Gluten free in Mysore

Mysore is a vibrant city in Karnataka a state in the south of India. It’s home to countless yoga schools, especially ashtanga where the term “mysore style” originates from – a type of ashtanga class where students practice a set sequence at their own pace.

I came here to practice yoga and get some downtime after doing “workaway” for 3 weeks. So here’s a quick guide for any other gluten free travellers visiting Mysore. I’ve been staying in Gokulam so all the places I mention are based there.

I have been very well fed with no gluten mishaps so here goes:

Chakra House

My favourite dish here is the ragi wrap which is naturally gluten free, ragi is a millet flour full of protein and at chakra house they do ragi wraps or pancakes, sweet and savoury with a variety of vegetarian fillings. Other good dishes include fresh salads, steamed veg & rice and loads of smoothies & juices. There’s yoga classes here too and the decor of the cafe is really beautiful.

Depth n green

A homely organic cafe with loads of fresh juices and delicious traditional indian cuisine. My favourites are the veg tali (just ask with no chapati) or the budha bowl pictured above. They have a selection of yogic literature and philosophy books to read and an organic store round the corner.

Street food

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Local stalls and food places serve dosas with a coconut chilli chutney and a spiced potato side. Dosas are a bit like pancakes but they’re made just from rice. Very cheap and a good taste of traditional south Indian food.

Nature’s nectar food store

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An organic shop with gluten free foods, pricey for india in comparison to local foods but worth it once in a while for a little treat from home! I got gf pasta, cheddar cheese and organic broccoli for a quick and easy pasta dish cooked at Resside serviced appartments.

I’ve probably not even scratched the surface as I’ve only been here a few days but if I can find this much to eat already then that’s a pretty good sign!

Enjoy 🙂

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Holistic Healing in India

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Yoga Shala @ Anahata by Hogg Photography

Across the world, communities are coming together to find a more balanced way of life. The stresses of modern day living are taking their toll and people are searching for deeper connections with each other and the natural world. Many are feeling a pull to go back to the roots and lead a simpler day to day routine, getting in touch with a mindful approach to being.

Kiran is one of these people. He has become disillusioned with the typical capitalist model of economic growth and projects centred around profit so he returned back to his home village after working in the city. He had a dream to create a healing space where he could practice therapies based on ancient Ayervedic wisdom. As a yoga teacher, and ayervedic practitioner with experience treating people with injuries, illnesses, disabilities and special needs he wanted to have his own land where people could come to heal.

So he founded Anahata healing arts centre, situated in Ravandur, not far from Mysore in South India. His focus is on a holistic approach to health, cultivating balance between the body, mind and spirit with the belief that this will help people to heal naturally from within and prevent certain illnesses developing in later life.

The yoga classes, Ayervedic massage and meditation classes that he runs are all part of finding this balance. Another essential component to holistic health is the food we eat. Organic fruit, vegetables, grains and herbs are grown on the grounds at Anahata and are cooked from scratch to make healthy vegetarian meals. Anahata also has juicing and detoxing programmes to cleanse the body and focus on getting certain nutrients.

One of my favourite nutritious foods here is the gluten free roti (made with jowar flour which is full of protein) as well as the delicious broken rice and grated coconut vegetable dishes bursting with flavour from different spices and fresh herbs.

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Gluten free Roti

Anahata welcomes local people, international guests and volunteers from around the world, forming a global community. Currently there are various different projects running such as the construction of new rooms, made with natural materials such as mud, water and wood. Kiran says it’s important to be as sustainable as possible in order to work alongside nature and have respect for the environment around us.

Another ongoing project is the development of a rehabilitation centre where people can come to get back in touch with their inner strength and work with treatments such as physiotherapy, yoga and massage. For children there is a strong focus on play and sensory stimulation to enable them to enjoy the movement of their bodies and gain confidence in themselves. Kiran says that in the village it can be difficult for kids with special needs to get out and socialise so he hopes to provide a space where they can come and enjoy spending time with others, feeling part of the community.

Kiran, has a lot of experience working in this way and has helped visitors to move forward from pain. Kamalamma, an elderly woman from the local village had damaged both her knees and the hospital said she must get a knee operation for each leg which would have been very expensive. However instead, she came to Anahata and with rehabilitation therapy there and no surgery she found a way to walk again.

Kiran told me that his philosophy is to put people before profit and ensure that all those who need it have access to the right care and treatment. This is why he runs his centre on a donations basis, as well as offering volunteer exchanges through the international site “workaway”.

It’s always inspiring to see people living in a way that is aligned with their principles, working hard to benefit both the local and wider community. Spending time here at Anahata, I have been reminded that another way of life is possible and we can carve a path that is right for us, being sure to take care of our health.

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Fresh organic produce from the farm by Hogg Photography

Don’t Worry, Be Hampi!

