adventure, india, Lifestyle, Personal, spirituality, Stories, travel, yoga

Om Shanti

When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds: Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.

Patañjali

I felt instantly at home in the yoga village and I was so glad that I had chosen such a comfortable environment to be learning in. Deciding on a yoga course in India was hard, but Kranti’s in South Goa had ticked all the boxes. I had been living it rough in my van for the past 6 months and I didn’t want to be staying in basic conditions so good reviews, quality teachers and a hut on the beachfront were the deciding factors.

The hut was light and spacious and it had an ensuite bathroom, a comfy bed and a patio with views out to the Arabian Sea.

All the beach huts faced the large open air yoga shala which overlooked the beach and further back were the garden huts, two additional yoga shalas and the main communal areas.

At night the whole yoga village lit up with pretty fairy lights, giving it an ethereal vibe and we had 24-hour security offering safety and peace of mind.

I found being at the beach very comforting so doing my yoga training here was perfect.

Leading up to India, I had pretty much lived at the beach, I practiced yoga in the sand and out in the fresh salty sea air and I slept with sand in between my hair and toes.

I felt at home at the beach and no matter where I was in the world, the sound of the waves lapping on the shore remained the same. I could close my eyes and be anywhere, but hearing the sound of the ocean always brought me to a feeling of being at home.

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Beautiful Patnem Beach

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“Namaste”

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The beach hut was pure bliss and it provided me with some comforts that I hadn’t had in months. A comfy inner-sprung mattress, power, lights, a flush toilet and a hot shower with frogs to keep me company!

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My first day at Kranti Yoga
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The view at Dusk from the Yoga Village

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Pretty fairy lights

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Inside my beach hut

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My home for the next month

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My favourite spot for yoga
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Entering Moksha campus- at the beachfront.
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One of our yoga shalas in Satva, the garden campus.

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The beach huts in Moksha
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Mantra yogashala

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My little red beach hut

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Arriving a couple of days early meant I could recover from jetlag and prepare myself for a month of intense learning that I was so excited to begin.

The heat and noise kept me awake the first few nights. Nearby beach bars played loud music and the crows woke me up at the crack of dawn but I eventually got used to it. It also didn’t help that it was Holi Festival and there was a celebratory mood in the air with fireworks being continuously let off late at night.

On my first day, I awoke at 6am to begin my first 2-hour Ashtanga led class. I was eager to start, ignoring the large blisters on my heels and I pushed myself hard, doing full vinyasa’s between each pose in the primary series. At the end I was relieved to know I could carry out a 2 hour practice without running out of strength or energy but I didn’t realise how sore my body would be.

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After a delicious breakfast I sat against the wall on the far side of the yoga shala for the opening fire ceremony. In the middle of the circle were flowers, fire pots filled with wood and two of my teachers who were dressed in white.

The fire ceremony was a lovely welcoming and I enjoyed meeting all the other yogi’s who had travelled far and wide from across the globe to be there, like me, for one common goal, to become yoga teachers.

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Giving offerings to the fire at the opening ceremony

On the second day I pushed myself even harder, like I was trying to prove something and by the end of the day every muscle in my body ached. To make matters worse, my blisters had become infected making me wonder how I was going to be able to continue doing yoga in the state I was in, and I was only 2 days into the training!

My heels had painful 2 centre metre round bubbles protruding from my skin and I had tried to pop them the day before but now one foot had become red and hot and I had to walk around on my tippy toes.

My teacher Kranti saw me hobbling around and suggested I wrap my feet in turmeric and ghee so mum went to the kitchen and asked for the ingredients and she returned with a small bowl of hot yellow paste. I laid down, while she played nurse, and prayed that it would work and I’d be able to walk properly the next day.

It was full moon that night and I couldn’t sleep. I kept waking up from the strangest dreams and I had an upset tummy.

I woke up tired and peeled off the bandages from my feet to find the blisters looked much better but my feet were now stained a bright yellow. My body still ached, my tummy was sore, I was weak from diarrhoea and the last thing I felt like doing was yoga, but there was nowhere to hide. I had to push through my physical limitations and all the emotions that were beginning to arise and get on my mat despite how I was feeling.

My body was stiff and sore and it didn’t want to get into any of the poses that I usually got into effortlessly. My over zealousness on the first and second days were fast disappearing and now I felt like I was terrible at doing yoga. I didn’t take any vinyasas in between asanas and my arms could barely hold my body up in chaturanga and down dog. I cried at my inadequacies during savasana and I realised that I had a lot of emotions surfacing that I really did not want to be facing right now.

How the hell was I going to get through the next month like this? I was an emotional wreck! I had to get myself together and I had to fast!

I dosed myself up on rescue remedy, deep heat and homeopathic remedies and the following day I felt better but I was still in a sensitive and contemplative space.

