Up in the Mountains – Akasha Wellness Retreat

Akasha Wellness Retreat, Transylvania, Romania, Yoga Retreat, Ashtanga, Mountains

So I’m here in the mountains and living and working at the  wonderful Akasha Wellness Retreat, in the heart of Transylvania, deep in the Carpathian Mountains, Romania. It is a stunning venue for a ‘first of it’s kind’ yoga and mediation retreat in Romania.

I’m into my third retreat, this week a ‘Sacred Feminine Yoga Retreat’ which started yesterday on International Womens Day, which is also Mother’s Day in Romania. Each retreat takes on a different theme, but they all include twice a day yoga, meditation and wonderful vegan food.

 

Akasha Wellness Retreat, Transylvania, Romania, Yoga Retreat, Ashtanga, Mountains

 

The kind of yoga we are teaching is an Ashtanga Fundamentals, a modified Primary Series in the mornings and the evening classes are Restorative and Yin Styles. Supporting this are meditation sessions at the end of class and dedicated meditation workshops to explain in more detail some of the techniques we use to help people start or improve a mediation practice.

 

Akasha Wellness Retreat, Transylvania, Romania, Yoga Retreat, Ashtanga, Mountains
Mixed in with that are workshops & activities that are tailored to that week’s theme, for example we’ve had Gong Sound Baths, Tibetan Flag making, Chakra Balancing and Buddhist Meditation workshops and activities like 108 gratitude mandalas or guided walks through the beautiful village and hills that surround us 360 degrees.

 

Akasha Wellness Retreat, Transylvania, Romania, Yoga Retreat, Ashtanga, Mountains

 

The food is carefully curated to give you all the nutrients you need and for some, open their eyes (and mouths!) to a plant-based diet. It is delicious and healthy and will leave you feeling nourished and full. There are lots of organic teas to try plus plenty of lemon, ginger and apple cider to help aid digestion or simply to relax with a good book in the lounge or sit out on the balcony admiring the views.
You can also feel pampered and relaxed with the spa treatments, ranging from an outdoor hot tub and sauna with breathtaking views or choose from Swedish, Shaistu or Cranio Sacral therapy for your massages, or simply have a relaxing bath ritual with your own choice of salts and essential oils.

I can’t believe how lucky I am to have found this place and feel honoured to be teaching here and be part of the Akasha family, which includes the dogs, Tony, Bursuc, Luna and the little puppies we rescued, Phoenix, Shiva and Joy…and not forgetting crazy Beasley the dogcat!

 

Akasha Wellness Retreat, Transylvania, Romania, Yoga Retreat, Ashtanga, Mountains

Akasha Wellness Retreat, Transylvania, Romania, Yoga Retreat, Ashtanga, Mountains

Akasha Wellness Retreat, Transylvania, Romania, Yoga Retreat, Ashtanga, Mountains

For more information on our upcoming retreats check out the website, with flights from London starting as cheap as £20 – WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? See you soon!

https://www.akasharetreat.com/

 

 

Mercury – my reflection on life this week

My reflection on life this week – and why I’m blaming Mercury.

 

sunset, Haad Salad Beach

 

So I’ve been feeling all down in the dumps this week. And having a crap ‘I hate my body’ week. churning up old feelings of inadequacy and beating myself up about it.

It’s taken a lot of internal arguments with myself to not go complete hermit mode and I’ve had to force myself to practice, and even just to have dinner and socialise with friends. Then I read this:

Mercury retrograde wants us to move back spiritually. It is providing us with a chance to re-examine various areas of our life which may need a little more work, so that we can move forward to a bright new dawn. Now, more than ever, the time is right to look at things with clear eyes. Delicious, fresh perspectives are revealed. We often have major breakthroughs — intellectual, emotional or spiritual — during this time.

taken from: Gala Darling

So, I’m not going mental after all! It’s just those pesky planets spinning around, the new moon probably needs to take some of the blame for this too…but mostly yes, a time to reassess and re-evaluate what has been, and what is to be.

Oh hang on though, am I not supposed to be living in the now? Erkhart Tolle will be very upset with me thinking about the past and future. Gosh, all this spirituality is very confusing and contradictory.

 

Rainbow, Haad Salad, Koh Phangan, New Moon, Mercury Retrograde

 

I have written before in this post – ‘What Yoga Means To Me’

It has made me reflect on the life I had, the person I was and make some positive changes. I feel healthy and happy and have a true sense of who I am. I’m working on my practice and myself everyday.

But this week I have been reflecting in a negative way, I don’t feel healthy OR happy, jeez louise my world has gone tits up!

