Sunday, 29 September 2013

First it giveth, then it taketh away...

# The practice: "If music be the food of love, play on; Give me excess of it, that surfeiting; The appetite may sicken, and so die". (Thanks Richard for this possible explanation of how I'm feeling about my practice...oh, and to Shakespeare of course..;) And so this is how I'm feeling; too much yoga, too much yoga commentary, too much yoga on my fb news feed, too much bull**** talk about yoga...I thought this is what I wanted, the reason for coming to Mysore, but this much yoga it takes it toll!! 

Of course I am eternally grateful for the yogic path and what the practice has given to me, but I am at the stage where I could very easily just take myself and my half-arsed yoga practice off to a cave where I would stay for a few months, possibly a year (OK, 1 yr might be excessive) and have it be just the two of us with no-one to stick their two-pence worth in to what is essentially MY practice. I'm being over-dramatic here, but I hope I've got my point across. Too much of something makes you sick. 

# Being sick: I am now on anti-biotics for giardia. Eurgh. Parasites. Eurgh, 'nuff said. I have a weak constitution, clearly. I have also been damaged by an incompetent massage 'therapist' here in Mysore. For those of you coming to Mysore in the near future, please feel free to contact me regarding my experience, hopefully I can prevent him from damaging anyone else. I have been left with two very painful and swollen knees, my body is closing down to try and protect them and I can now hardly do a forward bend...hideousness. I'm really annoyed about this, having done my knees in in 2011 and following a slow and painful process of recovery and rehabilitation over no less than 18 months, only to have them damaged again. Just shows, you think you have your health and then it can be taken away in an instant. Be aware, very aware.

# The cleanest place in Mysore: Is the Silk Factory!! It saddens me that India could be so beautiful if only the people living here had the same respect for their built and natural environment as they do for the Silk Factory. I've never seen a factory like it, it was pristine. Not to mention the beautiful saris that emerge at the end of the process.  

# Nandi the Mysore Bull: Finally visited Chamundi Hill on Friday. Didn't get into the temple as the queue was ridiculously long, but Nandi the Bull was cute, the 'gatekeeper' to Shiva and Parvati apparently! Didn't stay long enough to get any yoga shots in front of Nandi due to the throngs of Indians taking photos of us. Hiding behind a temple was the only course of action!

Saturday, 21 September 2013

The Monsoon and the Mundane

#Monsoon: I spoke to someone yesterday who has been in Mysore for a few years and has never known weather like it! It has not stopped raining for days now and to be quite frank, I'm bored of it! In weather terms, I might as well be at home! Grrrr. Saying that, I am sat in bed with my window open, gazing out across the yard onto the park where the haze is slowly lifting to reveal hundreds of dragonflies hovering by. The sun is out! Happy! I will make the most of it this morning and walk to the cafe for breakfast!

#Breakfast: If you ask any of my friends here about what they do all day, it is eat and do yoga! Breakfast is the biggie though, as the two cafes we frequent alternately have a scrumptious menu. I generally alternate between pancakes with banana, cinnamon and chocolate sauce or spinach, tomato and cheese omelette. Washed down with a coffee and an Ardash smoothie. Some days I have all of it, plus chai (bottomless), depending on the time. Breakfast has turned into a 3-4 hour affair! I've never experienced anything like it! If this isn't a totally self-indulgent lifestyle I don't know what is.. and then more hunger sometimes even resorts into manoeuvring to a cafe for an actual lunch! It is probably a good thing that a) my practice is a sweaty mess and lasts for 2.5 hours and b) that I have had dysentery for the past 10 days.

#Shopping: More self indulgence, post breakfast/lunch someone generally needs to buy something, so an hour or two browsing the little boutique shops created for westerners or the local wallers selling crafts and chocolate! On our way from the chocolate man's shop the other day we came across some puppies, followed closely by a cow! Soooo cute! All the cows are pregnant at the moment though, so I've been informed, so can get a bit feisty! We ventured down town a few days back and found an oil shop, hidden in a back room...felt like we were in a drug den to be honest!

#Photoshoot: Yesterday I splashed out and had a photoshoot done by a fantastic and talented photographer Christine Hewitt. ( Check out her website, she's fab! It was very hard work but she and her assistant made the whole experience awesome and fun, I think we got some great photos which I will share later on the week and hopefully which I can use when I get back for a website or such like. I would highly recommend Christine, without hesitation and her prices are ridiculously cheap compared to what you'd pay back home.

