A Travellerspoint blog

Rishikesh first days...

settling in


I've been here five days now. Sleeping like a baby but maybe thats post Ashram exhaustion. I got a new room today, in the Swiss Cottage- its clean and sunny, a beautiful space and its got a view of the Ganges. I can sit outside and read, or inside if its hot. Its a relief, the other room was quite squalid and the bathroom really started to smell, bad drains or something, it started to feel like somewhere Sid Vicious might have felt at home... And my new place is the same price! I actually put my stuff away, out of the rucksack, and spread out a little..
The Louise Ellis workshops are going well, she's a wonderful teacher, sooo calm and laid back and intuitive. I did my first drop backs yesterday- curling down into the wheel (Chakrasana) from standing. Thats another mental hurdle- when you're up there looking down it seems like a very long way... And today Kukkutasana... It turned out my thighs are not too big after all, I had my hands wrong. And its another mental challenge because it looks uncomfortable.
I've been exploring a lot and doing a lot of walking around Laksmanjhula, Swarg Ashram, Ramjhula etc. Its very peaceful and its very warm but not too much so. Theres loads of stalls selling Tibetan stuff, jumpers, singing bowls, that kind of stuff. Massage/ Ayurveda/Reiki centres EVERYWHERE and more ashrams than I can count with earnest looking women taking the rubbish out in rubber gloves. This morning I saw some holy men in robes with long beards who looked like Old Testament prophets on motorbikes. And theres loads, men and women, begging on the bridges. Some with cataracts in their eyes and disabilities. Some look fat and happy, some are really not all there by the looks of things at all...
I had supper with Sandra tonight, really good veg thali in the cafe, and a friend of hers came along, a man called Soma who grew up on an ashram in Rishikesh where he still lives. He's full of stories as you can imagine, and was telling us that adopting the orange robes of a renunciate and heading to Rishikesh is a popular life choice for criminals so watch out when you get offered chai..... We're going to see the Maharishi Ashram tomorrow, where the Beatles stayed, a group of us, doing the tourist thing. And we'll go to Soma's Ashram too, its closer to the river, so it might be nice to consider moving to one of those at some point.
I did a Hatha Yoga class this evening, just to unwind a bit. As I spent a month not really moving too much, my body can really feel all the walking, and my hips and legs ache. My feet were agony too, really sore and dry, but I found a pumice and some cream today so a bit more comfortable now. Its late now, the internet rooms closing and I need bed, exhausted...

Posted by victoria8 07:56 Archived in India Tagged women Comments (0)

New Yoga practices

Vyayam adventures

-17 °C


I awoke early this morning and found Divine Ganga Cottage where the Louise Ellis workshops are being held. It is amazing, a huge red building on the banks of the Ganges. The room where we practise is at the top with a glass roof and a breathtaking view, surrounded by forest, turquoise river and sky. All you can hear is the wind and the birds and incense burns in the stillness. I've met Louise once before, in the UK and I'm so glad she's teaching here. Its the Primary Series of Ashtanga, Mysore style, but its a tiny class with a gentle atmosphere. I stayed in the initial meditation for a while, not quite believing that I could be in such a perfect space. And suddenly I was full of energy and completely in the present. Theres a lot of adjustments but her approach is so gentle its like having a kitten kneading you into a posture. She's very tiny, beautiful and feline too. Actually I think being diminutive is a plus for a Yoga teacher- being able to stomp across people backs without breaking them, that kind of thing... I enjoyed the practice, I'm pretty stiff but I started to relax again, As its been a month since Mysore I was a little rusty as to the sequence but I'd actually missed it, the flowing nature of it and the deep silence after. There was about 6 of us there, one was a girl called Maia who waved to me as I went in and it turned out we'd been in Mysore at the same time, in the same Sanskrit class! After the practice we all went to Devraj Coffee Corner for porridge and Yogi tea. All the cafes here have the most amazing views..

