Cooking up a Storm in Mysore

Fruit & Veg stallFor the fourth and final instalment of my food guide series, I take a look at the options for eating in whilst in Mysore, reviewing the best supermarkets, organic shops and fruit & veg stalls in and around Gokulam.

I suggest how to safely cook with the water in India and also share photos of some of the dishes I’ve managed to prepare in my basic Indian kitchen – for a little added inspiration.

Read the full article here:

Cooking up a storm in Mysore

Happy cooking!


Let it all go and have a Happy New Year!

Ganesha shrineAs we move into a brand new year this is a great opportunity to reflect back over our achievements and blessings, to consider what we want to let go of and to manifest our dreams and wishes for the year ahead.

I’ve put together a few rituals you can do alone or with others, both around the year’s end and throughout the coming year. So take some time out to focus on you for a change and fill yourself with gratitude, joy and hope – you deserve it!

Burning paper Read the full post here:

New Year’s Eve: Reflection, Gratitude and Dreaming Big

Wishing everyone a happy and prosperous new year filled with love, light and laughter.

Food for Thought in Mysore City

Pizza at MayaFollowing my previous guest posts for Ashtanga Brighton, The Ultimate Guide to Eating out in Gokulam and I Get the Sweetest Feeling in Mysore, my third instalment in this food guide series looks at some of the best places to eat further afield in the city of Mysore itself.

From traditional thalis and butter dosas to brick oven pizzas and Indian home cooking, there’s something to suit all tastes if you know where to look.

Check out the full post:

Food for thought in Mysore city


I Get the Sweetest Feeling in Mysore

Coffee and cake at Green HotelFollowing my previous guest post for Ashtanga Brighton, The Ultimate Guide to Eating Out in Gokulam, I’ve now put together a guide to the most important aspect of eating out in Mysore – where to find the best coffee, cake, chocolate and ice cream!

If you have a sweet tooth like me you’re going to love these coffee shops and ice cream parlours. And who’d have thought they’d have great ice cream in India, which used to be one of the least safe foods to eat here?!

Check out the full blog post:

I get the sweetest feeling in Mysore 


The Ultimate Guide to Eating Out in Gokulam, Mysore

Eating wraps and salad at PascucciHaving spent 3 months in Mysore at the beginning of this year, and having sampled just about every cafe and restaurant there is to sample, I thought it would be a good idea to share my thoughts and experiences so other people’s tastebuds can have as much fun as mine!

Now that I’m back in Mysore for another 3 months, it seemed the perfect opportunity to publish such a guide, as I’ve now had the opportunity to check all the eateries are still in business, and to include a few new places too.

I’ve written the guide as a guest blog for Ashtanga Brighton and as well as listing the main places to eat in Gokulam and surrounding areas, and the types of food they serve, I also provide a price guide, the addresses and directions of how to find them – because apart from deciding where to go and what to order, the hardest part is finding the restaurants in the first place!

Thali at Hotel DasaprakashCheck out the full blog post here:

The ultimate guide to eating out in Gokulam

Bon appétit!

Travels and Trikonasanas: 5 tips to help you stay on the mat whilst travelling

Garba Pindasana

During my recent travels I met a lovely Canadian guy in Mysore, Clint Griffiths, who runs a yoga clothing brand and blog, Ekaminhale. He asked me to write a guest post for his blog, so I decided to write about an issue that was very close to my heart and prominent in my life at that time, and which still affects me now: the struggles of maintaining a consistent, daily practice whilst travelling.

In terms of my practice, the first half of my 6-month trip this year was amazing – intense, focussed and dedicated – and I felt strong, empowered and on top of my game, so to speak. But that’s because I was in Mysore. As soon as I left Mysore things took a turn for the worst, and the last 3 months were the complete opposite – painful, difficult and a constant struggle to stay focussed and stay on my mat.