So today, more than any other day I decided to just focus on the breath and movement, the steady rhythmic flow of the vinyasa. Being mindful of my body and listening to it, breathing deeper in the postures, trying to release the tension from my body and mind.

 

childs pose bw

 

And guess what, I left the shala feeling OK, not awesome, or amazing, just OK, which was better than yesterday. No problem, that’s OK. Shake it off, tomorrow will bring something new (ha! just realised the irony here, tomorrow is LITERALLY the New Moon!)

I bloody love Yoga. And life, yeah life is pretty good too, even when it’s rubbish. So you keep on retrograding Mercury, I know what your up to….and from NOW I will start to use it as a positive. Thanks.

Gratuitous link to one of my favourite songs:

Where to eat in Canggu – my top choices to eat in Canggu

Ok, I’ll stop harping on about Canggu after this (did you book your flight yet?) but eating for me in Canggu was on a par with the surfing and yoga – in fact I could say it was the highlight to my stay!

As you may have realised I’m passionate about eating a healthy diet, and Canggu has plenty of inexpensive options of places to eat and nourish your body and mind. So here is a guide to my favourites:

Peleton

Entrance to Peleton Cafe 'Supershop' Canggu, Bali

 

I visited Peleton for my first lunch…and I thought wow! the rest of the places I’ve researched have a lot to live up to! I could have just eaten here for the whole week it was that good. They serve a mixture of healthy vegan food – breakfasts like the Biker Bowl, The Tandem Toast and Pedel Power Pancakes. They have a range of lighter dishes and amazing salads, hot drinks, juices and smoothies. A pretty impressive plethora of food and drink.

What I ate: The Fuel Good Salad, a mean mix of FUEL GOOD Kale, Spinach, Purple Cabbage, Capsicum, Broccoli, Mild Chillies, Carrot, Beetroot, Green Onion, Toasted Pumpkin & Sunflower Seeds, Sesame, Smashed Pumpkin and Hummus. Quite possibly the best salad I have eaten. EVER.

Fuel Good salad, Peleton Cafe, Canggu, Bali

close up of Fuel Good Salad, Peleton cafe, Canggu Bali

 

I also got food  envy of the table next to me who were eating the Burn Out Burger – it looked so damn good. The decor in the place is as you would expect bike orientated. The staff were so lovely and friendly and the place had a more chilled vibe and was quieter than the places along Batu Bolong as it is a little more out of the main drag on Pantai Berewa. If you go to Canggu or even staying in nearby Seminyak, you MUST try Peleton. It rocks.

inside Peleton cafe, Canggu, Bali

 

wall monuted single gear 'fixies' at peleton cafe, Canggu, Bali

 

Crate Cafe

Crate Cafe, Canggu, Bali

 

Well, having to meet my expectations set at Peleton, Crate Cafe did not disappoint. Full to the brim with the post yoga and surf crowd I had to wait a while to get a table, but it was a great people watching place so a wait so I did not mind – This is the place where the cool kids like to hang out.

I had an ah-maze-ing flat white (again something I had been missing on Koh Phangan) and a breakfast bowl, a deliciously thick, creamy fruit smoothie with fruit, granola and coconut on top, (the name of which can’t remember) and then went back the next day to have the ‘Peas Please’ a huge chunk of sourdough bread with peas, spinach, feta, avocado and a perfectly poached egg balancing on top.

flat white - yeah life is crate at Crate Cafe, Bali

 

breakfast bowl, lifescrate, Crate Cafe, Canggu, Bali

 

Peas Please, brunch style at Crate Cafe, Canggu, Bali

 

The decor is industrial graffiti and there is a real buzz in the place. The friendly attitudes of the staff here is wonderful, something that unfortunately I had been lacking in Thailand of late. Crate I salute you. Life certainly is ‘crate’ here.

wall menu at Crate Cafe, Canggu, Bali

 

Betelnut Cafe

Betelnut Cafe at Sunset, Canggu

 

Betelnut is probably the most ‘famous’ of the cafes in Canggu, and is in the ‘centre’ of Batu Bolong, opposite Deus Ex Machina so easy to find. Having a small air-conditioned downstairs section the main seating area is upstairs where you can see across the rice fields to sunset in the early evening, when I visited for an early dinner.

A good menu of comforting burger and wraps, salads and juices, the standard for all these places in Canggu. I had a divine Turmeric Lemonade and the Falafel Wrap with Fries.

