Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The East to West transition - Part III - Home sweet home?

I totally agree with Sigmund Freud

However, I'm single and I don't have a paid job and yet I'm pretty damn content.  I'm a happy chappy.

And here's why:
  • Yoga my saviour
  • Where is the love
  • Why you gotta love the Irish
  • Can someone please make me bad again?
  • The end of Namaste Mister Kris
Coming back from travelling is simple...
Phase 1: Everybody wants to hear your stories, see your tan and it's cold.  Happy.
Phase 2: Everybody is too busy to see you and it's still cold.  Lonely.
Phase 3: You are too busy......it's still cold.  Back in the west and you just get on with it.

OK I'm exaggerating.  It was actually quite warm for my first few days back.  I was even doing yoga in the back garden thinking maybe I'd been wrong about the weather in Ireland.  I only got a few days before the cold grey skies returned but it made it a whole lot easier.....

Despite Ireland being one of the most friendly countries in the world it's still full of people driven more by work than life and I found Phase 2 from the above quite difficult. I chose to come back to the west but coming back is never easy.  It might seem a bit of a joke that people coming back from travelling find it hard but they do.  I'm lucky as I've got friends,  a disciplined yoga practice and lots of projects to keep me busy but I'm still going through a culture shock.  One month on.  

About 15 years ago I was sent a promo tape from Outcaste Records.  My life revolved around two desires 1) to get rich and 2) to get laid.  I had no interest in India apart from maybe hitting the beaches and clubs of Goa but that tape changed everything.  Click here and skip the ad for a music themed blog post ;) 

Music is incredibly powerful and 15 years later I was working in India with a Hindustani Classic Music school and hanging out in the same music social circles as Nitin Sawnhey. I was living in India and witnessing a love I'd never felt before.  So, when I say I'm still in culture shock the main thing I miss is love.  India offers it on a plate.  It's something that modern western society is losing through breaking down community values.  When is the happiest the west has been in the last century?  World War II; when we all shared common values for our side and grouped together in union knowing that today could be our last day.  In the '21st century today' we live for our own ego with little thought about the present.  In India things are changing but community values are still driven through a spiritual practice and (fortunately for now) a lack of exposure of material goods.  It might look like a mad crazy country but love is being shared in a completely different way.
I didn't like being back for the first few weeks.  I've spent way too much time on my own glued to my laptop screen applying for jobs and connecting with people I was missing around the world yet everyday I woke with a celebration and a brighter appreciation of life than I've ever had before.  That's because I have memories like these.......

Friends and strangers were kind to me in my first few weeks.  Bad stuff came along including my mum getting weaker but little things helped me keep strong: 
  • The day my heating/water system broke and my plumber spent 45 mins on the phone guided me through the procedure and didn't charge me
  • The day that the motor tax official spent 1 hour sorting my appeal to be let off for €2k worth of backpayment despite numerous other staff telling me I'd have to pay it
  • The day my phone broke and a friend posted me their old iPhone
  • The day I discovered Derek!

So right now I' m in Phase 3, I'm a happy chappy and feel as if I'm living life like a monk.  I wake up at 6am and do yoga 6 days/week, I get excited if it's a good 'drying day'.  A big night out for me is a cup of tea and some jaffa cakes chatting with an elderly neighbour.  My diet is amazing, I feel super healthy and fit but part of me would like some toxins.  I need someone to corrupt me.  Even if it's just a cup of coffee.  Right now I feel sick when I have a cappuccino, my body is too squeaky clean.  Although travelling alone brings it's own rewards and challenges I think it's shared experiences that really stick in the memory.  I'd like to start sharing some stuff and maybe start with a mild blend. 

On that note, time for reflection and a cup of tea.  Below was my last chai in Delhi :)

Did India change me?  Why don't you decide by meeting me for a cup of chai or reading one of my favourite blog posts below.  I think my big change is awareness.  I'm aware of love.

In the last 18 months (links).....
Namaste Mister Kris was great fun and I hope it will persuade some of yea to go to India. Now to persuade you to try yoga .......next blog on www.suitedyogi.com

I feel blessed to have spent my time in India and experienced the things I did.  I have never felt so much love as I've felt in the last 18 months.  It's been amazing, thanks for reading and see you on the next trip.  

Monday, May 12, 2014

The East to West transition - Part II - Arriving back in Europe

  • My mum the highlander pt II
  • Toilet talk
  • Internet Dating in England 
  • Sex in Ireland
I've used a lot of toilets in India but in my last week I came across the top two in the below photo #worstindiantoiletexperience.  The urinals don't even have pipes connecting to a sewage system, you just golden shower your own feet.  I'm just glad I do alot of pranayama and can hold my breath for a long time!  At the other extreme were the new fancy toilets at Gatwick which surprised me when I arrived back in the UK.  I'm a big advocate of sanitation but Gatwick toilets are even posher than a 5 star hotel.  You get your own sink and hand-dryer.  Are we really becoming that insular or is this just a planner having an obsession with 'men's stage fright'?