You can read more about my journey, including my 5 top tips to help you stay on the mat whilst travelling, over at the Ekaminhale blog:


Learning Massage the Thai Way

TMC School

TMC School

As you may have noticed, this is the first blog I’ve written in a while. It’s not really about Ashtanga or Angels because, well, I haven’t really been experiencing much of either lately. So I thought I’d fill you in on the time I spent in Chiang Mai instead.

When I first started the 5-week “150-Hour i5 Professional Thai Massage Course” at TMC School I had only just left the safe cosy bubble of Mysore behind, before spending 10 days in silence on an intense Vipassana meditation retreat, then travelling up to Delhi where I was struck down with a violent bout of food poisoning a few hours before having to fly to Bangkok then get straight on an overnight sleeper train to Chiang Mai. So I was feeling a little discombobulated to say the least. It took me a good week to get used to doing totally new activities in a totally new city, let alone a new country.

Me and my lovely classmates

Me and my lovely classmates

Chiang Mai, and Thailand in general, seemed vastly different to India and much more Westernised – and therefore expensive – than I remember or than I was expecting. There are still local food stalls and 7 Elevens everywhere but now there are also “Tesco Lotus Express”s everywhere, as well as countless outlets of McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, Subway, Starbucks, even Boots, Marks & Spencer and The Body Shop. I was struck by the bright lights, brand new shopping malls, countless shops, bars and restaurants, and the construction of fancy new condominium buildings strewn across the city. The old part of Chiang Mai still has a much more laid back feel to it and exploring the small lanes and alleyways usually resulted in finding a few little gems (Tea Tree Cafe and Birds Nest Cafe to name just two), but I was amazed at the amount of traffic hurtling along the inner and outer roads of the moat that runs around the old city in a very neat and easily navigable square.

Riding the "school bus"

Riding the “school bus”

On the first day of school the “school buses” drove around collecting everyone from their respective hotels and guesthouses. When I say school bus I actually mean a songthaew aka a “red cab” which is basically a big tuk tuk that can carry up to about 10 people on benches in the back. Arriving at the school I was amazed to discover how super organised it all was. Every morning the teachers would be ready to greet us with “Sawadee Kaaaa!” and one of them would take our temperature. Then we signed ourselves in, put our valuables in our named lockers, helped ourselves to the free bananas and herbal tea (using our individually numbered mugs) and changed into our clean practice clothes, which of course had a fresh name tag stuck to them each day. There was free drinking water, a fridge to keep food in, crockery and cutlery available to use at lunchtime, and even tupperware boxes we could use to collect food from the market over the road to save on the endless plastic bags and elastic bands they wrap everything in.

Our lunchtime market

Our lunchtime market

Each week we changed classrooms, teachers and groups so we’d check the board and head off to our respective rooms. After the daily ritual of morning prayers, yogi exercises and feet cleaning we’d get stuck in to the massage. There was a strict schedule to follow and we’d always know what our objectives were for each day. The teaching usually consisted of the teacher demonstrating on a willing volunteer, then the students taking time to practice on each other. So we were able to practice on lots of different body types, we received lots of massage ourselves and we got to know our fellow students pretty intimately by the end of the course!



Our lovely teachers (and giant me!)

Our lovely teachers (and giant me!)

Most of the teachers were very friendly, supportive and absolutely hilarious! There was always lots of laughing and giggling as we exchanged snippets of Thai and English, picked up on their cute noises and expressions (“Ok mai?”, “Na-ha”, “Sexy back”, “Urrrrr”) and generally made each other laugh. Each classroom had an assortment of mattresses, blankets, cushions and pillows and at the end of each session we’d all help to change the covers, clean them and make them beautiful. “Beautiful pillows” quickly became a commonly used expression, which soon expanded to “beautiful hair”, “beautiful trousers”, “beautiful massage”, “beautiful bananas”, in fact just about anything could be deemed beautiful in the context of TMC!