After a strange feverish travel of 1 taxi, 1 bus, 3 tuk-tuks, 1 train and a boat we finally arrived in the peaceful place of Hampi. I write this sitting in ‘The Laughing Budha’ restaurant overlooking the river and intricately carved temples on the other side. Sitar music with devotional chant is playing on the speakers and despite my travel bug, I’m feeling very calm sipping on lemon & ginger tea.

Arriving here was much easier than expected, the trains are pretty self explanatory and local people have been so helpful if we get lost or have any questions. Backpacks strapped on, we manoeuvred our way off the blue train and onto Hospet station. Following the flow of people moving to different platforms we headed in the wrong direction until a man pointed us towards the exit and started making offers for a ride to Hampi.

We piled into his rickshaw and set off on the rickety journey across busy roads, with the city well into the swing of late afternoon hustle and bustle. Soon enough we had reached the country side and passed banana plantations with their vibrant green jungle leaves flapping in the breeze. A breed of cow I’d never seen before walked with purpose past the road. They had grey, tough skin and low hanging skulls with thick horns balanced on top.

When we reached Hampi, we rolled down rocky, winding roads to reach a river where we clambered into a packed rowing boat. Women in brightly coloured saris washed their clothes, slapping the wet fabric off the rocks and laying them out to dry. Once on solid ground we had to sneak past a pack of growling dogs kicking up dust to mark their territory.

Next, we had a bit of that travelling synchronicity that makes you wide eyed with disbelief yet also gives you a simple knowing smile because things have a habit of fitting into place in unexpected ways. We stumbled upon exactly the person we were hoping to see but were doubting we’d actually bump into. Timo, a guy we met in the hostel in Vagator (12 hours journey away) had left his ID card and we picked it up for him, thinking we’d post it or try to organise finding him. As it happened he was leaving with his bags in tow at the same moment we were arriving with all our luggage and just like that we gave him back his ID card, exchanged news and said our farewells.

And so we ended up here at The Laughing Budha, with a lovely little hut and settled in for the night, anticipation bubbling away for the upcoming days spent in Hampi.

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After a trip to the local doctors I took medicine for 3 days and got better. One day when I was having an afternoon nap JJ came to get me because there was an elephant crossing the river with a man, we sat in awe watching the huge animal plod up a steep, stone staircase in the distance.

We spent the days relaxing, eating delicious food, drinking fresh coconut water and seeing all the local sights like beautiful temples, natural lakes and ruins. Our three friends from home came to meet us so we spent some fun days with them, catching up on our different adventures so far and sharing meals together. It was good to spend some time socialising and having a holiday before getting stuck into out next month of workaway placements where we will be working with local projects in exchange for food and board.

Before we knew it it was time to leave again. I had my last Astanga yoga class with a great teacher I’d met in Hampi and JJ chatted on to some other travellers before we got ready to pack our bags. Leaving on a high, just like in Vagator, we stepped back onto another blue train and spent the night sleeping on a hard bunk in a busy carriage, waking up to the sound of a man shouting ‘chai, chai, chai, coffee?’ doing his rounds for morning teas.

At first I had been really worried about eating out all the time in Hampi but in the end it was absolutely fine, I just stuck to things like salad, potatoes and rice based dishes.

Next up we are staying in a rural village outside of Mysore.

Coeliac Travel Difficulties

I like to be positive about travel and life with coeliac disease, and of course it’s good to make the most of what you have and be grateful. That doesn’t mean that it’s always easy though. This week I’ve been completely out of my comfort zone.

We couldn’t find somewhere to stay in Hampi island with self catering (also can’t seem to find any veg/food markets apart from fruit stalls) so I’ve been eating out everyday which makes me really anxious as I never can tell if the waiter has a 100% understood the severity of cross contamination or what does and doesn’t have gluten in and it feels like a gamble everytime.

Well meaning friends & family in England can find the strictness of a coeliac diet hard to grasp, so of course strangers in a foreign country who have never even heard of coeliac are going to struggle to get their heads around it. Even places in the UK, with it’s food safety laws, that claim to be gluten free can forget to put warnings on their menus about deep fryers used for gluten and non gluten foods etc so it’s no wonder I’m left feeling paranoid whenever I eat out!

Yesterday I was so tired and hungry that I suddenly felt really left out in the restaurant watching everyone around me literally break bread and dip it into each others curries, sharing across cultures and enjoying food together whilst I was scared of what was on my own plate not being sure whether it was safe or not.

So, I let myself be a bit sad about it, got an early night and this morning I’ve taken myself out for breakfast. I’m drinking fresh fruit juice, tea and have just ordered a rice pudding with raisins – all things you pretty much can’t go wrong with gluten wise!

