A true Wonder indeed

Well, I made it. 45 hours in an Indian train. I survived. It’s certainly not an ideal way to travel, in India especially, but the learnings, not to mention memories, of this experience shall be with me for a lifetime.

I’m in Agra at the moment, staying in the lovely Taj Inn Hotel. To be honest, I’m feeling a little off at the moment. I’ve realized I feel like I’ve lost something big in my life by no longer having my routine of yoga twice daily with my teacher. Looking back on how I felt during the first week of class to how I feel now, I would never have thought I could possibly miss the rigid routine and long hours. But I do. My energy levels are also not as they were. Granted, traveling in India is tough. Even with a driver – nothing is simple and the constant noise can easily unsettle someone. (But generally, the noise is fine). I think it’s just the reality hit of life outside of the Gokulam bubble.

In saying that, however, this is the time where I can determine the type of person I want/choose to be. I can be the one who commits to remaining still and calm in the face of a crazy, loud and overwhelming (at times) world; or I can choose to give into all of that and allow my mind to control me rather than the other way around. At the end of the day, my perception is what I choose it to be and I can either choose to keep being present and appreciating all of the experiences (train and all!) or live in an unconscious state where I miss the little beauties in the world and fall victim to an unskilled way of thinking. (Unless you haven’t already noticed, by talking this out I’m actively working to better understand my thought processes at the moment so I can control them better).

Yoga has taught me so many lessons, the most important being ‘presence’. I’ve found this a real challenge since being on the road and trying to practice in different hotel rooms (some of which are not the most inviting spaces to practice in). And again, although this comes down to my perception, I’m certainly looking forward to creating a nice space for myself when I return home. This really is important for any practitioner. I also need to be gentle on myself and recognize that this leg of the journey was always going to be a challenge – it’s been like swimming in a lovely heated pool to throwing myself into a cold ocean with waves crashing around me. So acknowledging this is important. (I’m rambling. I hope this makes some sort of sense?)

In saying all of that, I’ve had a wonderful afternoon visiting the Baby Taj and watching the Taj Mahal from across the river as the sun set upon it. Truly magical moments. Of course I wish Owen could be with me, but he is here in spirit. And it just means I will need to bring him with me next time!

Oh, and the 45 hour train ride has certainly been worth it thus far. There really is a magic about the Taj. I was overwhelmed when I saw it from afar for the first time earlier today. Tomorrow I shall visit the Taj Mahal with a tour guide. If ever there was a time to spend the extra money on a guide, it’s now. One of the Seven Wonders of the World needs to be understood, so this is a treat to self.

With a 3.00am wake up tomorrow, it’s now time for bed. I have a Taj Mahal to see!

Namaste xx

Appreciate now. Tomorrow will never come.

image

Speaking from personal experience, I’ve often found it can be too late before showing someone how much they truly mean to you. Or at least just being aware of this. It’s not until you need to say goodbye before realising how much that person actually meant.

Well before leaving for India, I was very conscious of this. Every moment spent with my Owen and pooch in particular was precious. I also had some of the most memorable and special moments with my family that I’ve had in a long time. Back home I was constantly in a state of stress, worry.. and this took from my life. Presence just didn’t exist. I realise now I don’t want to allow myself to ever allow those feelings take from me again. Coming to India I was committed to ‘noticing’ and appreciating every moment. To be present and feel gratitude for the people I’ve met along the way, for the cows which greet me outside my apartment door each day and the noise which is relentless and ear piercing. Over the past week I’ve been getting photos of people who have been important in my life here. For some, I’ve shared deep conversations whilst for others it may have been just a simple smile. Regardless of how well I got to know the person, equally these people have meant more to me than they will ever realise. And it appears I too mean something special to them as I’ve received many hugs and sad looks (that this is goodbye), but of course well wishes. My heart has been truly touched.