Field trip to a temple

Field trip to a temple

The highlights of the course came in the last couple of weeks when we went on three field trips. One of these was a visit to a temple in Lamphun where we were taught Tok Sen massage using a wooden hammer and experienced the ancient art of Yam Khang fire massage where the priest would dip his foot alternately into sesame oil and plai oil, then onto a fire, then onto our bodies. It was surprisingly pleasant, but the most amazing thing was the way he was able to give such a strong massage just by using the strength of his toes.




The adorable Drawing Boy

Cheogh, the adorable Drawing Boy

On the two other field trips we gave massages to Thai seniors at a day care centre and to children with special needs at a children’s home. The seniors generally seemed to like it very strong so my thumbs were really feeling it after almost four hours of massage in a day! The children were absolutely adorable and I think we all fell in love with our respective “clients”. I nicknamed my first child “The Drawing Boy” because all he wanted to do was draw. He wasn’t interested in massage, or playing, or even in dancing to the live music afterwards. He just wanted to draw and draw and draw. And for me to draw too. We only had one piece of paper (the back of the “massage plan” we were supposed to be using!) so we filled it from corner to corner in doodles, houses, boats, people and animals. One of his favourite games was pointing to each animal and hearing me make the relevant animal noise. Hours of fun! My heart just kept melting over and over again.

Massaging seniors at a community centre

Massaging seniors at a community centre


On the final day of the course we were due to take our practical exam where we’d be observed performing a two-hour massage on one of our fellow students. We’d had a practice two days before and I was feeling fairly confident that I could remember the sequence and give a good massage within the allotted time. However, when we arrived at school that morning, we were called in to a meeting of all the teachers and students. Thailand was in the middle of a military coup, a 10pm curfew had been enforced throughout the country and all schools had to be closed for at least the next three days. The manager of the school offered for us to come back at a later date to take the exam, but as most of us were leaving Chiang Mai that weekend, this wasn’t really an option. So what they decided to do was grade us based on our practice exams two days earlier, as well as ongoing observations they’d been making.

Beautiful graduation clothes!

Beautiful graduation clothes!

How often does that happen eh? You turn up for an exam and get told it’s been cancelled but that you’ll basically pass anyway! We were dumbfounded, delighted and relieved at the same time. But it also meant we had to have our graduation ceremony there and then before going home. It was all a bit sudden but the diploma certificates had been prepared in advance so we lined up to receive them, took plenty of photos, said goodbye to all the teachers and headed to the pool! Well what else is there to do on an unexpected day off?!

So, despite the rather sudden and odd ending, it was a fascinating 5 weeks. I learnt so much, met so many lovely people, had lots of fun socialising at the weekends and received so many textbooks – which I had to post home along with my certificate, herbal balls, wooden thumb, and souvenir photo CD. Despite a few criticisms about some aspects of the school and their teaching methods, overall I think it was an excellent course and worth every penny. I hope I’ll be able to use what I’ve learnt in my professional life as I navigate my way through some life changes, but first I need lots of practice. So, who’s for a massage…?!

It wasn't all work, work, work...

It wasn’t all work, work, work…

A visit to an amazing elephant sanctuary

A visit to an amazing elephant sanctuary

The whole crazy gang

The whole crazy gang

Pool day!

Pool day!

Vipassana: Taming the Monkey Mind

Pagoda containing meditation cells

Pagoda containing meditation cells

Ever since I heard about Vipassana meditation I’ve wanted to try it out. The introductory courses consist of meditating ten hours a day for ten days at a time, in complete silence, with no reading, writing, physical exercise, contact with the outside world or even eye contact allowed. I relished the challenge and wanted to see how I’d cope, not only with the physical pain, but with the mental discipline too (or should that be anguish, or even torture?!)

I’d never gotten around to it in England, so when the opportunity arose to take a course in India – where Vipassana originates from – I jumped on it. The only dates I could find that matched my schedule were at a centre called Dhammalaya, near Kolhapur in Maharashtra, which just happened to be the same centre a fellow traveller had told me about, so I took this as a sign and applied straight away. She said the place was lovely, and she wasn’t wrong.