One thing you definitely don't have to worry about in Gatwick is the smell of the toilets.  India is sometimes described as one big open sewer based on the sanitation issues but this group #cleanindian are looking to change that.....classic vid :)

The main reason I've come back to Europe is to be closer to my mum.  She has been fighting to get better but all the drugs she's on have now meant she's taking chemo to prevent cancer and her mental strength is staining.  Me being back gave her new courage though.  Private carers don't light incense sticks, put lavender oil on your pillow or make you the world's best porridge.  She'd missed this:

My Porridge 2.0 recipe:
+ Oats Soaked over night with soya (or your choice) milk, crushed cardamom and anise star (if you only have time to do one thing do that!) 
+ Cooked in the morning
+ Add - Nut muesli, prunes, sunflower seeds, coconut shreds, soya yoghurt, grated ginger, cacao nibs, chia seeds and honey.
+ Served with a smile :)

Food and love are the best medicine in the world and I saw a change within my first few days of being home.  She did, however, pull a bit of a stunt on my second morning.  She called me into her room and said that she had muddled up her pills (she's on +30/day including morphine, warfarine, steriods and chemo).  Instead of taking 7 steriod pills she'd taken 7 diazepam.  Looking at the packets it was an easy mistake when you're taking so many pills.  Now, I'd love that warm blanket feeling that a mild sleeping pill OD would give you but she's on a lot of drugs and has a very weak heart.  Luckily I'd just done 2 hours of yoga and been for a run and I was vanilla ice cool.  We called the ambulance and she was admitted into hospital for 5 hours monitoring.  The doctor came in at one point and said "so it's 2 hours after you took the 35mg of diazepam you should be at the peak now", she just said she felt a bit relaxed.  She didn't sleep until that evening.  My Mum, the Highlander :)

My time at my mum's was brief but enough to reassure me that coming home was a good thing.  I've bought her an iPad mini so I can facetime to her most days, although now she has it she often too busy talking to her mates to talk to me.  That's a good sign :)

My mum on her 70th Birthday......she'll be back looking like this again soon x

As I hadn't driven a car for 18 months I decided to split the 6 hour journey to Holyhead  (for my ferry back to Ireland) into two days, opting to stay in Newcastle Upon Lyme via Airbnb on the way.  My host was a gentlemen who within 5 minutes of me arriving kindly offered me a cup of tea and asked if I liked birds?  Before I'd had the chance to enquire as to whether he was referring to ornithology or women he told me all about his obsession with Ukrainian girls that he meets on the internet.  English women apparently 'are mingers' and 'don't appreciate us men' and, of course he knew how to treat birds.  Oh yes, Mr Airbnb was a legend.  I'll admit the photos of the girls he showed me were incredibly pretty but in the emails it was clear that Google translate was the person he was actually talking to.....

I asked him about the war and the fact that these girls were probably going through a very hard time and he simply said that he was their knight in shining armour.  Britain, Britain, Britain.  You do produce some very special people!

The rest of my trip was not quite as amusing.  I allowed 6 hours for my 3 hour journey to Holyhead and within 30 minutes was stuck in a traffic jam only to find out the M6 was closed due to an accident.  Lucky for me I have hours of David Deida Audiobooks but I missed my ferry by 30 minutes.  I didn't really care.  I don't have money to throw at new tickets right now but I was just glad that I had made it there safely and that I was on the way back to my home.  

Moving back into my house in Dublin was great.  Having been living out of one bag for a long time I felt like I was in a palace and soon realised that I didn't need 80% of the shite I own.  It's funny how despite my Egyptian cotton sheets, kingsize bed with remote lighting I didn't sleep as deeply or feel as rested as I had on a cheap camping bed in the Karnataka jungle of South India.  It's amazing how we are like kids in a sweet shop in the west, we get greedier the more things that are available to us and annoyed when we cannot have them and yet what do they really bring us?  Another funny example for me was my lovely high gloss shiny kitchen.  My tenants had left the place in good shape; apart from one kitchen door which they'd cleaned with a brillo pad.  Lucky for me I didn't get annoyed (seriously eejits though) I just thought ......it adds character ;)

Often when you travel in a developing country you are made to feel like a film star if you're from the west and India is probably the extreme.  Your peers are also more friendly ie. if you smile at a girl with a backpack on she'll smile back.  Despite Ireland being the most friendly country in the world I miss that.  A trip on the luas (tram) here see's a land of city dwellers all staring miserably at their smart phone, few smiles in sight.  And, smiling at a girl on the street, you feel like you've raped her eyes.  Shocker.  I heard a story about a backpacker who was singing a song in Goa titled 'in India I'm a sunkissed goa god; in England I'm just a wanker'.  That's how it feels.  

