I am not a yoga kind of girl really. But every year I do a trip to research a different method of resetting and reenergising – it’s a bit of research; it’s good to learn other methods that broaden my nutrition and naturopathy knowledge. It may not look like WORK – but it is, honest! Really hard work!!!
I am at Ashiyana yoga in Goa with my dear friend Sadie Frost. She has been practising yoga for years and has finally managed to get me to join her in this world of all things Ayurveda and yoga. I have kept a diary of the classes, the Basti (Ayurvedic cleanse), what I’ve been eating and how it works which I will post later this week. It’s been eye opening and I feel bloody great.
Yoga and meditation are physically and mentally brilliant for you. Especially meditation – it’s been shown to help with all sorts of things including our old friends stress and anxiety. I recommend the practise of both yoga and meditation in my clinic all the time, but if I am honest I am pretty crap at following my own advice. I am a little bit better with meditation and try to do ‘Headspace’ most mornings.
Yoga is said to be amazing for many things including flexibility (obviously), increased energy, improved immunity, inner calm, stress relief, weight loss and all round fitness. Talking to people over the week I realise that it really does help people feel less alienated in life, they find the whole culture calming and invigorating at the same time. In a very yin world this is a much needed injection of yang!
Day 1 – I arrived in the afternoon at Ashiyana, a yoga retreat, and a beautiful place to be, I have a tree house – which is very cute. I’m met by the gorgeous Sadie Frost, who has been here many times; she is the person who persuaded me to embrace my fear and dis-interest in yoga.
I will also be seeing the Ayurvedic doctor – I am super interested in the Ayurvedic side of this trip. This ancient herbal medicine helps restore balance in the doshas, (body types), of the body through cleansing oils, herbs and food. I have wanted to investigate the methods for a long time. And here I am.
I have arrived mid afternoon, and we get to it straight away. I see the Ayurvedic doctor, have a bowl of the most delicious bowl of steamed vegetables and brown rice I have ever had – top tip they have squeezed some garlic onto the veg and the I gave a squeeze of lime too – really delicious. Simple, but perfect after a long flight.
Some hot water with lemon and ginger, they have an urn of it available at all times – another top tip, get a small urn and have it ready to go always.
The doctor, who is a medical doctor too, does a thorough medical check and I fill out a questionnaire. She feels I am a mixture of Vatta and Pitta dosha. There are 3 doshas, the final one being Kapha.
The programme I am to follow is the ancient cleanse known as Basti enema therapy, this is one of the 5 pradhana karma of panchakarma. It involves some oil enemas and flushes – mmm, we shall see how I get on with that, I am going to follow it for 4 days only I think, although 7 at least are recommended, there are just too many foods I want to try – I will, however be following a vegan diet though for the whole time.
I am doing the basti enema programme because Vatta’s main site is in the colon, and the herbs, including hops are there used in enema form to target the lower intestine and rehydrate the colon; also to bones around the colon as it will be absorbed through the walls of the gut. It is also said to help the balance of the whole body, and nourish, joints, vessels, organs and mood. It’ s multi dimensional.
I have done many enema and hydrotherapies before and am interested to see if and how this differs.
The rules of this cleanse include – no sex! no napping, drinking only warm water and drinks, no extreme exercise, no staying up late and getting a good nights sleep. Well I am in the right place for all the above. It sounds like the complete opposite of some of my holidays!! – oh yeah this is a ‘work’ trip.
We head to the beach, have a stroll into the local village, I buy enough earrings to fill the sieves that are all the holes in my ears. And then home more veg and rice and some ghee. Then I pass out.. Obvs not from booze!
Day 2 – There are 2 yoga sessions a day, one from 8-10am and the 2nd from 4-6pm, then meditation. You can do as much as you like.
