Sunday 1st December My friend Jo has arrived to take me home! (She’s cabin crew for Virgin). The three of us have a day in Mumbai so we went to the Gateway of India. We had a ferry ride - it was lovely to get a sea breeze. Mumbai is hotter than Pune, but it’s very muggy. When I spoke to my family, it was a lovely feeling to be able to say to my family “See you tomorrow!” It feels like a lifetime since I’ve seen then. It’s been an amazing month; physically and emotionally exhausting, utterly inspiring, and a journey in more ways than one. The only thing I can relate it to is childbirth….. It’s totally overwhelming and you have moments where you don’t think you’ll be able to do it. But now that it’s over, the hardships and struggles are instantly fading. I just want to do it all again! I will miss the continuity of the daily classes at RIMYI. I will miss being inspired and challenged by Prashant and Abhijata. Thank you to all of you for reading my blog. It’s been encouraging to have your comments. I’ve really enjoyed writing it and I’m glad I was able to share a little piece of Pune with so many of you. I’m leaving India knowing that this is just ONE milestone on my yoga path, feeling enlightened as a student and satisfied that this experience has definitely taken my practice further (and further and further)!
Entered on: 01~12~2019

Saturday 30th November As we chant the invocation for our last time, in our last class at RIMYI, I feel an overwhelming of emotion. The same feeling that I felt when I walked through the door of the Institute for the very first time, exactly one month ago. RIMYI is such a special place, I can’t put it into words ….which is unlike me! We have one final class with Prashant. I’m not telling you what poses we did, as he’s made it clear that that part is not important. Not AS important as “The Inner Realm”. We start by assessing the surfaces and work out the Advantages of the breath for each region. Prashant’s example was of him giving a ‘sermon’ in the institute - we listen, it’s an advantage to us. If he invites us for breakfast after class, but instead of serving us a delicious breakfast he gives us another sermon - we are disappointed, it’s a disadvantage when we are hungry for breakfast. So, we used the exhalation to find the advantages of the exhalation is each region of the body. “Where do you focus the breath to bring ‘Neutrality’ in the body? You can be the poorest or the richest, but we all need sleep, yes? We all need a neutral state. For those people that don’t ‘do yoga’, they sleep. Sleep is yoga - a neutral state. We did Viloma 1 and 2, cyclical and conical breathing. “The poses are not yoga, Neutrality is yoga.” It was the perfect final class; to be reminded not to get caught up in yoga for ‘teaching’, it’s not the poses themselves. It’s what the poses bring that’s paramount. It’s so clear here in India, yoga is ingrained. Women sit in malasana on the pavement to chat and gossip, men sit padmasana on the ground by food vendors in to catch up at lunch. At the Institute, there are a group of men that I call Prashant’s Crew, he affectionately calls them “The Oldies”. They are at EVERY CLASS. One is them is 90 years old and when we are in more physical poses, he is up on the platform doing a more restorative version of each pose. He stays in chair shoulderstand for half an hour or so…. Because he is able to go further (and further and further). Yoga here is a daily thing, it’s not a trend or a weekly hobby, it’s part of daily life for the majority. I hope I can bring a little bit of RIMYI home with me to my students. I feel like such a tiny drop in the Iyengar ocean….. But drops make ripples, don’t they? So I can try to make as many ripples as I can...

We have to say goodbye to the family that have hosted us this month. They are all so lovely and we have lived next door to them for the last month. The house that I have shared with Georgina was built by the Grandpa of the family. Having them next door has made us feel very safe and secure and they have helped us with all our menial queries and questions with such warmth. They make us to tea to wish us on our way.

I end up leaving Pune feeling more heartbroken than I thought I would… I told you about the little dog here that follows me sometimes, remember? (scroll back to 21st Nov, if you can’t!) He has been injured! I am so so upset…… It looks like maybe he’s been hit by a car (We cant believe that we haven’t been hit by car here. It’s quite unbelievable that we are in one piece). He has bone stocking out at the top of his thigh on one of his back legs. We had 45 minutes until our taxi was going to arrive but I couldn't just leave him without trying to do something. I managed to find a charity in Pune called RESQ. The taxi arrived but to report the dog I have to take a photo of the dog…. I explain to the taxi driver as I run off, up the main road back to the dog. He was still in his spot and looking really sad and not good at all. Locals think I’m mad. Dogs as pets is a new thing here and most people here think of (and treat) dogs as vermin. So, we leave Pune and all I can think of is how much I wanted to hug that dog. I didn’t touch him as he’s a street dog, plus he was injured (I’ve got this far without getting rabies, I didn’t want to push it) but it was all my will power to not give him a rub behind the ear. I thought about how much affection my dog gets at home; she constantly is being lavished with love and attention. I’m pinning all my hopes on RESQ to take care of him as we leave for Mumbai.
Entered on: 01~12~2019

Friday 29th November Practice sessions at RIMYI are great. It’s such a relaxed and social atmosphere… everyone practicing the poses they struggle with them, appreciating how the heat here makes the body more responsive. For me it’s been handstands; having a dodgy wrist after surgery some years ago, handstands can’t be practiced for too long before it hurts. But I think Abhi’s class on Wednesday, when we did infinite amounts of handstands, showed me that you have to sometimes push through the pain barrier and now, actually, I have much less pain and able to many many more handstands! I also injured my knee a few months ago, so my virasana and padmasana poses have been a huge struggle… but they’re back! The cases are nearly packed now - all the presents for home have been squeezed in. We have brunch at Tien for one last time. Tien is quite a western place but they have fresh and healthy food. The veggie breakfast is sautéed veg (still crunchy, which is a welcome texture), a tomatoey homemade sauce and… wait for it…. Mash potato!!! Another revelation! Mash potato for breakfast, why not!? And they also do really nice coffee there so, obviously, we had one. George and I talked about the stuff that we are really looking forward to…. It’s all the small stuff; cuddles with all the family on the sofa, getting the fire on, my pillow (pillows here are not good. If you’re planning on coming to Pune, pack a pillow! I will be next time for sure!) walking my dog at the Nature Reserve, and of course crossing a road on a Zebra Crossing, where vehicles actually stop!! A few hours of soaking up the sun, as we know there’s not much sunshine at home, before evening Pranayama class with Prashant at 6pm. It was a Beauty Product kind of class…. Conditioning, Cleansing and Sanitising! We started in Supta virasana with a ‘conditioning breath’ to condition the muscles, soft tissues, nerves, cells. Pranshant told us to experiment with retention and abdominal contraction on the exhalation. Focusing the exhalation in the abdominal region to flush out the organs. Supta BK focusing the exhalation at the head to purify and sanctify the brain. “The outer sheaths are not important; the mat, the bolster, your clothes are not important. It’s the ’Inner Realm’ that benefits from the pose. Creed, cast, gender are all our oter sheaths, our ‘clothes’. But it’s only the Inner Realm that’s important. Supta swastikasana; “Go deeper, go further than ‘relaxing’.” The breath was ‘cleansing milk’ for the body…….Hands up here…. I actually did go further (and further and further) than just relaxing. I fell asleep! (come on, we’ve all done it!). Sitting swastikasana; Exhaling into the boack body, up the spine, to the back of the head for a ‘sanitizing breath’ “Not as in sanitiser, but as in Sanity” We start to say our goodbyes at the institute; The people that we’ve met are what has made this trip for me. So many friends made from Canada, Boston, Australia and more from the UK….. All here for the same reason, all part of our Iyengar Community. Pictured are just a few of our friends from Canada; the gorgeous George, Lorrie and Terry that we met on that very first day in Pune, which seems like a lifetime ago. On the way back we popped in to the dress maker to pick up my dress…. The fabric was wrong and the zip was 6inches shorter than my original dress. Georgina had ordered silk pillowcases to be made and they were different sizes! So, we left emptyhanded. All in all, a bit disappointing. We get ready for our last night in our little Pune house with thoughts of seeing our families very much on the horizon.
Entered on: 30~11~2019

Thursday 28th November In this mornings class with Prashant I did: Seated pose of choice - Virasana; We focused on the abdominal/pelvic region. Prashant told us to explore the exhalation; abdominal contractions and retention at the beginning, during and at the end of the exhalation. Experiment. 2nd Seated pose of choice -padmasana; we focused the retention and abdominal contractions at the chest and lung region. Rope sirsasana; we were told to observe how gravity affects the abdominal contractions and the exhalation. Swastikasana; experiment with the retention, exhaling into the head and brain region. Supine pose of choice with vertical bolster - supta baddha konasana; we have operations to ’cure’ our physical problem but an operation won’t get rid of the cause of the problem. We can use the breath to rally activate any organ or body region, to really ’use’ that area. The main problem with the organ body failing is DIS-use or AB-use…. So the more we USE the breath in the organs, the more cleansing and processing will happen there. Supine pose of choice with horizontal bolster - supta BK; He told us again that Yoga is not something to be learnt. It is to be experimented with - for yourself, supta swastikasana - feet up on bolster; the physical actios are not important, we have to go deeper, further and further. That is yoga. On the way out of the Institute we bump into Joney (pronounced Johnny), as always. See pic…. He sits on the wall just along from the institute. He is the loveliest little man…. From the start of the month he has greeted us everyday with a “Hellooooo” with his hands in Namaste and a bow of his head. He actually has bags of stuff with him to sell, but you wouldn’t have guessed it. He never pestered us or even showed us what was in his bag. Then this week, our last here at RIMYI, he wants to show us his stock; scarves, handmade cards, handcarved statues. He’s even dyed his hair for his big week of sales before we all go home! We buy some lovely things from him and then he wants to give us cakes and a handmade card as a present…. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t have a lot of money to spare because last week he got a fine. He, Vasant and ****Batik***** all had there stock seized and had to pay a fine to get it back. They were selling in the road outside the institute and a local who lives nearby complained to the police. Joney’s fine was 2,000 rupees which is around twenty pounds, he had to get a loan from his brother-in-law to pay to get his stuff back. So I know he doesn't have money to spare to buy us cakes or to give away his stock… it’s a very hand-to-mouth existence. People who have very little are often the most generous, aren’t they? As a treat to ourselves, we booked a pedicure. I cannot describe what the Pune streets do to your feet…. But they are disgusting. I wash my feet here about 4 or 5 times a day but the dirt is ingrained and the skin is so hard. It was amazing being pampered, it was the most relaxed I’ve been since coming here….. and my feet looked like brand new! Soft skin and shiny toenails and spanking clean soles…. Of course, the walk home reversed the most of that! But it was good while it lasted!
Entered on: 29~11~2019

