Sunday, March 10, 2013

What did you learn?

My time in Mysore is almost up.  My last practice was this morning and it was a good one, focused, unruffled.

Already I've had a couple people ask what I've learned here.  The short answer is that I don't know yet.  I'll find out what lessons have really stuck once I've transitioned through the reentry process.  I suspect that lessons that were planted here as seeds will sprout up in unexpected moments for some time to come.

However, there are a couple threads that are as much reminders as new lessons that have woven themselves throughout much of the month here.
Here are a few:

1) talk less
2) the poses are a tool, a way in to learn to quiet the mind, not an end in themselves.
3) stay where you are for a whole breath, especially if it's uncomfortable--this is as true in life as it is in asana
4) the fastest way to quiet the mind is to avoid getting it all riled up in the first place--see #1...talk less

...and I'll end this last post from Mysore with some great quotes from Sharath:

"Always we should think, we are not supreme."

"You've come here to learn, not to flirt with yoga."

"In this life, you need 4-wheel drive because the terrain is always changing.  Sometimes you are on-road.  Sometimes you are off-road."

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Being a Tourist

My time in India is almost up.  My last Mysore practice is tomorrow morning, then led classes Friday and Sunday mornings, then I'm on a plane home Monday morning.  It's been a great experience overall, but I will be happy to return home to see my husband and to have a real shower that doesn't involve a bucket.

I've tried to keep this trip focused.  I'm here primarily to practice and study, so I've limited the number of touristy things that I've done.  There were a few non-yoga related things that I wanted to see and do while I was here though.

So here's what I've been up to in between asana practice, chanting, Yoga Sutra class, and Sanskrit class...sorry no pictures...it seems there are some unresolveable issues with my camera.  I've included some links though.  If you're interested you can check them out.

There was a really nice self-guided audio tour of Mysore Palace which filled in a lot of history of the area for me.  It also made me smile to walk through the palace and think of Krishnamacharya teaching yoga to little Pattabhi Jois in that palace all those years ago.

The walk up the 1008 steps to the temple at Chamundi Hill was one of my favorite touristy activities.  I climbed the steps with another girl early on a Saturday morning when it was still quiet and cool.  The locals were stretching at the bottom of the hill getting ready to jog the steps.

The Mysore Zoo was also a lot of fun.  I was impressed with the number of species of crocodile, caiman, and snakes that they had....a number of species that I had never seen in a zoo before.  It was pretty cool to see a king cobra and a green anaconda...behind glass of course.

The Green Hotel was also fun to visit.  It's a much smaller palace with it's own history built for some of Mysore's princesses.  They've turned it into a hotel with an attached restaurant.  They had an amazing buffet dinner there one Friday evening.

Kukkarahalli Lake is the one spot that I haven't been to yet, but am hoping to go.  They have limited hours (early morning and evening only) and I am usually in practice or at a class when the walking path around the lake is open.  Our class on the Yoga Sutra has ended though, so I'm hoping to make it over to the lake on Friday evening and walk the ~3 mile path around the lake.  I'm really curious to see what kind of plant life is growing in the more natural areas.

Links below to all of these places if you're curious...

Mysore_Palace

Chamundi Hills

The Mysore Zoo

The Green Hotel

Kukkarahalli Lake




Thursday, February 28, 2013

What do you eat?

The one recurring question that folks have asked about my trip to India is all about the food...so what about the food?

It's an interesting question.  The focus of my trip is the study of yoga and setting the practice that I do in context.  This trip is not travel for the sake of travel but rather a time to set aside competing users of my energy and make practice the focus of my days.  That said, I need to eat in a way that supports practice.

It's interesting to me to see just how well I can "read" my body and then eat according to what I need rather than just what I'm in the habit of eating.  At home, I eat lots of vegetables, especially green, leafy ones, some fruit, small amounts of whole grain carbs, and small amounts of protein.  This is just what works best for my body.  I tend toward feeling heavy and need to each very light to feel at my best.  I eat no meat, very little dairy and very rarely eat eggs at home as these things tend to make me feel as if I've swallowed lead weights.  I also tend to eat 3-4 smallish meals spread out through the day at home.  That just seems to work best for keeping energy up and avoiding a growling stomach, which I find very distracting and hard to ignore.

