Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Not Just About The Coffee

Short and sweet today.

Grabbing a cup of coffee (or tea) is never just about the coffee. I love the event of sitting in a coffee shop, talking, laughing, and just being in the moment of it all. Coffee breaks are what helped me make it through midwifery school. Taking a small break from all the chaos that surrounds our lives and really enjoying the company of another till the very last drop.

I had coffee this morning, after practice, with a dear friend. We talked and listened to each other. We laughed. We theorized. We traded stories. I think that some of the most profound moments through out my life were discussed over coffee. I love leaving a conversation with thoughts to ponder and mull over...chew on and swirl around in the back of my mind. I love to be inspired by those around me. I yearn to learn passion from passion, spirit from spirit, and contentment from contentment…and even more, acceptance from acceptance. Amazing what can be done over coffee.

I truly cherish these moment of connectedness.

Friday, April 30, 2010

A Pit in My Stomach, A Knot in My Throat

Today is one of those days where I dont have any real pressing issues that need to be addressed. No papers to fax or bills to pay. Just a little down time. And what did I do with this "down time" you ask...I watched Food, Inc.

This is a movie that I have wanted to see for some time. I have a very hard time with these types of movies. When I went to see Fast Food Nation in theaters, I spent the last 10 minutes of the movie with my eyes shut tight as tears streamed down my face. This movie spurred in me the same reaction. By the end of it I think I cried 5 different times, and was left with the biggest pit in my stomach and a huge knot in my throat.

I am in no way perfect. While I consider myself vegetarian, I am times will eat fish and still wear leather shoes or purchase a leather bag on occasion. I often find myself buying food out of convenience instead of nutrition or impact to the environment. I feel compelled to blog only because in watching this movie I was reminded of something someone said to me in India while at a lecture on nutrition. While paraphrasing, the jest of the statement was that our energy goes into all that we do. The example he used was that if an animal is scared, in pain, or suffering, this goes into our food. The energy of the person that slaughters that animal goes into our food. We then eat this animal and absorb all this negativity.

I am sure that you can see the larger implications of this statement in most things in our lives. It is not about not eating meat, but about the energy that fuels what we put into our body and bring into our lives. I was so taken aback by the grand scope of impact that our American food culture has had. From animal abuse, to people falling ill from hyper-resistant strains of e-coli, to exploitation of immigrants, to obesity. How is this good for us? How does this help us?

At this moment I feel hugely overwhelmed. I feel like this is a topic I keep revisiting in my life and always end up falling back into old habits. I change where I shop for food only to realize that I am having difficulty affording it. I buy organic only to find out it may not make a difference. I buy one brand over another, only to find out they were bought out by some mega-company. It is so deeply confusing and hard. I am not sure where to re-start or how to do it differently this time around. Suggestions very welcome.

To be continued...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Anahata Chakra

I have been wanting to sit down and write this blog since I got home last night, but as I sank into the couch fatigue settled in. So, as I sit here with my cup of coffee and an english muffin, I write my "ah-ha" moment from yesterday.

I preface this post with a "warning." If you dont believe in healers (the spiritual kind, not the physicians we have come to regard in our culture as healers) then you might find this posting a little hokey. With that having been said, if you desire please read on.

I did not write about this during my trip because at the time the experience seemed very personal and I was still trying to place all the pieces into some kind of graspable form. I bring it up now because of the connection I made with it the other day. While in India, during my travels towards the end of my trip, I went to a healer. I, true to my nature, was skeptical. I went in expecting that he would tell me some vague generalization that could be applied to anyone's life in manipulated in the right way. While the session lasted 30 minutes, with all the details taking too long to type out here, in a nutshell, this man told me things about myself that no one but me could have ever known. One thing that he told me was that my heart chakara, the fourth one, was blocked. What does this mean? It means that I have a hard time opening up and letting people in. I am skeptical, critical (especially of myself), and at times can be distant or hard to read. He told me that I had to work on opening up this chakra because it was not good for my health. Without even telling him, he said..."this is the cause of your migraines."

I know what this healer said, all that he said, to be true. And last night, I realized why the yoga community that I practice with has such a profound place in my life. They help me to open my heart chakra.