#Art: I have also met a crazy American artist who is doing some awesome stuff which I really like! (

and oh yeah, nearly forgot...

#yoga: Don't come to Mysore thinking your practice will get any better! I'm obviously talking for myself here, still...I think mine's getting worse, it's hilarious! I never expected my teacher to split my practice so soon. So I'm now doing second series up to yoga nidrasana (both legs behind head) every day apart from Fridays and Sundays, without the 'warm up' of primary...and it's killing me! Talk about 'Beginner's Mind', my entire body feels as if it has only just begun the practice! But I'm loving the physical practice again, albeit slowly and hopefully my desire to delve into the other aspects of yoga might come back again too...who knows. I still don't really want to talk about yoga or read about yoga, or do anymore yoga classes here, the physical morning practice is enough right now and I'm in the right place for it, so I'm content just to let it be as it is. I did buy the Selected Writings of D.T.Suzuki, Zen Buddhism, at the bookstore the other day in an attempt to coax myself back into the whole thing, it's next to my bed. I may read a chapter tonight. I may not. Who cares?!

#Lazing: What yoga people here do all day ;-p

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Being in the World

To “dis-cover” enlightenment means enlightenment already exists, however it is "covered" by opinions, emotional patterns and habits. Through sitting, meditation practice or mindfulness practice, you can begin to notice how you cover this incredible potential within yourself and with your interaction with others. Through these practices you begin to have these “enlightenment” moments when the lid is suddenly lifted and you are able to see this incredible innate wisdom. A couple of these enlightenment moments or insights into your true nature can help to build a strong confidence that it is there all the time. It gives you confidence that you can deal with your humanness and the humanness of others and reminds you that everybody has this basic intelligence, which has the potential to shine forth.

I've missed my sitting practice badly over the past month, I've missed the minute glimpses of enlightenment it provides and need to get back on it. Being in Mysore has helped though...not through the yoga even, but through the continuous human contact, new people, new conversations, new experiences. Since meeting my surf family in Baleal, the kindness and the compassionate potential of human beings have blown me away!! Every day I experience something else that helps to re-build my faith in human nature and (slowly) break down my cynicism! Finally I am enjoying being-in-the-world!!!

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The Dark Side...

Coming to Mysore 'out of season' has meant that I have met many people who aren't bothered with studying at KPJAYI. Many people just come to practice yoga, not even particularly ashtanga. In my little network of friends most are practicing with Ajay Kumar (, in the evening a lot of people are doing a flexibility class with Vinay Kumar ( There's also someone studying at 'yoga darshanam' with an apparently extraordinary teacher. I'm studying with Vijay, Vinay's brother. Both brothers are amazing practitioners and teachers, just check out their websites. I'd really like to do a second class in the evening with Vinay, as I've been told he selects postures for you to self practice to strengthen where you are too flexible or vice versa. Problem is that I am kinda wrecked after my morning practice still and couldn't even contemplate a second class at the moment. Morning practice lasts around 2.5 hours.... A far cry from my normal 1hr 15 minutes full primary! But I'm loving it. 

I also had a really bad and completely inappropriate massage. He's really messed up my knees and now I have pain where there was none before :( I could hardly get into lotus today because of it.

I met an English person last night, first one in, like, 10 days! We had a quick chat and she said she was staying and studying in Lakshmipuram, where my yoga shala is too. She'd been here a week already and it was her first time over in Gokulam. When I mentioned that I too was in Lakshmi she said that she was happy about being from 'the dark side' and couldn't be bothered with 'the ego' of the main shala! 

At the moment Gokulam is very quiet and you can walk around without seeing any other students. October will be very different. Once Sharath is back it'll be heaving and our nice leisurely breakfasts and lunches at Santosha and Anokhi will be no more! So I'm glad I'm here to experience Mysore when it's quiet and whilst there is no-one around. I'm also blessed by the people I've met so far, whilst we are all here for the same thing, our conversations are rarely just about yoga, it's a breath of fresh air!

Friday, 6 September 2013

Moondays, Cafes, Bull Whispering and Austrailian Hare Krishnas!

So I get to Mysore and I can't practice for two days as the first day I was wrecked and it was new moon yesterday...typical! 

