India – Part One

by | 2 March, 2021

The Journey Begins

So, if you made it to this blog post after my previous one…welcome!

This was one of the most magical experiences of my life and I want to share the incredible time I had in India. Not to boast…I know how fortunate I am to have had this opportunity. But more to help share some of the moments of light I had whilst I was there.

So, this is the real GOA-HEAD blog. I knew from about 2015 that I wanted to do a yoga teacher training course. Not necessarily to become a teacher full time – especially at the time I thought I needed yoga too much myself to teach. I did Hot Pod Yoga for several years and always loved it. My teacher recommended several courses but I couldn’t find one that I could afford or that seemed to ‘click’.

I saved for 4 and a half years – and just thought I’d wait until the right one came along. I ended up becoming a PT and kind of left it for a little while.

A few years later, April 2018 I think it was – one of my teachers recommended a course in South Goa, India. A small group – it sounded great. I applied and was accepted.

I had several people say ‘you’re going to India, one your own?!’ and my reply was ‘Yep!’.

Of course, inside I was also pooing my pants. I hadn’t practiced yoga consistently for a while but I took stretch and balance classes and got to Hot Pod when I could.

Fast forward to the day of my journey, and I had my e-visa, had my injections done and bags packed. I worked until 2pm…My train was at about 2:30/3pm I think! Definitely not cutting it fine in the slightest…

My dad and my sister joined in with the class I was instructing at the gym and then my mum met us at the train station. I was nervous, emotional but couldn’t quite believe it was actually happening.

A little teary goodbye, and I was straight to eating my Vietnamese rolls that my sister had made me for the train. I won’t bore you with the train ride but it was absolutely freezing as it was February and a lot of flights had been cancelled, rescheduled etc. It was a bit snowy in Manchester – but arrived fine.

The hotel was lovely, I had a G&T and some dinner and got an early night after trying to sort my council tax and reading my study timetable for the two-week course.

I woke up at 5am and got a quick workout in as I knew I’d be seated for a little while. Nothing major as I NEVER train at that time – but it felt good to move. I had a text to say my flight would be delayed – in the end that worked in my favour as it turned out I hadn’t printed my e-visa but the application. Had the flight been on time, I’d have missed the plane! Anyway, a few people were also in my position – this lovely lady who was part of a family helped me and another yoga teacher.

If anyone knows me, they know (at times!) I can get super Hangry. I’m getting better at controlling this now but I was SO ready for my breakfast after the visa panic and the stress of my environmentally friendly water bottle meaning all my luggage needed searching.

Pret A Manger egg white omelette sorted me right out! I love it when you’re hungry and so ready for a meal… I savoured every part of it as I was pretty tired and delirious too! I remember it so well. Now I’m daydreaming about food, so back to it…

So quite a few hours spent at the airport, I journaled, had a little look around but was constantly checking for flight updates. When it was time, boarded the plane smoothly. Butterflies.

I sat next to a lovely French lady and we got talking (rather, we tried – her English was very good compared to my French!) We were told we were going to be delayed taking off – maintenance on the plane but also, I think we were waiting for our space on the runway. I had to try and translate to her what was going on.

5 HOURS PASSED.

We were told there was a technical fault with the engine on the plane (nothing to do with the snow which I worried I had jinxed!) and the captain said ‘We’re going to try turning everything off, and back on again and see what happens. We don’t normally do this with passengers on board.’ Brilliant. Classically British, and definitely not reassuring.

They tried – then we were escorted off the plane and had a 24hour wait until our next flight. We queued for buses that would take us to a hotel for us to stay in overnight. We were given vouchers to spend at the airport for snacks and breakfast the following morning.

I couldn’t believe I’d waited so long for this, and tiredness crept in and I started to cry with the stress of finding the right bus and wondering whether I’d get to India at all.

Luckily, I spoke to loads of people on the flight. Some would be losing time out of their holiday, others missing connecting flights. I felt lucky I was away for two weeks rather than one and I wasn’t missing the start of the course. I met a lovely couple when I got to the hotel and sat down for dinner. Turns out they were sat in front of me on the flight! I remember Angela saying ‘If you can cope with this, you can travel anywhere’. She was and is so right.

I’d never experienced disruption like it before, not to this extent. It made it so memorable though – everyone onboard was so lovely, chatty and probably ended up being my most favourite journey for that reason. We all pulled together to keep positive.