So often I write about how important my yoga family is in my life, but I don’t think I ever had a very tangible explanation why. I just knew, somewhere deep down, that it had become part of who I am. The fellow students, the teacher, the space had all become woven into the matrix of what made me ME.

They do so much than just push me out of the bed to come to practice when all I want to do is hit the snooze button. They teach me compassion and humility. They teach me to laugh at myself. They teach me to relish in the excitement of a good book. They teach me to soften (especially my shoulders☺). They teach me acceptance by showing acceptance. They share wisdom and insight. They have taught me how to live my life and open my heart.

Two statements stand out in my mind from last night. One dear yogi said, “It is what we do off the mat. If it was just about the asanas then this practice would be no different that the cirque du soleil.” Another dear yogi said, “To manifest change there are three components. One is the sangha (community) that helps to set the example of what you want to become. How you should live. What you should aspire to.”

To these two yogis. To all the yogis I practice with every morning. To my teacher. Thank you.

Friday, April 16, 2010

At the Present Moment

Things have been very busy. There are very few constants in the equation and many variables orbiting around. Here are things as they stand...

1. I got a job!

2. We have accepted a bid on our Philly home and are awaiting the home inspection.

3. Sunday we head up to Providence, RI to start looking for houses. Very scary.

4. My practice is on its road to becoming more steady, more consistent. I am trying to take in every moment with my teacher, the studio, and especially my yoga family.

5. I got a library card! I know this sounds so mundane, but I am actually very excited about it. It has become quite costly to buy books with the amount I am reading these days, so I thought I would borrow from the library till I start my job. Its kind of exciting to have almost unlimited choices and they are all FREE! The only draw back is most of the books are hardcover...not my favorite.

6. Things for the wedding are coming together quite well. Trying to get all the ends tied up, at least somewhat, before we leave.

In the chaos I have noticed some "Small Surprises"...

1. A high-five at the end of practice from your teacher really is a nice start to the day. Amazing how something so familiar placed in an unusual setting can really bring a smile to your face.

2. I love my house. As things draw closer to moving, I realize how much I love our home, our street, our lives in Philly.

3. I love practice.

4. The house is way too quiet without the dogs and cats, and the bed now feels super huge and spacious.

5. Registering for wedding gifts is actually a lot of fun.

6. I am growing up...

Above are some pictures of the house from the listing. It looks so different without all our "junk" in it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Not So Rosie the Riveter

Today was my first day back to complete second series after almost 3 months of practicing only primary while in Mysore. How did it go you ask? Well, lets just say I am no Rosie the Riveter. I am always amazed when I become very conscious and in tune with my body. Because of my background in gymnastics I have always felt that there was an ease in the physical practice. Not that I don't have to work hard, but I believe there is a memory of flexibility and strength. There is an aspect of the asanas that just come naturally, and sometimes without consciousness of how the postures are manifesting. This has its positives and its negatives. One draw back is sometimes I am not as connected with the physical. Today I was.

For the past 2 years I have practiced second series with consistent regularity. My body got to a point where the movement flowed with some level of steadiness. My muscles remembered each pose, each intention. Unknowingly, the strength was there and was growing. What I am amazed with is there I was so unaware of the strength I had built up. The energy paths that I developed. I was completely in the dark about how my practice had grown. How my body had grown.

When I began my practice today I was not aware of the realization that I would have. As I moved through the postures, not only did I have to think very hard about the order but it was like I was dragging my body, struggling through every pose. The things that have always come easily, were difficult. Poses that I just move right into needed every ounce of energy and concentration to get into. All the strength that I had developed seemed completely absent. Gone. This practice was such a tangible experience that has really opened my eyes to how important it is to take care of the body. Nothing is permanent.

My teacher commented on my Kapotasana today. This has to be one of the most uncomfortable poses in second series. He said..."hold it longer." HOLD IT LONGER! HOLD IT LONGER! He clearly did not get the memo that this pose is lacks any comfort is any way shape or form:) When I asked him what he meant he said..."hold it longer and really feel the circular flow of energy from the head and hands into the feet." I get this...at least in the mental aspect. Tomorrow I will try to get it on the physical and energetic level....maybe....if I can hold it longer.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Day Light Savings

I have been the biggest blog slacker. My last two weeks in India went completely unreported. Not even a picture to document my travels.

