Saturday, 26 December 2009

All is well

Arriving at the cinema last night was a scene from Bedlam. Cars and motorcycles everywhere, people milling about, the road jammed solid. Our taxi driver said one of the films opening that night was with a Malayalam superstar.

The taxi was not allowed to stop and we did another circuit before miraculously being allowed into the cinema area and parking. Our friends were waiting on the steps with a fistful of ticket, done deal.

The screening room was at the top of a large building, we walked out onto the rooftop in a balmy night and were then guided into the balcony area of the cinema. The area we had been sent to was relatively small, if we stood up we could see the rest of the screening room below us. It was vast, a massive room with row upon row of seats.

The film we got to see was 3 Idiots with Amir Khan (Lagaan, Ghajini). A full on experience, phones ringing, texting, shouting, hooting with laughter, high fiving. Brilliant film, not sure if it was in Malayalam, the audience certainly got all the jokes. One of the guys explained a few of the details during the Intermission. We had a hugely enjoyable evening. 3 hours of great entertainment.

One of the main characters had a lot on his shoulders, actually all three of the "Idiots" had huge demands and responsibilities forced on their young beings. The main character Amir Khan had a little personal mantra "All is well" that kept him sane during times of pressure. It gave him enough energy to be able to handle the demands life sent him as well as helping his buddies in times of need.

How often do we wish to have that little excess of energy to manage ourselves and help the world around us. During the 2 World War the British were told to "Remain calm and carry on." These few words helped people in times of extreme stress, the bombing of London, V2 buzz bombs, evacuating the children of London to the countryside.

It is a helpful handle to grab onto, to have a few positive words. The opposite is giving up, "No matter what I do nothing helps!" What we verbalize is so important, it sends a signal out to the universe that bounces back and either knocks us down or lifts us up.

Not sure what my personal mantra is; it changes as circumstances change. Generally I believe it is a positive message I try and send out. Anger, frustration are also there; with time I have learned not hang on to these feelings. It is OK to experience them, but important to let them go. I do not expect frustration and anger to be part of my daily make-up, if that was so it would colour my approach to the world, becoming a self perpetuating force. No; frustration and anger become a good story to tell. A story to share of how stupidly I have reacted or the world has reacted towards me.

Today is the 26th. December and seems to be keyed into the European psyche to just blog out. Staggering from one chair to the next, one glorious meal to the next, a day of quiet conversations, playing silly games and generally hanging out. How fortunate to be in a position of sharing jokes and having the energy for games. To be able to release tension and take time out to just be. Thank you.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Christmas day

The sun rises early in the tropics, 06: something and sets 12 hours later. All that Daylight Saving Time seems a little irrelevant in these parts.

I was at the shala early morning to watch Lino give a guided class, the photos are from this mornings class.

Back in Europe most people are just getting over the big celebration; Christmas Eve or in England sitting around opening presents and preparing for Christmas dinner.

It all seems rather distant in the warmth of southern India. In a few hours the yogi group will gather for a vegetarian buffet at Lonely Planet. This has become a tradition for Lino's group in Kovalam. Vegetarian food and the warmth of the tropics, sitting eating Christmas lunch under fans to keep the temperature at a reasonable level. There will be the usual fights as to whether the fans are on or off, some people just can't stand a slight breeze. Oh well it is like any family that gathers, there are always recurring dramas that show their pretty faces at such times, all part of the celebrations.

This evening the plan is for a trip into Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram) and see a Bollywood blockbuster. It is a little dubious that we will get in, the cinema did not answer the phone and we have not been able to pre-book seats. A wild ride on the Indian highways is maybe all we get from the trip. Maybe we can hustle up a coffee or chai, it is always a blast to move through the scenery of Kerala and see what life chucks at you.

Monday, 21 December 2009


As yogis much of the discussions are around digestion. What are you eating, how does it effect you? Many are getting Ayurvedic massages and rejuvenating treatments at the Ayurvedic doctors. The doctors set great faith in cleansing. This can be done with a little castor oil or an enema. Maintaining a sense of humor is a sign of good mental health and with all the Enemas and oil treatments the grounds for scatalogical jokes are endless.

As we sat and ate at a restaurant we haven't visited for a while our gaze fell on the desserts. Crap Coco, seems obligingly relevant. The true meaning is Chocolate Crepe. Crap Coca seems to fit the bill way better.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Settling in

The flight out here is now a distant memory. We have started the second week of the retreat with Lino Miele.
Many more people have arrived, groups now coming in from different areas, 15 from Estonia, 10 from Russia.

Last year was quiet in the first week, building up around Christmas and staying quite busy. This year started big and seems to be going to be huge. The energy that surrounds Astanga Yoga continues as more people open to its delights.

The weather here is very conducive to an early morning practice. The heat of the day has not kicked in, there is that early dawn sense of expectancy to the day.
Walking to the shala in the dark before dawn, lighting the way with a torch along small paths. Moving below palm and fruit trees, sleeping dogs stir as you pass, barking in surprise.