As I have said I am no yoga bunny, far from it. I spend my exercise time running or doing a HIIT class or something like that. I have always felt yoga is a waste of my precious time and doesn’t pack a punch, literally, in the cardio high department. I studied yoga a lot when I was younger, and it was miraculous for me through 3 pregnancies and 3 successful home births, so I don’t know when or why I decided it wasn’t for me.
I head down to the Shala, I am sure you all already know (it was news to me) but this is the name of the yoga space. We have an Iyenger teacher today called Paratesh, he has an individual method to say the least; even I know that this isn’t a ‘normal’ yoga lesson format. He is quite strict and so I take him seriously!!! It was hard, much harder than I remember. The strength is amazing, but also calm… I loved it. When the class finished I did feel great.
Had breakfast of mung beans, which are great for the liver and the bowel, then straight to the doctor and the Basti….!!!!
Today was the oil with hops and other herb enema. I had to have a steam before for 20 mins and cover myself with oil – another top tip, put some oil on before you go into a steam room, your skin feels amazing, and I thought it would block your pores, but ayurvedically speaking it is hydrating – and it felt hydrating.
Then the enema, and a back and tummy massage. I fell asleep. After a 20 min kip (not meant to nap).
After my snooze, yoga and enema I felt pretty good so went for a 2 mile walk up the beach for some for some veg and rice and then a 2 mile walk back.
Dinner was similar, then sleeeeeeep.
Day 3. Up and yoga with Paratesh and again I loved it, I did poses I would never have attempted, ever. He helped me do a handstand, which was utterly terrifying; the head rush was great.
Some of the poses make your heart properly race. Its hard… Legs shaking hard. And then you are reeled back in by the breathing and at the end I was so energised and had thoroughly switched of and concentrated on breathing, yoga and meditation for 2 whole hours.
Breakfast was really good, oat and quinoa porridge with homemade coconut milk. Great for the bowel, nervous system and energy levels, coconut milk is very hydrating and has lovely fats in it.
Sadie had planned a busy day for us, but before we could leave, I had to have my Basti, this time the flush. This is another enema, but is aimed at evacuating the bowel, and can be quite violent, joy!
It all goes well, I definitely needed a half hour to lie down and relax for a bit, it was quite draining.
I did a little meditation (when in Rome) to get myself going, and we had the best day, swimming in the sea and going to the Fort for lunch, we had veg and rice , surprise surprise!
An evening of sprouted salad and bed.
Day 4 in the big yoga house. Today was Ashtanga Vinyasa, which means flow. And flow it did, blimey I was sweating. Our teacher today is Alicia and the class was a fast pace, following a ‘normal’ yoga class pattern, and then some. We did an hour of sun salutes, and flowing poses, which I loved…. it was bloody hard. Then we got into head, shoulder and hand stands. Being taught the building blocks; I wasn’t doing anywhere near the full pose but my body was working at 100%, the teachers are very careful to remind you that it is not a competition, push your body as far as it can go and that is you 100%, everyone’s is different.
Breakfast was mung bean stew, and I added some fruit, it is full of fibre and great for the gut. It was creamy, I know it doesn’t sound great for breakfast, but it was delicious. These cooks are great. (they’re releasing a recipe book soon, when they do I will let you know).
Then to more bodywork with Didier, Alicia’s husband, they are a full on healing wonder team. I spent an hour and a half in the longest, shortest massage I have ever had. It was so odd, really disorientating and lovely all at the same time. Strong pressure and then not…..amazing, he definitely has healing hands. This is where my over ‘yin’d’ body showed itself. Stressed neck and back and a small scoliosis, which I was aware of, but I can do something about it if I keep doing alignment work apparently. i.e yoga. The yin is super high, in this case it is negative in the stress my mind and body are under. Work is pretty hardcore and then my preferred exercise is high intensity cardio. Yin in top of yin – I need to get me some yang! YOGA! I am totally spaced out for the rest of the day… loved it!