In attempt to make up for lost time I have posted some pictures from the last two weeks in India. I hope you enjoy.

Since being back things have been moving at a somewhat fast pace. In the span of two weeks I have passed my midwifery boards, decided to probably move out of Philly, met with a real estate agent about selling our house, and got a job interview! So much change happening so quickly. It is exciting and scary all at the same time.

Practice has been very sweet since being back. There is something deeply comforting about practicing next to friends. Practicing next to people who you have seen day in and day out, spent early early mornings with, laughed next to, and maybe even occasionally fallen over onto their mats. There are a lot of new people, and I still feel a little like I have been away forever and missed a big transition period, but I am sure this will pass.

This morning I arrived at the studio, at what I thought was on time. I was so confused. The room was packed and everyone was almost half way though their practice. It was only at the moment that I laid my mat down that I realized it was day light savings! Silly Me.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Practice of the Self

It is my last week of practice in Mysore. I am both sad and joyous. For some reason today I am in a bit of a funk. Not sure why and cannot pinpoint the origin. I guess everyone has a bad day.

Practice was good. Strong. Steady. I caught my calves in dropbacks and stood on my own for the whole 5 breaths. This is something I never imagined possible.

There is a lot that I never imagined possible that has happened on this trip. Unfortunately, I dont think that it would all translate in a blog. I have had numerous "ah-ha" moments and really grown in both my practice and in my spirit. I have done a lot of deep exploration of my body and my mind. It is because of this that I am excited about returning home in 2 weeks. I am constantly questioning myself and challenging myself to stay rooted in what I have learned here. I am aware of the difficulty of transplanting information and knowledge from one environment into another environment, but am ready to take on the task.

I was discussing self-practice with a friend today, and in thinking about it all now, these are my thoughts in a much more broad interpretation. In the end it is you and only you. There will be teachers, friends, community, but ultimately you determine your path, your progress, your destination. It is not how others see you, but how you see yourself, connect with that self, and accept that self. Ultimately, that is what matters and that is where happiness is cultivated. From within.

Here in Mysore, in the shala, I feel very connected with the notion of self-practice. Even though there are many practicing at once, and the shala is filled from wall to wall, there is a level of individuality, singularity, and independence. For the most part, you are left to your self to "figure" things out and amazingly...you do. In many ways I think a better term would be "a practice of the self." Just as other realizations that I have had here, I am not sure that feeling is measurable or describable.

Trice and I went to the palace the other night. It is completely lit up for 1 hour on Sundays. It was beautiful and more than we ever expected. The day before we spend the afternoon wondering around the market.

I promise to stop being such a slacker and make sure to blog these last few days. I am unsure what the last 2 weeks of travel with hold with regards to internet access, but I will try to post at least some pictures.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Smacking into Sharath

Yes. I smacked into Sharath during practice today! It is not as tragic as it sounds, and was actually a little funny. I will have to thank David G. for this one:) I have adopted the practice of jumping into the foundational poses, instead of just stepping back into them. Well. This morning I had the lovely privileged to be smack (hehe) dab in the middle of the room. I was all "feeling the energy" and really into my practice this morning...you know, one of those 100% focused moments that are so rare. I about to move into utthita parsvakonasana (extended side angle). I prep. Bend my knees. Bring my arms together. And JUMP! SMACK! My right hand slammed into Sharath's left shoulder. I immediately apologized. He just laughed at me and said something that I totally missed because I was so mortified. He seemed to find the whole event quite humorous. That's what I get for being so focused:)

I thought I would post something a bit on the lighter side today. Here is a short list of interesting things that happened to me today while floating around India:

1. Tiger balm is super super super cheap here. I spent 20 rupees on one bottle. That is like 50 cents!

2. Prescription strength ibuprofen is over the counter. Yes, I got 600mg tabs with no prescription, and it only cost about 30 rupees. And they are bright pink! I can only imagine that if you werent a health care provider or didnt have any idea about how many milligrams were in certain medications, that one could get into some serious trouble at the pharmacy. (see picture above)

3. Contact solution can also be purchased at the pharmacy only and, unlike in the US where a bottle cost me $8, here it is a whopping 100 rupees.

