Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Not goodbye, just see you later

Doing all the last day in Mysore running around while trying to stay calm and steady.  A very wise friend of mine has said the the way in which we transition will dictate the tone for the next phase, so I am trying to maintain a sense of ease and order to all the things that need to be done.  So many people to say thank you to, between the locals who work hard to make life comfortable for all of us yoga students, and the beautiful friends, and of course to the boss himself.  It feels good to tell someone just how much you appreciate them.  There are some people who I may not see for a while, but it truly feels like it isn't goodbye, just see you later.  Having a plan to come back feels good as well, hopefully I will be swept back into the warm embrace of Mother India again somewhere around next November, but who knows what the future will bring.  Good old Ma India and I seem to have struck a truce this time, no epic bouts of sickness, no rabid dog bites, and a firn knock on wood because I still have just under 24 hours until I leave the country.  Don't want to tempt fate now. 
One more sleep, one more practice, one more idly breakfast, and then I am off.  The dreaded travel vortex of doom is nigh, but with all this smooth transitioning, it should be A-OK.
So much gratitude is there for this time learning, assisting, struggling, growing, building awareness, making connections.  What a trip.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Dosa Patrol

Yesterday morning a scooter/motorcycle convoy from Gokulam made tracks through town to Mylari Dosa for a Friday morning treat of buttery Indian breakfast and sweet chai.  The out of focus photos are to be expected, considering they were taken from the passenger seat of a moving motorcycle.  Talk about making a spectacle: yoga students on parade in Mysore.  The number of heads that turned as we zipped across town was unreal.
How many yoga students can you spy in this photo?  Bonus points for guessing all the different nationalities...

This other photo has nothing to do with dosas or Fridays, but I have noticed these words painted along the wall several times in the last few weeks, and it strikes me as something pertinent to the state of affairs in the world in general.  Stop atrocity, raise humanity.  Something about the way the light is inundating the photo added a completely unintentional ethereal quality to the picture that I couldn't have achieved on my little boxy point and shoot camera if I had tried.  Purchased in 2002, this little Nikon has served me well, but a high tech piece of equipment, it is not. 

A few weeks ago I posted about castor oil bath, and truth be told, the castor oil wipes me out something terrible.  My body is so depleted every time I use it that I actually dread the idea a little bit, even though Sharath and many of the long time students swear by it.  Being as sensitive as I am, I asked around and was recommended to try almond or sesame oil, and the difference is unreal.  Almond is best for me I think, but much more expensive, so it is maybe something I can do every now and then, but sesame oil is warming and nurturing and doesn't leave me a spaced out shivering airhead, so for a regular weekly treatment, it seems to be a good answer.  My skin and joints are very dry right now, to the point that I thought my armpits were going to rip yesterday in surya namaskar (OUCHIE!!!), so oil baths seem like a necessary practice, and I am glad that there is an alternative to castor oil that leaves me feeling functional.  

The hibernating has been working better than I expected.  People look surprised when I see them and they tell me that they thought I already left.  Ha! It is possible to be undercover in Mysore!  No poo conversations at the coconut stand in days!!!


Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Post #100.  Perhaps this should be a momentous occasion, filled with inspiring and profound thoughts, but more realistically it is just going to be more of the same meandering sort of things that I usually write. 
Yesterday was a big day here in India, a festival called Shivaratri took place, literally meaning the great night of Shiva, and there were devotees lined up for blocks to pay homage and devotion at the local temples.  One of the more popular legends for this festival is that it marks the union of Shiva and Pavarti, and that on this occasion, Tandava, the dance of primal creation, preservation and destruction was performed.  All night, pujas were reportedly happening, where people were offering fruit and flowers to receive a blessing on this auspicious occasion, but I was not up for braving the crowds, so this was underway while I was tucked safely into my bed.  

Another landmark: I have only one week left here in India.  Not much time to saturate myself in the magic of the shala before I go, but it feels like the right time to be transitioning back to the real world.  Part of me hates to go, but this trip has inundated me with new information and experiences, and it might not be possible to fully absorb or appreciate them while I am still here.

Since landmarks seem to be the theme of this post, I am going to throw in another.  My little nephew reached the ripe old age of four months just a few days ago, and I have yet to meet him in person, but I love him to pieces anyways.  He is pretty much the cutest thing ever, and little Hugo takes after me in his facial expressions for sure. 

I think I made that exact same face yesterday.  He might have slightly less hair, and slightly more chub in his cheeks than me, but the eyebrow articulation and eyes the size of saucers are exactly like me! 

This expression is also in my daily usage, it is the 'you're a moron' face.