So instead, yesterday, I take a rickshaw to get some breakfast at Santosha cafe, a gorgeous little place not too far from KPJAYI. It's very unassuming but does the most delicious smoothies, best of all you can add spirulina to them! Thanks to the spirulina smoothies, unbelievably friendly people and some amazing renditions of Radiohead on an acoustic guitar, I felt completely at home. Breakfast rolled into lunch at Sixth Main followed by a little nap late afternoon. (Whoever invented siesta is a genius). The evening was spent driving on the back of a scooter to Lakshmipuram, to a little Shiva temple where a little group of sat and meditated during the most amazing electric storm. 

As me and a couple of other girls waited for the others to arrive a woman who had been sitting watching us came over and began to usher us towards a tap where she made us wash our hands, then into the temple itself where we had to follow her around and pray to all of the beautiful stone carvings of shiva in his different forms. Outside we had to had to hug a huge bull who sat with garlands around his neck, I thought at one point she asked me to get on the bull, but as I began to raise my leg she ushered me around it again to whisper into its ear... I hadn't got a clue what I was meant to say so decided to make a wish!! (Thankfully that's exactly what you are meant to do). Afterwards we drove back in the storm, I hadn't the foresight to take a waterproof with me to Mysore in the rainy season(?) so I got home drenched. I was met by my host father who told me off for getting wet, telling me to take his umbrella with me next time, I was too tired to explain it was never going to work on the back of a scooter!! (Although I have seen people try!)

So I'm writing this at the end of the 3rd day, high on good energy!....I woke at 5:50 had a pranic coffee and shower and went off to my first class. My new teacher Vijay remembered my name which was nice. Would that have happened at KPJAYI?!! I haven't practiced since the 28th August and thought I might struggle but the energy of the 8 people in the room and the heat generated got me through. I asked for assistance in my drop backs and he just looked at me gone out, so I did them on my own...the last one he asked if I wanted help coming up and I jumped at the chance. Afterwards he told me 'next time 5 back bends and 5 drop backs, OK?' and I was like, OMG! Oh, and he's a 5 A's and 5 B's guy too, has he not got with the new KPJAYI program???! Maybe he's sticking to David Swenson's DVDs! Anyway, I was really impressed with Vijay, his assists are amazing and he knew exactly where I needed work, so I signed up for the month. 

Adam's shrine to Krishna

Afterwards I went straight for breakfast at Santosha and met up with some girls from yesterday. They spoke of going to a bhajan in the evening, but they also mentioned there was kirtan on at the same time, so I got the details for the kirtan, which was to be led by an Australian hare krishna. I wandered down to The Green House, a little health food shop later in the evening and waited until he showed up. Adam and his friend had cooked kedgeree and offered me some which I accepted and which was delicious. The three of us sat as he told us many stories about Krishna, one of which was about Radhe's lake, he got excited as he reached into his wardrobe and got a bottle of water from said lake and poured a little of it into mine and another girl's hands...we looked at each other as she said 'I'm not so sure we should be drinking this?!' Exactly my thoughts! I dipped my tongue in and rubbed the rest into my palms...then dried my hands on my trousers, I hope Krishna doesn't mind too much... Adam's voice was so unbelievably amazing  I wanted to cry and was so disappointed when he said he didn't have any recordings!  But in true hare krishna style he said it was just Krishna singing, it was all Krishna. But whether it was Krishna or Adam making those sounds, I could've sat and sung all night...

Adam's Krishna Kirtan Pad

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

The Enigma of Arrival

I've arrived! (Well, in Mysore, at least!) 

Got here late last night, must have been over 26 hour journey (note to self: never skimp on non-direct flights again!). Got to sleep OK but woke up very tired.... The host family are lovely and very welcoming. There was a Russian guy who stayed here before me who came and met me this morning to show me around the place. The city is a lot more spread out than the maps suggest so I am currently pondering on whether to a) go with rickshaws, b) hire a bicycle or c) learn how to ride a scooter.  Unfortunately Alex the Russian Guy has to leave today, a shame as he seemed cool and interesting... Nevertheless, he pointed out loads of stuff I would probably have not have found on my own easily and gave me some good advice, seemingly the No.1 being not to study at KPJAYI! 

Alex had been in Mysore for 2 months and had just gone and tried a few classes here and there, he had settled on a young guy called Vijay Kumar ( and showed me his place. Alex was adamant that he "couldn't deal with piles of shit outside the door of his shala" (!), which I kind of respected him for and that Vijay's assists were excellent and the class sizes were 6-8, but also that they start at 7am, which he advised would be better for me as I'd probably not be able to cope with the early morning starts of other teachers! I respected Alex's honesty and 'keeping it real' attitude!! 