4. Who knew that Roald Dahl, the author of all the famous children's books, is also the author of scary short stories too! So exciting. The caption under the title is "perfect bedtime stories for those who relish sleepless nights."

5. I am finally caving in and reading "Atlas Shrugged." Trice has already warned my that it may not speak to my "socialist" ideas:)

6. A roti (similar to a tortilla) with unrefined sugar is YUMMY! Definitely does not make me nauseous.

7. Rickshaw drivers are not like taxis in NY. Many times they have no idea where they are going and often have to ask for directions....multiple times.

8. I have a scarf addiction.

Trice and I have been fighting off a head cold for the past week. She is a few days behind me and feeling the worst of it. Those pink ibuprofen are coming in handy. I posted a picture of Trice hiding out under the covers, sleeping. She blended right into the bed.

It is to bed early for us tonight. Led practice at 4:30am!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Irritated With Every Rub

My best friend has a quote that is permanently posted at the end of every email. Where some people put their professional titles and place of employment, she instead has one of the most beautiful and profound quotes.

"If you are irritated by every rub, how will you be polished?"

I was irritated this morning. No doubt about it. I awoke to extreme irritation at the alarm clock. Why are you going off so early?! Why cant I just sleep a little longer. I dragged myself out of bed, headed to the bathroom, and flicked on the light. Why light are you so bright?! Still half asleep, I almost brushed my teeth with tap water. Wouldnt that be a lovely experience. Once our stuff was all collected, Trice and I headed to practice. We walked most of the way in silence, broken only with an occasional sniffle related to the end of my cold and a little cough from Trice as she develops the cold. My spot in the room this morning was all the way in the corner by the women's locker room. This may seem like a rather bad spot since there is mass quantities of traffic flowing through that area, but, I thought to myself, it is better than yesterdays spot near the entry door. Everythin g on my mat irritated me. I felt like I was being scrubbed with a brillo pad. My body was tight (could be the pizza I ate yesterday afternoon). My nose was running. My head hurt. My eye was twitching. The person in front of me was hogging the space. You get the point. Seed chewing galore on my mat this morning.

It is funny because I dont know what brings on days like this. Some people are very in tune with what causes days like this. Maybe sugar. Maybe alcohol. Maybe eating too late. I have yet to determine the cause of practices like today's. I was so acutely aware of how I was feeling today. With only a 9 practices left till Trice and I head to the north to travel a bit, I am feeling like the end is so close and my time so limited. I love this practice. It makes me so in tune and observant of how I am feeling, whats going on in my mind/body/spirit. This practice polishes me. It is uncomfortable. Some days it sucks. Some days you just want to lay on your mat and cry. But polish it does. This whole experience is really scrubbing me, and not in that toxic silver polisher kind of way. This trip is giving me a lot of space to grow and understand me and my practice. And the amazing part is that it is because of me that I am being polished. I am questioning myself. Questioning the ins and outs of my practice. Delving deep and uncovering me. Not what others think of me, or what others think I should think or do or say. Just good old me finding out about me.

As I headed towards back bends today, I thought, please dont let Sharath come over to assist me. He will make me grab my calves, and I am in no way in the mood. But, as luck would have it he strolled right over. I took a deep breath, crossed my arms, and prepared for the worse. Inhale, exhale back. Inhale up, exhale back. Inhale up, exhale back. Inhale up, arms up, exhale slowly slowly slowly go back. He grabbed my right hand. One ankle. He grabbed my left hand. Other ankle. He grabbed my left hand again. Right calf. Left hand. Left calf. Breathe. Oh, wow, I am balancing on my own...if only for a second! Inhale up. "Much better" he said. Irritation lifted. It must have been residing in my spine:)

Someone asked me at breakfast today whether I was excited to be heading home soon. Its seems such a funny question for some reason. Isnt everyone excited to go home at the end? We learn so much here and half the fun is going home an applying it all. I am excited to go home (when the time comes). I am excited because I realize how much I miss everyone. I realize home much I love my home. I miss my family and friends. I miss my yoga community. I am excited to head home soon, a little more polished and shiny. Maybe even a sparkler. My spirit feels invigorated.