Exploring Dhammalaya

Prison cell block aka our rooms!

Prison cell block aka our rooms!

The Deccan Vipassana Research Centre, or Dhammalaya, is in a lovely rural setting surrounded by trees and hills. All the communal areas – the meditation hall, the dining hall, and even the arched stone structures housing the drinking water – are covered in colourful mosaic tiling, which is so simple and yet so beautiful. In the middle stands a stunning gold-spired pagoda full of meditation ‘cells’, which again is tiled in colourful mosaic work.

A small wooded area lies to one side, where I started taking short walks in the breaks and managed to spot peacocks, monkeys, bunny rabbits, bats and numerous species of birds – that is, until I got told off as it’s apparently out of bounds and full of snakes! Turns out the ‘walking track’ that appeared to lead into the woods just referred to a patch of gravel, and after doing gentle laps of it every day it started to feel a lot like a prison exercise yard! In fact, considering you’re not supposed to leave until the ten days are up, and the tiny individual meditation rooms are called ‘cells’, the prison analogy seems quite apt.

Daily Routine

Our strict daily schedule

Our strict daily schedule

Our days were super structured and there were lots of rules to follow. The morning bell would go at 4am and we’d be on our cushions by 4.30am ready for our first two-hour sit of the day. Then it was time for breakfast (much to the delight of our rumbling tums), which was usually some spicy local dish made from rice, pulses or grains (and occasionally idli as a special treat), plus strong, milky Indian tea (thankfully they offered a sugar-free version, otherwise my teeth would not have lasted) and a piece of fruit. Now, strictly speaking, only the old students are meant to have fruit at breakfast, with only the new students being allowed fruit at tea-time, but they seemed to bend the rules where this was concerned – which suited me just fine!

After breakfast we’d have about an hour’s rest when we could shower (Indian style, i.e. a bucket and scoop), do washing, go for a short walk (with the snakes, ahem) or just rest. I often took this opportunity to do a few stretches to ease my poor muscles, or else just do absolutely nothing at all – which is a very good practice for me I’ve found. The next three hours would be group or individual sittings and, from the third day, was the start of our adhittana (strong determination) sittings, where we’d have to sit in the same posture for one hour without moving or opening our eyes. I was amazed that I was able to do this straight away simply by following the method we’d been taught, which is based on observing all bodily sensations objectively and not thinking of them as pain or pleasure.

Women’s meditation hall

Lunch was at 11am – usually a substantial, delicious thali – followed by an hour and a half’s rest time. We then had another one hour adhittana session plus a further three hours of group or individual sittings. For me these were the hardest sessions, as I’d feel hot and sleepy after lunch and I often found it really hard to concentrate. The afternoons could really drag, but the light at the end of the tunnel was looking forward to the delicious tea-time snacks at 5pm! You don’t get dinner on a Vipassana retreat, but as new students we’d get tea, fruit and lots of delicious churmuri, a mixture of slightly curried puffed rice, chickpeas, peanuts, curry leaves and black mustard seeds. I’m not sure I would have survived without it!

Our third and final adhittana session of each day would be 6-7pm, after which we’d divide into different rooms to watch a videotaped discourse by the guru, S N Goenka, himself. These were provided in Hindi, English and even Russian, as there seemed to be quite a group of Russian-speaking students on the retreat. This type of division was very prominent throughout the course, as they made distinctions between men and women (who are always separated on Vipassana retreats to avoid distraction); old and new students (different rules apply to each); and locals and foreigners (different registration processes and language divisions).

I found Goenka to be a very gentle but determined, very inspiring and very lovely man, and was sad to discover he’d only passed away some six months before. His discourses were very thought provoking, often moving, and usually made complete sense. The technique of Vipassana meditation is actually very scientific, based on the science of mind and matter. I had no idea what to expect before I took the course, and was surprised to discover that it’s all based on bodily sensations. If we train our mind to observe first our breath and then all our bodily sensations objectively, with equanimity, we can learn to live without craving, aversion or ignorance.