Wednesday 27th November Abhijata’s pranayama class was definitely an active one! We did may many poses, many many times so my sequence may not be exactly as it was……. We started with AMV into AMS and then full arm balance. AMS to Uttanasana. Tadasana with urdhva hasta, arms out, garudhasana arms - noticing how each position of the arms changed the breath. Uttanasana, padangusta, padahasta, AMS. AMS really lifting the roots of the thighs - trying the action in the inhalation and on the exhalation to compare. The exhalation works best when you need power or energy in the pose. So we “used” the exhalation; we vocalized the exhalation. Trikonasana; going into the pose on an exhalation and seeing what comes first- the completion of the pose or the completion of the breath? The repeating many times to synchronize the two. We alternated between Handstands again and UPP leg raises; up and down many times synchronizing the breath with the completion of the pose; so more force to complete the exhalation at the same time as two feet being in the air in both cases. “Don’t be left with any of the exhalation on completion of the pose”. Raya demonstrated TK for Abhi to show the length on the side trunk; “when the top side ribs bulge up it means the lower side ribs are in too much which blocks the exhalation. It punctures the air pockets here”. We repeated TK by taking the lower side ribs down, not the side of the chest. We did more TK, parsvak and even more handstands; first by just observing our own breath and then again many times completing the pose and the exhalation at the same time. We had many (much needed!) uttansasanas and PPs to rest in between. Anantasasna, jatara holding the feet with a belt - trying to maintain a ‘savasana chest’ with the abdomen revolved. Sirsasana; Abhi does sirsasana along with us on the platform; “Quieten the face. Face Drop in sirsasana, not Face Lift!” Cycles of breath to bring more quietness to the face; exhaling into the cheekbones for any sinus problems (and instruction that Geetaji had given last year). Swastikasana, 6 cycles of breath with Jalandhara bandha. Janu sirsasana with head resting on the shin; a long stay in the pose to allow the back to spread.. And then slowly coming to sitting swastikasana again. The breath had completely changed to that in the previous swastikasana. The brain was more passive so the exhalation was longer. “Just as we learn shoulderstand before head stand, we have to learn to exhale properly first, before we learn the inhalation.” Ardha halasana to further feel the breath in the back. Viparita Korani with bent legs on the halasana bench. (This is my all time favorite pose that saved my life….. I’ll tell you about that later) Abhi fondly told us how Guruji introduced props to this completely “unique pose - legs up, pelvis level, shoulders down, neck straight” so that we could reap the benefits without any physical efforts. Savasana. Later that evening, having realized a have a tiny bit more space in my case, we head to the trendy park of Pune; Koregean Park. A few more Christmas presents and an amazing dinner at Malaka Spice. Amin took us in his rickshaw; the traffic was horrendous. They’re building a metro here, as well as replacing ALL the pavements (at the same time!) so breathing during our journey was quite a task. The usual pushing in, blocking junctions and continues beeping seemed to be at an all-time high. I’m worried for Amin’s stress levels and his respiratory system… he just laughed at me when I told him! He waits for us while we eat dinner. The restaurant is really cute with coloured lanterns hanging from the trees. The chef is Malaysian so we have a curry and an awesome salad that was spicier than the curry! It was apple, pineapple, cucumber with a chilli, lime, ginger and lemongrass dressing…. Delicious! I Facetime the family before bed… We are 5 and a half hours infront here so when I’m going to bed, they’re just getting home and starting their evening. We are all really missing each other and counting down the days now. The novelty of binge watching Netflix seems to have worn off and even my teenage girls seem to be missing their bossy mum!!
Entered on: 28~11~2019

Tuesday 26th November Back into our routine of being up with the sweepers…. Everyone sweeps here, first thing. It’s literally all you can hear from around 6am! Well, that’s a lie, you obviously also hear the beeping! Prashant told us to "become aware of the marvel of the breath” The breath is like a Swiss Army Knife - it’s not just a knife - it has so many uses. The breath can be used to release and relax, it can be used to purify and cleanse. When you are really in your head; doing a taxing mathematical question, it’s difficult to be really physical at the same time. Equally, when you are really in your body; in headbalance, it’s difficult to work out a taxing mathematical question. But when you are in breath, the mind and body can also work with it. Prashant talked about how people do yoga to relax…. “But once you become relaxed, where is there to go? There is a cycle; work hard, get stressed, do yoga to relax. But the cycle just repeats.” If we can work in our poses to go beyond the relaxing then the yoga will have a deeper and more profound effect. “Beyond relaxing is the sanctity, the purity of the mind, body and breath.” The poses were minimal and Prashant’s message was to not focus on the actions of the physical pose, but go beyond that. But for the Yogis that are reading: Supta Virasana, Supta BK, Rope sirsasana, savasana on bolster for the spine, swastikasana (Sitting up - keeping the head up “so the neck and spine are aligned to purify the brain”). We started to pack our cases later because we’ve accumulated so my little presents for home, and so many requests for yoga equipment from here that we were worried if it would all fit! With our baggage allowance unscathed, for now, we head to the pool for the last hour of sunshine. There are some fellow yogis at the pool, we swap recommendations of where to eat and where to visit as time is running out here in Pune and we just have a few more classes at RIMYI before we start to travel home. We met up at the rooftop of the hotel for sunset. The panoramic views are stunning, with the eagles soaring even closer. None of us seem to have our bearings in Pune, even after (nearly) a whole month here. It is so huge. And looking down from the rooftop, it still surprises me how lush and green it is. Down at street level, all you can take in are the dusty streets and the polluted air.
Entered on: 28~11~2019

Monday 25th November We have one more hour of relaxing under the Goan sun before our taxi comes to take us to the airport. Two days was no way near enough time here and I’m really sad to be leaving. I will miss the calmness and the fresh air. Oh, and I made another doggy friend, so I’ll miss him too! We have a bit of a delay at the airport but we’re still home in time to make the evening class with Rajlaxmi. The all-too-familiar sound of Pune traffic, the hectic pace and the smell of the pollution make Goa seem like a distant memory as soon as we are back. It’s our last week here so we’re hoping for pranayama this week. We weren’t disappointed! We did: SBK with belts around the top of each thigh and ankle. We have a folded blanket for the lumbar and we work on softening the abdomen so that the diaphragm can soften. Arms over head first then bringing the elbows in the line with the shoulders and arms at 90Deg…. Notice how the breath changes when you change the arm position. Supta Virasana with same arm changes. Dandasana, fingertips behind but not leaning - vertical spine. Paying attention to the lower two ribs - lifting them up and spreading them. For the people not getting their shoulders down and sternum up they try a belt around shoulder blades, under the armpits and over the tops of shoulders on the top of the trapezius and pull downwards to drag the shoulder blades down. Paschimottanasana - concave back - small loop in a belt, feet apart and holding the belt in between the feet “Lift the waistline, lift the lower ribs” we pulled on the belt bringing it towards us, brining the chest towards the belt, but keeping the concave back. Janu Sirsasana using the belt in the same way. Paschimottanasana with the head down on a blanket on the shins. Sirsasana - bringing the upper and lower part of the sternum in line. Sarvangasana - keeping middle buttocks forward and “throw the legs back”. Virasana breathing from the lower ribs. Savasana on a bolster for the spine and blanket for the head.
Entered on: 25~11~2019

Friday 22nd November We leave Pune late in the night to go to Goa. Just a few days in the sun, to breath some sea air. We went to Majorda Beach and stayed in a little wooden hut. Our hut was called The Hideaway. It was so great to be out of the noisy city. Everyone is Goa is laid-back, from the taxi drivers, to the restaurant staff so it doesn't take long here to fully relax. We have two full days of swimming in the sea, soaking up the sun, eating some amazing seafood and watching the stunning Goan sunsets…..
Entered on: 25~11~2019