Pictures: Last week when we climbed all the stairs to the temple there was a small house with an OM symbol painted on the front door. I think maybe this may be in my fount door's future. Yes, I know....how could I eat Dominos!! I would never in 100 years eat this at home, but desperate times call for desperate measures. There is no price for a settled stomach.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

My Teacher

It has been a few days since I have blogged. Partly because I have been sick and the other part because no one would want to read about me lying around reading my book. I spent all of yesterday (except for practice and conference with Sharath) sleeping and resting in bed. I have been downing mass quantities of water in hopes that I can flush my body of whatever is holding it hostage. Today I feel on my way to better. At conference Sharath talked about practicing when we dont want to. I felt like he was talking right to me. Back home, I probably would have stayed in bed on Sunday morning and not practiced. However, while it was not pleasant, it was not as tragic a practice as I thought it would have been. I hope I can take this new resurgence in dedication back home with me to Philly.

Practice was surprising today. Yesterday, I about near had to drag myself on to my mat, and I was a bit concerned that today would be as difficult. However, it went swimmingly. I felt well rested, had a good spot with lots of room, and was reminded about how much the breath can tell you about your practice. Last week I was given Krounchasana. I practiced through Krounchasana (which is a lot more open after practicing primary series) and prepared for back bending. I did my three urdvha dhanurasanas and came to stand...to Sharath's face. "You do krounchasana?" I replied yes and asked if he wanted to see. He looked at me and said "No. I believe you. Wednesday you do Salabasana and Bhekasana. Both." And that was that. I did three half drop backs and then grabbed my calves. No big deal:)

I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be a teacher and am sure have exhausted Trice's ears with chatter about it. More specifically what it means for me to call someone "my teacher." In the dictionary is states: a teacher is someone who teaches or instructs. Now, forget the fact that you are not supposed to use the word in the definition, but I do not think that this does any justice to the profession of teaching or that it gives any idea of what it truly means to be a teacher. Uneasy as it makes me feel to say this out loud, I feel a bit lost when it comes to identifying someone as my yoga teacher. I place teachers in very high regard (especially because my mother was one...and still is in essence) and really set the bar high. I really love the student teacher relationship and the dance that exists between them. I thrive well as a student and really embrace that role. Sharath definitely meets that bar and then soars above it. I trust him to guide my practice. My body trusts him (I know this because my body responds, not in tension, but in acceptance). I trust what he tells me. This would be all fine and dandy if I lived here in India and could practice with him always, but this is not the case. I will leave Mysore in 2 weeks, and in another 2 weeks I will be home. Sharath will always be my teacher, but I deeply desire this connection back home. This new revelation makes me a bit uneasy and I am not sure that this blog even articulates my thought process. Maybe I should be keeping this all to myself and just plug along on my path, but it feels better to write it down. I used to feel connected to a teacher during my first year or so, but times change and so does the world around us. I have to admit to myself that I am looking for someone to call "My Teacher."

On Saturday we went to the Metropol, which is a fancy hotel, for lunch. The hotel is like something out of a movie. It is very reminiscent of British colonialism. I felt like I was in the movie "Lawrence of Arabia." We ate and chatted and just enjoyed. The pictures above are from out trip.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

In My Past Life....

I have not blogged in a few days because our days have been a little lazy and uneventful. It has been a nice little pause from all the chaos and allowing my reserves to refill.

Yesterday Trice and I went to past life regression therapy. Now, for those of you who have never heard of this (as I had not until Trice brought me into the loop), it is a practice that allows you to see/address/view your past lives. You come with an issue that you are working on in this life and, hopefully, you go to the past life that is influencing that issue or a past life where you were able to resolve that issue. I was skeptical and a bit nervous. What if, in a past life, I was an ax murder? a wife abuser? a republican?!

And so, I went for my session. Without giving all the nitty-gritty of it and boring you, I will jump to the interesting part. My issue you ask? Anxiety. Never feeling good enough. Fear. This was my "issue" for the day. And so I entered into a past life and this is what I saw. My name was Cynthia, Cindy for short. At the age of 3 I saw my mother fall from a step stool in the kitchen, hit her head on the counter, and die immediately. As a child I was a bit plump and enjoyed sweets, which is what had brought me into the kitchen where I saw my mother's death. Taken in by an older neighbor woman, I grew up to be very obese (think the movie "Shallow Hal" as a size reference) who was lonely. I had no friends because I felt I was not good enough and I lived my life in solitude. I worked in a bookstore and never dated. At the age of 56, I died of a heart attack alone in my bedroom. I had so many feelings of fear, loneliness, and inadequacy that it was palpable. I know this sounds very depressing and very sad, but Kumar (the past life therapist) then asked the self in the past life what I would tell the me of now. I said "Be happy. Just let it go."

