Monday evening, on my way to teach an ashtanga yoga class. I cross into a friend, we just exchange a few words as I am on the run… I love getting to the studioes I teach well ahead of time, so to have a few moments all on my own before class. While I’m leaving, my friend wishes me ‘Buon lavoro!’… that’s an expression used a lot in Italy… in English that can be badly translated as ‘have a good job/work’.

Yoga-class-along-the-Ganges-Rishikesh-India-theprimerose-photography-by-Rosa-TagliafierroThe word job tingled a chord within myself and that feeling kept coming over the last couple of days. Ok, it’s now a few months I’m teaching yoga and this is part of what I do for a living, nonetheless I just realized I’ve never thought of it like ‘my job’.

Yoga has changed my life and I approach each class with a strong desire to help people in feeling better, asking myself how can I serve students, how to help them become more conscious of their potential and how to let them express it on the yoga mat as a start… (careful, I’m not saying I’m always 100% successful in that!). I’m very aware that people can be there for very different reasons, some of which could be skin-deep, and that makes the class even more worthwhile. In some way, the words job/work look inappropriate to me to describe the process going on teaching yoga that way: those words remind me of something I have to do, while this is all about what I love to do.

I have been so lucky to meet yoga teachers in my life moved by this kind of spirit, though I’m also aware that is not always the case… So, yeah, teaching yoga at times can be just a job, though I hope there will be, more and more, more than that. What’s your personal experience?

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ashtanga-yogaEarlier this week I wrote about ‘what to do on those days when practicing yoga seems the hardest thing‘. And today I run into an ‘ask the expert’ question answered by the well-well-known ashtanga yoga teacher Richard Freeman.

Question is: ‘… Some days the practicing is more difficult, and on these kind of days I am never sure: Should I practice the whole series, but lighter/faster? Or should i just do half of the series? Or is it maybe best to take a break?

Richard’s answer starts like that: ‘It’s important to take some days off and occasionally to have a lighter or abbreviated practice.’ He than adds alternatives to build the abbreviated practice. Read them here!

But also a warning in the end: ‘It is also important to notice if you find yourself consistently doing one of these lighter, modified forms. If so, are you avoiding certain areas of the practice, and if so, you should investigate what that is about.’

Is it kind of ‘listen to yourself but don’t forget discipline?’. What’s your point of view?


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yoga-tired-catDo you have those days when, just waking up, the only idea of doing your asana yoga practice seems like a huge effort?

Is it because you’re been working a lot, partying a lot or for reasons you even don’t really know, the thought of getting out of bed and laying down your mat or going to your usual yoga studio is something inconceivable.

Or, you feel tired but lay down your mat all the same just to discover that only a few sun salutations and you can’t take more of them…


Well, it has happened to me a few times lately… a busier yoga teaching schedule, my yoga photography work activities, some life-changing decisions coming together with their dear friend called stress, plus all other householder obligations have at times completely dried up my energies.

So, what to do in those cases?

First, ask yourself: am I lazy this morning or is it more than that? If it is laziness, unroll your mat and that will likely go away after a few jumps 🙂

But if the answer is: ‘ It’s more than laziness’, than evaluate to undergo an adjusted / abbreviated practice. And it’s not seldom that such a practice will help infusing new energy within you. And when I say adjusted, I do not only mean in terms of asanas… it has helped me at times to do my practice later during the day compared to early morning. Isn’t yoga a lot about being flexible in our lives? than, be flexible!

And last, if you really feel all that you need on that day is rest, than take a rest! And enjoy the extra time in your day, dedicating part of it to chanting, meditation or just being.


That’s the way I managed to keep up my daily practice over the last month. What is your way? Would love to hear those… please comment.

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Adjustments not, adjustments yes… a never ending discussion in the Ashtanga Yoga world and beyond!

In my years of practice with different teachers I’ve been to both extremes… rarely in the middle way (at least what I consider the middle way). And those extremes, in my experience, have two names: Sharath Jois and Kamal Singh. And you know what? I find both amazingly good and appropriate. How is it possible?


When travelling and practising in Mysore (India) with Sharath, on the first 2 or 3 weeks I usually tend to be a bit frustrated because he tends to adjust very little… For example, in primary series, he usually help in supta kurmasana, marichasana and final backbend, that’s all. That doesn’t mean he isn’t aware of other difficulties people have in their practices, though usually there are about 70 people practising at the same time! Try to skip one posture, and you will realise how present he is 🙂

But than, after the initial period, something happens… you know you can’t rely on external help and in some way you go and get what you need within you. It forces you to look for that internal intelligence that knows about alignments and wake her up, to listen to your body and rely on yourself… and that makes you stronger! Nonetheless, it takes time and I can fully see the process going on only when I spend at least 2 months in a row practising at KPJAYI.


Yogi Kamal Singh adjusting supta kurmasana yogasana Tattva Yogashala Rishikesh

Yogi Kamal Singh adjusting supta kurmasana yogasana

Exactly 2 months ago, I had my first class with Kamal at Tattva Yogashala in Rishikesh (India) and, at the end of it, I was in awe!! The way Kamal adjusts you, his energy, his ability to have you face your limits without going beyond them, his ability to adjust you in whichever position or transition you’re in and in several different ways… and that is intense! In addition, adjustments you receive are different every day and sometimes he can ask you to do a difficult asana on your own… In this way, students get lot of help but still don’t get attached to specific adjustment (check my previous blogpost on that here).

So, how is it possible to cherish both styles?

Sharath’s approach prepared me for my own self-practice while teaching me to listen more to my body; Kamal’s approach was amazing in showing me what I could do and how to do it. So, I believe those are extraordinarily fitting into each others: the first one allows you to build on yourself and on the long time; the second one works perfectly for intensive and research periods as well as to get amazing hand tools as a teacher. And not to forget… that comes from the fact that both Sharath and Kamal have years of practice and teaching, equal years of experience.

Than, adjustments yes or not? I do believe it depends on so many different aspects, many of which only the student/practitioner is aware of (if he has started the path of listening to himself and be true to that). For a teacher, it is very difficult to know, especially is not so experienced… it requires knowing the student, a trustful relationship to be in place, be listening to silent signs in the student’s practice, and more… So, I do believe that in case all of those are not in place, it is advisable to skip the physical adjustment and talk the student through it!