So, as I kind of trusted him and thought rather highly of him as he had specifically asked my host to ask me if he could show me around before he left, I have decided to do a couple of 'drop ins' with Vijay and start Friday as tomorrow is a moon day tomorrow :( Nevertheless, that gives me a little time to acclimatise and get over any jet lag and maybe even do a practice in my room!? But hey, who am I kidding, I'm gonna try and find the massage guy he told me about, oh, and order some "Amrith Moolika Paniyam", an ayurvedic herbal drink designed to cool the body :) and have along walk around and get my bearings.

Yesterday I had a 7 hour layover at Chennai so took a cab ride around the city, dear god it was horrible! Although I did go into this one temple where a giant statue of Hanuman lived and which was very beautiful. There were lots of people doing puja(?) giving gifts and receiving blessings and I was walking around enjoying the sights and trying to appear inconspicuous. After a while I asked an attendant where the exit was as I had been round once and couldn't find it. He pointed me down to where I had already been and there seemed to be a few people leaving so I quickly headed out with them. The queue of people began to climb some steps and I asked a young guy in a "Facebook" T-shirt where the exit was, he said "Don't worry I will show you", so, as I had no other choice I followed him. We then got embroiled in a queue and ushered into a huge dining hall with tables laid with large green leaves with bits of food on them. I was getting a free lunch! I told "Sam" that I was only looking for the exit and that I felt bad, he just looked at me and we both laughed. The meal was lovely, however before I realised I had downed a gulp of the water they had served and immediately began to panic - having flashbacks of the past 2 India trips! Howeever, the damage was done! As we left I looked for somewhere to leave a donation but unfortunately I couldn't get back in as the shrine had closed, so said goodbye to Sam and sheepishly hobbled back in bare feet to the taxi man, who must've been wondering where the hell I'd been! God knows what Hanuman thought of me?!

The apartment is fine, although a bit far away from Vijay's. It's quiet here though (so no need for earplugs at night) and cleanish...there was one cockroach scurrying around last night but I haven't seen him since thank god. There was also one mozzie but I turned on my vaporiser and think it died in the night, nevertheless, I slept under the net in fear of any more unseen creatures! There was no toilet paper upon arrival which I was concerned about. In the afternoon after Alex had dropped me back, I thought I'd go and ask my hosts for some loo roll and a key for the wardrobe. In answer to my question, I was asked whether it was urgent! (I'd only been there 12 hours already!) and was told no to the key for the wardrobe which I thought really strange. The lady just did the little Indian shakey head thing at me and I thought f*** it, I can live without a wardrobe for a while. She must've felt a bit rude as later she came and explained that the person who rented the room last year had left with the key and she wasn't coming back with the key until next year. Weird! However, she didn't come back with any toilet paper. 

I spent the afternoon drinking coffee from my new coffee maker I was forced into buying from Cafe Coffee Days, Indian's equivalent of Starbucks and designing an excel spreadsheet to help me keep track of my money. I wasn't just hiding in my room, I was actually waiting for a taxi driver to come and talk to me about arranging lifts to and from the shala for the next few weeks...apparently taxi drivers don't really like getting up early, so a little chat about my requirements is, well, required. After waiting for 3 hours I began to get hungry. The host then came to tell me the taxi guy wasn't coming until tomorrow so I got ready and went out to find a restaurant. Mysore in the dark looks nothing like Mysore in the day. So after not having a clue where I was going I hailed a cab.... Who didn't know where he was going either! (Note to self: always take the address on a piece of paper) After stopping approximately 5 times to ask for directions I finally saw the restaurant I had been thinking of and shouted for him to stop. He charged me 50p. I couldn't be annoyed!! :) 

The Green Leaf restaurant is large and a bit like a canteen. Although it says self service I was allowed to order from the table. The waiters were lovely and the food delicious! I had buttered roti, spinach and paneer and alloo gobi. OK, so it's exactly what I would have in the UK but hey, I had to compare it! However, I did have the nicest ginger and lime juice, completely fresh and a bottle of water to cool my mouth down from the gobi and ginger. One thing about Mysore, the fresh juices are to die for. I can carry on the juice cleanse Natasha! The whole meal plus drinks came to 2.50. So today in total I spent 6.57. And 2.40 of that was on bloody toilet roll!! (Which, I may add, was hidden away in the corner of the Loyal Supermarket, like no-one in Mysore ever buys it...!?) On the way back from the Loyal I decided to get another cab and write down the route home. It's not actually that far and literally 4 blocks from Gokulam central bit. I'll head back tomorrow!!