I am not sure what effect, if any, this session will have on me, but the experience that I had was profound. The true and tangible emotions that come of this cannot be denied. I can see the connections that past life could potentially have on this life. I want to believe that I was able to let something go. I have signed up for one more session, and if anything, it was a great experience. I mentioned this to Mark in an email the other day and instead of scoffing at it he said "It makes sense." At least I am not totally off my rocker:)

I spend the afternoon with Jill-ji today. A nice little slice of home here in India. We went to the bookstore, then to FabIndia, and then to lunch. We gabbed, we laughed, we just enjoyed. It was lovely.

Pictures: a Pug puppy in a laundry basket taking a nap in style; Trice with the monkey that ate my banana

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A New Pose

Yesterday's practice was slow, heavy, and tight. After climbing all those stairs, I think my hips and calves went on strike. And so, yesterday we just relaxed for the afternoon. I got the chance to finish the book I was reading, which was bitter sweet. It was one of those books that you want to get to the ending, but it is so good you dont want it to end. Two thumbs up. I treated myself to the smallest, little, miniature scoop of ice cream and it was good. I have tried to have a few little treats, and all have come up very short. Moisture is a bit lacking in baked goods. But the ice cream was yummy, and even had a little chunk of brownie in it. Hit the spot.

We figured out how to watch some movies online, which is a nice reprieve to all the mental motion that goes on while trying to acclimate to India. We turned off all the lights, drew the curtains, and snuggled down for a little mindless enjoyment.

When the alarm went off this morning I was actually a little sluggish, even though compared to led start time, our mysore time is like sleeping in. I dragged myself out of bed and we headed out. The mornings seem to been a bit cooler the past few days and the quiet walk to the shala is really nice. The vestibule filled up quickly and I was happy we got there on the earlier side (Trice calls me the slave driver about getting out of the apartment no later than 6:15). When I heard "one more" I grabbed my mat and headed into the practice room. Today I had focus. I felt relaxed. I felt soft. I like it when I can find this space. I proceeded to move through the fundamentals, when Sharath stood over me and said "You take Pasasana. Only Pasasana." I nodded in recognition, tried not to giggle, but smiled a little inside at the same time. It is a great privilege to be given the first post in second series. My deep respect for this practice makes me keenly aware of the importance and significance of this. And for this I am thankful. Pasasana. I forget how deep and open the post can be after the entire primary series practice.

We bought some homemade peanut butter and bread this morning outside the shala. We are very excited about this. The peanut butter in stores is very expensive and the kind that has all sorts of fake stuff in it, like Jiffy back home. The homemade stuff is incredible. And who knew baked bread could make two girls so excited!

Pictures: What we have noticed from driving around southern India is that the practice of digging up HUGE trees and their roots is very common. On out way to dinner we always pass this enormous root. Trice got under and pretended to carry it. So silly. Although, with the way her muscles are growing she maybe could carry it away:) The monkeys here are everywhere and have no boundaries when it comes to personal space. I posted one picture of a rather large an in charge monkey just chillin'. Tomorrow I will post the picture of Trice and the monkey that ate my banana. I have also posted a picture of my puppies. I miss them and am constantly reminded of them by the dogs here.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Way Better Than A Stairmaster

Today is our rest day from practice, so we headed off to Chamundi Temple here in Mysore. The temple is at the top of a huge hill and to reach it you must climb over 1000 steps (although, when we got to the top we realized there is a slacker route via a road straight to the top). We arrived at the bottom of the steps and headed upwards. The steps were many, uneven, and quite steep. As you are walking up we noticed the little red and yellow smudges on the fronts of each step. This is for the most devout of people, as they reach down and touch each and every step. Trying not to pass out was devotion enough for us. When we reached the top, a bit sweaty, but thankful that we decided to make the trek in the morning before the sun became brutal, we were greeted by a beautiful and intricate temple. Now forgive me if I am inaccurate, but from my research the temple is to the goddess Durga. She is a fierce goddess that helps you in time of great need and desperate situations. She is the "one who can redeem in situations of utmost distress". She manifests as fearlessness and patience, and never loses her sense of humor. She is often pictured riding a lion. I like here and for some reason she resonates with me.

