India: Yoga daze = no panic attack?

10th February

Yin yoga, Vinyasa flow, Hatha yoga, Ashtanga yoga, Iyengar yoga, Restorative yoga, meditation… we’ve tried and tested quite a few variations out here in heart-warming India.

We’ve also sampled plenty of the local food. Man, I love Indian food. Gimme something lentil based, a serving of freshly made naan, a questionable pickle array and I’m all yours. Only £1 you say? I’m definitely yours….

IMG_E0109

AND THEN A 10p CHAI TEA THAT’S IN THE TOP 10 MOST DELICIOUS THINGS I’VE EVER HAD? WHY THE HELL NOT. (Below is our favourite roadside chai stall served by our favourite chai lady. She didn’t say much but she had such a kind smile and her chai making skills were award winning (according to my tastebuds anyway).

IMG_E0043

Everything is so very cheap here. Although I didn’t expect to buy quite so much. The bedding and fabrics are so gorgeous out here… I may have gone a little overboard (think handmade kingsized bedspread, pillows, the lot!) So much so, I may have to buy another suitcase home. That will cost an arm and a leg. MY BAD. (But yay ‘memories’….right?)

***

Now I didn’t come out here to furnish my future home. I came here for yoga. Here’s an extract from my handwritten diary: “If I’m completely honest I’ve neglected the diary for a few days. That doesn’t really need to be a confession, does it? As it is pretty obvious from the dates. I’ve been in a blissful yoga daze, unaware of time. Unaware of time going so quickly. Unaware of my fears.”

From practising yoga so intensely out here, I have learned so much. Not in terms of perfecting the headstand or being able to open my legs wider or wrap my feet around the back of my head. NONE OF THAT. (seriously, can’t do any of that anyway). That’s what I have learned…..None of that really matters. You see, how yoga poses look aesthetically, really is secondary. Yoga is about you and how you feel inside. We are always feeling different, therefore each yoga practice will be a unique learning experience. You could be the strongest, most flexible person in the world – but that doesn’t suggest at all that you would be ‘good’ at yoga. You can’t really be ‘good’ at yoga. It is something that you practise. If you’ve never tried it before I cannot recommend it enough. Since practising yoga regularly my mental health has seen significant improvements. Decreased anxiety. Increased positivity. Through practising, I’m learning to slow down, appreciate things and learn what is worth putting energy into getting worried about, and what isn’t. (99% of things fall into the ‘isn’t’ category).

For me, words and advice are great and inspiring. But ALWAYS easier said than done as the mind is so complex. YOGA however, working with the body and the mind, starts to put it all into practise – much more so than a motivating meme on Instagram, even more than a therapy session can ever do.

Oh dear, I’m writing too much. I’m getting carried away. Let us finish on a light-hearted note. (I say light-hearted but it actually had the potential to be a near death experience).

Ehem. So, it’s the last day. The yoga in India has come to an end. I’m walking along the beach (alone) watching the sunrise. As I walk over the sand, I happen to be carrying my favourite black jumper in my hand. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a wild dog snaps his teeth onto my jumper. For a few seconds we pull on the beloved material back and forth, back and forth. He’s dribbling. His eyes are wide. His teeth are big.

*Enter about 7 other angry, hungry dogs.

I immediately let go. Catch my breath.

Maybe it’s the yoga daze, but I’m genuinely not scared. I just watch the pack of wild dogs fighting, snarling over my jumper (did I mention it was my favourite?) and ripping it to shreds.

Goodbye India. Goodbye jumper.

I really don’t want to leave but I think this will be my last blog post for India. I could write and write and just keep writing but I think more of a poetic summary is best.

the sides of our lips
move
upwards
towards the Indian sun

sparks alight our hips
spine
triceps
during the vinyasa flow

synchronised passions bloom & dip
up
then down

“we are beautifully imperfect”

the sides of our lips
move
upwards
towards the Indian sun

 

IMG_E0037.JPG

IMG_E0055.JPG

IMG_0068.JPG

Advertisements

Suncream required when sitting on the loo

5th February, 2018

It’s always a fine line with poo jokes as to how much detail I can / should go into on this blog. Being respectful of the more reserved, I’ll keep it fairly low key.

