this project was that the tattoo work was done via the ancient art of bamboo tattooing, whereby the needle is inserted into a bamboo rod which the artist carefully manipulates entirely by hand. There is no machine. Bamboo tattoos are only available in Thailand, as they originated some three thousand years ago with Buddhist monks inscribing sacred symbols for protection. I believe Angelina Jolene brought some attention to this art form when she acquired her bamboo tattoo in Thailand.

After two hours of design consultation, the artist went to work. Four hours of non-stop needle pricking later, his masterpiece was completed. Yes, I must say I felt pretty stoic, as it was my longest tattoo sitting by far.

As the artist is also a music lover with a great stereo system in his shop, during the entire time we listened to excellent music tracks, including some of my own releases that he searched on youtube. That was rather special. Then, at the exact moment that he completed the work, Johnny Cash’s song “Hurt” came on.

”I hurt myself today, to see if I still feel. I focus on the pain. The only thing that’s real. The needle tears a hole, the old familiar sting. Try to kill it all away. But I remember everything.”

Have I mentioned yet that I don’t believe in coincidence?

The next song - Over the Rainbow / It’s a Wonderful World - was even better, and far more accurately describes my current sentiments and my experience, as it was without doubt the most positive tattoo experience I have had - and this is my third revisiting of Tessa’s Blue Rose. The end result is beautiful, bringing to it colour, vibrancy, and movement that has been missing for years.

Much gratitude to Rafael Nikarin of Bamboo Tattoo (freewaytattoo.com). Thank you for sharing your impressive talent and your lovely energy with me, creating this beautiful bamboo tattoo. Angelina Jolie and I now have something in common 😉

Our month in Thailand has been powerful and profound, and we look forward to returning early next year. But now we turn our focus toward Indonesia, to another beautiful place on the planet, to resume language and guitar studies, to reconnect with old friends and familiar places, and to discover some new territories and adventures.


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The Enlightenment Hall, Agama Class Level OneThe Enlightenment Hall, Agama Class Level One
The Enlightenment Hall, Agama Class Level One

The photo is deceiving, as most of the students had already left. Typically, the hall was full with 70 - 80 students present for most classes.


4th February 2018

Response to January 2018
Hello Bev and Stan, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your experiences. You dig deeply into the different cultures and devoted yourself to the yoga course. It sounds intense, but I think that is what you like.
12th February 2018

Response to January 2018
Yes, it was intense, and yes, it is what I like. Glad you are enjoyimg the blog Penthes. Thanks for your interest and for taking a moment to share your comment.

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