My commitment to self is to always take time to appreciate everything and everyone in my life. Whether it be a family member or the man at the local corner store who says “good morning”. This is what brings happiness. Contentment. And no amount of money can buy this. It’s something I’ve truly realised and accepted (key point here) for myself and how lucky I am for this. We can read all the books in the world about gratitude and appreciation, but until we truly ‘feel’ it, then the words of those books will remain a theory.

As I mentioned before, my day has been spent packing - tying up loose ends and saying my goodbyes. I met with the wonderful Ganesh one final time to pick up my train ticket, change money and collect pepper spray! Yes - you read correctly. As a solo female traveller its recommended women carry this as a precaution when travelling in the north in particular. So, I have it.

image

I shared a wonderful conversation with the owner of Depth N Green whilst enjoying my favourite vegan thali (I will miss this) followed by an enormous coconut. Carrying that up the hill was a workout in itself!

image

The team at Depth N Green. Such wonderful people.

image

This evening I shall pack my final things and then sit in reception to chat with Pradeep and Chetin (two of my three favourite reception boys - Suresh is the other) who are really sad to be saying goodbye.

My room no longer feels like my room. Everything is packed up (pretty much). It feels sterile and I’m looking forward to leaving it now. I’ve also got some things I will donate to a lovely couple who live in a besser block 3m by 2m building outside the apartment, sleeping on a concrete floor with absolutely nothing. My lovely red mat (among other things) shall go to them. They can keep it on their floor now and try to make it a little nicer for them.

image

Tomorrow morning I will be picked up at 9.30am to go to Mysore train station. From there I will travel to Bangalore and then board a second overnight train to Kovalam, Kerala. I doubt I will have internet so it’s unlikely I can post anything in my blog - but I will be sure to keep track of the journey and give an update as soon as I find internet again.

So with that, I shall wish everyone my last goodnight from Good Touch Apartments in Gokulam, Mysore. Thank you again for reading. See you again on the road!

Namaste xx


image

Time to say goodbye to my Valentines Day roses (and birthday flowers too…)

image

It’s not quite the same practicing in my room

image

The most amazing vegan thali

image

Good night Gokulam. Until next time.

A fairytale ending

Today was my last holiday Sunday in Mysore. How to spend it? Relaxing at home, chatting with friends, doing silly pictures with Suresh from Good Touch apartments and a visit to the most spectacular palace I’ve ever seen.

Looking around my room, I’m nervous about having to pack up. I have no idea how I’m going to fit everything into one backpack. I’ve  possibly gone a little overboard with some of my shopping. That plus all my study manuals, novels which I didn’t need to bring etc. It looks like I may need to get ruthless with the things I leave behind.

I’m at the stage now where I’m getting pictures of all the people who have been a big part of my life since being here. The boys in reception for one. Suresh was working his usual day shift today. When I asked to take his picture, he was not only thrilled and clearly honoured, but he jumped straight into Vrksasana (tree)! Turns out he reads a yoga manual the apartment owners leave in reception then goes home and practices each asana. We then had some fun taking pictures of the two of us doing different asanas in the lobby. It made his, and mine, day. We really had a lot of fun.

Suresh is an interesting young man. There is a seriousness about him but also such a cheeky side. This is the man whose brother has Polio and is in a wheelchair as he cannot walk. (Turns out he does have a wheelchair after all). Suresh also worked out quite quickly that I’m no threat and he would play jokes on me, like pretending my room wasn’t cleaned and then waiting for the moment when I was surprised to see that it was. Just cute things like this. Suresh is also the one who broke his ankle at work and needed to complete his 12 hour shift before seeing a doctor. This is him. I’ve really liked having him around. He is so sweet, and his smile (like all the other boys) is infectious. I will really miss them.