Ever heard of Delhi belly? I haven’t.

Literally, WHO gets constipated in India?

Who has a 3 day no show in INDIA?

(Me apparently).

 

We’re right on the beach. No floors – just sand. Open toilets and showers (brilliant for passers by wanting sound effects). Keeping my promise of holding back extravagant descriptions (for the more reserved readers amongst you) In summary,  I’m uncomfortable. I’m being careful though, making sure I lather my scalp in suncream each time I ‘try to go.’ Like I said – open air toilets….35 degree heat. That sun on my head and my thighs is HOT.

My little bloated belly and I are still getting fully immersed in all the yoga though. It being a yoga & meditation centre, that is what I’m here for.

Our afternoon / evening yoga session was 90 mins of Yin Yoga. I’ve done this style of practise only once before (in Bali). It is where you hold each pose for 5 – 8 MINUTES. Long. Slow. Deep. Feelin dat burn. 2 minutes in you’re like, this is easy, this is totally fine, this is, ow, ow, this is actually quite uncomfortable. (Then by 7 minutes, shaking) DEAR LORD MAKE IT STOP.

Unlike most yoga, when you need to be gentle with yourself and listen to your body, we learned with Yin, if it is COMFORTABLE, you’re not doing it right. (of course if anything is sharp or stabbing then stop!) But for the benefits of Yin: you need to burn.

It is the discomfort of Yin that is a blessing for helping to train your mind to deal with uncomfortable moments in life. Don’t give up. Hang on in there. Yes it hurts but you are strong. This pain won’t last forever.

Holding the posture for so long works your inner muscles and body so deeply to the point when your muscles actually give up and let go. This sensation of truly sinking into the floor is a-a-amazing. It is the feeling of the fascia (connective tissue) releasing that is really intense. The teacher warned us at the start of the class that because it is so intense, it is not uncommon that unexplained sensations or emotions from the unconscious may be brought up. After the intensity of some Yin poses (especially vulnerable positions such as chest / heart opening), some people may laugh, some may burst into tears and they cannot explain why.

“Ha! What a load of old rubbish” I thought. How melodramatic.

Apparently not. The joke’s on me. At the end of the session I was blubbering like a baby – trying to be discreet, whilst in child’s pose, dribbling dribble and streaming snot into my yoga mat, hoping that nobody would see. My tears after Yin were for reasons I can guess but don’t want to think about too much… However, after the 90 mins of Yin and fascia release, I felt lighter, more relaxed and genuinely happier, more positive and grateful about the future.

(Still constipated though….)

 

 

 

Having an ugly baby whilst travelling to India

2nd February 2018

A few hours ago, on the train to Manchester, I wrote the date in the top right hand corner of my diary. I then gave a long pause; stared out the train window, trying to look all wise, hoping that some profound, or perhaps witty introduction would come.

It didn’t.

I swiftly closed the diary and placed it back in my tatty rucksack.

Some 7 hours later, on the plane to Goa, my pen returns to the page.

Hi.

My 7 hour brain delay irritates me. Why could I not write something before? Why could I not just live in the moment and go with the flow – accepting whatever may arise onto the page – whether that be brilliance, or utter crap.

Then being irritated irritates me – this ‘obsession’ to achieve perfection.

This ‘obsession’ for things to be good, great, perfect. Why can I not trust what my Second Year Playwriting tutor taught us? (Sounds a bit off-piste, I know, but hear me out…)

You see, to prevent the dreaded ‘Writer’s block’, in class, she repeatedly told us, loud n’clear: ‘HAVE THE UGLY BABY.’

