Category Archives: yoga

Climbing Grades Aren’t Sexist, but Climbing is

Feminism

Over the past few years I have become interested in learning a little bit about Feminism and other social justice issues.  Mostly be more aware of biases I might have, how to avoid acting on them, and to be a better person.  So when an article discussing sexism and climbing comes across my screen I usually pay attention and read it.  2015 had several articles of this nature.  More recently Fringe’s Folly wrote about sexism in climbing.  I thought all the articles were thought provoking and provided interesting points for discussion.  One article though I thought was incredibly stupid.  It coins the term “Dude Grade” which basically means the grade of a climb more accurately represents the difficulty of the climb for more men than women.

Ranting

The article goes on to suggest a color grading scale which represents a subjective range of difficulty.  This is silly because the YDS and V scale already represent a subjective range of difficulty.  One 5.10a could feel easy to a person and a different 5.10a could feel a lot harder to the same person.  I fail to see how a color scale which represents a broader range of difficulty solves anything.  Just because a person can climb “yellow” doesn’t mean they will be able to climb all “yellow” routes.

The “problem” the article discusses is not one of gender but instead the physiology of the climber.  More specifically their height.  The author’s friend who can send V10 but gets shut down on some V5’s not because the grading scales and guide books have historically been written by men.  Not because she is a woman.  But because she is short and trying to climb what is most likely a “reachy” route.  The guidebook should just say, the route will feel harder than graded for short people…

Based on my own experience there are some 6a’s I have had an extremely difficult time climbing even though I have by now red pointed 6c.  I’ve seen men easily send 6b and struggle on 6a.  Just today I saw a guy climb a 7a and need to rest on a 6a+.  The problem of getting stuck on routes far easier than your limit as far as I can tell applies to all climbers.  Not just women.  Not just short people.  It is incorrect to think that just because someone has done a few climbs (or a lot) at one grade level should mean they can do all climbs at or below that grade level.

Should we also coin the term “Fatshame Grade” to indicate an overhanging route will feel more difficult to someone with a few extra pounds?  “Chick Grade” to indicate any route that might feel easier to a woman.  Perhaps crimpy or slabby routes?  How far are we going to take this?  It’s absolutely ridiculous!

How to Approach Climbing Grades

Climbing grades should be taken with a grain of salt.  Grades are supposedly decided by a consensus but that consensus is never 100%.  Because of this they will always be subjective.  Don’t climb just for the numbers and leave your ego on the ground.

For myself I think for a climb at a certain grade, what’s the probability I’ll be able to onsight it?  Based on my ability today, that might look something like this: 7a or harder: 0%, 6c+: 5%, 6c: 10%, 6b+: 15%, 6b: 25%, 6a+: 50%, 6a: 75%, 5: 95%, 4 or easier: 99%  So if I’m getting ready to climb a new 6a, I’ll be pretty confident I can onsight it.  But if I don’t no big deal.  I’ll save the redpoint for another day.

Yoga

Time for a detour.  Yoga Asanas are sexist.  Yep.  I said it!  I’m pretty sure if I mentioned this in a yoga discussion forum I would be laughed at but I’m going to coin the term “Chick Asana”.  What is a Chick Asana?  It’s any yoga pose that favors the physiology and morphology of the female body.  This could be something like lotus pose, or wheel pose.  Pretty much any yoga pose that requires flexible hips, shoulders and spine is a Chick Asana.  Let me tell you, it can be frustrating to see a new student come to class and on their first time practicing yoga perform better than me who has now been practicing yoga nearly every day for over a year.

So yoga teachers, please stop teaching these asanas!   Think of how it makes your male and other less flexible students feel in class when they are not able to perform these poses.  To be safe, I suggest only teach sukhasana and savasana.

Another frustrating experience I recently had was with a guest ashtanga teacher at my usual place of practice.  In this session the teacher who happened to be male only assisted the cute (female) Thai yoga students and completely ignored this ugly white dude.  I also see similar behavior from female yoga teachers.  They most often assist the advanced students who usually happen to be skinny women and ignore or provide minimal assistance to the struggling students.

Why is Climbing Sexist?