At midday I met up with Matt, one of the San Francisco circus people, and we went for coffee and had a great chat about everything, Yoga, the difference between destination and predestination, travel, monkeys, mortgages, astrology, etc, etc, he's very much a Saggittarian and it was fun. We ended up wandering round Laksmanjhula and going for lunch in the Moonlite Cafe which had another unbelievable view with a red blossom tree in the foreground of the frame of the window. I had the chefs salad- this aubergine and tofu creation with chilli sauce which was beautiful. Theres very different food here- Tibetan influenced with yak cheese toasties, that kind of thing, and lots of good bakeries selling cheesecake and apple crumble. Then we had seperate Yoga missions- he went back to Swiss Cottage for Acro-Yoga, and I went to Swarg Ashram for Vyayam Yoga.....
I first heard of Vyayam Yoga yesterday- I got talking to a woman from New Zealand called Yogita who teaches it. Its origins are Indian but it was apparently taken to China too. Its a very dynamic form of Yoga, lots of martial art style moves, and has a lot of elements that you come across in both Kundalini Yoga and Chi Gung. I went to her house and we practised on the roof surrounded by mountains and sky- mirroring each other, and we both happened to be dressed all in black so it felt quite Ninja-y. I loved it! All the movements are circular and theres a wildness about it and the breathing is so strong that it is very heating, very fiery. The emphasis is on the breath, framing the moves with the breath and being completely present. Yogita's a great teacher, she has that balance of patience and urging you on. So I signed up for a few more classes as its not something I've ever come across before. Also theres a particular way of standing and sitting, not using the knees at all, which I think I should discipline myself to learn as its high time to take better care of my knees. Also. standing and sitting differently are good cognitive tools.
I'm tired this evening, its been a long day and a lot of practice. I'm going to get an early night with my Iyengar book and just relax. Tomorrow I'm going to see if I can get a nicer room with a bit of sunlight as mine is dingy. There was a power cut from about 9pm last night for well over 12 hours. It was a real drag but I slept well. I had lucid dreams where I was completely aware that I was dreaming and telling that to the characters in my dreams. Don't know what that means! There was a couple of dogs barking at each other for hours too, I wanted to barbecue them.

I think in terms of places to stay in India, I like Rishikesh the most. You've got unbelievable beauty, a lot to do, a great atmosphere, its a teetotal town so no Goa- stylee idiots, and its big too, you can be anonymous or you can have company. And good cake (I bought fresh German apple cake today). Perfect...

Posted by victoria8 07:18 Archived in India Tagged women Comments (0)