Drinking water

Drinking water

As the Buddha realised, cravings and aversions are at the root of all our problems, as they create desire, greed, anger, frustration, fear and a whole host of other strong, unnecessary emotions. All our misery essentially comes from desire – desire for wanted things to happen or for unwanted things not to happen. If we can control this desire, by controlling our cravings and aversions, then we can be free from this misery. This is just the tip of the iceberg and the teachings obviously go into a lot more detail, but this is the essence of Vipassana, with a strong focus on anicca (impermanence), i.e. the natural law that everything changes. Nothing ever stays the same and we can experience this by observing our bodily sensations.

After watching the discourse we’d have one more short sit, a chance to speak to the teacher in private to ask questions about our practice, and then we’d finally collapse into bed at 9.30pm, ready to start all over again just six and a half hours later. For me the routine wasn’t that different to what I’m used to: getting up before sunrise to practice yoga, only having two main meals per day, and going to bed early – but I know some people found it very difficult to get used to. One thing I continued to find amusing every day was the ‘salad’ that one of the workers had mentioned at the time of registration, saying they’d included it as they know how us Westerners like to eat salad. I nearly burst out laughing when I discovered this meant a few old dried-up chunks of cabbage, carrot and cucumber! Whenever I ate it I could hear one of my friends back home saying sarcastically “Mmm, delicious salad!”

Female residential quarters

Female residential quarters

During the actual meditation sessions we’d hear the most wonderful sounds, especially at dawn and dusk – peacocks mewling to each other across the valley, geckos cackling both inside and outside the hall, bats screeching and all sorts of birds tweeting, chattering and cawing. There was also lots of chanting, gongs and bell-ringing coming from another temple nearby (which got rather confusing at times), and even some pumping dance music from the same temple! One afternoon there was a mini storm going on with thunder, lightning and deafening wind and rain on the roof of the hall, but by the time we got outside again it had completely passed over, everything was bone dry and there was no sign it had ever happened!

We’d also hear audio recordings at the beginning of many of the sessions, with Goenka chanting and giving us instructions and reminders about the techniques we should be practising. At times his voice became unbearably irritating but at others I found it incredibly reassuring and motivating. The chanting became so familiar and I can still hear his repetitive, melodious voice in my head… Anicca… Anicca… Anicca…!

Bringing the Practice to a Close

The beautiful main gong

The beautiful main gong

On the last day we were able to break the vow of silence, which is something I found very odd and don’t think I was quite ready for. The retreat centre suddenly became a very different place and I felt like I was just another traveller again, sharing stories and experiences with others. It had been a very intense experience, which I’d shared with these 25 other women – both Indians and foreigners – but I could see how easy it would be to lose everything we’d just been learning and practising. Trying to use words to describe our experiences seemed futile and meaningless and by the end of the day I was amazed at how exhausted I felt from all the excitement, commotion and verbal activity.

Travelling back to the city of Kolhapur the following day was another level of weirdness for me. Suddenly we were back to the traffic, the busyness, the noise and the smells of typical India and I felt very discombobulated indeed. Some of my fellow Vipassana students were saying how different they felt – calmer, more peaceful, less stressed – but I seemed to be having the opposite experience. I’d been feeling very happy and contented when I started the retreat, after leaving the cosy bubble of Mysore; but when I came out I felt agitated and harassed and had to hide away in my hotel room for most of the day to recharge my batteries and come back to myself. Maybe the ‘recovery period’ that so many people seem to go through after leaving Mysore had been put on hold when I started the retreat and was only just showing itself now.