Back to climbing.  Climbing itself isn’t sexist but sexism in society as a whole has always been a part of climbing.  In the early days of climbing the vast majority of climbers were men.  Perhaps due to what society considered to be acceptable activities for women.  Nowadays there are many more women climbers but the majority are still male.  The majority of new route developers are men.  When a man is climbing with a woman, it’s usually the man leading and the woman climbing on toprope.  Men tend to give horrible advice and beta to women.  I recall an instance in a climbing gym where I heard a guy giving advice to his female partner struggling on a 5.10 or 5.11 route.  He said something like “You’re climbing this like a 5.11.  Just climb it like a 5.8.”  Ridiculous.  Then there is the issue of how women are portrayed in climbing media.  Again, I suspect these and other problems are related to patriarchal issues of how men and women are socialized in today’s society.

But there are a lot of women crushing and climbing hard routes in this environment.  One of the best rock climbers in the world is a 5 foot tall 14 year old Japanese girl.  As more women come to the sport it won’t be long before they are climbing as hard or harder than the guys.  They continue to break down barriers and push the limits of what is possible.  It will be exciting to see what is achieved over the years.

Conclusing

Everybody is different and every body is different.  The rock doesn’t care if you are young, old, fat, skinny, weak, strong, male or female.  Climb something because it looks fun, looks like a good challenge, or inspires you in some way.  Don’t worry too much about the grades, check your ego, and just have fun.

 

 

 

 

Koh Tao

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Koh Tao is an island in the Gulf of Thailand near Surat Thani.  Since I came to Thailand, I haven’t done much travelling but a friend from home was on vacation there so it gave me an excuse to get out of Ao Nang and see a little more of Thailand.  Koh Tao also has climbing so it was an easy decision to go for a few days.  Anong and I packed our bags and headed out.

Getting to Koh Tao (from Ao Nang)

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Just got off the bus. Waiting for the ferry on the pier at Surat Thani.

Koh Tao is kind of hard to get to.  There are a few options.  The first and probably quickest is to catch a flight from Krabi Airport and fly to Koh Samui.  Bangkok Airways does one flight a day for about 3100 baht.  Once to Koh Samui take a taxi to one of the piers then a ferry to Koh Tao.  Total price would be around 4000 baht per person including taxi to / from airports and total travel time around 4 to 5 hours depending on how schedules line up.

The next option is to take a take a Songthaew from Ao Nang to the Krabi bus station and get a bus to Surat Thani.  Find your way to the pier then buy a ferry ticket to Koh Tao.  I’m not sure how much this would cost but I’m guessing around 700 baht and it will likely take all day and might require an overnight stay in Surat Thani depending on how the ferry schedules line up which would eliminate any savings.

The third option and what I think is the best value is to book a tour package through one of the resorts in the area.  I ended up at Slumber Party Hostel because they are close to where I live and they provided me with a package through Lomprayah High Speed Ferries that included pickup in Ao Nang for 1100 baht per person.  Total travel time was about 8 hours.  It also looks like tickets can be booked on their website.

Coming back, I was able to book tickets online through Seatran Discovery that included drop off at my room in Ao Nang for around 900 Baht because they were discounting tickets for some reason.  Standard price is 1100 Baht.

Where To Stay

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Sairee beach.

Sairee beach has the highest concentration of resorts, restaurants, and things to do.  I’ve also heard it can be very loud at night with many bars playing loud music all night.  I ended up staying about 1 kilometer past the end of the beach at Koh Tao Hillside Resort.  It was nice and quiet but I probably wouldn’t stay here again since my room was rather run down and not very nice for the price paid.  But the pool was nice and the restaurant had pretty good food.  If I go back, I might try staying on the other side of the island where it’s even quieter and more secluded.

