The days are passing by very happily and rather quickly here in sleepy Gokarna. As predicted, I’ve decided to stay put rather than hit the road again and head to Goa, which, by all accounts, seems to offer a much more crowded, hectic version of the beach life that I already have here.
I begin each day by walking out the back of my bungalow and taking a weaving path through crop fields, eventually popping out on the narrow road that leads to the rooftop yoga shala where my friend, Marco, is teaching a daily ashtanga class. Each morning takes me through an intriguing snapshot of rural Indian life. Some of the older women have their shoulders bare in the pre-colonial tradition, their saris held up by strings of beads and shells wrapped around their necks. The daily fish market bustles with trade and good humour. Cockerels, pigs, cows (much healthier here), puppies and kittens all roam the streets. Each little beaten earth track off the road leads to a collection of mud-brick houses, alive with people doing their morning chores. I receive many beaming smiles from the locals, and they seem full of genuine, sparkling warmth. I don’t know whether it’s the fact it’s a deeply spiritual pilgrimage town for Hindus, with a temple on every corner, but the local populace certainly seem to be a calm, content and cheery lot.
Cars are too wide for this little lane, and mopeds are few and far between – instead, foot and pedal power rule the road and I realise how much calmer life is because of it. It feels so good to be able to take a deep breath and not feel choked by petrol fumes.
My practice is ticking along steadily and quietly. I continue to alternate primary and intermediate series each day. I can’t say it seems like I’ve made immense progress with the asanas but I’m sure I must be stronger and more flexible from the daily practice. Certainly, I no longer need to lie down on my stomach like a beached whale after kapotasana, whilst I wait for the cramps in my lumbar to subside so I can breathe again! I think, with a daily practice, the changes are so gradual that it’s hard to notice them day-to-day. Instead, one day you suddenly find you can do something you’ve never been able to do before and you feel like you’ve made a giant leap forward. But of course each day’s practice has been bringing you closer towards this moment . No practice is more or less successful than another, the only success you can be judged by is whether you turn up and give it your best, whatever your best is on that day.
I have joined a five day yoga nidra course in the afternoons. Yoga nidra loosely means ‘sleep of the yogi’ – it is a guided deep relaxation that takes you to the point between being awake and asleep that you sometimes feel in the morning when you’re still dreaming but you’re aware you’re dreaming. It is a powerful state to be in, not only because it’s deeply relaxing for the body, but also because we’re able to tap into the power of our sub-conscious, which can lead to profound healing possibilities. The course is at a lovely ashram in a village outside Gokarna, and the bus ride alone, through swaying palms and paddy fields, is enough to make my day.
The spaces in between the yoga classes are easily filled by walks on the beach, sunset meditations, dosas and coconuts with new friends, or sampling the seafood in one of the many beach-side cafes. Also, now I’ve finally stopped and relaxed, the creative muse has caught up with me again and I’m really enjoying setting aside some time for writing each day.
Then after another easy day, I am lulled to sleep by the sea – I’ve realised that the ocean is the noisiest of neighbours. It crashes and bellows, whispers and sighs, in a restless, ceaseless soliloquy. Yet I don’t begrudge this noisy neighbour – somehow it sends me into a restful, deep sleep… 🙂
The only downside I can think of to life right now are the prolific mossies and sand flies and my resultant blotchy, itchy legs – so often the only scourge in paradise!
(PS – I didn’t take this shot but it’s certainly representative!)