Wednesday, January 28, 2004


So here's the list of info posts I intend to do:

Travel Planning (how to get a visa - yes, you do need one - and other pre-travel matters to be arranged such as insurance)
Medical Matters (inlcuding innoculations, preventive medication and travel first aid kit)
India Travel Kit (a survival kit by any other name)
Money (what to take and where you can cash it)
Flights (online flight websites)
Internal Travel (getting around once you've arrived)
Food and Hygiene (how to avoid Delhi Belly)
Yoga in India (the best links I can find)

The other posts I'll do on the areas I'm planning to visit (andother areas too, if people make good recommendations to me). If anyone has suggestions for me, please email me as below - additional info resource topics, advice to add to those topics, or suggestions for places to go.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

First Contact

Well, had my first email re the blog - already had feedback from people on MIS, but it was nice to get that email. It was from someone who is headed over to India shortly, so hopefully she will give me some feedback once she has been.

So, what about all these changes? It all kicked off when I got a couple of reviews of Sivananda TT at the Neyyar Dam Ashram, one from a person who had done it (having been taught Sivananda for years and loving it) but ended up walking out of the place mid-course. Got me thinking - always thought the rules are quite oppressive, but hey it's an ashram and I reckon I could have handled that. Good for the discipline! However, after thinking about it all it just doesn't feel right for me.

So I got thinking, and found the people at SVYASA (alternate website in their incarnation as VYASA) offer a 4-week TT course at their campus at Prashanti Kutiram, near Bangalore. The cost for 4 weeks board, lodging and tuition? $350!!! At current US$ exchange rates, less than £200! I'll buy that for a dollar, thought I.

Despite the fact that it tied in so well, with the course starting 1 February 2005, I realised that I was only going there for convenience (and, truth be told, economy). What I want from India is to do things that I feel drawn towards, to experience those things that I really want to do. The Teacher Training thing has also been bugging me of late - why do I really want to do a TT course? Well, despite the fact that I feel drawn towards teaching others and that teaching is great for advancingyou personall practice, I realised that there is no great need for me to do TT right away. So I basically put the idea of doing TT in India out of my head - if it's to be, then it will come looking for me.

And that's 's when it all sort of fell together. I have been interested in the Viniyoga approach for a few months now, and am reading Gary Kraftsow's book "Yoga for Transformation". It's a great book, full of very interesting ideas - none of them truly new to yoga, but the perspective outlined is very fresh, intelligent and new to me at least. It was then that I noticed that the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in Chennai does a 4-week course on "The Yoga of T Krishnamacharya" (not TT) from 31 January to 25 February 2005. Seems ideal!

Have had a few great reviews of this course from people who have previously attended, and about the KYM in general. Added to that, the current man in charge, Kausthub Desikachar (son of TKV Desikachar) is coming to London in April for some workshops. Hopefully I will be able to make it to at least one of these workshops, just to test the experience.

A few more interesting links, for those interested in Viniyoga. The Association for Yoga Studies in Bristol seems to be the main centre for Viniyoga in the UK. It was founded by Paul Harvey and is based around the Yoganjali Teaching and Therapy Centre in Bristol.

Another link of interest, mainly for me, is the link for Viniyoga Scotland. This site gives information on Lynne Scott and Margo Rombert, Scotlands only qualified Viniyoga practitioners.

I am hoping to also go to a couple of seminars by Paul Harvey and Lynne Scott in the next couple of months, so I'll update on that in due course.

Anyway, back to India... am thinking that the next post will be a kind of checklist of all the things that I need to do before I get there, and then each post I will take one item from the checklist and provide as many useful links as I can find.

Of course as the Bard said (and a belated happy birthday to you, Rabbie!) - "The best laid plans o' mice and men gang aft agley".

Monday, January 26, 2004

Purple Valley

Okay, the Purple Valley Yoga website seems to be back up and running, so check out their link.

Have been thinking long and hard about a few choices I have for my trip, particularly on the Teacher Training side. Have been advised against the Sivananda Ashram as it seems not to be the kind of atmosphere I am looking for (but be your own judge of that). Will post more when I get the time to add in a number of links to some other places I found.