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Getting Around

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Depending on what you want to do / where you want to go you’ll need your own transportation.  Taxi’s on the island are ridiculously expensive.  I heard one couple was quoted 400 baht (just over 11 dollars) to go from Sairee beach to the pier which is about 5 minutes away by car and only 2 or 3 kilometers away.  But a quick search online shows motorbike rental shops are notorious for scamming tourists and charging outrageous fees for small scratches on the bike that were already there at the time of rental.  But be careful.  If you’ve never ridden a scooter or motorcycle before, Koh Tao is a bad place to learn.  It’s hard to believe but the people on Koh Tao drive even worse than the people in Krabi.  On top of that, the roads are filled with potholes, covered in sand or dirt, and some of the roads are extremely steep.  I had heard good things about Oli’s Motorbike Rentals and that they were an honest shop.  So I took my chances and rented a 125cc Honda Click from them.  I also left my passport with them even though it made me throw up in my mouth a little bit.  The bike was had just enough power to get Anong and I with our climbing gear to the top of Mek’s Mountain where we went climbing.  No incidents while driving and Oli’s is indeed an honest shop.  If you find yourself on Koh Tao and need a motorbike, use Oli’s.

What To Do

The main activity on the island is diving.  From what I hear the diving is very good and PADI diving certifications aren’t very expensive.  But I wasn’t stoked on the diving.  Instead, Anong and I found some other things to occupy our time.

Go Climbing!

The island is littered with massive granite boulders and some cliffs so we hired a guide through Good Time Adventures to show us around.  It’s not necessary to hire a guide but since we were only there for a few days I didn’t want to waste time finding the best climbs.  We went climbing the first day with Good Time Adventures then two days later went back to Mek’s Mountain on our own.

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Try Something New

Good Time Adventures also gives flying trapeze lessons.  I’d never tried it before but it looked like fun.  It was lots of fun but one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done.

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Eat and Drink A Lot

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Lap Gai from some unnamed Thai restaurant on the side of the road.

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Som Tam Thai from the same restaurant.

There are lots of good restaurants on the Island.  A few I recommend are:

  1. tHAITA iTALIAN RESTAURANT.  Simple Italian food prepared with fresh ingredients.  The best dinner I had on the island and it was reasonably priced.

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    Bruschetta

  2. The Gallery.  Fancy Thai food.  I only had a drink and an appetizer here but based on what I saw I’m sure everything else is also delicious.
  3. Le Petit Palace.  European / American food.  I had a hamburger here that was very average.  But I liked the place anyways because they have a good but pricey selection of beer.  I had a Deschutes IPA for the first time in 9 months and it was delicious!
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  4. Thai-Riffic.  The Thai food here is sort of westernized but it’s still pretty good.  But the real reason to come here is for the dessert and baked goods.  They are delicious.  Finding this place was extremely difficult.  It’s not on the map where Google says it is and asking local Thai people where it is doesn’t work because they only hear “Thai restaurant” and say oh, there are 3 on this street and point you in the completely wrong direction.  But we persevered and eventually found it.

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    Pad Grapow Moo

 

Practice Yoga

IMG_7791We went to Grounded Yoga two times while we were on the island.  I though the teachers were good and drop in classes are fairly priced at 250 baht.

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Pre class warm up with high plank.

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Yoga students after class.

Get A Massage

There are many massage shops all along Sairee beach.  Standard price for a one hour Thai massage is 300 baht.  A bit more expensive than Ao Nang but not too bad.  We went to one place and got ok massages.  The next night we tried the spa at our resort and got a much better massage but it was 100 baht more.  I’d say it was worth it for the better experience.

Watch The Sunset

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This is the resort next to the one we stayed at. It looks very fancy and much nicer. I checked online and it was about the same price ! 😦

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Windy and cloudy but still very nice sunset dinner at Aminjirah

 

Go Explore

Driving around the island is also fun.  There are several large hills / small mountains and driving up to them provides beautiful views.  There are also some temples and shrines on the island that we visited.

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Thai Buddhist temple.

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My best impersonation of Alex Honnold

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Well, that’s about it.  5 days on the island and I was ready to come back to Ao Nang.  But it’s been raining every day since I got back.  I might need to go on another vacation to a less rainy part of Thailand.

