By Sophie Ibbotson (@maximum_pr)
Morning starts with yoga, the stretching and unfurling of one’s body like the bud of a flower opening in the warmth of sunlight. For the teacher, the positions flow effortlessly into one another; it’s as fluid as ballet. I, on the other hand, am only two days in to Rasa Gurukul’s yoga classes, and my unruly limbs are rebelling. I collapse laughing onto the floor, catch my breath, then try again, determined to get it right.
Rasa Gurukul has taken me out of myself. I left the city girl at the gates when I climbed aboard the bullock card to ride through the farm to the lodge. Kerala is already half a world away from London; Rasa Gurukul felt further still.
This curious eco lodge opened in spring 2017, and it’s gently finding its feet. It should come as no surprise that it is taking a little time: the vision is ambitious, and though at first glance simple, there’s complexity once you peel back the layers.
Walking one day beside the Chalakudy River, I ask founder Das Sreedharan what Rasa Gurukul means to him. Three words stick in my mind: happiness, wellbeing, food.
Back to Nature
For Das, all three are entwined. To feel well, you have to eat well. If you don’t eat well and feel well, you can never be happy. Rasa Gurukul is his school, nurturing that simple concept in those who stay there, feeding them organic food from the farm, lovingly prepared in the community kitchen. Together we’re encouraged to get back to nature, understand our bodies, and make that the foundation on which to build our happiness.
After the morning yoga, a feast of a breakfast awaits. Kerala is famous for its mouth-watering cuisine, fragrant with spices and coconut, and Das has spent decades refining his dishes at Rasa W1, his atmospheric restaurant just off London’s Oxford Street. The vegetables here have travelled only a few tens of metres from the fields. I know that as I helped pick them the previous afternoon.
There’s a strong focus at Rasa Gurukul on participation, getting your hands dirty. Harvesting the crops yourself is a poignant reminder to think about where your food comes from, what it is you’re putting into your body. There are lessons to learn in the kitchen, too. A fourth generation Ayurvedic practitioner — who also provides massage, meditation, and other treatments — helps shape the menu in line with holistic Ayurvedic practices.
I’m not much of a chef and rarely cook at home, but at Rasa Gurukul I don’t feel under any pressure and I’m happy to take instruction. There are other guests alongside me in the kitchen, smelling spices and chopping greens, and also several local teenagers who are participating in Rasa Gurukul’s training programme. They come from underprivileged backgrounds but are now receiving on the job training in hospitality, which will equip them with vital skills for the future. Their English is coming along quickly; they even laugh at my jokes!
I feel part of the Rasa Gurukul family. Das is indisputably our Mother Goose, watching out for his brood. I don’t miss my city girl self; I’m finding another Sophie inside.