I had a wonderful trip to India! I’m so grateful to my friend, Marsha, for encouraging to me go. She’s been traveling to India for an Ayurvedic health retreat every January for the last six years. I wanted to go while she was going, so that I could learn as much as possible. India seemed far away and foreign to me. Now, it’s much closer and I’ll always hold it in my heart.
My Flights Were Easy and Comfortable
I flew Qatar Airways from Boston, MA to Doha, Qatar and then from Doha to Goa, India. Goa is in southwestern India on the Arabian Sea. I discovered that Business Class is THE WAY to go on long flights. The first leg was 12 hours, followed by a four hour hop over to India.
There’s a reason why Qatar Airways is consistently rated high for Business Class. Their service is superb, and the seats are quite comfortable.
Each Business Class seat has a lot of room and privacy. There are multiple storage bins along with plenty of overhead space. The technology setup and inflight entertainment had more capability than I tapped into. I watched a few new release movies, which were great.
In Business Class you have many meal choices. I preordered a bland meal, as I was conscious of having light food that would digest easily. My husband laughed when I told him. My meal was delicious and very flavorful. It was far from bland and more than I could eat.
When I was ready to sleep, my seat unfolded into a bed, which a flight attendant prepared with sheets. Pajamas and a warm comforter were provided when I boarded. I slept comfortably for six hours.
It was time to eat again when I woke. I enjoyed an energizing juice, some light snacks and tea. I had plenty to room to get up, stretch and walk around. Unlike other long flights, both trips passed quickly.
Rather than this being a once in a lifetime experience, I set an intention to fly Business on all future long flights. It’s well worth it.
Acceptance Leads to Understanding
I met my friend, Sharon, in Doha, Qatar. She flew from Miami and we flew to Goa together. We arrived at 3:00am and we met by a driver from our hotel. The ride to the hotel was about 45 minutes. We had a good chat with the driver and we saw many stray dogs along the very narrow roads.
English is the common language in India, so it is very easy to get around. As we remarked on the contrasts, the driver gave us a wonderful perspective. He explained that acceptance is key. Accept everyone with whatever role they have or whatever they’re doing. I was so happy to hear this. It was a wonderful reminder to me: accept everyone exactly as they are right now. Years ago, I placed a note on my phone for a year to teach me to allow my sisters to be as they are, without trying to change them. Acceptance is a much easier way to go. I find that is leads to understanding at a deep level.
At the hotel in Goa, we met our friends, Marsha and Jacqueline, who traveled from Paris. We all left on January 10. Due to time differences and flight schedules, Marsha and Jaqueline arrived in Goa a day before me and Sharon. India has one time zone: India Standard Time, which is 10.5 hours ahead of Eastern Standard time. When it was day there, it was the previous night back in the states.
Traveling South to Om Beach, Gokarna, Karnataka
After two days acclimating at the Taj Exotica in Goa and being introduced to Ayurvedic massages, we traveled to Swaswara, about three hours south. Swaswara sent two drivers for the four of us so that we could travel comfortably.
We traveled to Swaswara on a Sunday. It was market day and the middle of the three-day Rice Harvest festival. The narrow roads were crowded with families on motor scooters (yes, families), small cars, buses, trucks, and lots of cows and dogs.
We saw cows everywhere (except at Swaswara). They roam the roads and beaches and then they go home at night.
The ride was long, bumpy and colorful. It was fun to get a taste of the area. This was my first trip to India. I’m told that southern India is unlike the dirty and crowded northern cities. I saw tidbits of the city of Goa and the surrounding area, several small villages, people doing market and holiday activities, and lots of beautiful scenery: mountains, greenery and beaches.
Swaswara, where we stayed for 26 days, is located just above Om Beach. The closest village, Gokarna in the state of Karnataka, was about 10 minutes away. It’s named Om Beach because the shape of the land and water mimic the shape of the Om symbol. How fitting!
Just as I’d been told, Swaswara is a unique place indeed! I was on a 26-day rejuvenation program. We had planned a 21-day program, with four additional days for play. We were happy when we realized that we’d be doing the full program for our entire stay.
Swaswara is a doctor-driven Ayurvedic retreat center. Ayurveda is the Indian approach to health that goes back 5,000 years. It’s based on the five Indian elements of Air, Ether, Fire, Earth and Water. Long before modern medicine, India had an advanced approach to health that was nearly wiped out by western colonization. Fortunately, some ancient texts and word of mouth training survived.
The rejuvenation program involved meeting with the doctors shortly after arrival for an initial assessment. After identifying patterns you’d like to shift, a treatment program was established. The treatments were two 45-minute massages a day and a diet based on your dosha or constitution. The massages are different from western massages. They were awesome! I’ll write more in a future post.
The doctors collaborate with the chef to personalize your diet and food. Typically, we had an Indian breakfast followed by dosha-specific lunches and dinners. The food is gourmet organic. It was vegetarian and delicious! Our lunches and dinners had the most flavorful sauces. I was full after every meal and I arrived home ten pounds lighter! It was the easiest ten pounds I’ve ever released. I’d love to have a personal chef that can adapt our western food to the ayurvedic approach.
A Typical Day
Rest and rejuvenation were the orders each day. I began each day with yoga from 7:00 -8:00 am, followed by breakfast and my morning treatment. By then it was 11:00 am, time to stay out of the sun and rest or read. Some days I participated in a half hour of Yoga Nidra (psychic sleep) at 12;15 pm. We had lunch at 1:00pm, followed by a rest or light activity and an afternoon treatment at 3:15pm. After a brief rest, it would be 5:00pm. Evening meditation was at 6:15 pm, followed by dinner at 7:00pm.
Ayurveda emphasizes “early to bed and early to rise.” One reason for this is that the hormone, melatonin, is developed between 10:00pm and midnight. Melatonin regulates your body’s circadian rhythms (your 24-hour clock or sleep/wake cycles) and you must be asleep between 10:00pm and midnight to cultivate it. Melatonin also regulates your metabolism. Thus, you can lose weight by going to bed earlier and sleeping longer. In India, I typically went to bed between 9:00 and 10:00pm. This is a habit I’m integrating more fully into my life.
In addition to the treatments and food, some of the highlights of my trip to Swaswara include:
- Spending quality time with good friends
- Meeting new, like-minded people
- Staying at an eco-friendly and highly conscious resort
- Listening to the birds and the lull of the ocean daily
- Monkeys in the trees and periodically coming into the villas
- Cows roaming the beach and streets daily
- Frogs and small lizards hanging out in the open-air bathroom
- Beautiful flowers everywhere … an abundance of bougainvillea
- A highly attentive staff … the doctors and massage therapists, the kitchen and dining room staff, the housekeeping crew, the groundskeepers, and security personnel
- Having time to relax, read, explore watercolor painting, swim in the Arabian Sea
- Being taken care of for a month!
I’ll write more about my experiences next month and in future posts. The focus on well-being and balance, the five-elements, living in a beautiful environment and on consciousness and sustainability complement feng shui perfectly.
Swaswara in the New York Times
A writer on a May 2017 yoga retreat wrote an article about her experience at Swaswara. A photographer was at Swaswara taking photos for the article while we were there. The article was published in the February 18th, Sunday New York Times Travel section. Here’s a link: https://mobile.nytimes.com/2018/02/16/travel/yoga-retreat-india.html
Although her experience was shorter and a bit different from ours, she did a good job capturing the experience.