Little Cove Yoga Retreat #2, Little Cola Beach, Goa, India: AaaaaOoooooMmmmm…….

25 Mar

Sharon: As promised, one year later I have returned to Little Cove Yoga Retreat. I’m back for more yoga, the best vegetarian food in the world and great company. This time my travel companion is along for his very first experience of a yoga class, let alone a weeklong yoga retreat. I’ll hand over to Stuart to give his review in a little while.  


First, I’d like to record initial impressions. As I expected the facility has grown. Positive word of mouth and Trip Advisor are powerful marketing tools and Pardeshi has responded to increased demand. I fear I am also culpable for publishing my glowing blog posts. 


Eight tiny huts have expanded to 15 with the addition of seven new, slightly larger more luxurious huts (but still only for two people). The new huts line the beachfront and are owned by the same person who owns Little Cola around the point. Pardeshi has an arrangement to sub-lease the huts as and when he needs them for his guests. We have one of the new huts for half our stay. An Indian wedding party is expected on the weekend (but never arrive) so we move to a beachfront hut in the original complex. The sound of waves at high tide crashing on the rocks and sand just a few metres away takes some getting used to when you’re trying to go to sleep. 

 This week we started with 19 people at meals, nearly double the average number last year. North Americans, Brits, French, German, Polish, Rumanian. Ages range from 19 to 63 (yep, Stuart is the oldest). People arrive and leave. Not everyone participates in the yoga sessions so it hasn’t felt crowded and staff handle the extra demand for food, cleaning etc.. Most of the wonderful team from last year are back – Bharti, Sunil, Rama and Shoba. Drmesh is home in Nepal for a family wedding. I miss his early morning call of, ‘Hot ginger and lemon?’. Sangita has been replaced by Sumiksha.  Left to Right: Shoba, Barti and Sumiksha.  At 50 years of age Shoba is incredibly strong and hardworking. She has just carried Stuart’s case up a cliff path. 

 You name it and Ram (left) and Sunil (right) can do it. Great guys.

Pardeshi has not changed a bit. What is new is the addition of Nadia Moon to the teaching program. Italian Nadia happened to be at Little Cove at the same time as me last year and we stayed in touch. A career woman based in London for six years, Nadia found her vocation – to teach yoga – on that vacation at Little Cove. She put into action her plan to quit her job, to certify as a yoga teacher in Rishikesh, India, and to travel. Now Nadia is back at Little Cove teaching extra classes in asanas and some of the sunset pranayama sessions. I could not be more delighted for her. She looks so healthy and happy, a walking advertisement for making a personal dream reality. And she is a great teacher! This is her blog address if you want to be inspired by her example. 


With Mahendra Pardeshi after class.  

With bella Nadia after she taught a cracking class on the day I turned 59.

Skiing and walking fitness do not equal yoga fitness so there was some creaking of joints yesterday for the first asana (active yoga poses/sequences) class led by Nadia, but by the time we finished sunset pranayama (breathing and meditation yoga practice) on the rocks tonight I felt quite blissed out. I really didn’t want to open my eyes and break the spell. First time that’s happened. I felt emotional and teared up. The main emotion was gratitude that I was able to return for such a powerful experience. I especially connected to the mantra Nadia shared with us during the meditation,’I want nothing, I do nothing, I am nothing’. 


I’m collecting mantras this week. Another lovely one of Nadia’s is, ‘You are your own guru. Your breath is your teacher’. And from Pardeshi I learnt that according to Ayurvedic medicine a little alcohol is good for you, but not the kind sold commercially however which, he said, ‘has too many chemicals’. It has to be the home brewed kind. Okay….


Stuart: I have little to contribute as I know little about being a Yogi. What I can say is that the four slipped discs in my back and the torn miniscus and cruciate ligaments in my knees rebel and make me wonder each morning whether I really need to face another 105 minute long torture session. I have to admit though that as I lie on the floor in shivasana (dead pose) at the end of the sessions a pleasant warm sensation envelopes my lower back and I think maybe this yoga stuff isn’t all bad. 


Sadly my knees are not as grateful but I live in hope. As for seated meditation on the rocks above the sea at sunset cooled by a gentle breeze, it’s hard not to enjoy it; that is until the moment you drop off to sleep and narrowly avoid disturbing one’s co-meditators by shrieking in pain as you bounce off a craggy rock below.   


I even eventually warmed up to the chanting which I view as just another challenge. The challenge being to not ‘Om’ out of tune.


I wrote the above as an early impression when I was highly sceptical of the claimed benefits. At the end of the week I say thank you to Pardeshi and Nadia; you have started me on a journey to improve my posture, my flexibility, my weight and possibly my concentration, as well as making me reflect a little more on why I put what I do in my mouth. I have also been encouraged to be less competitive with myself and realise that there is more to exercising the body than charging at it like a bull in a china shop. Faster and breathless is not necessarily better.


Sharon: It’s our last day today and our numbers have dwindled to seven guests, all lovely people. The small number suits me as meal times are calmer. My yoga practice has moved ahead, especially Om chanting. I still have a bit of a yodel wobble from time to time but my breath control has improved. Once again the week of no alcohol, no coffee, no secondhand cigarette smoke and no processed food, along with positive ions from the surf and a relaxed atmosphere, has energised me and I feel fresh and clear-headed.


Left to Right: Camilla, Kat, Nadia, Alice, Sylvia (hiding), Pardeshi, Stuart, Sharon and Carmelia.

We’ve ventured to Agonda Beach several times. One trip ended with an adventurous walk back across a shoulder high river followed by facing down a young male water buffalo on the path. On a day trip to Palolem Beach I purchased my very own hand beaten meditation bowl to to gong and make it sing to my heart’s content. Two massages each by Sunil and Ram have kneaded out knotty muscles and each meal has been delicious and healthy. I joke with Ram that his chappati making and his massage technique is the same. 


Looking north from Blue Lagoon to Cola Beach and on to Little Cove.


A three-day Indian-French wedding took place at Cola Beach. Blue and white day.


Red and white day.


A temporary boardwalk makes the walk to Blue Lagoon and Agonda less damp at high tide!



Spice and tea store Palolem. 



Palolem Beach 


Beach cafe staff at Agonda fed vegies and provided water to the local cattle.


Rivermouth Agonda Beach


Road hazards. 



Taxi driver’s insurance in triplicate. 


Tomorrow we head south to Kerala for more tropical beach sunshine and some Ayurvedic therapy. I leave the last word on Little Cove to Stuart.


Stuart: I have been released! But with some sadness. Little Cove is truly a delightful place, organised and staffed by charming, kind and unobtrusive people. Their warm smiles and bright eyes will always be remembered. Meanwhile since my release I have already completed an hourlong yoga session; proof of Pardeshi and Nadia’s inspiration. 

   Our second hut. 


Dining under the stars and moon. 


Musicians who play for the after dinner dancers on Sunday nights. The small boy was so serious with his singing. When he got it wrong his dad would crack up. 


Namaste (I bow to the divine in you).

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