Durga is deep inside the temple and you actually cannot get close to her statue. Everyone leaves money and offerings of flowers or coconuts to her, then places their hands over the small fire at the entrance and places their hands over their face. Thankfully, an older woman showed us what to do and we too gave our respects. Outside the temple we were given red and yellow string that was wrapped around out right wrists. From what I found out, it is given for protection when you have gone to make an offering to a god/goddess.

We stayed a while and looked around. While we were there the king of Mysore apparently entered into the temple, which seemed to be a big deal. Based off of the fact that he had a procession of cars and was riding in a BMW, I would think this is an accurate statement. We stopped for a moment to have a coconut and rest before heading back down, and this is when we were introduced to the father upfront and greedy monkeys. As Trice finished up her coconut, the monkey sat patiently waiting for her to fork it over. When she was done, the monkey grab it, straw and all and took off. I had a banana in my pocket and began to peel it so I could enjoy its contents when another monkey came scurrying over and grab it out of my hand. It was all in great humor. You snooze, you lose.

Now, we thought the trip up was a feat, but the trip down was just as taxing. Unlike the Indians that seem to just spring down, we we moving slow and with great caution so as not to take a tumble down. By the time we reached the bottom our legs were shaking. Quite the experience!

I was going to post yesterday about the dogs here in India, but after writing it all out I decided not to share it. I will leave it at this...I am deeply saddened by how many dogs live here and my heartstrings are tugged on a regular basis. Dont worry Mark, I will not be bringing any puppies home:)

Led practice tomorrow at 4:30am. We are heading off to the palace in Mysore tomorrow evening. Should be fun and produce some good pictures.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

"And All the Over-Achievers See This As A Gift!"

"And all the over-achievers see this as a gift!" was Trice's reaction to this morning's news. While moving through the seated postures this morning at practice, Sharath ambled over to the woman next to me to adjust her in a pose. Trying to stay focused and remain calm, I jumped through to sit hoping I wouldn't smack him in the butt with my foot. Coming to sit and situating myself in marichasana C, he turned to me and said "You come tomorrow 4:30...and Sunday." "4:30?" I managed to squeak out. "Yes. 4:30. You and your friend. Come." And that was that. He had changed our start time for led class. I finished my practice. Grabbed my ankles during back bends and then picked up my mat and headed to the locker room for closing. Trice was already moving through her closing practice, and I could tell that Sharath had not graced her with the news yet. I thought to myself....I should let her enjoy savasana first before I break the new to her. We finished up, changed clothes and headed out. Silence is maintained in the shala, so I would have to wait till we were outside to tell her. As we reached the door, we turned to bow our heads to Sharath. I stepped out first with Trice behind me. She paused in response to his voice and I knew he had dropped the bomb. She walked out and turned to me with her eyes WIDE open and mouthed "4:30!." I just smiled.

Pictures: an add for a loan (I thought this funny since at the age of 22 the idea of marriage gave me hives), me hanging out in the room

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Winter Hats, Honking Horns, and Nan

From what I hear from family and friends, the weather back home is cold. Now, when I reflect on what "cold" means to me, I picture below 10 degrees Fahrenheit, with a windchill of -5 and maybe even snow. The weather here, in comparison, is warm, but as Trice and I are starting to realize...warm and cold are completely relative. When we leave our apartment at 6:15am to walk to the shala, the temperature is probably around 65-70 degrees. We comment on how nice it is as we walk in our yoga pants and tops, and maybe a scarf around our necks. Indians attire on the other hand is drastically different. The man in the security booth that we pass every morning as we leave is always wearing a wool had, winter scarf wrapped around his face, and a heavy jacket. He sits there, huddled away as though there were a blizzard outside and he is protecting himself from frostbite. The rest of the people we encounter, from young to old, seem to find the weather here to be cold. Wool hats are common and jackets are not out of the ordinary. So as Trice and I sludge our way through the hot sun, sweat dripping down our backs as we climb the hill to our abode, we cannot help but laugh at all the bundled up Indians with desire that we too could feel cold.