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Yoga Words

Today in yoga class I was the only foreigner so the teacher taught almost entirely in Thai.  I’ve picked up on a couple words already and learned a few more today.  Here are some yoga related Thai words / phrases:

  1. Yoga: yoo-ká (Thai:โยคะ)
  2. Reverse: glàp-dâan (Thai:กลับด้าน)
  3. Breathe in: hǎai-jai kâo (Thai:หายใจเข้า)
  4. Breathe out: hǎai-jai àↄk (Thai:หายใจออก)
  5. Lengthen your back: yûut lǎng (Thai:ยืดหลัง)
  6. Left hand: muu sáai (Thai:มือซ้าย)
  7. Right hand: muu kwǎa(Thai:มือขวา)
  8. Left foot: táao sáai (Thai:เท้าซ้าย)
  9. Right foot: táao kwǎa (Thai:เท้าขวา)
  10. Left knee: kào sáai (Thai:เข่าซ้าย)
  11. Right knee: kào kwǎa (Thai:เข่าขวา)
  12. Left leg: kǎa sáai (Thai:ขาซ้าย)
  13. Right leg: kǎa kwǎa (Thai:ขาขวา)
  14. Left arm: kɛ̌ɛn sáai (Thai:แขนซ้าย)
  15. Right arm: kɛ̌ɛn kwǎa (Thai:แขนขวา)
  16. Shoulders: lài (Thai:ไหล่)
  17. Jump: grà-dòot (Thai:กระโดด)
  18. Sit down: nâng-long (Thai:นั่งลง)
  19. Stand up: yuun kûn (Thai:ยืนขึ้น)
  20. Body: dtuua (Thai:ตัว)

Bangkok

A friend of mine from work was coming to Bangkok so Anong and I booked some airplane tickets to visit her (thanks for the hospitality Jackie!).  During the day Anong and I explored Bangkok, visited temples, and sampled the many options for food in the city.  In the evenings we met up with Jackie and her friends for dinner and drinks.

On the 17th, we arrived in the afternoon.  Getting from the airport to the city isn’t too difficult but it does take some time…  We flew into Don Mueang Airport which means we had to take the A1 bus to the Mo Chit Bus Station which connects to the BTS (Sky Train).  Once in the sky train station it was pretty easy to figure out how to get to Jackie’s place.  I think it took about 2.5 hours to get there though.  Once we got off the BTS is was a 20 minute or so walk.  It didn’t take us long to find some street food.

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If I go to Bangkok again I think I will try flying into Suvarnabhumi Airport which I think connects to the subway and BTS which would save lots of time by avoiding the bus ride.  A little later in the evening we all went out for dinner at a Thai restaurant then met some other friends for drinks at a place called Small’s Bar.   They had a pretty cool rooftop seating area.

The next day was a gruelling tour of all the wats (temples) in Bangkok.  Well, not all of them but we went to 7 or 8 wats and a couple other shrines so it felt like we went to all of them.  But first Anong and I went to a yoga studio for a nice morning workout.  It was interesting trying a new yoga studio with different teachers and a different style of yoga.  Anyone in Bangkok should check out Roots8Yoga.

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Now for the wats!  I think the first place we went to was called Chao Pho Suea Joss House.  I can’t recommend going there.  Once we got close to the entrance a few ladies selling incense, candles, and other things start quickly talking to us and showing a price list of various things.  Anong is discussing various things with them.  This is all happening in Thai so I’m not really sure what is being discussed.  I don’t have a good feeling about this but I thought I’d just let Anong do her thing since it’s important to her  and it seems they agreed on an offering tray with a few things on it for around ฿200 which didn’t seem too bad.  So we go in side, light the prescribed number of incense sticks at each spot, burn some candles and do our thing.  Meanwhile some dude is talking over a loudspeaker and some lady is following us around seemingly explaining various things to Anong but this is all unusual to me so I ask why is this lady following us around.  Not getting a clear answer I just go with the flow.  About 10 minutes later we walk out and back to the stand that sold us the tray of things and they tell us it’s ฿790!  What!?  Being in a little bit of shock I just pay it unsure of what service they provided for 10 minutes that was worth ฿790.  After explaining to Anong that I don’t like being taken advantage of and that we can not spend ฿790 at every wat we go to we were on our way.

For any visitors to Thailand, here’s the standard operating procedure when visiting temples.