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As a photographer you’re always on one side of the camera, this is how it happens I have almost no pictures of myself 🙂

Nonetheless, last Saturday it was sooooooooooo much fun to join Virginia Tucci, my model for the day, on the other side of the camera and take the chance that my dear friend and photographer Roberto Portesani was present to play and have fun for a while…

Here a few shots:

(courtesy of Roberto Portesani © all rights reserved)

black and white utthita trikonasana

yoga photography in studio

yoga photography in studio

yoga photography in studio

yoga photography in studio

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The Gita says: ‘Mysterious are the ways of Karma. Man plans one thing out of pride, egoism and conceit, but God wills something completely different… the Divine will is bound to prevail.’ Lord-Krishna-and-Arjuna-picture-from-Bhagavad-Gita

‘Since I rely absolutely on my Guru, on God, there is no need on my part to worry about the future because whatever has to happen will happen, the persons who are going to execute those things will arrive at the right time and everything will happen automatically’ – Swami Muktananda Paramahansa

You’re working? Being on vacation seems a dream!

You’re single? Being in a couple appears as far better!

You’re poor? Being wealthy seems the key to happiness!

And than…

You’re on vacation, and you worry about work!

You’re in a couple, and you may regret the freedom of being on your own!

You’re got some money, and still that is not enough!

And than…

You start planning: ‘I’ll be happy once I’m able to do that’, ‘I’m gonna do this, and I’m gonna get that’… but never as today life reminds me it doesn’t really work that way!

sunset-at-Rishikesh-IndiaAfter 3 weeks in Rishikesh, I had planned to spend my last week there doing an even more intense yogasana practice: Ashtanga with Kamal in the mornings and Iyengar with Usha or Ashish in the afternoons… but, well, things haven’t really sorted them out that way.

I’m doing my Ashtanga morning practice with much effort as my body feels weak, overwhelmed by the heat of days at more than 40° C and lack of rest and I cannot even think of any other additional physical exercise. Right now, just walking in the sun is a ‘titanic enterprise’ for myself.

Now it is 6pm, I’m writing my notes in the shadow of the ashram and I’m melting… The good news is: I do accept this is the way it is!

And you? When life showed you it meant another path for yourself?

Note to the reader: I wrote this blog post on Tuesday, May 7th, though it goes live today.

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Ok, it took a bit longer than expected to complete this blog post (insert link to part 1) but here it is 🙂 after being home since 5 days and some editing to my original notes. Enjoy!


Lakshman Jhula

the-Ganges-in-Lakshman-Jhula-Rishikesh-IndiaTwenty-five minutes walk from Swargashram – skirting the upstream Ganges’ banks (my favorite way) or taking the inner road – and you get to Lakshman Jhula quarter. This is the realm of hotels, guesthouses and bars, the place where the bulk of tourists ends up to. Rare are the Indian pilgrims staying here.

Very often hotels offer yoga and meditation classes as well, though I haven’t tried any. The place, that is not pedestrian at all, is busy all day long and you can take a nice rest from the fuss in one of the many bars or bakeries, usually with Ganges’ view terraces.

This is the area of Rishikesh full of shops for all tourists’ needs and souvenirs, though quality is rather poor. This area is also home to many Tibetan refugees.



Just opposite Lakshman Jhula, crossing the bridge with the same name, starts Tapovan which clings to a rather steep hill. Tapovan is the place elected as ‘home’ from people who decides to stay in Rishikesh for a long while and with a reason: guesthouse prices are lower than in other quarters and shops have nice products we Westerners tend to love. Here is the only place where I’ve seen restaurants that only serves food to yoga students; actually they are more like home kitchens open for yoga students (a bit like a few places I know in Mysore, in the South of India). Amongst those, AyurPack – a family run Ayurvedic restaurant where you sit and eats in gazebos in the lovely garden of their own house – and Okeido – a Japanese restaurant run by a Japanese lady in her own house. So good to taste a different flavour from time to time!


Ram Jhula

Opposite Swargashram, on the same side of the Ganges as Tapovan, is Ram Jhula. The fastest, cheapest and safest way to get to this 2 places is taking a rickshaw: just 5 or 10 rupees for a collective one, based on driver and negotiations. I don’t recommend taking a private rickshaw, as for the same 5 minutes way it would charge about 10 times more.

Ram Jhula is quite a small quarter, with just a line of tourists’ shops on both sides of the road.


Goa-beach-Ram-Jhula-Rishikesh-IndiaI love the Ram Jhula bridge that connects the area with Swargashram. It’s just like a Tibetan bridge but make of concrete and steel. It is very long and I love the way it swings due to people crossing it or the wind that can be extremely strong. This is one of my favorite place in Rishikesh: I love to stand still in the middle of it, feel the amazingly strong and pulsating energy of the Ganges rising up, enjoy the wind coming down the valley from the Himalayas and getting a glimpse of the power of nature…


Alert: both Ram Jhula and Lakshman Jhula bridges are supposed to be pedestrian, but hundreds of motorbikes crosses them all day long. In addition, cows can just decide to take a nap in the middle of them as well as monkeys will be jumping and be alert for food, so crossing them is always an adventure 🙂 In addition, especially at week-ends, it can take a while to get from one side to the other of the selected bridge, as pilgrims highly increase in number over Saturdays and Sundays.


As usual for me in India, if I take the single piece of whatever I saw in Rishikesh, I just tend to think: ‘this is kind of ridiculous!’, ‘how can that be!’ but than, for some reason, when all comes together, it just happens to create the Magic!


But, of course, this is my impression of the town and life in Rishikesh built over just one month there, so I’d love to hear if anybody has a different perception. Don’t be shy 🙂


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ashtanga-yoga-introduction-course-MilanJust back from Rishikesh, India, and already looking forward to the second cycle of ‘Introduction to Ashtanga Yoga’ classes that I will be teaching starting Thursday, May 23!!! 🙂

Where? at Sattva Studio, in via Sangro 31, Milano (Italy) http://www.sattvastudio.org

What time? 18.15h

For info: theprimerose@yahoo.it or info@sattvastudio.org.

I love teaching yoga because… the more I teach, the more I learn!