My first day out and about I went grocery shopping.  A trip to Lidl sounds simple enough and it's not like I hadn't been shopping in India.  I did 1/2 a blog on the retail delights of Delhi.  Anyway, on the way to Lidl I met with my +80 year old neighbour Breege stumbling out of a gentleman's car (10am in the morning.....Ab Fab Stlye), she was wearing an evening gown and had her lipstick all smudged.  Some people might call that the walk of shame but I've seen her a few mornings and high fived her.  Walk of Glory :) Lidl was busy and despite being used to chaos I'm finding 'structured' chaos quite odd.  I'd obviously let all that get to me as when I arrived at the checkout I realised after completing the Lidl Olympics (packing your bag as quick as you can on the 1 foot ledge - it's almost an Irish olympic sport) that I'd forgotten my wallet.  The nice man at the checkout told me he would keep my shopping behind the till and I could come back in the next hour.  I smiled and wobbled my head.  He looked at me as if I was BONKERS :)

In my first week back I stumbled upon a seminar on Sex.  I had a few meetings in town and was told about Creative Mornings so decided to head there first.  I felt like my first day at school, I didn't know what the feck to wear.  Looking out of the window, the sky was a stunning bright blue (for the last 18 months that had in the majority meant at least +20 degrees) but everyone was wearing work gear resembling a mountain trek.  I'd forgotten how unpredictable the weather in Ireland was and took a bag with the standard jacket/sunglasses combo.  The Creative Mornings chat was on Sex, a subject which I've studied alot in the last 18 months, namely on neo-tantra so I was curious to see if Ireland has progressed from it's 'foreplay is switching the lights off mentality'.  It hasn't.  

The talk was pretty informative, given by Sex Siopa a sex retailer.  Basic stuff about how sex isn't talked about so we should all get toys and have a play.  Sex Siopa's toys are innovative and fun.  I was, however, looking forward to the Q&A and didn't know that the format meant it was anonymous with questions like 'do you believe in the afterlife'.  Seriously, free coffee, croissants and a chance to talk about the most fun topic in the world and that's the best you can do?  

I know the presentation was a sales pitch but this was a 'creative morning' and surly that means to learn something and I think we all needed a reminder that although batteries are a good start, trust and love are a fundamental.  Get all three and you've got BINGO.  But I guess sales pitches are just about the easy target and love and trust are hard to find.  Something that was confirmed, when I was talking to some lads afterwards and they said 'nah, sure I don't want to make love I just wanna get mi hole and have a ride'.  That goes hand in hand with most of my friends here who when asking 'do you want to develop your sexual relationship with your partner further' have told me 'no who cares so long as I'm getting my hole'  It has a charming irish humour about it but us men really need to cop on that we need to change.  Please read my blog on neo tantra.   Btw, that doesn't mean I've got it sussed.....I'm single after all BUT I'd love to see more people follow this:

Part III coming soon:
  • Yoga my saviour 
  • I don't get the job
  • Why you gotta love the Irish 
  • How to feel every beat

Friday, May 9, 2014

The East to West transition - Part I - My Last week

Within the space of 1 week I go from this:

To this 

So, there I was on Leeson Street, Dublin ready for an interview.  Everything was alien, even wearing shoes.  I'd had a cup of coffee for the first time in two months and it had cost more than some hotels I'd stayed in India.   I was BACK.

So here's how it went for me:
  • Why ‘same same but different’ needs to change 
  • The world's biggest X Factor
  • My mum the highlander pt II
  • Toilet talk
  • Internet Dating in England 
  • Sex in Ireland
  • Yoga my saviour 
  • I don't get the job
  • Why you gotta love the Irish 
Oddly enough sitting with Babas (me with the bearded boys in the top photo) is something that I did quite alot  in India.  The Irish equivalent would be sitting with a drunk on a park bench.  Watch out for me in Phoenix park when I'm back ;)

I overheard a classic 'lost in translation' story.  Along with an Indian lady saying she was 'breast eating her children' I overheard a story of a european bride who got her wedding dress tailored in India.  Good idea, cheap quality tailoring.  Bargain.  Only she wasn't clear with her instructions and sent high quality italian material for 1) wedding dress and 2) evening dress.  One in red, one in white.  In India red means purity and white is associated with death.  I'll let you do the math.

Rishikesh is a classical postcard image of India with it's temples and ashrams oozing incense smoke over the Ganges.  As I departed on my way to Delhi walking across the bridge crossing the Ganges at 5am I savoured the awakening of the holy city.   Despite our taxi driver turning up late as he'd forgotten about the pickup the peace of The Ganges that morning will stay with me forever.

