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Travel

What We Don’t Think About When We Think About Responsible Tourism

October 14, 2019

The summit covered by clouds at the beginning of the trek.

Last Sunday a bunch of us decided to trek up the Savandurga hill.  My friends reached my house at 4 am.  We were to reach the base camp by 6 am and start climbing.  Later than this and it would get too hot.  We had registered for the trek on https://myecotrip.com/.  This is an initiative to encourage eco-sensitive tourism by the government of Karnataka.  They offer eco-friendly tour packages that showcase the natural beauty of Karnataka.  These include day-long treks, visits to bird sanctuaries and wildlife safaris.  Navigating through their website is easy and they are quick to respond to queries on telephone.

Savandurga is a hill 60 km from Bangalore, and is considered to be one of the largest monoliths in Asia.  There are two famous temples at the foothills which many pilgrims revere and visit year round, the Savandi Veerabhadreshwara Swamy and Narasimha Swamy temple.  The hills are centuries old.  It is believed that these hills served as the capital for Magadi rulers such as Kempegowda.  It was later taken over by those in power in Mysore.  In 1791, during the Third Anglo-Mysore War, Lord Corwallis captured it from Tipu Sultan.  At one point in time it was also known as Savinadurga or the fort of death!

It is a difficult trek – mostly uphill and on rocks.  When the rocks are wet they are super-slippery.

Our guide showed us an ancient Hanuman temple a little away from the trail. Hanuman faces left, which is unusual.

The ancient Nandi at the summit.

For the most part the trek was great.  I would wish that there was less litter and plastic strewn around, but I think the monkeys may be responsible for that.  On the whole I saw that the trekkers were responsible, helpful and considerate towards others on the trail.   But I must mention the exception.

A couple planted themselves right in front of the bull, with no regard for the multitudes of others who had huffed and puffed their way up to the top to get a glimpse of the ancient Nandi.  This is disrespectful on so many levels.  Not only is this a place of tourist interest, but also a place of worship.  All the visitors waited patiently for their turn to whisper their wishes in Nandi’s ear (a custom) while this particular couple refused to move an inch.  Finally my friend went up to them and pointedly asked them to move, which they did…for 10 minutes.

When we think about responsible tourism, perhaps we need to think of this aspect as well.  Just because this temple/place of interest isn’t manned by temple/government officials doesn’t give you permission to be rude, insensitive and inconsiderate.  Some of us trekked up for a darshan of the Nandi, some of us to look at an ancient historical monument, either way we deserve to look at it without two inconsiderate lovebirds crowding our frame.

When we talk about responsible tourism we need to factor in responsible tourist behavior too.  Lest civic sense become as uncommon as common sense.

 

 

 

Lifestyle

The Unwitting Yogi

April 7, 2019

I was a little late jumping on to the ‘Bohemain Rhapsody’ bandwagon, but when I did I was spellbound. The movie was well done, and the portrayal of the characters was spell binding.

Freddie Mercury was perhaps the greatest rockstar of all time, but he was also an unwitting yogi.  While going through a bunch of his pictures on Pinterest I started to notice that a lot of his moves on stage looked like yogic postures.  The more pictures I saw, the more yogasanas I recognized.  So I put together a bunch of Freddie Mercury’s pictures and the corresponding asana.

 

Trikonasana/Triangle Pose

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I have a love-hate relationship with this asana, but you’ve got to admit it looks like Freddie is performing it in this iconic pose.

Vrkshasana/Tree Pose

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That costume and balancing on the toes!!!

And variations of the Tree pose…

Chaturanga/Plank Pose

Every yogi knows the agony of getting this one right.

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Those biceps though.

 

Virbhardasana/Warrior Pose

Marichyasana/Sage Marichi’s Pose

This is a bit of a stretch of the imagination, but you have to admit there’s a twist there.  Also, Freddie’s flat abs, his chiselled body, the energy – is this the real life?

 

 

 

Backbends

My biggest challenge…but look at him.

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Can I just point out the clean lines and the lifted sternum?

