Goa, Part 2: Yoga Vibes

Nalanda is a yoga retreat on Mandrem Beach, tucked into a quiet nook between a few other retreats and boutique hotels. The sand is white and soft, and the vibe is easy going. There is a yoga teacher training (ytt) group here right now, so Karin and I are among those who are just enjoying the view, the amazing food, and the twice daily yoga classes.

Our classes happen at another retreat nearby because of the YTT, and we have to walk a dusty red pathway and cross a footbridge to get there. The river is wide enough and sadly polluted, but once on the other side the entrance to Ashiyana is beautifully decorated with statues and bowls of floating flowers.

We investigate a pathway that winds through philodendron, umbrella trees, palms, and red and green croton plants. Bright green vines creep up through the branches, and sunlight drips down through the trees.

When we step into the round shala, Prianka invites us to get a bolster, a sitting cushion, and blocks as we roll out our mats. The class will be “restorative,” she says, and her melodious voice guides us slowly and mindfully into the most wonderfully meditative deep stretch class I think I’ve ever taken. The class is over 2 hours long, and neither Karin nor I want to come out of savasana. Ever. It was that good.

We happily take the bridge and dirt path back to our little couch by the sea. Dinner is a divine buffet with different curries, rice, and cauliflower fritters that would have knocked my socks off had I been wearing shoes! Watching the bright red sun dip into the Arabian sea, turning the sky pink on its way down and eating such beautiful food was a highlight.

For three days we practice yoga twice daily with various teachers, all of whom are interesting and different. I never tell the instructors I am a teacher. I just want to be a student, and it is so enjoyable just to experience this practice with a beginner’s mind. Each shala is beautiful, and I learn so much in just a few days here.

The rest of our time we walk the beach, manage to get tans in the shade, watch yoga teacher training students come and go to their classes, and eat delightful vegetarian meals. It is a respite. From Mandrem we walk all the way to Arambol and Harmal Beaches and clock 15,000 steps in one morning as the sun rises. Yoga and meditation on the beach is a common sight on Mandrem, each group accompanied by a crew of wild dogs which lounge attentively as bodies stretch this way and that. Can you count the dogs in this picture?

Yoga cues are offered in French, Russian, Dutch, English… groups from around the world, all practicing this thing we call yoga. Pretty cool.

On the days we sunbathe (or shade bathe), we are visited by a dozen merchants, all selling trinkets and shawls, malas, and carvings. Karin and I each buy some clothes from a lady named Sita who is so engaging–we really enjoy our time with her. Three guys with malas come around and two of them (Raoul and Akilesh) are in a bit of a drama over who got to us first, so even though I want to, I don’t buy any strands, since I don’t want them to argue (although I’m wishing now I had just got a handful from each of them).

I have to say, I don’t really want to leave–the food is too good, and the view is so pretty. Our last morning we eat a pile of fruit and drink masala tea in our little spot. We watch the dogs, check our email, and then have to tie up our loose ends before heading South.

When we arrive in Bogmalo, it’s hot, and the little seaside town is busy with locals. The place we had planned to stay at smells so strongly of moth balls, Karin and I decide in one sniff that this is not going to work for us. We head down the street to Saritas, where the receptionist greets us with a beautiful smile and shows us to a room that opens up to a small restaurant on the beach. The glare of the afternoon sun on the water illuminates the nearly hundred people at the shoreline. Bogmalo, we learn, is a place for water sports, and a spot where local Indians come to play. There are boats, jet skis, and parasailing, and a small motorboat does donuts with an inflated “hot dog” raft attached with 6 or so people sitting inside and hanging on for their lives. The boat driver’s intent is to spin the passengers out, and they seem to enjoy being thrown from the hot dog bun, as there is plenty of squealing and laughter from the crowd–both spectators and those overboard alike. 

Once we’re unpacked, we walk the strand down to Joet’s, a restaurant and inn that claims to be the best on the beach. Karin orders fresh mackerel in garlic, and I try the coconut curry with fish. It’s got quite a kick! We drink lime seltzer and share garlic naan as the sun sets over the beach.

Our two days here run together into an easy blend of beach walking, shop peeking, and lounging over long breakfasts as we attempt to check emails. The wifi is weak, and you have to sit in the restaurant to get it, so we make ourselves at home and sip watermelon juice or lime seltzer as the days grow hot. The handful of restaurants and bars here sit directly on the sand, and folks are genuinely happy and relaxed. 

On our last evening, we eat gobi manchurian, jeera rice, and a yummy curry dish for dinner. A lovely couple with two children eat nearby and apologize for the behavior of their kids, who are not a bother at all. We end up exchanging What’s App numbers, and Wassim and Rafia invite us to come and stay if we are ever traveling to North India.

Before heading back to pack our bags and head to bed we take a stroll into the teeny town; the sunset is peach pink, and a ball of red fire dips over the distant island (hard to see in the pic), but the light is so striking, we stop to just take it all in. The temperature is perfection, so we continue down the road, pass a church and a little barber shop where a guy is getting a trim.

On our way back to town we crash a wedding reception at the Bogmallo Beach Resort. The pink sunset matches the decor of the wedding: pink tulle drapes, pink flowers, pink elephants, pink spotlights, pink beaded gowns. It is so fun to slip between saris and suits. A few people look at us curiously, but one handsome young man asks us to take his photo against the sunset backdrop. He then takes ours. It is a beautiful evening, complete with fireworks. 

Bags packed, we set our alarms, excited about the journey home to Coonoor, where our retreat center sits up on a mountaintop at over 6,000 feet! I am so ready to begin my panchakarma here in the hands of Dr. Raman and his staff. It has been a long 3 years, waiting to come back to these mountains that have become such a home for me. So we fall asleep fast, and rest up for the journey up the mountain tomorrow.

With love,

~Katie ~

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