Picture Postcard Rishikesh.... 


Two weeks before I was due to leave I'd had the rishikesh runs so I was keen for my last week to be a good one, and it was.  I squeezed in as much yoga, 6 hand massages for $6US (!) and all the stuff I cannot do at home as I could.  I bought as many Osho books and incense as I could humanly carry (my bookshelf is very tantric bias now ;) ).  I'd tried to visit Neelkanth (Shiva) temple a few weeks before choosing to hire a moped and speed up the mountain with a fair maiden on the back but we were stopped at a road check and rather than admit we didn't have any paperwork (this is India) and face a potential fine we didn't go.  Lucky for me a friend, Rajenda has recently setup a tour company so I headed up with him.

Rajenda is one of the lads I know from the Sivinanda Ramesh Music School and like a lot of his fellow students he has polio.  Rajenda is a little different though.  He's a true entrepreneur.  A story that will make you grin from ear to ear.  Most of the lads who have polio (including Roopak the guy I've been working with) are very slow at seeing opportunities to help them survive/strive.  Despite being shunned by his family from an early age due to his disability Rajenda moved to Rishikesh, a tourist destination that is also one of the begging capitals of India.  He soon worked out that he'd have to be different to earn a living and focused on perfecting his english and social skills.  A decade on, Rajenda has a network of supporters who have bought him a specialised (3 wheel and turbo!) moped and he runs tours of the local area.  Unlike many of his peers from his life as a beggar he is not a 'guy with polio', he is a tour guide with a charming knowledge of the local area and a smile that makes your day.  

Rajenda high above The Ganges winding it's way away from Rishikesh

Me and Rajanda at Neelkanth :).  

The Shiva stamp at the Neelkanth temple and my favourite smell..sandalwood incense :)

If you are in Rishikesh and looking for a tour guide to any of the surrounding temples, the national park, waterfalls or just a ride around with entertaining banter call Rajenda on +91 975 6514170 or contact him via Facebook .  Rajenda plans to expand into other ventures in the next few years including the possibility of having his own tour jeep. Carpe Diem?  What a legend.

For a country of 1.3bn it's shocking how few entrepreneurs there are.  Where are the Indian Airbnbs, WhatsApps, Pininterests??  The education system is based on rote learning which results in a majority of the population who are great at remembering their times tables and quoting Tagore poetry but tend to wobble their heads when creating a new concept.  By encouraging memorising the 'art' of originality is lost. 

When walking down a market street you will often have sellers thrust shiny sunglasses or belts infront of you and 9/10 times you'll be wearing both a belt and sunglasses.  Seriously lads same same and not even different.  

At Neelkanth there were at +20 sellers of 'water from the ganges' in a row.  They all looked the same and their mouths dropped when they saw Rajenda arrive with a tourist then jump down on the floor and walk around the winding alleys on his hands.  Yes, he's different from you and not a 'rotebot'.   

Here's a clip from my fav Indian film to illustrate my point. 

As The Three Idiots and numerous articles demonstrate there are a lot of cultural issues with the Indian education system.  That's not to say their aren't entrepreneurs in India but it's a problem.  It's a factory mentality with a few people driving against that system.  In Rishikesh alone the business opportunities are huge but 90% of people are doing the same thing, selling the same shite.  Friends of mine Martin and Hannah came up with sustainable businesses for local street kids to get them to sell postcards.   All the street kids in Rishikesh sell flowers to use for a blessing in The Ganges and their USP is usually their emotional sales skills ie. poor me.  The postcard idea involved giving one girl a number of pro-quality photos of Rishikesh, some card to back them and a pen and ruler to make them into sellable postcards.  After making profit in her first week she now has a memory stick with the images on and reproduces them on demand.  Watch out Dragons Den ;)

A Rishikesh flower seller

India, is, however, ready for change.  +850m people are voting right now in national elections and there is a hunger for change.  We might be used to images of India like the below:

However, I was in Delhi a city of 16m people on the first week of voting and the voting process appeared impeccably organised.  The voters are out in numbers and hopefully come the 16th May we'll see change.  With the incumbent having been in power for 80% of the last 1/2 century, and people protesting for change in huge numbers this is the world's X factor; a change in the world's democracy will make a change to us all.  Hopefully less of the same same.

