Thursday, March 24, 2011

GOA!... and beyond

I’m in Candolim, Goa for two weeks to practice with Rolf & Marci, whom I practiced with 6 years earlier in Thailand.  They’re great-- very influential and help me so much with my practice.  I would like to come back next year for one month with them.  Yoga is a slow process and takes the body time to integrate the changes made during practice.  I learn and progress quit a bit in two weeks, so one month with them would really be beneficial and necessary to see the results.  
I was in Purple Valley for two weeks before this which is a yoga retreat further north in Goa.  (Goa is a state on the western coast in southern India.)  I thought four weeks in Goa would be all I could handle as it’s very touristy.  Candolim in particular where I am now is known for its clubs and charter buses of fat German tourists.  Yes there are lots of tourists, but where I’m staying in Candolim is right next to the shala and in a nice shady nook.  I’m a two minute walk from the beach and there are no roads back in this cluster of homes and guesthouses, just sandy walkways.  It’s actually the quietest place I’ve been since I’ve been in India.  With all the tourists comes more Western comforts because there is enough of a market to support it.  The restaurants offer a wide variety of western food which I’m really excited about-- at this point in my trip I’m very tired of the traditional Indian meals of white rice and spicy sauce.  I can even get a burger in Goa which in unheard of in other parts of India because the cow is sacred in Hindu and not to be eaten.  Goa has much of a Portuguese influence and seems to be predominantly Christian.  It’s acceptable to wear tank tops and bathing suits which is great because at this point it’s really hot and humid.  If I were coming back to India to practice yoga for month it would be here, not Mysore.  
Since I’ve been in India I’ve only been in places to practice yoga.  When I leave here I will be traveling for a month around the north as a tourist.  I’m really excited to get out of the yoga bubble and see the country.  My travel partner for the north had to leave suddenly and fly back to NYC because his father had a heart attack.  So I’ve rerouted my itinerary.  This Friday I fly to Mumbai for 3 days.  Mumbai is considered the most modern business and fashion center of India, like the NYC of India.  I’m really excited to see and experience the vibe of a real Indian city, but I think 3 days will be all I can handle by myself.  From there I fly to Varanasi which is a holy city on the Ganges river.  Varanasi is known for it’s ghats (steps leading down to the river) where millions of pilgrams come every year to take a dip in the holy river.  It’s considered very auspicious to die in Varanasi because it’s where the flow of the Ganges river changes direction from the south to the north, and it’s very famous for it’s  cremation ceremonies at the burning ghats.  Varanasi is supposed to be quit the spectacle of life and death.   
From there I continue my pilgrimage further up the Ganges river to Haridwar.  Haridwar is another very sacred city for Indian pilgrams as it’s where the Ganges decends from the Himalayas to the north Indian plains.  Haridwar means “Gateway of God”  and has been a center for Hindu religion and mysticism for centuries.  I will be meeting up with my friend Zoe in Haridwar to travel further north towards the Himalayas.  After a few days in Haridwar we will continue on to Rishikesh which is famous for it’s ashrams and is  a popular tourist destination.  We will make our way to Gangotri which is the start of a trek to the Gaumukh glacier in the Himalayas.  The Gaumukh glacier, which means “mouth of the cow” is the source of the Ganges river and is considered one of the most sacred sites in India.  The trek should take about three days and requires a permit.  I’m not sure yet if we’ll hire a guide to carry supplies, tents and cook for us or if we’ll stay in tea houses along the way.  Probably the later of the two.  I don’t think we’ll be able to pre-arrange the trip until we get to Uttarkashi, the town before Gangotri, where we’ll spend a couple nights.  India is not very organized and it can be difficult to plan such things online.  
So I’m really excited about the rest of my journey and look forward to the north and seeing more of “real” India.  Now that I’ve been in India for two months I’m beginning to understand and feel more comfortable with how it works here.  Starting out in yoga communities has been a great and safe way to ease into the culture.  I look forward to venturing out on my own, even though I know I’ll be amongst other travelers and tourists so I have some comfort in that.  India is a crazy place and definitely the most adventurous place I’ve ever traveled to.  It’s like everything here is an unknown and so unpredictable as to how it will turn out.  It’s what makes India so chaotic and so fascinating, revolting and intriguing, all at the same time.  I love it, and I’m so excited to get out and see more of the country, but it’s definitely not a place I could ever call home, or even a home away from home.  In my mind, I’m already planning my next trip back here, yet it makes me appreciate my country all the more.  America, the “dream country” as my waiter in the restaurant said to me yesterday...