Turmeric Lemonade at Betelnut Cafe, Canggu, Bali

 

Falefel Wrap, Betelnut Cafe, Canggu

 

The upstairs view was pretty awesome

The Sunset View at Betelnut Cafe, Canggu, Bali

 

The Shady Shack

The Shady Shack, Canggu, Bali

 

wave after wave

 

I was recommended The Shady Shack by a Canggu local who came to eat at The Yoga Retreat in Koh Phangan, she told me it was her favourite place to eat, and I see why. A fabulous menu in a beautiful space. Again a vegan and vegetarian healthy choice paradise, Canggu you are really spoiling us with these places!

I ate the ‘Signature Shady’s’ from the All Day Breakfast menu – Onsen eggs with sprout, carrot, beetroot and fennel salad. The herby, lemony dressing was TO.DIE.FOR – the gluten-free bread and smashed new potatoes made it a meal I deserved after an Ashtanga Practice AND a surf.

signature dish at Shady Shak, Canggu, Bali

 

Onsen Eggs - poached to perfection, The Shady Shack, Canggu, Bali

 

The decor was so nice, and again, that Balinese welcome from friendly staff made you feel at home, and, I have to say, the best cafe toilets in Canggu! I love a good bathroom tile!

 

interior, The Shady Shack, Canggu, Bali

 

bathroom blues, The Shady Shack, Canggu, Bali

 

Little Flinders

Little Flinders, Canggu Bali

 

For my final choice I went to Little Flinders, a bit further south on Batu Bolong from Crate and Betelnut. It is more of a restaurant than the cafes, and also has meat and seafood on the menu.

I had a refreshing Ginger Ice Tea and the Rosti Burger (naughty but oh so nice) and as they didn’t have any wedges left I had mashed potato – delish!

 

veggie burger and mash, Little Flinders, Bali

 

ginger tea

 

It was beautifully decorated and I was lucky to hit it just before the evening rush and had the place almost to myself so I was able to take some nice interior shots

beautiful floor tiles, Little Flinders, Canggu, Bali

 

soft seating interiors at Little Flinders, Canggu, Bali

 

If this post hasn’t convinced you to go to Canggu then I don’t know what will. There were many other places to eat and of course drink, Old Mans, Deus, Avocado, Local Warungs, but these were my top choices, as I am always trying to look for the healthy options. Most of the dishes will set you back about 50/60k Indonesian Rupees, that’s about £4 – so it’s still cheap in the grand scheme of things.

Canggu – it was a brief love affair, maybe someday we can have a longer term relationship??

My guide to Yoga in Canggu, Bali

Ubud is known as the yoga capital of Bali, however when for this visit I didn’t have the time to head to Ubud. I needed to be nearer the city, and wanted to have a surf, so I knew Canggu was the place I needed to see. Naturally I looked into the places to practice as I wanted to experience new shalas and teachers.  Canggu is fast becoming the next stop on the yoga map for Bali.

I only visited two centres and practiced Mysore Ashtanga with KPJAYI authorised teachers in both. So this guide is somewhat potted, but if you are an Ashtanga practitioner then you will be interested in these two centres both with authorised teachers.

Serenity Eco Guesthouse

 

Serenity Eco Guesthouse Canggu Bali

 

This place is an eclectic mash up of cafe, chill out areas and a beautiful garden and grounds. It is close to the beach (Fisherman’s Beach) and also has surfboards for guests. They offer a packed timetable, and a range of rooms for all budgets. The guesthouse is laid back, with spaces to chill and relax, and has two shalas and a pool for guests too!

 

Mirror Wall at Serenity Eco Guesthouse Bali

 

What I liked best about the place was it’s Eco approach, and how things around the place were labelled so you knew what herbs were growing, what water filtration they were doing, etc. I didn’t see any of the rooms so can’t comment on those, and the shala I practiced in was with a tiled floor and a good size to fit about 15-20 people in.

 

labelled eco gardens serenity bali canggu

 

The vibe in the room was very relaxed, I think there were quite a few beginners. Fernando has a strong presence and gave me some good adjustments.  They offer all kinds of yoga classes all day, a single class drop in costs 100k (about £6) it gets cheaper the more classes you take.

 

Bamboo in gardens serenity eco guesthouse Bali

 

IMG_20160811_123923

 

Samadi Bali

 

it's not the way you look at it quote, samadi bali

 

cow facing shala at Samadi Bali

 

At the other end of the spectrum from the hippy vibe at Serenity is the beautiful ’boutique’ shala and centre of Samadhi Bali. An instagrammer haven. It is on a beautiful road full of rice fields and it is stunning from the entrance to inside. It has a beautiful, wooden floored shala with a modern architecture feel with nice little Indian and Balinese touches, a good restaurant and a wonderful shop (I literally could have bought everything in that shop!)