The big issues are education, sanitation, pollution, health and corruption.  On my last night in Delhi I was reminded of one of the smaller scams that shopkeepers do daily by giving change in toffees.  Here's what my friend Gaurav had to say about it (he's a fan of the common people's party - the one that really could make a change :) )

Part II & III coming soon ....
  • My mum the highlander pt II
  • Toilet talk
  • Internet Dating in England 
  • Sex in Ireland
  • Yoga my saviour 
  • I don't get the job
  • Why you gotta love the Irish 
  • How to feel every beat 

Thursday, April 24, 2014



Yoga classes in Rishikesh (Ram Jhula):

As I’ve mentioned before Rishikesh is the disneyland of yoga.  You could stay there sipping lassis, getting bendy and blissed out for months totally unaware of the madness that is in 99% of the rest of India.  I’m guessing that once the immigration rules change this year Rishikesh will become a bit of a cheap spa break for westerners in search of inner peace who have an aversion to paper work.  You now have no excuses to go to the most amazing country in the world :)

The yoga industry has very loose regulations.  You don’t have to have any qualifications to teach and even after doing the standard 200 or 500 hour teacher training courses there are no standard tests to pass so the range of teachers around the world from a mess to amazing is pretty spectacular.  My personal favourite will always be the Korean yoga teacher in Nepal who got hands/feet and left/right muddled up; the closest I’ve been to a drunk game of Twister on a yoga mat.  A lot of the better teachers use Rishikesh as a base for their annual MOT/check-up; not just checking in with one teacher but being in a location where you can get a taste of most types of yoga by some of the world’s best teachers.   Purists might chose MySore for Ashtanga (where Pattabhi Jois developed the style) or Pune for Iyengar (where BKS Iyengar still somehow at 96 still teaches), however, I’ve been to +50 teachers in the last 8 years and the best ones have been in Rishikesh.  Here’s my favourite and why (note that the listings are based on the tourist season schedules and all classes have mats available):

Surinder Singh Yoga

...btw photos on this post aren't mine but he really does look as happy as this all the time :)

If you overhear a conversation with “I love his classes he is amazing” chances are the discussion will be about Surinda’s class.  That doesn’t mean he has the best classes but he definitely gives the most love.  You have to negotiate a lot of cows and backlanes of Swargashram to find the yogashala, arrive early and often queue for a place but it’s worth it.  His classes are classic Hatha, quite slow with little happy spiritual anecdotes throughout and a soft tap on the shoulder after Surinda has made an adjustment.  Tips: arrive early and prepare to have overlapping mats.  Great for all levels.

Morning – Rajdeep Hotel, Ram Jhula, Swargashram (up close to the taxi stand, turn left towards Ganga Sai then ask). 8.30-10am.  He also does evening classes but I didn’t go.

Anup Gupta @Ananda

Anook is one of the few teachers who does specific pranayama classes so I went along to his 7am and was so impressed with his innovative techniques that I stayed for his 8am asana (yoga postures) class.  Blimey.  Traditional Hatha but looooong holds and the few classes I went to were 2.5 hours and included advanced asanas. Very little personal adjustments so I would not advise beginners go to this class but apart from that very impressive.
Located at the Geeta Ashram on the way up to the Shiva Temple/Taxi rank at the top of Swargashram.
Pranayama class 7-8am, Asana class 830-10am (but sometimes 11 ;) .  He also does ashtanga classes at 5pm

Brajesh@ Avatar

Despite being hard to find (Brajesh kindly found me on his bike and gave me a lift) this is one of the best yoga studios I’ve ever been in.  On a top floor high above Ram Jhula, it’s worth going to this class for the views alone.  The class is very slow (classical hatha) but if you like quality adjustments Brajesh is the best teacher I’ve ever had for personal adjustments.   It might, however, be as his classes are new and so for the 2014 season were small.  Typically 5-10 people as it’s a hard place to find so that could change once the word gets around. 

At Hotel Yog Vashishth, Swargashram (close to the Green Hotel) Drop in classes are 730-9am


For the Ashtanga heads out there Tattva yoga has a great reputation.  Kamal Sigh has a bad reputation for being overly commercial but his teaching and teachers are amazing.  Deepak teaches a few drop in classes of Ashtanga (beginners at 12 and intensive at 5).  Be warned, however, that at the beginners class I went to he did a crow ontop of my wheel and I later found out there were Ashtanga teachers in the same class.  Beginners in India doesn’t always mean simple.....although this is a catalogue photo this is what Deepak did to me in the 'beginners' class ;)

Swami Yogananda Maharaj Ji@Pamarth Niketan or Om Shanti Om 

This is one for the tourists.  Swami Yogananda Maharaj Ji is 106 years old and a legend.  His class has a focus on light breathing and stretching so is very similar to the Pawanmuktasana series with a bit of laughter yoga thrown in.  Having a 106 year old lead a laughter session really is quite something.  You won’t leave the class dripping with sweat but I can guarantee you’ll have a smile on your face.  This guy is pretty special.  I overheard someone talking to him about meditation and he said “I’ve been doing it for over 80 years and I still don’t get it so I just have a little snooze”.  Legend.

