Oh India India.. sometimes unexpected and full of pleasant surprises and sometimes very stereotypical!
This one is not going to be only about the food, it's about everything. About experience of YTTC (Yoga Teachers Training) in ashram, about traveling as a solo woman and Ayurvedic Clinic as well as food of course. So I do expect this post to be slightly longer than usual.
So my journey (both spiritual and actual) started in Samyak Yoga Ashram with 9 other yoginis wanting to become yoga teachers or just to deepen their Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga practice or simply learn more about it. I have to admit it was hard, harder than I thought is going to be, both physically and mentally. I had few break downs probably in my second week, which appeared as extreme emotional swings from being very happy to really sad and almost depressed. Few times only thing which helped was to lock myself in the room and cry it out. Eventually it went away. Teachers explained this as a detox. As body was undergoing through several detoxification processes, because of having asanas practice in early morning, other type of yoga/Pilates in the afternoon. As well as kriyas and pranayamas sessions in the evenings. All of it 6 days a week for a month. So with the help of asanas, kriyas and pranayamas, I was getting rid of toxins from my body and mind. Which was causing my mind to go a little crazy. Besides of this we also had a lot to learn and so much information to absorb through having anatomy and philosophy classes as well as asanas clinic, studying all asanas in detail. Right from the beginning we also were teaching mini classes ourselves which was challenging, but amazing for growing self confidence! Although I came to ashram only to deepen my own practice as well as get more knowledge in Yoga philosophy, now after the course is finished I feel more than motivated to teach, to share what I have learned in those 200 hours!
<>Yoga shala and the calming river shore have been in use everyday<>
I have to admit it was a lot to take on. My body took several weeks to recover, only now my self practice starting to be similar (in terms of flexibility) to what it was before. But I can feel huge difference though, my practice is deeper, more aligned, more focused, I think it’s getting close to sthira-sukham-āsanam (my asanas becoming more physically steady and comfortable), which also makes my mind more stable, less wondering around. The best is that my practice gives me even more joy and satisfaction. All thanks to 4 teachers in Samyak Yoga, all very knowledgeable and having a huge baggage of intelligence in all aspects of yoga. All of them different to each other, having different points of view on certain things, but sharing so much yogic wisdom, very motivating and encouraging.
<>One of us students teaching, lovely adjustment by Lisa. Photo by Samyak Yoga<>
So after this challenging month, I am certified yoga teacher very much motivated to teach and share what I have gained and discovered with the ones willing to learn. I feel more confident in general, more open, less emotionally effected by criticism and I guess just happier with myself. Of course there are always ups and downs, it’s not that it changed my life, but I see the difference in myself and my practice.
Let’s talk about another very important part of daily routine in ashram as well as in everyday life outside it - food, my favourite topic. It’s not enough to have a calm mind. It’s more other way around, if the body is not feeling well nourished and fed with the right food, it’s hard to make any differences in mind. As well as asanas practice is never going to be great if body is not feeling good. Of course the food in ashram was great in terms of the taste. Especially because I am a big fan of South Indian cuisine. But and a very big but, it was way too rich, meaning full of fat. The diet served in the ashram was called vegetarian Ayurvedic (I was getting it vegan, so no milk, ghee or curd for me - which appears pretty often in Indian cuisine). Well, I am not too sure about it, it’s, I would say, was pretty typical South Indian with fat level of North India cuisine rather than Ayurvedic. Which I later on found out why -apparently the cook was from there - I mean North India. So for me who predominantly eats whole food plant based diet, which excludes oils at most of the cases (not saying 100%, but mostly), was a bit too much. For first week my belly was suffering, but I thought ok it’s full on Indian food, I’m not used to eat it on everyday basis, it will get better. But it didn’t until we asked our teachers to introduce some plain boiled vegetables and plain rice and some raw salad (I say we because I wasn’t the only one having belly discomforts). Because otherwise everything was full of oil, in fatty gravy, very well cooked and way too salty most of the times. So eventually after eating this food, I of course gained weight, my skin and hair became oily, I was getting spots on my face and back (that’s additionally to upset stomach). Because as my beloved plant based Dr. John A. McDougall says - the fat you eat is the fat you wear (this actually inspired me to write my next blog post which will probably sound ‘Fat Makes You Fat, Do Not Blame Carbs’ or something like that, where I will put together an article and some links to back up of whole food plant based doctors talking about vegetable oils as well as animal fats and what it does to our body, but it’s for my next post). So after some plain boiled food as well as some greens were introduced, my body started to recover, so the way I was eating was 3/4 of my plate would be plain food and greens and 1/4 some oily South Indian meal. As I could not continuously eat literally tasteless boiled food, I had no choice but introduce some flavour, which unfortunately was full of oil. My point is and I will show it to you when I come back to my kitchen, that tasty food does not have to be with loads of oil, it can have no added oils at all and be as delicious as with loads of it, even Indian food (promise few Indian cuisine inspired delicious meals, as I am carrying home few kg of spices for future recipes, as soon as I return).
