Day 27 – Last weekend in the Sun!

27 Jan

2013-01-27 08.40.45
My last weekend in India – this time next week I will be safely back in rainy UK. Both dreading it and looking forward to it in equal measure – can’t wait to see the kids 🙂

After dinner last night wandered up the beach and happened upon a German couple booking a boat trip for this morning, so I invited myself along – you pay per boat (2000 rupees) so the more people aboard the less it costs. Slept terribly – partly because I knew I had to get up and partly because it’s so damn noisy. Packs of dogs barking, the driver’s of the overnight trains absolutely uninhibited in their copious and gleeful horn use, birds, locals – you name it, it was having a ball on or near my room.
1980-01-09 01.42.17Got up as the sun was rising and went for a little stroll along the shore. At night the beach belongs to the dogs and they were running along beside me, snapping at my dress and the ends of my shawl. I however was in no mood to play after they had kept me up half the night. Nowhere was open yet for breakfast, the beachside restaurants littered with sleeping bodies – no luxury hotel rooms for the locals.

Instead I returned back to my room for some pranayama and really enjoyed the freedom in my breath after a month of good practice. The pranayama is coming easily and sweetly, enabling a finer, subtler experience. As Guruji says “the breath should be welcomed in like a revered guest” the heart has to be open.

At eight I headed off (with Lorna who had decided to join us) to the meeting point – a fine sized boat in front of the Namaste cafe. The two man crew arrived shortly after and it soon became apparent that launching the boat was going to be no simple matter. It started off with me, a couple of kids and the two crew.The rocking and pushing was coordinated by a simple, rhythmical chant. Half an hour and about ten more people later, we finally managed to haul the boat the twenty or so feet into the water. 2013-01-27 09.02.05

We sped off out to sea, past Palolem beach and over to Butterfly beach where we went ashore and had a look around. It is a small, isolated cove named for the large butterflies which were flitting around. Not quite as idyllic as no doubt it once was, due to the rubbish left behind by previous visitors.

Then we spent an hour or so cruising around hoping to spot dolphins, though by this time it was late for prime viewing. First we sighted a few glimpses of baby dolphins then some bigger. They were darker in colour than the most well known bottle nose dolphins and they seemed quite shy. By this time there were a few other boats cruising around and every time  there was a sighting all the nearby boats would hone in on that spot – we didn’t feel so happy to be part of that circus so we headed off back to Patnem for a deliciously cooling swim. 

Spent the final day making the most of being here, relaxing and enjoying the beach. Looking forward now to getting back to Pune for the last week of teaching – presumably pranayama. Flight at 13.45 tomorrow so back in time for evening class.   – A fleeting glimpse of dolphin   – Launching the boat  – Children chanting at slum school in Pune
My room at 'Home'<
The Rooms at 'Home' Patnem Beach


Day 26 – Holiday!!!

26 Jan

1980-01-09 05.19.53 There’s no place like Home!

Slept deeply and soundly so woke up refreshed and the previous day’s travel a distant memory. Started the day with a dynamic yoga practice – trying to assimilate the various pointers we have received from Guruji over the last three weeks. I am relishing having the space and the energy to practice this way – work / family life often leaves me only fit for restorative work, although I was interested last week to observe a late evening’s beginners class that approached this problem of tiredness with sharp, focussed,energetic sun salutation / baby backbend sequence.

As I practiced some pranayama it occurred to me the process is a little like my experience yesterday, diving in the sea on my arrival – the stress, the toxins are broken up and dissolve into the vast space of the inhalation breath. In this way we can cleanse the mind, body, breath.
1980-01-09 01.45.28
Headed off to April 20 for a lovely fresh fruit salad and to catch up on blog and emails. Although I came to India to do yoga, this part of the trip is also so important. The chance to be in such a beautiful natural environment and to absorb and assimilate the warmth of the sun, the cool of the sea and fresh vibrant food. This will help to bring me to health along with the yoga.

1980-01-09 04.10.03

In the afternoon jumped into a rickshaw to the local town of Chaudi to get a few supplies. It was market day so there was plenty to see, taste and smell. Hoping to organise a dolphin trip for the morning ….
1980-01-09 04.12.02

Day 25 – Travel Nightmare!