The grounds are landscaped with lush plants and foliage, and it also has luxury (but pricey) rooms and a spa. I didn’t see these but can only imagine they are as good as they look on the website.

 

ground of Samadi Bali

 

leading to shala, Samadi Bali

 

I took another Mysore Ashtanga class here with the owner, Damien De Bastier, who studied and was authorised by Sri. Pattabi Jois, he had a few assistants in the room so you got more attention for adjustments and alignment cues than at Serenity.

Damien has a wonderful nature and he was so active in the room, he was flying around helping every person in there. There was a lovely energy in the room and there was a wide range of levels from beginners to advanced practitioners.

 

Mysore Ashtanga practice with Damien at Samadi Bali

 

They also have a full daily schedule of classes, Ashtanga being the primary focus but also Hatha, Vinyasa, Yin and some Yoga for surfers sessions.

If I ever own my own place, this is the kind of place I want it to be – beautiful, relaxed, classy!

prayer tree at Samadi Bali

 

Places I didn’t visit but have heard good reviews about are:

The Practice – heard it has a stunning shala with views over rice fields.

Desi Seni – heard this place is very beautiful and good reports on teaching here.

I’ll report back on those next time!

Patnem Guide – top tips for eating and drinking in Patnem, Goa

Here are my Top Tips for Patnem, Palolem and Colomb Bay Area including the beaches and my favourite places to eat and drink. In all honesty the food here was not blow your socks off amazing so the guide is limited to reflect that.

Patnem
Patnem (north end) was my favourite place to chill and spend the day on the beach. It’s very quite in April, however we did here many other British accents, I think this place is favoured by families with school age kids. And once you’re in Goa it is very cheap to eat and drink so this must be a draw when you have many mouths to feed! Even though there were families and children around it felt very chilled out, perfect for sun lounging and doing very little indeed.

 

view to north of Patnem Beach, Goa

 

Palolem
Next door to Patnem is the more built up Palolem. I wasn’t a fan as there was way more hassle on the beach which interrupted my chill time, but it is a beautiful sweeping bay and has lots of options for all budgets to eat and drink (those on a budget should check out the main road away from the beach for local thali shops, a complete meal for 60p

 

Galibag Beach (Turtle Beach)
A real deserted spot (save for a few locals) and the most wonderful Oysters (90p – yes pence – for 7) and the freshest barbecued prawns from a little beach shack called Surya’s, who also provides hammocks for you to rest and have your food coma in.The beach is wild and waves quite big, and the Talpona River, a lush backwater river, backs it. If you do find yourself in South Goa, this beach is a must – take a Rickshaw there from Patnem, the drive is beautiful.

 

Gallibag Beach, South Goa

 

Eating and Drinking:

Boom Shanker

Cocktails and Sunset, Boom Shanker, Colomb Bay, Goa
Columb Bay, for breakfast, and then again later for sunset cocktails (happy hour cocktails are just £1.50). Perfect positioning in Colomb Bay for this all day cafe with a laid back feel. Lots of locals and ex-pats, so it must be good!

 

Salida del Sol

Salad Nicoise, Salida del Sol, Patnem, Goa
Patnem Beach, North End. We ate here most days as the food was fab, but the service even better. There are sunbeds for guests, they do a mean lime and soda and scrummy salads.

 

Home
Not much further south than Salida del Sol, the best breakfast we ate, although service is a bit slow, but then, when your busy doing nothing this really doesn’t matter eh? Oh, and forgot to take a photo of the food. (Back in the days before I took this blogging more seriously soz)

 

Nada Brahma
I’m adding this in as we walked past on the way home one night and promised to go back as the place looks buzzing with good atmosphere, and the Tripadvisor reviews are good…but be warned, April is the closing month in Goa and when we went back the next night the place had started being dismantled. (Most of the bungalows and restaurants get taken down and re-built each season) Anyway, I’ve added it to my guide as I think if you are going and it is built you should check it out.

 

Surya’s at Gallibag

BEST fresh prawns ever! Surya's, Gallibag Beach, South Goa

reviewed in this post – the BEST seafood, so so fresh and flavourful, and apparently Gordon Ramsey has eaten there!!!!

7 Oysters, 90p

Going to Goa? My Goan Story

Landing at Daoblim Airport it feels like the ‘real’ India compared to the cosmopolitan feel of Bangalore, it’s all hot and humid, noisy and frantic, yet organised, hustle and bustle.
Landing later than sunset as a solo traveller I always take a taxi, so seated in my taxi I am grateful for air conditioning, one of life’s most underrated luxuries. I sit back and hope that my driver can drive without too many close shaves, by now an old pro at coping with the mad cap driving habits of the Indian, I can just relax (enjoy even?) and watch the world go by outside.

