An Indian Christmas

I will admit I quite like being on the road at Christmas time, you always end up doing something interesting and it’s nice to get away from the hype of a Western Christmas. This year a small group of yoga students went to the Regalais Hotel to hang out at the pool and have the buffet lunch. We all balked at the price tag (1000 rupees) but when we converted it into our local currencies it was very reasonable. About $20nzd for an all you can eat buffet of international standards and one ‘free’ drink.

We had our lunch at 12.30ish, went back to the pool for a bit then went back for more at 4pm. The food was amazing, I took the opportunity to eat lots of meat as I generally stick to vegetarian I’m in India. I had turkey, chicken, lamb shank and fish, as well as veggies and an assortment of puddings. It was a lovely day, spent with new and old friends.

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My new home away from home

I had a rough start to my trip as I was set up in temporary accommodation while something more permanent was found. The place I rented for 5 days was on a main road, was incredibly noisy and cost a lot of rupees. In fact, it cost me the same as what I am paying in my new place for the whole month!

Anyway, I’m in my new place now and am very happy. It’s a tiny one bedroom studio with hot water and a lovely rooftop. It’s on the outskirts of Gookolum (a suburb in Mysore) and I pass cows, chickens, goats and the occasional group of monkeys on my way to class. It’s lovely. Here are some photos:

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An emergency pit stop at a hotel!

I am of to a rough start accommodation wise. I’ve ended up taking temporary accommodation while I look for somewhere I can stay for a month. It’s peak season for yoga students and there isn’t a lot around. I ended up having to take a 3 bedroom place on a main road where the traffic noise is terrible. I’ve got a health issue where my system doesn’t tolerate bright lights or noise well so after two days of constant Indian traffic noise, I was starting to feel really sick. I ended up going to stay at Parklane hotel to have a break and get some sleep. The hotel was overpriced and not at all good value compared to where I stayed in Bangalore, but it was amusing and I was able to sleep. They really like to label things, there were signs everywhere. And the “no tips” sign was a laugh, the staff would point to the sign and say ….. “No tips, but it’s up to you”.

Here are some photos:

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Who needs power anyway?

As soon as I arrived in Mysore we had a power outage. This is very normal at this time of year and is something I love about Mysore. I love how the city keeps running and how people take power-cuts in their stride. We had an outage yesterday from 9am-5pm and the shops and restaurants stayed open, no one was particularly bothered. Everything was so normal, I forgot about the outage and tried to use the ATM! I guess this is the bonus of cooking with gas and being a cash based society (luckily I had backup cash). A few places have generators but many don’t. My place didn’t even have running water which mystified me, I guess getting the water to the 2nd floor relies on a pump.

Had an all day power-cut happened in Wellington it would be absolute chaos as we rely so heavily on electricity. It would be a nice change though… pulling us away from shopping, the internet, computers and TV. Imagine that… what would we do? We’d probably play on our phones until the batteries ran out and then perhaps talk to each other. Or panic.

As India becomes more developed, I expect the power-cuts will be a thing of the past. But for now, they are still the norm.

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A quick stop over in Bangalore

My flight from Bangkok got in very late so I decided to stay in Bangalore in a nice hotel with airport pickup. It ended up being a good decision, I stayed at Justa Residence Off MGRoad and it was a lovely treat after so much travelling. The bed was so soft, the staff lovely and included a delicious buffet breakfast.

After a blissful sleep I wandered around the shops, bought some India suitable clothes and a pile of books. Then it was time to pack up my bags…. next stop, Mysore!

A month of yoga therapy (in 2011/2012)

Its been 2 years and I’m about to head back to India for another round of yoga therapy. I’ve just realised that I never finished writing about my last trip to India nor my trip to Thailand last year! I think this is partially because when I’m in Mysore (the town where I do yoga) it doesn’t really feel like travelling any more as it is so familiar. Also, because of the hip problems, sitting at an internet cafe writing my blog is actually quite painful and counter-productive. Regardless, apologies to anyone who was following the travel blog at the time. It is my plan to update the blog during this trip, however not as regularly as I used to in the old days.