25 Jan


Possibly one of the most stressful nights ever. First my taxi failed to show up, then as I set off dragging my enormous suitcase down Lakaki Road I had the misfortune to happen upon the least competent rickshaw driver ever. After collecting Lorna from the Mariot we headed off to the bus pick up point with only just enough time to make it. Frustratingly it soon became apparent the rickshaw driver did not know where he was going. In desperation we rang the concierge at the Mariot who managed  to contact the bus company to get the bus to wait for us and gave our driver fresh directions. Many wild goose chases and phone calls later we were still driving around hopelessly – up back alleys, the wrong way up dual carriageway twice.  Eventually he spoke directly to the driver of the bus who arranged to meet him somewhere he did know, but somehow he messed that up as well. Two and a half hours squashed into a rickshaw only for the bus to leave without us and we ended up back where we started (and had to pay 850 rupees for the pleasure). The concierge at The Mariot booked us on to another bus at 11.45pm which again agreed to wait for us. This time there was a problem with the booking, they couldn’t accept cash or UK card, so that bus again drove off into the night without us. Just when it looked like all hope was lost our hero at The Mariot once again found us an air conditioned sleeper bus, leaving right now that would take cash on the bus. We set off, this time in super luxury Mariot car(and super pricey at 2200 rupees for this short spin to the pick- up point).  Our bus was found without any bother and on we got, only to find that they actually had no sleepers for us at all – instead we had to share an unbelievably cramped, low ceilinged space used for luggage.

<p10-3DC861AB-778854-800>My relief at finally getting on a bus was gradually replaced by a growing sense of panic. I needed the loo, there was not one on the bus plus I was trapped on the inside of this tiny space with Lorna between me and the small gap to get in. I endured probably 4 hours like this before the first stop, where I was able to use a roadside toilet (Imagine how bad it could be and then add some). Thankfully I was able to explain to Lorna who was now awake for the stop, my predicament with the claustrophobia (by this point I was trembling from head to foot) and I was able to go on the outside with my head in the gap. Again the relief was short lived – I felt I couldn’t breathe it was as if there wasn’t enough oxygen in the air. It dawned on me that everyone else seemed to be breathing just fine and I was in fact hyperventilating. I dimly remembered hearing that you have to inhale less and exhale more to correct it, so I spent the next two hours doing viloma on the exhalation which helped enormously, as long as I didn’t stop. Once the bus was coming to its final stops the crowd started to thin out and we were able to get a bunk each and breathe freely. Hallelujah, the relief……

Mere seconds later our final setback was realised – the bus wasn’t going to Margoa at all, the closest stop to our destination was Panjim. Darn.

So another 2000 rupee ride later we arrived at Patnam. And here I’m delighted to say the misfortune ended. I headed straight for the sea and as I floated around on my back I felt the heat, the sweat, the fumes, the stress dissolve into the sea and just float away. It’s beautiful, perfect. I’m sitting on my shady porch now at the lovely Home Beachfront hotel listening to the waves breaking on the shoreline surrounded by palm trees. Bliss.11-104858B2-2269278-800

Day 24 – Medical Class

24 Jan

1980-01-07 03.43.51 Veg man taking his siesta atop his barrow.
Mini Blog today as heading off for Goa bus shortly – internet connection uncertain over the next few days.
Woke up feeling wonderful after Geetaji’s class yesterday, lots of springy energy in legs, sacrum and spine. Couldn’t put my finger on why – partly I think it is the cumulative effect of the programme here. Day after day after day of well taught yoga. Partly I think it was the work we did pushing the pelvis and thighs forward in virasana sirsasana / sarvangasana – I think I’m losing a lot of energy there normally.
Medical class at 4pm. Stephanie was caught up working with Guruji on a patient so she didn’t have time for much input. Didn’t manage to make the movements quite as effective and my motivation wasn’t as strong today, so the results good but not so profound. Sugar started at 11.9 and ended at 6.1 – those kinds of drops can happen just anyway, so nothing conclusive. Fingers crossed for a smooth journey tonight – all fine so long as the taxi shows up, it can find the bus pickup place and bus arrives (often they can be delayed by many hours!)
Jenny has just skipped in after a super-dynamic backbend class with Gulnaz. Is there a niyama which states “Though shalt not covet thy neighbour’s class”?

