It’s cold. I mean, it’s really cold. The heat pump I’ve been given for my room has stopped working. (It’s as if it threw its heating coils up in the air in defeat and said, “I give up. I’m tired of working so hard and I’m going to Bermuda.”) I’ve snagged one from one of the other rooms in the house and, though not as strong, my next option is building a campfire. I miss the warmth of Peter the Heater from Camper van Beethoven, though not all that came along with him. Still, despite the chill, I manage to get myself out of the warm bed (thank heavens for electric mattress pads) and into the car to drive the short distance to the Yoga Tree to attend a much-needed yoga class.
It’s been months since I attended my last yoga class in Indonesia and, while I’ve done a bit in hotel rooms on my own, it’s just not the same. Although I’ve practiced yoga for fifteen-years, I’m attending a beginner class today for a couple of reasons. First, as I said, it’s been a while, and I’m as stiff as my favorite drink (single malt scotch, straight-up). And second, this is no ordinary yoga class; it’s called “Hatha Yoga with Ropes.” Hatha Yoga works with strength, flexibility and alignment and ropes seem just a bit kinky. . .wait, no, the ropes are to help deepen your stretch and assist with new poses.
As I enter, I notice that it’s about the same temperature as the house (this is definitely not a Hot Yoga class). It turns out all of the heat-pumps in Taupo seem to have gotten organized, formed a union, and gone to Bermuda. The instructor assures us that the pump stopped working, but has now decided to start again (apparently the heat-pumps were having trouble finding work in Bermuda) and it should get a little warmer soon.
Ilsa, the instructor welcomes me and asks another student to set up a spot for me with the equipment needed. One thing I’ve noticed in many classes overseas is the use of equipment. At home I bring my mat, a towel, and a bottle of water. Here, I walk over to my spot near the wall and, besides the ropes hanging from the wall at two levels, I find a mat, three wooden blocks, three blankets, a strap, and a bolster. (Add a roll of duct-tape and I could build an airplane.)
I take my spot and am instructed to sit on one of the blocks with my legs bent so my ankles are on either side of my butt, and with my calves on the floor. I’m told to place the bolster and blankets in a pile behind me, and wrap the strap though my ankles and around my knees and buckle it closed. Oh my, I feel like a Thanksgiving Turkey. I’m then instructed to lie back onto the bolster and relax (ha!). My ankles soon begin objecting to the position and, after a few minutes, I listen to them and come out of the pose. We work a few more poses, gently easing into the ropes hanging from the wall. We hold onto them with our hands behind out back and hang forward. We face the wall while holding the ropes at the base of our backs and stretching back. And finally, it’s time to hang.
We’re instructed on how to build a swing with the ropes (seriously, give me some duct-tape and we can fly to Bermuda to reclaim our heat-pumps). After some architectural assistance from the woman next to me, I’m ready to hang. It’s surprisingly easy to climb into the harness and spread my knees to get into the hanging upside-down position (I think the proper yoga term might be Batasana). I really like this position, once I settle in, and begin to think about how to rig this up in a hotel room. (Perhaps those rent-by-the-hour hotels have these included.)
After seventy-five minutes, class ends and I’m stretched and warmer. We all head out to enjoy a bite and a cup of coffee at café close by before saying our goodbyes.
Next, it’s time for a bath, and I head over to the Hot Thermal Pools at Wairakei Terraces. Sharon, Frank the dog’s mom, has left me a pass for a free visit to the hot thermal pools and, in my search for warmth, well, it’s right in the name. I approach the front desk, show my pass, do a quick change in the locker room, and head down the walkway to the pools. The sun has come out, it’s warming up and all is well with the world. I’ve been to thermal pools in Germany and Hungary on this adventure, and neither has been quite as hot as I would have liked, but the German ones at least had indoor entrances which allowed me to walk through the water to the outside so I didn’t have to be out of the pool in the cold outdoors in my bathing-suit. While I must enter this pool from the outside, the water is fantastically hot. I mean, step in slowly and get used to it, hot. I soak in the heat and the sunshine, grab my Kindle, and begin reading my book. (Currently reading the Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho, which was recommended to me by someone I volunteered with in Malaysia, and which I’m really enjoying and relating to in a deep way.) As it’s a weekday during the off-season, I’m the only one here (a great reason to travel during the slow-season). I’ve been a bit stressed (actually freaking out about money and the future) and this is magical. Between the setting and the book speaking to me, I have a spiritual moment (actually about thirty-minutes) and am finally able to breathe.
A few others arrive and, though it’s in no-way busy or noisy, the hypnotic moments have ended and I move onto the next three pools. One is the same temperature, one is cooler and one, as I’ve been warned, is hotter; much hotter. I sit and stew in my bath for another hour before finally dragging my wrinkly skin out of the baths, into the locker-room, and back into the now, sun-warmed Taupo day.
I end my day of zen by sharing it with Frank, the dog, and a walk down to beautiful Lake Taupo.
Coming up next, Blackwater
Did you see? The next vote is up and running! And, ending on July 31st, it’s a quick one. Click here to vote! It’ll be a blast because I don’t know where I’m a gonna go when the volcano blows!