Archives for posts with tag: Samahita Retreat
Vancouver’s Kits Pool. One of my favourite places on the planet. I was swimming one evening, as the sun was going down. One of three people in the pool. All of a sudden, Canada’s Snowbirds flew by, in formation. Gorgeous.

3, 2, 1, breathe. 3, 2, 1, breathe. 3, 2, 1, breathe. As my body glides through the water, I feel weightless. My entire being is smiling.

There’s something about swimming that, for me, is incredibly meditative. I sit in meditation every morning, but this is different. Breathing every third stroke means my mind is focused on only that. Other thoughts happen, however they don’t stick around. I can’t dwell on them, because, well, I don’t want to drown.

Not only is swimming wonderful for me physically, it’s effect on my state of mind is beautiful. No matter how I feel before I jump into the pool, I feel better when I jump out. If I’m down before, I’m happy after. If I’m stressed before I jump in, I’m relaxed when I’m done. If I’m happy before, I’m even happier after.

When I jump out of the pool, I feel like my belly flattened during the swim. It hasn’t, but I don’t care, I hang onto that feeling as long as I can.

It wasn’t until I lived in Vancouver and discovered Kits Pool that swimming became a regular thing. A lengthy 137 meters of bliss. To put that in perspective, Olympic pools are 50 meters in length. Located on the beach, it opens the May long weekend and closes in September. I started going regularly, almost every day.

So as this May long weekend came and went, I traveled to Kits Pool in my mind. Some friends were there in person. Lucky them!

When I first started going, as much as I tried, I couldn’t freestyle an entire length. I needed a coach. A friend told me about Steven, a former competitive swimmer giving lessons at the Vancouver YWCA. I signed up and was amazed at how learning a few techniques completely changed my swim. We worked on all four strokes, which made it even more fun. Kits pool became a breeze. Not having to turn until 137 meters meant I could really get lost in the swim.

I look back fondly at my summer of “funemployment”, when my friend Stu (also not working at the time) and I were at Kits pool every day. We “laughed” at those who had to be at work. By the end of that summer, I was a whole other shade of brown, my skin so tanned that my lily white butt glowed in the dark. I remember waking up from a nap on the pool deck, looking around, seeing someone close by and thinking, “that woman in a black bikini is here every day. Doesn’t she work?” I then paused, took a look at myself and laughed. There I was, in a black bikini, not working, at the pool every day. I eventually met her at the yoga studio I frequented, and we had a good laugh. Turns out, she was working – early morning hours meant she could swim in the afternoon.

I eventually signed up for Intro to Masters Swim classes at the YWCA – preferring to try it out in a more relaxed environment before committing to an actual Masters. My first Masters was at the West Vancouver pool, which started at 5:30am! Thankfully I lived a seven-minute drive away. I could roll out of bed at 5:00 and be in the pool on time.

Steven then convinced me to join a Masters Swim group where he was a member. “The coach is Russian, really good, and works all four strokes,” he said. As much as I shouldn’t have been in the same pool as Steven, I joined. There were four lanes filled with former German and Canadian national team members, and me. Thankfully I was always in a lane by myself. I did the same drills as everyone else, just nowhere near as many. I loved it.

The last time I was in a Masters Swim, I joined with one of my besties. I would pick her up in the morning, we’d swim, then head to the office. We’d been doing this for months when she said something about it being the gay and lesbian masters club. I stopped her mid-sentence. The what? Not that I gave a shit, I wasn’t exactly rolling out of bed at 6am to find a guy. Nor was she, as she already had a boyfriend. It did, however, explain the looks we were, and weren’t, getting.

In the years I’ve spent working and traveling around the world, I’ve always been able to find a pool.

In Istanbul I really lucked out. There was an indoor pool right beside our office. One of my coworkers came with me to translate as I met the manager to set up a membership. When told everyone had to wear a bathing cap, my objection fell on deaf ears. My hair was super short, and I never wore one. When the manager insisted, I asked if men with hair on their chests, shoulders and backs would be wearing a full-body wet suit. They didn’t find it as funny as I did….but seriously, these men have more hair on their body than I have on my head!

In Baku, Azerbaijan, I joined a club near my apartment. Rarely were there other women swimming lanes. If there was an empty lane when I arrived, I jumped in and nobody came near me. Local men did not want to swim with a woman. Worked for me! I love it when I get a lane to myself.

Aaahhh, the memories.

COVID hasn’t been pool friendly. But that’s changing now. The local YMCA is open again, accepting limited numbers for lane swims. So I’m back in, pretending to be at Kits pool. Come June 24th there’s a local outdoor pool opening, and I can not wait to try it out. Seriously though, it could be open now, it’s certainly warm enough!

3, 2, 1, breathe. 3, 2, 1, breathe. 3, 2, 1, breathe. A must in the pool, and a lesson for life outside the pool too. It’s always a good reminder to just breathe.