Location: Pamarth Niketan Ashram at 0630-0800, Om Shanti Om Sundays at 11am

Acro Yoga with Emily & Nunu 

Acro is great fun but needs to be taught by a qualified and safe teacher.  Emily is the best one I've come across, she's like a rock.   She will tangle you around in all sorts of shapes above her and the whole time you will feel 100% safe and you'll love your flight!

Above Trektindia in Laxman Jhula main market - Mon-Fri 11am-1pm (there are also jams on the beach in Ram Jhula from 4.30pm close to the Shiva rock).

Ashish at The Green Hotel

Ashish teaches Iyengar yoga.  My first Iyengar class was back in 2005, and at the time I found the therapeutic approach and detailed alignment quite frustrating.   However, I now appreciate that a style with such a scientific approach is useful.  If you look at the spectrum of yoga styles with Bikram being at one end (totally unguided and pushing yourself until you melt) Iyengar is at the other end with precise instruction and guidance.  Ashish was pretty good and I liked that he encouraged you to make notes, a rare opportunity for teachers to write useful stuff down.

Location: Green Hotel, Ram Jhula (in a laneway behind but if you ask at reception they'll direct you).  Drop in class 0830-1000

Usha Devi@Patanjala Yoga Kendra

I’ve saved the best for the end.   You might hear Surindar’s name more than Usha but it’s only as not as many people get the opportunity to learn with Usha.  It’s very hard to get into her drop in  Iyengar classes.  You book for a week as opposed to the daily drop ins (you can book daily but the price works out waaay cheaper for the week), and she only does drop in weeks once in a while.  Usha is a pretty unique lady;  she’s been in two serious accidents and had her body mashed to bits and in 1999 was told by multiple doctors that she would never walk.  She worked with BKS Iyengar (the chap who developed the style) and is now fully mobile.  Her teaching style is a mix between a strict army general and your favourite aunt.  One minute she is shouting at you for smiling or talking and slapping you hard on the thigh if you aren’t following her instructions, the next moment you see her smile and you feel her love.  Her classes are hard.   Really hard.  She’ll have you in a handstand and be talking you through all the parts of your body you need to move; who knew I needed to suck in my metatarsal, or that there are 6 corners to my heel?  From all the teachers I have ever been with, despite only having time for 3 lessons with Usha she is the one who has influenced my asana detail the most.   If you’re going to chose one teacher and her classes are available then do it.    

Patanjala Yoga Kendra is the first building on the left if you are walking from the Rickshaw stand in Ram Jhula towards Rishikesh.  Timing of drop in classes is based on the schedule.  Although the website says you don't need to register for the drop in classes, you do.  You'll need to go to the office at 8am on the Sunday before the classes start to register, there is usually a queue of eager Usha fans so good luck :)

Remember there are plenty of other teachers.   From speaking to others there are a few other good ones in Laxman Jhula and some very good teachers based in Ashrams on the Haridwar side of Rishkesh but I didn’t have time to check them out.  Another reason for me to go back :)

I've been two years in a row for Feb/Mar/April and I love that season in Rishikesh.  If you've a deep wallet you can also get to see most of the above teachers at the International Yoga Festival every March.  There's also one in November that is free and has a pretty good reputation (check out http://www.nadyoga.org/international-yoga-music-festival-rishikesh-india/ Nov 2014).

My six weeks in Rishikesh this year totally changed my practice.  Yoga is a process and the more you learn the deeper you go.  I’m so deep I can never get out and I love that :)

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Human Marination

I've a week left in India.  Now all the gurus and most of my mates have left Rishikesh it's a chance to ponder my time away or as the gurus say to 'marinate'.  
  • How to punch a Guru 
  • The sex door knocker
  • The importance of The Beatles
  • How to be famous in India
  • Indian bungie jumping - would you?
The end of March is a funny time in Rishikesh.  There's mass exodus after the international yoga festival and a-lister guru satsangs finish.  It also starts to get viry howt and so there are no Bhajans on the beach.   Most people head up to cooler pastures in the Himalayas and I had originally planned to join that same convoy to Dharamshala where I was going to teach Lindy Hop with the lovely Dolker but based on the amount of Osho books I'd have to lug up the hills and the weather forecast I'm delighted I chose to stay here.  
Last week's temps  - top is Dharamshala bottom Rishikesh.....I'm glad I stayed :)

Alot of my friends have left, even the tantra banta has subdued.  Something I was glad about after my neighbour tried her sex robot antics on me again and I had to reject her a second time (30 minutes later she was doing robotics with another neighbour).  Oddly I saw that application of tantra as my alter ago from my time at Agama;  something that happily has changed now.   What hasn't changed is the spread of sexbots.   Agama is now offering Tantric massages (only to women!) here which on paper looks fine and I agree in it's application as a therapy but doing it in a Holy Indian city to me seems a bit inappropriate.