  1. You can bring your own incense and candles.  But if you use the incense and candles at the temple, they usually suggest a donation of ฿5 to ฿20.
  2. More popular temples will have vendors selling flowers outside.  Flowers will cost between ฿25 to ฿100 but none of this money goes to the temple so skip it.
  3. When going inside the temple, take off your shoes.
  4. When inside, light incense, say prayers, burn candles, take pictures.  Pictures are almost always ok.  Just be quiet and reverent.
  5. There are usually 1 or 2 monks inside the temple.  It’s ok to talk to the monk and you can get a blessing from the monk.  It’s not required but a ฿20 donation is appropriate.
  6. There will be other donation boxes inside the temple.  Donate any amount you feel is appropriate.

The next stop is Wat Phra Kaew.  It’s inside the Grand Palace and is one of the most popular tourist spots in the city.  Outside they have a recording that plays every minute or two to remind people the palace is open every day and to be suspicious of anyone approaching you.  Apparently a big scam is to tell tourists the palace is closed today then take them on a tour of gem and tailor shops with high pressure salesmen.  It’s nice to see something being down to cut down on the tourist scams.  The price to go inside was ฿500 for tourists!  Thais are free.  Thanks Thailand for yet another reminder that although you are happy to take my money, I am not really welcome here and do not belong.  Still feeling sick from the last experience it was an easy decision to wait outside while Anong went in.  It was so crowded that Anong wasn’t able to take any pictures so I feel like I didn’t miss anything.  Here’s a couple pictures I got while I waited.

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Before Wat Phra Kaew we saw this:

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Mother Earth Squeezing Her Hair. A shrine to Queen Patcharindra who set up access to clean water for the people.

And this:

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Next was Wat Pho.  ฿200 to get in (free for Thais).  No thanks.  Here’s a picture of the ceiling over the bench I sat on while waiting outside.

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After Wat Pho we went to Wat Arun.  Wat Arun had lots of interesting things to look at.  Most of which can be seen without paying a fee.  There is one section that does have a fee but it’s a more reasonable ฿40 so I ended up paying that and got a few more pictures.

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IMG_0858After Wat Arun we bought some boat tickets and rode up and down the Chao Phraya River (Thai: แม่น้ำเจ้าพระยา) and saw a few more temples.  Note the “Ch” is pronounced with a ‘J’ sound.  At this point all the temples started looking the same so here’s a few more pictures:

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Done with the temples!  Here’s another street food picture.  They are making Kanom Krok.  My favorite Thai snack / dessert:

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On the 19th, I went to yoga in the morning.  After yoga we relaxed then headed out on the BTS to explore Bangkok a little bit.  We did a little shopping at MBK but didn’t buy much.  Walked around, and ate some food.

On the 20th, we went to see the Erawan Shrine.  It’s a statue with four faces.

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Then we went to China Town.

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Durian Gan Yao!

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Of course we went to more wats!

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Painting on a ceramic pot.

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This is a solid gold statue of Buddha. This picture cost me ฿40

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The temples in China Town reminded me of Hong Kong.

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The durian was delicious.

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Then we ate pizza at Via Vai.  A guy we were with is friends with the owner so we got this extra fancy pizza.  We drank red wine and ate some more normal pizzas.  Best pizza I’ve had in Thailand so far.

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 And on our last day, we just went to the airport.  Back on the BTS to Mo Chit.  Then take the A1 to the airport.  It was a bit of an adventure finding the bus station and the bus.  I learned that Thai people are happy to give you directions even when they don’t know the location of where you are trying to go.  The bus stop didn’t list the A1 bus so I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to come here.  Anong asked someone and they said walk up to the next spot about 100 feet away.  Still no indication that the A1 bus would come here and nobody can explain to me why it comes here when it’s not listed as stopping here.  Eventually a #29 bus comes.  I’m not sure how but Anong quickly figured out it also goes to the airport and we confirmed it with the bus driver.  So we get on the bus and about a half mile up the road pass another bus stop with clearly marked sign for the A1 bus.  Eventually we made it to the airport and got to the gate 20 minutes before boarding.