Hugo and I look different here.  For one, if I open my mouth that wide, you can see teeth. 

Enough cuteness for one day, wouldn't want anyone's brain to spontaneously combust due to cuteness overload.

In other landmarks, it has been just over a year since I was last in Canada.  Maybe this amount of time, combined with a ridiculously cute nephew, is what is giving me the urge to go back. 

What will I do to fill up my last week in Mysore?  A few more trips to the secret breakfast place are most certainly in order, and I have every intention of drinking as many coconuts as I can possibly squeeze in.  One more led primary, one more led intermediate, on more conference and 5 more days of Mysore practice coming.  A few more crochet special orders are coming in, and there are a few more books at Tina's little lending library that I want to get my hands on.  There is no doubt that I will be back before I know it, so the panic of squeezing in certain experiences just isn't there.  Whatever doesn't get done will have to happen next time.
The week will be up before I know it. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Wandering Bambi

Starting to wind things up in Mysore, trip number three is down to about 12 more days, and then I will be off into the big wide world to try and integrate all that I have experienced here.  Being enveloped in the practice is a beautiful thing, but it is an essential part of the learning process to take it and make it function in your day to day life.  What I am struggling with at the moment is that I don't actually know what or where my day to day life is going to entail.  Another working holiday visa is there, so back to Australia, but for how long and where to go are still up in the air.  There is a draw to head east and see a bit more of the country, so Sydney looks like it may be the next place I call home, but before I get there I have to make a few stops and collect possessions I have left behind in Indonesia and in Western Australia.  Note to self:  leave a trunk in Mysore, leave a few things in the dresser at mum and dad's, but don't make any assumptions about going back to anywhere else.  The weird thing that has come up is that in all of this preparation to travel, an urge to get myself back onto Canadian soil is forming in the back of my mind.  Seeing the world is an amazing opportunity, but there is a part of me that keeps asking for steadiness, and constantly complaining about feeling dislocated in time and space.  In previous posts I have expressed gratitude about the fact that wherever I go, I am taken under wing, cared for, nurtured, but this little hobo is really starting to feel like it might be time to think harder about which direction to go if I actually want to be homeward bound.  In the meantime, the quote by J.R.R. Tolkien comes to mind, "not all those who wander are lost."  Certainly I have been wandering, and searching, but really and truly, I do not feel lost. 

On a lighter note, in the shala lately I have been working very hard at tick tocks.  The up into a handstand and over into the backbend part (the tick) feels fine, but the reverse part (the tock) has been driving me nuts.  I rock my weight forward into my feet and then strongly back into my hands, lifting my head, and kick myself in the head.  Repeatedly.  Talk about frustrating.  But yesterday, after having several attempts where I got stuck in mid air, feet upon head, not able to figure out which direction to go, I finally did it.  Sharath came up to do my finishing backbends and told me that now I am a strong lady, and I could even be a body builder.  Yes a body builder... Something tells me he is joking, because wobbly noodle types like myself generally don't turn out to be such good body builders.  It was a nice moment though, and I laughed with him and told him that maybe next lifetime that is what I would do.  From bambi to body builder... who knew?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Occupy the Lobby

After an absolutely ridiculously jam-packed intermediate class last week, with people going sideways across the gap between the row on the tile and the last row on the carpet, and mats touching side to side, I decided to start a movement.  Occupy the lobby.  On led primary days there are nearly always about a half dozen people out there, but for the intermediate class people are allowed to use the space for spectatorship.  Why not take back the space for practitioners?  I found a brave lady to occupy it with me (thank you madam if you are reading this!) and we courageously held our ground, moving the viewing audience off our mats after depositing our belongings in the change room.  Sharath looked our way before the opening chant, not saying anything, led us through the first Surya Namaskar, and then called out "Ash, you come here, there is space!"  I scooped up my mat and tip-toed around the human obstacle course to the spot he pointed at, right on the lumpiest intersection of the floor rugs, wedged between two other people.  Bummer.  My brave fellow protester was called in only moments later and was directed to the sideways spot on the tile by the ladies change room.  Luckily for me, some of the people in the row were of the recently split variety, so as they moved back to do their finishing postures, space became available for me to get off the minor mountain range of carpet lumpiness.  The first 5 or 6 postures of third series got tagged onto the end, and I was thanking my lucky stars that I got to stop after the first one.  It was seriously hot and humid in the shala, and Sharath was counting painfully slowly; the tremors coursing through people's bodies were visible from across the room.  Coconuts were extra sweet after practice, poor Imran, the coconut truck man, must have wondered what happened in there to leave us all so deliriously thirsty. 