A gentle daily reminder

A gentle daily reminder

In any case, two and a half weeks later I just about feel ‘normal’ again, after two days of travelling from Kolhapur > Pune > Delhi > Bangkok > Chiang Mai; recovering from a hideous bout of food poisoning as soon as I got to Delhi (Delhi Belly quite literally); getting used to a new city, let alone a new country; and then getting immediately stuck into a five-week Thai massage course in Chiang Mai. Phew! The Vipassana feels a long time ago already, but I’m hoping I can retain some of the stillness and serenity and start to incorporate the practice into my daily life once things settle down. I have no doubt that a consistent daily practice would be incredibly beneficial both for myself and all those around me.

My Observations

These are some of the key things that struck me during the retreat:

  • Personalised plates, cups & spoons

    There are many similarities between Vipassana and Ashtanga Yoga: the five Buddhist precepts are pretty much the same as Patanjali’s five yamas; you need a committed daily practice in order to start really noticing and appreciating the benefits of the practice; the practice will start changing your perspective and priorities in life; you have absolutely no idea what experience you’ll have each practice session until you get on the meditation cushion or yoga mat.

  • With no men around, all the women covered in modest clothing and no scantily-clad yogis around, i.e. with no-one to compare myself to, I discovered a new-found love and appreciation for my own body.
  • We weren’t allowed to wear any jewellery and had to dress modestly, covering our shoulders and knees as is customary for Indian women. I realised how much my jewellery is an expression of my personality, but not being able to wear it meant there were fewer differences between each of us and I started caring less about what other people thought of me. Not being able to speak to each other was also instrumental in this: without hearing anyone else’s words, tone of voice, or opinions, it became irrelevant what they thought as I was never going to know!
  • One of the things I was most worried about was the physical pain of sitting in meditation for ten hours a day, but I was amazed at how quickly the numbness and pins & needles disappeared. I’m sure my daily yoga practice helped, and I’m not saying I didn’t have any pain at all, but it was much more manageable that I’d thought. The mental pain on the other hand….
  • The passing of time became a very strange concept indeed. Days of the week and calendar dates no longer existed, there was just Day 1, Day 2, etc. Sometimes during meditation an hour would feel like an eternity and I’d be willing it to end; other times two hours would breeze by and suddenly we were heading towards the end of the course.
  • Breaking the noble silence

    Breaking the noble silence

    I found it fascinating watching my emotions, which were often very unexpected. One minute something hilarious would pop into my mind and I’d have to stop myself bursting into laughter; the next minute a wave of sadness would rise up from within me and I’d burst into sobs. Luckily this only happened in the cells but it was still a job to keep from disturbing anyone.

  • I discovered I have something of a split personality. I seem to have these two voices in my head; one is like an unruly child, always talking, commentating or even singing along to whatever’s happening; the other is like a patient parent constantly trying to ‘sshhh’ it and calm it down. Is that normal or is it just me…?!
  • I realised how much of a stickler I am for rules. If rules have been set there must be a reason for them, so I believe they should be followed, particularly somewhere that deserves the utmost respect, like on a meditation retreat. So it was interesting to notice my frustration when people turned up late for a sit, left the hall before the gong, or wore inappropriate clothing (much to the distaste of some of the Indian women I noticed). However, I didn’t seem to mind the disregard for the no-morning-fruit-for-new-students rule at all!
  • The most important thing I think I’ll take away from the experience is something that I knew already on an intellectual level, but which somehow seemed to get driven home and made so much more sense to me during the course:

All our misery and happiness is created inside of us; it has nothing to do with anything or anyone outside of ourselves. We cannot control other people, we can only control how we react to them. 

Searching for the Unsearchable

candle_lit_heart_by_prometheus_nike-d4it3woThis week it’s time to go deeper. I could tell you about the last kirtan of the season that descended into a surreal open mic session. Or about finally discovering the actual, official Cauvery government arts and crafts emporium, not just the fake ones spelt with a ‘K’. Or even about the insane amount of dosas I shared with a friend one evening whilst sampling a ‘sharing platter’, which turned out to be 7 actual separate dosas – we were literally dosa drunk by the end of it!