Thursday 21st November 7am Prashant class for some “Releasology”. I did: Sirsasana, dwi pada on the chair, padmasana in viparita dandasana on the chair, rope 1, standing back arch, ustrasana, standing back arch, urdhva dhanurasana, supta pada1, rope sirsasana, janu sirsasana, AM swastikasana, savasana. Long stays in each pose or coming in and out, as we needed. We were asked compare our realseing at the frust pose and then each pose after. “Releasing is never complete, it goes deeper.” “How is the breath working for the body to release? How is the body working for the mind to release…” etc. “There are so many aspects to releasing that it becomes a Releasology. When we are young we measure our yoga by the amount of exertion, the amount of sweat. But when we are older we exert less, so we have to go deeper. The releasing deepens during the class but also over the years. There were no instructions or corrections given, “The physical aspect of each pose is not of importance. What is important is the releasing and the furthering of the releasing.” (Further and further and further!!) Animal lovers struggle a bit here in India… There are so many stray dogs with parts missing; legs, ears, tails, fur… it breaks my heart every time I walk up the road. We’ve seen a few dead kittens and, don’t forget about the lamb…. There’s a very cute dog with a scar on his nose that’s always in the same spot. His fur is still fluffy and puppy-like so I think he is only around 1 year, or so - see pic. I really want to feed him, but Abhi warned us not to incase we don’t have food one day and the dog gets cross with us! Apparently, someone has been bitten in the past, so I’m not taking the risk. He’s followed me a few times and each time I stop and turn to him he turns away but keeps looking at me out of the corner of his eye. As if he’s pretended that he’s not following me! My dog at home does the same!! I really miss my little dog and I’m very tempted to adopt this one too!
Entered on: 25~11~2019

Wednesday 20th November I left home 21 days ago and I’m feeling like this is actually long enough now. I want to see and touch and smell my family….!! My slight homesickness wasn’t able to manifest into anything as we had a morning backbending class to beat all backbending classes. We dropped back from headstand to viparita korani, from handstand to udrhva dhanurasana and dhanurasana from standing…… It was sooooo much fun! I love backbends. My spine doesn’t seem to have as much mobility as others but I love the invigorating feeling of a backbend class, and this one was off the scale! It was such a opportunity to have people on hand to assist with those poses that we might be to fearful to try at home on our own. We were given as many tries as we wanted, or, as many as we could physically cope with - Abhijata and Raya were so generous, not to mention patient. Everyone was red-faced, soaked with sweat and beaming from ear to ear by the end!! This is what we did: Supta virasana to open the anterior body, VB1 arching back - first with straight legs then bending the front leg, BV1 again with back heel to wall - taking arms overhead to touch the wall, bhujangasana to wall - first with fingertips to the wall then taking arms over but keeping the pubic bone pressing then taking hands to back thighs. TK and AC as backbends - press the back thigh right back and take the head back. More bhujangasana taking hands lower, parsva salabasana, standing back arch - spread thighs away so hip flexor area opens, handstands away from the wall - taking toes only to the wall with knees bent, looking back at the wall to kick away from the wall again. Urdhva dhanurasana into viparita dandasana into eka pada - many times! Then sirsasana into viparita dandasana multiple times! We did handstands in the centre with Abhi and Raya supporting us to drop back into udrvha dhanurasana (Those that could do on their own had to go by the Patanjali statue to have his blessing!). The queue for assistance was never ending as we were all jumping up and getting to the end of the line for another go. We did pincha dropping toes back to the platform - open the armpits and push buttocks forward - as many times as we could muster. Then a welcome rope sirsasana and ardha halasana to finish. And we all really were FINISHED! Later that day, Amin the rickshaw driver took us to Tulsi market. We got loads of cool pressies for home. It was very busy and very hot and there was a lot of pushing and shoving. But I practiced my bartering skills with more success than I’ve had previously! Amin takes us to an amazing temple. He shouts up at the window of the next building and within about 30 seconds an old guy is in front of us with his orange robes one. We give him some money and he blesses us and gives us a coconut each. Amin is a great tour guide and he’s so proud of his city, it’s impossible not to adore all these extra places he so enthusiastically shows us. We go to the “Best Chai Shop in Pune” (according to him!). It was about 10pence for a tiny cup of masala chai. It was hot and super sweet. It was our first chai here so nothing to compare it to but it was pretty good chai! We have one last stop before we are back home; Pataleshwar Caves… ancient caves with carvings on the walls and floors that would have been done by monks. The surrounding gardens are full of people relaxing in the shade and eating their lunch. Almonds are growing here and the biggest Banyan tree (also called a Bengal Fig Tree) that I’ve seen here so far! The ‘truck’ is made up of prop roots. It is the National Tree of India and another thing that is sacred here. Hindus believe that the leave of the Banyan tree is the resting place of the god Krishna…. So, now you know! Everyday’s a school day!
Entered on: 22~11~2019

Tuesday 19th November Prashant 7am “How does the activity in the pose benefit the releasing? How does the releasing affecting the activity?” WE started with badanguilliasana in tadasana - “Feel the action in the upper spine to create the releasing in the upper chest.” I continued with: Rope 1, BV1, BV1 clasping, BV2, parsva upavista konasana, rope sirsasana, setu bandha with a brick, AM swastikasana. “WE are a physical culture. A Physically active culture. When do we release?” Prashant continued to talk about how vast the subject of releasing is….. “How were you releasing in the first pose?” We start by releasing on a superficial level: tight shoulders, stiff hips…. As the class continues the releasing goes deeper “How are you releasing now? Is it more intelligent releasing than at the start of class? Is the releasing not more philosophical?” We go home for fresh figs…. They are so amazing here and the best ones are from the Fruit Walla that comes along with his cart, up our little street. There are many wallas, selling all sorts of things and they call out as they come up the street. Now, there are so may noises here… the beeping, obviously. I may have mentioned it once or twice…?? There’s music playing, people talking, the birds, the dogs, not to mention the fireworks…. So, no noise actually stands out. It just adds to the hum of Pune. We've only just tuned in the Fruit Walla’s and when I heard him now I run out of the house. Like in the 80s when you used to hear the ice cream van!! He sells the best papaya and the best figs and he weighs the fruit for us, like he does for the locals. At the market, not many of the sellers weigh stuff for us westerners - they just pick a ridiculous price and see if we go for it. A few days ago, one seller tried to charge us 50pence for 3 tiny onions. “No! That’s a western price! I can get a whole bag of onions for 50p in Aldi!” We made our point and walked off, refusing to take the onions. The problem was, this was the veg stall nearest our house and so we had no onions for me to make a curry with… But it was the PRINCIPLE!! Practice, note making and blogging take up a huge part of the day so we just catch the last half an hour of the sun by the pool before it disappeared on the horizon. We try a new place for dinner called Ambiance….. This is totally ironic because there was none. We were the only people in there. Well, apart from about 15 waiters! The meal was actually really amazing; we had a biriyani that was baked in a terracotta pot that was sealed with a chapati, we had dhal fry and pineapple raita (If any of my good friends are reading this: You can expect Pineapple raita when you come for dinner at my house for the foreseeable future!!). We eat until we are about to burst and then, just as we ask for the bill…. The ambiance arrives! The place fills up with Indian families in their colorful outfits in about 5 minutes. We decide we will definitely come back as the food was some of the best we’ve had… but maybe we will wait until after 8pm next time!!
Entered on: 21~11~2019

Monday 18th November As I woke up and realize what the date is I am totally overwhelmed with sadness. Today is the 11th anniversary of the death of a lovely childhood friend, Jack. I am always sad on this day but my sadness seems to be heightened because I’m far away from home right now. And also because for the last few days I can’t stop thinking about my Dad. I’ve desperately wanted to speak to him. My Dad died in 2016. I would have loved for him to hear about this trip….. If I’ve ever done something big, or gone somewhere exciting, my Dad would have been desperate to hear about it. And as I’d rattle off all the fun stuff, my Dad would be so enthusiastic to hear all the details and he’d just keep saying “Is THAT right?” “Is THAT right?” in amazement. He would be so happy for me to be here, I know it, and he wouldn’t believe some of the experiences that I’ve had…. …… We head for class at 7am with Prashant and the class is all about communication. “What action do you need to be able to release in the pose? To find the freedom in the pose? What is the internal dialogue?” He talked about how speech, grammar and pitch affect our verbal communication. And how we need to adjust our communication between Mind, Body & Breath so that we can find the freedom in the pose. He demonstrates by saying: '' in a monotone! We wouldn’t say that we were excited in a mechanical way, so we shouldn't do our poses in a mechanical way….. Think beyond the instructions of ‘press shoulders’ or ‘lift thighs’ and find the inner communication. The communication between the mind, body and breath. He told a story about a guy that came to England and someone had told him that the standard greeting in response to “Good Morning” was “You bloody bastard!” He offended many people before he realized that he didn’t understand the meaning of what he had been told. **This actually cracked me up because of a private joke! My family are Anglo Indian, my grandparents were born here, and two of my aunties. Based on Paul Chowdhry’s standup show called “What’s happening White People?” we (all my family, and my some of my best friends) call each other “Bloody Bastards” as a joke…. If you can find Paul Chowdhry’s DVD then watch it, especially if you have Indian connections.... and, I’m on the end of it with my fellow Anglo Indian friend, Bex!!!! So, I laughed, hard, at Prashant’s funny story… A little harder than everyone else!! ** The point was, to understand the meaning of what actions you are taking in the pose. We did the class, with long stays in each pose and with the whole class alternative to take turns on the equipment, as usual. I’m really loving Prashant’s way of teaching, this deep exploration (of myself) in each class. I did: Rope 1, setu bandha on brick, BV1, Dwi Pada Viparita dandasana on a chair, standing back arch, ustrasana, drop backs to urdhva dhanurasana in low ropes, standing back arch, Urdhva dhanurasana in centre, sirsasana dropping back as far as you can without actually dropping the feet down (!), chair shoulderstand to finish. As we were in our various versions of savasana he said: “Consider the efficacy of your communication, of your meaning and context, to find the release in your pose” We had an amazing afternoon - we walked to the top of Parvati Hill. It was so amazing; it’s quite high up so the beeping of the traffic was (Nearly) inaudible and we got a closer look at the eagles and a panoramic view of Pune. We were starving when we got back and headed to South & More for dinner, recommended by some other yogis. It was a huge amount of food and we discussed how George’s pallet has changed. Being from an Anglo Indian family (I’m 34%, I can prove it. I’ve done an DNA test and everything!) I am used to eating spicy food and tend to throw chilli flakes or Tabasco on almost anything. But George wasn’t used to too much spicy food… until now! We got a set meal each but we shared ... a dosa with potato curry and dhal, and puris and kitchdi. Both had this little savory cake and a sweet, as well as chutneys and poppadums. The savory cakes had whole chillis on… for a joke, I challenged George to each eat the raw chilli - and she said YES! Two weeks ago this would not have happened! She totally called my bluff! We both spent the next 10 minutes choking and crying in equal measures!!!
Entered on: 20~11~2019