Anyways, Occupy the Lobby might have to wait to be revived until next year as it seems like this week marks a true tipping point.  The number of people leaving might actually be bigger than the number arriving for the first time since the shala opened in October, so things might start to quiet down just a little bit.  My fingers are crossed. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Being a hermit, and questioning motives

Over the last few weeks I have been turning more and more into a hermit.  The ejector seat has taken out many of the people I had been spending time with, and to be honest, facing the idea of more coconut stand chit chats with new faces is a little bit horrifying.  There is a typical conversation that happens here and it goes something like this:
Yoga Student 1: Hey (smiles)
Yoga Student 2: Hey, how are you?
YS1: Tired, my practice/backbends/annoying housemate/indian family living downstairs/chronic diarrhea is really driving me crazy. You?
YS2: Tell me about it.  How long are you staying/have you been here long?
YS1: I have been here 3 days/3months/6weeks, staying till the bitter end.  You?
YS2: It is my 1st trip/8th trip/ 2nd trip but I just arrived last week.  I will only be here a month because I have to get back to my students. 
YS1: So about my diarrhea....

YS1 and YS2 go on to talk about poop for the next half hour.  They then become lifelong best friends and take coconut deliveries to their bff when they are struck down with the poopoos. 

The sad part is, I am not even kidding. 

This may sound a bit jaded, and don't get me wrong, I love Mysore, I love being here and studying here and spending extended periods of time here, but I can't have a conversation resembling this one any more or my head will explode.  There are so many beautiful, intelligent and charismatic yoga students right now in Mysore, but the number of times I have had to say goodbye to friends that I hold very dear is like a deep bruise, very sensitive and tender.  The banality of meeting new people is too much to handle, it is like taking a big stick and poking that terrible bruise... not so nice.  So I am hiding like a recluse in my house for the next few weeks, making use of the time to crochet and read and nap and prepare for the big unknown out in the real world.  Slightly anti-social, yes I am.

Something else has been bothering me lately, and this might be the first inflammatory bit of writing I have done on this blog. 
There is a new wave of people declaring via facebook that Sharath is their Guru, a pretty big statement to make.  If a person truly feels this way, that is lovely, and I wish them well on that journey of learning.  BUT.  And yes that is a big but, if they take Sharath as their Guru and submit to his knowledge and guidance through the practice of Ashtanga yoga, why, WHY would they post photos of themselves doing postures they have yet to be instructed to do?  And throw in handstands in every vinyasa, when it has been clearly stated in conference that this is not the correct method?  And try to squeeze in a new posture or two just when they think Sharath isn't looking?  It seems so hypocritical to me, to make a sweeping statement about devotion to a system, a lineage, and an individual to be your guide from darkness towards light, and then blatantly doing what you have been told not to do.  So many students come here simply to learn, but there is a contingency of people who come with the agenda of showing how much they know, and how many poses they can already do.  If that is the case, and you know so much, why come at all?  Blows my mind. 
Venting complete.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012


What you seek is seeking you.


Rumi wrote some beautiful poetry, and he strikes me as a person of great depth and wisdom.  In this simple quote he says so much, but what I am struck with right now is not knowing what it is I seek.  So many options are open to me that it is hard to know which way to turn.  If I don't know what I am looking for, how do I know when I find it?  And what if I grow weary of the search... will what is seeking me recognize me as the object of it's searching? 

Too much thinking is there...

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Saturday Practice

Saturdays are considered by most Ashtanga students to be a well deserved day of rest in a 6 day a week practice schedule, but here in Mysore, many students have a special Saturday morning practice: the castor oil bath.  It is a time consuming and messy process, but one that has definite benefits.  I don't personally partake in the oil bath every week, as I am quite sensitive to the effects, but this morning I spent the better part of an hour in the bathroom covered head to toe first in castor oil and then a mud like paste of soap nut powder and green nut powder mixed with a bit of water.  It is a really good thing that the Indian bathrooms are fully tiled and easy to spray down for clean up purposes... in a western style bathroom it would be a bit of a disaster!  The whole purpose of the castor oil bath is really to reduce heat in the body, to lubricate the joints, and to take care of inflammation, so with the weather getting warmer and my practice building in intensity, slathering myself in castor oil on a Saturday morning feels like the right thing to do.  If you want some really great information on the whole process, click here.  It is an article that I found extremely helpful when I started taking oil baths because the directions are outlined very clearly.
Anyways, after emerging from my hideously pink bathroom, the effects of the oil started to really take hold.  If at all possible, I try and lie down for a solid ten minutes after having an oil bath, just to get my wits about me, as this process of bringing the heat up and out through the crown of the head leaves me feeling like my body and mind are two completely separate entities.  An ethereal state to say the least, possibly bordering on stupid-head (just like I get from waking up at stupid-o-clock!).  This sensation was especially strong today, and most of the rest of the day (after a trip to the secret breakfast place) was spent either napping or crocheting or reading on the porch swing.   There might need to be a whole post just about my porch swing; it is pretty well the only furniture in the house, so it gets a lot of love and attention.  More on that another time.  Hopefully the rest I have managed to get today will serve me well in practice tomorrow... led intermediate, which has included the first few postures of third series the last few weeks, will undoubtedly be challenging. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The dreaded eject button and stupid-o-clock