During an anatomy and alignment class my attention was quickly averted towards an ant that was tickling my leg and I unconsciously brushed it off and broke its leg in the process. In that moment I felt an enormous wave of pain and guilt wash over me as I watched it helplessly trying to straighten its leg out while trying to run away so I spent the next few minutes trying to help it to safety.

How could I have not noticed that my seemingly insignificant actions can have a profound effect on another living being? Was something shifting inside of me?

My first week at Kranti’s was painful. I wasn’t used to doing so much yoga in a day and my body continuously ached. My days were filled with morning Ashtanga practice, learning the anatomy and alignment of the primary series, chanting mantras, learning pranayama techniques and trying to stay centred in meditation while being distracted by blood thirsty mosquitos, stinging ants, biting sand-flies and annoying  flies, which were landing on me.

I was hanging out for a day off and come Saturday I was excited to leave the village and have a little look around. We caught an auto rickshaw to nearby Palolem beach where I ended up meeting Sohail, an attractive and charismatic guy from Mumbai who was holidaying in Goa. He approached me on the beach and the conversation flowed easily so I invited him to walk with us further along.

Mum was instantly smitten by his charming nature and before I knew it we were having dinner with him in a nearby restaurant and I was telling him about my idea of buying jewellery to sell at markets in Byron Bay.

I was initially suspicious of him from the warnings I had read in travel guides about shady characters in India, but he appeared to be genuine and I felt we had become friends. I was also happy to have made a connection with someone who offered to help me buy jewellery later on. So I went to a silent disco with him that evening.

Mum and Yana were getting tired so they left the disco early and I decided to stay with Sohail. We danced silently to our headphones until 4 in the morning and when my feet could dance no more I asked him to take me back to my beach hut.

It didn’t even run through my mind if I could trust this stranger who I had just met a few hours before, but I cast my doubts aside and he dropped me back safely on his motorbike.

I slept in late Sunday and I woke up tired and groggy and thought how silly I was to go out on the first week of my yoga course. I was here to do yoga not party. So I decided I wouldn’t have much contact with him during the week as I needed to focus on my training. It wasn’t exactly yogic behaviour of me to go out like that even if it was unplanned.

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The usual line-up of auto-rickshaws in Patnem
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One of the restaurants that became my favourite eating spot in nearby Palolem
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Sand sculpture at Palolem Beach
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Sunset at Palolem
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Shopping in Palolem

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Beach Huts in Palolem
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Palolem Beach
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Handstands on Palolem beach
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Palolem Beach

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Sohail, mum and I

The second week was even more rigorous than the first and I became even more emotional. This yoga seemed to be bringing up all sorts of stuff. I missed the solitude of my van, I was snappy towards mum and Yana and I couldn’t handle being around anyone.

Everyone and everything annoyed me, I felt angry, I wasn’t connecting with any of the other students and I just wanted to be left alone.

Despite it all I continued to practice, I continued to chant, I continued to breathe and I continued to meditate.

Come Saturday I was looking forward to a break again so mum, Yana and I decided to take a boat trip out to some local islands to see dolphins.

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Looking back towards Palolem from the boat

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Arriving at beautiful Butterfly Island
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Butterfly Island
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Butterfly Island
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Handstands at Butterfly Island

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On the third week I had somewhat of a breakthrough. It was like the storm clouds had cleared and I felt much lighter.

I had also met with Sudhi, an Ayurvedic doctor who came recommended to us by mum’s Hatha yoga teacher. Apparently he had a name for himself for healing many people including cripples. So every night for a week I rubbed Ayurvedic oil onto the top of my head, which left me with greasy hair the next day. Strangely it had a cooling effect and somehow made me feel grounded. Then in the evenings after a long day of classes I caught an auto rickshaw to his clinic in nearby Palolem where his wife gave me very intense hot stone massages.

During the first treatment I almost screamed out in pain and thought she was going to leave bruises and burn marks on my back. Sudhi had told her the specific areas to work on which so happened to be my most painful parts, my shoulders and underneath my shoulder-blades, so she massaged deep, stretching my arms out to get right under my bones, where I must have been holding onto years of tension. The only thing I could do whilst I lay there vulnerable on that table was to surrender to the pain and trust that she knew what she was doing.

I felt amazing afterwards and as the days went on I felt a huge change in my body.

I had become more open.

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Sudhi and I

As my body changed so did my thoughts and emotions and I was beginning to feel more connected to others. I felt less of an outcast of the group and I didn’t take myself so seriously, I had more fun and I was beginning to find myself more and more in my morning practice, which by now was self-led.

Being more open meant my body achieved postures that I had never been able to get into before and I was beginning to notice an improvement in my practice. I came into the course with flexibility but I lacked strength and stamina and on the third week I found both.

The third week was also an exciting time as I was focusing on creating my yoga flow that I would teach on the final week. I decided rather than teaching an Ashtanga Flow from the primary series I was going to teach a flow with postures outside of the Primary Series.