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If you knew that a castor oil bath releases all sorts of tensions in your body, relaxes the muscles and mind, works in disgregating scar tissue, helps in recovering from body pains, cools you down, makes you more flexible and prevents injuries, would you take it?

Well, actually that is what it does! and I have been testing it for 1.5 years myself now because I didn’t believe what I heard about it! castor-oil-and-bean

Usually, after I castor oil bath I feel completely relaxed, as much as going through a full ayurvedic massage or similar. It is not a coincidence that often in India (at least in the South of India), the oil used as a base for the ayurvedic massage is indeed castor oil.


How I discovered it?

I was on my first trip to Mysore to study ashtanga yoga at KPJAYI when I first heard of it from other yoga students. And then I got references to Pattabhi Jois suggesting it, but I only thought it was a crazy thing.

But it wasn’t until my second trip there and a conference in which Sharath Jois was addressing a question about why people get injured practising ashtanga, that I heard for the first time of it directly from Sharath. I was very sceptic and decided I would test it, mainly because I was sure it wouldn’t do anything at all. Now I can say I was wrong!


Where to find castor oil?

In Italy, I do find it in every pharmacy. In South of India, for example in Mysore, in every grocery shop or supermarket (quality is not that good); in the North of India, such as in Rishikesh, in every ayurvedic shop (much better quality).


What is the needed quantity?

I never use more than 100ml each time, usually just a bit more than 50ml. It is called a bath, but actually do not swim in it 🙂 You just put it on your body like you would do for body cream after taking a shower or a sunbath.


When to take it?

Sharath recommends to take a castor oil bath on Saturdays, that is to say the week day which you don’t practice. Sometimes I take it on my last day of practice, once I’ve done with it, as I can feel a bit tired after undergoing the bath and I like to have the next day off.

As for the best time of the day, that is the morning time. Avoid putting it on when it gets dark (in ayurveda, they always discourage putting on oil after the sunset).


How to do it?

Start putting the oil on the top of your head, in small quantities at a time, and rub it on your hair and scalp. Than you continue massaging it on the rest of the head, including the face (avoid going too near the eyes and the lips… you don’t want it filtering in your eyes and mouth). According to Sharath, the head is the most important part to treat, as this is where the heat developed with the practice accumulates. Hence, the castor oil helps in releasing it.

After you have taken your time with the head, you continue on your way down till you reach the toes, making sure you leave a good layer of oil on all parts of your body. While doing it, massage as strong as you can.

Once you’ve finished with it, make sure you lay down and rest. You can put on some nice relaxing music to help you in that. An make sure you cover yourself, to avoid getting cold.

Notice that, usually, if you’re taking your castor oil bath in a warm wheather, you will soon start sweating. No worries, that is the oil doing its work. And if you’re taking it in cold weather, make sure the room where you are and where you will be laying down is well heated. You can experience a bit of a sauna without being in a sauna… sooooo good for the body and mind!


How long to keep the castor oil on?

If this is your first time, or you haven’t being doing it for a while, don’t keep it more than 10 to 15 minutes. Usually, on the very first time, it can result in being very tiring. As you keep doing it, you can keep it for as long as 1 hour.


Are there any counter-indications?

None, if done as described above. Based on my personal experience, I do love to take the rest of the day easy, not to plan any strong activity as the relaxation feeling stays with me all day long.


As you might have got it, I’m now a big fan of castor oil bath, and I take it regularly each time I go through an intense practice, such as right now in Rishikesh. It helps me soooooooo much as taking a massage: my body and my mind find a rest for a while.

On the other side, when I’m in Italy and my practice is less strong, I only take it on specific occasions, such as each time I have a body pain… the bulk of the times, that pain is gone within hours from the bath though it depends on how deep and harmful it is.

Overall, castor oil bath makes miracles to me!


More on how to prevent or cure body pain? Read here: 5 top remedies for body pain


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When I arrived in Rishikesh 2 weeks ago I didn’t know what to expect. I had just read what my guide book recites about it:

“The town of rishis has got notorious in the sixties upon receiving John Lennon and its acolytes, come here to learn transcendental meditation. Since then, the world-wide capital of yoga never stops to welcome thousands of sages, westerners looking for their own identity and people eager to be initiated to yoga and meditation. As a consequence, there is no lack of pseudo-ashrams and yoga centres aimed to exploit their beliefs… There is an ambience a bit ‘baba’ but remains ‘little baby’. Downtown is packed with traffic and has no interest. On the contrary, the quarters known as Swargashram and Lakshman Jhula, both pedestrians, offer an ambiance favourable to peace of soul”

Le Routard, 2012


Now, after 2 weeks, of which one spent with a dear friend (I met her by chance on my second day here, but this is another post :-D) who had already spent 2 months in town and who was so kind to show me all around, I agree with my guide book that the atmosphere is a bit ‘baba’ but have my opinion on all else… starting from the description of the town!

Rishikesh isn’t just one town, it is more an aggregation of different villages each of one with its own peculiarities. It takes around 20/25 minutes walk to get from one to the other: Downtown Rishikesh (that is not in the centre, but at the beginning of the town), Swargashram, Ram Jhula, Lakshman Jhula and Tapovan. Let’s briefly see them: Rishikesh-city-map-India


Downtown Rishikesh

There are no westeners here if not to catch the train or bus or just because they got off one. There is a small fruit and vegetable market going on all week long and a couple of interesting little places (houses and small temples). Prices are far lower than in the rest of the town (let’s say about 1/3), so it is good for shopping but you find only stuff addressed to Indians.



According to my guide book, that was the place to be. Actually, it is the destination of all pilgrimages of Hindu people, especially those having young kids: I am told that Hindu people brings their children to the most saint places as soon as possible after they’re born so they can receive an impression. Swargashram is mainly made of ashrams (the name seems to suggest so ;-)) mainly along the Ganges and the place get very busy, expecially in the evening, for the Ganga Aarti fire ceremony that takes place starting 6pm at Parmarth Ghat, as daily ‘routine’ of the Parmarth Niketan Ashram.

Ganga-Aarti-fire-ceremony-Parmarth-Niketan-ashram-Rishikesh-India-theprimerose-photography-Rosa-TagliafierroThe area is pedestrian, though this definition includes plenty motorcycles swiftly going by and drivers never take the finger off the clacson, to make sure they can get their way whitout stopping.