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Allure of Mysore

If we practice the science of yoga which is useful to the entire human community and which yields happiness both here and hereafter- if we practice without fail, we will attain physical, mental and spiritual happiness, and our minds will move towards the Self."
                                                                                                                -  Sri K. Pattabhi Jois

From what I've heard and read, Pattabhi Jois sounds like an amazing man.  Thanks to his focus and determination he has spread the life enhancing practice of Ashtanga Yoga throughout the world.   At eleven years old he ran away from home to study yoga with his guru in Mysore;  from a very early age his life was devoted to yoga.  He was committed to his dharma of teaching yoga even though he was extremely poor most of his life and some days didn't have enough money for food.  He loved to teach and I am extremely grateful to him for passing along this practice and for all my teachers along the way within his lineage.

I'm committed to the Ashtanga yoga system as my personal yoga practice.  I knew it after my first mysore style class eight years ago when I walked out of the room buzzed like every cell in my body was vibrating.  This year felt like the time in my life to make the pilgrimage to Mysore with the intention of paying respects, connecting to the lineage, and to experience practicing in the main Ashtanga yoga shala for myself.  My experience in the Shala was about developing gratitude and devotion for the practice that has helped me heal from a major injury and enhanced my life in so many ways. I would recommend anyone who is committed to Ashtanga yoga and has the privilege to go practice in Mysore take the journey for themselves-- at least once.  Everyone has a different and uniquely individual experience...  Now that I've moved on from Mysore and have been in Goa for a week, I have some perspective on my personal experience of practicing in the main shala.  Currently I am in Purple Valley Yoga Retreat with many other Ashtangi Yogis who are asking me what I thought of Mysore.  Here's sort of a sum of my experiences...

Lots of people from all over the world are in Mysore to practice at the Shala.  It was a great entry point into India because there is assistance to help students get oriented and find places to live; many apartments, services and restaurants cater to the influx of students.  Expect a week or so to sort it out if it's your first trip to Mysore and you don't have prior arrangements or many connections.  I was there in the height of the season and there were probably at least 250 yoga students at any given time.  The shala can hold roughly 65-75 practitioners at a time so students are given a start time to show up and wait for a space to open up.  The energy in the room is very special.  Lots of heat, bodies and past history of the Ashtanga culture is housed there.  It contains a strong community and most people really dig the vibe.  It was great to experience practicing in the main shala first hand and believe it's worth the trip just to see how it resonates with you.  With so many students it's difficult to get much individual attention and not the reality of practicing in the main shala these days.  I believe Sharath (the grandson of the late Pattabhi Jois and head teacher at the Shala) has a bead on everyone in room but with so many students it must take several months for several years to develop any kind of student-teacher relationship with him.  That's a major commitment and lifestyle choice if that's your path with the practice.

Sharath now has assistants in the room to help with adjustments but there is still a sort of hands off approach.  If you need help binding in Marichiasana or Supta Kurmasana, you will get help.  If you need help balancing in Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana or Sirsasana, you will get help.  There weren't any adjustments to take me deeper into the postures or just because they feel good.  I received an adjustment in backbends each day at the end of my practice and that was about it.  I would not say Mysore is the place to work on or deepen your practice if you only have one month to spend there, especially since there isn't much assistance or instruction from a teacher.  I did slowly build more strength and focus just by having a set schedule of practice everyday and appreciated building a more solid foundation in the primary series.  I feel like one month was enough time to pay my respects and connect to the lineage.  It would take many more subsequent trips to establish a relationship with Sharath and practicing in the main shala if one doesn't already have a history of going to Mysore.  Many people don't want adjustments or already think of Sharath as their teacher and really benefit from practicing in his presence.  I am not one of those people.  I benefit most from working with a teacher who will help and assist me in postures to further strengthen my practice-- to take me further than I can go on my own.

