Indira will be teaching a Relaxing Yin Yoga workshop this Sunday to help you recharge your batteries if the heat is sapping your energy. It’s the perfect way to recharge your batteries. Sunday 8th July 1.30-3.30pm. Click here for more info.
It’s nearly time to leave sunny Goa, and while we have absolutely loved our time here, we are super excited about the next stage of our India trip.
I am about to embark on a Yoga Intensive course with the internationally acclaimed Vinay Kumar from Mysore. This will involve 5 hours of Yoga a day – it’s not called intensive for nothing! Wish me luck! I’ll be sharing all I learn in a series of special workshops on my return to the UK in the summer.
Even though we haven’t left yet, I’m already planning my return and am thinking of hosting a retreat here in 2019 at this incredible location. This will be a high end retreat, the likes of which North London Yoga Studio has never hosted before! Email me if you are interest
PERFECTION IS OVER RATED
It’s been a while since I last posted, not through want of trying though, the internet connection here is extremely unreliable. Sometimes it works fine, normally first thing in the morning, other times it’s totally non existent. Occasionally there’s a really weak connection for 24 hours or more. But this is India so we’ve had to get used to it.
There are many things we’ve had to adapt to here which now seem pretty normal. This might have been enough to put some people off India, or certainly enough to make them question whether it can really be described as paradise. Just some of these things include:
- An intermittent water supply, maybe once a week or more we have no running water from morning until evening.
- Indian time keeping: punctuality is not something which is considered very important here. We were kept waiting for two hours by someone we know here. When he finally did show up, we didn’t get so much as an apology.
- Things here just take longer, often a lot longer. If you are eating out, don’t wait until you are ravenous as it’s par for the course to wait at least an hour before getting any food. Then expect to wait 30 minutes minimum for the bill.
- In fact there is no rush to do anything. If you need anything doing, expect it take to take at least a week longer than the first estimate, maybe a month longer, possibly two months, who knows?
- Excessive horn beeping. Drivers here are very fond of using their horns, possibly because they don’t indicate or give way.
- Cows blocking the traffic. As they are sacred animals here, they roam around freely. Another consequence of this is a plentiful supply of cow pats on the beach, pavements and roads
- Rubbish gets dumped everywhere. You might be staying at a beautiful, immaculate resort, but just take two steps outside and you are likely to be confronted with a pile of waste, maybe a disused toilet and almost certainly a ton of plastic water bottles. Many people here just burn their rubbish rather than disposing of it properly which means that the acrid smell of burning plastic is not uncommon.
The last point is something that really saddens me as I love this beautiful country despite it’s idiosyncracies and quirks and it pains me to see that so many people here don’t take care of it. This is possibly down to a lack of education. But the tide is turning and there’s a campaign here in Patnem to get restaurants to stop giving out plastic straws to try to reduce waste in the first place.
So, no, India is nor perfect. Nowhere is. But just like it’s often a person’s imperfections which make them beautiful, it’s the oddities which make it so unique. Just some of the things which I love about this wonderful country are:
- The vivid colours which can be seen everywhere from the gaudily painted houses to the pristine saris worn by the women.
- The smiling, happy faces: nearly everyone seems to be so ready with a smile, even when they have little or nothing and have been toiling away in intense heat all day.
- Trust from total strangers: you don’t have enough to pay? No problem, take it and pay tomorrow.
- All the delicious food: over 7 weeks of eating Indian food and I’m happy to report that, no, I’m not sick of curries. Just as well really as I have another 5 months to go!
- Gratitude: people here express their gratitude for what they have, not matter how modest, on a daily basis, with offerings and prayers. Most houses have their own temple or shrine.
- Generosity: it’s a well known fact that often it’s the people who have the least who are the most generous. Inviting virtual strangers into your home for dinner to celebrate Holi is standard here. Back at home, we don’t even drop by on friends unannounced as it would simply be considered an imposition.
- The stunning beaches.
- The Tuk Tuks – surely the best way to get around in a climate like this and so much more fun than a standard taxi.
The list goes on and on. India isn’t everyone’s idea of paradise, but I can honestly say that I am really living my dream.
DISCOVERING THE “REAL” INDIA
So we are now into our second month in India (!) and while we absolutely love it here in Patnem, the truth is that it’s not very Indian! It’s kind of like being in a lovely bubble but it’s very Westernised. Sure, several times a week we have no running water, the internet connection is unpredictable, sometimes the post office runs out of stamps and you can hear stray dogs barking at night: so far, so Indian.
But this is primarily a tourist destination, and by tourist I mean of the Western kind. This is reflected in the menus at all the beach front restaurant, and the prices. Everyone speaks pretty good English and that’s the language you are most likely to overhear (even though it’s becoming increasingly popular with Russians). Handy if you only speak English like me! So it was great to have the opportunity to see somewhere a bit different, a bit, well more Indian this weekend.
So we went further south to Gokarna, a wonderful place recommended by my friend and inspiration, Shiva Shankar.