Swargashram also includes the former Maharishi Yogi Ashram, today completely abandoned and better known as ‘Beatles’ Ashram’: entry is forbidden, though with 50 rupies you will always get the gate open for you by the ‘guardian’ and the place is busy with yoga students and tourists.

I’m staying at Parmarth Niketan Ashram, in this part of the city, and yesterday thinking of it, I could only find one expression to define it: a ‘holiday village of spirituality’. In a holiday village you have activities planned to entertain tourists, here in a way it is the same… only you have a yogasana class instead of water aerobics, you have half a hour meditation sit instead of beach volley, and when the time for ‘Happy Hour’ comes, a Ganga Aarti is there…. and 90% of the people attending them are westeners, except for the Ganga Aarti fire ceremony, where Indians dominate by far.

To be continued on next post…

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Monday, April 22nd – After a really needed day off yesterday, this morning it was time to start a new week of Ashtanga Yoga practice at Tattva Yogashala in Rishikesh.

While waking up, my body was still tired of last week intense 6-days-in-a-row practice… or was it the several kilometres I walked yesterday all around? Well, in any case, I wasn’t rushing to the shala 🙂

I laid down the mat and warmed up for about 10minutes when Kamal called us to sit in padmasana: this is the way he starts the Mysore classes, bringing focus on the breath and than singing the mantra all together before everybody goes with its own rythm.

Unexpectedly, once I started, I felt light, flexible and… focused! It always happens to me when I’m practising in a new place that, on the very first days, I get to a certain extent distracted by the curiosity to see what’s happening around: that was not the case this morning! Adjustments were as usual intense but I could manage them quite nicely. Then the unforeseen…

I was taking my time getting into lagu vajrasana when Kamal came by and sit in front of me.

He helped me 3 times to get a deeper arch when he said: ‘Kapot’.

I couldn’t move…

He added: ‘bring your hands near the head’.

‘I’ve never done it before’ I heard myself saying while trying to do what he asked.kapotasana-ashtanga-yoga

He helped me to bring the hands on my heels and than he gave me a special adjustment for 3 times: while keeping my hips tight with his knees, he used his hands to lift myself a bit so my head could come off the floor, not touching the mat any longer. Each time the backbending was deeper and when he finally released me, my head was nearer to my heels… at least that was the feeling I got, as I must admit that I didn’t realize much about what was happening.

I didn’t got the impression all that lasted long, but once finished I had to go to child pose for a while, and thanked secretly the young lady who was assisting in the shala today for coming over and briefly massage my back. But it was not only a matter of stretching the spine… I was lying there on the mat, feeling a complete void within myself. There were no emotions (contrarily to Friday ‘tip-top’ experience), no thoughts, just a complete silence within… something I have experienced only in meditation.

Then it was time to keep the sequence going. It went on regularly till drop-back… Here another surprise!

I was standing in front of my mat getting ready for next drop-back when Kamal came to me again and sit behind me on the mat with the legs half bent and said: ‘drop with your hands on my knees’.

I did it and than… up.

‘Again’, he said.

When my head went back, I realised this time his legs were straight on the mat.

He helped my hands to find his knees and once there… ‘walk to my ankles’.

Once there, ‘go up’.

I did all of it without thinking, trusting I could do what he was telling me.

And than, to finish it all, it was again ‘tip-top’ time.

Now that my asana practice is finished, I still feel like ‘void’, in the Eastern meaning of this word, that is to say totally ‘full’… I can’t think of anything, I had a schedule for the day but I cannot be bothered with it, I just want to be, I just want to stay…

And this is how I got to stare at the rich smoky spirals made by the burning incense, puja to Lord Ganesha, for more than 10 minutes, enjoying every twist of it, the way it is different each and every instant, the way it raises and lowers and mixes with the air all around… while feeling the bliss

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“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.” Paul Theroux


I was getting ready for my next travel when I incurred in the above quote.

I’m leaving on Friday – yes, in 2 days! – to mother India again, though this time will be in a different place I’ve never been before: Rishikesh.


What I’m gonna do, what are my expectations?

I actually don’t really know… I’m going to have my camera with me, my yoga mat and not much other. I’m staying in an ashram upon arrival and than… I’m open to the moment, to get inspiration, to adjust at what will be.

I know that 5 weeks will run fast… my only expectation is to enjoy them all!


And you, you’re more a traveller or a tourist?

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One week is already over since the vernissage of my first yoga photography exhibition – titled ‘Images of Yoga, Instants of Life’ – took place and…

… thank you Alessandra di Prampero, for making all that possible. You had the idea on the spot and made available your wonderfully energetic yoga place – the Sattva Studio – to allow the event;

… thank you to all those people who have visited the exhibition and still will visit it during next week, making the event and the place live and fully vibrant;

… thank you to all those people who with small as well as huge gestures of solidarity who have or will contribute to sustain the wonderful cause of  Yoga Gives Back, aimed to raise awareness and funds about poverty and women conditions in India. All gestures have an impact, also the smallest ones!

… thanks to Simona Muratori for teaching a beautiful yoga class so to open the event and for having so wonderfully stood in for Alessandra, smashed by fever at 39° for a full week;

… thanks to Nicola Artico, eclectic artist and musician for his extraordinary skills of bringing us all ‘home’ through the sound of apparently just 4 notes;

… and thank you to 2 wonderful people in my life, Fabio and Manuela, for supporting me (bearing me) in all moments… especially those when I thought the pictures would never find their place on the walls on time!

Yoga-photo-exhibit-for-Yoga-Gives-Back-theprimerose-photography-Rosa-Tagliafierro Yoga-photo-exhibit-for-Yoga-Gives-Back-theprimerose-photography-Rosa-Tagliafierro Yoga-photo-exhibit-for-Yoga-Gives-Back-theprimerose-photography-Rosa-Tagliafierro Yoga-photo-exhibit-for-Yoga-Gives-Back-theprimerose-photography-Rosa-Tagliafierro Yoga-photo-exhibit-for-Yoga-Gives-Back-theprimerose-photography-Rosa-Tagliafierro Yoga-photo-exhibit-for-Yoga-Gives-Back-theprimerose-photography-Rosa-Tagliafierro Yoga-photo-exhibit-for-Yoga-Gives-Back-theprimerose-photography-Rosa-Tagliafierro Yoga-photo-exhibit-for-Yoga-Gives-Back-theprimerose-photography-Rosa-Tagliafierro

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I’ve just read this article about the story of Pooja Chopra, Miss India 2009, and my stomach is still upset!

pooja-chopra yoga gives back


In 2013, there are still countries where to give birth to a female is considered a disgrace, a huge burden, a mouth to feed and a dowry to bring to marriage… than, why don’t get rid of a female baby as soon as she’s been born?