I love the NB note - hilarious

My own application of neo-tantra took a funny twist last week.  One night whilst dancing blues with a girl on the balcony I realised quite how difficult it is to have public romance in India. I looked up to see 5 indian guys on the neighbouring roof all with their camera phones pointed in our direction. I cannot wait for automatic face tagging on youtube!

Luckily bhajans on the beach were replaced with Acro Yoga and I soon had a new gang.  Acro yoga is a cross of Arcobatics, Yoga and Thai Massage.  Quite a treat.  

Last week I punched a-lister guru Mooji.  It was by mistake.  I was in a shop and turned quickly to feel my elbow nudge into someone's ribs and a deep Caribbean 'hmm' echo through the shop.  I said sorry and didn't click it was him until I was walking away.  He didn't react, which is exactly how a guru should be but his disciples looked at me as if I'd tried to assassinate the president.    Maybe they should be listening to boss man instead of just following him round .     

Once satsang finishes a big question is what to do after.  Gurus advise to marinate on the teachings but for those that have grown attachment (most of his followers) it's tough.   I think to balance things out Gurus should do some reality TV where they are put back into the real world and test their skill of understanding the meaning of life.  For example,  getting  Prem Baba to work in a truckers cafe in Limerick whilst trying to raise 5 kids on their own and with a supply of zynax in the bathroom cabinet.  Interesting to see if they continue as unphased by life as they do in their normal peaceful guru surroundings.

At this point you need to be playing this song in the background.......

I have visited the beatles ashram  (home of the late Maharishi guru) twice since I've been here. Yoga came to the west via a number of ways including Swarmi Vivekananda at the parliament of world religions meeting and Queen Victoria's fascination with the amazing feats of yogis.  However, I think the beatles and other stars of the 1960s coming here and stuying yoga and meditation is what shifted the interest.   It's amazing to think that The Beatles spent so much time in a place so different from Abbey Road.  It was supposed to be one of their most productive periods, apart from Ringo who went home early as he didn't like the food!  The Ashram is a breathtaking place (they even had AC in The Beatles rooms - 1960s in India!!).  However,  for years it's been left in ruin and run in a typically Indian way ie. you have to bribe your way to get in or find a low part of the wall and break in.  That was the case up until a few weeks ago when the government started working on renovating the site.   The Ashram, once reopened will be a big tourist landmark in India.  Rishikesh is touristy now but it will become massive.  As they've only recently excavated one building me and my friend also managed to get some personal trinkets.  I was seriously tempted to take a toilet!

One of the workers:

The current state of disrepair of the yoga shala

Some of the residential quarters

Stunning Murals

Last Sunday me and some other travellers took ajeep with 6 kids from the music school I've been working with in Rishikesh and headed to Kunjapuri Devi Temple.  A truly special visit giving the kids their first view o the Himalayan range whilst offering puja at the famous hindu temple.  The group (including Roopak), all made it up the final 300 steps in record time. Bear in mind that some of those with polio have mobility by walking on their hands.....they were the first ones to the top - amazing :).

Roopak going up the 300 stairs

The gang at the top with the Himalayan range in the background:

One of the kids coming down the 300 steps on his hands:

The next day I woke with Delhi Belly.  I was gutted as it threatened my last week in India.  I ignored the usual 'wait 24' hours and started  taking nuclear drugs within the first 6 hours.  After a few days it hadn't improved so I went to an ayuvedic doctor who after giving me my drugs asked me if I was on Facebook or WhatsApp.  In India anyone who is not from India is famous!

I'm now better and in one week I'll be back in Europe so I'm cramming my last few days full of lovely stuff.  The great thing about travellingis that everyday is special regardless of the acro yoga or trips to the mountains.Normal conversations are rare; just last week I was sat next to the assistant director of Life of Pi and this morning I had chai talking to a professional snowboarder from Japan who'd quit to study ayuvedic medicine (and did not ask to add me on FB!).  Topics usually revert between things like bowel movements and Tantra, stuff you'd never think of talking about at home but happily sip a lassi whilst chatting about here.  I even met one girl who combined the two in a chat ...the topic of 'Space Docking'.  Something not to discuss over food.

My favourite phrase heard this week was an Indian trying to decribe pins and needles using 'Sparkles and Tickles' instead :)

My favourite story overhead was an Australian backpacker who did a bungee jump (it's getting touristy here!) and as he stepped out on the platform asked "this is safe right?" to which the Indian worker simply wobbled his head.

My fav dog in Rishikesh.  Due to his protruding jaw, his bark actually sounds like he's saying "sausages".

Thursday, March 20, 2014

J'ai fait un caca caca dans mon pantalon

I was a bit freaked, however, that is not what happened but a funny phrase I heard a girl say a few days ago....."Ou'est? - "DANS MON PANTALON"- ze french are zo romantic.  

