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 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 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


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 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 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


My first led primary with Sharath was yesterday 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.

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.

Monday, February 11, 2013


I wasn't able to register at the shala yesterday as it was a moon day and they weren't registering new folks until the next day. In all the crossing of time zones, I had completely forgotten the moon day!  I'm hoping to register at the shala this afternoon and begin practice tomorrow morning.

I had breakfast at the rooftop cafe on top of the hotel where I'm staying this morning.  There's a great view of the neighborhood from there.  I will take the camera up at some point and get some pictures.

I met a nice Ashtangi from Italy at breakfast who gave me a walking tour of a bit more of the area, so am starting to feel more oriented. We stopped by the coconut stand, among other places, and I drank my first coconut...yum!

I watched someone's dog chase a cow up the street; the cow tried to swish him away with her tail.

My first chanting session at the shala was this afternoon...apparently I can come to chanting without having registered at the shala for practice yet...the rules are very fluid and somewhat mysterious....
In addition to learning specific chants, we practice chanting each of the names in the primary series and the numbers from 1 to 30.  This is fantastic!  I enjoy learning new chants, but I'd really like to tidy up my pronunciation of the poses and numbers that I say everyday.  Good stuff!

Sunday, February 10, 2013


Whew!  I'm here, albeit a bit discombobulated.  The first flight left Gainesville on Friday Feb. 8 at 1:30 and I arrived at my hotel/apartment at about 9:30 am Sunday morning Mysore time.

Wifi is down today at the place I'm staying, so I wandered around the area until I found someone who looked like an Ashtangi and asked to be pointed in the direction of an internet cafe...using a very slooow computer now, but feeling connected to the world again!

A few random first impressions:  the toll just on the road to Mysore just outside the airport says "Happy Traveling" (or something similar...should have written it down) instead of the boring "Paid"

Once the sun started to come up on the drive from the Bangalore airport to Mysore I realized that what looked like an orange plastic lobster dangling from the driver's rearview mirror was actually an orange plastic Hanuman (the monkey god)...that made so much more sense than the lobster.

Later this afternoon, I go to register at the shala.  First practice should be tomorrow morning assuming I've done everything I'm supposed as far as registration goes.

More to come...hoping for a good night's's 10 and a half hours ahead of Gainesville time here...