Born and raised in California, with parents who were both yoga instructors, it seems that Marc was really fated to become what he is today. That's right, a merchant banker on Wall Street. I'm joking of course -- he's a senior yoga instructor at Absolute Sanctuary. 'I am in a constant state of California,' jokes the wiry silvering gent in his soft-spoken tones.
Growing up in that state, and living in San Francisco's Bay area, he witnessed the genesis and explosion of the adoption of this ancient eastern practice being absorbed into the western mainstream. He's been in Samui a year so far spreading his skill.
When he sees me and several other physically challenged specimens waddle into the spacious, mirror-lined studio, he probably wishes he had become a merchant banker. But the class is also attended by some far more shapely specimens who naturally head for the mats of the front of the room. It is my first ever yoga class, which, along with wonderful lymphatic drainage and pressure point massages, is part of my three-day Ultimate Detox program ...
Soon the air is filled with soothing sanskrit chants and ethereal music. Think Enya.
'Ok, we're just going to start in the Lotus pose,' says Marc who eases himself into a wonderfully erect, fluid, seated position with his legs crossed in front of him and somehow crossed over each other. I go to cross my legs. Ouch! Those rugby knees. My legs are way out in front of me somewhere. I grab one knee, trying to force it back into the same postcode as my torso. There. I'm now listing dangerously at a 45-degree angle. I reach forward to grab my other knee ... reaching ... reaching ... there, got it. I wrench it back toward my body with the creaking and groaning drowning out Marc's instructions: 'Inhale ... feel the energy flowing in.'
Feel the energy? All I can feel is tendons in the knee at near snapping point. And my spine. And now my shoulder. Feel the energy? What the hell are you talking about, Crazy California Guy??? 'And exhale ... let's lose all those nasty toxins from our systems ...'
I sneak a glance around the room, and note that I'm not the only one struggling to imitate the graceful symmetry being displayed at the front of the class. There's one guy, Michelin Man -- who hasn't seen his knees in years -- in front of me.
Then Marc calls for the Downward Dog. Soon there are inverted V-shapes on command. My view of the entire left side of the studio is blacked out by the voluminous backside of Michelin Man. 'A little smile is OK,' says Marc. Smile??? Who the hell can do this and smile? I bet it's one of those sycophants up front. And soon we're inhaling and raising legs behind us. We're exhaling and pulling legs in under us. We're in the Warrior pose, we're in the Cobra, we're in the Pretzel. Ok, I made that last one up, but my limbs are in an absolute tangle to the point that I can no longer tell which is up or down, which is my left leg from my right, my ass from my elbow; and nor do I have any idea of how to undo myself.
'Remember to breathe,' cooes Marc. Oh yeah, that's an important one, no wonder I'm blue in the face. Michelin Man is blue all over, collapsed in a sweaty heap on his mat. I expect Greenpeace will be along to rescue him any time now. 'It's OK to rest anytime,' reassures Marc.
Yoga is surprisingly demanding. I am pouring perspiration despite what seems like very little movement. Who needs Hot Yoga (a variation in which yoga is performed in a room heated to 37 degrees celsius)? Hot Yoga is actually one of the variants that Absolute Yoga offers in their seven Thailand and three Singapore studios, along with Flow, Hot Flow, Yin (Tao) Yoga, Anusara, Hatha, and Pilates classes.
Even as I 'om', the builders are creating a 50-mat studio near the pool to cater for Absolute's increase in Train-the-Torturer, er, Trainer, sessions.
The lithe bodies up front -- clearly more experienced practitioners -- are barely glistening. Then there's the Sun Salutation, the One Legged pose ... and I'm sure at some point I'm balancing upside down on my nose while my legs in the air emulate the branches of a tree swaying in the wind. 'Don't forget to breathe,' says Marc.
There's one pose which almost makes me exhale from the wrong end. I find out later it's called pavana mukta asana - the wind-releasing pose. Talk about bad breath! 'A lot of the best detox positions are lying on the back and bringing the knees up,' Marc explains.
And after an hour, I finally discover a pose which feels so natural to me, like I was called to this position. My chakras are fully alligned. I feel connected to the universe. I am communing with nature. It makes me feel truly alive. A Zen state, man. I find out later it's called the shava asana -- the corpse pose.