Sad to Leave Chiang Rai but Excited for What Lies Ahead


As I sit hear listening to the music of the insects and birds outside, I’m sad that my time at Omsara Yoga has come to an end. A week has already passed. It’s bizarre how fast the time has flown by and all that has been accomplished in a week.

When I first arrived to Omsara Yoga, I was on my own as my friend Miranda would not be joining me for another 3 days. This was the first long flight that I have done solo. I was feeling incredibly anxious and uncomfortable about it. Part of me dislikes airplanes because of the fact that you are out of control. You need to trust someone else. I’m so glad I was able to get out of my comfort zone and fly to Thailand on my own. Along the way, I met fellow travelers as I made my journey from Chicago to Chiang Rai. One such person was a girl named Lina from France who was relocating from Korea to Chiang Mai for work. We exchanged stories and phone numbers as we were both trying to keep each other awake at 5 am in the airport of Bangkok.

Before Miranda arrived, I didn’t think 2 yoga classes a day would suffice. Boy was I wrong. 2 ½ hours a day have been quite sufficient. My first yoga class on my own was a bit rough as I hadn’t been practicing it lately and was incredibly stiff from my flights. I could hardly get into downward dog because my hamstrings were so tight. My balance was not the best either. As the days went by Pook, my yoga instructor, kept reminding me that there’s no need to rush into poses as they will come with time. She was right. Pook knew when to challenge Miranda and me. This petite Thai woman who weighs less than 100 pounds and is not even 5 feet tall, would tell us periodically during our classes that she would kick our asses. That’s for sure. I’m glad that she continued to increase the difficulty of the classes. Slowly, I’m gaining confidence in my abilities. I can feel my arms and stomach getting stronger. My downward dog is getting higher. I’m starting to touch my feet to the floor ever so slightly when doing Halasana. Holding plank pose for longer periods of time is getting easier and I am balancing during half lotus pose while standing. Little by little.

Miranda and I were talking about when we leave Omsara Yoga that it will be important to continue to practice our poses every day to keep making gains and growing. Pook told us it’s better to do a little each day then 1 or 2 classes for an hour each week as this is how you build endurance and strength. According to her partner Ulf, it takes 21 days for the body to get into a routine. Bring on the next 14.


One of the highlights of being in Chiang Rai is living with Pook and Ulf. They have given an inside look into what life in Thailand is like. While here, Miranda and I have gottento watch Pook cook. I never thought I would eat vegan food for an extended period of time. As Pook is an exceptional cook, I’m not afraid to admit I was wrong. The meals are so colorful and bright. Having only 2 meals a day has been quite enough as well. Miranda and I can’t finish most of our meals on our own. I can’t get over how genuine, welcoming, and kind Pook and Ulf have been to us.

Yesterday Miranda and I finished our meditation course with Ulf. He taught us more about Tibetan Buddhism. We were introduced to mediating using a mantra while counting the beads on a mala. Something that Ulf told us that stuck out to me was that life changes all around us constantly. What he has learned from meditation is the one thing that doesn’t change is our inner joy. As difficult as life gets, no one can take our joy away or our ability to view the world as beautiful. I have heard the phrase the only constant in life is change but I like his outlook better. That there is a constant aside from change and that is our joy. We need to celebrate more of what we are grateful for and have because there are so many treasures that exist in our day-to-day lives if we just open our eyes.

For our last day in Chiang Rai, Miranda and I rented bikes at Singha Park. It is so beautiful there with tea plantations surrounding us. Riding our bikes through these narrow secret paths made me feel more alive and free than I have felt in years. I’m really sad to be leaving Chiang Rai but excited for what adventures come our way as we continue to explore the many regions that Thailand has to offer. Pook and Ulf have taught Miranda and I many invaluable lessons. I will make sure to carry those with me as I continue my journey through Thailand and beyond.


Biking 2.jpg


Sarah Masse

Lessons Learned from my Yoga Instructor


I’m still pretty new to the yoga world. During my time at Omsara Yoga, my instructor Pook has helped teach me some valuable lessons that I hope to carry with me after this retreat comes to an end. They are as follows:

  1. Honor your body. It’s ok not to be able to do every pose introduced. Listen to what your body is telling you and respect it. If you need modifications, use the modifications.
  2. Enjoy the journey. It can be so easy to compare ourselves to others. Sometimes unconsciously other times not so much. Everyone has a different journey. Enjoy the one that you are on and celebrate your accomplishments along the way. What’s most important is focusing on where you started and where you would like to go.
  3. Stay grounded. Our feet and hands form the foundation for every pose that is presented to us. Make sure that you are well supported and have a good base of support before moving into a more daring pose. Without a strong foundation, there’s no way to find balance.
  4. Don’t forget to breathe and stay calm. When challenging poses arise it is easy to want to hold our breath. Breathe into the discomfort as this will ease the tension and help center us.
  5. Remain in the present. Listen to what your body is telling you. Focus on elongating every inch of your body. Take in the noises that surround you during yoga weather it be traffic or insects. There is only one place to be and that is the present.
  6. Discomfort is ok. Discomfort is normal. Don’t let it stop you from growing in your practice. Slowly, with time, it will decrease. Discomfort allows you to keep progressing.
  7. Trust yourself. Fear can be paralyzing. Don’t let it stop you from trying new poses. Have trust in your body that it is strong and will support you and confidence in yourself.
  8. Be Patient. Don’t rush into your poses. Take your time when transitioning. Respect that you may not be able to do a pose now but will likely in the future. Not everything is immediate.
  9. Don’t take yourself too seriously. There is no need to be so serious during yoga. A smile can go a long way.
  10. It’s ok to fall. Everyone loses their footing at one time or another. It’s ok to fall. What’s important is that you try again. With practice and time, it gets easier and easier.
  11. Monkey Mind is normal. Our minds wander. That’s just part of being human. Let your thoughts come in and out like waves. Just continue to bring yourself back to the present.
  12. Challenge yourself. If a pose feels too easy, try flexing your foot more and extending your leg higher. Keep challenging yourself so you continue to get stronger and more flexible. Don’t coast.
  13. Take breaks and rest when needed. After completing a challenging series, allow your body to rest before attempting the next series. At the end of yoga make sure to take Savasana, as this is the most important yoga pose. Give your body the rest it needs after working so hard and time to replenish.
  14. Don’t stop emotions from coming up. Sometimes when you are doing yoga, you may get flooded with emotions like happiness or waves of sadness. Acknowledge the feelings that arise. Let them pass.
  15. There is no such thing as perfect. Nothing is perfect. Each person’s pose will vary from the others to some extent. Don’t strive for perfection because it doesn’t exist. Instead celebrate your poses just as they are.

Sarah Masse

The Importance of Finding a Balance Between Mind, Body, and Spirit


We live in a fast paced society that focuses on the importance of output and productivity. When there is silence or a lull during the day, we don’t know what to do with it. Working in healthcare, I’m very guilty of putting all of my time and energy into my clients care. Lately, I have forgotten to take time to take care of myself. On flights we are taught to put our oxygen masks on first before helping others. Why aren’t many of us able to do this in our day-to-day routines?

Balance is something that is very difficult to obtain. Despite this, it’s important to strive for it. Traveling to Thailand has made me aware of how unbalanced my life has become. When I arrived at my yoga retreat last week, I had so much free time on my hands that it felt unnatural to sit in silence. Now I crave it and try to take advantage of it as much as I can. This is what most people really need the most. Time to sit and reflect on our thoughts so that we are able to really question what we are striving for in life. It’s easy to get caught up in the motions of things, that before we know it, we wonder what purpose it is serving.

Doing yoga twice a day has made me realize the value of taking care of my body. Slowly, I am starting to feel more elongated. My muscles are getting stronger and I’m releasing tension that has been building up for years. I have also found myself more cognizant of what I am putting into my body. A good friend of mine once told me you are what you eat. And it’s so true. Giving your body the nutrients it needs to grow and replenish itself is key. We only have one body, so cherish it. Initially, I was very hesitant to go vegan for this retreat. Since eating vegan, I have had more energy. It’s made me aware that I need to stop skipping meals or eating what is convenient in order to meet others needs. This is not doing a service to anyone. While at work If I took my lunch regularly and had 30 minutes to refresh, maybe I would come back more in tuned and connected to what others are experiencing.

Being mindful of the body is just one component of self-care. It’s also important to factor in the mind. Prior to my trip, I took a Transcendental Meditation Course as I tend to get anxious on flights. Since Thailand was my longest flight, I knew I needed to do something to help calm my nerves. Otherwise the 20 hour flight would seem NEVER ENDING. Since traveling, I have made the allotted time to do meditation 2 times a day for 20 minutes. I’m not going to lie, sometimes those twenty minutes can seem like an hour but overall it has been getting easier and easier to quiet my mind. It put me back on a schedule. I realize how important it is to have quiet time for one’s thoughts. When I meditate regularly, I feel more connected to those around me, energized, and present.

Last but not least we need to take care of our spirit. Sometimes life can throw us some pretty horrible blows when we least expect it. Trying to knock us off our feet and crush our spirit. Whether it’s through meditation, yoga, nature, or religion it’s important to find some sort of spiritual outlet to feel more connected with the world around us. This is one area that I still struggle with. However, yoga has made me feel more in tuned to my surroundings and myself. I’m able to see something bigger than just myself to live for.

Balance of the mind, body, and spirit is something I will continue to strive for after returning to the States. It may never be fully obtainable but it’s worth spending more time on these areas regularly. Once work starts, it will be more challenging to make time for my mind, body, and spirit but even if it’s for a short period during the day, that’s something. If we don’t care about taking care of ourselves, who will?

Sarah Masse