The fees for practicing in the Shala are expensive.... The cost is roughly $600 for the first month and $400 for each month after that just for morning practice. I was under the impression it was $600 for the first month ever, so in returning years it would be $400 the first month.  Apparently that is not the case.  The intention I think is for students to stay for a long time and not just drop in for a month here and there.  I had allotted for six weeks in Mysore thinking I would pay for the first month and half of the second month's rate.  I found out it doesn't work that way.  I could have paid by the week but the cost was about $150/ week.  I actually only had 1.5 weeks and $300 for eight days of practice just felt too excessive, especially since I wasn't working closely with Sharath on my practice.  If I had known this I would have planned for two months in Mysore, but I did not know this so for my last eight days I practiced with Sheshadri.  Sheshadri teaches Ashtanga yoga in Lakshmipuram and was a long term student of Pattabhi Jois, BKS Iyengar, and Krishnamacharya.  There were approximately 12-15 students in the morning practice session so lots of individual attention.  He is a powerful little Indian man with alot of insight and amazing adjustments.  I would recommend for anyone to practice with him if you do not want to practice in the main shala for any reason.  My experience at Sheshadri's is similar to what I imagine it would have been like practicing with Pattabhi Jois 20 years ago.  

Mysore is a great place to go to focus on yoga because everything else in life is cut away.  You can fully immerse yourself in the practice and study of yoga, and Mysore holds alot of yoga history.  In addition to morning practice, the shala offers chanting, sanskrit, and philosophy classes three days a week.  I took sanskrit at the shala and classes on the Bhagavad Gita with James Boag two days a week.  I highly recommend anyone in Mysore take classes with him; he teaches with so much heart and his presentation of the philosophy and how it relates to yoga is superlative.  As great as my trip to Mysore has been, it's helped me realize I am not in a place in my life where I want to only focus on yoga-- I actually feel an ardent need to be working.  Coincidentally, I found part time work to fill my days after practice helping a consultant who works remotely and lives in Mysore much of the year.  India is good that way... it seems to be giving me exactly what I need when I need it.  Like any lessons or anything I need to understand more clearly spontaneously appear.  Amidst the perceived chaos in India is an underlying vibe that everything is alright and exactly as it needs to be, which is the basic teaching of the Yoga Shastra.  Needless to say, I have already learned many lessons in my two months here, not only through my yoga practice which acts like a mirror into the Self, but also from living in India which is like a practice in and of itself.  I could not see going back to Mysore if I were not able to work at the same time.  

Mysore seems to be a preliminary requirement for those with a committed Ashtanga practice and is often spoke about as a mystical place within the Ashtanga community.  For me practicing in Mysore feels like a bit of a juxtaposition.  So many people are drawn there to practice yoga, yet it was really expensive and I didn't get much help with my practice.  At this point, I couldn't see returning to Mysore year after year for months at a time if authorization was not the goal.  Sharath said in a conference authorization should not be the goal and we shouldn't take asana practice too seriously.  Traveling all the way to India and paying $600 a month for morning practice is taking yoga pretty seriously.  If it were 20 years ago when the number of students and practice room was much smaller, and those who went to Mysore were practicing intimately with Guruji, the dedication to journey to Mysore to year after year to practice with him would be obvious.  It's not like that these days-- it felt like a bit of a factory cycling through as many people as possible.  There is a cap put on number of people who can practice in the shala.  How many people would come if there wasn't a limit? The whole social scene in Mysore is an interesting experience and psychological study in itself that I was fascinated by.  Were there many like me there for the first time to experience it for themselves and pay respects? With so many people all over the world now practicing Ashtanga yoga that would make sense.  Had most of the students there already invested years in taking trips to Mysore and have a solid relationship established with Sharath, or is their goal becoming authorized or certified to teach Ashtanga?  If a student has a really advanced practice and Sharath is the only person able to teach them then I can understand-- maybe Mysore should be reserved for those students.  Is it like the phenomenon that a product increases in value once it's no longer produced or albums increase in value once the musician dies?  Since Pattabhi Jois passed away several years ago is there more of a lure to make the pilgrimage to Mysore?  