I met Shiva when he taught a Yoga workshop at my studio North London Yoga Studio last year. He lives in Rishikesh and is a real, bone fide, actual Yogi. I love Yoga and it’s an essential part of my life, but clearly I’m no guru. Shiva on the other hand was probably doing Yoga in his mother’s womb! He showed us around the holy village of Gokarna which is home to an amazing Shiva temple and also a Ganesh temple, which has a statue of Ganesh which is thought to be 10,000 years old!
Shiva (seen on the right), is currently teaching a 2-week Ayurvedic detox retreat in Gokarna and has timed it deliberately to coincide with the Indian festival of Mahashivaratri. So the village is very busy right now and full of pilgrims, priests and sadhus. Unfortunately we had to leave before the main celebration when they pull the ancient chariot through Gokarna. But we still got to observe the rich tapestry of Indian spiritual life as all the devotees bathed in the sea and came to make offerings. A processions passed right under our noses one evening but I didn’t feel right taking pictures. Also I feel that while I’m here I want to enjoy the moment rather than be constantly taking photos.
The beach front huts and restaurants cater for tourists, more hard core than the ones here: backpackers on a budget who are here for several months and have consciously chosen a lifestyle that would be considered non conformist by most Western standards. In the village, it is predominantly Indian and so the menus are vegetarian and you can’t get beer – bad news for my Mark!
One of my enduring memories of our time in Gokarna was when Shiva took myself and one of his students to a magical place right on the rocks, overlooking the ocean at Kudle beach for sunset meditation. I was kind of too scared of falling off the rocks to really meditate! But it was beautiful, peaceful and something I will never forget.
We were sorry to say goodbye to Shiva at the end of our stay and much as we enjoyed Gokarna, we were happy to return to Patnem. Especially Mark who celebrated with a Kingfisher beer and chicken tikka!
Our first month in India!
It’s hard to believe that we have already been here for a month. It really is a dream come true. I have literally dreamed of doing this for years. At first it just didn’t seem possible: what about the kids’ education, my Yoga studio, Mark’s job, our house?? But as they say, where there’s a will, there’s a way. If you really want something enough then you will make it happen and that’s exactly what we did.
So we rented out our house in London and now live in a bungalow about 2 minutes from Patnem beach in south Goa. The kids have totally settled in at their new school. They loved their school at home, but they have so much more freedom here.
It’s also so much safer here. I can even send Bosco to the little nearby shop on his own, something I wouldn’t dream of doing in London. The people here are incredibly nice, they love kids and are always so ready with a smile. They genuinely seem so happy. Even those who really don’t have that much seem to be happy with their lot. And that after all is the only way to be happy: to be grateful and content with what you have in the present instead of constantly thinking: “If I could just… then I would be happy.”
Go with the flow
We are definitely getting used to the pace of life here and slowly shifting from London time to Indian time. People definitely don’t rush here and treat appointments with a very relaxed attitude! You do have to just learn to go with the flow here and not expect things to get done within the timescale you might want. But this seems a small price to pay and in fact, it’s amazing not to have to rush around like we did at home.
Growing as a Yoga teacher
One of the many fantastic things about being here is that I have the opportunity to develop my own Yoga practice. I recently completed a 2-week Teacher Development course at Parinama Yoga Studio on nearby Palolem Beach with the two amazing ladies sat on either side of me in the picture to the right. I can feel myself getting stronger all the time and even more importantly, I feel like I’m slowly starting to stop holding myself back with my own self limiting beliefs. If you believe you can do something, you’re much more likely to do it than if you tell yourself you can’t.
Here for a good time, not a long time
I’ve tried not to come across like I’m gloating in my social media posts. I’m aware that people at home who are suffering with the cold probably don’t want to see countless pictures of me on the beach. But, the fact is, I now live on the beach and being here really is amazing. There is no downside. Life really can be this good. I almost feel guilty for being here and then have to stop myself, I made this happen and I deserve happiness, as we all do. He’s maybe not someone Yogis quote that often but as Peter Kay would say: “we are here for a good time, not a long time!”
Life is full of ups and downs, right now I’m savouring this massive up!
On the 7th January, myself and my family will embark on the adventure of a life time and go to India for seven months. We literally can’t wait!
For the first part of our trip we will stay in Patnem, south Goa, where the children will attend Vidya Aranya, a local international school. Then in April we will leave Patnem and probably head to Kerala, then Madurai, Chennai and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It’s always been a dream of mine to go to the Andamans so it’s a bit over an understatement to say I’m excited.
We have been planning our Indian adventure for some time. Initially we thought it just wasn’t a realistic aim but then we thought, “Why the hell not?!” You only get one life after all and if you really want something, you will make it happen.
Here are some pictures from my Yoga retreat in Patnem Goa in 2016 which I lead with my business partner Jackie Lee. I think it might have been then that I began to realise just how magical a place it was and knew I wanted to spend more time there. But in truth, my husband, Mark and I have been dreaming about it for much longer.
I will be posting updates here as we prepare for our trip and of course once we get there. It’s hard to believe that we have got less than 6 weeks to go. We will miss the UK of course but can’t wait to begin this new chapter in our lives.