That monkey surprised me by being so angry.   There is a new colony here and they really don't like us human folk.  10 years ago I was working with spider monkies in Bolivia and was used to them giving me a hug everyday.  I miss these lads......

Anyway, enough of my relationship issues. Here's what I've been up to:
  • Easy India
  • Bad Yoga
  • I miss a good Shift 
  • Happy Holi
It's quite hard to be lazy in India but in Rishikesh it's easy.  Along with Kerela and Goa,  despite my fondness for the place it's a long way from the bonkersville that is the rest of India.  I've had power, wifi and hot showers everyday here.  Despite missing Indian food I've eaten at western vegan restaurants and juice bars most days and my mattress is more than the average Indian 2 inches thick! The highlight, however, was in a the toilets of a cafe yesterday where they were playing meditation music IN THE TOILETS.  Rishikesh is like the Disneyland of yoga with of more mature yogis coming to get their Yoga MOT/NCT and young glowing girls (and a few guys) skipping around with yoga mats under their arms sipping lassis saying "OMG did you go to Surindher's class - I totally found myself melting into my mat,  I heart India".   Now, I love girls and I love Surindher's classes but in a world where the toilets play jazz music the phrase 'I heart India' needs a rethink.   

Some of the yoga classes are damn funny.   In one of Surindher's classes the mats were so close together that at one point I opened my eyes to find my big toe nudging a girls bum cheeks (like I said.....I LOVE his classes).  Five minutes later my neighbour  on the other side had her foot over my nose.  Life: It's all about balance.  The highlight of the yoga asana classes I've taken for me, however,  was when local teacher Deepak hopped ontop of me during a wheel and first stood up and did little jump, then went down into crow.  It was a beginner's class !  I held it for 20 seconds with him on top, I didn't have a camera and surprisingly my back felt splendid afterwards.  

It looked something like this......

The lowpoint of my yoga classes was my pranayama course.  I love pranayama and after training in the YTT then additional courses in Delhi I wanted to do one with the best teacher here so I signed up with taalls/ .   It worked out to be $40US per 2 hour class.   In Delhi I had been paying $1US for a 2 hour class (classes were in Hindi but you get the idea of the difference).   I turned up and despite being told it would be separate to their YTT it was a room full of YTT students (thank you Tattvaa yoga!).  I wasn't paying $40US for that so instead reinvested my rupees in more singing classes, massages, books and some inner child meditation classes (yes I am hanging out with me as a 10 year old - it's GREAT craic).  Everything also balanced out when after returning from the pranayama course I'd walked out of at 6am there was a storm and I rescued 1/2 my clothes which were on the balcony drying.  They would have all headed up the Himalayas had I stayed in the class.  Plus later that day I was retelling the story to a well known yoga teacher here and he said he'd give me some advanced pranayama classes for $5/hour.   Everything.......EVERYTHING happens for a reason :)   Having met people from 10s of YTT courses now, I am convinced I did one of the better ones.  If you are every considering it check out http://www.hathayoga-meditation.com/.

One of the many books I bought as a consequence of getting a refund from the course and WHAT a book :)

My projects are going well I'm even sticking my head in the classroom and teaching the kids some English at this school.  My favourite phrase was 'Nice to meet you boss' in a Michael Kane accent.  

Kids at the music school.....

Dinner at the music school :)

Traffic delays on the way to the music school.......a Cow Jam :)

I was also honoured to be asked by my friend the TEDx Ambassador for India to do a talk at their new seminar programme called 'The Shift'.  Now I love a good Shift but unfortunately it's end of April, my visa runs out in 2 weeks and I need a new passport so it ain't gonna happen.  I turned down another potential shift a few days ago.  My neighbour is doing an Agama Tantra course here and asked me as an ex-student if I could help her find her Shakti (that usually involves shifting). I declined her kind offer as I don't fancy her; which I guess means I know more about Tantra.  Dear Agama please stop producing sex robots and produce loving ones instead.

Last year I missed out on Holi the festival of colour due to a visa issue and I was gutted.   This year I spent the day with a friend at the music school I'm working (and learning!) playing with the kids (and their Grandpa brother cousin.......or Great Uncle as we say in English English!).   A lot of the local yoga schools and Mooji's satsang warned people to stay indoors and avoid the perils of the toxic paint.  However, once you got into the mess of it no-one cared - HAPPY HOLI :)

So I'll be back in Ireland in one month today and was thinking about what I'll end up doing career wise.   I've lots of opportunities but am not going to rush into anything.  Whilst I was writing my journal today an Indian guy sitting on the wall next to me picked up my pencil and stuck it in his ear and starting cleaning inside.  I've since disposed of said pencil but ....it gave me an idea for a niche in Ireland ;)