Made it to the evening yoga session and it was perfect for my floating mood, turns out that pm yoga classes are much more restorative, and calming, this is the sort of yoga class I would have left because I’m too ancy to sit, lie, breath and move slowly for 2 hours; today, however it is exactly what I need and I feel myself getting absorbed into the gentle movements, I enjoy feeling the long stretches throughout my body. OMMMMMM.
Dinner is roasted cauli, bean curry, veg curry and basmati rice…. Zzzzzzzz… SO TIRED zzzzzzzz.
Day 5. Morning yoga with Paratesh – today his take on yoga is Qi Goong, which is a Chinese martial art, another thing I always thought looked boring. It is based on the movements of animals, and moving energy around with your hands. Felt good.
I had my Basti flush before breakfast, it was pretty thorough. It makes more sense to me to do an enema with something like oil and herbs than coffee or lemon or camomile. The hops are helping balance my Vatta and my Pitta should be on the rise! There is so much to learn, argh! The doctors here study for years… so 5 days isn’t going to cut it.
I don’t feel weak, which I sometimes do when doing cleanses. I feel strong and well.
Oh yes, that’s the word, LIMBER! How 70s, my mum used to use that word when talking yoga. My body feels Limber. How funny!
The afternoon yoga is with Alicia, interesting to have her in the pm – the class is still flowing but much more considered and slowed right down, I did a full head stand with her help.
Dinner is channa masala, mung bean stew, steamed broccoli and peas. The Channa masala was amazing. Great for protein, lots of minerals and vitamins in the veg too, slow burning fuel.
Day 6. Sadie has left me… L. She has gone off to see the Himalayas, and I am here alone. It gives me time to absorb all the info my mind and body has received over the past few days, but I miss my little yogi. I do feel it is in keeping with the trip to have time for reflection and quietness.
This mornings class is in the Up Sala this morning with Alicia, it is a busy class, I like the energy of all being packed in, I do have to have a rest in child’s pose a few times, sweating! I do a shoulder stand with no hands, helped by the Alicia. ‘Look mum no hands!’….
My final Basti is after breakfast, it’s the oil enema, I steam with the oils as always before, have the enema. According to Ayurveda you always finish a Basti cleanse on an oil, it’s not a flush, the oil is there to be absorbed into the body and create balance. Once it is administered the doc gives your front and back a massage, I fell asleep for 20 mins.
Had a lovely swim and mooched around, it was heavenly actually. The afternoon yoga was Tapashi – who has the most beautiful chanting voice, wow. Channa masala for dinner with lentil stew and steamed beetroot and courgette – I could eat this sort of food forever.
Day 7. My last day today, I leave tonight. So first to a yoga lesson with Alicia for one hour and then more healing and massage with Didier, I am following the Basti cleanse diet and will try to continue as long as I can at home. I felt like I got it a bit better today in the lesson. I flowed! Ha! I can see why people love it and my body is definitely less achy, it feels long, limber!
Bodywork (massage, healing) is a great thing to do when you are resting from your normal diet and life. It helps reset your system and also the mind. It feels good, its feels like you are taking care of yourself, which is something we forget so quickly to do in the real world.
Often when I am doing a retreat or cleanse I miss and dream about different food. Here I haven’t at all, maybe that’s because we are eating, maybe it is because I love this sort of food. I wonder though, is it to do with the nurturing philosophy behind the medicine? Probably.
Even the enemas are nourishing. Its about bringing balance and I must say I feel calm, together, and pretty damn great, but not in a hectic way, in a gentle way. I don’t feel like a tightly coiled spring – I have been working while I am here too and dealing with some difficult emails and calls; I guess when you are in the sun and palms, doing yoga for hours a day with an ayurvedic doc taking care of you it is easier… But I hope it continues and for a long time!!!!
Oh and I will do yoga when I get home, I reckon I will run better if I can do a bit, even self practise or follow someone on You Tube. Any recommendations?
Also any good Ayurveda books? I will of course be buying my friend Jasmine Helmsleys new book East By West!
I stayed at Ashiyana, please click here