Saturday 16th & Sunday 17th November The weekend started with a tough class; we started in AMV into AMS. Janu sirsansana and paschimottanasa caused some people to thinking we were on course for a forward bending class. Wrong! Head balance for 16 minutes with variations eka pada, parsva eka pada, straight sirsanana. Down change the interlock of the fingers then up again; leg variations konasana, baddha konasana the padmasana or virasana. Down and changed the interlock and back up for a third time “I don’t want you to say that you came to Pune and didn’t do your sirsasana variations”….!! Parsva padma or virasana and pindasana to finish us off! We were up for around 45 minute in total (so we definitely did our sirsasana variations!!!) Paschimottanasana then all the same variations in shoulderstand. We finished in halasana, and we were all well and truly finished!! Sunita said that no one can teach us anything new. Guruji has done it all. It’s all in Light on Yoga but we have to discover it for ourselves. We have to find what’s new to us, for ourselves. I cooked dinner for us in our little house and asked our landlord if I could have some curry leaves that he’s growing in his garden. Their garden is amazing! Coconuts, bananas, turmeric, ginger… it’s all growing here! The curry leaves are amazing; so delicate and fresh and not like the big tough ones we get in the UK. I was allowed to pick my own for the garden, I’m told to take “any amount I like” and they took my dhal to another level (If I may say so!). We were up early again on Sunday as we went to watch the kids classes. They are so impressive… and obedient! The sun was shining so we negotiated our way up the busy road to the pool. They are replacing a lot of the pavements here, so it’s a tricky business to just get from A to B. Nothing is fenced off or deemed too hazardous for pedestrians; manhole covers are removed just leaving a gaping hole with no warning signs, huge cement lorries are trying to deliver cement whilst the rickshaws and motorbikes try to squeeze around. We wade through gravel, avoiding the holes in our flip flops. Our footwear is not too dissimilar to the workmens' footwear; they wear Open toed sandals whilst dragging massive concrete boulders across the street and the men that are smoothing over the wet concrete appear to be wearing concrete socks!! See pic. There’s not a hi-vis or a steel toe cap in sight!
Entered on: 19~11~2019

Friday 15th November We are at the HALF WAY POINT! This is a strange feeling; being half way through this adventurous trip but feeling as though I’ve only just got into my stride….. I’m sleeping well (despite the incredibly uncomfortable bed and pillow!) I have my huge appetite back (at the beginning I wasn’t feeling very hungry, just eating because I knew I had to. But no we are coming our of class feeling starving!!) In the classes, when the teacher says “get into the ropes”, I don’t run to the ropes like I did in the first week. Everyone scrambles for them and the first week it took me three or four attempts of trying to get to the ropes, only to miss out and then go back to my mat which another student had settled on (sometimes you do actually get the ropes but someone else snatches them out of your hands… so close!!). So, now I’m more relaxed and wait for the rope frenzy to die down! I’m getting used the abrupt tone used by some teachers and I’m not allowing it to bother me. I’m here to learn, and learning I definitely am! We spent the morning in different part of town where there are schools for EVERYTHING; IT, Physiotherapy, Catering, Business etc … Plus a “Medium” school (By the looks of the children racing in the playing fields in their smart uniforms it was maybe more of a “middle” school, rather than teaching them psychic abilities - but how would I know!) Everyone is young and there’s not a sari in sight! They’re all wearing skinny jeans and adidas trainers. We stopped for coffee and then got some more presents for home and then found Asha Dining Room for lunch. There’s no menu. We had the most awesome thali! It cost 1.60 Rupees (less than 2quid) and you get a token and find a seat. Then some old Indian guys come round with your tray and little dishes of deliciousness, then someone else is ladling rice onto your tray, another is bring hot rotis. As soon as one of your little curries is finished (we had a spicy veg one, a bean one and a sweet veg one) he’s back with another ladleful! We head back for a bit of rest and digestion of lunch before 6pm Pranayama class. We jump in a riskshaw and he’s the first driver to actually put his meter on. We tell him the road we live in but he doesn’t understand. The area is Model Colony, he knows that, we can direct him when we get closer. We are chatting away and seem to have been a long time in the rickshaw. We look at the passing buildings and we don’t recognize the area we are in. Then we recognize the main road up ahead that we came in on from Mumbai …. WE’RE GOING TO WRONG WAY!!!!! He pulls over and a guy on a motorbike speaks great English and asks if we need help. It turns out there is another area “something Colony” which sounds the same. It would have actually been our cheapest rickshaw ride yet, if only we had gone the right way!!! Pranayama started in savasana on a bolster for the spine. The focus was on the inhalation; making it thin, fine, super fine. Inhaling into all the cavities of the face, not just the nose; mouth, eyes, sinuses as well as nostrils. Adding a silent vowel sound on the inhalation - U as in Uncle, A as in fAther, E as in sweep, O as in fOOl. We repeat a second savasana: “Be sensitive to the inhalation. Just as sensitive as the first time you walked into the Institute. If you are sensitive then it would mean something.” We were told to not “Do” the breath. Prashant’s example was: If you leave the house and then come back after a short time, no one is there to greet you and make a fuss (He obviously doesn't not have a puppy!!) . When you go away for while, go travelling (or come to the Institute for a month!), the whole family is there to greet you when you get back. So we have to become more sensitive to the breath to receive it in the whole body. The inhalation and the exhalation both increasing the cavities for the breath. Our third savasana with crossed legs on the bolster we are told to be like Air Traffic Control. The pilot doesn't just look though the windscreen to fly the plane. He has dials above, below and to the side. It is a highly complex activity. Breathe with the septum; “Septumic Breath” breath with the membranes in the nose “membranic breath”. “How you breathe affects the state of your body, so our breath should be highly complex.”
Entered on: 18~11~2019

Thursday 14th November Prashant 7am ‘A Chemical Balance’…. We started in swastikasana with the hands behind, slightly leaning back, lifting the chest and taking the head back. “Use the breath to change the state of chemical state of the pose” Parsva Swastikasana. Then dandasana with hands slightly back, the instructions were given to move the dorsal spine in and lift the sternum. We moved from dandasana to purvottasana may times. The physical instructions were the same but Prashant told us to observe the chemical changes in the body as we move from one pose to the other even though the actions are the same. AMS in window ropes with a brick; resting the head, pushing the brick further (“further and further!”) then holding the brick behind and extending arms up … Doing each version of the pose for a “Chemical reaction, not for the action”. Rope 1; standing and kneeling, sirsansana, Tadasana; take the head to “activate the back body and obverse the chemical reaction”. Supta padangustasana 1 & 2, shoulderstand, savasana. Throughout the class we were also observing the chemical reactions in the body when we retain the inhalation and when we postpone the inhalation. I’ve really noticed big changes in my own practice during Prashant’s classes… He has such an individual and unique style of teaching that is not like any other teacher I’ve had before. It took me a while to get used to it but now, instead of thinking to myself “oh, must remember that bit for my notes” or “That’ll sound good in my blog” I am just 'IN' the pose. (By the way, I actually thought I WAS 'in' the pose, in those earlier classes. But it’s taken two weeks here to realise that I really can’t have been! At least, not as much as I am now.) The little house we are renting is near the post office. It’s a good landmark for rickshaw and taxi drivers etc. It took until a couple of days ago that I realised I hadn't actually even seen the Post Office yet. It turns out that I have. I've walked past it many times, sometimes a few times a day. It’s the most unlikely looking Post Office you have ever seen (see pic) with a huge piece of tarpaulin thrown over the whole roof! It doesn’t look like anything sent from here would ever get very far at all, but it really is an official India Post building! A large chunk of our afternoon is spent hunting down Rima. Rima is a seamstress that fellow yogis have recommended. She makes handmade clothes and has a tailor that can re-create clothes for you. It was a bit of a task to find this woman as her shop has moved a few times over the years and so we went, literally, around the houses to get to her! We nearly give up on looking but third time lucky - we found it! Her shop is opposite a park and we arrived at sunset. There was an overwhelming sound coming from the trees in the park that we initially thought were birds. We look up to a swarm (flock?? I don’t know!) of BATS! Huge bats! I’d been told to look out for the fruit bats in the park at dusk. We stand there for absolutely ages, staring up into the trees. I‘ve never seen bats so big before. Humming the Batman theme tune, we wander down the path to meet the illusive Rima. My husband bought me and amazing (and hideously expensive) dress for my birthday last year. I only wore it twice then the dry cleaners ruined it. Rima is going to re-create it for me for about one fifth of the original cost…. I can’t wait!
Entered on: 15~11~2019