I’m overlooking beautiful paddy fields with vibrant, rich green shoots growing beneath the palm trees and ancient rock formations behind. Ill get lots of fresh fruit for lunch with some nuts and seeds then I will clearly and calmly explain celiac again tonight at a restaurant and get an omelette and salad. It will all be okay and I’ll have a lovely time and be well fed.

Because I know eating out can be difficult I’ve fit my travel plans around my gluten free diet and next week will be going to stay with an ayervedic doctor near Mysore through “workaway”. He has said I am welcome to eat and cook gluten free at his place. This will be considerably better fitted to my needs!

So, sometimes it does get hard. Sometimes I do question how realistic it is to globe trot as a coeliac. But where there’s a will there’s a way and we can definitely find ways to make it work.

I look around me at the breath taking beauty of this place and I’m glad I pushed my comfort zone and dared to travel without being held back by a health condition. Like many challenges in life, it’s well worth the highs and lows.

With love from India x

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Gluten-free in North Goa

Before our big trip travelling around India our first stop was in Vagator for 1 week at a great hostel called ‘The Jungle’. They do dorm rooms for a cheap price and private rooms for a few rupees extra, it’s a lively place to stay thriving with travellers from all over the world. You can grab some boiled eggs, bananas & tea in the morning for free before heading out for the day. I also got a yummy peanut butter GF cookie from their coffee shop and cooked some decent meals in the communal kitchen which has a fridge, gas stove and cooking utensils. We picked up some essentials like veg, spices, rice & lentils from Mapusa market for our home cooking.

My first experience eating out was amazing, went to a French restaurant on the beach called ‘La Plage’ that a friend had recommended. It’s in between Vagator and Arambol, on Ashvem beach. I used my gluten free Hindi card to explain my dietary requirements  (thanks to celiactravel.com) and the waiter kindly confirmed the green risotto I’d chosen was GF. It was delicious, I’ve honestly never had a better risotto and eating on the beach by palm trees was a luxury.

 

The next place I ate out was just round the corner from our hostel in Vagator, it’s a vegan restaurant called ‘Bean Me Up’ and it was so good that I had to go again the next day for lunch. The menu offers a wide range of fresh juices, smoothies and the fermented drink Kombucha which is full of health benefits. It also mentions celiacs in the menu so I was instantly reassured that I was in the right place! Pictured below is a GF vegan pizza made with ragi flour (millet) which is high in protein and a great GF alternative. There’s also a green smoothie and a tempah, tofu & veg stir fry with brown rice. It was delicious (and all less than £10 believe it or not). The staff were great and the vibe of the place is super chilled with a good awareness of nutrition and sustainability.

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There’s loads of fruit & veg stalls in the street where you can pick up things to make your own food too and the good thing I’ve found so far in India is that if I’m ever stuck I know I can always get a bowl of plain rice or a handful of bananas/pomegranates/mangoes so shouldn’t ever be without something to eat.

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We’ve just taken 1 taxi, 1 bus, 3 tuk-tuks, 1 train, and 1 boat to get to Hampi from Vagator so watch this space! (Although I currently can’t eat a thing as I’ve picked up travel sickness, most likely from tap water ice cubes or just generally an adjustment to new climate. Fingers crossed I get to eat lots of GF treats soon!)

On Obstacles

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So I guess this is the first part to the upcoming India travel blogs.

I usually solo travel, meeting people along the way but this time I’m collaborating with a photographer (who also happens to be a childhood friend and now boyfriend). He’s called JJ and has done some amazing shoots around the North of England so I’m very excited to see what he’ll capture out in India.

We’re pretty good at going with the flow and taking things as they come but stress is rising as we face various obstacles to the upcoming trip. JJ has to go to Birmingham 3 days before we fly out to try and amend his journalist visa, he has 2 weeks to write a dissertation and less than that to find someone to sublet his room.

My back has gone KAPUT and the only time it is not in pain is when I lie flat on the floor which would be fine if I had time to lie around on the floor. As it happens I have 4 days to pack up a lifetime of stuff (why do we hold on to so much STUFF anyway?! Queue lesson in letting go). Everything has to be gotten rid of or packed up  as the house I’m in now will be gone by the time I’m back.

Practicing for my yoga teacher training has had to be put on hold due to the pesky back pain and I won’t go into all the other obstacles because I should probably be sorting out said obstacles instead of wittering on about them on here.

But hey, that’s life right? Things rarely go as smoothly as we’d like and hopefully if we just breathe our way through these next two weeks then everything will fit into place. It’s always a bit of a mad rush trying to tie up loose ends and get ready for a big adventure.

I write so much about the excitement and beauty of travel that this is just a quick post to keep it real and remind myself that before getting up to the top of a mountain to admire that breath taking view there’s usually an uphill struggle.

AND THAT’s OKAY

Coz soon enough we’ll be dancing our way about the place like at this party in a castle last summer. Now, breeeeeeeeathe, self please!

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