Sunday, January 23, 2011

Banana, Coconut, Yoga. Repeat.

I was the first to arrive by 6:00 am to my new Yoga Shala in Mysore. The new kid has to be extra on time for her first day. I kicked my rainbow sandals off under the bench that I sat cross-legged on, and faced the door to my new space of education, alignment... and maybe some torture. Slowly over the course of the next 15 minutes, 10 practitioners emerged from bicycles, rickshaws and motos out of the dark morning light. Each individual sat on a respective bench, tucked their legs into lotus and closed their eyes. Not a single individual gave me a little "good morning!" wink, nudge, half smile... nothing. They moved over the pavement almost motionless, AND to top the strange behavior... they all wore matching tee shirts. The teacher opens the door. I grab my displaced flip flops and place them at the end of the perfect shoe line next to the shala door, as I enter the realms of unknown.

As the new kid, I sit in the front row to receive special instruction on whatever I just signed my life away to here. The row of folks behind me begin to chant in unison, then they each get up and begin a designated practice. I can feel the movement behind me as these cult-yogis whip through sun salutations. My curiosity is killing me, as I am just focusing on seated leg lifts and toe points. Baby stuff! So I slip a little eye over the shoulder maneuver to take in some of the chaos behind me. Before I can even focus my eyes on a moving yogi, I am blindsided by my straight-faced, no nonsense, yoga teacher- "focus on your breathing, keep your eyes on your practice, how can you master a pose that you are not thinking about? Think about it. And breathe." Caught cheating the first day. Great.
A breakfast is provided to us after the pranayama meditation class. I sat there in half lotus, suppressing tears of pain as my hips burned and feet turned a cold blue color. Pressing my hands harder in mudra, and trying to focus on anything but the severe discomfort in this 30 minutes from hell... I began to think about this soon to be breakfast hour.
"What will they serve us!?"
"My tuition was awful expensive... this must be good food then!"
"I need a chai.. like whoa"

I hear a motor running close to the shala walls- "mmmm...banana cashew smoothies, I bet!"

30 minutes finishes and I unwind my cold, limp legs which slap down on my mat like dead pieces of meat. And continue my daydreams on breakfast outside the Shala's Door of Doom. Feeling light headed, and avoiding an obvious limp (gotta impress my fellow yogis with my fierce, first day strength) I exit the shala to find my breakfast- A perfect row of small 3" by 5" foil containers lay in a perfect line on the outside bench. A brown spotted banana lay atop each.

"You've got to be joking me?"

I soon find out after my first practice that it is highly recommended for all students to consume 1 cooked vegetarian meal a day (provided in the tiny foil box) and 2 meals of 10 to 15 bananas each, followed by plenty of young coconuts to replace our water. Ok, now you've just gone too far Mr. YogiGuruSan!!! What am I supposed to focus on in class if it's not the next meal to follow?? shanti...

First week down in my intensive banana, coconut, yoga training alongside the matching tee shirt, silent-Sally, yogis from around the globe. My body aches, my ego is suppressed, and my intrigue heightened. I'm in awe of how this teacher can bring awareness in, and push me to levels I've never explored before. But damn straight, I'm sneaking some onion dosas, palak paneer, papaya lassis, and cardomom pastries in this yogi diet mix!

You can take a chef out of the kitchen. But you can never take the foodie out of the chef!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Flash of Enlightenment

When on a yogic journey through India, with dedication to practice with as many yoga elements that cross your path, you do whatever it takes to tap into all offered realms of yogic enlightenment. Whether it be on a dirty rooftop in the hot December sun, or in a blissed-out yoga studio above the crashing waves to a tone set by a beautiful Mumbai woman. Every practice is unique and worth the time, energy and rupees paid. But sometimes when opening yourself to all forthcoming elements, you can get yourself into a yogic-pickle that might even test your willingness to be enlightened in the first place...
While shopping for my yoga philosophy books in the tiny beach town in South Goa, I struck up in conversation with a tiny, old Indian man named Krishna. A native to the area with stories of his childhood and yoga studies from 12 years onward. We chatted about the push of Westerners whom come to the south in the winter and teach yoga for high prices, and all the tourists that show up for some fluffy, Eat Pray Love experience of a lifetime. In my quest to explore my journey and avoid that "fluff" I felt it was a worthy attempt to spend $4 the next morning on his 9 am drop-in yoga class.

At 8:30 am I had walked over from my strip of beach to the next, and at 9:10 Krishna had woken up, and arrived outside his house with a toothbrush in hand to greet his solo standing student of the day. the water tank on the rooftop had overflowed, thus a spare bedroom in his house would host as todays studio space instead of the normal rooftop space. A small mattress on the floor in the corner of the room was offered to me as a base for my yoga mat to lay on, I considered for a moment as I am currently open to all styles of unique practicing techniques.... but denied the offer and laid my mat across the cement floor. The mattress was cleared from the room, along with the cockroaches that nested beneath it. He checks his hair in the mirror and then a 15 minute "warm up" was instructed to me by Mr. Krishna- head to the right and left, feet to the right and left, hands to the right and left... and so on. And yes, for 15 minutes. We stumbled along into poses/asanas, all of which were randomly linked together and held for odd amounts of time. I was deep into my considerations of what the hell kind of Yoga is this...?? But in my quest to remain open, I let the confusion run off my back. A yawn slipped from my mouth (out of pure boredom) which lead dear Krishna into a 5 minute lecture on how yawning is an important release in the yoga world, and how we should not be ashamed of this, but embrace it and let it out..... ok, whatever. Om Shanti.

His phone rings, and he answers it.

Two more poses are instructed. Then he decides it's time for a break- lay down and rest. This corps pose was held halfway through the practice for a solid 10 minutes. I was too busy counting the splattered mosquitoes on the wall to properly relax into a tranquil state.

He gets up and goes to the kitchen to pass something on to his wife.

He returns with a kitten to show me.

We proceed into seated postures and spinal twists to near the completion of our... of so interesting... practice. While on our sits bones, facing one another, I mirror him by crossing my right leg over my bent left leg. I get myself situated in this familiar pose, Adha Matsyendrasana, stretched up and twisted my spine towards the center of the room. My gaze swept across my teacher who was in the same pose, facing away from me. His barely there shorts were hiked up to guide him into a deep spinal twist. And there before me, in my quest to expose myself to authentic Indian expression, was my FLASH... of Enlightenment. My gaze quickly ran from Krishna's escapee at the base of his shorts, up to the wall to find a blood-splattered mosquito and clear my mind from what I had just witnessed. While suppressing a laughter of tears, I packed up my mat, said goodbye to my momentary Guru, and left his impromptu Yoga Shala of Enlightenment.

Enlightenment Lesson #37 - Always focus your Drishti (focal point) on a spot on the floor, not a moving or live object of any kind..... and choose yoga classes with caution from now on.

Only thing left to do in order to cleanse my thoughts from this experience is to eat. 1 plate of 50 cent Masala fried rice from the toothless man in the red cart by the beach.... hold the eggs , please.

2011- And another year as a Gypsy! Om Namah Shivaya.