Have the ugly baby. Have the ugly baby. This translates to — For goodness sake just write something down. It will probably be ugly, messy and shit, but you can tidy it up later. Be brave, do it now. Yes it may be ugly, but it will be authentic and you know what? That is really beautiful.

I truly love that advice from Poppy (the Second Year Playwriting tutor). The problem is, I heard Poppy’s advice but I didn’t really listen to it. It goes without saying that ‘having the ugly baby’ in terms of writing is likely to make you a braver, more innovative writer as it will nudge you to write more and more and thus, hone your skills. What I didn’t realise though, until sat on the plane to Goa 4 years later, was that Poppy’s advice of having the ugly baby can refer to… life.

To live in the moment

To feel blessed that what will be, will be

To accept your frequent mistakes, your frequent ugliness. For this frequent ugliness is real and authentic.

Authentic is beautiful.

Ironically, the desire to feel comfortable with the here and now is why I’m on the plane to India in the first place. I’m heading towards Patnem beach to stay at a Yoga / Meditation centre – something I have wanted to do for a few years now.

Like so many others, each day, I struggle but fight with anxiety. Yoga practice helps me – strongly and deeply helps. I’m heading to a retreat to develop my understanding of the practice and to help train my mind and body that all that really matters in life is THIS moment; even if it’s ugly…

(Speaking of ugly… Literally what was that plane food? Powdered egg and an indescribable sauce marinated in fart).

Underwhelmed with the plane food, OVERWHELMED at the fact I’m about to immerse myself in a week of no technology, no social media, no nonsense. Just yoga, sunshine, local curry, more yoga, more yoga, more yoga

INDIA UPDATES TO COME SOON

 

Bali Belly, Bananas and Beautiful People

Warning: this first part of the post will be pretty grim. I could have skipped it out and continued to talk about the turquoise ocean and my daily yoga. But I want this blog to be a realistic picture of my time travelling. So if you don’t want to read about my unfortunate bowel movements, close the tab, go walk the dog, do some photocopying at work, or make a cup of tea.

23/04

I have the shits. Sounds awfully crude, I apologise. I have been seven times in the last hour and this is definitely not ok. I wanted to man it out and just get out whatever was upsetting my stomach, but by the eighth sprint to the bathroom, enough was enough. Dosed up on Imodium. Thankfully, that stopped the ordeal instantly, but I felt pretty fragile for the rest of the day. Life of a traveller, ey?

I couldn’t stomach anything to eat. But I asked Eddie (who works at the local bar) what drink he recommends for a bad stomach.

Eddie is either 19 or 24 (he told me both!) He has glowing chocolate skin, a chiseled face and a thick, Indonesian accent.

“Papaya. Papaya juice very good. Yes. Good for…stomach. Clean stomach. Makes more poo poo.”

“No!” I screeched. “No more poo poo!!!”

“No more poo poo?”

“No more poo poo.”

“Sorry. My English. I no understand.”

I paused momentarily, thinking of how I could maybe explain without sounding too gross. Then I realised I couldn’t. “I have too much poo poo. What drink makes less poo poo?”

He finally understands and recommends a certain tea which he makes for me. Later on, mummy Roo makes me some plain toast as I don’t think I can face another curry. What a babe.

25/04

Before the poops started yesterday I was with the volunteering gang, turning recycled rubbish into arts and crafts goods. These will be sold tomorrow and the money raised will go to the local school. Happy days! Wearing the volunteering t-shirts, the locals would come up to us, and give us a hug and shake our hands. “Thank you very big! Thank you very big” one little man said, grinning from ear to ear.

I have now recovered and am feeling fab. I’m not sure how good it is to eat about 10 bananas a day though. (They put banana in EVERYTHING!) I also think they put something special in the iced coffees because they’re so addictive. Eilidh has already had 3 and it’s not even midday.