So after I finished the course I went traveling. All food I ate was delicious, but again, full of oil, overcooked and in huge portions. As I’m someone who hates wasting food, I would force myself to eat it, but instead I was eating once and the rest of the day I was just snacking, which is not easy in India too, as all savoury snacks are deep fried and sweet ones with milk and refined sugar. Thanks god there’s loads of my favourite fruits in India, so I was eating crazy amounts of it. Another partiality healthy snack I found was peanut or sesame seed bars or balls also full of refined sugar, but at least no milk. Still my gained kilograms where not going away, as well as my greasy skin and hair, as I was still consuming good amount of oils with my single meal in a day.
<>This one was probably the best meal I had in India so far in terms of healthiness and taste balance - yummy South Indian Thali from Depth N Green in Mysore<>
I just realised that I am constantly complaining haha. Well I really love Indian food, it’s flavours of the spices, it’s colourful presentation, but what I’m trying to say is that it can be super healthy and still the same delicious and full of colour. I am really setting up a challenge for myself here to demonstrate it all for you haha. And by the way in my head I thought in India I will have a best time as vegan, as it’s not hard to spot milkiness in food and India is predominantly vegetarian or it’s really easy to find what they call pure vegetarian restaurant. But it’s other way around. In most of the countries I have traveled I did not have any problems with my food, as in most of the time, as a back up plan, I would have a facility to cook in hostels I stayed, but in here there’s no such thing, I stay in hotels, with nothing to prepare food, so I have to rely what’s offered in the restaurants or corners shops and fruits stands for my snacks.
And besides of this traveling in India as a solo woman is difficult. I really wanted not to believe what media says and few of my friends said and a lot of other people I met on the way said, but sadly it’s true. No it’s not dangerous, it’s not that, it’s just the looks of young Indian men are not acceptable. I mean I get it I’m different, I’m white, although tanned a bit, but still white, have blond hair and blue eyes, yes I’m pretty rare bird in India, but so I was in South and Central America, South East Asia. And it’s not that I’m going to remote places no one saw a white person in their life’s. It’s not that. Actually it’s worse in bigger cities. I have been looked at everywhere else with eyes full of curiosity. Here young men are staring with there hungry (that’s a very gentle synonym for horny) eyes as if I’m walking naked and holding a poster ‘F....k me’. I am really sorry to all my friends from India but it’s true. It’s not that I’m wearing sexy little denim shorts and tiny top hardly covering anything. No not a all, although it’s really hot (30C+) and humid and I’m literally sweating non stop I’m sticking (and literally haha) with my long baggy trousers and oversized (men’s M) t-shirts, I even bought a scarf to cover my hair, so it attracts a tiny bit less attention. And of course it’s not just looking, more ‘courageous’ approach, whilst asking me stupid questions they checking me out from head to toes. I even got a butt slapped from one of them slowly passing by on scooter. Seriously 😐....?.... I don’t know what India’s educational system is teaching them, but clearly not the right things.