...but here?  ...very different.  I have a late practice time here.  I actually start my practice at about 8:30 am.  As much as I love the quiet of early morning practice, it's been really nice to get a full night's sleep most nights.  It means that I don't usually eat anything until around 10:30 or 11 am though....and depending on how crowded the place is where I'm eating, it could be noon.  So, I've transitioned to what feels best to my body here, which is one big meal (brunch) in the late morning after practice.  I usually choose western type breakfast food.  Spicy Indian food is just not appetizing to me for breakfast.  I've also had to really up the amount of protein that I eat.  I had some of my lightest ever primary series practices during the first week of my stay, but by the end of the first week, I was just feeling far too fuzzy and spacey.  I switched to eating more dairy and some eggs and immediately felt better, grounded and focused.
There are a couple really nice breakfast places run by western expats that cater to the needs of westerners for things like a piece of toast, plain coffee, or tea with no sugar.  Although, on a day with a led class, when I will finish my practice earlier, I can make it to the roof top breakfast at my apartment building, where I eat a mix of Indian and western food and have traditional Indian chai.

Lunch is usually much smaller, usually Indian food, mostly vegetables, with some veggie protein, some rice and chapatis.  There are a couple of local Indian families who run little lunch cafes out of their homes...best. chapatis. ever!  Once a week, a really lovely Taiwanese women hosts a lunch buffet at her home...amazing food!

Dinner is usually very light.  Sometimes a banana smoothie at a local home-cafe.  Sometimes a piece of banana bread or plain bread with homemade almond butter from the guy who runs a little shop across from the shala.     I also buy his homemade granola which makes a nice snack in the afternoon if I've done a lot of walking around town and am feeling hungry.

...and of course I visit the chocolate man's little shop...wouldn't want to be without chocolate for too long!  :-)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Immersion


I have two primary reasons for making this trip to Mysore.

Firstly, setting aside the money and time for this trip is my way of thanking the Jois family for keeping this practice alive and sharing it.  This practice has changed my life and continues to alter my life course.  I'm a far better person with this practice in my life.

Secondly, spending a month in Mysore helps to put my daily practice in context.  Although the practice can be done by anyone (except lazy people!), its roots are not in the west.  Immersing myself in the culture which birthed the practice that I do, adds color and depth to my understanding of the practice.  I will likely not understand all the ways in which this trip has shifted my understanding of the practice for months or years to come.

In conference this morning, Sharath reminded us that asana is the foundation of our spiritual practice.  It is a tool that we use to learn to be stable.  I like that word, "stable"...not floaty, not flashy, not strong, not flexible...STABLE.  I especially liked this quote (this one's for you Bob!):
      Sharath said, "Body bending or body not bending, this is not important.  You did  
      the practice; that is important."

In addition to morning asana practice, I've just finished the second week of a class on the Yoga Sutra.  The beginning Sanskrit class and Hatha Yoga Pradipika class started on Thursday.  I'm absorbing as much as I can.
I especially loved this exchange from class today when discussing the 3 types of pain referred to in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika.  One type of pain translates into "suffering caused by animals".  A student asks our teacher, "does that mean like mosquitos?"  "Yes," says our teacher.  "It means like mosquito bites, bee stings, lion attacks..."
Oh, right...lion attacks....definitely adds some color and context.   ;-)

In non-yoga related immersion news, I took an Indian cooking class at the famed Anu's Bamboo Hut yesterday. We made palak paneer, aloo mutter, and pineapple kesari bhath...yum!  I'm thinking we'll have to have a potluck for students & friends when I return so I can try out the new recipes!!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Mysore adventures in which Sharath demos karandavasana and we have conference

So still no pictures...I did find the panasonic store yesterday which was suggested as the most likely place nearby to carry camera memory cards for cameras, but they were closed on Saturday.  I'll try again on Monday or Tuesday...fingers crossed that they have the memory card that I need and that fixes the camera problem...and if so, then there will be pictures!

