Thursday, 31 October 2013

Mysore 'thank you's...

I have three days left in Mysore. 

I never thought I'd say this but I am really sad to be leaving India this time. Following my previous two trips to India I came back ill, vowing never to go back and informing my mum that if I ever mentioned travelling to India again to give me a smack around the head! (She has saved the emails I sent her during my 2005 trip, they'll be a good read in a few years :) 

The last trip my friend and I were so ill with bacillary dysentery that we were both willing to spend the 500 GBP we were given as compensation for an overbooked outbound flight to fly home early from a David Swenson retreat in Goa! Sounds ridiculous, but it was that awful! But despite food poisoning and a subsequent case of giardia, I have had no other illnesses *touches wood*, (apart from a bit of nut stuck in my tooth resulting in a trip to the dentist), and I have lived to tell my Mysore tale! 

This time there is no doubt about it, I am coming back, the only question is when. I have a ticket booked for the 10th February from Thailand to Chennai. But it gets HOT in March and that would give me only around 6 weeks to practice (and live) comfortably, you need 3 months minimum to get the most out of a trip here I reckon. The other option is to forfeit the ticket completely and head east to west to Aus, Hawaii and LA, Colorado and Toronto/Montreal. Then work for a couple of months to save up and come back out in September for the season. I'm erring towards the latter because it gives me more time and I get to see the rest of the world as I had planned for this trip and allows me to change my life for a while at least to begin to incorporate a stint in Mysore every year to study with Vijay. This of course would be in an ideal world, but I am optimistic, lots of people here do it, this life is completely do-able. 

I could even teach Mysore Style painting to help pay for it! Tomorrow I have the last day of a course I've been taking with a local artist Anand, learning the techniques to paint in the Mysore style which uses elaborate gold embossed patterns and very fine detail. I even got into the Mysore Times rag, as a local journalist was interested in us westerners learning the Mysore technique! I am painting a 'Patanjali', it's already looking awesome, I cannot wait to see the finished piece! Anand has just finished his biggest commission for a two sided 13 x 7 foot piece for Bangalore Airport! It's amazing...and he's just about to begin one for Mumbai Airport - exciting! He also has a huge old dog called Rocky who lies in the centre of the room most of the time asleep and dreaming with his limbs jolting around every time he dreams or one of the Spanish girls mentions cats...or bones! So Anand lives in a 3rd floor flat with outside terrace. Apparently Rocky has fallen off the balcony no less that 3 times chasing cats and birds and has broken numerous limbs bless him. Thankfully Anand got him an acting job in a Bollywood film which paid for his operations! 

Our little Spanish Art Group

So my days recently have been consisting of Practice, breakfast, art class, lunch, nap, catching up on emails/Spanish homework, dinner, bed. Days appear to be getting shorter too...a trip to the Regalis for a bit of a swim/sunbathe was cut short as the sun went behind the hotel building at about 3:30pm, not ideal! Sunset is about 6:15 now, so after that it's not long until bedtime! It sounds strange, but Mysore literally shuts down at 9pm. You'll find it hard to get an auto after this time, or a driver who doesn't charge extortionate prices. Mind you, last night on the way back from a friend's house all I could hear was some kind of dance music which literally resonated rave-esque across the whole neighbourhood! Sitting on Mary's roof terrace we were all like, 'where's the party?!' Mysore is strange like that sometimes. Never know what's going on!

Oh, and between places you'll find me driving down the wrong side of the road! Yep, I went all out and learnt how to drive a scooter! One of the best things I've done...and it made the whole Mysore experience so much easier and less stressful. Turns out having to deal with rickshaw drivers is the No.1 bug-bear of westerners. They are just downright nasty, give or take one or two, and will rip you off at any given opportunity. Take this out of the equation and Mysore life is sweet. It's one of the most liberating experiences I've had here. I can flout the western driving rules, but in a strangely safe way, go round islands the wrong way if I want and drive down the road the wrong way for a short while whilst I'm joining the rest of the traffic! Feeling the wind in my hair/on my face whilst driving a two wheeler has, like surfing, been missing from my life. As a result I will be taking my motorbike license as soon as I get back to the UK.

So it's Diwali on Monday...guess where I'm going to be? That's right, sitting at Chennai waiting for a flipping flight out of the country! Grrrr! I will miss all the festivities! Gutted. 

But I won't be as gutted as I will be leaving this place... I've fallen in love with it. I can't leave without saying thank you to all the people who I have met here who have made this past 9 weeks one of the best experiences of my life. 