I could tell you about all those things, but I won’t. Because I’d feel like a fraud. I’d feel like I’m missing the bigger picture. Or perhaps hiding from the bigger picture behind all the nice, fluffy, easy bits of everyday life here in Mysore. Which is easily done. In fact most of us do it every day of our lives. It’s much easier to live on the surface of life where things are clear, practical, rational and straightforward (at least most of the time). Why would we want to dive into ourselves where it’s dark, scary and we can’t reach the bottom? As Sharath said in conference recently, “Many people get scared: ‘Oh, I still the mind, I go crazy!’” It’s the same principle here. What if I don’t like what I find? What if I can’t control my inner self? What if I go searching and find there’s nothing really there?

But, to turn that on its head, what if there is something so beautiful and divine inside you that its light could brighten your entire world? What if you spent your whole life never really knowing or being in touch with your soul essence, your soul purpose? What if you spent your whole life feeling like there was something missing, like there must be more to life than this, like something just doesn’t feel quite right – and all because you never looked within, never looked deep enough to find out?


Completing Angelic Reiki levels 1&2

I’ve heard it said many times that Ashtanga is not the kind of practice that attracts people who are happy in their lives; people who are content with what they have and aren’t interested in finding deeper meaning. Most of the people who come to this practice seem to be searching for something. Perhaps for deeper meaning to their lives. Perhaps for more of a spiritual connection. Perhaps for their soul purpose. Perhaps for enlightenment. We get on the mat day after day after day, practising asana after asana, focussing on our breath, practising mindfulness, studying ancient texts and trying to be a better person. We wonder where all this is going to lead us and continually remind ourselves of Guruji‘s mantra “Practice, practice and all is coming”.

Sometimes this search is exhausting so we seek refuge in the lighter side of life: hanging out with friends; treating ourselves to nice food; and doing things we love that make us feel good. But for me, the last couple of weeks have been a time of going deeper, of allowing space for this search to continue. I had a Vedic astrology reading, then I went for a tarot reading, then I was drawn to an Angelic Reiki course, and most recently I decided to take an Intuitive Living & Psychic Development course. The momentum has been building and I’ve recently had some very intense experiences.

IMG_2699_SmallThe messages are coming through loud and clear for me, as the same themes keep coming up again and again throughout these different exploratory mediums. Intellectually speaking, my rational mind knows what the issues are and how they impact me on a day-to-day basis, but I still struggle with how to resolve them, how to let them go, how to get over them and move on. One very poignant moment for me was during the intuition course. We were doing a meditative exercise where we were focussing on our deepest inner selves and I had this sudden feeling of dropping, as if I was literally dropping into my body, or into my soul. And then a message appeared, as clear as day, that said “You already have all the answers. You can stop searching now.”

I felt a sense of release and a brief lifting. Oh what a relief! Ok, so there’s nothing to do, nothing to look for any more. But then of course my ego or rational mind kicks in and starts with the “Yes, but what does that mean? You don’t really have all the answers do you? Where are they then? What are they? How come you still feel so confused? If you stop searching, what then?”

This battle between the mind/the ego/the external self and the intuition/the inner wisdom/the internal self can be a very challenging one to resolve. The ego can be very clever and manipulative and often speaks much louder than the inner voice of wisdom. I say this from experience, having spent a 4 year period suppressing my intuition and believing my ego was the real me. Eventually, thankfully, my inner voice broke free and started screaming so loudly that I couldn’t ignore it any more. I had to take action, turning my whole life, and the lives of those closest to me, upside down in a heartbeat. But the one thing that kept me going through all the heartache, all the pain and the guilt, was the knowledge, the absolutely clear and unquestionable knowledge, that I was doing the right thing.

And that’s happening for me again right now. Most of the messages I’m getting at the moment are telling me that I’m on the right path, that I’m heading in the right direction. And for someone who’s never had much direction in their life, this is a very positive and reaffirming thing.