 

Hope you enjoyed this blog.  Leave me a comment and share if you did!

Travel Yoga

Sri Lanka – Galle & Tangalle

March 13, 2019

The next day we hired a taxi to take us along the coast down to Tangalle. On the way we had planned to stop at Galle.

Our driver, Mical, sauntered in 45 minutes late. Soon after we started, he asked, “Sir! Ravana – what do you think? Good man or bad?”

Unsure of the most politically correct answer, I decided to take the middle ground, “He’s a complex character, with good and bad shades so it’s difficult to say. And what do you think?” I asked him.

“Ma’am sir! We think he is very good, but only one problem. He abducted Sita Amman. Otherwise everything else very good.”


“Ma’am sir! We think he is very good, but only one problem. He abducted Sita Amman. Otherwise everything else very good.”

The Moonstone Mines

Sri Lanka is known for its gemstone mining. Mical, stopped a little short of Galle at a gem factory where we got to see the process of mining moonstones, the process of refining them and finally creating jewels out of them. Ana and I both got a matching moonstone pendant as a souvenir from the mines.

Marine Turtles Protecting Centre

This was an unplanned stop for us. None of us had any idea about the amazing work that this centre is doing in terms of rescuing and rehabilitating turtles. The tsunami of 2004 affected the marine life, displacing, maiming and killing much of it. The Marine Turtles
Protecting Centre works with turtles to enable them to one day return to their natural habitat.

Tropical fruit on the way to Galle.

Galle

Galle is one of the major cities of Sri Lanka. The Portuguese built it as a major port city and the Dutch later went on to use it as one of the major ports of the country. We spent a long time walking along the cobblestone streets, ducking into souvenir shops, taking photos and sampling the local food. The National Maritime History Museum is in Galle, but we only had a couple of hours and wanted to spend it walking around the city. I’d read about Galle Things Roti, a restaurant specializing in rotis and curry and we had some great lunch there. I was also keen on having tea at the Amangalla hotel, a historic heritage hotel. While their tea isn’t special, the hotel has a lot of antique furniture which makes the ambience and the experience unique.

The Fort.

Tangalle

We reached our destination a little late. Tangalle is a quaint beach town. I was to teach yoga classes here for the next two days.

Lifestyle

Why Retreat.

March 12, 2019

The key to excellence is repetitive practice. In the ideal world we would all have an hour and a half every morning to devote to our asana practice. We would have eaten light dinners the night before, gotten the necessary hours of sleep, have the energy and the inspiration to practice the same asanas for the millionth time. But every single yoga practitioner knows that there are more bad than good asana practice days. And that’s the method of any spiritual practice. Will you commit with no hopes of a return on commitment?

Every year Iyengar practitioners from around the world make their way to Pune, India to immerse themselves in the practice. Every year I await eagerly for the 4 weeks where I will be able to ‘retreat’ from the rigors of my regular life and give undivided attention to my practice. I usually have a reading list, I introspect through journaling and blogging, and I learn from the experiences of other students.


Retreating is an important part of a spiritual practice. It is to introspect as much as it is to delve deeper into the practice of your choice.

Retreating is an important part of a spiritual practice. It is to introspect as much as it is to delve deeper into the practice of your choice. A learning curve happens after every retreat. I have experienced the greatest growth after every retreat and workshop I’ve attended.

Teaching a retreat is as exciting for the teachers as it is for the students. When the idea of this retreat was a mere spark of an idea, we wondered what we could do to make this retreat unique, fun and helpful for those giving us the privilege of teaching them. We came up with a rough outline of a schedule. We started to think of how we could bring life and relevance to the teachings and the days slowly took shape. Involved as we are in our own practices, the results of a collaboration between Suzanne and I will distinctive.

Our mornings will be spent studying the asanas, in which we will also discuss the Indian/Hindu mythology pertaining to yoga. Our evening sessions will be about winding down the mind and body. There will be walks through the town, swims in the creeks. Conversations over shared dinners and the occasional glass of wine!