The practice space is set high on a hotel roof, we are on the third floor in a roofed area with open sides. The sides are covered with bamboo mats that can be rolled up to allow a little more of the warm air through.

Working through the practice, meeting the smiles of old and new friends Filling a water bottle with the filtered water and head on up the hill again for a shower and breakfast.

A new day has started well as I lie under fan listening to the birds calling, and the neighbors working their land.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Hangin' in there

Can it get any better?

We already have the best looking shala in town!
The prettiest orchids!
Showers to die for!
Teachers who are attentive and caring!
And now folks, somewhere to hang your mat!
The banging and sawing are done.
It has happened.
No longer will you have to carry that black mat back and forth to the shala.
For a nominal fee you can get your own mat space and let your mat be at the shala.

Now does it get better than that?

Merry Merry

Christmas has arrived.

In the tourist towns of Kerala the mantra is Merry, Merry, Christmas, Christmas, money, you give money.
The young lads dress as Father Christmas, a red cloak and a white beard, dance in front of the restaurants and see what they can get.
It is an innocent form of hustling, playing on the guests generosity and guilt.
Unfortunately for them there is an almost constant barrage of claims on our generosity and feelings.
Massage, fruit, leather sandals, tacky souvenirs, chill'a beer, plus all the beggars who are shipped in for the holiday season.
No business! You promise! Tomorrow?
A little cash falls their way and they get to hang with their buddies for an evening by the beach.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Sign of the times

Language is a wonderful thing! Translating language is even more delicious. The possibilities for misunderstanding and jokes are innumerable.
My host here has just told me of a sign he and his wife saw a few weeks ago.
Outside a restaurant the owners proudly announced, "We are still eating children for free!"

Safety First

When growing up I have always been told told to take care in traffic, look before you cross the road. Do not get in strange cars! Watch out for your fingers when using a hammer. Cut towards your friends not yourself!
The kind of stuff that is drilled into you as a kid and then repeated as your children are growing up.
I wonder what is said in India? The guys working the roads and fields seem to have flip flops as the only form of footwear. Danish safety officers would freak and shut the place down.
Last year the village had an update on the power system. Holes were dug and poles secured. At the foot of the hill a small relay station was set up. The concrete posts were raised by hand, using ropes tied around various trees. The guys then climbed the posts and set up the cross beams. All in place within a couple of days of hard solid work.
The two guys getting ready to ride off on the motorcycle had been part of the team. They are both wearing sandals, no crash helmets. The guy on the back has in his lap a bale of rope, an adze, a pick axe, a machete and is just getting a 2.5 meter iron bar ready to rest on their shoulders as they drive off home.
My Mom would have freaked!
The relay station is protected with solid iron bars and a death head warning sign. Unfortunately the bars are wide enough for anyone to stick an arm through and the fuses and power connections are within easy reach of anyone silly enough to poke around in there. I do hope their Moms have made sure they don't stick things in power sockets?

Monday, 14 December 2009

This is India

As the sun slips into the Arabian sea I enjoy the warmth of the evening on a terrace high above the bay. Arriving here a few days ago the body is gradually adjusting to the constant warmth that is the tropics.
Every time I come south and east to the western tip of India I get a sore throat. Initially I think it is the sudden change of climate. Now as I look across the valley I reckon I have sussed it. There are 7 fires burning in and around the village.
In Copenhagen all the garbage is collected and sorted, what can be re-used is set aside, some is buried, some is burnt in an incinerator with an extreme temperature, the gasses are then filtered before being released into the atmosphere.
Here it is gathered and sorted, wrapped in sacking and transported out of the village. The years that I have been coming here there has been an ongoing discussion as to where an incinerator should be built, it hasn't happened yet. What happens to the bales of garbage is anyone's guess.
The 7 fires that are burning now are a local solution to a problem. Everywhere you walk there are remains of fires where garbage has been burnt. This is normally not sorted, just swept together and lit with a match. One of the biggest fires burning across from where I am is at the Leela Hotel, a 5 star resort charging serious money to stay. An embarrassing situation to find themselves in. Environmental problems do not seem to make the news.
If you go to Google Maps and zoom in on India many of the areas have no definition. There is simply too much low level smoke for the satellite cameras to get a clear picture.
India is home of the spiritual journey, a place that requires extremely good health to survive that journey of discovery.
On Friday morning we swam briefly in the sea. The water is clear warm and inviting. After a few moments we realize that we are being bitten. It turns out that it is not bites, it is stingers from jelly fish. The previous nights the fishermen had been out and dropping explosives in the water. Drifting in were large pieces of destroyed seaweed and all the jelly fish. On Friday during the day the fishermen had marched in protest to the local government offices in protest at the lack of fish in the sea.
When you talk to local residents about these things they shrug their shoulders and say “This is India”.

Saturday, 5 December 2009


Why is it that every nation is convinced that their chocolate is the best? Friends travel home and the first thing they will say is "Oh I will bring you some chocolate from Never Never ****".

