jeunesse park 1210x423 - Space to breathe

I recently spent 10 days at Indus Valley Ayurvedic Centre (IVAC) at the foot of the Chamundi Hills in Mysuru. This is one of India’s cleanest, greenest and coolest cities, the place of sandalwood, silk, and yoga schools.

Despite recently dropping out of a lifetime of work, trying to save some lives and landscapes, the stress and heartache of living on this suffering planet today, weigh heavily.

The forests are on fire, 200 species become extinct daily, politicians worldwide spout

chaos-causing inanities, economies erode, xenophobic hatred rampages on our streets, murder and rape are regular occurrences. I have long thought I suffer from eco-anxiety, now recognized as a disease. I needed a time-out.

Warm greetings and a meal were offered on arrival at IVAC and I was taken down a path of young sandalwood saplings and ensconced in a large, cool bungalow. I quickly took the gap and slipped into another rhythm.  

At dawn, I walked up the hill towards the temple of goddess Sri Chamundeshwari who slew the demons. I strode passed many chatting middle-aged men on their morning constitutional, some praying at small local shrines, bowing down to trees garlanded in flowers and pictures of the gods, stretching, saluting the sun or sitting quietly on the side of the road in meditation, or on their phones. I sipped the sweet, fresh air and marvelled at the lack of litter (unlike the piles I see on Sandton morning walks and woefully also along the Atlantic seaboard).

Hatha yoga followed in a studio next to the pool where sometimes doe-eyed calves graze. It’s easy to quiet the mind to bird songs, insect buzz, the patter of monsoon rain. Delicious breakfasts watching birds, squirrels and butterflies were a daily delight.

Several hours of treatments included a range of Ayurvedic massages with herbs, oils and warm water. I got high every day at Pranayama (breathing) meditations. Having the space to breathe clean air, consciously, for an hour, changes one’s consciousness, oxygenates the body and soothes the spirit.

Resisting the many bargains on offer along the streets on the few visits to town I peered into Big Bazaar, the local supermarket to get a glimpse of daily Mysuru life and wonder at the diversity of bananas and displays of fresh fruit and vegetables without plastic packaging. I ventured down leafy avenues lined by yoga studios, organic stores and hip coffee shops. Yoga teachers are trained here and young folk from all over the world come to learn.


Jeunesse Park founded and ran Food & Trees for Africa for 25 years, introducing urban forestry, urban agriculture and Permaculture to South Africa and was a pioneer for climate crisis awareness. She launched Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project in Africa and her environmental and climate work has been globally awarded and recognised by the United Nations, Rhodes University and others. She is passionate about healthier people on a healthy planet