Both Trice and I are very aware of what NYC driving is like. We are used to horns honking, people passing, and fast driving. India dwarfs NYC. I have never heard so much horn tooting. Drivers constantly honk. Honk to go through an intersection (I have yet to see a stop sign). Hong to pass people (which happens constantly). Honk to tell people...get the f*%k out of the way or I will run you over with my rickshaw. Now, they dont honk once. They honk multiple times and even when there is no possible way that you are not aware of their presence they honk a few more times for merit. It is very fascinating. I, however (Trice has much more patience for this practice), am over the honking. I know you are coming. I know you will squish me like a bug if I dont dive off the road and into the bushes. I can see your car coming. The New Yorker in me has been trying to get out. As the honking begins, I can feel the bird itching to come out of its cage and fly through the air. I want more than anything to "flip 'um the bird" but I have resisted. I have pacified the bird for the time being, but I cannot promise anything:)

We had another cooking class today. It went well. We learned a few northern Indian dishes, which are my favorite. Not only did we get to do some tasty dishes, but I got to learn how to make NAN! I am very excited about this. I think I could live off nan...plus it has no ghee, no butter, no oil and is not spicy which all adds up to a settled stomach. Now you ask, what is in nan? I bet you would have never guessed what goes into a piece of nan. The two main ingredients are white flour and YOGURT! Yes, plain yogurt. Never in a million years would I have said yogurt was a main component of nan. Well, now that I know, everyone back home start preparing for a little nan when I get back.

Practice has been good this week. The instruction is minimal, which I should have expected since there are about 60 people at one time in the shala. I have yet to be adjusted in anything but back bending, which is a mildly uncomfortable adjustment as Sharath makes me grab my ankles, but I am accepting of this. I know that I will learn, even if it comes more from myself and less from Sharath. Many people back home have asked if he has given me any second series' poses and the answer is no. The tradition is that you must be there a month before he will even think of starting someone on second. I am quite content with this, as I feel no pressure and get to just do my practice. I enjoy primary series and the softness of it for me allows me to really focus on the breath. I am waiting to the lessons that I will learn and the knowledge or clarity to present itself. "Do your practice. All is coming."

Pictures: Trice making nan, the potato chip making man making FRESH potato chips! yummy!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Seed Chewer

I apologize ahead of time, but this entry has no silly rats or naked massages. It is a slow day, with lots of down time. Which for me always equals thinking, and in this case "seed chewing". I first heard my cousin use this term and was immediately draw to it because this is what I do. I take a thought and I chew, and chew, and chew. I roll it around in my head and chew. Never really getting anywhere, just causing more anxiety and tension. The seed chewing just continues to feed on itself. This is how I have spent my morning.

I am constantly reminded at how much I thrive on consistency and routine. I find comfort and easy is sameness. I am sure this is why I am draw to the tradition of Ashtanga. The repetition in practice, the steadiness in the flow, and most of all the same faces coming to the mat every morning. Being grounded, having a foundation, this I like.

I know this about myself. I have accepted the astrological influence of Cancer in my life. I have even grown to value this about myself. I do however, acknowledge the very obvious drawbacks to this mentality. Change is not my friend. Change is very uncomfortable. Change hurts and shakes me to my core.

I have been struggling with this on many fronts since arriving to India. At home, practice is surrounded by familiar face, familiar practices, familiar laughs. Here, at the shala, I know only two people. Everyone seems very intense and this change in energy has thrown me off a bit. I keep creating this serious in my head where everyone is judging me and each other. Total seed chewing moment. Totally self created.

Back home I grow fearful that the world I have know over the past few years is drastically changing. I am no longer a student (in the very formal sense), my best friend is moving away, my yoga home is changing, and I have no idea where I will be in 3 months. I am terrified. The seed has been planted and I am trying not to chew, but habit is strong. I feel a bit without a foundation. I feel my roots slipping from beneath the earth. I feel lost.

A friend mentioned to me the other day that I rarely post pictures of myself on my blog, so today, since I have taken no pictures yet, I will post some of me that Trice has taken.