I've officially got an exit date from Mother India, and it is causing me some anxiety.  Buying plane tickets has never been so stressful!  My first visit, I was suffering enough with whatever was living in my belly and wreaking havoc with my digestion that I was ready to go after the three months, but both last year and now, it feels like I have to hit the eject button, or it would be possible to stay for ages.  Booking a ticket the other day made it feel like it is all happening much too soon, so I am make a conscious effort to be present and enjoy the last month that I have here, instead of dwelling in the 'maybes' and 'what ifs' that seem to be defining the next few months.  When I leave here, I will go to Indonesia to pick up some things I left behind, thinking that I would be returning to teach English for another year, and then back to WA to do the same, and then the plan is just to head east.  A destination is yet unknown.  There is something about no having a plan that is very alluring, but at the same time choices will eventually have to be made.  I am trying to stick with using the word 'choice', as opposed to 'decision',  because I have been told (can't remember by whom, but it really stuck) that the word 'decide' comes from a family of words with less than pleasant meanings.  Think of words that end in 'cide', what comes to mind?  Suicide, homicide, genocide, insecticide.... you get the idea no?  By using the word decide you are essentially killing the option that you didn't take, but by using choice, the alternative is still available (not dead?), you just didn't opt for it.  The power of words really resonate with me, and sometimes looking at something as simple as that can make a world of difference in the perception of a situation.
That was not what I intended to write about, but I have a feeling that I know why I am going off on a tangent.
What is stupid-o-clock?  It is possible that this term has come up on this blog before, so perhaps some clarification would be advisable.  Waking up at stupid-o-clock in the morning is what you do if you are practicing on the early shift in Mysore, or practicing before teaching an early class, or taking an early flight, or starting an early day at work.  For me, it means setting my alarm to 3AM, shala time (fifteen minutes fast, so this means it is really 2:45AM), and then trying to function as a normal human being for the rest of the day.  Being in Mysore means that yes, you can take a nap, and yes you can do almost nothing all day, and yes you can go to bed as early as you like, but however you look at it, getting up at 2:45AM means your day starts in the middle of the night.  Some side effects are there (both positive and negative). 
*It is next to impossible to not have a certain degree of undereye circles, because if you do need 8 hours of sleep at night, it means you are going to bed at 7.  It isn't quite dark at that time, so I don't think it happens for very many people above the age of 5, or below the age of 95.

*Dinner doesn't really exist, except on Friday nights, and the day before a moon day.  Chai after practice ensures you get enough calories in the day as long as you also incorporate breakfast and lunch. 

*The locals are just starting to get ready for dinner at about 8PM, so the streets are busy and the sounds of family life echo through the streets of Gokulam at the prescribed bedtime.  This does have a flipside though; in the morning walking down to the shala there is a hush in the air that can't really be experienced at any other time of day.  For a few moments in those wee hours, a stillness slips over the neighbourhood that is a welcome respite from the constant multi-sensory stimulation that is India.

*Anyone in the first batch of students has the time and opportunity in the morning to practice, drink coconuts, go for chai, shower nap, do laundry and eat breakfast, all before the last bunch of students head in to the shala.  You can get a lot accomplished by waking up so far before the crack of dawn!

*The air in the shala at 4:30 in the morning still has oxygen in it.  The room starts off cool, and the the heat and humidity levels just keep going up until the room starts to empty out again somewhere probably around 11AM.  Anyone with a 10:30 start time probably needs scuba gear just to get through practice. 

*Some interesting conversations can be had when everyone is a bit sleep deprived... this morning at the coconut stand there was talk about catching the legs in backbends, and one of the guys said his leg hair is like velcro, which sent a few of us into poet mode... an ode to leg hair.  Shakespearean, it was not, but entertaining, absolutely.  Or maybe you had to be there...

Anyways, enough rambling.  Stupid-o-clock wake ups result in stupid-head blog posts.  It is official.