Friday, January 16, 2004

A Tale of Two Ashrams

So, if not Mysore, than where? Well, I had been thinking of doing yoga teacher training at some point this year and suddenly noticed that the YTTC were holding this course in Scotland. However, I would miss the last 3 months of that course, and resitting the missed classes would cost far too much as I'd have to go to Ireland. A big shame, I think I would really have enjoyed that course - everyone I've asked about the YTTC have spoken good of them.

So then I noticed that the Sivananda people have a Teacher Training Course at their Ashram at Neyyar Dam in January. Coincidence? Probably, but also an excellent opportunity for me to mix pleasure with, em, well, pleasure I guess. The ashram experience looks intense - long days, restricted food, no sex, no drink, no smoking, no garlic, no onions, no eggs - no anything by the looks of things! And on top of that you get to pay for it all! Joking aside, I think it will offer a great opportunity to focus my practice and to truly learn a lot.

That's four weeks, and should see the warmer weather come in big-style (not that it will be cold). Then, perhaps after a couple of days rest at Kovalam and on to Chennai by plane.

A couple of things of interest in Chennai (formerly Madras). First, a friend from the MIS site lives there - he recommended an Indian wedding as an experience not to be missed, so hopefully we'll find one to gatecrash in the time I spend there. That aside, Chennai is also home to TKV Desikachar, son of the great yoga legend T Krishnamacharya (who trained, amongst others, yoga greats like Sri K Pattabhi Jois and BKS Iyengar). I am hoping that maybe I can take in some classes there, perhaps even with Mr. Desikachar himself, but who knows - there certainly seems a lack of info on that site about ordinary classes and the like.

Chennai is also the home of the Theosophical Society, which might be interesting to visit, although I am not too knowledgeable about exactly what they are all about.
Near to Chennai there are a few other places of interest, such as the Auroville community and Sri Aurobindo Ashram, but with so much that I actually want to do, I doubt I'll make it to either.

Well, if I'm not that interested in those places, where do I want to go? Easy one there - Sri Ramanashramam in Tiruvannamalai. That website can tell you much more about Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, the great saint/sage/guru who once lived there, than I would try to, but this is one definite necessity for me. David Godman's book, Be As You Are, on the teachings of Sri Ramana just spoke volumes to me, as did The Secret Path by Paul Brunton, a British spiritual explorer and eventual follower of Bhagavan's path of self-enquiry. Any serious spiritual explorer should read those books and make up their own minds.

There's some good info on Ramanashramam on the web, particularly Michael Langford's site and another one of walking around the sacred Mount Arunachala (or Annamalai). I think a couple of weeks there, spending some time around the Ashram and Arunachala (believed by Hindus to be Siva himself) will be very interesting.

After that, it's time for me to make my way to Mumbai and meet up with my girlfriend, before heading down for a fortnight in Goa. It will be a leisurely trip across the country, and I hope to experience the Indian railroads at their best. Also hoping for some interesting historical sites, such as Hampi, Ellora or Sriringapatam. Or maybe temple experiences , encounters with elephants or tigers or a trip round more palatial settings.

And when in Mumbai, perhaps there'll be time for me to hunt down stardom in Bollywood before heading off to the (comparative) hedonism of Goa.

Haven't really thought much about where in Goa we will be sunning ourselves, but I had been going to drop a link to Purple Valley Yoga there, however I cannot seem to access their website. Is there trouble at t'mill or is it simply a case of routine web maintenance? Tune in later to find out for sure!

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Contact us

Well, contact me, actually. Here's an email address for anyone who feels moved to drop me a few lines, with either comments on the blog or suggestions on sites of interest on India or even sights of interest in India.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Online Yoga Communities of Note

Okay, before I get started, just a couple of quick links to my favourite online yoga forums. Been on a few, and I'd say that the newsgroups and Yahoo groups are definitely to be avoided. The usual trolls hang about there, flame wars, spammers and that the sort of nonsense, no community there at all. Bulletin boards are the way to go, as they can be effectively moderated to get rid of the above.