Maybe I haven't spent enough time there to understand or with more time I'll feel a pull a go back.  What is the allure of Mysore, or is it just being in India which to me feels like the real practice?  Personally, I get more out of practicing in a smaller mysore class with a certified teacher.  The enchantment of practicing in the main shala wore off after a month and demystified what it was like to practice in Mysore.  If anyone feels to pull to go practice in Mysore- do it!  It was a lovely experience, well worth the trip, and I'm so glad to have experienced it first hand for myself.  Something would have been missing in my practice if I hadn't been there to practice.  I've learned I do not feel the need to be there to have devotion and depth in my practice, and feel I would benefit more from practicing with a regular teacher and having a real job where I can put my practice to work.  Go see for yourself what it gives you.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Trains vs. Planes

The overnight train from Mysore to Goa is definitely an experience worth writing about.  It's a must do cultural experience I'd recommend for anyone traveling in India.  Once is good though; I've had my fill with the train and I plan to fly across the country from here on out.  I'll take a train or bus for short distances between cities, like six hours or less, but significant distances will be by plane.  I chose to experience the train from Mysore to Goa because it was a distance short enough to make the journey bearable- a mer 16 hours on board.  Goa to Jaipur, my next destination, would take about 2.5 days.  Yes, I will be flying to Jaipur!

Thankfully I had a friend to travel with which made the trip much more entertaining and enjoyable.  Some things in India that seem like a simple task turn out to be a major hassle while other things that seem so complicated turn out to be relatively easy.  I'm learning to be prepared for anything.  How to book the ticket was one of the hardest parts to figure out as some things such as this aren't obvious in India when it seems it should be.  We tried to book the tickets through a travel agent who told us "Oh, not possible" which is often the answer you get in India when they don't know the answer or don't want to go through the process to figure it out.  Goa is a major tourist destination- I knew it was possible, I just had to ask the right person.  In India I get a different answer for the same question depending on who is asked.  After about 2 weeks I finally found the answer I wanted.  A great website- you just have to know which connections to make and where in order to get to your destination.  It doesn't do it for you like most American companies would because, well, I guess that would just be too easy and efficient.  Another yoga student told me Mysore to Dharwar and Dharwar to Goa.  Bingo.  The first leg of the journey was overnight from 10 pm to 8:00 am.  This leg went smoothly.  We showed up at the Mysore station with our printout ticket and it worked.  We were concerned the ticket master would say something like "Oh, not possible" and make us buy new tickets, which were only about $7 so it wouldn't have been a big deal.  The universal computerized system in India seems a little non-existent so it would be possible there was no record of the ticket.  

We booked the "sleeper" class the whole way since it was overnight.  Turns out it's all "sleeper", there's just 1st, 2nd, and Sleeper, which is the 3rd class.  So we were in the 3rd class for our intro into the Indian Train experience.  It wasn't bad though, and it was really cheap.  We found our train car, found our bunks, and tried to sleep for 10 hours until we got to Dharwar.  The "Express" train doesn't mean much in India as the train was moving pretty slow and made lots of stops.  Tips for traveling on trains:  bring a sheet for the bed, a chain and lock for luggage, face wipes, hand sanitizer, and strategize with hydration to use the bathroom as little as possible.  Of course people on the train were curious of two white western women and stared at us, but for the most part the people around us of were pleasantly friendly and not overbearing.

The second leg, Dharwar to Goa, was a little more exciting.  At the station, we tried to politely ask the inquiry desk for information about our train and where to board, but all we got was a head bobble and an irritated hand gesture towards the track.  A train pulled up, stopped for about 2 minutes, and left.  Another train came into the station at 8:30am, our scheduled departure time and I asked the conductor if it was going to Goa, "Next train, next train" (they tend to repeat things in India) and the train left in about 2 minutes.  An hour and a half later our train comes and begins to pull away as we're trying to figure out which car to get on, so we throw our bags to someone on the steps between cars and jump on.  Soon enough a conductor comes along to check our ticket and motions us towards the back of the train.  So we keep walking, or schlepping our luggage through the crowded narrow walkways towards the back of the train.  After a few more cars another train conductor checks our ticket and told us get out and walk around at the next stop since we were in the caboose, but for now sit here.  The sleeper cars are like bench seats that turn into beds, and it felt a little crowded where we sat, and the men there were a bit much.  So I left Zoe with the luggage and kept walking, through the sleeper case, through the 1st and 2nd AC class, to find our seats in the last car which was sealed off from the rest of the train by a locked metal door.  I looked out the door (between cars) around at the caboose and saw arms and heads hanging out the windows- it looked crowded in there.  Apparently that was the "shared sleeper" case, or other words, the most ghetto.  