It will be a special time for all of us, made more special by those who give us the opportunity to guide them. We hope you can make yourselves available from the 1st-8th of June to join us in Liguria, Italy for a retreat to remember.

Write in to susanne.mayer@yogawest.de or pragya.bhatt@gmail.com for more details.


[This are article has also been published at https://yogaliguria2019.blogspot.com/2019/02/why-retreat.html. You can find more information about the upcoming retreat in this link.]

Uncategorized

Practice Yoga Like You Practice Life

May 21, 2018

A few weekends ago I attended a friend’s house warming party.  In India there is always an element of ritual.  So while a housewarming can be a little party for a bunch of close friends, here it becomes an event of larger significance.  So a purohit is called.  You get the stuff for the puja together, you plan for caterers, you send out invites….

When we celebrate a house warming or a ‘griha pravesh‘ we celebrate new beginnings.  We hope that the new abode brings the owners good luck and prosperity.  Some incense, a few mantras, a coconut and some ‘lucky’ plants and we actually start to feel better about the house.  These are all the accoutrements of the ritual of cleansing a space of any negative vibes so that the new owners can live peacefully.

Big celebrations so dressed to the nines.

A yogi’s abode is the body and mind.  Since we get only one body and mind per lifetime, we need to exist within them peacefully and authentically.  A yogi is constantly torn between one more drink or slice of pizza and an early morning twists or backbend practice.  You control yourself from snapping at a pesky sibling and try to stop fuming at the guy who just cut you off in traffic.  But the disturbances in the mind have already been created, and they now impact your being.

How can we maintain equanimity while living in a world designed to trouble us?

The answer lies, as usual, in the practice.  Every morning when you step on your mat and start at the beginning, you create a new story.  Each day gives you a chance to start at the beginning and go somewhere different.  Yesterday’s limitations don’t exist today and today’s won’t exist tomorrow.  This impermanence can be a deterrent for many, but for the yogi it means hope.  You return to your practice throughout a constantly changing life.  You practice life like you practice yoga, with a spirit of exploration and the core belief that this too shall pass.

Practice and detachment are the means to still the movements of consciousness. (PYS 1.12) Picture taken at the Bhoga Nandishwara temple at the foot of Nandi Hills.

 

Food

Carrots – Eat Clean and Green

January 31, 2018

Most days between classes you’ll find me writing.  Always on the lookout for calm, quiet and interesting places, nothing works better for me than a cafe where I can have some delicious tea, and some lunch.  Last week a friend of mine and I decided to go to Carrots in Koramangala to get ahead on a bit of work.  Note to writers: Change your location.  I find it kills writer’s block instantly.

Eating at a vegan restaurant ensures that most of the stuff available is also ‘clean’.  We ordered a Greek salad and a pizza, and as I write this I’m hungry again!  The salad and pizza are to die for.  The vegetables are fresh and smell of healthy goodness.  Those who know a bit about veganism will know that vegans don’t eat cheese.  I’ve met many a pizza lover who won’t believe that it’s possible to have extremely yummy pizza sans the cheese.  Go to Carrots and taste just how delicious a vegan pizza can be.

Luckily Susmitha, one of the owners and a vegan for the last 15 years, dropped by our table for an informal (and informative!) chat.

We spoke about how Operation Flood (White Revolution) completely changed the way we consume dairy.  We concurred that cases of childhood obesity, various gut diseases, skin problems etc can be directly linked to the consumption of milk and other dairy products.  As an aside I have to mention that I love the fact that I can eat/drink anything at Carrots and not worry that it contains dairy.