I did have a nice restful Saturday otherwise.  While the panasonic shop was closed, the shop run by the "chocolate man" was open!  The "chocolate man" runs a local small chocolate-making operation out of his house and sells at a small street-side shop.  Anyone who knows me knows that I don't last long without chocolate so finding the "chocolate man" was definitely on my Mysore-to-do list.  I picked up some chocolate and spent the afternoon resting and catching up on some chores (paid some bills online, etc.)

I had a nice led primary this morning and then had great fun watching the led intermediate class after.  The highlight of led intermediate was Sharath demonstrating karandavasana.  A girl in the center row was making a valient effort at landing her karanda while Sharath watched.  He nodded is head when she came down, briskly unwrapped his towel from his waste, and motioned her off her mat.  Sharath put his towel down on her mat and said "I will show you karandavasana."  It was like the whole room held their collective breath.  He set his arms, cleanly flipped himself into the pose, curled down, paused his knees over his arms, counted, came up, and transitioned out.  Then he turned to pick up his towel and said to her with a smile, "you do!"  and the whole room let out their held breath and laughed...fun times!

There was conference with Sharath after the led intermediate finished.  I will leave it to others to write a more detailed conference report.  What I personally took away from it was a well-timed reminder to carefully manage how I spend my non-practice energy.
The short version: some things are darma/necessary.  Some things are not necessary.  Drop the unnecessary things as much as you can.  You'll see clearer, act with more care, and have more energy...as you won't have been wasting it.  So which things are necessary and which are not?  Sit quietly and pay attention, you likely already know the answer to that question.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Led

My first led primary with Sharath was yesterday morning...so much fun!  We are packed mat to mat in order to fit everyone.  I had an awkward spot next to a wall and occasionally bumped knees with the girl next to me, but really, it's easy enough to work around those sorts of logistics.

Sharath set a nice slow and steady pace that I was able to ride out until the end.  His amused reminders to "Don't hurry." and "Why hurry?" make me smile.  "Why hurry" indeed...where is it we think we're going to get to anyway?...and who exactly do we think we're cheating if we rush through pose or transition?

Sorry, there have been no pictures thus far.  The camera is not talking to the nexus and I'm having an issue with the way that the pictures are stored on the camera.  A nice member of the Ashtanga-community-in-Mysore facebook group has pointed me in the direction of a camera store not too far away.  So, that is today's adventure.  I'm headed out this morning to see if I can find the camera store and get a memory card for the camera...fingers crossed I can find the store and that they have what  need.

I still haven't managed to shake this cold, so haven't ventured out much beyond shala activities.  Hoping to get some rest after I go looking for the camera store today.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Registration and Practice

I successfully registered at the shala with Sharath on Monday afternoon and started practice yesterday morning.

Registration was intimidating!  I filled out yet another form and handed over photocopy of passport and visa page, plus another passport photo to the woman who was directing registration.  She asked each person whether they were a beginner or whether they were practicing.  If we answered that we were practicing, then we were asked who our teacher is.  When I answered her questions, she gave me a nod and sent me in to Sharath's office to register with him.
Again, I went through the same questions with Sharath:
"Are you a beginner or are you practicing."
"I'm practicing."
"With whom?"
"David Keil"
This answer was received with a nod of acceptance and I was entered into the computer, paid, and was given a shala card.
Whew!

Practice was lovely.  I woke up yesterday with an awful cold.  It wasn't entirely a surprise.  I was half expecting a cold as that's what usually happens if I lose some sleep and my immune system is a little off.  Practice was a great help in clearing the congestion and giving me some energy back.  I took it easy in the afternoon and got some rest.

I had another really lovely practice this morning.  It's fun to return to primary and work some of the bits that I tend to gloss over when I only do it once a week.

A beginning Yoga Sutra study class begins tonight at the shala, so looking forward to getting a greater depth of understanding of the sutra.