Unfortunately, India – a land very dear to me – is listed within those countries. India… to me a land of charm, of colourfulness, of magic… how easily to forget that reality just goes beyond what everyone of us can see.

This is why I decided I do want to help changing that! And my decision has nothing to do with feminism, it only comes from a strong belief that every human being – is it male or female – is born with the right to live its own life, whichever it is, in whichever place and whichever standing.

How? in my case, I choose to support with my work YogaGivesBack, a non-profit organization born in the US in 2007 dedicated to raising awareness and funds to alleviate poverty in India, providing micro loans for mothers and education funds to children.

And you? how are you fostering the change?

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… my blog in Italian is live!

Here’s the link: http://theprimerose.tumblr.com/

As I love to approach new things, come out of my confort zone, try to have a different view of same things, I went for Tumblr this time though still not sure I found what I like.

Tumblr or WordPress, what’s your favorite one and why?

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That’s what happens when 2 passions become 1 love.

Yoga + Photography = Yogascapes!

Yoga Journal Italy this month features a photo by myself on the cover as well as a full article re: my yogascaping in Mysore, India. Enjoy!

Portrayed: Chiara Scapin (Feltre, Italy), Julia Joukova (Moscow, Russia), Brenda Kramer (Netherlands)

Chiara Scapin in Urdhva Dhanurasana in Mysore, India - Yoga Journal Cover, February 2013

Chiara Scapin in Urdhva Dhanurasana in Mysore, India – Yoga Journal Cover, February 2013

Yogascapes Yoga Journal Italia February 2013  theprimerose photography by Rosa Taglaifierro Yogascapes Yoga Journal Italia February 2013  theprimerose photography by Rosa Taglaifierro Yogascapes Yoga Journal Italia February 2013  theprimerose photography by Rosa Taglaifierro Yogascapes Yoga Journal Italia February 2013  theprimerose photography by Rosa Taglaifierro

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To build up a self-practice at home seems to be a very tough attempt for most yoga practitioners. How come?

In my own experience, it used to be a challenge to get out of bad early in the morning and practice at my place though it was not an issue to jump and run to the yoga studio for my own practice… And than, since my last journey to India to study Ashtanga yoga at KPJAYI in Mysore, i.e. 4 months ago, I’ve got much better in alternating a home practice with a studio practice. What’s changed? Several subtle things! And that’s what I learned out of it:

yoga @ home marichasana A

yoga @ home marichasana A

1/ start building a home practice soon after you’ve gone through an intensive workshop, retreat, and so on. Those build momentum, than it’s much easier for you to keep it going;

2/ keep the rhythm, don’t stop! Once you start practicing at home, make it a routine… at least at the very beginning. It’s always tougher to start it again and if you build a history of interruptions that will make difficult for you in the following to pick the self-practice up again;

3/ celebrate what you have achieved in the self-practice! Your home practice at the beginning won’t be so ripe as your own practice at your usual yoga studio, this is a matter-of-fact… it will take some time to zero out the difference. In the meantime, focus on what you’re building instead of what you’re lacking;

4/ convince a friend / partner to practice with you! It will be a great support, particularly at the beginning;

5/ get the choosen place ready for your practice. Clean it, burn incense in advance if you like, put a Ganesha or Buddha or whichever statue or picture you feel empathy with… briefly, make the place sacred and plenty of positive energy;

6/ define before starting up to which posture you will practice… and when the mind will come and tell you that maybe you can skip a few asanas that day, just smile and keep going;

7/ finally, keep going to a yoga studio whenever you can or whenever you feel like it, especially if you’re going through a tough time. The energy of the kula will support you and a proper teacher will help you deepening your practice.

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HAPPY 2013! … AND 2012 IN REVIEW

Thanks to you all who viewed my blog 1,400 times in 2012!

2012 annual report for this blog – by WordPress

Here’s an excerpt:

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,400 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Monday, December 31st… last day of 2012!

Was it a good year? Or was it not?

Is it so difficult to say?

As far as I’m concerned, I do know – mentally – that 2012 was a very good year: on a sabbatical period, 5 months spent in India travelling and studying yoga in-depth, transforming photography from a passion to a profession, sharing my life with my other half and more. Nonetheless, I was on my mat this morning and couldn’t stop feeling like all of that was not enough, not enough compared to the bulk that still has to be done to restructure my life. And those thoughts brought with them very intense emotions and a bit of sadness…

What is all this running for? Why do not just be happy with all that was done, especially when that was by far exceeding whichever expectation I had at the beginning of this year coming to an end?

Fiery sunset

Fiery sunset

And than something happened just while I was approaching the end of my practice… I might call it ‘intuition’. You know when you ‘realize’ a concept going beyond the simple thought? It was: “All that I’m doing is Impermanent as my body and my ordinary mind is”! And than it was clear to me where all that sadness was coming from…

Impermanence – anitya: how many times while living difficult times that thought was of help to me! I knew the difficult time would not last forever and just that thought would make me feel much better and give me the strength not to give up. Nonetheless, impermanence is there also when your life is beautiful and you feel great… than the thought of a continuous change is much more difficult to accept. You know that state of ordinary bliss won’t last forever, not even for as much as you would wish. That was the source of my sadness.

So, is there a solution? I can only think of keeping practicing on the path of yoga…


Wish you all a 2013 plenty of realizations!

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Portrait of a young Indian lady selling vegetables at Devaraja open market in Mysore, Karnataka wearing dar-red bindu on the forehead and black earrings.

Portrait of a young Indian lady selling vegetable at Devaraja open market in Mysore, Karnataka (India)

Portrait of a young Indian lady selling vegetable at Devaraja open market in Mysore, Karnataka (India)

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biking in the woods, autumn

falling leaves

Fall time

Sunday morning

Walking through the woods

Thousands of trees dressed in thousands different nuances… from pale green to dark red, from yellow to brown.

