I arrived in the airport of Vasco de Gama and had a driver there waiting for me, Camilo. He was very funny and sweet. We had about 1,5 hours drive in front of us to reach Asagao, where Swan Yoga is located.
My first impressions of goa was: aahhh!!! So nice here!! It’s hot, sunny, green, there’s both rivers and sea and the best thing of all; you can breathe! There’s like no pollution and palmtrees everywhere! Goa is much more laid-back, like a surfers place kind of compared to Delhi.
I arrived in the afternoon at Swan Yoga, ready for one weeks yoga retreat. I visited an ayurvedic doctor and then and I had dinner with the gang that was in the retreat. It was a nice group, which Shirin from Iran, Ayse from Turkey, Daniela from Mexico (living in China), Chantelle from Canada (living in China) Scott from US, John from UK, Britta from Canada (living in Australia), and Tine and Ann from Belgium. They had all arrived earlier then me, the retreat recommends to come on a Friday and I came on a Monday. All our teachers and the ones working on Swan yoga was also amazing.
Swan Yoga is located in the hills and surrounded by jungle. They grow almost all their vegetables and fruits them selves in their gardens. We all live in eco-friendly cottages, but the space it’s quite big, there is a kitchen and food area, a yoga hall (shala) , a temple where we do fire ceremonies or similar things, another hall (shala) where we did the Nitrakaya (stare into a candle flame), and there was a whole section with Ayurveda practices, a very cool reception and a ”fake beach” with sands and sun chairs with parasols and small bar next to it where you could buy healthy juices, fruit salad and things like that. Everything felt very close to nature and was very peaceful and with great energy.
What I liked the most about this retreat is that you don’t only do the ”Asana” – which is the physical training on the yoga mat (what we in Europe actually call yoga but it’s a very little part of it) – but you get to know the indian life and the philosophy about yoga. There is so much more, thousands of years of knowledge about this – and I have barely just touched a little tip of it. I love how incorporated yoga is together with the spiritual and lifestyle here. I got many tips and advices and a lot of food for thought while listening to the wisdom of our yogis and to of course, stories (Indians love to tell stories ;)
Our daily schedule looked something like this (changed everyday):
Quite busy schedule huh! We always started at 6am with about 45 minutes meditation. It was all completely black then when we started, but about the time we opened our eyes in the end, it was bright and the sun was just rising. Such a nice feeling!
I loved the meditation in the morning. It’s amazing how the mind works, how you can bring awareness do different parts of your body or your surroundings. One morning we also did it on the beach – fantastic! We went to mini-vagator beach, which is all quiet. Apparently if you go to the other beaches around, there are still people up partying around that time. We had some fruit there listened to Shivendras and Gyanmidras stories :)
We always had 2 asanas (excersices in the yoga hall) every day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. In between we had another class, either yoga philosophy, yoga nidra, trataka, chakra drawing, or similar. After the afternoon asana we Tulsi Puja everyday before dinner, and on weekends we had fire ceremony.
So yes, we had quite a busy schedule, but between 12.30-17.00 we had free time.
The first day we went to a coffee place close to Swan (just walking 45 minutes down the road ;) and enjoyed some nice smoothies and not so healthy cakes haha. Then we walked back for the afternoon asana. Another day we went for the Anjuna Flea Market, and 2 days we had a cooking class. The rest we spent at the fake beach or on our porches drwaing Chakras.
The Anjuna flea Market though – what a crazy place – sooo many tents and shops, and it was super hot – and I was surprised to see so many foreigners – like every tourist is here! It was a little bit fun to bargain, like if someone sells you a pair of pants and says it costs 600, you can easily get them down to 250-300. It’s actually very cheap anyways, but I don’t like when they try to get advantage of you, but as long as I find the price fair I’m glad. Anyhow, it was kind of exhausting!
The food at Swan was amazing, super healthy Ayurveda vegetarian Indian food, and as said earlier, almost everything is from their own farmlands, and it was all perfectly spicy and with rich flavors. We did a Ayurveda cooking class on our free time for 2 days and got to know and make Palak Panir (Spinach and soya-cheese or cottage cheese), Polow (indian vegetables with rice), a fusion salad, Dal (lentil soup), coriander chutney salsa, and a dessert called Halwa. I’m looking forward to be able to do this at home, I’ve bought some spices so I can! Hehe.
