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:
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Teaching meditation in schools is becoming a recognised technique to improve mental health amongst students. Educators across the world are realising the significant benefits for students, schools and communities. Research combined from different studies around the world has shown that meditation in schools can have positive effects on student’s personal well-being, as well as their social and academic skills.
I spoke to Rodolphe Sinimale, a change-maker and social entrepreneur from Réunion Island to find out more about bringing meditation to schools. Réunion is a French island in the Indian Ocean just East of Madagascar. With a high unemployment rate, particularly among the young, mindfulness in education is an integral tool enabling the island’s future generation to be equipped to deal with growing social tensions and difficulty finding work.
Rodolphe spoke to me about two pioneering projects taking place in Réunion in state schools, one in a middle school, college Hubert De-Lisle and one in a primary school l’Ecole Primaire Antoine Lucas.
The aim is to use meditation to help the students to cultivate loving-kindness, emotional intelligence, focus and compassion. For Rodolphe, and the community of teachers and leaders backing this project, it’s important to be active in making a positive contribution to society and the world around us. When I asked him why he wanted to bring meditation to schools he spoke of one night in Madagascar where he was threatened by armed men, he said “when faced with your own mortality, we realise what’s important, and that’s taking care of each other. Since then I try to cultivate compassion and loving kindness every day, even if it’s not easy, and meditation is really a great way to do that.”
Rodolphe says that the workshops and programme itself took about “two years to get off the ground as it takes a lot of planning, organisation and, mostly, energy to develop. You also need leaders with vision, wisdom and courage to make that much needed step.” Pascal Chabernaud is the director of innovation at the French Ministry of Education (l’Education Nationale) and it’s thanks to him that the mindfulness project was welcomed to schools in Réunion. Pascal is aware of the important role teacher’s play in a student’s development and his dream for education is that it should be open, shared, collaborative and positive.
The first time Rodolphe went into school to teach meditation he could feel his heart beating fast with nerves but he said that right away he saw the “light, simplicity, enthusiasm and creativity” of the students which deeply inspired him.
Through the meditation classes, significant changes appeared very quickly in the children. For example their ability to say “I’m angry” and accept the emotion, instead of getting angry and finding it challenging to articulate how they are feeling. It was also noticed that there was an improvement to their ability to be present and collaborate with one another.
Rodolphe comments “it was beautiful to watch them transforming.” He does notice that there are certain challenges with working within institutions and the education system but says that “there is so much suffering in today’s world, we must act and try to have a positive impact in any way that we can.”
At the middle school, college Hubert Delisle, meditation workshops are offered to students in years 7 and 9. According to head teacher, Lionel Mailfert, a revolution is underway. He says that he is driven by the desire to “offer students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, a practice that allows them to be happy, to live in harmony with others and to succeed in their learning.”
Since such a practice has been introduced, some students have even seen their marks go up. During the meditation, the students are invited to allow and accept thoughts to come and go without judging them. They are asked to bring awareness to their breathing and alongside the meditation itself they also get to study into the biology of the brain and how stress has an impact on the body.
Long-term objectives of bringing meditation to the school is to stop bullying, to create a safer space and a more peaceful school life, as well as developing students’ self-confidence. Students and teachers have noticed the benefits for themselves. Lucas, in year 7 said “It helps us to relax, de-stress and reflect” and Ms Delebarre noted “the students are less stressed, it’s much calmer and they find it easier to listen.”
The programmes underway in Réunion are gaining interest from other schools and teachers, as well as from community leaders. It’s clear how much difference a handful of people can make to get a movement started.
The movement in Réunion was part inspired by a quote from the Dalai Lama “If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.” Some might argue that this is an idealistic and simplistic viewpoint but the real and experienced benefits of students and teachers in Réunion Island definitely show that meditation can positively impact students and hopefully in turn, the world around us.
You can find Rodolphe Sinimale at his website here.
I have something very exciting planned for the early months of 2017.
I am super excited to announce that early next year Coeliac On The Road is taking a trip to INDIA!
WATCH this space because I’m travelling with a very talented photographer (Hogg Photography) so some creative collaboration is already underway for our big trip.
This year has been very challenging due to some personal struggles within my own head following a traumatic experience. I wasn’t expecting to be getting on the road again quite so soon after returning home to be around close family and friends.
But life can throw some unexpected twists and turns and so in February, I will be embarking on my first big trip with someone rather than solo…falling in love has added a whole new dynamic to the idea of travel and I’m excited to see what it’s like sharing such an adventure with another person by my side.
The pic below is a snap taken by a friend in Réunion Island last year celebrating Diwali, there are a lot of Hindu people living in Réunion Island from Indian descent and so I started to learn about Hinduism, traditional Indian food and spent a peaceful time at a local Ashram, meditating and listening to devotional singing as well as getting to meet Amma, a much loved Hindu spiritual leader.
Yoga and meditation have helped me get through alot and I am so happy to have the chance to go to India where many of these practices originate from. I’m even hoping to do a yoga teacher training course to deepen my own practice.
If you have any advice or recommendations for a gluten free traveler in India then please let me know 🙂
As a writer and artist it can be difficult finding both the time and space to get creative in the standard working week back at home. Workaway provided me with the perfect place to get inspired, be motivated and create whilst having a healthy balance of work on the farm alongside personal projects. It’s a fair share work exchange site, where traveller’s stay with different hosts and help out in exchange for food and board.
I started my Workaway journey in 2014 after graduating. My head was clouded with feelings of obligation like I should be finding a graduate job, I should apply for a masters but my heart was yearning for something else, for connection, space and adventure.
I turned up in France alone with my backpack, work boots and a curious step. I remember the moment where my first host, Dina, greeted me smiling and welcomed me with open arms into the community of creatives that had been drawn to her farm.
We started every day with some dance yoga in the morning and ate delicious vegetarian food, taking it in turns to cook and clear up. Sharing daily household tasks makes it a lot easier to have time to follow your own projects, when I’m at home cooking/cleaning for one a lot of time is lost. Work on the farm could be anything from weeding the strawberry beds to renovating one of the rooms in the old farmhouse.
Working alongside others provides a great opportunity to discover more about fellow travellers and different cultures. In opening up and sharing with others I learnt more about myself too. This is important when it comes to self-expression through art because it invites various ways of communicating a story which can be translated into creative projects. At Dina’s farm I did more creative writing in 3 weeks than I think I’ve ever done in such a short space of time.
Dina also has a big art studio and a dance studio. She encouraged me to try out print making by carving into plastic, as well as improvised dance, which are things I hadn’t done before. We also made a video together with one of the other volunteers, allowing us to explore the local areas.
The whole experience was so positive that my mum was inspired to do her first Workaway and went to the same farm whilst I was off travelling elsewhere. She had a wonderful time and ended up using work exchange to travel France for a few months, proving that there’s no age limit to this kind of travel. I even went back to Dina’s farm 2 years later this summer with a childhood friend who’s a dancer and she said it was one of the most transformative weeks of her life.
After working on the farm, my friend and I spent hours in the studio dancing and making a short video for a poem I wrote there about transformation. Dina also has lots of experience running workshops so we were lucky enough to partake in one of her workshops for women, a valuable experience that helped us both to grow and connect.
With work exchange travel I’ve built bonds across borders and been inspired to tap into a vibrant source of creativity, one which can be hard to access from the restrictions in modern day city life. The great thing about it is you can fit the volunteer placements into your own schedule. You can work, travel and create for years, months or weeks depending on your commitments back home. The things I learnt at the farm will stay with me forever and I can’t wait for the next project that I get to jump on board with.