Wednesday 13th November The day started with a very tough class with Abhijata and her team of cheerful helpers. AMV, AM Swastikasana, TK, PV Trikonasana. Abhi wasn’t happy with everyone's bulging backs so we do parsva AM Swastikasana to observe the back body…. turning to the right; the bulge on the left side only goes down when the abdomen revolves. Up for PV TK again; “Hips thin!” PV TK again; “Don’t drop the back leg hip, move the root of the front leg back, move the buttock bone of the front leg back”. She was still not happy with our pose. For non-yogis reading this, Parivritta Trikonasana is Revolved Triangle pose. It’s a standing twist and it’s not an easy pose … The picture here is of Guruji doing the pose beautifully - try it! We put belts around the hips sockets and go for it again; “Move the front leg buttock back toward the belt” We repeated AGAIN with our backs to Abhi so she could look at our hips; “Hips thin and turn!” Uttansana to rest. Still with the belts on, we continued; PV Ardha Chandrasana, VB3 with hands down - we bent both legs to align the hips, then gripping the hips we straightened the legs. Head balance; Eka pada and parsva ekapada with “rest in sirsanasana” in between each variation. Raya takes over the teaching for Ardha Matseyendrasana; first sitting on the feet then twisting holding the front of the knee and stamping the inner heel down. Maricy 3 with the dandasana leg out (like upavista). Dandasana twist, paschimottanasana - push belt back and move everything forwards from the belt. Janu sirsasana; turning way past the straight first, then taking the head down, then bringing the head over the shin. Paryankasana, parsva bekasana. Shoulderstand with the same variations as we did in headbalance. Paschimottanasana to finish. It was an amazing class and our toughest one so far. We stopped for a fresh coconut on the way back and it wasn’t long before our tiffin tins arrived with an amazing lunch of rice, potato and green pepper curry, a very spicy coconut chutney and roti. Then we felt completely exhausted. George needed a siesta so I walked up for a swim. Late in the afternoon eagles come down from nearby mountains and soar over the busy city. Some of them swoop quite low; lying by the pool and watching the eagles was totally mesmerising! I cooked a curry at our house, we facetimed home and then we were both definitely ready for bed!
Entered on: 14~11~2019

Tuesday 12th November 7am backbends with Prashant. It’s lovely going to the early class as the streets are quiet and the risk of death when crossing the road is minimal (! … See yesterday’s post!) It was an invigorating backbend class. Again, all the class doing different poses to share ropes etc. I did: Setu bandh with a brick for sacrum, folded mat for shoulders. Dwi Pada Viparita dandasana on a chair, Rope 1 with feet away from the wall then feet to wall then kneeling on a bolster, Setu bandha with feet to wall, Standing back arch, Upward dog, Bhujangasana, Rope 2, ustrasana, rope 3 - rope on sacrum dropping back to urdhva dhanurasana, rope sirsasana, janu sirsasana, adho mukha swastikasana. “Certain poses are good for certain areas of the body or for certain conditions.” Prashant got a student to demonstrate Supta virasana. Supta virasana is good for digestion. He immediately told them to come out of the pose. “Was that supta virasana good for digestion? No. It’s not supta virasana that’s good for digestion, it’s the time you spend in supta virasana that’s good for digestion.” We continued with the class focusing on the breath and furthering the exhalation but also using the body in the pose for the benefit of the mind. Use the breath to benefit the mind. “If your body is ill, it just affects you. If your mind is ill, it affects everyone around you and the people around you suffer”. I have witnessed many states of mental ill-health in my life and can wholeheartedly concur that this is true. I won’t go into details, as it’s a-whole-nother blog in itself. But, in my opinion, mental wellbeing or good mental health is just as important, if not more, than physical health. It was a lot to think about over the class, especially with the long stays in all the backbends. We had agreed with our rickshaw driver to meet us after class and take us to Koregaon Park. After us both feeling the effects of the pollution yesterday we wore our masks (I had mine on upside down for half the journey!) And we both think we rocked a strong look, whilst also saving our lungs… what do you think!? We had breakfast in a super cool place called Café One 0 Eight, which would not look out of place in somewhere like Shoreditch! We had a really yummy breakfast with, you guessed it, some amazing coffee. I had a flat white made with their home-made coconut milk, it was unreal! Nearly as good as pineapple raita!! We were deep into our note-making from class when an American guy in his late 60s/early 70s came over and asked: “You here for Osho or Yoga?” As if those could be the only possible reasons we were there!! He came here from Boston in the 70s and never went home. If you don’t know who Osho if google him… There’s a Netflix documentary about him called “Wild Wild Country”. So his ashram is in Koregaon Park and his followers wear burgundy. The guy, called KP, gives us his ‘business’ card and tells us to call him on Sunday and he will show us around and get us the robes etc….. We politely smile and thank him. But I can thankfully say that I am still a follower of yoga and I do not own any burgundy clothes!! We went shopping for our teenage girls at a shop called Happy Heart. We didn't spend a lot but they made a fuss of us, none the less. The whole family came in to say hello and we sampled some saffron tea.
Entered on: 13~11~2019

Monday 11th November. A Club Sandwich Class: The 7am class started very dynamically. Down dog to upward dog; quickly, then slowly. Then Urdhva hasta to chaturanga; multiple times fast and slow. “I am active, I am activated, I am activating… Observe the ‘Activatology’ of the pose”. We continued with Uttitha padangustasana 2, Bharadvajasana 1 and 2. Prashant asked us “What is your focus in life…? In the pose…?” He got a helper up and pinched him on the arm. Then he pinched on the arm again and told him that he’d transferred 1,000,000 rupees into his bank. The helper grinned! So, he wasn’t focused on the pinching, he was focused on the other thing that was happening. So, we shouldn’t focus on the negative parts of the pose, focus on the parts of the pose that will bring you happiness or bring you health. More twists: Marichy 1 and 3 and then Prashant asked “How do you manage the pose? A factory manager can work from his air conditioned office watching the CCTV or he can work from the factory floor. We need to work where the work is happening in our poses. We continued; Upavista konasana twist and then setu bandha. He then told a story of and IT technician and a child; “Give them both a laptop and what do they see? One sees a high tech piece of equipment, and one sees a toy to play games on.” We have to be the IT technician and see the complexity of the pose. As we were getting into savasana, he summarized: Today’s class has been a Club Sandwich class. How many tiers were there in your sandwich? When you took a bite, did you get all the layers? How big was your bite?” I am really enjoying Prashant’s classes and loving the continuity of each class over the last two weeks. We had lunch at Lalit Mahal again. And, yes, you guessed it, more pineapple raita! It was an amazing feast and when we were done, we diced with death to get up to the pool for a swim. If you haven’t been to India before then you will think (and I don’t blame you, because I do like to embellish a story from time to time!) that I am exaggerating when I say “Diced with death”. However, if you have been to an India city before then you will know. Oh, you know. The main road has space for two lanes each way - just like in the UK. This is always at least doubled, if not tripled, with motorbikes squeezing in between rickshaws and cars… the most vehicles I have seen abreast, so far is 11. ELEVEN!! You have to pick your moments when trying to cross and just hope for the best. The first few days, I kept leaving George on the other side of the road as she was still following the Green Cross Code. But she’s getting it now, and dicing with death like a local! On our stroll up to the pool, there were similar huge numbers of vehicles all trying to drive in the same direction, and then, a motorbike mounts the pavement* and drives directly towards us… just because there was not enough room on the road!! And, if you’re not dodging the vehicles then you're dodging the cows!! This place is exhausting! I’ve really noticed that the pollution is rising along with the heat. We are starting to get sore throats… we will have to get the masks out tomorrow! * Pavement. Yes, It’s something that, without realizing, I have taken completely for granted. They can give or take pavement here. It’s not so much of an issue. We walked around half a mile tonight with no pavement where pavement should be - instead there were cavernous holes and gravel - and in some cases there was freshly poured cement (with at least 12 different footprints; some dogs, some humans, some unidentified).
Entered on: 12~11~2019

