Varkala - Part I

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December 24th 2016
Published: July 8th 2017
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Geo: 8.73, 76.72

"I'm happy to be here, but still a little sad to be here too. Sometimes it's better to travel than to arrive." - Robert Pirsig

And to arrive and be so far from home during Christmas is always hard for me. Ah, but sometimes being home at Christmas is also hard with no family living near us.

I've been listening to Firestarter Sessions from Danielle LaPorte and I'm taking some advice from her. Easy is not always lazy or undisciplined; sometimes it is you intuitively waiting for the right timing or inspiration. And easy is just the other side of the coin of hard; you don't have one without the other. But you can choose where you want to spend more of your time. Think of your body, your attitude, your you want to be expansive (open-minded, relaxed, breathing freely) or contracted (tense, closed, protective)? I choose expansion. So I choose to experience Christmas away from home by happily soaking in the warm weather and the festivities of many, with my beloved hubby by my side.

And remembering the 94 years of the good life my dad had on this earth.This is the first Christmas in my life he
has not been here (physically).

Varkala is a holy place for Hindus. This must be how it has become a centre for Ayurveda and for yoga - many people walk around here visibly filled with spirit. Every guesthouse claims they offer both. I checked out a few places and looked at Tripadvisor. I don't actually know what made me decide on 'Namasthe' but here I am seven days into my Ayurvedic treatments.

"Staarrrraigtheeeen your lexeeez! Inhaleeee...exxxxxxhaleeeeeeeeeeeeee", Shiva, the yoga teacher said in his singsong manner.

"Peace, peace, peace!" he piped emphasizing each word with greater enthusiasm. "I AM peeeeeeace. Truth is silence. Go deep, deeeeeper, deeeeeeeee-per."

"Your mind is everything; the rest is just a circus!"

With each instruction I found somewhere in my body, or perhaps it was my mind, the ability to continue while sweat flowed off me like a torrential downpour. My abdominal fat getting in the way of most poses, my lungs not used to breathing so much oxygen and the warm late afternoon air feeling too hot to be doing anything. Could he really read my thoughts? How did he know just when I felt ready to quit?

"Your mind is for you to control."

Whoa, I'm experiencing a whole new yoga and more...

I'd heard a lot about Ayurveda before coming to Varkala, remembering when I answered my first mind/body dosha questionnaire back in 1995 from a Deepak Chopra book called Perfect Health. Your dosha "expresses unique blends of physical, emotional, and mental characteristics" (

Everytime I've completed a questionnaire since then, I have come out close to a tri-dosha (pitta, vata, kapha), however, an Ayurveda doctor I saw in 2009 said I was definitely a pitta after taking my pulses.

Srudy, the doctor here, confirmed with a sideways bobble of her head, "You are pitta. I shall make a treatment plan to balance this and your kapha...also to help you with your headaches."

Her deep dimple on her cheek and the pink jewel on her front tooth glittered when she smiled her kind smile. Writing out a plan, using long and incomprehensible language to me, she produced a 7-day regime of daily 90-minute treatments followed by 3 more occurring on alternating days. Each day is targeted to a specific issue.

AyurvedIc recommendations made to me in the past never fit easily into life at home - like doing a long morning practice of, among other things, scrubbing/massaging your body with a loofah and specials oils depending on what needed balancing. Or eating 3 apples a day. I've never successfully adopted any of them. Here, it was easy to do the treatments, go to yoga and follow some of Srudy's advice. When in Rome...

The first surprise of my treatment was when Jaya, my massage therapist, told me to take off all my clothes and she took a 4-inch wide strip of light gauze, tied a string around my waist with the gauze hanging down, bringing it up between my legs and fixing it on the string at the back. "Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore!"

First I sat on a stool and Jaya gave me an oily head massage. Next, I climbed onto the hand hued wood table with a thin pad in the centre of it. The table resembled a beautiful carving board with a juice groove around it to catch the secretions of a meat roast. This large groove was to catch the oil that would soon be dripping off my body.

I layed down on my back and Jaya vigorously massaged my face. Then she dropped copious amounts of warm coconut oil infused with medicinal herbs on me, rubbing it in in circular motions, obviously using a technique to improve circulation. My breasts, my stomach, my bum - typically off limits in a Western massage - were fair game. All but my genital area was part of the treatment.

The second surprise was when we were finished the 90-minute treatment, as I slid off the table like a squirmy worm, she took me into the bathroom and sat me down on the edge of the tub. She proceeded to wash my hair and back which produced a fusion of shock and delight at being cared for so thoroughly. One must lose all modesty in this process of treatments and surrender 'cause it sure felt good!

Other subsequent Ayurveda adventures included litres of hot oil run onto my forehead and through my hair, drained off the table through a hole into a pot, reheated and pored over and over was so relaxing Jaya claimed, "your soul went off!"; gauze balls filled with herbs and dipped in very hot oil then tapped all over the body with special attention to my arthritic knees; a hot oil bath on the table with the pad removed; a full body dry powder rub (so similar to preparing a hunk of meat for roasting); reflexology of feet and hands; an herbal facial. I'd walk back to our bungalow from these sessions so relaxed and spaced out I was never sure I'd return safely.

Jim, in the meantime, spent his time savouring over an Americano (or two) at the Coffee Temple. We were each experiencing our own form of bliss.

I dragged myself around for the first two days of treatment, apparently releasing toxins and as predicted; I regained my energy and new well-being gradually thereafter.

As we enjoy Christmas Eve surrounded by celebrating families, we wish all of you - friends, family, acquaintances and those we don't know - a season of ease. Breathe into whatever you are doing and relish the good, the love of self and others. Whatever you are experiencing is only a fleeting moment and it is all you have.


To see more of Jim's photos and in higher resolution, visit his Flickr site.

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25th December 2016

Thank you For this wonderful Blog entry, It sounds like you are experiencing Yoga in its' true form Donna. Enjoy every breathing moment. Jim wonderful photos.Donna I hope you are progressing with your book writing, this sounds like a peacef
ul environment to fulfill your dream.I wish you both a Beautiful Christmas. I am Heading to halifax this morning Yes CHRISTMAS day. I will feel the presence of Home for you, and send Nova Scotia energy and vibrations your way. Thank you for sending Ayurveda energy our way Namaste My Dear friend. xo
25th December 2016

Merry Christmas Donna to you and Jim. Wishing you all the best in 2017. Good luck with the travels and success with your healing journey.Cheers to health -the fine balance ?,Myrna
25th December 2016

So nice to hear from you, Myrna. I hope you are well. Your post made me think of one of my most favourite books ever, 'A Fine Balance' by Rohinton Mistry, which is about how it's possible to find happiness in almost any situation. It's a st
ate of mind, as Shiva the yoga instructor repeatedly says. Happy 2017 to you, too!Sent from my iPad
25th December 2016

Merry Christmas! Thank you for your beautiful travel posts, we travel with you in spirit. Namaste.
25th December 2016

These 'collections' that you do - umbrellas, spices, shoes, bobbles - are among my very favourite. I stare at them for a long time. I find them very soothing and interesting at the same time. What an eye you have!
26th December 2016

Greetings Donna and Jim from Mason's Pt . Sending you wishes for a Merry Christmas , filling your spirit with all the best India has to offer . Donna you are bringing back memories of the Ayurvedic massage I had , I literally was hanging on
for dear life lol !!! It all sounds good , nice to see you embracing it all . In Light and love to you both - Bonnie and family xo

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