Interestingly, there are several products manufactured by Amul which are vegan by accident.  Such as their dark chocolate.  Amul, the biggest participant in Operation Flood, ‘accidentally’ manufactures several vegan chocolates too!  This called out another assumption I had – vegan and healthy aren’t necessarily the same thing.  As a vegan I might eat the Amul Dark Chocolate, but as me (yogini trying to eat clean), I wont touch that stuff. (#nosugar)

Honey is also not vegan nor whole.  Susmitha had the explanation.  From a technical standpoint honey is basically bee vomit.  Bees collect pollen and then regurgitate what we know as honey.  She also told us that it takes forty thousand bee flying miles to make 1 tsp of honey!  Which is why commercially available honey is so suspect (for those of you who use honey as replacement for sugar).  Also, many farms clip the wings of the Queen Bee so that she doesn’t fly away.  That way, the worker bees are tricked into staying (and therefore making honey) in the same place.  The natural behavior of bees is to fly from place to place building their hives and doing their work.  By clipping the Queen Bee’s wings you ensure that the worker bees stay in the farm and work only for you.

As it often happens, those of us who are seriously into wellness have compelling personal narratives.  Susmitha and I share the same reason – both had gained unhealthy weight!  I asked Susmitha if she had experienced any internal changes; such as on the emotional and mental front; after she started living the vegan life.  And she said yes!  Her fear of stray dogs has evaporated and her Reiki and meditation practices have improved.  And all of us who practice wellness will agree that your physical and your mental health are connected.  If compassion drives your actions, it’s not long before compassion infuses your entire being.

Carrots has actually become a hub for holistic health.  All kinds of events related to health, lifestyle and wellness happen here and its actually become a meeting place for like minded individuals.  We can certainly vouch for that.  We met like minded individuals and had the most delicious and healthy food.  Looking forward to returning for some more healthy food and nourishing conversation.

Do check them out on their Facebook page and drop in for some vegan latte :).

 

P.S. I’m honored to say that I will be holding a talk on Valentine’s Day at Carrots.  On the day when we celebrate relationships I thought it would be great to talk about the relationship we have with ourselves.  Promises to be an awesome session and it is absolutely free, so do drop in!  You can book your spot here: http://bit.ly/2Fb5dy8

Uncategorized

A New Vrkshasana

September 6, 2017

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I love the basics.  Even though advanced yoga poses can be exciting, there is still something lovely about the simplicity of the basics.  Basic asanas are like the comfort food of yoga.

My schedule has changed a little bit for this month, so I now have Devki’s class on Wednesdays from 7.45-9 am.

In today’s class we focused on the groin.  I’ve been here for a month and so far I haven’t done a blog on any class I’ve attended, but today’s class was different from any so far.  We focused on the spine and the root of the spine (moola).  We were supposed to grip the spine and the root throughout the sequence.  We started with the Swastikasana and went on to the Baddhakonasana. 

 

 

The class had a pleasant tempo.  It didn’t feel like I was struggling in the asanas and pushing my limits.  Yet, as the class progressed I could clearly feel that I was settling into the asanas rather than fighting my way into them.  As though my limbs were moulding and unfolding effortlessly.  I feel I was discovering what the body can do when the mind is quiet and the ego recedes.  By the time we got to the Trikonasana I felt light and lithe and it was the best Trikonasana I’ve done while here in Pune.

I always learn something new in Devki’s class.  And it’s always something fascinating.POMELO_20170906094836_save  The Vrkshasana/Tree Pose is perhaps the first balancing posture that we learn in yoga class.  Over the years I’ve heard a lot about the symbolism associated with this pose.  The more common ones are to be rooted and strong and to find balance despite what is happening around you.  But today Devki said be like a tree and provide shade and protection to all that come to you.  A tree doesn’t judge a good person or bad, an animal or a human.  It provides shade, protection and relief to one and all.

Although as human beings we are constantly evolving and growing (as we should), we can also be like the tree and ensure that external factors don’t diminish our light or detract us from the work that we are meant to do.  We should be compassionate towards all who we come in contact with and see the larger picture even in the midst of the most sticky situations.  The tree that provides protection is larger than those that come to it for relief and has a greater purpose.  Think about this when practicing your Vrkshasana next time.

Towards the end of the class we went into Baddhakonasana once again and performed it like the Savasana – with the intent of relaxing the body.  I couldn’t help but smile when I realized my spine, the root (moola) of the spine and the posture had all come together effortlessly in the Baddhakonasana.

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