It felt like my first lesson from India already. Not to stress, hurry and worry.

After a good sleep, it was another early start to try and board the plane again.

We queued for our check-ins. People queue jumping, arguments and frustration at the lack of communication from the staff. Eventually, we got through to departures. The waiting game again. I sat with the French lady and our new found Spanish friend – I recommended the Pret dark sea salt chocolate. We all bought a bar to have on the plane together, and I think I had the omelette again for breakfast.

It got to the time for our flight. We queued. We got to our gate. ‘We are sorry for another delay; we haven’t got any facilities working on board and no toilet roll.’ 24 hours – still no flight ready to board. Everyone was getting more and more frustrated and impatient.

Once the bog roll was onboard (thank goodness…) we were ready to board and get going.

When we took off, everyone cheered! It really was such a special flight – I spoke to several people in queues for the loo, I got up every few hours to do some mobility exercises (I got some funny looks!) and some great conversations. Turns out there were a lot of women ‘flying solo’ (pardon the pun.) on this trip. It put my mind at ease a little, and I got that feeling of butterflies again.

We landed. My new flight parents helped me get my rupees and they made sure I met Odjay my taxi driver safely. She gave me her email so I could let her know I’d arrived to Oxygen Resort safely.

4am – I was so tired and it was dark. We were two hours delayed so I wondered if my driver would be there! And there he was, 4am in the morning with a sign with my name on it and a huge smile.

He had waited an extra two hours. Any driver or most drivers in the UK would have left! He walked me to the car, I was hot, tired and began to feel a little car sick on the journey. It was an hour and a half to Palolem. He asked me if he could play his favourite CD – Bob Marley. ‘Of course!’ I replied. And every time I hear that album it reminds me of that journey.

I asked him about his life, his family. He had never left India. He lived with his mother, brother (who was to be married I think) and they all slept in the same room. I think their home had three rooms at the most. He said another English girl had taught him to make scrambled eggs and the next thing he wanted to do was make pancakes.

It really humbled me. He said he had cornflakes for breakfast or sometimes samosa. I tried to picture what Indian cornflakes were like. That small revelation will be revealed later…

We had to stop half way so he could get a Chai. We pulled up to a tiny tin hut with two pots of Chai and a few lorry drivers and other drivers. I wasn’t expecting a full-on service station, but this made me realised how naïve I was to think it would have been any bigger than what it was.

I was terrified of being left in the car on my own – I had no idea where I was and if someone were to jump in – what would I do? Where would I go? Of course, being tired – every fear is heightened.

He got back in and we continued our journey. I tried to maintain conversation but it was getting harder and harder to do so!

When we arrived, he picked up my case and carried it on his shoulder. I look back – the case was huge and not necessary to take so many clothes!

‘Look out for the pigs’ he said.

Then I start to picture these wild boars with huge tusks and chasing me if I got too close. Again, tiredness heightening the fear. The next morning, I saw how wrong I was. Literally the cutest baby pigs you’ve ever seen!

Anyway, the security guard had also waited up to give me my key and show me my hut.

‘We’ll sort payment tomorrow, here is your key and sleep well.’ He had been falling asleep waiting for me. I gave Odjay a tip – £20 for an hour and a half trip and a two hour wait. He more than deserved it. So kind.

I already knew this was going to be such an amazing and life-changing trip.

Beautiful Palolem

I woke up at about 11:30am which was 7am UK time. I definitely could have slept longer but I wanted to get out and explore a little before meeting at the Shala later in the day.

I met Guldeep who was the host at the resort. Such a friendly, kind man and we sorted out payment. He directed me to the Shala which was literally five seconds from my hut! It was beautiful.

I was the closest hut to the beach, and that first night I won’t ever forget the lovely sound of the sea. I felt so lucky.

As I walked to the beach front, I literally felt like I was in a dream. The most amazing view and beach. Scorching hot and I walked the whole length of the beach and back again. I had to pinch myself.

I sat at a little café for some water and a fresh pineapple juice. It took forever! They were making it fresh… uh oh… ‘avoid fresh fruit’ I had been told. No going back now. Luckily, I was fine.

I headed back to my hut to unpack and sort a few things.

I loved my quirky adapter that didn’t quite fit in the socket that was semi in and semi hanging out. It worked so, that was the main thing! The light switches were the wrong way round logically. The toilet light was on the left, despite the toilet being on the right. Vice versa with the shower.