To finish off the 2012 story, here is something I wrote about the my last trip to Mysore 2 years ago. Its been helpful for me to revisit this blog post as I’m feeling very nervous about this next trip. The hip hasn’t been so good since I wrote this, I had another major flare up of the hip pain (purple leg, swelling and hospitalisation) and have done months of physical therapy and rehabilitation. I’ve had another round of tests and while the condition of the hip joint has deteriorated, my doctor, physiotherapist and surgeon have all given the green light to do the yoga in India. The key is ‘strength over flexibility’ and let pain be your guide.
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My month of yoga therapy – written May 2012

Wow, I can’t believe I’ve written about my month of meditation but I haven’t said anything about my month of yoga therapy in India! I’ve been practising yoga on/off for the last 3-4 years, the off times are usually caused by the issues I have with my hip. Despite all the hip problems, I still keep coming back to yoga. I love it, it grounds me and keeps me healthy.

I discovered yoga while travelling in India and it is there that I met my wonderful teacher Mr Vinay Kumar of Prana Vashya Yoga. Having already been to see Vinay with hip issues (I’d freshly torn my ligamentum teres) and had great results, I was in no doubt that I would benefit from another visit to get past the rest of the post-surgery hip pain. I managed to get 2 months off work and was about to book the trip when I ended up in hospital with acute hip pain.

Its kinda silly… my pain had been spiralling downwards for months. I went to see a new Osteopath on the Wednesday, was in a lot of pain for a couple of days because of his treatment but when I got out of bed in Saturday afternoon I felt amazing. The referred pain from poor alignment/limping..etc had miraculously vanished and all I was left with was pain right in the middle of the joint. In true Julia style, I over did it. Too much standing, sitting and walking plus a sailing trip led to a very full feeling joint, swelling and increased pain levels. I had an exam coming up and was busy at work so I hired crutches and kept pushing through the pain. Unfortunately I pushed myself to the point I wasn’t sleeping or eating properly… it got pretty bad. To cut a long story short, my leg started going purplish and the swelling/pain made it hard to look after myself and I ended up in hospital. Yes, I am the kind of person that sometimes needs a kick up the butt to listen to my body.

Despite 10 days in hospital, 6 weeks of bed-rest and a gradual return to work over 1 month (part time work/bed rest) I still wanted to go to India to do the yoga. My family and friends were worried but I was determined to go because I knew in my heart it was the right thing.

So in December 2011, still on crutches and taking a lot of medication for the pain, I travelled to Mysore to study with my teacher. On arrival we had a catch up and discussed the plan for my stay. I ended up doing 1hr of Pranayama (which is like a breathing meditation), and 90 mins of yoga therapy a day. 6 days a week, for just over 4 weeks. The focus was on strength (over flexibility) and ensuring I was resting when I was not in class.

The results were AMAZING. Within the first week I felt the circulation come back in my left leg which was a huge milestone and a relief. By the end of the trip I was off my crutches, walking without a limp and I was having pain free moments for the first time in a year. I managed to get off all my daily pain medications and I was only taking pain killers as required, sometimes going days without taking any medication.

These are amazing results in a short time, especially given what I’d been through in the few months before I arrived in Mysore. My surgeon was flabbergasted when he saw me on return from my trip. This was great because before I went away I could tell he’d pretty much given up on me and thrown me in the ‘too hard chronic pain’ basket. I think (hope) I am giving him a new perspective on alternative therapies.

So, what happened next…. Well, I came back to New Zealand with instructions to keep up the yoga therapy but found it very difficult to maintain the commitment while living my regular life. It was hard enough going back to work for 8hrs a day without adding 90mins of yoga and 1hr of pranayama. I got pretty sick for a couple of months and took this as my body telling me to ease back. So I am disappointed to report I haven’t been able to keep it up as well as I’d hoped. I’ve lost quite a lot of strength and the pain is creeping back. I do continue to practice my yoga, I go to classes once a week and do short practices at home. The focus is on strength and I am working towards another trip to do yoga with my teacher, hopefully this time we can cement the improvements I make so they last longer.

Stocking up on Fruit

Another great thing about living in Mysore is the high quality but inexpensive fruit (esp compared to NZ). One of my first jobs was to stock the pantry with heaps of yummy fruit from the local fruit stall. The fruit here tastes so good, my favourite is the grapes (well washed) and pomegranates. I think next time I come to stay in Mysore I might bring a ‘whiz stick’ with me so I can make fruit smoothies at home. Yum!