My usual rickshaw driver, Somu, picked my up from Good Touch at 6.00pm tonight. He and a friend actually came as Somu’s rickshaw tyre was broken so he asked his friend to drive me to the palace. Somu sat in the back with me, directing his friend to take a detour around Mysore to show me around a little more. I didn’t ask for this - Somu just wanted to do this for me. He took me to a shop which sells sandalwood ornaments but I didn’t go in. For one, I didn’t want to make them wait as we had already pre-negotiated a fee to go just to the palace so I felt it would be unfair waiting, and secondly I can’t bring any wood products back home, so I would have been disappointed not to be able to buy any of the beautiful ornaments that were no doubt in there. It was also nearing time for the lights to go on at the palace so I wanted to get there.

Completely relaxed and absorbing all the sights and sounds of Mysore whilst driving through the chaotic streets, I couldn’t help but see how alive this place was. Everywhere you look is people, food stalls, shops, cars, scooters, cows, dogs.. And the colours are incredible - saris, flowers, fruits and vegetables. Even the houses are different colours. It’s just such a wonderful place to visit.

Arriving at the palace, there were huge crowds of people flooding into the palace side entrance gate, all with the same plan to see the lights. They are on for one hour only. 7.00pm to 8.00pm every Sunday evening.

I watched the sun set behind the palace, with beautiful pinks and oranges painting the sky. Already the vibe was magical. Quickly I became the centre of attention, with Indian men asking to have their photos taken with me. I think it’s so funny how they like to have a picture with a Westerner. I see no harm in it, so I tend to say yes - unless it’s too many people asking and that’s when I have to say no. Otherwise I would never get away.

Standing at the barricade which kept people about 100 metres away from the palace, I stood amongst the crowd waiting for the lights to come on. Then suddenly, in the blink of an eye, the entire palace lit up like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I could hear how powerful this moment was to everyone around me as all I heard was, “ahhhhhh!!!”. I almost cried when the lights first came on. The sight was overwhelmingly beautiful. Also, it wasn’t just the palace which was lit. The palace walls which surrounded us were also glowing. Just magical.

Seeing the lights was my treat to self for finishing my yoga training. I had deliberately saved this experience until my final Sunday in Mysore, and I’m so happy I did. It also turns out it’s Easter Sunday and although it’s not celebrated here, I will never forget that I spent my Easter at Mysore Palace.

Tomorrow morning is my final class in the Shala - and I’m teaching it! Well, I’m one of four who will teach. Although I’m somewhat nervous, what a great way to end my training. To teach with my teacher observing. This too will no doubt be a memorable experience.

Happy Easter everyone.

Namaste xx

Just play and have fun

This evenings class was simply - fun. I love every class, but the closer we’ve gotten to the end of our course, the more ‘playing’ we’ve been doing with different asanas. The vibe in the room is also so relaxed. I appreciate it’s important we maintain concentration, especially during the earlier learning stages, but it’s also OK to play and have fun with the asanas once in a while too. What has been the most incredible part is having the opportunity to watch Bharath in action. Often we are all blown away when we see what this man can do. His concentration and ability to control his body is phenomenal. It’s also amazing to see how each asana links to another asana. This is why our sequencing is so important as we are building people up to progressively go further and further into their practice. The pictures I posted earlier today are a perfect example of what can be achieved through consistent work. Those asanas didn’t ‘just come’. They’ve taken a lot of work. But, it’s possible for anyone to do. I promise that much. Tonight we did a lot of playing around in Padmasana (lotus) and I also got into Parsva Yoga Dandasana! (below) It’s honestly incredibly what we can do when we just try.

image

Earlier today I was interviewed in the Shala by a couple of young Indian men who are doing a documentary on Westerners travelling to India for yoga. They want to understand how it benefits us when and why we practice. The final question was “how has yoga changed me?” I liked this question. My answer was simply about being more present. About taking the time to stop and notice the small things which we often take for granted. A flower on the side of the road, two people having a conversation… Just noticing life. I feel so lucky to have this presence of mind. Of course it is something which will require ongoing work - believe me! But, it’s a way of life which I’m committed to. I don’t want life to pass me by and then realise I never appreciated all that I could have. I could be wrong, but for me - it’s in appreciation and gratitude that we find true happiness.