Getting mugged in Rishikesh

saddhus city

-17 °C

Finally made it! Even when its plane most of the way, getting to Rishikesh is a mission. I had a long wait at Old Delhi train station. It was so hot and dirty, I could see my skin turning grey. There were rats as fat as guinea pigs running around looking happy and involved. Everyone stared like I had 5 heads and there was a gang of nasty teenage boys right in my face to my left and some sleaze asking if I was alone to my right until I could bear it no more. I snapped at the sleaze "NO I am not travelling on my own so you can leave me alone and what about these cretins? (turning to them) Have you never seen a woman before? STOP STARING AT ME I DO NOT LIKE IT!!!" And a miracle occurred. They actually did stop staring and sat down on the floor and left me alone. After a few hours in Delhi its pretty easy to sum up an actual promise of physical harm in your eyes (oh and the 'f' word may have slipped out too). I got on the train where it said 'B1' and my heart sank, it was horrible. Then happily it turned out that the train had stopped in the wrong spot, my carriage was further along and was clean and beautiful and air conditioned. My name was on the list, I had clean sheets, there was a place to get a wash, food on offer, and suddenly the worst was over. I was surrounded by nice families and people that just wanted to go straight to sleep. I even met some other travellers, some people from Brighton (naturally) and a French woman, Sandra, who was sharing her beer with a guy in the corridor and telling everyone it was her birthday. Which turned out to be a lie as she's Cancerian. Anyway, I slept ok and we arrived at Haridwar just after 6 am.
It was freezing cold, and it was beautiful to feel cold again. I shared a big rickshaw with Liza and Mahesh from Brighton and Sandra to Rishikesh. I sat up front with the driver, suddenly wide awake and fascinated by everything, "Look! A statue of Shiva!" "Look! A horse!" "Look! An old man smoking a beedie!" etc. And I chanted a few mantras too. We were all headed to Laksmanjhula to find a place to stay. High Banks was all booked up as was Bhandari Swiss Cottage but I got a room in a little guest house which is a bit dark but has a really comfy bed and is clean enough with a bathroom so I was happy with that. Swiss Cottage is next door so I can go to the cafe there and sit and look at some of the most amazing views down onto the Ganges River. I had a shower that lasted for hours and it felt so good and then I headed down into Rishikesh. Its a long walk in the hot sun so I ended up getting a bus which is a nice journey, and costs a tenth of a rickshaw. I bought some fruit and went past some of the Ashrams and looked at the river. Bumped into Sandra next to the Ramjhula Bridge and we went for a wander for a few hours. Went to one of the Chotiwallahs restaurants for samosas and cold drinks and saw some great bookshops. People here are nice, you don't get hassled, you can chat to people about all the Yoga classes going on and theres a nice feeling here. Its like a haven sitting in a place thats like the Lake District on a huge scale.
Then it happened. As we walked over the footbridge. I had a feeling we were being followed and was uneasy. Then quickly, before I knew what was going on, my plastic bag was ripped apart and I got a hard thump. Twice. I looked up but they were too quick for me and I could only see their hairy backs as they scampered off, chattering and swinging way above everyones heads. All my cheikku fruit were taken as were every single one of my grapes. And one of them even had the audacity to stare right at me as he bit into one of the cheikku! Delinquent gangs of monkeys! And all these saddhus sitting along the bridge with their begging bowls and orange robes were pissing themselves with laughter. So the lesson to be learned here is not to take fruit over the bridge, its like wandering onto some South London estate with a clear bag full of cash. Then I found out that people sit by the bridge drinking coffee all day just to watch the monkeys and their happy-slapping antics....
Anyway, we got back up to Laksmanjhula and I collected some laundry etc and we went and sat out in the garden and watched some circus performers from San Francisco who I got talking to earlier, they're staying in the same place as me. They were fire juggling and it was good. Theres a load of little hippy cafes here, its like being at a festival and the vibe is not abstinence, theres meat on offer and people even smoke which I haven't seen in ages. I had my first cup of chai since I've been in India and some spinach soup with garlic. Then I fell into bed just after nine and slept for 12 hours.
Felt great this morning, did a short practice, I'm a little stiff from travel and illness but going for a swim with Sandra at lunchtime and a slow Yoga class later. Starting workshops with Louise Ellis tomorrow- the Ashtanga primary series in the mornings and some Yin Yoga and Pranayama 3 afternoons a week, I'm excited about it and feel energetic enough again. Started reading the Astadala Yogamala series of 3 books by Iyengar, its really good to have leisure time again to read what I want to read and these book are great, lots of tree and rooting analogies and inspiration...He talks of Yoga as a defence system against disease that arises from inbalance and covers attachment in great depth. I'm enjoying it a great deal.

"The practitioner of Yoga bridges the gap between the body, the mind and the self and becomes the master of these three. The knower, the knowable and the known become one. The journey of the seeker searching the seer comes to an end." (Iyengar. Astadala Yogamala volume 3)....

Posted by victoria8 22:07 Archived in India Tagged women Comments (0)

City life once more

Delhi Chaos

-17 °C

The last days in the Ashram passed well. We all graduated with teaching certificates that mean we are qualified to teach the traditional Indian Yoga Pravesh sequence to beginners in Yoga. I can feel the difference in myself for practising this, rather than a dynamic series for a month. I feel more grounded. Certainly calmer again. I'm going to try and keep up the chanting every morning- for better health and inspiration. I keep seeing analogies in everything too, like when I was washing up a mucky pan the other day it made me understand why I was in such a foul mood for a lot of last week- when you clean something properly, you have to scrape very hard. And the black burnt bits will then float around a bit, making the water of your mind/emotions a bit grimey before it disappears down the sink...


