Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Place

I just got out of my shower, I mean bucket bath, I mean moment of sticking my head under the faucet. Geoff's got his laundry in the bucket so there was no where to collect the water. I like this method anyway, for a good hair wash. Sat straight on the floor of the shower which is also the bathroom. I stuck my head under and wash wash wash. It's true what my dad posted on facebook, I have a real toilet. This hasn't always been the case and is plenty to get excited about. Unlike some of the other yogis, I do not get all ecstatic about an opportunity to practice my squatting over a hole in the floor.

Geoff's my roommate. We share a 1950's style room with twin beds separated by nightstands. Goodnight honey. Goodnight. Careful now, not to injure yourself on the rock hard bed. Our other housemates share a room as well. They have their own bathroom which received a water heating system after some demands by Geoff. Our 'man of the house' also managed to get us a new system so we no longer have to unplug the fridge every time we want to use the water filter to get some drinking water. Amazing.

Our "stove" is a small tank of gasoline with a burner on top which I am no longer allowed to use after nearly burning the house down. That's okay, because I can hardly get into the house anyway, with its medieval style locks and three separate keys. Thank goodness for my roommate/coffee wallah who I am going to owe a lot of Mysore Pak to after all the coffee making and scooter rides to the shala which is not so close this year.

But, the bright sides are many. Internet. Awesome! And a swing seat outside perfect for early mornings. And it's pretty quiet in here which is a very rare and special treat for a Mysore apartment. The price is right too, just over 6,000 rupees for the month, which is about $125. You can't really argue with that. And there are lots of lines to hang our clothes on. And a landlord who is eager to help without being too invasive.

And most of all it's here, in beautiful magical India which despite all its absolute craziness and upside downness, somehow flips you upright just the same. Everything is in your face here. There is nowhere to hide and so you address what is in front of you and what is inside of you with honesty and integrity and you heal and you charge and you bring it back. Ultimately it's not about what you do when you are here, but how that translates to the life you lead when you are not here and the people you impact. India is not a place, but a vehicle and she will certainly take you for a ride.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

You've come a long way baby

I want to write to you through eyes that have never been. In some ways I feel like that. A year and a half has passed and in a place as mysterious and changing as India, everything is new daily. So here I am.

Some things change. Some stay the same. Still there is the Indian man, "You come to know yoga. You can't be knowing yoga." "Okay," I say. Smile. Smile. Move on.

But the changes... Well trip Number One, the shots: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Tetanus, Tuberculosis?, etc, etc. The malaria pills that made me woozy and dreaming. The never ending flight that stopped in Bangladesh unexpectedly. (Were we even allowed to be there?) And the toilets that were holes in floors. The OLD Bangalore airport.

Covered head to toe in sweats and scarves except for carefully bought sandals creeping out. Carrying all that luggage a backpack across front and back. Trying to hike bottoms of pants up from dragging on wet bathroom tiles. Hike top of pants down. Squatting into holes in floors.

Not anymore.

And no more flying AIR INDIA, queen of missed transfers and crying babies. I'm in Emirates now. Leg room. Warm wet towels and only, well, ok, still a couple of cries. BUT, movie options in English, Yeah! and all that leg room.

Still, here I am at 3AM standing at the conveyor watching waiting the luggage going round and round. I should have looked more closely at my suitcase. Which one is it? And a three hour drive ahead, if I find the driver. He'll blow into Mysore this time of night speeding and stopping with no regard for a westerner's fears. Lucky I'm used to it.

There is nothing like it, you know, shooting through the Middle East, then Asia, to remind you how many people there are doing their jobs, living their lives.

First steps outside. The same sensation as always. Instantly the smell. The smell mixed in the air. Thick wet incense smelling air. How can an entire country smell of a burning stick? Wet. wet and thick like Puerto Rico. Florida. But it's not rainy season so I comment to my driver. "Oh," he says, "you knowing India".

Two suitcases I brought this time. It's my Sixth trip and I don't feel like suffering. I want my things with me and to avoid as much as possible the washing of yoga clothes as I take my bath and the wearing again and again of same shirts.