***

Got my sweat on walking to my ocean-view yoga class. I arrived early but didn’t have my swim suit or towel. I was that hot, I just dived into the pool, fully clothed. I dried off pretty quick. The class was AMAZING and I felt good for the rest of the day. I’d never done Yin yoga before. Rather than holding each pose for about 5 seconds, you hold it for FIVE MINUTES. It has a similar effect to acupuncture, creating a lot of heat in the muscles you are working. Man, you can really feel the burn – but the more you relax into it, the deeper you can stretch and then it feels incredible.

Good times continued with a delicious Gado Gado for din dins, then a bonfire on the beach. Eddie & Hero are the cutest. We sung songs with a guitar and ukulele – both English songs and Indonesian. I can’t get over how much I love the people here. Both me and Eilidh must say “I’m not leaving” at least 100 times a day.

Hero has a small, athletic frame. A baseball cap is glued to his thick black hair and his crooked smile is infectious – he never stops laughing.

Laughter continues as me and Eilidh go mental with all the bugs in our room. Howling and screeching with laughter, next door must have wondered what was going on. Hero, did you put something in our drinks!?

26/04

The hilarity continued into the next morning. We went for a dip in the beautiful sea but had a bit of a mare because we were in a seaweed section. Splashing around like a couple of seals, we soon came back onto the sand to sunbathe. Two gorgeous girls about 10metres to our left looked ever so graceful in the water: Peacefully floating on their backs, or diving up and down like a dolphin.

“We don’t look like that” said Eilidh. “How do they look so good?”

We squinted and stared at them for quite a bit. Then at exactly the same time:
“Let’s try be them.”

Unfortunately, we failed. Within 10 seconds of entering the water, a wave took my bikini and my boobs were out and Eilidh was flopping around like a whale.

Love, Meditation & A Giant Turtle

20/04

Been travelling 3 months now. Over that time, I have received many messages.

“Looks so amazing.”
“Wish I was with you!”
“You have it too good. Wish I was there.”
“Your pictures look incredible.”
“Stop posting so many photos, you’re making me jealous.”
“I’m so jealous, Liv. Wish I could do that!”

You can.

You literally can. What’s stopping you? Money? — work like a dog for about a year, save every penny you can. Sell your car, sell your horse, your motorbike….

Your job? — ask for a sabbatical. Or quit. You’ll get a new one when you come back. Too easy.

Your family? — they’ll also still be there when you get back.

Point is, if you want it bad enough, you’ll just do it. I can’t stress how much I recommend taking the plunge and booking those flights. You won’t regret it. NOBODY looks back on life and says, “ah, I wish I’d done more over-time at work” Whereas, EVERYONE says, “ah I wish I’d been to (insert country here) or I wish I’d (insert cool ass activity here such as bungy jumping).

I met an inspirational lady at breakfast this morning. She’s from Boston. She’s almost 40 – she sold her house to travel the world and she’s having the time of her life. Her boyfriend is anxiously awaiting her return.

***

So long Gili T, hello Gili Air! After a short boat ride, I’ve arrived at another paradise. Time to get my sweat on and find the accommodation…

I’m meeting Eilidh here later. We’ve been smart and we’re staying at a Homestay together. It’s a double room so we’ll split the cost and save some money.

I got a bit lost finding the way and came through the back entrance. Looked dodgy! However, the front of the property looked more like the photos – very cute. Speaking of cute, my new Indonesian Mum – Roo, is the sweetest lady you’ll ever meet. She invited me in, offering me a chilled banana and dragon fruit smoothie straight away.

Eilidh arrives a couple of hours after me and fills me in on the gossip since our time apart. A French man is in love with her after only meeting her for a few hours. He almost missed his flight to The Philippines so that he could be with her. Can you imagine!?

21/04

By splitting the cost of our room, it’s even cheaper than the local hostel. For £6.50 a night we have a beautiful double room and own bathroom, with breakfast included. Mummy Roo served us banana pancakes, fruit salad and a smoothie to our little private terrace. This is great! It’s just a 20 sec stroll from our room to a paradise beach. No complaints here.