I had a feeling I would be put up first to teach so I started to create an hour-long class and I used mum to practice my sequencing on.

Sure enough, I found out Friday that I was first up to teach the following Monday so I spent Saturday and Sunday practicing, using poor mum as my student.

The fourth week had arrived.

I had finally memorized the Gayatri mantra, I could sit in lotus and meditate without fidgeting, I had learnt all the pranayama techniques and now I was about to teach my first yoga class. I was terribly nervous and it didn’t help that I wasn’t teaching until late that afternoon, so I spent the day rehearsing the sequence out in my mind while trying to stay present during classes.

I was luckily assigned to teach at the beachfront shala and I ended up with 11 in my class including one drop-in and mum.

My heart was racing and I hoped I wouldn’t forget my sequence that I only had the weekend to prepare for, nonetheless I begun as planned and as I went along my confidence grew.

I was really pleased with how it went, everyone seemed to enjoy it and I got positive feedback afterwards which was encouraging.

I was on such a high that I just wanted to teach again and again. The whole experience was confirmation to me that I had found the right path and I was so excited to be on it.

Feeling relieved, I could now enjoy the rest of the week and not worry about anymore tests, so that evening I went out to dinner with mum and Yana and we gorged on pizzas and chocolate brownies to celebrate.

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Teaching my very first Ashtanga flow yoga class
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Guiding my students into Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
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Virabhadrasana 1

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Virabhadrasana 2
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Anjaneyasana
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Vasisthasana
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Taking a rest in Balasana
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Ustrasana
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My awesome Ashtangi students!
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Celebrating after teaching my first yoga class!

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My final week was the best week of all. My body had now become accustomed to all the stretching and it didn’t ache so much. I was now doing 4 hours of yoga a day and I had fun doing my fellow students classes.

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Some of the beautiful souls I became friends with at Kranti Yoga
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Gemma, Roya, Erica, Nick and Ashley
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Charlie and I practicing Eka Pada Rajakapotasana- the final pose during my yoga class.
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Celebrating at dinner

My time at Kranti’s was now coming to an end. Up until then my whole life had been based around doing a yoga course and I was now beginning to think, what next?

I met Sohail at a nearby restaurant and he told me he was leaving Goa and going to Jaipur, where we were heading in a few days. His sudden change of plans didn’t surprise me, in-fact I was pleased that he offered to show me around Jaipur and all the factories where I could buy cheap jewellery, so we arranged to meet when we arrived.

It seemed to me, the universe had put him on my path for a reason, but the reason turned out to be very different than what I was originally thinking.

On my last weekend at Kranti’s a small group of us organised a day trip to Dudhsagar Falls in Bhagwan Mahaveer National Park.

We awoke early, met at the taxi and all tried to squeeze into a little hatchback. After 2 hours on the road, our taxi driver dropped us off at a tourist area where we paid for a jeep to take us deep into the Indian jungle.

After driving through rivers and veering off to look at other sights along the way we finally reached the track to the falls. On our way we fed friendly monkeys who were obviously used to tourists and when we reached the waterfall we all jumped in!

After a long swim, we drove to a family run spice plantation nearby and we got to ride two beautiful elephants. It was the perfect way to spend my last weekend in Goa.

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Monkey at Bhagwan Mahaveer National Park

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Dudhsagar Falls in Bhagwan Mahaveer National Park.

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Driving through one of the many rivers
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Chrisa and I trying out our balancing skills
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Our jeep we hired

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Dudhsagar Falls in Bhagwan Mahaveer National Park.
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Mum, Helen. Chris, Chery and I at the spice plantation
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Chrisa, Chery and I

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Chrisa and I having fun balancing at the Canyon

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Our guide telling us all about the spices grown in the spice plantation
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Yana and I riding an elephant!
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Cinnamon

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The graduation fire ceremony came around rather fast and I couldn’t believe I was now a qualified yoga teacher. With open hearts we sung, chanted, danced, ate, laughed and celebrated the end of our training and the beginning of our yoga journeys.

As a wise man once taught me, everything was perfect, everything was OM.

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My teachers Kranti and Upendra (in white) leading the fire ceremony
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About to receive my 200 hour yoga certificate from my teacher Kranti

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Me and my very wise pranayama, meditation and yoga philosophy teacher Upendra

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Happy to have just graduated!

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Me and my partner in crime, Charlie

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Happy times with my teacher Kranti

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Kranti Yoga graduates of March 2015!!

I loved waking up in the mornings and opening my doors to the beautiful open air yoga shala where I would spend 2 hours practicing yoga every day. I loved watching the most stunning sunsets from the hammock on my patio and swimming in the Arabian Sea in between classes. I loved Shanti the dog, the vegetarian food and all the new people that I had met. I was going to miss this place.

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We had become like one big family and I was so sad to say goodbye to everyone but a new adventure awaited me.

A month of traveling around India and Nepal!

What was it going to be like traveling around the REAL India?

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