He puts my small suitcase in the tiny trunk and the larger suitcase he hauls into the back seat. I'm confused when he encourages me to sit front side. I never got upfront before. Not on a ride like this. They usually put your suitcase upright in the back seat if the trunk is full. Uhhhhh.... I hesitate but ultimately get in the front. (I hope this guy can drive.) And big shocker, the seat belt is broken. (I really hope this guy can drive.)

And it's raining and someone tell me why they've tinted out the top AND bottom of the windshield so you can only see out through this tiny strip of clear glass in the center. I look for Ganesha, remover of obstacles. Indians always have little miniature idols on their dashboards and front mirrors. I've even heard of wives blessing cars for their husband drivers. No Ganesh here though, just a mini Buddha, and one small doll hanging from the mirror. I ask what it is. He says it's a doll. A gift. Looks like a pink poodle. Never wanted Ganesha so badly.

New eyes. New eyes. What do I see? Where in New York we would have graffiti on those blank city walls, here they have movie posters. The one famous male star with his predictable mustache and the curvy letters of the local language, Kannada. Coconut trees. Coffee Day, the Starbucks of south India. Christmas lights hung in the shape of G-ds. Lots of store gates painted bright blue. You know Slumdog Millionaire? It looks like that.

When a car backs up it plays cheesy Indian music that reminds me of the sound of the doorbell would make at my childhood Greek neighbor's house where, like here they would cover the couches in plastic and display nick nacks proudly on special shelves where they'd be dusted daily.

A lot of buses. On one road will be a bus, a car, a truck, a rickshaw, a scooter, a bicycle, people walking and animals trotting right down the middle. Loudest horn wins. Passing is a science here: get as close as you can to the vehicle in front of you and beep your horn. Sometimes as you're passing the car in front of you, you're going into incoming traffic. The game of Chicken is the status quo.

Gas is petrol. Vegetarian is Veg or Pure Veg. Ask for some one's Good Name when you ask for their name. Use your Right hand for eating, shaking and giving money. Left hand for anything dirty. And don't expect change. No one has it. You may get stale candy instead.

5AM is the 1st coffee stop by the side of the road. A lady mixes it out of pots, blending warm milk and sugar and straining it in the end. It comes in a tiny plastic cup like you get at the dentist for rinsing. And it's hot and sweet and perfect just like I remember it. Seems like all my memories of India come rising up as that first taste touches my lips: the yoga shala, my teacher, the friends I've made from all over the world and see only here.

It's been six years since I first stepped onto Indian ground, open eyed and eager with not a clue what was ahead. Five trips later with an authorization to teach and a yoga shala built, I return. The same but changed, just like She is.

Monday, November 7, 2011


Land Yoga is not a studio.
It's a shala. Those of you who have practiced with us or have even just come in to say hello and see our space know that it is sacred and special. The intension has been made since the beginning to bring you the purest, truest yoga from the source. The mantra is "slowly by slowly" with a hope that our students will integrate yoga into their lives forever.

It is with that focus in mind that I endeavor on my SIXTH trip to India this December, where I will study with Sharath, the grandson of Sri K Pattabhi Jois, and the head of the Ashtanga community. Though I first found Ashtanga Yoga in 1998 and have studied intensely since 2002, I, like you, remain a student and crave the attention, warmth, love and energy of my dear teacher.

I leave you with two AMAZING Authorized Ashtanga Teachers, Michelle Kalyk and Christopher Hildebrandt who channel the practice through them which is what it is all about! And I will be skyping LIVE from INDIA every Friday evening for a special class and conference in the tradition of the shala there.

In honor of this trip, please join me for the first FULL LED PRIMARY class ever at Land Yoga on Saturday, November 19th at 11:15am. Just $20 to attend class AND get your ticket to the Mother Hale Learning Center Fundraiser and Bon Voyage party which will follow at 3pm and include food from Bad Horse Pizza and Red Rooster!!! RSVP Now!! We will sell out!

As Land Yoga approaches its 5 month anniversary, our purpose remains clear; we are here because of you and for you.

Shanti OM!