I noted some emptier bench seats on the way back to Zoe, we made our way to them and spent the remainder of the trip there, another 5 hours.  The train is fun; guys walk through selling chai and samosas, and we met some interesting locals.  I think 1st and 2nd class comes with AC, meals, and sheets, but 3rd class wasn't bad (unless it's really hot out so book accordingly).  I hear Indians will buy one ticket in 1st or 2nd class, share the bench/ bed for 2 people, and just bribe the conductor when he checks tickets.  Much in India works on the bribery system.  

In route we learned there were several stops in Goa, the last of which was closest to our yoga retreat.  So we stayed on the train until the last stop instead of getting off at our scheduled station.  Immediately after departing the train we're accosted by taxi drivers and porters.  The two exits of the station were funnel necks of people because guards were checking everyone's ticket to verify it said that station.  If not, if they did what we did and only bought a ticket for part of journey then there was a fine (or bribe).  For westerners, the fine is always much more and the taxi driver who latched on to us said it would be 500 Rupees, about twice the cost of the ticket.  He told us to keep walking to the end of the station, he would meet us there, and walked out.  I was beginning to visualize us jumping the fence, throwing our luggage over to the driver, but no, at the end of the station platform the fence ended and there were steps down to the street where our taxi was waiting.  No guard, no people... so typical India!   

Thursday, February 17, 2011

First Impressions

India is a very interesting place.  It's colorful and chaotic, old world meets new, load, beautiful, dirty, crowded, and laid back.  I've been in India for a month and haven't written about it because it's so difficult to explain.  Like I can't quit figure it out or put my finger on it.  I think the first prime minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, said it best by describing India as 'a bundle of contradictions held together by strong but invisible threads'.  It amazes me how progressive India is when at times it seems so backwards and inefficient. Religion, worship, and ritual is infused in almost every aspect of their lives here, yet the country is full of lying, cheating, and stealing.  I can't even begin to wrap my head around the history of India and all the phases of rule it has been through.  I think that contributes to why to culture is so complex.  I'm trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together or see the patterns of how it works here, but it's still a jumble of mystery.  India is so ancient in it's origin yet has no problems accepting and integrating the modern world.  There doesn't seem to be much order to the system, laws are difficult to enforce, and most of the government is extremely corrupt anyway.  Somehow the country manages to get by and rolls right along without missing a beat or have any trouble keeping up with the rest of the world.  The quality of the infrastructure isn't up to par by any means, but somehow it works for them, like the details will sort themselves out later. 

It can be very frustrating at times while orienting in India. Simple tasks can take so long to accomplish due to the inefficient nature of the country.  The mannerisms are very different and take some getting used to.  Tourists are easy targets and it feels like many interactions are just scams for money.  It seems being ripped off and lied to is all part of the learning process of how to navigate in India.  It took a couple weeks for me to feel comfortable.  I felt very apprehensive at first about offending a culture that was new to me and took some experience to learn the protocol, which is often that there's not one.  I'm beginning to see India as the perfect place to come for yoga, not only because it originated here thousands of years ago, but because the practice of yoga is constantly being put to the test.  If yoga is about finding our center, and remaining authentically true to that center in the midst of chaos and confusion, then there is no better place for that than India.  I've learned a new level of protecting, respecting, and speaking up for myself that's not necessary in the States, or any other place I've been to in the world.

Now that the initial culture shock has worn off, I'm growing quit fond of India.  The culture is very accepting, non confrontational, and peaceful.  They don't get upset if they don't get their way or what they want.  For instance when it comes to money, they seem very pushy at first but after firmly saying No, they shrug it off like it makes no difference to them anyway.  They have so much patience and tolerance of others and don't seem judgemental or critical.  They don't stress much about things that are our of their control, like it will all work out as it's meant to be.  At first I interpreted the vibe here as every man for himself, which is somewhat true, but now I see it more as a respect for other individuals and their life's path.  Even within the Hindu religion which predominates in India, there are many Gods to choose from for worship.  I think some of this individual nature of the people contributes to the chaos and lack of orderly systems in this country.  Although there isn't as much opportunity in India as other countries for choosing their life path, there is no worry or time wasted in trying to figure out which path to take.