Sunday 10th November We have Sundays off here but I had wanted to go to observe the children’s classes that take place early Sunday morning. I’ve been waking up at 6am on the dot all week so I didn’t put an alarm on. To my utter amazement I woke up at 9.45am! I think the week of no sleep has finally caught up over the last few days and body is feeling exhausted. So I was disappointed that I missed watching the children’s classes but my body obviously needed the sleep. George had got up early and gone to mass at a local church… she had to check in on me when she got back (she was worried that I’d died in the night as I’m always awake first!!) We were planning what to do for the day, but lots of places shut here on Sundays and Mondays and we’re both feeling the exhaustion so we just enjoy a lazy morning in the house then wander up to sit by the pool. It was disappointing to discover that the pool is shut for a few hours as they have a photo shoot going on. We bump into some Canadian friends in the lobby who were also planning on a day by the pool, and instead stop for coffee (see!?) and a good chat. It’s great getting to know the other teachers here and hearing their thoughts on the classes and teachers that we’ve had so far. WE also got some good tips on shops and places to eat as it’s not their first time in Pune. We find out that there’s a huge shopping mall behind the hotel so we decided to have a little browse…. It was so weird: Zara, Marks & Spencer, Sunglasses Hut, Sephora, Steve Madden… It was strange seeing all these glitzy familiar shops that seem like a world away from us, not to mention being blasted with A/C and surrounded by marble shopfronts. It wasn’t long before we were back out on the familiar dusty Pune streets, emptyhanded! Sometimes the shop signs here are hilarious! The English translation is sometimes grammatically incorrect and could be misinterpreted in a funny way and some signs are just plain sexist, like this Tupperwear one! (Remember Tupperwear?! Remember our mum’s used to have Tupperwear and Pippa Dee parties in the 80s - selling resealable plastic tubs and nighties!! What was that about?!) The pool was finally opened and we had a few hours relaxing in the sun, reading and swimming. We noticed that lots of other students from the Institute had the same idea for a relaxing Sunday. I purposely made double of our curry last night so we got home to a pre-cooked meal (with more pineapple raita, of course!) and so we we’re ready for bed early in preparation for our 7am class and the first day of week two… what will be in store for us?
Entered on: 11~11~2019

Saturday 9th November. 9.30am class with Sunita, daughter of BKS Iyengar. The class was focused on the hips. Feet turned out for Tadasana so the whole class looked like Charlie Chaplin! Supta Padangustsana 2 really pulling the leg into the socket, long hold. Trikonasana with the front leg turned out “Turn 180degrees if you can” (no one could, obviously!) Navasana with belt on heels and toes turned out, pulling on the belt to engage this hips. Virasana; draw the ligaments below the kneecap up, so when you kneel, you kneel on the ligaments, not the patella. Kneel on a blanket if not quite getting it. Baddha Konasana heels together toes wide apart (I noticed that western feet don’t move as much as Indian feet), then again with a brick between the heels - really going (but tough!) hip work. Headbalance turning toes out; “grip the hips but still spread the back thigh”. Shoulderstand “Last time there was some confusing about coming out. Come to setu bandh first. Move towards the head, DO NOT move towards feet” There was definitely no confusion this time! Savasana with legs crossed up on shoulderstand support. After class we popped to the corner of the street where a shoe man sets up everyday. The day before George had brought him one of her sandals that had broken. He’d clearly forgotten about it as he saw us and busily starting working on her shoe! It took him about an hour or so to fix it and he charged about 30pence. It was super hot so we headed up to the pool for a very welcome dip. I’ve noticed that the rise of the heat has come the rise of the pollution… after a day walking up and down the busy roads, and dicing with death each time you need to cross, you can literally taste the carbon on your lips. After the pool we arranged to meet Vasant, an adorable little man that sells T Shirts outside the institute everyday. He meets us outside the hotel on his bike and walks us to his ‘shop’; “Welcome to my shop, my house, and everything!” he giggles after everything he says, he’s so cute I want to bring him home! His wife comes out and welcomes us into their front room cum shop. Their stockroom is also their 17 year old daughters bedroom. He also sells yoga equipment, plus cards and stationary and he’s so excited to show us all of it! We buy t shirts and cards and explain to him that we don’t own studios so we can’t buy lots of equipment… still, he made some good money for a Saturday evening and then he walked us back to the main road that leads to our house. I’ve noticed on social media that everything is getting Christmassy in the UK; all the photos of open fires and decorations up in restaurants and shops…. This is a million miles away from where we are - ok, it’s 4750 miles really - It’s hot and sunny, there’s coconut trees instead of Christmas trees and there’s not a Santa in sight. We have a feeling Christmas is doing to be like a slap in the face when we get back! Some of the cards that I bought from Vasant were Christmas cards, so at least I technically have started my Christmas shopping. We go back home and I make curry, rice and dhal… and we replicate the pineapple raita that we’d had the day before. We are both absolutely knackered - bedtime!
Entered on: 10~11~2019

Friday 8th November We were at the pool for 9am today. The sun was already beaming in the sky and there was barely a cloud… I'm hoping the monsoon weather is finally over. We just had a hour there and then our friendly Rickshaw driver Amin collected us to take us shopping. There’s a supermarket called Dorabjee’s; it’s been recommended by other yogis as it sells absolutely everything. And it literally does: Pukka teas, Dorset Cereals, Piper Crisps, Fever Tree Tonic Water…. Our UK products are well travelled! We didn’t buy anything with incredible airmiles; just some treats for home and FRESH COFFEE. Organic Indian fresh coffee!! I hardly drink coffee at home. But when I do it has to be really great coffee. Here, coffee is either made a bit like chai with loads of sugar and milk, or cream; all boiled up together or it’s instant, I do not like either. The only fresh coffee we have found is 80% coffee 20% chicory. I’m not a fan of that either! So, now it’s becoming a bit of an obsession and it’s all my brain can think about, everyday… because I know I can’t have it! It’s bizarre how human nature messes with us! I would only have two coffees in a week at home, max; maybe one on a Wednesday when I finish JollyTots (My kids singing class) and I drive to my Nan’s for lunch past Fox & West in Totterdown and one on a Friday after my class at Eastern Yoga which is near Este Kitchen - both places have great coffee. If anyone is reading this from Bristol, you should pop in to either place… I’ll have a Flat White with oat milk… cheers! Anywaaaaay…. (see what I mean? I’m obsessed!) ... Back to the shopping trip: A few doors down there’s a shop Karachiwala that sells loads of hand made yoga statues and the owner knows our teacher and loads of other teachers. He’s quite the name-dropper. He even shows us an old photo of our teacher in his shop years ago. He tries to sell us to huge statues and wall hangings.. And he seems to think that we are rich! (Who has told Indian people that yoga teachers are rich!? Huh? Who’s responsible!?) I bought a few nice presents for my two girls though. On our way home Amin took us on a little sightseeing detour; through streets lined with British Colonial houses (it looked like a film set!) and to small heritage temple. Seeing as “Google has already Googlised my life” (see yesterdays post to get this!) I googled it to find out a bit more: it’s called Trishund Mayureshwar Ganpati Temple. Built in the 1700s and dedicated to Lord Ganesh. The sculptures on the building were amazing. We couldn’t go in but we peered through the door to see the alter. If it was in the UK it would have red velvet ropes around it and you’d be charged a fee to look, but it’s just down a tiny side street off a busy road where everyone is having a break from their office jobs and eating their lunch at the stalls. We took our shopping home and tried a nearby restaurant called Lalit Mahal for lunch. Not wanting to make this a blog about Dosa’s I branched out and had a veg curry with pineapple raita (Oh my days! This is the BEST THING! I always make cucumber raita at home… sometimes just mint…. But pineapple raita is the way forward!) and a fresh watermelon juice. It was about 3 quid each and we had left overs so we asked to take it home so we didn’t have to cook after evening Pranayama. Pranayama with Prashant at 6pm was great. I really got into it and was very relaxed. Pranayama is a bit like that for me, sometimes I can really get in to it and sometimes my mind will not shut up and constantly distracts me, and then it just get’s a bit frustrating. We did: Supta Virasana with the abdomen “Doing” the inhalation, then taking/receiving/participating in the inhalation. Discovering just how changing the grammar changes the breath. SBK focusing this time on the grammar of the exhalation. And making the exhalation as “thin and fine” as possible. Savasana; exhaling from top of the throat to the top of the neck, then from anterior to posterior of head. Sitting in swastikasana Pranshant told us that Guruji used to give himself a ‘Head Bath’; covering his head, hair and face in oil and then washing it off. Making sure to clean every part of the head, hair and face to remove all the oil. So we had a ‘Brain Bath’; imagining oil and water flowing over the brain, touch every single part of it. We came out of the Institute and there were a group of young boys all in their school uniform, all about 8 or 9 years old. They come up to say hello, they shake our hands and ask our names. The were very friendly and very excited. “Do you think I’m handsome?” “What about my best friend, he’s handsome?” Yes, yes, all very handsome! One of them starts singing Happy Birthday because he knows the words…. They were hilarious! But there was no sign of any parents they start getting really excited, so when we said it was time to leave, they followed us. We walked faster but they were still following us. We didn’t want them to know where we lived as they were all very overexcited by this point, all jeering each other on, so we walked to the hotel that we stayed in on the first night in Pune and did what any two self respecting 42 years olds would do… we told on them! Yep, told on a bunch of 8 year olds. The manager and the security guard ran out immediately and chased them away so that we could safely walk home!
Entered on: 09~11~2019