Speaking of gratitude - at lunch I caught a rickshaw to Dhatu’s organic shop to find a gift for Bharath. Just something small. But what to get a man who has no attachment to anything and lives so minimally?

Sandalwood is very important here in India so Owen thought I should get some Sandal oil. Bharath also likes to use the analogy of a person’s practice being like the growth of a sandal tree. It takes 80+ years before the bark is ready to be stripped and turned to oil, soaps etc. One needs patience in order to reap the benefits this tree can offer. Through patience beautiful things can be achieved. So anything sandalwood is symbolic.

Turns out, Indian’s don’t burn oils, only incense. So I got sandalwood incense for him and a special hand made card made from recycled paper. I shall give this to him tomorrow.

Tomorrow morning we are doing the Surya Namaskara marathon again. 90 minutes of constant practice with zero time to stop and even wipe your face. Just go. As I received my Indea Yoga t-shirt tonight, I shall wear proudly for the marathon. Wish me luck!

image

Namaste xx


Our final night of chanting with Bharath’s beautiful wife. I will miss this x

image
image
image
image

The things we do! I really must love yoga.

Part of being advanced practitioners and teachers means we need to learn all the major Kriyas (cleansing techniques) and experience them all too. As we all know, and cannot forget, last week was Shankaprakshalana (explosive cleansing of the entire digestive tract) and this weekend will be: Jala Neti, Sutra Neti and Vamana Dhouti. Translation: Water in my nose and out my mouth, catheter in my nose and out my mouth, 3+ litres of my favourite saline water and then vomiting it all up again (and everything else in my stomach). Excellent!

To be honest, I love all these little experiments with the body. Yes, none of it is glamorous, but the benefits experienced are just amazing. After last weekends effort, I’ve never felt healthier - until I returned to eating certain foods which I now know my body is not friends with. The power of Kriyas is so wonderful. The danger, however, is becoming addicted to the Kriyas. The feeling of being healthy and amazingly energised can be so addictive that people then complete Kriyas regularly without a need to. This is when the opposite effects can happen - turn from help to harm.

Yoga really is so beautifully holistic in its approach. People commonly forget that yoga is not only about asana practice. There is pranayama, kriyas, bandhas, mudras etc. And nothing about yoga is religious. It’s a science, another reason why I respect it so much. But bringing it back to this weekend, it’s certainly going to be yet another whole new experience, but a great one no doubt. I’m not sure how we will all look vomiting on the street, but we’ll see!

Moving onto a completely different topic now. I’m beginning to become very aware that my course is nearing it’s end, and although I cannot wait to get home, I feel so terribly sad about leaving. Whilst in class tonight chanting with Bharath’s wife, with eyes closed and chanting quietly with the group I found myself crying. It was near uncontrollable. From before sunrise until well after sunset I am in that Shala with my classmates and teacher. My little India family. And I have been inspired so much that the thought of not learning from Bharath each day is terribly upsetting. Again, a true yogi does not get attached, but the Jessica deep down tends to get very attached to things. (I’m working on it!). For Bharath, I will become a distant memory as many more students have the good fortune to train with him, but for me - Bharath will always be my Guru. I was inspired by this man before I even met him (in France when I was taught by one of his students, which is why I came to him), but now I cannot even describe what a fundamental impact he has had on me which will stay with me for the rest of my life. How do you thank someone for that? What do you say? Do you say anything? How do you say goodbye to that person?

Don’t get me wrong - this has been the most challenging thing I have ever done in my life. Ever. Emotionally, physically. You name it, it’s been tough. But maybe it’s because of the many hurdles I’ve been jumping over all this time which is making the process so much more enjoyable. Rewarding. Hence, why I feel so much gratitude for the opportunity to have learned from this wonderful man. I dunno - something to meditate on.

Ok, enough about that. I will definately chat with Bharath as some point about how I’m feeling. He always has something wise to say which helps me to centre myself. How lucky I am.

Namaste xx


Why not? If cows can, why not a pony!