The caste system is slowly dissolving with the influx of the Western world, but there is still a residual emphasis that you are born into your life's work and most marriages are arranged.  Although that may sound like a death sentence in the U.S., the land of the free, in India they don't seem to mind, like their life is easier without the dilemma of choice.  I guess it could be categorized as laziness or contentment, depending on the viewpoint.  Maybe it makes life easier by placing less expectations on oneself to achieve a certain status in life and helps to cultivate more of an attitude of acceptance and gratitude for what's been given.  In a conference Sharath gave at the Yoga Shala, he poised the question to the 200+ students attending why we were all from countries other than India.  Besides the fact that it's really expensive and most Indians couldn't afford it, he said yoga is a part of the lifestyle and outlook in India.  They don't need to be there to practice it; they are raised with it in their family.  We are here because we are searching-- searching for that path that is handed to those in India.  

India is definitely a place that has to be experienced for yourself as I'm sure everyone has a different experience.  India as a country is very adaptable, and has been through so much throughout it's history there is this sense that nothing will bring it down and everything will work out, so no worries.  I can see this country has many lessons to teach me.  I've learned to accept and tolerate their time frame and have even grown to appreciate their relaxed yet steady work rhythm.  I must say as my patience and fondness for India grows, so does my appreciation for being born in America. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Before I left the States, a friend who has been to India said when I got off the plane I would know by the smell that I was in India.  Sure enough, when I walked out of the airport I knew I had arrived.  It was like a mixture of tropical fruits, flowers and pollution.  It was quit welcoming actually.  It was 7am, about 65 degrees and the huge sun was just rising over the horizon.  It was exhilerating and terrifying all at the same time.  After 36 hours of travel, I was extremely jet lagged but still on a mission to get to Mysore which was 4 hours away.  I opted for the bus because I thought it would be the safest and easiest method, and the information booth at the airport didn't have the train schedule.  I didn't arrange for a taxi because I thought I'd have flight delays and cancelations due to the ice storm in Atlanta.  The bus was an interesting learning experience, but I'll definitely do the taxi next time.  

It's confusing and disorienting to travel half way across the world and land in a country that is so different from America.  It took several days before I found a place to rent in Gokulam, which is a rich suburb of Mysore where the Yoga Shala is located.  I stayed in a hotel near the city center which also turned out to be a very interesting experience.  I felt like I was just thrown into the Indian culture to fend for myself.  For good reason I felt extremely cautious and paranoid, very much on guard, especially being my first time in India.  I felt vulnerable being a woman traveling by myself and was worried about being taken advantage of;  many Indians look at Westerners with dollar signs in their eyes.  It would have been very helpful and comforting to have a place lined up to land before I arrived.  I think all of this comes with connections and experience of traveling to Mysore;  I feel like I've been figuring it out on the fly.  Hindsight, I appreciate the experience of staying in the city and having to befriend a ricksaw driver, but during the experience it was a little scary.

After being here for a week, I feel like I'm starting to catch on and feel a little bit more comfortable in day-to-day interactions.  I feel totally grateful to be here safe and that's it's all working out as it should be.  I love the house I'm renting, the yoga community and practicing in the Shala.  I really love that it's sunny and 75 everyday!  Power outages are common in India and my power has been out for the past day and half- I don't love that.  As my landlord said, "This IS India darling;  Welcome."  

Friday, December 17, 2010

Vaccinations & Transformation

I have to get some vaccines before I leave for India; TDap, Typhoid, a Polio booster, and several shots of Hepatitis A & B.  After my first round of shots I'm not feeling very good, and I think the TDap gave me symptoms of a head cold.  It's lead me to consider a topic that's been on my mind lately about how yoga purifies the mind and body.  I used to think this would provide a certain amount of invincible resiliency, but maybe its the opposite...  Because my body is so "clean" I feel super sensitive and highly aware of all that goes on in the body-mind on a physical and emotional level.  Like nothing slips by unchecked, and there's no place for negativity to get stored and stashed away. 