Thursday 7th November Up early for 7am class with Prashant again. He says “Start the class with what you need. Not what you want, or what you’re told. What do you need? To rest or to exercise? Do what you should do, not what you want to do.” So, with Prashant’s eyes on me I started with Adho Mukha vrksasana (handstands), AMS (downdog), Uttanasana, sirsasana (headstand). Then he said that he couldn’t continue to teach to whole class in the way but it’s important to know what we need. We continued the rest of the class: Rope sirsasana, parsva swastikasana, (I didn’t hear what he said for the next pose and he had told some people, that needed to sit down in baddha konasana. I ask George if she heard, she said to do baddha konasana. We both sat down and Prashant came over “But don’t do Baddha Konasana if you don’t NEED to!” We realized we should be doing Trikonasana in centre (!), TK at window ropes, AC at window ropes, shoulderstand, savasana. Prashant didn’t correct or instruct , again getting us to be our own teacher: “If you need to relax - ask why? Then ask which pose? And how can you relax in the pose? What is the relaxology of the pose? If you need to exercise - why do you? How do you? What is the exercisology of the pose?” He talked about how we google our symptoms when we are ill, doctors even google our symptoms when we go to them …. “Google has Googleised our lives!” He said “Be organic and search yourself, you have your own Google within you.”… (Other search engines are available!). “Because of the medical industry, the words “Side effect” has negative connotations. But which word is negative? Side. Effects. Neither is negative. But medicine that is good for your heart damages your liver. Medicine that is good for your liver damages the kidneys and so on. But if you do yoga for the heart, the side effects on the liver, the kidneys will only be positive.” And who can argue with that!? It was a very philosophical class… it seems this is Prashant’s way. After class we went to Charu’s for breakfast; Uttappam is a South Indian breakfast dish - a kind of big pancake made from rice flour and lentil flour, so wheat free, with onions, potato and tomatoes on top. Served with spicy sambal and another chilli sauce and coconut chutney. The batter is fermented and then cooked one side until bubbles appear, toppings are added then it’s flipped over and browned on the top - it tasted a bit like bubble and squeak…. It was soo good! I realise that this is just as much a food blog as it is a yoga blog, but food and yoga are two of my most favourite things, so, it is what it is! We went back to the institute in the afternoon for a bonus class that Abi had organized for us; she got a recording of Geeta from 2009 on a big screen. We all thought we were going to watch it, but she told us to get our mats out and join in. It was a full-on back bending class and we all shuffled out looking completely zapped! None of us was expecting that!! We got bitten by mosquitos on our way out of the institute; we must have sweat out all our repellent. It’s not good to get bitten at all here as the mosquitos carry Dengue Fever which make you very ill and can even kill. So, fingers crossed everyone that it wasn’t a killer mozzy that bit me!! This was the first evening where it hasn’t rained so we heading straight to the pool. The sun had set by the time we got there - it sets around 6pm here. So we swam under a purple starry sky which was very refreshing and headed home feeling well and truly knackered.
Entered on: 06~11~2019

Wednesday 6th November. Had a little lie-in as our class with Abijata was not until 9.30am, but I still woke up at 6am which was annoying! Abi´s class was amazing, she´s warm and funny. She had a whole crew with her on the platform, including Raya, and they all (including Abi) worked with us. The energy between the five of them on the platform was magnetic; constantly laughing and joking with and at each other. The whole class had more "workshop" feel to it. We folded the mats lengthways so had a half-width mat to work on, partly due to how busy the class but it also helped with alignment. We did: AMS, Supta Tadasana - "Observe your legs. Read the backs of your legs. Your legs in supta tadasana will tell you what you need to address in your standing poses. TK - staying long or coming in and out if you need to "But be truthful to yourself!". BK spreading buttock bones. "If you can feel the action of spreading the bones then spread the flesh apart". VB2 and Parsvak - Taking the action of spreading the buttock bones, rolling outer hip down and taking the whole hip area down, not "Bending at the knee". The buttock of the back leg has to move away from the front leg buttock and then spread towards the heel. We both poses many times, coming in and out of the pose in our own time. Abijata and her crew all working alongside us. Ardha Chandrasana - Raya demonstration for Abi - the wobbly standing legs comes from the big toe mound not pressing enough. If it doesn´t press it "Starts to dance" (Raya demonstrated this too!). Bring the whole hip area forward, to bring the buttock bone vertically over the heel, then the weight is in the big toe mound and it can press. AMS, Uttanasana, Baddha Konasana, then another version of BK with toes down and heels rotating up... I didn´t know the name of it as I don´t remember ever doing it before (which is obviously why my hips and knees were so resistant to it!!! - any yogis help me out with the name?) Headbalance, BK In headbalance - "learn to press the feet more!" Eka pada in headbalance, coming to straight headbalance inbetween to rest, Halasana, shoulderstand, halasana - "learn to lift the legs away from the trunk more", supta swastikasana with feet up on shoulderstand support for savasana. We went to relax and read by the pool in the afternoon, but it was cut short due to the skies darkening once again. It´s rained (torrentially!) every night since we arrived so we hurry back to make it home before the roads get like rivers again. As it´s very difficult, when you´re wading through the murky water, not to think about how much poo you saw on the way up; dogs (loads of), cows (a bit of), humans (possibly?!). So we cook in our little house and for once I´m feeling tired at around 10.30pm! Looks like I may have finally shrugged off the jetlag - so long, my friend! See you, no doubt, in December when I get back home!
Entered on: 06~11~2019

Tuesday 5th Nov. Early start again, up at 6am for class at 7am and it’s Prashant again. Still not great sleep… but I’m sure you’re all bored of hearing that now (I’m equally bored of saying it!). The class was amazing and although I feel totally spaced out from the jetlag, something happens when you start yoga and your body just does it. The class built on what we had been doing in his previous classes and my ear is finally tuning in to his fast talk (Now I know what my students feel like!). This also means I’m getting more of the jokes and I can laugh out loud rather than doing that fake nodding and smiling thing that I’ve been doing up until now! He said: “Don’t wait for your teacher to instruct you press here, elongate here… Be your own teacher.” We had long stays again in all the poses, deepening the exhalation to stay there. “Organize first your pose, then the breath, then the mind. How did you prepare for the pose? No that you’re in it, how are you preparing to stay in it?” He talked about being organic in the pose and when he stopped talking, some people came out of the pose. He said they were not working organically, otherwise they’d have stayed. “Your pose today is not the same as your pose yesterday. It’s not possible, so, be organic and explore, explore. Yoga is not something to be accomplished, it is something to be explored. Be educated; educate yourself about your pose, in your pose.” Again, we were all working differently in the room, so my sequence will be different to others, a good 12 miuntes in single sided poses, 6 minutes each side for double sided. (Non-yogi friends can scroll down now!): Sirsasana/Headbalance, AMS wall ropes, Rope Sirsasana, TK in centre, TK at window ropes, TK in centre (then he said “no more trikonasana or you’ll lose your patience with me!”), Maricy 1 x2, Adho Mukha swastikasana, savasana. We went home for our tiffin tins again; a bean curry with rice dhal and bhajias (Bhajias are deep fried little balls of green chilli and gram flour and remind me of my Nanny Kitty who use to make delicious ones). After lunch we walked up for a swim. On the way up there was huge procession; drums, coconuts cracking on the road, hundreds of people dressed in their best and brightest clothes. We were taking photos and walking alongside the main part of the procession. Someone was carrying a shrine on their head, others carrying jars of something or baskets of fruit. A young boy called Johan wanted to be my friend; he walked with us, telling me where he went to school and all about the procession. It was a religious festival Bhagwan. He asked for a photo, so I took a photo of us, but he still kept asking, so I thought he wanted to take a photo of me, then I thought he wanted me to send him the photo…. Security guards from the nearby shop had come over as I think they thought he might steal my phone (It had crossed my mind briefly too ….) But then he’s leaning over me, flicking through my phone “Yes, yes - gallery!” and just casually starts browsing all my photos!! Nosey little mite - he was so cute though, so easy to forgive! I was grateful that my little friend had distracted us, because as we said goodbye the procession had moved on quite a bit and street was covered in cracked coconuts and then something else… a sacrificial lamb… I couldn’t process it at first and the blood was so bright red that it almost looked like paint. So I kept staring while my brain was trying to catch up… it was still breathing. It was so upsetting and I couldn’t get it out of my head all afternoon and evening. I’m not one to argue about anyone’s religious beliefs (They’re always the worst arguments) and I am in India but it was hard to shake off the image and it was the last thing on my mind before bed. But, if it hadn’t been for Johan, then we would have probably witnessed the actual moment of sacrifice and I have a feeling that would have been a lot harder to deal with.
Entered on: 06~11~2019

Monday 4th November Up at 6am for Prashant’s 7am class. First pose, Sirsansana 12 minutes - MORNING!! - the last minute was tough due to still not sleeping well, but I got through it without falling out of the pose! We were all alternating poses during the class, taking it in turns to use ceiling ropes, window ropes, wall ropes etc. I did: Sirsasana, Rope Sirsasana, parsva swastikasana, TK in the centre, rope bhujangasana, TK at window ropes, VB2 in center moving into TK, Ardha Chandrasana at window ropes, janu sirsasana, paschimottanasana, AM Swastikasana, Savasana bent legs. No instructions given for the poses and very long stays in each one; around 10/12 minutes, 2 sided poses 5-6 minutes each side: “Can you go deeper, deeper, deeper with the exhalation?”. “Can you go further, further, further with the exhalation?” “Observe the breath at the face, at the eyes, the ears. Is it aggressive or sober?” “If someone looks at your waistline then you would want to address it. So, address all area of the body yourself. Prashant talks very fast and I don’t always hear everything. I was just thinking to myself that I was frustrated that I’m not hearing every nugget of information and then he Summarizes: “I know I have said a lot, so if you only take one thing from this class, Can you further the exhalation. Can you further, further, further the exhalation? Can you further the furtherality* of the exhalation?” The man’s a mind reader! *He totally admitted that this is not a word. We went with it, so can you. Came home after class to go over what we’d learned and then there was a very welcome knock on the door…. We had tiffin boxes delivered! I was so excited as I unstacked the shiny tins. Rice, dhal, Indian spinach, cabbage bhaji and I even got a gluten free roti, all for around £1.50 (delivered!). It was amazing—you can tell by the seriousness of my face in the photo! Too much for us to eat it all so that was dinner sorted too. The jetlag and the homesickness is not a nice combination. Our house is lovely, but it’s quite dark due to being shaded by lots of trees. This is lovely for sleeping, as it doesn’t get too hot. But not great for just relaxing. Everytime I come back home is when the feelings of missing home really surface. I’m used to a husband, two daughters and a puppy, so our house is far from quiet! We decided to join a hotel where we can use their outdoor pool and have sunbathe. It’s a huge expense (remember I teach yoga and sing songs for a living!) and we will definitely have to avoid western places to eat for the rest of the month but we think it’ll be a good investment for our sanity! It was wonderful! The pool was just the right temperature and it was lovely to lie out in the sun (Remember, we are dressing modestly and it’s blooming hot and sticky!!) It was also nice to be above street level and hear less of the Beep-beep-beeping for a few hours. We are also hoping that the swimming, on top of the yoga will start to resist against the jetlag!..... It did not. Still reading at 12.30am *sigh*
Entered on: 05~11~2019