Roadside vendors, men on mopeds, cattle and other animals all vying for time and space, the first hour is pretty grim with deprived looking towns and villages, dust and smog, but then the roadside buildings start to give way to lush green vegetation, a blood orange setting sun, and a sense of calm.

 

fishing boat on Patnem Beach

 

For my 10 day stay and after much research I have chosen to stay in the town of Patnem, Palolem’s younger, quieter, sister. It’s dark by the time I arrive so I’m glad I pre-booked my bungalow. However, no amount of research told me the ‘road’ ends at a row of motorbikes and I must walk down the beach to my huts! ‘This is why you should have bought a backpack’ I scold myself, as with two wheelie cases and a yoga mat it’s a testing 100 metres until I arrive sweaty and silently swearing at the huts and get shown to my hut.

Way back in the depths of the tropical garden, it’s named Krishna, so hopefully this is a sign that it will be ok.
Basic but clean, with an antic bathroom (read hose for shower) I’m too tired to care, there is a mosquito net, a large double bed with clean sheets, so it is ‘fit for purpose’ until my darling friend arrives and we are going ‘upmarket’

 

Even Ganesha takes it chill in Goa!
Even Ganesha takes it chill in Goa!

 

Next morning, feeling refreshed I’m up with the birds and ready to have a beach stroll and take in the surroundings. There is something so wonderful about dawn, it used to be the time I was getting in feeling dazed and confused from a club or party, but now I love it for the time to feel alive and appreciate the world. A cooler temperature (around 24c) makes for a wonderful walk along the shore, my first toe dip into the Arabian sea, and a chance to view all the hut ‘resorts’ along the beach. I also check out the yoga shalas that are visible from the beach and, most importantly, hunt down the ‘Patnem Chai Shop’ that I had researched – 7rps chai – this is more like it!!! – Goa is super cheap for Western visitors, but much more expensive than Mysore for eating and drinking.

After breakfast at my huts own restaurant (average so nothing to write about here) I settle into the day on the beach, a sun lounger with shade and a nice swim the warm, but clean, sea.
As a beach lover it’s easy for me to while away hours and hours, reading, relaxing a people watching, and after 4.15am practice in Mysore this is exactly what I came here for!
There is a gentle breeze to help keep you cool in the scorching 36c that it climbs to that day. And I also manage to keep cool with my first alcoholic beverage of 35 days – an ice-cold kingfisher beer – boy did that taste divine 😉

 

view to north of Patnem Beach, Goa

 

After a sweltering walk I find a nice restaurant for lunch, ‘April 20’, where I have a delicious Dal Makhani, served in a small silver bucket, and a lime soda, and sit enjoying the breeze. It’s towards the north end of the beach which I have already decided is nicer and more chilled that the centre and southern parts.

 

Dhal Makani at April 20, Patnem, Goa

 

Next day, I get up and practice in my room, shower and head up to my next resort, La La Land, where I excitedly wait the arrival of one of my closest and dearest friends who has taken a ‘spur of the moment’ flight to see me and take some time to chill and de-stress.The following week is spent in beach bungalow luxury, as our resort is brand new, and beautifully landscaped into the hill at Colomb Bay, a picturesque little fishing bay nestled between Patnem and Palolem.

We settle into our daily routine of morning yoga, breakfast; sun lounging (favourite lounge spot the uber friendly Salida del Sol) sunset watching, evening snacking and early night to repeat again the next day.

Patnem is the perfect place to relax, I hear that the North of Goa is now saturated with resorts so if you want to experience the Goa that was popular in the 60’s and 70’s this might just be the closest you can get whilst still having all the options for accommodation and food.

 

Sunset in Colomb Bay

 

Plant Based? Raw? Detox? Juicing?

The health food business is booming, and with so many options what one is right for you? I have a small but growing obsession with watching food documentaries on YouTube, as interesting as they are some of them seem downright unattainable or non sustaining (yep I’m talking about you HCLF-ers)

So, what should you choose? I’m going to just put it out there and say, how about ALL of them? All of the options in the title, Plant Based, Raw, Detox, Juicing….they can all make up a balanced, healthy, diet – and remember whenever I use the word DIET in this blog it will be referring to the food you habitually eat, rather than the food you eat to lose weight. If however, you are over-weight or obese, then changing your current diet to an all natural, vegetarian and more plant-based diet is going to help you lose weight. But maintaining this FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE is what is going to keep you healthy, forever.