I also went to an Ayurvedic Doctor, got to know that my body type is Pitta-Kapha, but that my Kapha is very much increased so right now I’m more Kapha-Pitta, so I got a few treatments and a diet and some exercises o follow so I can bring the Pitta down and balance my body so it works as it should. Very interesting, a little bit hard to follow while traveling, but I’ll do my best! For example I can only eat tomatoes, cauliflower, raw onion, milk products etc once a week, because it’s not good for me, but some things that are good for me are carrots, pumpkin, beetroot, citrus fruits, lentils etc. I have a whole list! So I’ll try to keep that in mind!
We had the Friday off, so I went more north in Goa, about 45 minutes away with car, to a big beach called Arambol. So much life there, but it was really nice to be on the beach! I did some shopping, had lassi and coffee with a view over the beach, got really burned on my back (damn the sun is so strong here! I had cream…. But I should have reapplied like 5 times more).
I had a long conversation with one of the vendors on the beach, her name is Mona, she just sat down beside me and started talking. She felt sort of tired of her job, she is just walking the beach up and down trying to sell scarfs or similar. She told me that it’s not a very good year, not so many tourists and business, and she is tired of walking in the sun, she doesn’t want to get more tanned.
She told me that she is from another city in the north, but she comes here for the season and spends 6 months here before going back. She had been doing this for 3 years now, and she was only 15 years old!! She told me that she went to school up to 5th grade, because it’s only free up to that, and then she had to start working. Hard life! This year was her little sisters first year here to, I got to meet her, but the lil-sister hadn’t learnt English yet, while Mona had by being here working and talking to the tourists.
We had quite many birthdays during the week too, Gyanmidra (the one who started Swan) had his 47th birthday, John from UK also had birthday and both were celebrated with cake.
On February the 14th, valentines day (which nobody knew or noticed until noon), it was Ohms and Gyans Gurus birthday, so we celebrated that with a fire ceremony in the temple, singing a special song dedicated to him. A guru is almost like a god here, it’s someone they have lived and eaten with for a long time, a teacher who had showed them the way of life and yoga.
Many left on Friday or Saturday and honestly it was a bit sad without them. But I was glad that almost half of the group stayed a little bit longer, like Shantelle and John that was leaving on the same day as me, and Scott that was spending one week more here, and Shirin of course who is staying in Goa for months with her mother. A new group arrived, they were all very kind and funny too, but I didn’t got to know them to much either since I left on the Monday, but they were only 6 persons, and with Shirin and Scott a total of 8, so quite a small group.
Shirin feels like a local, she showed us and took us to different places with her car, small funny roadtrips :) We went to a big afternoon market on Saturday, we left about 21, we were like ”What, so late??” Haha. And it was really crowded! So many scooters outside!
When you were entering the market you had to go through metal detectors and security checking your bags so you didn’t bring drugs or anything in. In Goa there are a lot of drugs and party going on, but I didn’t really notice anything of it since I was at the retreat, but I could tell from the people and the stores, they have a lot of rave-stores kind of.
Inside it was huge, but much nicer than the Anjuna market, this was more personal with a lot of specialty shops, and also a food court and live music. It was really nice. We got home about 23 – quite late for us since we always got to bed around 20 the other days! Haha.
The last thing I did on Monday was the Kriya – a cleansing – so we had salt water running through one nosil to the other, cleaning our nose, and then we had to drink minimum 4 big glasses of salt water very quickly to throw it up and clean our stomach (I wasn’t able to drink more then 2 though, but I puked for a looong time). The third cleansing was to drink about 8 glasses and do some yoga postures to cleanse the intestines, so you shit everything out later, but I didn’t do that since I was leaving the Yoga retreat and I had to be in a car for 2,5 hours haha.
But before moving on I wanted to send home some souvenirs and clothes I wouldn’t use more, and Shirin was kind drive me to Mapusa so I could send home a package by indian post mail. It’s quite special here – you have to put a white wool fabric around your package and stitch it (which you can go to a place outside the post office to do it) before standing in a long cue at the post office to actually send it. But it was super cheap, I paid for the box and fabric and stitching about 140 rupees (2 euros/usd) and the package that was 6,7 kgs didn’t even cost 2300 rupees (30 euro/usd) to send to Sweden by air. So cheap!!
Anyhow, the week at Swan Yoga passed super fast, and it was time to go. I would have enjoyed staying another week to learn more about the way of the yogis, I only got a little taste of it.
It has been a true pleasure!!