InnerselfMany people feel a strong connection when they visit Eastern or Asian countries, and consider places like India to be their spiritual home. I have a similar feeling after living in Mysore for 3 months. But I also feel like I’ve found my spiritual mother and father here. There are two people I’ve met who I’ve felt such a strong affinity with. You know sometimes when you meet someone you feel like you want to talk to them, to spend time with them, to just be near them or maybe to touch them, hug them and feel close to them? Well, that’s what I’ve experienced here. They both happen to be westerners who’ve spent a lot of time in India, and they’re both very inspirational teachers, speakers and healers. I’m so grateful to have met them, to have had the opportunity to spend time with them and learn from them, and I know I’ll be seeing them again sometime soon, somewhere in the world.

And so, as I continue on my journey of self-discovery and self-transformation, I know I will continue searching for the unsearchable. And maybe, gradually, I’ll get closer to finding acceptance. Acceptance of myself, acceptance that I already have all the answers and acceptance of all that is.

In the meantime I’ll continue to practice gratitude. For all that I am and all that I have. And maybe, by sharing my experiences, others might feel encouraged – even inspired – to start looking a little deeper, into that scary place within. That scary, but immensely beautiful and wondrously divine place within ourselves we don’t want to go. And maybe, just maybe, we might catch a glimpse of the eternally glowing light of wisdom and love that we’ve been searching for, for so long, that shines so brightly inside each of us.

“Aṣṭāṅga Yoga Anuṣṭhāna”: 1st vs. 2nd Edition


1st Edition: March 2013

Last year R. Sharath Jois published his first book, Aṣṭāṅga Yoga Anuṣṭhāna. It’s a very detailed Aṣṭāṅga practice manual, which sets out the entire sequence of Primary Series, including the correct vinyāsa count (flow of breath and movement) and dṛṣṭi (gazing point) for each āsana (posture), as well as a section on the yamas and niyamas (behaviours and principles), some practice notes and mantrāḥs (chants).

The book was published in March 2013 and wasn’t widely available to purchase outside of India, so many people queued up at the shala shop in Mysore this season to purchase a copy.

However, in January 2014 he released a 2nd edition. Shock, horror! He announced this at conference one Sunday, so lots of students promptly hurried to the shop to get their updated copy, many asking if they could have a refund on the 1st edition. As I suspected, this was met with a resounding “No”! Best to just accept it and call it a collector’s edition I reckon.

So, the question on everyone’s lips now is: “What’s the difference between the two editions?” Well, you’re in luck because that’s exactly what I’ve taken the trouble to find out. Lakshmish told us in Saṁskṛta (Sanskrit) class one day that much of the Sanskrit text was grammatically incorrect, so he painstakingly checked through the entire book again to make the necessary corrections.

2nd Edition: January 2014

2nd Edition: January 2014

I thought I’d do the same thing, comparing the editions to determine exactly how they differ. “Why on earth would you do that?” I hear you cry. Well, maybe because I love proofreading and ‘spot the difference’ competitions, maybe because I’m an anal retentive, or maybe because I just wanted to show some empathy for Lakshmish.

Whatever the reason, I’ve done it (and thoroughly enjoyed it I might add), so if you’d like to see for yourself what the differences are, just click below to open the PDF.



Aṣṭāṅga Yoga Anuṣṭhāna Comparison

Incidentally, Lakshmish also mentioned that many mistakes are commonly made in writing the asana names in Sanskrit, including in many well-known books by senior teachers. Some of the most common spelling mistakes include: marīcāsana (not marichyasana); paścimattānāsana (not pashimottanasana); pūrvattānāsana (not purvottanasana). If in doubt, refer to Lakshmish’s chanting sheet or p.26 of the 2nd edition of Aṣṭāṅga Yoga Anuṣṭhāna (there are in fact some slight differences between these two sources but they’re largely the same).

I hope you’ve found this guide useful and if you ever need a proof-reader, give me a shout!