 

Beet Treat, Raw Juice
Beetroot and Ginger Juice

 

Now, I am certainly not demanding you all become vegetarians or vegans, but maybe think about the amount of meat you consume and where it comes from. For example, I would only now eat meat if I knew its provenance (most good supermarkets and butcher’s should be able to tell you where the meat has come from) and I will only eat seafood, especially shellfish if I can see the sea (ok, within reason, but you get my drift? I once got food poisoning from Ceviche in a five-star restaurant in Marrakech, go figure). So that aside, do eat meat if you desire just be mindful of what you eat.

 

Beetroot and Quinoa Burger
Beetroot and Quinoa Burger, Orange and Carrot Salad

 

Next, bring more fruit and vegetables onto your plate. No question, no explanation, just DO IT. It will change your skin, hair, energy levels, internal organs – really! Try to eat at least 8 portions of fruit and veg per day – and if you think that’s a lot, the simplest way to do this is in a juice or smoothie. You can even put all 8 in one glass. Done.

 

floras and smoothie
Green Juice and Fruit Salad

 

I get inspiration from all over the internet, pinterest, and the following blogs which make eating vegetables a work of art…..My New Roots is my favourite veggie inspiration site Another resource for plant-based and vegetarian recipes Oh She Glows

Also this documentary changed my (eating) life – Forks over Knives

Raw food is another easy addition. When I mentioned to an old colleague I was eating more raw food these days he thought I meant raw meats and sushi etc…..but this simply means food you do not heat. Salads, juices, smoothies, energy balls, the list goes on and on check out  the wonderful Kriss Carr for some ideas, but I must stress here that my personal opinion is not to eat purely a raw food diet, just mix it up with the other things I am suggesting.

 

veg wrap
Raw Vegetable Wraps

 

Detoxing – I’m not a massive fan of detoxing but I do see it’s worth and especially think it is a fabulous way of resetting your body if you have a ‘bad’ diet. Once you have done a detox you will be more mindful of what you pollute your body with (toxins) and it can help you kick-start your new healthy life.

I hope to bring many recipes to this blog in time and some guides to eating healthily whilst travelling.

 

noodle soup, thailand, south east asia
vegetable noodle soup with tofu (South East Asia)

 

My golden rules (I will keep coming back to these):

No processed foods – EVER

Natural sugars only 

Eat seasonal, fresh produce where possible

Limit you alcohol (I’m still working on this!!) 

Limit your caffeine (again, work in progress for me) 

A LITTLE of everything in moderation, but try to be strict with this one, a piece of chocolate (milk) or cookie or a plate of fries once in a while, but not a whole day of ‘sod it all’ !

 

Mysore – the yogi’s guide

Flashback to the start of this yogi’s adventure, at the end of February this year I flew into Bangalore and began the adventure, a life changing trip to Mysore City. I have already briefly discussed Mysore in this post: Mysore, why I went there, to study Ashtanga Yoga at it’s source.

Well, let me start by saying that after a hiatus of 12 years my first impressions of India and Bangalore was wow! this place is so modern! We took a 4 hour taxi (2 of those hours stuck in Bangalore traffic) to Mysore and it started to feel more like the India I remembered (hot, dry, scorching sun, poverty and dirt) but when I arrived in Mysore what couldn’t I see? The rubbish! The roads are so clean here! (Mysore has been voted the cleanest city in India)

The suburb that most of the yogi’s stay is Gokulum, this is where the KPAJYI shala is and it is an affluent suburb. I honestly believe that even the ubiquitous cow pats get cleaned up in this suburb!

  • The cows are worthy of a quick mention here – most cows in India you see are just roaming around to their own volition, however the ones that roam in Gokulum have a smart system of getting fed. They simple have designated streets (who decided which cow goes where, and is there a territory battle if one cow decided to roam of plan?) they then ‘moo’ at each gate (yes this is an affluent area and most of the houses are gated) and wait for the ladies who work for that house to bring them the days scraps of vegetable skins or any other unwanted food stuff. The most fantastic recycling of food waste I have ever seen.

Woops, I have digressed from the main point of the post which is to provide you with a potted guide to the city, specifically aimed at the yogi. What to do when you are not sweating it out on the mat in the shala, chanting or attending lectures.

EAT: yep, as my number two activity in Mysore – eating! refuel, and rehydrate.

First stop, the coconut stand – ok so there are many coconuts stands in Gokulum and each shala has their own coconut wallah outside,  but the main one which is used as a landmark in Gokulum is ‘THE’ Coconut Stand, on the corner of Contour Road and 9th Main. Coconuts are one of the worlds most nourishing foods and a post practice coconut is an absolute must. But ‘THE’ coconut stand does not just provide coconuts, you can also get a mean chai here for 10p and it’s an awesome place to hang out and people watch.