Kits pool, Kits beach – here’s to being back there again. Meanwhile, thanks for all that you have given me!


It was quite the month. Filled with challenges, learnings, new friendships, laughs, tears, ups and downs. So pretty much anything and everything you can think of! The desire to do a yoga teacher training intensive course is one I have had for a while now, and nearly did a couple of years ago. This does not necessarily mean I will end up teaching full-time, but you just never know. I simply wanted to get a deeper understanding of yoga – which is something that always helps ground me and makes me feel good.

I found Samahita Retreat two years ago. It was recommended to me by a friend who knew I was looking for a place to go in Thailand post a week-long conference in Bangkok. She mentioned that a mutual friend had done her yoga teacher training at Samahita. After viewing their website I signed up for a yoga retreat and Samahita’s Yoga-Core-Cycle programme. I loved it. So when I found myself with some time on my hands I was pleased to see that they had a YTT course within my “time off”. It was great to find myself back in this familiar place, with friends I made 2 years ago still here.

the room

The main yoga shala, where we spent much of our days. I love this room.

I’m not sure what I was expecting out of the month…but let me say that I got so much out of it. The first two weeks were crammed with anatomy classes, introduction to yogic philosophy, morning meditation, pranayama (breath work) and asana (physical yoga practice/postures), asana studies (where you break down each of the poses and talk about the right way to go into them, be in them [BE IN IT!!! – as Paul would say], come out of them, adjust people in them), and Sanskrit studies of the names of the poses and chants . There is soooo much information coming that at times I wondered how I would remember it all, let alone truly absorb it all , and then pass the anatomy exam!  I will admit that I also asked myself what the heck I had signed up for on a couple of occasions.

The third week is filled with yoga philosophy (Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras) – an introduction really as there is so much in the sutras that a lot more study is required to truly get a grasp of it all. This week saw discussions on “why are we here”, “who/what are we”, “what does it all mean”, “nothingness”, “non-reality”, “fear of losing all that we have/fear of death” and so much more. Oh ya, a few nights of calming the brain down was required for sure. And at the end of the week, exam #2 – Sanskrit chanting the pose names, kriyas, pranayamas and preparatory exercises. When I first saw the list I thought there was no way I would remember them all. And then as I was doing my self-practice (asana) just before the chanting oral exam, there was this energetic balancing to centre where it all just fell into place. Trust. That word came up many times – trust that this is exactly where I was meant to be; trust that those teaching the course know what they are doing and how to get us to the finish line; trust that it all comes into place and that I am more than capable of it all; trust that I was exactly where I wanted and was meant to be and just let go of any pre-conceived notions and desired outcomes; trust that it all will fall into place – just as it is meant to be. Now there’s a life lesson…don’t have to control it all? Don’t have to know exactly what happens when and how? Just let it all happen? Oh, OK, sure thing, that’s easy for this Scorpio born the year of the Dragon… Hahahaha…

The day after we took exam #3 – Philosophy. Thankfully I was calmer by this point.

Week 4 – teaching exams. I’ve lead some classes before, so this wasn’t the first time I did so. However – the environment of an ‘exam’ is so very different. Someone is watching you “teach” your fellow students. And we all know the sequences, so they know what pose is supposed to come next. Way more pressure than actually simply teaching a class. I stressed way more than I needed to going into the 2 exams, and was pretty pleased with my performance. As always there is room to grow and things to learn – and the beauty here is that this will never change. Always a student, never a teacher.

lise grad

Well…certified to teach, but there’s always more to learn, so forever a student. A student of life.

Through it all there are a myriad of emotions coming and going  – particularly in the morning contemplation around gratitude (where are you in your life, what are you grateful for – the good, the challenges, the lessons, the people), forgiveness (asking for forgiveness from those you have hurt, forgiving those that hurt you, self-forgiveness) and asking for help/guidance for whatever it is you need that with. Most of my tears came in the “gratitude” contemplation. I have said for years now that I lead a “charmed life”. I truly do. And I am grateful for all of it.

There is so much more to be said about this experience, however the words have not yet formed – the thoughts continue to evolve and ruminate. More contemplation required. More asana practice required. More breath work required. Not that any of it is “work” actually – for me it’s simply a glorious way to start the day. Then it’s the challenge of taking it all with me from my mat through my day.

One thing I can say is that the people I met here are amazing. An intense experience for all of us, and strong friendships made. People from all over gathered here and I am so lucky to have met them all. I miss you my beauties!

Samahita – thank you. All the wonderful people who shared in this experience with me, thank you. I have learned so much from all of you and could not have done this without your support, smiles, jokes and encouragement — special shout out to those attempting the tongue lock by using a chopstick…

#Charmed Life.    For damn sure!