I have fallen in love with Gili Air. Head first, fast falling, no questions about it, in love. It is so quiet, so peaceful, and the people are so gentle and kind. (I also get a real buzz walking barefoot everywhere! Love the no road life).

***

When you travel, your plans change. Originally, I wanted to do my little yoga retreat in Ubud. However, Ubud is busier and more touristy than I had imagined. Gili Air, however, is the perfect chill out zone. I have decided to stay longer here. Truth be told, I never really want to leave.

This afternoon Eilidh and I went to a meditation workshop. It covered a lot of the science behind it which was fascinating. We were also guided through various techniques to see which ones worked best for us. I could write loads about it – but all the info would be very overwhelming to read (it was a long workshop so a lot was covered!) But I’ll share with you one thing: Belly breathing. If you’re trying to relax, place your hands on your stomach. Your stomach should move in and out, up and down. Force your breathing down to your belly and exaggerate that movement as you inhale and exhale. You see, this is how we should breathe. If you look at babies / infants: you’ll see their tummies dramatically move in and out as they breathe. This is how humans should naturally breathe. However, as we get older, we get more stressed and our breath comes higher and higher up into our chest. Try to take a few minutes each day, sit somewhere quiet and focus on nothing but belly breathing. You’ll come away, feeling calmer.

The class was incredible. I now feel I know the basics of meditation. I know how frustrating it is, but have been trained with how to deal with that frustration: congratulate yourself when you realise you’re thinking, label it as “thinking” and then return back to your chosen style of meditation – whether that be sound focus, object focus, a chosen repeated phrase etc.

22/04

Yoga on the beach and then snorkelling with a giant turtle. All before 8.30am! Did I mention that I love it here?

Jade can’t really swim, so we were all fearing for her life when the water got deep. Don’t worry, she’s still alive! But, bless her, her slow swimming meant she’d put in all that effort to get to the reef and didn’t even see the turtle. He’d swam away by the time she got there.

This afternoon we joined a volunteering project and helped to clean up the beach. It was great to meet so many local people and help out. Tomorrow we will have an arts and craft session and recycle some of the waste – then sell the artsy goods at a market, raising money for the local school.

Today was ace. But if I’m to be British and pessimistic: The worst thing that happened was that I burnt my tongue on my curry.

Peace out. Next post about me getting the shits to come soon. X

Mount Batur, Seventeen Taxis and an Onion

I woke up in a bit of a panic – feeling nauseous and shaky. I think it’s mainly feeling sick with worry – earlier today I made a coffee in my room with tap water. I have been so careful with the water here – saying no to ice cubes, brushing my teeth with bottled water… However, in a moment of madness, I just didn’t think. So at 2 in the morning, I’m sat bolt upright in my luxurious Queen Sized bed, googling “is it safe to drink boiled tap water in Bali…”

Of course, as when googling any illness, there will always be a ‘MrPotatoHead79’ on some forum telling you that his sister’s friend’s cousin had the same symptoms as you do, and they died a horrible death.

***

Woke up feeling fit as a fiddle. Thank goodness! I reckon it was a momentary funny turn due to my crazy, stressful day (see previous blog post on my Insane Journey to Ubud). Now time to enjoy my luxurious bungalow. It’s only £20 a night and I’m being treated like a princess. The three course breakfast may be the best I’ve ever had – including a fluorescent fruit salad, banana pancakes and Indonesian black rice pudding. Note: not black pudding like in England, thank goodness. This is a sweet dish, made with Indonesian black rice, slowly warmed through with fresh coconut milk.

I’m in a hidden paradise. The beautiful pool is surrounded by tropical trees. There is no noise whatsoever, only the sound of cockerels in the morning or the occasional soft words from the kind Balinese: “can I get you anything, Miss Olivia?”

I can’t believe I’m backpacking right now.