I’m enjoying the pleasure to walk off trails through the nature with just a few mountain bikers swiftly running by from time to time, frequently stopping to catch a beautiful light on the fable grass, on the heavy mud or evanescent through the trees, storing precious moments in the deep of my heart. And than… no longer human beings around, not a single noise, just a wonderful dance of falling leaves playing a music I never heard before!

In that very moment time stopped, there was no longer a place to go… I was.

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On many days you lay out your yoga mat, sit on it, breath trying to grab the centre, stand up, chant the invocation, start with Surya Namaskara A and… your mind is already somewhere else! To the office work waiting ahead, to your next errand, to your beloved ones, to that very important thing waiting for you to be finished with your asana practice.

Yoga theprimerose present


On other days – hopefully a very few ones – you wake up with a pain somewhere in your physical body coming from a previous practice, from an unexpected movement, sometimes from somewhere you can’t even tell but still you won’t give up your asana practice. Than you start as usual: lay out your yoga mat, sit on it, breath trying to grab the centre, stand up, chant the invocation, start with Surya Namaskara A and… your mind is still there, fully present, fully awake! You’re conscious of each and every movement, you listen to every single part of your body trying to guess till where you can go, you are conscious that any inadvertent movement can cause you pain… and in all that, mind sticks to the body, sticks to the present!

And… surprise! Many times that practice is the most rewarding one: it goes beyond flexibility, beyond physical strength, beyond the desire of achieving the next asana and it comes to another layer, the one of being present, the one of yoga.

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It was the beginning of 2012 and I was freaking out at leaving my company and my role after 13 years… I had no much else I could figure out of doing but I knew I needed time to be in the company of myself. First thing I did was to travel to India visiting and studying yoga in Mysore for 3 months, than I came back to Italy… still I didn’t know what would be next. Than just a few months and I flew to Mysore again, this time to practice at KPJAYI for additional 2 months. On my second trip, I was in the company of my camera. And than, just focusing on my daily ashtanga yoga practice, I started feeling all the pieces of the puzzle coming together to show me the way… I started taking pictures professionally again after 10 years and a new path has opened in front of me: yogascapes = yoga + landscape.

Here a small sample of my art work: Julia, ashtanga yoga teacher from Russia – in Mysore (India)

What do you think of it?

I’d love to hear from you!


tittibasana yoga posture

Julia in tittibasana yoga pose

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Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about yoga as ‘living the present, being here and now’ and as it was a constant thought it also happened to be there while I was in my kitchen getting lunch ready.

While there, I realized that when I was a kid, living in a farm in the South of Italy, I would know for each fruit / vegetable cultivated in the fields the appropriate time of the year for harvesting. I was so lucky to eat seasonal fruits and vegetables for 19 years of my life. But now… well, another story!! With as many years gone by, I realize now I’m only able to say the season for a few vegetables and fruits…

Have you noticed golden apples are available all year long at the supermarket? And tomatoes? And many other fruits and vegetables? I believe we have completely lost the knowledge of when they should be there because they are freshly harvested (if we’re lucky and they come from nearby) against being there because preserved in so many different ways…

Well, I decided to put a bit more attention on that front and prefer as much as I can fresh produce… what about you?


PS: on that day I prepared the following pasta – as easy to prepare as delicious – and with all autumnal ingredients!!!




pasta broccoli and chestnut yoga

pasta broccoli and chestnut

Ready in: 40 minutes

Preparation difficulty: Easy

Recipe: Vegetarian – Vegan

Serves 2


7 / 8 fresh broccoli florets

20 to 30 boiled and pealed chestnuts

160gr of whole-wheat penne – my favorite pasta for this preparation


Extra-virgin olive oil



Put a pot on the stove with about 3 liters of water and a pinch of salt. While the water gets to boil, wash the broccoli floret. As soon as it boils, put the broccoli florets in the pan and let them cook for 10 minutes.

Once cooked, take the broccoli florets out of the pot and use the water to cook the pasta. Usually whole-wheat pasta takes about 12/14minutes, though check the specific cooking time shown on the package you’re using.

Once ready, use a colander to drain the pasta and put it again in the pot and on the stove (heat is at the minimum now). Immediately add some extra-virgin olive oil in your preferred quantity and mix. Now add broccoli florets, chestnuts (half squeezed, half not) and basil. Mix again all together, let it settle for about one minute, than turn off the heater.

Now it’s time to serve and enjoy! Buon appetito! 🙂

* for vegetarians, parmesan cheese can be added at the end if wished.

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Have you ever waken up one morning and thought ‘Gosh, practice will be tough today!’ as first thing? Well, it happened to me this morning!

8am, Sunday, previous 2 nights out and unusually late in bed, the realization the very moment I opened my eyes that my asana practice would be reeeeeeally tough and the thought: ‘Should I skip it today?’ But no way to indulge long in that thought, Saturday was already a day off for me!

No grace… once on the mat, it was tough! Struggling for 1 and a half hour, my body stiff like centuries old olive trees, my mind wandering all time along keeping just one focus: ‘would it have been the same if I weren’t out and late last night?’ Of course, I couldn’t find the answer to that…

This brings up a consideration I believe everybody who practice daily has to face at a certain point in time (if not more than once…): ‘does a daily practice, especially if done early morning, kill social relationships? How to spend time with all those normal friends who still go out at evenings and just enjoy that? Is it there a balance between practice and friends?’.


home sweet home

I definitely believe there is one, but personally struggling to identify which one is it… I’m aware of the big change my life went through since I started practising yoga, also as far as my evening going outs are concerned: well, reduced from 5/6 times a week to 1… 2 on a very lively week… and actually enjoying that quietness more and more. But what to do when the bulk of the people around you believe that is too much?

I’d love to get your point of view on that. What do you think? How do you handle it? What’s your secret or challenge in keeping the balance?

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3 weeks back home and… already missing my practice at K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute so much!   

K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute


1/ the deep reverence for the practise: a symbol of it to me is the little foyer where you sit and wait before being allowed to enter the shala and practice. You’re running, you’re absorbed in your thinking but, once you get there, you just sit in silence, you let your life outside the door, you start looking inwards and once you get on the mat a bulk of the job has already been done! Yeah, it can be annoying in the beginning as in the West we are so used to get all that we want whenever we want and in that little foyer that’s not the case.