Some of these countries are as far from the tropical zones as you can imagine. There is still this national pride that our chocolate is the best! Is it a left over from teen dreams, lying around on the sofa, watching TV and gorging on chocolate?

In England we have Cadbury as the main supplier of sugar and brown stuff. The European Union came very close to banning the English from calling their bars chocolate as it had such a low chocolate content.

The most recent offer of "the best in the world" chocolate came from a friend who is off to a small nation situated far north in the middle of a cold sea.

Maybe the only reason we let people get away with these claims is the promise of free chocolate. It is difficult to be critical if you have your mouth full of sugar and chocolate. What are you going to say? "No thank you, none for me I only eat Fair Trade chocolate on alternate Sundays when there is an no R in the month". "No the best we can get out is, mmmm, marvelous, the best I have had all day"!

By Monday evening I will be able to share with you whether my critical senses have survived or there is a crushed chocolate fan at my feet.

Coming from the land of good food "Battered and deep fried Mars Bars" I am definitely a voice to be taken seriously in the world of food critics.

Talking of sugar loaded products, jam is something the English do rather well, plucking local or home grown fruits and then creating jars of delicious jam to share with friends and family. Today I tasted a Blackberry jam (Blackberry is the king of jams according to my humble opinion) that would have had them swooning at the local village fete. Here in Denmark the local fete does not seem to exist, you know the sort of thing you have seen on movies. The vicar gets all the local ladies who lunch and the scout and guide groups to tie a few balloons together set up a tent or three and have a jolly time with flower, vegetable, cake and jam contests.

Here the jam is presented in a plain glass jar (very tastefully chosen design) and you have to ask if it is home made. This is so Danish. A nation of highly educated people who keep on learning and investigating, quietly impressing the world around them. Here no one shouts about what they can do, they know what they can do and that is enough.

Jam is never going to take over the offer of the "best chocolate in the world", who is going to put jars of jam in their baggage? No the problem survives and we are forced to struggle on with these heavy decisions. If I say your chocolate is rubbish, will I get more when you go home again?

Friday, 4 December 2009

Open space

Open Space.
What does that mean?

A concept with many versions.
Once you have the basics of the practice in place you then have the opportunity to evolve.

Your life demands a long working day? Here is an opportunity to slip away and flex your spirit, to flex your body, to find that grounding.

Open Space is an opportunity to start and finish your practice as you wish. You are free from fixed times, what a relief! No need to synch your calendar, just slip away and get on the mat when the chance arrives.

Open Space is a gift, maybe the best gift you will get this year. Open Space is not just for Christmas it is for life.

Open Space will enrich your life with a vast array of possibilities.

Open Space is yours from 05:00 until 22:00. Night times are best for a good nights sleep. Your body and mind will be more jolly after a practice, a good start for a peaceful sleep.

Mysore classes are running from 06:00-09:30 and again 15:30-19:00. Start and finish as you want, join the classes, latch onto an hour. Or just open the door, walk in on your own time and spread your mat out. That is Open Space, it is your space, use and enjoy it as you see fit.

Open Space offers you a sanctuary from the demands of daily life, a time to be with yourself, to breathe and move, to relax and calm your soul.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

The Heart of Yoga


Krishnamacharya is the link from the ancient knowledge to Sri K. Pattabhi Jois

Sri K. Pattabhi Jois taught and shared Ashtanga Yoga for well over 60 years.

In old cities there is a tendency for certain trades to gather. You go to a street in the city and all the cloth stores are there, or traditionally tinsmiths, silver and goldsmiths. There is a synergy in gathering many similar trades in the area. The townsfolk know where to go and can recommend the area to friends and foreigners.

This has now happened in the area we are in. We are situated just west of the lakes between two major roads in and out of the city. The area is already filled with research centres, university departments, hospitals and higher education colleges.

The new group to gather in the area are yoga studios. We are all offering a wonderful opportunity to the local community. A place to take care of ourselves, a place to be, a place to share the joy of a practice. All the yoga practices are based on the ancient writings of Patanjali, the first great gatherer of yoga tradition.

The studios that are now centered around the Sankt Hans Torv area all have a different approach. This is an ancient knowledge which has evolved in many directions. Each lineage placing emphasis on certain areas of the knowledge. There is no true path, we all have our own road to walk. The basic idea of all the practices is that we become comfortable with ourselves, we create a space to open up to something greater than personal goals.

Some of the studios emphasize heat, some alignment, some work more with breath. There is now a marvelous opportunity to experience different forms of a practice within a very small area of town. A chance to find the practice that suits you. Stop someone with a yoga mat and ask them where and what they practice.

Many factors are at play here. Can I afford it? What are the facilities like? How is the atmosphere at the studio? Do the class times suit my schedule?

When it all comes down to it, each studio is comfy with the practice they offer. Anything else would be dishonest. The studios have all been started by individuals or groups who have a deep love for what they are offering. It is something they practice on a daily basis. As their personal practice has evolved the need to share what they have discovered becomes the basis for starting a studio.