I met a French couple here on their honeymoon: Classic. The wonderful staff bought them out a decorative chocolate cake, with ‘Happy Honeymoon” perfectly iced in rich cocoa. I think because I was chatting to them, they felt obliged to share it with me (winning). They were lovely people – they even invited me out to dinner with them that evening. I had to politely decline as I would have been the ultimate third wheel. IT’S YOUR HONEYMOON!!!

Balinese food continues to get more beautiful and more bizarre. This afternoon I tried an iced avocado coffee. I was sceptical, but I reckon it’s now my favourite chilled beverage. Fresh and creamy from the smooth avocado with swirls of strong coffee, spiralling through the glass: a taste sensation and also a work of art.

In the cafe, a guy from Canada started speaking to me. He was a borderline hippie and spoke about trying to “find himself.” Conversation was a tad awkward. I wanted to be an idiot, get out my compact mirror and go: “there you are!”

Out of nowhere, a dramatic thunderstorm hit Ubud. The rain was hard and warm and everything still looked glorious. I admired it on my balcony, and did some yoga. The chilled vibes continued when I went out for dinner alone and I sat crossed legged on decorative cushions, surrounded by candles. Loving life.

14/04

Time to stop the princess life and find myself a hostel. I can’t complain though – the hostel is ace! It’s in the middle of a rice paddy, it had a gorgeous pool and it’s super chilled and friendly. Speaking of friendly, became instant pals with a Scottish girl, Eilidh (pronounced Ay-ley, like Hayley without the H).

When we walked back after dinner together, on one street alone we were offered 17 taxis and an onion. Oh Bali.

15/04

This morning I went on a gorgeous / humid walk through the rice paddies then came back for brekki with Eilidh. Oh my god I’ve had the best day. Ronnie and Jade are now in Ubud too so we met up with them for a girly day full of smoothie bowls and putting our bargaining skills to the test at the crazy markets. A woman tried to sell me a top for 130,000. I eventually paid 40,000 (£2).

We had some laughs when ordering food. Like in Starbucks, they asked for our names. For giggles, I told them my name was Steve.

***

Time for an evening yoga class. It was all very stereotypical (in a good way). It was in a room that looked like a palace and the class was taken by a very spiritual, very bendy man. The class was 2 hours and I was definitely the worst, least flexible one there. Curse you, ‘running’ for giving me tight hamstrings! I LOVED the meditation bit at the end. The Master adjusted my posture by pulling my head and neck and I felt my spine grow about 6 inches.

Rushing into the class and then leaving in such a chilled, ‘spaced out’ state, I can’t believe it but I realised when back at the hostel that I didn’t pay. I ACCIDENTALLY STOLE YOGA. I hope I don’t get bad karma. I will have to go back for another class and pay double. I feel so bad.

16/04

Alarm went off at 2.30am. Today is the day I climb Mount Batur Volcano to watch the sunrise. I went with Ronnie, Jade and our new friend Arne. We had a lovely driver and a very sweet guide.

You get a bit warm walking up but you really feel the chill at the top. This, however, was the first time in my life I have been the one to deal with the cold the best – this was due to the fact that I didn’t really sweat – everyone else was dripping. In all honesty, I found the climb quite easy. Jade and Ronnie, however, had a bit of a sense of humour failure going up: “I’m never hiking again!!!” But like all hikers, once seeing the sunrise and the views at the top, they were proud and said it was well worth it. I was probably really irritating to them, being too upbeat on the way up at 4 in the morning.

It was a strange experience hiking up in the dark. Seeing nothing but your feet with your torch light. Then looking up and seeing a stream of torches leading up to the summit – they looked like a trail of stars – quite magical.

As the orange sun rose, I tried to capture its beauty with a photo. Then I took a few moments just to stare and admire it.

Our guide prepared breakfast for us at the top: banana sandwiches and a boiled egg. Not quite the exotic luxury I’ve been having the last few days, but who can complain when you’ve got a view of the Indonesian tangerine sun, creeping over volcanoes.