My body is extremely sensitive of any toxins or objects I put into it whether it be bad food, alcohol, whatever.  Like now for instance, I've just been inoculated with bits of foreign bacteria and virus, and my body feels crappy when most people would probably feel nothing.  If I stay out late with friends and have a few drinks, it takes me days to recover.  So I started thinking maybe its NOT so great to have such a purified system, and maybe it just makes life more fun and enjoyable to NOT be so sensitive. From an evolutionary standpoint, maybe the body has more resilience if its not so "clean" and we don't feel everything so clearly (from toxins to emotions).  I was beginning to feel down and out about the sensitivity factor, like I'd been given a bum deal, and was seriously reconsidering the beneficial aspects of yoga.

Just when I was about to convert back to the other side it dawned on me-- since my body-mind is so pure and in alignment, I can transform very easily with an intentional conscious shift because there is nothing to get in the way of the change I want to make.  By transform I mean move into a better, more beneficial version of myself in any context whether it be a in yoga posture, my attitude at work or my outlook on life.  Once I recognize a habitual bad pattern, with a slight shift it's gone.  No drama, no attachment.  Bad patterns may include negative thought processes or limiting beliefs, dysfunctional movement patterns, or self-defeating habits that limit me from living at my fullest potential.  It's that simple-- I just recognize it then let it go.  I must say this ability to transform was not so simple and only came after years of dedicated practice.

Yoga is the perfect accompaniment on any path because it clears the way of anything that may be blocking us from living at our fullest potential.  It does this by first clearing any impurities in the body on a very gross and physical level and then works on more subtle levels to clear any impurities in the mind or energetic body.  Along with regular yoga practice comes heightened levels of awareness which means we're more conscious of whatever is going on in the body and mind-- be it good or bad.  This means we're more likely to feel pain when it arises forcing us to recognize it, but then it passes rather quickly and doesn't get pushed into some deep dark corner of the subconscious because there's nowhere for it to hide.  Yoga cleans and clears out all the nukes and crannies on a conscious and subconscious level.  This purifying process is not always pretty or glamorous, but I concur the benefits are well worth the work.

I may not be able to stay out late and party anymore, but I can manifest amazing things to happen in my life by simply releasing bad habits and shifting my consciousness.  There's always a sacrifice I guess but I have no regrets and no doubts about which path I should be on.   

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Intention

I was planning to start this blog while I was traveling in India to write about my experiences.  I leave in about 3 weeks (yeah!) and feel I'm in the final stage of preparation for a long journey that I've been planning for quit a while. I've got the major logistics taken care of (passport, visa, plane ticket) and now I'm focused on the details like what to pack.  It feels like planning for a trip like this is a journey in and of itself.  My life is feels like its in fast forward until the time I leave so I've decided to get the blog rolling by writing about what its like preparing for a trip to India for the first time for 3 1/2 months... by myself.  It's very exciting, and a little scary, to be a blond western woman traveling alone in a huge country like India where the culture is so different, and there's a good chance I'll get really sick.
I wasn't sure that I'd ever go to India because I didn't think the risk of getting sick was worth the experience.  Now I just think I need to be really careful. I've been practicing yoga for about 14 years but haven't felt the pull to go to India to study yoga until about a year ago. Once I began to feel the pull, it felt like everything else in my life began shifting to accommodate and prepare me for this journey I'm about to embark on.  It feels like the mother-ship is calling me and it's the time in my life when I need to make the pilgrimage to the motherland to connect with yoga at it's source. 

I've got a basic itinerary lined up; 6 weeks in Mysore, 2-3 weeks in Goa, then 5 weeks of travel to some of the northern cities and a trek in the Himalayas.  In Mysore I'll have morning practice at the Yoga shala and plan to take some other classes like Sanskrit and chanting during the day.  It's not an ashram- I'll need to find an apartment upon arrival.  In Goa I'll be staying at a retreat center taking a 2 week ashtanga yoga workshop.  I've been doing lots of research and have many ideas about what to see and where to go for the rest of the trip.  I will feel it out then and see what makes the most sense after I've been in the country for a while.  Mostly I want to trek to the Gangotri Glacier in the Himalayas, which is the source of the Ganges River, and stay in monasteries along the way which takes about 5 days.  

It feels like I'm about to embark on a huge adventure.  I don't know exactly what will happen as much of the trip is left open to decide as I go.  Whatever happens it feels like its going to be big and have a profound impact on my personal growth and development, how I view life and the reality of this world we live in.  I hope to use this blog to express and communicate some of the experiences I have along the way.  Namaste.