1980-01-07 03.43.36
A haven of peace. Ganesh shrine getting it’s daily spruce up aside the busiest road ever!

Day 23 – Geetaji Backbends

23 Jan

1980-01-06 05.44.15Yes once again expecting Guruji / Abijata combo and in came Geetatji, thankfully in better form today. Some wonderful Geeta instructions: In Sarvangasana it should be like flying, never sink down heavy, the cervical the dorsal has to lift up, FLY! and in Savasana imagine there is a staircase going down the throat and the tongue has to descend down those stairs.
We did a bankbend sequence (AMS / UTT sequence, Sirsasana, AM Vrksasana, Standing Back Arch x 5 interlock the fingers to roll back the shoulders and swing your arms inbetween your legs, ustrasana – divide the knee, the bottom half belongs to the shin, the top half has to lift up with the thigh same interlocking and swinging, Urdhva Dhanusrasana, Dhanurasana, Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana, Rajkapotasana prep (bhujangasana arms, dhanurasana legs), supta swasktikasana, chatushpadasana, sarvangasana).
Geeta has the same ability as Guruji to make you work harder than you ever thought possible (though not as constantly), in Sarvangasana she had us bending the legs into virasana and pounding the pelvis and thighs forward, so much we had to push there was groaning and almost gutteral moaning – in response to which she said “That sound, yes that is it, that is the movement”.1980-01-06 06.43.06

We spent the evening shopping, shopping, shopping on the MG Road, note to self – DO NOT BUY ANY MORE PRESENTS FOR JOSIE. We had fun and both enjoyed not being with partner who is (and I quote) “Glazing over” at the first shop.

Geetaji Sequence: day-23-geetaji-backbends

For Josie

For Josie



Day 22 – Medical Class

22 Jan

1980-01-08 07.00.13
Slept late and missed the opportunity to observe the Senior Citizen’s class. Yesterday’s trip was really worthwhile but it meant I missed an excellent backbend class last night and slept through a class I wanted to observe this morning. I think you do have to keep any other interests to a minimum if you are going to maintain the focus required to get the most out of your trip to The Insitute.
Here are Jenny’s notes / observations on yesterday’s Prashant class:

A now familiar theme of the relationship between body-mind-breath-senses-consciousness in the performance of asanas. Phrase of the day was ‘composite dynamics’. Instructions were to exhale further and further in each asana and finally to perform Udiyana Bandha – a sucking in of the abdomen after exhalation – and see what happens! Not to be undertaken lightly and definitely not during menstruation. He talked on esoteric philosophy; the tongue is the root of all wisdom with all sense organs represented – sight buds, hearing buds, sensation buds, smell buds as well as taste buds. Needless to say in modern culture the tongue can only be described as ‘stupid’. We should beware of the senses pulling us away from ‘yog’, also the draw of physical action. No limb of yoga is dedicated to the body. You can’t perfect the body first and then work on the mind…
(Jenny thinks that the senses are a bit like a dog on a lead, pulling the owner after it as it chases smells, rabbits, postmen, cats, other dogs….)
On the positive side – how to get a hold on all this? Set up the right ethos for your practice: clean and tidy your room, burn incense, create calm, quiet conditions, have an image to focus on (most of us use Patanjali) and exclude bright light.
Try this in your practice when calm and steady in tadasana: eyes open, find the centre of the eyeballs, now look from the edges of the eyes. How did each one make you feel? (You can let me know in your comments!)
Final quote from Prasant: “I may not be civilized, but I am cultured.” At least I think that’s what he said!