It was a great last night- we had a lot of speakers there and afterwards there was a display of advanced asanas, I got some photos of Anand but they are a little dark. There was also a display of advanced cleansing techniques..... to be honest I would have been happy to read about them in a book and keep it theoretical rather than watch someone exercising his superior abdominal control by vomiting down a tube only 10 feet away from me, there was also cloth eating- yes, neti started to look tame. At least they drew the line at demonstrating the bowel cleansing, thank heavens for small mercies....! We had an amazing meal afterwards, made by the students- fried aubergines, tapenade, chocolate truffles, loads of good stuff. I spent a lot of the last day walking around the surrounding countryside. Its dry at the moment but in the rainy season its lush and green, I've been surrounded by so much beauty for weeks. On the last morning we climbed the hill behind the Ashram to do sun salutations. It was incredible, the kind of thing you'll never forget, chanting and prostrating to the sun thats coming up behind Shiva's hills...


The whole Ashrams been, and I know it sounds cheesy, a real journey. I always understood that we create our own reality but now its an understanding from experience and not theory. I know too that self development really takes effort. And the only person that can stop bad thoughts is you, you can't go and see some therapist to solve things. You have to refuse to entertain the demons. Don't give them an armchair and snacks and let them live in your head rent free like dreadlocked squatters.... One of my Yoga books also says that going for therapy can be like trying to fix a leaky roof by constantly mopping up. You have to fix the plumbing... And maybe you have to learn to be the plumber.....

I'm pretty much recovered from being ill which is just as well as theres been a lot of travelling. Early yesterday morning, 10 of us got the train to Bombay together at 7am. It was sad to leave the Ashram. It was so still and quiet. Bombay was itself, hot and pretty stinking but we had a great day...! We walked and walked. We drank frozen coffees, ate good food, went shopping, I got a blue skirt and a load of bangles. In the evening we went to Leopolds and the first 2 of us left to continue travelling, Ruth and Brian.... It was sad to say goodbye, especially to such sound people. Brian makes me laugh. We had beers in the Taj Hotel in the afternoon, and as he pointed out, its one of the few places in India where being white really stands in your favour- you can strut round that place like you own it and no one says anything, its a lot of fun and the Kingfishers not too pricey!!! In fact, India brings out my latent Diva tendencies, like if you're in a shop trying on flip flops, you have a million people fussing round you and you find yourself acting up simply because you can... I never thought I was the kind of person that could petulantly sit there going "No, no, no, you know I hate that colour. Its yucky. YUCKY. I want to see something else", but I caught myself doing it. Mind you when the shop assistant put his hand up my skirt I felt perfectly justified in acting like a bitch. But I can understand why people like J-Lo etc must get bored and frustrated with it. Its a good thing I'm only here 3 months, otherwise I might end up auditioning for Big Brother or something just because I miss the attention... Anyway it was an early start this morning so I had a frozen coffee brekkie and caught a taxi to the airport. The driver was cool, he smoked and sang me songs from Bollywood films all the way. I can understand why Gregory David Roberts called the Indians 'the Italians of Asia'. And I love the way the guys wear hipsters and cowboy shirts, it somehow works.The driver pointed out landmarks- Chowpatty Beach, several temples, law courts etc and I drank it in.
The flight to Delhi went smoothly. Oh my goodness though, apart from the beauty of places like the Red Fort, Delhi's a dump. Flying into it was like flying into Budapest, miles upon miles of dreary looking grey apartment buildings that look like they belong in the Soviet Union. And the clouds are grey. And the air is grey. People walk around with masks on as the airs so so dirty. And the guys leer badly. And its boiling and so humid. Naturally I went to the wrong train station. So I tried to get a train to the right one but it was such a mission in the way catching a train can only be an intolerable mission in India. So I got a taxi as I thought standing in a crowded train Hell was not worth saving 50p for. And I ignored the guy who told me my train to Haridwar was cancelled and I should go with him, I know this is the scam centre of the planet and I'm wearing a blue salwar kameeze, a wedding ring and a fierce scowl... Anyway I've put my stuff in lockers and am in town exploring a bit and uploading a few photos from the Ashram. My train leaves in a couple of hours so I've got time to go for some food and read some more of my new book about Bombay. Its fascinating reading about the whole culture of the city of 20 million, political unrest, the origins of the slums etc. I'm on the overnight train to Haridwar and I've got a top bunk which is air conditioned so it should be alright. And you know something, despite the heat and the fact I feel like I've been at Glastonbury for 10 days without showering and I'm pretty exhausted, I am really really excited about being in Rishikesh tomorrow... I've seen so much of India now. I'm in a cybercafe in Old Delhi which has a certain charm. The buildings are beautiful and the street food stands are opening up. People love to stand around the street eating cakes and deep fried stuff at night in this country, its a civilized thing, you don't really see drunkenness.