Eating, well there are many types of food on offer, from the traditional to the healthier ‘yoga’ inspired cafes. Full details can be found in my previous blog here. A few of my favourite places are:

Anokhi Garden (on Contour Road, 5 mins from the coconut stand) – beautiful front and back gardens and some indoor seating at this geared for the yogi cafe. Must try’s are the Flora Fruit Salad and Fancy Porridge, but I loved everything on the menu and never had a bad dish here. Plus the waiting staff are all Ashtangi’s and super friendly and the owner, Marie Lovato, is a wonderful woman.

Santosha (on 2nd Main, 5 mins walk from the main shala towards Lions School) – similar cafe geared towards the post practice crowd, good shakes and omelette here and again a nice garden to sit in and people watch!

Anu’s (on 2nd Main, 5  mins walk from the main shala towards the park) – on the roof of Anu and Ganesh’s house they serve up an incredible buffet style thali most days and are open at sunset for the coolest, thickest smoothie bowls. Seriously good food and fabulous hosts. Also, Ganesh is THE person to know in Gokulum for taxis or renting mopeds etc.

Depth and Green (on 9th Cross, walking away from the shala and coconut stand) – open all day they do a mean buddha plate and again good shakes and scrummy vegan chocolate cakes.

Chakra House (walking away from coconut stand and shala, turn left after the temple) – Manjula cooks the Thali here but they offer again yogi inspired menu. A really good place to chill out with fast wifi and Rajesh is a cool host. Open all day.

Sri Durga (on the road before Gokulum Main Road, turn left at the Honda garage) – BEST dosas in Gokulum! no other explanation needed. The best 25p you will ever spend on food! This place may look a bit intimidating for the solo female traveller but they do great chai and are really friendly.

Green Hotel (Hunsur Road, off Mangalore Highway, best get a rickshaw to this one if you haven’t got the nerves of steel for riding on the highway) – to be honest not the best food or service but a really beautiful little colonial hotel worth a visit. The dhal is pretty good and they have a bakery inside the hotel with nice bread and cakes.

Shree Guru Residency (behind the Regaalis Hotel/Pool) really good South and North Indian food, all vegetarian and so cheap! (Thalis start at 60p) don’t bother eating at the pool, the food is average and overpriced, just pop out the front, turn left and left again at the luggage shop and you will end up at this local’s favourite.

Home cooks – you will find out about the ladies Manjula, Sanjit and Shalia, and many others, who cook amazing thali style buffets that they host in their own homes. This is some of the best an authentic South Indian cooking you will eat. Again, just ask around as many people practicing at the shala who have been before will know when these are happening and how to get to them.

Malari Hotel Dosa (in the city) – people rave about this one but I found them a bit too dough like and more like an american pancake, but they are a firm favourite with the ashtangi old timers.

Secret Dosa! This is a tiny little hole in the wall dosa vendor hidden in the depths of Laksmipurum, if you find the rickshaw driver Raju he can take you there! I have no idea where it is but if you ask people I’m sure they all have their favourite dosa place!

Again, I would suggest you try many more places, and go into the city and try some local food. India has some of the best food in the world, and, predominantly healthy and vegetarian too – perfect for a practicing ashtangi/yogi.

WHEN YOU ARE NOT PRACTICING OR EATING:

There are many things to do in Mysore that don’t involve food or yoga! There are so many temples to visit I can’t list them all, just walk into one as you walk past it, they are all beautiful.

Mysore Palace – has to be at the top of the recommendations, it is a stunning piece of architecture and you can go inside but I recommend you arrive at sunset on a Sunday (before 7pm) and at watch as they turn on the 100,000 lights simultaneously.

Chamundi Hill – again another sunset or sunrise visit is the thing to do here. The temple at the top of the hill is full of monkeys and the views are breathtaking across the city. Your choice but the hike up the steps is rumoured to be fabulous, or you can take a rickshaw/drive to the top for the temple and views!

Devajara Market – I love a local market, this one is so colourful and natural, not like some developed for the tourist but a real, where people get their ‘stuff’ market. Do not buy oils or sandalwood here though, the quality is not great.

Regaalis Hotel – I could not not mention this hotel, another favourite with the yogi crowd, you can pay to spend the day lounging around and cooling off. In March it was essential to go there just to keep cool!

So, I have tried to keep the post practice part concise as really if you are in the city to practice at KPJAYI or any other shala you will need to try to chill in your time off. Read a book, meditate, watch some movies, write, cook or simply just be.