I had a seafood salad for lunch on the beach which was delicious and fresh (at this point I was still eating fish – still no meat really.)

I laid on the beach a while listening to the waves – helping me ground before meeting everyone on the course. I was nervous, but excited. I had an ice cream, headed up my hut and did a short 15-20mins practice to relieve my back.

It was time to head to the Shala.

I was the first there – not unusual for me! Then Sim turned up. His name was Simeon but he was Simba or Sim for short. Part Swedish, part Italian. We headed up to the Shala and waited.

No one else showed.

Orsi and Magda turned up and gave us a welcoming hug.

‘So, it’s just you two on the course!’. At first, I wasn’t sure how to react. Nowhere to hide, what if I wasn’t good enough? But also – how amazing that we would get pretty much private tuition for two weeks!

They gave us a floral welcoming ‘necklace’ and explained the outline of the course. I certainly didn’t feel disappointed and new I had made the right choice. We had our fire opening ceremony the following day, 7am start. Yoga, Pranayama every morning except Sundays. Meditation every afternoon – the gaps filled with anatomy, philosophy, other yoga styles, workshops and more.

It was going to be full on – and I couldn’t wait.

Sim and I decided to go for dinner together to get to know each other a little more. He had hired a scooter called Jesus which we rode on most days to go to our favourite places for brunch and dinner.

My first evening meal was at Little World. Over the two weeks we ended up having three favourite places which we alternated every day. It was some of the best food I’ve ever had. A lot of it vegan/veggie – granted, could be classed as touristy but the people who ran the places definitely weren’t.

We had Tofu stir fry and shared a few bits about ourselves.

Turns out we had a few things in common – burn outs, exhaustion and darker times. As most people go through at some point in their lives. But at this point in my journey, I hadn’t and didn’t really talk about my struggles or what I’d been through. I only skimmed the surface.

We got back about 9:30pm and went our separate ways – saying goodnight to the cute little pigs on our way to our huts. Sim was in the place next door to Oxygen which is where I was staying.

Yoga

Alarm went off ready for a 7am class and I felt shattered! Jet lag still lingering. Snooze alarm. Just five more minutes. 6:34am – SH*T! I washed my face, brushed my teeth, took one bite of a protein bar and headed out the door.

I bumped into Magda on the way – today, legs class for grounding. I definitely needed that.

Every morning class was just incredible. Week one was with Magda, week two with Orsi.

Over the course of the two weeks my body literally felt brand new. I’d never been so connected with my body. My breath was very shallow in the first week and took me a while to find more space. But the pranayama I was also enjoying so much more than what I thought I would. Orsi was so passionate about yoga, pranayama and Ayurveda. I hope I can share the same passion when it’s my time to teach.

I felt so content (and starving!) before my breakfast each day.

I savoured breakfast so much – I had never appreciated breakfast as much as I did then. For me, definitely my favourite meal of the day. I did a little reading before anatomy class.

I won’t go into detail with all the lessons because there is SO much I could write. But the first thing I was learning was how important and amazing the connective tissue in the body is – not just the muscles themselves. Absolutely fascinating how yoga, science, Ayurveda and anatomy link together with the human body.

I also quickly learnt the lesson on ‘Indian time’. We headed to Zest for lunch with only an hour to get back before philosophy. I noticed my first feeling of anxiety as we were running late and pushing it for time to get to class.

We arrived a few minutes late – apologised profusely to Magda and Upendra. I hate being late! I couldn’t eat whilst Upendra spoke. Every word was mind-blowing. ‘What is knowledge?’ he is a teacher of his experiences and combing this, ancient text and science. I have never met anyone like him in my life.

We had the opening fire ceremony next. I got there a little early and watched them put it together. The detail, every little flower and grain of rice was perfectly placed.

During the ceremony itself I felt so emotional and like I was experiencing something only dreams are made of. I felt for the first time in a long time that I was on the right path. In that moment, everything felt right. I felt so present and grateful. Orsi’s younger daughter was there too – we all put our commitment bands on and our third eye bhindi – I did Naina’s. Naina in Hindi means ‘Eyes’ – and she had the most amazing eyes that looked right into your soul. Orsi was and is a wonderful mum to her. We met two other ladies at the ceremony– one of which was Cathleen. She had stayed longer than planned for the yoga classes. She had the most calming aura and voice – I could listen to her for hours.