1980-01-09 06.00.18
I headed in for medical at 4pm. Today’s the day I decided to really test what is happening re insulin and pancreas practice so I took only one unit of insulin with breakfast. Normal range for blood sugar is 4 – 7 mmol. I tested upon arrival at class and mine was 15.9 mmol. I took no corrective dose. After a sequence of pancreas poses (Started resting SBK horizontal, rope AMS, Janu , Parsva Janu, Parivrtta Janu, Parsva Upavista, Parvrrta Upavista, Pillar Jathara Parivartanasana, Pasasana, Sirsasana & Urdhva Dandasana, Sarvangasana, Pindasana, Parsva Pindasana) it was 5.9!. Something really quite amazing is happening. Stephanie says I should write to Guruji and request an extended stay next year to work intensively on it. Any volunteers to put this to my partner and children?
After class I booked some lovely accommodation for my Goa trip this weekend on beach front at Patnam Beach. I think Lorna is now going to fly down on Thursday afternoon, while I’ll follow on down after medical class on Thursday night in the overnight bus. I have a flight booked back on Monday morning in time for Raya’s class in the evening. Then I’m into my final week – flight home on Friday.
We went to the OM Supermarket for supplies – we’d heard you can get soya milk there, but it was one of those ones where you have to stay behind the counter while you ask for what you want – no browsing and often problems being understood – so we hopped into a rickshaw for good old Dorabjees. Speeding and weaving and dodging through the traffic it occurred to me how well I’ve adjusted to life in an Indian city. I could live here – just to be close to such excellent teaching. I really feel a weight has been lifted off my shoulders when I am led in this way rather than always being the teacher it’s great to be taught!
Bed now so I can be bright eyed and bushy tailed for Guruji in the morning – hope it’s backbends! Yesterday’s blog had a bit of a malfunction some of the text was missing – it’s all there now.
sleeping dogs


Day 21 – Orphanage Visit

21 Jan
Our welcome to Maher Orphanage

Our welcome to Maher Orphanage

Jenny got up early to observe Prashant’s class while I planned to have a lie in – my neighbours and their revving car antics had other ideas. Ah well, up for some Pranayama instead.
At Midday went across to The Ambience to meet the driver who was to take us to the orphanage. Headed off into the fumes and traffic for what was to be an unexpectedly long and arduous journey. After an hour of careening along we passed back by where we had started from. At this point I thought Nicky was going to spontaneously combust. Another hour later we eventually arrived at the first of the Maher homes where we received a warm welcome and some much needed refreshment. We were met by Sister Lucy herself, the head of the whole organisation – a modern day Mother Theresa.

Sister Lucy

Sister Lucy

After food she sat down to tell us her story (in brief here). She grew up in a sheltered and relatively privileged environment in Kerala and was shocked upon reaching adulthood to find the suffering that was to be found in other areas of India. She became a nun because she wanted to help the poor and was working on the outskirts of a slum in Bombay when she was approached by a pregnant woman in need of shelter. Her husband was violent and also involved with another woman. She had no means of offering shelter and had to send the woman away. Later in the evening there was a commotion in the nearby slum. She hurried to assist – the husband had poured kerosene over the woman and set fire to her. She rushed her to hospital but both mother and unborn baby were dead.
Never again was she going to turn anyone away. Maher means Mother’s home and there is ‘Always room for one more’.
1980-01-09 05.59.25

I was very impressed with her frankness, her openess and her warmth. Her work is not just confined to battered women and orphans, she helps wherever there is need. Food is cooked daily in the kitchen of the home and taken to the nearby slums. She appoints teachers and social workers and goes into the slums to feed, clothe and educate. She will pick up anyone in need of help – women and children rescued from prostitution, the mentally ill, children who have no choice but to beg are given an education and daily food instead. Although her background is Catholic she has equal respect for all religions and she has no time for the caste system. The woman and children are given training in various trades and put through school – she even funds them through University and beams with pride as she recounts the success stories. She invited us to a wedding on Friday – the sixth this year of one of her girls.

1980-01-09 08.03.49
We visited two of the many Maher homes and were greeted with songs from the children. Then we went to a slum and went inside the school she is funding there. So basic – a tin shack, with a few toys – one rusty old bike between maybe 25 kids, but they looked clean, happy and well fed thanks to Sister Lucy’s work. They’ll also have a proper education and a real hope of a good life.
1980-01-09 07.14.41
Sister Lucy is not just the figure head of the organisation, she is available 24 hours a day and often gets very little sleep. She and Suprabha (her assistant) tell each other they may not get much sleep, but they know because their work is good, the sleep they do manage to get will be sweet.

To donate for people abroad:
Maher S.B Account no. 0261101061493
Swift Code – FD Pune CNRBINBBBID
IBAN NO: DE41500700100953458710
Canara Bank, Deep Heights, Nagar Road, Ramwadi, Pune 411014, Maharashtra, India

Children singing for us in Slum School.

Children singing for us in Slum School.