I had googled ‘what to do in Mysore’, or ‘Mysore guide’ before I left for the city and you can find some good guides on other Yoga blogs – I can point you to a few in particular that I found very informative:

My own detailed diary of one month in Mysore is  here!

FIRST VISIT TO MYSORE 15 TOP TIPS AND MAPS

Claudia’s Guide to Mysore, India

 

 

 

Mysore – first stop on the yogi express

So the first stop of the ‘claireyogagogo yogi express’ led me to Mysore. After talking with my most trusted and experienced yoga friends I took the plunge and decided to set of on this journey, and felt the best place to start was the origin of Ashtanga Yoga, Mysore.

Mysore, in the state of Karnataka, South Central India is famous for its silk and sandalwood, and thanks to Krishnamacharya and Sri. Pattabi Jois is the home of Ashtanga Yoga.

Ashtanga Yoga, Pattabi Jois and Krishnamacharya all deserve posts, whole blogs even of their own. If you’ve arrived here at my blog of your own volition then I recommend maybe googling them to find out more about Ashtanga and the eight limbs, or follow this blog where I will hopefully start to write more on them as time goes on….

Yoga (Ashtanga) is not just exercise for me now, it’s a way of life, nay, a lifestyle. And with this comes less the urge to have the cutest yoga pants and take Instagram selfies but more to delve into the self and challenge what you find there.

outside shala

I don’t think I can put into words the feeling of achievement I have from completing the month of study with Saraswathi in Mysore, which has been at times frustrating, annoying, jubilus and rewarding. In the end it wasn’t about completing the series or achieving certain asana, it was about a development within me as a person and a yoga practitioner that I can now bring to the mats of the people I teach.

Ashtanga (Mysore) the Pattabi Jois lineage, the ‘parampara’ has an energy and spirituality of its own that I don’t think you can fully understand unless you come here to the birthplace.

I will never forget walking into the shala on the first morning to the sound of the ujayi breath like the ocean breaking onto the shores, sometimes as I walk through the shala after practice I look at the other practitioners and thought that it looks as beautifully choreographed as a ballet, yet as calm as  Buddha in meditation.

Ashtanga will reveal things about yourself you may have wanted to keep hidden. It will test you physically, mentally and spiritually. It will make you want to cry and make you jump for joy, all in the same practice. It will make you reassess how you live you life (and not just the yamas and niyamas) it will control what you eat, when you sleep and may well ruin your social life, unless your social life is with the other ashtangi’s who understand that you have to leave the party at 8.30pm to go to bed.

Ashtanga changed my life at this point, and shaped the way forward for it. So through the friends I mentioned at the start of this post I went to the next stop on the ‘yogi express’ and found myself in Koh Phangan, Thailand.

Travelling Yogi

So the point of starting the blog was to be able to write about my time as a travelling yogi, meaning how I hope to be able to see the world via teaching and sharing my love of yoga. Firstly, let me point out that I am pretty well-travelled, I did my backpacker bit way back when from 2002-2004 (I know, I’m old right?) so I could write about my experiences from then, but as the world is changing at a ridiculous rate, what I tell you about the countries I have visited just won’t be relevant, or current, and you may end up going somewhere and it being nothing like I remember it! So I will really only speak of my travels this year, from February 2016 and keep adding to the blog as I move around, or indeed stay in one place (which I’m still classing as travel at this point as it’s not my home town – get it?)

I started the travelling yogi journey in Mysore, India and have made many blog posts about my time there back on my old blogger page: ye olde blogge I will do a whole post about this wonderful city and how it really took a piece of my heart and kept it there. I am hoping to return at some point towards the end of the year. I would say, although I heart Mysore, as a non yoga tourist you may only want to factor in a few days here. Really, it’s all about the yoga in Mysore for me.

Here’s some gratuitous pics from Mysore just to spice up this page/post

 

I am currently in Koh Phangan, teaching and working on a wonderful Yoga Retreat, of which I will also dedicate a whole post to…but for those of you when you hear Koh Phangan think ‘Full Moon Party’ with lots of young people drinking way too many bucket cocktails in neon vest tops, think again, the ‘other’ side of Koh Phangan is a deeply spiritual Yoga haven.

So, that’s basically a heads up before I start to do separate, more specific posts on the cities and islands I have been to this year. I don’t want to become a blog of ’10 bests’ I really want to try to write more holistically about the feel I get for a place, the Yoga in that place, and of course the food on offer in that place. If you like the sound of that, give me a follow – and thanks already for your support by just reading this post!