And I’m not a hater. I’m trying to be tolerant really hard and as patient as I can possibly be. I’m not a quitter either. But it’s the last bit of my half a year journey and I really wanted to enjoy it without struggling throughout one day to another. It got so bad that I had to force myself to leave a hotel room to do some sightseeing or just simply go and have a meal. And it’s not how I wanted to end this big trip. So after 2 full weeks I got really tired. So I’ve ended up here, near Udupi, small village on the coast, in Ayurvedic clinic, having my treatments and feeling much better. It’s clean, ok it’s cleaner around it, much less rubbish everywhere, the beach compering with the ones I have seen before is much better in terms of situation with rubbish, so I can finally walk without flip flops on and dare to tip my toes to the water. I will probably write another blog post about rubbish and pollution in India (and the rest of the world) some time later, because it’s another super important topic to be discussed.
It’s been more than a week since I’m here, doing my Ayurvedic detox, having my early morning yoga self practice everyday, followed by special detox drink, than breakfast, than full hour of Ayurvedic treatments: massages, body peelings, saunas, shirodaras, swedanas, nasya karmas, pindaswedas (not all once haha, only 1 to 3 a day). Followed by lunch in early afternoon, than a special mud pack procedure (second in a day as first one is done in between breakfast and treatments). As well as I’ve done some kriyas: bhastrika, jala neti, vamana dhouti and enema. Most of it is voluntary if you don’t feel like it you don’t have to do it, but it does a great job towards cleansing the body and helping detoxification. I’m too adventurous not to do it, so of course I did it, some of it few times. As well I voluntarily did 24h water fasting, which was more difficult to cope with than I thought.
But now when I was writing this paragraph one sudden thought popped in my head, if not the struggle of those hungry (aka horny) Indian young men I would have never ended up here. Yes I was looking for a place to have an Ayurvedic massage and maybe swedana (single person steam sauna - if you don’t know what it is, google it - it looks pretty funny), but here I’ve got a massage a day as well as other treatments, for by the way very reasonable price. It’s not fancy or anything, but it does a job.
And finally food without oil! That’s the REAL Ayurvedic treatment food, not oily, very little to zero of it, no salt, no added sugar, full off vegetables, bowl of fruits with each meal, light soups with no oil, cooked vegetables with right amount of spices with again no added oils. And by the way delicious, at least for me 😊. I say at least because I suppose for most of the people especially the ones who came to loose weight in here is very different to what they normally eat. But this is the key, no added oils or animal fat in your food no weight gain. And one more thing which highly surprised and delighted me at the same time - I did not have to ask for plant based version, it’s all vegan hallelujah! With one tiny exception - curd, sort of fermented drink from cows milk, but that’s it. And I think the only reason they giving this one to people is the bacteria benefits created by fermentation process, not because of milk ‘benefits’. And I think it’s because they did not figure out yet that they can ferment anything really, vegetables, fruits, nuts, oats, etc., there are few drinks my all times favourite kombucha as well as water kefir, it does not have to be cows milk, which additionally with good bacteria for your guts, gives mammalian hormones, antibiotics, morphine, inflammation, which makes your bones to release calcium to the blood to neutralise it. So whatever to gain with that glass of curd you do damage to your body along way, so it’s way better to choose plant based fermented products which does a lot more good to your body without causing any harm at all. (Check my previous post for more info about fermented food, click on the link http://bit.ly/2kryCMj ).
This whole Ayurvedic experience was my dream from long time ago, when I was very much into Ayurveda (it’s around the same time when I first discovered Yoga and fall in love with it, it was probably around 10 years ago). What I’m experiencing now, back in the days would have blown my mind if someone have said that later in my life I will be in India and will be doing these Ayurvedic treatments. So yeah the moral is that whatever bad or just unpleasant happens to you, it always leads to something better at the end.
The end hahaha
So today is my last day here in Thonse Health Center and in the evening I’m going to catch some waves if pachamama will be on my side. Will stay just nearby in Shaka Surf Club 🤙 😉.
By the way most of those gained kilograms melted down, skin cleared out and my belly feels super happy all in just little more than a week. Second moral of the post - whatever you eat reflect on your health, your skin, hair, your mood. Feed your body with right food!
That’s it 🙌