Going to leave it there, oh, I can't resist this moody shot of me in front of my favourite window in the Ashram, its like some David Hockney view in the half finished building.....

Posted by victoria8 05:15 Archived in India Tagged women Comments (0)

Strange tests

and illnesses...

I was warned. Before I came to India, a Yoga teacher warned me- "You will get ill in India. And when you get ill there you're really ill. No messing about."

We had our final exams on Friday- the morning consisted of being assessed on breathing techniques such as kapalabhati and bramhari and cleansing techniques- we were only required to perform neti though. It was quite surreal, standing in a field at 7.30 am in the morning, pouring sterile saline through your nostrils while a man with a clipboard assesses that you have the angle of your head right etc. There were more pain-in-the-arse students trying to take endless photos. I told one guy that if he took a photo of me performing neti he would find his camera shoved up somewhere really quite close to his moolardhara chakra. I mean really, they were even taking photos of the vomiting last week. Who wants to find themselves on Japanese YouTube doing that?
In the afternoon we had the Asana exam, we had to do shoulderstand for 5 minutes, headstand for 45 seconds, crow for 15 seconds, swan for 15 seconds etc. It was actually quite fun. There were alternatives offered for people who are still working on their balances. Actually though, when you practice daily its surprising how quickly you get used to balances and get comfortable in them, comfortable enough to not think and just be. Afterwards I was looking forward to relaxing and having supper but I started to feel a little odd. At first I felt really cold and put on warm clothes but was still shivering. Then I started to get dizzy and all my joints started to ache badly. So I went to bed but then I woke up in the middle of the night with a searing temperature. My lovely room mate Caroline took great care of me and went and fetched Gandhar who was very kind and gave me medication and rehydration salts etc. I then spent the entire weekend in bed drinking rehydration salts and started a course of antibiotics which actually kicked in last night so I woke up feeling human again this morning with some energy back which feels wonderful. It was a bit of a hellish weekend, especially as at the hottest time of the day the fans don't work, so I was lying there draped in a wet towel to try and stay cold. Oh, and as everyones having spiritual and emotional epiphanies the playing of guitars has become very popular and someone decided to start singing Dido songs near my room just as my ears were at their most sensitive and my headache was at its worst.... I lay there reflecting on just what it was I must have done in a past life to deserve Dido..... razed several villages full of innocents to the ground perhaps?!
Anyway I am so glad the weekends over and I have my health back, eating only boiled rice and very plain food although being in town just now I had a sneaky icy drink from McDonalds- they sterilize everything so its ok. It was so good, I've had nothing but tepid water in ages and I miss cold cold drinks.
I've got my assessed teaching practice later, I've done a lot of preparation for it so it should be ok. I get to teach Arka Dhanurasana 1 and 2. I've only ever been taught this asana once in the UK as its not so popular but i love it. Its the sitting bow pose and very strong. I'm just relaxing now, enjoying not being cooped up and walking around outside, got to go buy some phone credit etc. My body aches less too, I did a gentle practice this morning and I'm easing back into things. I'm going to get someone else to demonstrate the asanas for me later. Getting a rickshaw back to the ashram from Nasik takes ages but it has to be one of the most beautiful journeys in the world. Tomorrow I'm going to do nothing but take photos...

Posted by victoria8 21:38 Archived in India Tagged women Comments (0)

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