We had a lovely conversation and then Sim and I went to dinner.

Souvenirs from India

I won’t bore you with all the amazing food I had – I could write a blog just on that! But rather now I will focus on the little snippets that I took from the trip that may too, help you. The wonderful life lessons that I took away and still try to apply to my life each day.

I had neglected and had such hate for my body. My mind was neglected. Although I loved my job in the gym and the people I was with – I was obsessed. Gym was my life, work, hobby, everything. I prioritised it over friendship and family at times. I wasn’t engaging myself in learning anything new or outside of that environment/subject.

My focus was all wrong. I had an awful, restrictive relationship with food. Although I ate well, I would calorie count or I was obsessed with my body fat percentage.

In India, I ate three wonderful meals or two and a half meals a day. No stress, no feeling of guilt. Just utter happiness. The first time I had eaten out without worrying for nearly two years.

I began to accept myself. I would cry at how I had been thinking of myself and the almost hate I had.

Asana is just a small piece of the puzzle. That’s the only yoga I had ever really experienced – oh how much more I had to learn and experience! India began to teach me the essence of yoga. It was a lifelong path – not just about what my physical body could do.

So, if you can relate to that. If you have been or are stuck in your own mind and the consumption of negative thought patterns – please know there is a way out. There is a way to heal. You are loved and you are worthy of that love. You are not those thoughts.

Another fond memory I have was when Sim and I ordered a vegan takeaway from a place called Vegan Kitchen. We paid a small amount for delivery and the food was just delicious. We gave the delivery guy a 500-rupee tip – that’s just under £5. His face was in utter shock. He couldn’t believe the amount we’d given him. That £5 was probably the most he had ever been tipped. It really humbled me and made my day to see what that meant to him. It really put a few things into context for me.

Oh, and the cornflake revelation… Turns out Indian Cornflakes are the same as ours. Don’t know why I find this so funny or to think they would have been different! I had ordered it on a morning of observing a class. Sprinkled with coconut shavings. Yep. Cornflakes are cornflakes!

Back to it…

I was nervous before every teaching methodology class. I knew I was on the spiritual path. I knew this wasn’t going to be an easy journey. ‘the struggle is real’ I remember Magda saying. I just wanted to be a good teacher. I wanted to do ‘yoga’ justice. I wanted to make the commitment to yoga, the commitment to myself and my commitment to sharing the message and healing powers yoga can have.

It’s not a magic potion that stops ‘bad’ things happening. But it can heal. All in time.

‘Love has no expectations’

Meditation – an experience beyond the mind. When the river is part of the ocean.

Everything is OM. Everything is vibration.

Meditation is more than knowledge.

‘Teaching is the best learning’

What we think, we are

Knowing everything doesn’t lead to understanding

Dr Upendra

I remember crying when I said goodbye to Upendra. He had told us the most beautiful story about his dear friend who had suffered with cancer. The story of how her ashes were scattered into the ocean after she passed. I honestly couldn’t contain the surge of emotion. He also shared a wonderful story about a King on a pursuit for happiness. Maybe I’ll record it or see if Upendra can share it again.

‘Trying to be our better self but being happy with where we are at the moment’ – Orsi

‘Never forget – A student first. Keep learning’

‘Authenticity and Integrity’

‘Traumas allow us to heal ourselves – they can be our biggest blessing.’ – Magda

There is so much more I could write. Some of it will remain in my heart forever, the feeling and experience of the sunsets, the sunrises. The little pockets of happiness in each moment.

Moments of tears and realisation. The letting go, the learning.

This really was only the beginning. The more I learn, the more I realise I know very little. This is a lifelong journey, and I am grateful to have had this amazing experience in India.

Until we meet again… x

I also wanted to dedicate this blog to one of my teachers, Magda Procner. She sadly passed in August 2019 and on my second half of my teacher training, she of course wasn’t there. I never got to see her again, but in the two weeks I met and knew her – she shared so much love, passion and kindness. A wonderful person and teacher and I will eternally be thankful to both Magda, Orsi and Upendrah for sharing their knowledge, love and passion in the gift that is Yoga. That first trip to India is one of the highlights of my life so far and I am blessed to have shared that time with Magda and all the other wonderful people I met.

I am sure her love and light is shining down on every student she taught and every person she held dear to her. Hari Om Tat Sat Magda x

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