Katy, you are so inspirational and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for introducing me to your guru :) Anna, sweet, sweet and intelligent beauty, thank you for teaching me to drive the scooter and gain my independence here! Mary, Footsie, beautiful, hilarious and a pleasure to be around especially for shopping and good times, you have kept things real for me, thank you for looking after me and preventing me from overdosing on antibiotics! Isabelle, you beaute, my angel in Goa :) and thanks for introducing me to Melanie, the curious, cute '27' year old, I can't wait to come to see you both in Quebec!! Kamilla, always great to see your stunning smile and enjoying 'good' yoga teachers! Crazy Matthew, thanks for introducing me to the phenomenon of 'shaking' - I will definitely try it and I will never forget you in your women's yoga pants ;) !! The stunning Lisa - it's been a pleasure enjoying breakfast together and seeing your practice progress unbelievably - you should be so proud of yourself! And to Vijay for recognising what I needed from day one and pushing me just enough to keep my practice progressing at a pace I can cope with without breaking me - although I've been close...thank you for making me believe I can do things when my mind and body have thought otherwise... 

I'm ending this before I cry.

Who knew Mary and  would find a wine festival in Mysore?!!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Magic Mysore

I wish I was going to be in Mysore one more month. I spoke to someone who said a 3 month trip to Mysore normally goes, 'first month broken, second month pain, third month flying'....and I whilst I haven't and won't get to experience the 3rd month of an extended trip to Mysore, I can believe this. The first month I was all over the place, my body just did not feel like my own. Having spoken to my massage therapist (yes I have my own massage guy now;) my circulation isn't great and long periods of sitting, on planes, trains etc wreaks havoc on my body, causing inflammation of the knees, feet and ankles. 


Just as the inflammation had gone down I took a trip to Gokarna, supposedly to surf, however unfortunately due to the heavy rain, the decision to move up the coast to south Goa was taken and we ended up spending the rest of the time there. Thankfully the rain stopped earlier than forecast and we were able to enjoy a few days of scorching sun on the beautiful beach of Palolem. But I was miserable, I'd only come to the coast for the surf and this threw me and I had no way of getting back to Mysore earlier than scheduled. Then out of the blue I met another friend from Mysore who had left a week previously and had just arrived to Goa. It was so good to see her....

Monsoon on Om Beach

But more inflammation! Luckily this time I went straight for a massage and the swelling has gone down again. So, my practice is back to normal! I feel inside myself again and I'm enjoying it, able to try out new postures and deepen others. I'm even back to grabbing my ankles in chakra bandhasana which I'd thought I'd lost for ever! Vijay is convinced that in just 3 weeks of practicing every day that I will be able to grab them on my own...however my mind has other ideas! Vijay's teaching style is hardcore. He will crouch at the side of you and watch you whilst you are doing the postures you hate and will make you do them again, maybe 2 or 3 times, just to make sure you're really putting the effort in and not cutting corners. However, as a result of this 'tough love' I can now jump into bujapidasana and touch my chin down with feet off the floor and transition out which I have never been able to do before and jump into tittibhasana and lower down to kurmasana. They're both messy and work in progress, but who cares!?

Palolem Beach

I'm not sure what it is about being in Mysore that makes your practice grow, maybe it's the language barrier- complaining/moaning doesn't work here, they just don't get it, you just have to do what they say, or maybe it's the fact you are really giving time to your practice, you don't have to rush to a job/home etc, (I was practicing from 7:15 to 10am this morning!), or maybe it's just the great teaching - my teacher is in his twenties and has been studying yoga for the majority of his life, his knowledge of the practice is immense and his teaching is completely sincere and from the heart.  (I heard a lovely story about the brothers, my teacher Vijay and his elder brother Vinay at a bhajan the other night...apparently all throughout they're childhood they were made to chant even when playing with their toys...I loved this..) Nonetheless, there is something magic about Mysore which can transform your practice (if you let it - I've heard stories of people coming and leaving after 2 days) and this goes for all students across all the shalas, not just for students at KPJAYI. 

As an aside, whilst still young, the Kumar brothers are excellent teachers and whilst I have not practiced with Vinay, the students who have rave about him...everyone loves Vinay! These brothers are really the yoga teachers to study with, no-one knows who their teachers were, I think it's a bit of a secret, but they are both shining stars!! 

This week has been the festival of Dasara in Mysore. Its culmination being the procession which some friends and I attended yesterday. The brochure said expected to be seated for 4 hours, I think we were there for a bit longer! However, it was great to see that an organisation in Mysore who care for their visitors put on a special 'foreigners section', complete with shade, seats and free water and biscuits, especially to protect us (women especially) from intimidation, groping and general molestation! I have to give it to them, the Mysoreans do know how to how to put on a parade! 

Everyone loves the elephants!

More elephants

Just one more elephant photo!