2/ the vibrant energy of the Shala: stepping inside, the only ‘noise’ to be heard is the deep breath. Nobody is talking, concentration seems to be at the highest, dharana… and that results in a very strong energy imbibing the place, making you feel like giving your best in your spiritual quest, making you feel proud of being part of that magic.

3/ the warm wheather: practise at 6am can already see you sweating all over. You’re than lucky (or so :D) if your practice is at 4.15am when it is still a bit cool. Moreover, the Shala is very humid as well, so your flexibility is just at the top… though it doesn’t equal to say that your practise is easier.

4/ the mutual support: for some reason still unknown to me, once you are in the Shala, the support of the other practitioners is almost solid, highly perceptible… and they can be amazing teachers to you while not even knowing it.

5/ the great gratitude towards the master and the lineage transfering the knowledge over centuries: that feeling took some time to put its roots in me and that only happened during this third trip to the source of Ashtanga yoga. I don’t exactly know what happened over the last 2 months there, but each and every morning I felt the more and more blessed by being able to practice, to explore my inner self more and more, to get a glimpse of a knowledge transferred over centuries… and a deep gratitude started blooming within myself… and that is the main gift I brought back home…

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Friday, 11.30 am and time to leave Shravanabelagola and move to our second and third destination for the day: Belur and Halebidu.

Belur is very famous for its Chenna Kesava temple, dedicated to Lord Vijayanarayana, one of the twenty-four incarnations of Vishnu.

Halebidu, that used to be the capital of the Hoysala Empire, is very well-known for its Hoysaleswara temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.

I knew the 2 temples I was going to visit in the afternoon were of the same Hoysala style as the Kesava temple in Somnathpur which I had loved so much (see here), so I was badly working to keep my expectations low! And now I can say there was no disappointment! 🙂

Chenna Kesava temple in Belur is amazing from an architectural standpoint: it welcomes pilgrims and visitors with a huge Gopuram at the entrance (a big tower richly adorned typical in many Hindu temples) and passing trough it is like leaving this world behind to get access to a higher one. The temple complex is big, minor temples run around the main one built on a star-base as it is usual in the Hoysala style.

I enter through the Gopuram and I go straight to the main temple which is beautifully carved on the outside walls. Nonetheless, once inside, I can’t stay long: storms of pilgrims and tourists are all over the place and it is just impossible for me to collect my inner self. So I leave it and go for a walk around.

My attention is caught by the columnade on the right hand side.

Almost nobody is there.

Lord Ganesha

Lord Ganesha

As I get nearer, statues and high-reliefs appear to me… those are many and impressive. I walk along the lane looking at each one of them when, midway, I incur in an astonishing representation of Lord Ganesha. Following that a wall plenty of ‘nagas’, divine snakes. I spend a few moments here before realizing that this is an amazing set of 5 walls fully and beautifully sculpted where the 2 outer ones brings 2 different representations of Lord Ganesha, the 2 in the middle have many ‘nagas’ which are surrounding an amazing representation of ‘Nagadeva’ in the centre, a deity half snake (from the waist down) and half woman (from the waste up). Impressive in every single detail!

Let me tell you: I’ve never liked snakes! Live – I can still remember a few unhappy encounters while growing up on a farm in the South of Italy – fake, in images… whatever… but here, as I am facing this wall, I can only feel peace and a strong attraction.

I sat there for a long while and it was painful to leave when the moment came…



Now time to rejoin the others, go for a late lunch and reach Halebidu temple, final destination for today. You won’t believe it, but this temple welcomes me with… a cobra! No no, it was not a real one 🙂

This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva in 2 different representations: a cobra and a face mask. I have never seen that before! The overall complex is smaller than the Belur one but it contains 2 big ‘nandis’ (bulls, which are the vehicles of Lord Shiva) just facing the 2 doors through which you can see Lord Shiva representations and the main temple is definitely the most big and impressive. On its back, which actually is the right hand side for today visitors, the carvings are m.a.n.y, beautiful and perfectly preserved. This time the visit was shorter for me, definitely a lot to digest… and I’m not talking about the food I had at lunch.

All in all it was an amazing day, the places truly worth seeing and full of vibrant energy. The very next day, I felt completely wrecked!

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Yes, after 3 years of Ashtanga Yoga practice, 3 times to Mysore to practise at S. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute (KPJAYI) I finally got ‘pashasana’! first posture of intermediate a.k.a. second series.

Yesterday I was dropping back when Sharath, my master, came to assist. He waited while I was finishing my own drop-backs than we started the assisted ones.

I was swinging back when I heard: ‘tomorrow pashasana’.

I felt like he was not talking to me… coming up, I said: ‘pashasana?’

‘Yes, only pashasana’

‘I’ve never done it’ – came out of me while I was swinging back again…

‘I will teach you’ – Sharath added on my way to pashcimattanasana

Useless to say I did not even remember going through my finishing asanas after that…

I have always been doing my practice without really looking forward to next posture, trying to concentrate and improve the ones I already had at hand and that needed so much progressing. Nonetheless what happened yesterday morning made me realize that over the last 2 or 3 weeks, as I was feeling my physical body opening in a very perceptible way, I started building expectations to move forward.

Intermediate series! My mind was there for the rest of the day every other minute. Happy to finally break second series myth, exited, a bit scared about how I were supposed to enter it…

And than this morning, 4.15am I was on my mat and I completely forgot about it… till I got to ubhaya padangusthasana! At that moment I had a glimpse that in 3 more postures I would attempt for the first time an intermediate serie posture…

Than, it was time for it!



Following Sharath’s instructions, I squatted as much as I could trying to keep my heels on the mat, only successful to a certain extent, and than… surprise! Pashasana has nothing to do with sitting on your heels as I thought, but actually it requires moving your buttocks aside to the heels, as low as possible, and twist. Sharath moved me so that my weight was all back and against his leg while he was standing behind me, so to prevent myself from falling back, and than helped me in getting in a deeper twist and in locking my hands together. Finished with left side, same routine went on for the right one. And than, all was over! time to move on with usual drop backs.

Now I am at home, thinking of that and asking myself: ‘was it all? ok, I did it… so what?’