Bangkok was a fun city.  I’d like to go back to sample more of the street food and see some of the other areas.  I was really amazed at how much food is in the city.  There are many restaurants but the sidewalks are packed with food vendors at all times of the day.  I was also pleasantly surprised with the taxis.  I’d heard horror stories about taxis not using the meters, over charging, and refusing to take you to where you wanted to go but the couple times we took a taxi we did not have any of those problems.

Bat Cave – Day 2

Today I woke up with a hangover.  I drink a lot less alcohol than I used to and no longer drink alcohol every day.  But last night I felt like imbibing a little bit and had two 500ml cans of Chang Export.  I think this is basically Thai malt liquor even though the can says it’s only 5% alcohol.  I suspect it is higher.  Maybe I should start drinking every day again so I don’t get a hangover after only two cans of beer.

So the day started off low energy but I was pretty stoked to climb at the Bat Cave wall again with Martin and Dorothy.  There are four fun climbs there right in my grade range.  We met at Arawan Resort to rent kayaks then paddled over to the wall.  I had grand thoughts of sending the two 6a’s and leading one of the 6b’s today but those plans were quickly abandoned after the first climb.  I did successfully redpoint Mini Kingdom 6a which I was happy about.  I struggled to figure out the beta at the crux for a minute but the rest of the climb was easy and straightforward.  When I got down my energy level was pretty low so my new plan was to just do some laps on top rope of the other climbs.

So the next climb I did was Tai don’t die 6b.  I found the start to be a little awkward with dirty rock but up higher the rock is nice.  There is one cruxy section in the middle then easier climbing at the top with an exposed move at the end to get to the anchor.  Next I climbed Don’t kill Killer 6b+.  This has a fun start and consistent 6a to 6a+ climbing to the middle of the route where the crux is.  It took me a long time to get past this but a few powerful moves leads to easier climbing at the top then the same finish as Tai Don’t die 6b.  I climbed Don’t kill Killer 6b+ a second time and made it through the crux much quicker.

In total, I think I only did 5 or 6 pitches.  I wanted to do more but I think the changover and overhanging climbs might have been a reason for my low performance today.  I was pretty wiped out after climbing and enjoyed a swim and nice lunch at Arawan.

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Gaeng ga-rii gai (Thai: แกงกะหรี่ไก่)

After lunch, Anong and I headed back to our room.  I thought I was going to miss yoga but got back just in time to gather my things and head off to class.  I should have just stayed home since I was still very tired from climbing and full from the late lunch / early dinner.  Happily I made it through class without embarrassing myself.

Pratyahara

Pratyahara is the 5th limb of yoga.  Googling reveals it means control of the senses.  This page says pratyahara means to sever the link between your senses and your mind.  Well, tonight in yoga class, there were a lot of scantily clad skinny white women wearing almost nothing and one wearing see through yoga pants.  I took this as an opportunity to work on Pratyahara and isolating my sense of sight from my mind.  I can’t say I was successful.  I require much more practice isolating my senses from my mind.

Yoga Is More Than Asanas

I started yoga off and on about two years ago for the physical benefits of the practice.  The Asanas have led to a noticeable improvement in my flexibility, balance, and core strength which benefits my climbing.  I still consider yoga exercise which means I do not enjoy it.  However, I have related it to my climbing (something I love to do) so I have stuck with it.  I try to go to yoga class 6 times per week now.  I do enjoy Savasana which signals the end of class and is actually relaxing.  When class is done, I usually feel relaxed and content.

The feeling of contentment lasts for about 5 minutes because riding my bike home is rather stressful.  Every time I ride my bike, cars and motorcycles pass dangerously close, unexpectedly pull out in front of me, and randomly stop forcing me to swerve around them.  So far I have dealt with this by cursing under my breath and in rare cases actually screaming at drivers to avoid being hit.  By the time I am home my nerves are frazzled and I drink myself to sleep to calm down.  Now, it’s not as bad as I make it sound every day and I don’t usually drink myself to sleep.  But I think there must be a better way to handle this.

I’ve known this for awhile but there is definitely a spiritual aspect to yoga.  Recently I’ve done a bit of reading and learned that there are eight aspects of yoga, Asana being just one of them.  So I am going to start learning about these other parts of yoga and hopefully it will allow me to keep that feeling of contentment on my bike ride home.