Sunday 3rd November. We have a day off from the institute today so we head for Aga Khan Palace. Ghandi was imprisoned there. The building is absolutely stunning… if I had to be imprisoned then I’d choose there! Marble tiles floors, stunning gardens. As we walked through the entrance the sign said: Way To Samadhi. “Well” I said to George, “That was easy. We’ve done it!”… Samadhi is the 8th limb of yoga. A state of total absorption, bliss. It is the journey that we are all on (as yogis). I have only been doing yoga for 11/12 years, so I feel very much at the beginning of my journey. Have a found a shortcut….? No! Samadhi also means a tomb or grave. (Nothing is ever that easy, is it!? Gandhi’s grave was so understated and modest for a man that did so much. It was the first real sunny day. The weather has been terrible up to now. Torrential rains and very humid. So enjoyed walking around the palace gardens and being in the sun. We wandered out for lunch. Being that Aga Khan Palace or, Ghandi National Memorial Museum, is a great tourist attraction, everything is a little more geared up for us westerners here. We find somewhere for lunch; two young musicians are singing songs by Extreme (remember them!???) and The Carpenters and it was impossible for me not to sing along. We got the bill and suddenly released that we didn’t have enough money! We were a 40 minute taxi ride away from our house. They add various taxes to the bill here and then also a discretionary service charge. We had nearly enough but our discretionary tip wasn’t quite enough. I tried to explain to the waiter (who had been very good at his job) but his English wasn’t so good. “Not all?” His face fell. I was devastated for him. We felt we had to explain to someone else that understood better English as we didn’t want him to feel he wasn’t worth the full 7%. The guy at door had an undercut and Mun (Man-Bun), a hipster beard and tattoos on the backs of his calves saying “No Trance. No Dance”… so we heading to him to make our apologies! The lunch wasn’t expensive, by any stretch, but we’ve still not got our head properly around the exchange rate! After the amazing sun and blue skies the heaven’s opened later that evening. I’d popped out so had to wade through knee-deep (No lie) water to get back home!!
Entered on: 05~11~2019

Saturday 2nd The jetlag is making itself known. We are forcing ourselves to bed around 11pm but cannot get to sleep for hours! Luckily Saturday class wasn’t too early. It wasn’t the best of starts with Sunita… we made her cry. She was talking about Laziness being one of the obstacles of yoga. She asked us did we know the obstacles? Now, I knew there were 9 but I didn't want to say as I knew I wouldn’t be able to list them all and I have a whole month to make a spectacle of myself, so I kept quiet… but so did everyone else. She said that if we don’t know when we hadn’t even read the introduction to her father’s book Light On Yoga. Everyone looked sheepish, but still no one spoke…. Then she said “Now I have the tears in my eyes, really I do”. A few moments later people started to speak up and say that they knew there was 9 etc , so then we got told off for having the fear of speaking up! Let’s hope our next class isn’t so disappointing for her! For the yogis that want to know what we did: Tadasana Urdhva Hasta Trikonasana taking arms up first to lift the spine, before extending to the side VB1 “Why aren’t you bending the knee fully?” One student said that she was afraid of knee pain. “Are you afraid of happiness?” “No.” “Then, why are you afraid of pain?” She was taken to the wall, toes up, fingertips to wall, bending the knee to the wall to make the right angle; “Up and bend, up and bend, up and bend!” The she moved away from the wall, holding the ropes “Up and bend” several times, perfect right angles each time. The again holding the ceiling ropes, arms up “Up and bend!” “Any fear now?” “no.” VB1 we all repeat with fingers clasped, arms up. Bend the knee and preeeessss the hands up! It felt light, taking the weight out of the knee joint. Utkatasana, just a few times to feel how the back of the knee has to move toward the patella. VB2 fingers interlocked, arms up to left spine as we bent the knee VB3 (from VB1, lots of us - me included - got told off for taking the back heel out at we turned for VB1. “Do not turn the back heel out!” Long stays in VB3, doing a few times on each side focusing on the arms. Elbows in in VB1, elbows up in VB3. “Is the standing leg the only support in Warrior 3? No. arms also, elbows have to lift. Head also supports; vertebrae C1 lifts up. Eyes also support; look forward not down! Prasarita Paddottanasana Sirsasana Paschimott, Janu Sirs., Paschimott; hold feet, descend shoulders lift chest then come down keeping the shape of the truck. Sarvangasana—long stay. “How much do you have to press the upper arms and shoulders to lift from the armpits?” Halasana—long stay. Interlock fingers and press wrists down, many many changes of the interlock. Big debate about how to come out of shoulderstand… we must come off towards head and allow neck to straighten. It didn’t feel as though we made a very good impression on Sunita, hopefully this will only improve at the month goes by! On the way out the institute the street was lined sellers and we stopped at nearly every one! Fresh coconut water, from the coconut; Tasted absolutely amazing after that class! George bought a lovely yoga T shirt (was about 3 quid!), then we met the guy who made the Yogawest T shirts, as George had hers on. We got back to our little house, just a very short walk from the institute, and I had my first ever custard apple—Wow! Tastes exactly like apples and custard with a texture that I can’t explain and big smooth pips. We headed off to College Fergusson Rd to get an Indian SIM card. It felt like a different world from our neighborhood… lots of trendy students with skinny jeans and crop tops on, drinking Starbucks coffee, and carrying books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Harry Potter. We are trying to blend in and look more Indian and they’re doing their best to look more Western! We came home and I taught George to make Dhal… she’s now a pro! Desperately reading books to get tired eyes at midnight, but to no avail!
Entered on: 04~11~2019

Friday 1st Nov: Out of our hotel in into our little house that will be our home for the month. It’s really cute; very old doors that have layers and layers of gloss paint, so much that they don’t actually close properly! We have the best rickshaw driver named Amin who had to do two trips with the large cases that George and I brought with us! But he doesn’t stop smiling! We went to the institute for personal practice… I really wanted to go to see the actual studio and to see where all the equipment was kept etc. After, we went shopping for supplies and headed to the market stalls for fruit and veg… we didn’t barter which we were told we should have. So, I’ll try that next time. We stop make friends with a fellow yogi, it turns out we were trained by the same Teacher, Sheila Haswell. We share her table for lunch at Charu’s; another favorite of the yoga community. We had (another) dosa and fresh watermelon juice. The dosa was good but not as fantastic as last night’s. I’m not sure it can be beaten. But the price for lunch was around £1.75 each, so who can complain! Our first class at the Institute was Pranayama with Prashant. Only four poses in total; SBK with bolster for length of spine, SBK with horizontal bolster, savasana with horizonal bolster, savansana with bolster on thighs. Prashant talked about the Mind, Body and Breath creating a feed together where they each become both the benefactor ad the beneficiary. We were told to USE the abdomen to inhale/exhale, then USED it to inhale and allow it to participate in the exhalation, or to allow it to receive the exhalation. He said we are always told to “TAKE a deeeeeep inhalation” Don’t take the breath. There should be a Fair Trade between the Mind, Body and Breath. Certain poses are good for the heart, for the liver etc… it is not just the pose. It’s the “ingredients” of the pose; the breath and the mind that allow the pose to benefit the heart, the liver. It was a great class and a very gentle easing in to our month here… I’ve got a feeling tomorrow won’t be so gentle!
Entered on: 02~11~2019

It's only 16 days until I leave for Pune... I'm so excited now! I'm looking forward to getting completely absorbed in yoga for a month but I am worried about being without my family. I hope I don't get too homesick. We've booked a little trip to Goa to get a bit of fresh sea air. The last time I was in Goa was around 22 years ago, so I'm sure it's changed a lot. It turns out that quite a few of my students have been to Pune so I am building up a list of places to visit when I'm not at the Institute.... hopefully I'll be so busy that I won't have time to be homesick!
Entered on: 14~10~2019

The countdown has begun! It's only 6 weeks now until I leave my family and my students and travel to RIMYI in Pune for a whole month of study! I'm am excited and apprehensive in equal measure.... I have a little house - with a garden - for the month to share with my friend and fellow yogi, Georgina. George and I have been friends since around age 7. We've done dancing, singing and drama classes together and now we are embarking on a new huge adventure together. It makes me feel a whole lot better about abandoning my family to know that George will be by my side!

Entered on: 19~09~2019

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