The first one I found and enjoyed was the Ashtanga EZBoard Board. It is a great resource, especially for Ashtanga neophytes, but i have drifted away from there. You will find, amongst the fantastic wealth of information, a few intense regulars who can be a bit rude, and who I found more than a trifle annoying, but on the whole it's a good place to be.

The best, though is undoubtedly Erich Schiffman's "Moving Into Stillness" EZBoard. There's a real community spirit here, and the more you join in the more you'll get out of it. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Why, oh why, oh why?

Okay, so let me take you back, waaaaaay back...

Actually, not that far back, just about 2 1/2 years ago when I first started yoga. I must admit that I first came to yoga as an open-minded skeptic - very interested in the physical benefits (improved health and relaxation) and some of the mental aspects (better concentration) but the spiritual aspect was something that I was definitely not interested in (to say the least). I have always been very much a believer in science, and the power of man to carve his own destiny in life, and the likelihood of me actually following all the mumbo-jumbo hippy tree-hugging crap that is (so I thought) the spiritual aspect of yoga was as likely as Saddam Hussein turning Buddhist (the mother of all conversions?).

Still, I approached it with an open mind (and an open heart), and here I am. What I found was the same as many people. That yoga is not a religion, it doesn't need to involve airy-fairy "all is love" nonsense, and it is a practical philosophy to help you better yourself merely by learning a bit more about yourself. Can I do lotus or bend my leg behind my head? No, not quite. Have I attained perfect tranquility and oneness with the universe? Nope, still on my 'to do' list. Do I feel better for all my efforts? A resounding yes. In the end, I feel I have a better grip on the world and 'how things work' than I did back then, and that can't be a bad thing!

So, what's that got to do with India? Muuuuuh! as they say on Chewin the Fat. Yoga comes from India, you see. As an unashamed Internet-junkie I have joined in (and left) many an online yoga forum in my time, and watching all the people tell their tales of India, and wheedling off to the sub-continent for months on end one after another I often thought, "I wish I could do that." And in June last year, that thought changed to, "Well why can't I?"

First hurdle - the work! No point in going somewhere like India for a few weeks, I thought, so first step is getting the bosses to agree to let me go for a month or three. At that time I primarily practiced Ashtanga yoga at the Practice Place in Edinburgh. A fantastic place full of great people (teachers, staff and students), I can heartily recommend practicing there to anyone. At that time I was thinking of
going to Mysore to study with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (Guruji), which requires at least a month's practice, so I set my heart on 10 weeks' leave, so that I could spend a month or two there and then do a bit of touring before returning home.

But things change - I had the pleasure of practicing with Guruji in London in October 2003, but by then the dreadful truth of my worsening knee problem was striking home. Went to the doctor and he's now referred me to a specialist to get both knees checked out, with probable cartilage tears in both knees (the left one having had 2 ops already). Ashtanga is not very kind to already-damaged knees, so it was time to take a different approach.

Well, it took my work about 5 months from me first asking to the boss officially saying yes, but I now have permission for 10 weeks paid leave in early 2005. I am having to take most of my leave for 2 years to do so, but it's 'trip-of-a-lifetime' stuff, so who cares?!

Right now, I have nothing but that permission. What I do have is a headful of ideas that I will hopefully turn into plans, a few friends who are trying to join me for at least part fo the journey, a couple of people living in India that I will be meeting for the first time, and a whole load of travel arrangements to make, inoculations to suffer and a multitude of things to buy before I set off. Before all that, there's a whole World Wide Web for me to research, to absorb all the info I can and pass it on to you, if you wanna join me for the ride.

But that, as they say, is another story...

Friday, January 09, 2004

In the beginning.

Woo-hoo! A year today, all going well, I will be flying on my way to India for a 10-week trip! I thought that I would keep a blog while over there, to keep in contact with everyone, but have also decided to record all the useful interesting sites I find as I plan my journey. Hopefully that will be of use to anyone else planning a similar journey in future.

Also some thoughts and dreams, and a bit about why I am going. All will be revealed...