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I just spent a wonderful afternoon!!! It is just amazing how any new thing I’m doing here in India seems like making the last I did fade in comparison… so many things to see, to realize, to be happy with!

Yesterday I was told by friends about a very big and old Banyan tree located just outside Mysore. You might not know, but I am  f a s c i n a t e d  by big trees, the bigger the better, than I immediately decided I couldn’t miss it. So here we come…

400 years old Banyan tree outside Mysore

400 years old Banyan tree outside Mysore

2pm and 2 of us on the scooter headed to the Banyan tree, a couple of stops to ask for the way and 40 minutes drive when we saw it appearing on our right-hand side in its majesty! But just the time to park the scooter and it started to pour down L … well, this is still monsoon season here so you might say ‘you should expect it!’ but actually in one and a half month here I just saw one big monsoon like that. So… no time to waist, run under the tree but still taking care to leave shoes away in the field and approach the Banyan tree barefoot, as it is considered very sacred… Banyan is actually considered to symbolize the Hidu Trimurti: Lord Vishnu is believed to be the bark, Lord Brahma the roots, and Lord Shiva the branches. It is also called Kalpavriksha, the tree that provides fulfilment of wishes and other material gains.

Just the view of it, approaching it made me feel so contented… touching it was overwhelming! When you bring your hands to it you can feel such a strong pulsation. Vibrations had same length as my heart beats. A m a z i n g !

For a while the tree took care of us and protected us from the rain but then the latter started leaking from the branches and I had to recoil even more ‘inside’ the tree. Actually it is made in a way that provides a few sheltered repairs to people, almost like small caves where you can come in and – in better weather conditions – sit and meditate. In my case, the soil was wet, so no chance to get a sit though I would have loved it. But in the end also that was not enough and I had to bring out my umbrella, sharing it with my friend. An Indian person was sheltered below the tree as well and when I asked how long the monsoon would last, his answer was: ’30 minutes’. Useless to say, he was right!

myself sheltered by the Banyan tree

myself sheltered by the Banyan tree

When the monsoon was over, it was time to go around the Banyan to appreciate it even more, to get impressed even more… So I could see spots where people come to do pujas (offers to the Divine) marked in red and yellow colours, with several small oil lamps now over. In other corners a few representations of Shiva… overall a great feeling of Holiness.

details of my favorite Banyan

details of my favorite Banyan

While pondering to leave, rain started again and so quickly we had no other chance than to stay. A few minutes and a shepherd with 2 sheeps joined us. He was rather old, dressed in shorts and shaking from head to feet: indeed, it was windy and rather cold! He didn’t speak a word of English, but he made us understand that the Banyan is 400 years old and that the rain would not last longer. And so it was…

So finally back on the scooter, praying to have a respite from rain. But maybe I should have prayed not to get stacked in traffic as well! 4.30pm is actually the worse time to cross Mysore city centre as all children and teenagers are getting out of school and the already bad traffic becomes impossible… yes, even though you’re driving a scooter! And even though you’re from South of Italy and you have been driving in India for months now! And when I got off the known way, an Indian biker was so kind to drive me back on track leading the way… and all this while the sun was saying hello!

But it didn’t last too long 😦  Ten minutes from home and another big downpour… unfortunately this time there was no Banyan tree to shelter us, so I got soaked in just about one minute. But once home, a looooong hot shower taken, a cup of tea and salted biscuits in front on me, a big smile on my face… I felt like being in Heaven!

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Mysore (India) and 2 days off from asana practice (Friday = moon day + Saturday = weekly day off): what a luxury!

How not to take advantage of it and go on a daily trip to explore the even more incredible India? Destinations:

1/ Shravanabelagola

2/ Belur

3/ Halebidu

All of them within 3 hours drive from Mysore.

Shravanabelagola & Gommateshvara Bahubali

Shravanabelagola is a major Jain pilgrimage destination in India, well known for the huge monolithic statue of Gommateshvara Bahubali, considered to be the biggest monolithic stone statue in the world. I had read about the 600 steps that brings up to the small hill where the temple is but definitely I was not ready for the beautiful landscape I found once there!

The hill is made of stone and the steps are slightly carved in the rock. Nobody is allowed to go up with the shoes being the hill considered sacred, so I left them behind at the entrance and… the search started!

Each step I take I can feel my bare feet grasping the soil, getting its vibrations, becoming one with it. What exquisite sensation!

While climbing up I don’t realize at all how steep the path is, till at one third of it I turn around and can see all the village quite far below with a big ‘pool’ in front of me. Most likely that is a ghat (sacred place where Indian people do their ablutions in the morning) considering the 4 small temples on its perimeter. To the left of it, coconut trees arranged up to the horizon… wonderful!

Two third up, I meet a small flatness with different temples of different sizes: a round, a puja (= an offer to the Devine), some pictures and up… ready to continue the climbing. Along the path several stone structures and the question arise: ‘what are they for?’ as it seems to be no apparent reason or need for them to be there. As a friend on the same trip says: ‘it seems coming out of Star Wars’ J.

And then I get to what seems just another temple… lazily I come to the entrance and see part of a sculpted white stone shining behind the door. My heart accelerates as I realize it’s a piece of the Gommateshvara ! This is immediately followed by a strong desire to rush inside… and here it is, astonishing in all its grandeur!

It is still early morning (around 8.30am), a few devotees are chanting their prayers, a couple of others do pujas with a few Brahmins leading them.

I start seeing the place through the lens of my camera just to end  sitting quietly on one side, feeling the vibrations of the place… so strong. My mind goes to my previous trip to Somnathpur and the energy I felt there: this one is actually very different, though I cannot say in which way. I have the clear perception of the energy not coming from the statue itself but from the prayers, the chanting, the pujas, the devotion shown in this place for centuries… and that is beautiful!

All in all, a place unique that doesn’t bring up to my mind anything else I have ever seen… or felt…

PS: Practical info if interested to visit Shravanabelagola:

–         no entrance fee

–           2 rps shoe deposit (can’t even convert in euro 😀 )

–         30 rps parking (half euro)

–         shops (Tibetan & not) and places to eat available at the entrance

–         best time to visit is morning as the stone can become really hot on sunny days or slippery with rain (it usually comes in the afternoon in this time of the year – July / August).

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