Saturday, January 30, 2010

Final Notes on India

Sunday, 31 January 2010

I have washed off the last bit of the Pune dust from my feet. It’s not really dirt it’s a dusty mix of exhaust, ash, and garbage dust. I have said my goodbyes. Home is the next stop. Mr. Iyengar says that we in the west are born into heaven and we do not even know it. I know it now. I have so much to be grateful for. My family, my friends, my work at the Center for Health Research, my Yoga practice and teaching, my food coop, my neighbors, my students, my teachers, my colleagues, my sweet quiet, clean little piece of paradise in the woods – fresh air. I have it all.

I did not really come to India with any questions nor was I looking for any answers. I have been blown away to see in person, to witness this place as it is. The pace, the poverty, the affluence. The west wants to be like the east and the east wants to be like the west. I wonder how they see us? If this is a race to westernize then we have more problems than I thought. The pollution and garbage is overwhelming. Where is the middle ground here?

I knew I would not find a bucolic place where everyone lived a mindful life based on the eight limbs of Yoga. Hardly. Yoga is definitely more popular in Camas than in Pune. I am kind of at a loss when trying to describe the feelings and emotions about being here and now about going home. All this week I have been ready to go. I have been kind of anxious. What am I running from?

One of my observations is about Iyengar Yoga. After seeing it at the source I am not so sure that that is what I teach. I know I can never have the depth of Prashant and Geeta on any of the relevant levels. But I did not really find very many similarities between how I have interpreted the teaching and how Yoga is taught here. I do feel that by experiencing the teaching here that my commitment to being a compassionate teacher has been deepened. And that is mostly in reaction to some of the harshness I experienced. The practice commitment is present but there is some kind of disconnect related to the teaching. Maybe it is like studying the mystical, spiritual, religious traditions and finding things that resonate with you and things that don’t. Maybe it’s about finding more of my own path and integrating the stuff that makes sense. But it has to also be about the stuff that did not resonate with me. I have to explore why and integrate that as well.

I’ll miss the carefree focus of my existence here. I’ll miss the sound of the sweeping in the morning. If two-stroke leaf blowers ever make it here the pollution levels will take a substantial jump. I’ll miss the food that Anjali prepares.

I’ll miss the people. Ah, the people. All of the loving sweet people I met here and who took me on. Srinath, the trekker, who called me Mr. Paul. What a sweet guy. I am sure our paths will cross again. Anjali and Arwind, my sweet and awesome hosts, and their children and spouses. The sweet guy at the Institute who hangs around the area where the shoes are. Sunil and Shubhanji and their awesome daughter Shraddha. The Chaiwalla boys and the soda boy. All of the people who asked me, “your country?” and who said “welcome” when I said thank you. All of the Indian’s who said one photo please or wanted to have their photo taken with me. The big smiles I received all of time and people calling me Baba, Baba. I truly felt welcomed and loved.

The best thing the trip has provided me so far is perspective - perspective on my path and our shared existence here. I am confident that I have only scratched the surface of what I have learned about myself on this pilgrimage. Kind of like my studies of Yoga – just scratching on the surface. Practice, practice, practice. As a shirt I saw here noted – Go In.

See you in class, in the woods, on the streets, at the coop, at work, or wherever our paths cross. I look forward to it.

Love, light and blessings.


Thirteenth Post From India

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Geeta has been sick all week so the class last night was taught by Ria (sp?). Even though it was a restorative class my lower back was acting up. I got through the class but I skipped this morning’s class to give my body a rest. The class was fine. He is an interesting teacher. He often says, “That should not happen” after he has talked about what not to do for a while. I did get a chuckle when he used the metaphor in Savasana of the windows opening – like our minds – and fresh air coming in and cleaning up the mind and the room. Fresh air?

Last night when I got home Arwind and Anajli asked me to sit down like they wanted to have a talk with me. They handed me a package and said this was a gift for my mom. It is the most beautiful shawl. When shawls are given to older women it is recognition of their status and the wisdom that women have. They insisted that after I present it to my mom that I take a photo and send it to them. Nice.

I spent some of the afternoon at the Pune museum. I am not too big on museums but it was cool. It was my last trip with Nana. We said our tearful goodbyes.

I am off for my last practice session at the Institute and then my last night in Pune in general.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Twelfth Post From India

Thursday, 28 January 2010

I skipped the Pranayama class tonight and rested. I finally felt better later in the evening and went out to dinner with Grant. I am at the point on my trip where I will be doing things for the last time. Could that have been the last vegetable platter at the Ambience?

On my walk home my phone kept ringing but with I number I did not know. Since I get a lot of solicitations I did not answer. Then Heather called and said that Sunil and Shubhanji and their daughter Shraddha were trying to get a hold of me because they had a gift for me. When we had lunch at their place earlier in the week I mentioned that I was still looking for gents kurta that was simple but that had a little embroidery on it on the v-neck. When I answered the call we agreed to meet at my flat. They are so sweet. There they were – all three of them – with a beautiful black shirt with simple embroidery on it. They insisted that I try it on on the street and it was perfect. Made my day. What a blessing.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Eleventh Post From India

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

No classes today as usual. Just three more days of classes, a ride to Mumbai and then 23 hours of flying and about 8 hours of waiting and I’ll be home. I know how to have fun.

I practiced in my flat this morning planning for what I am going to teach next week. I am psyched to get back to the students and the studio – and the other parts of my life.

I had my final massage with Bhybu today. It was the Chavetty Uzhicull treatment – the one where the feet are used to massage. He asked me to sit in Padmasana. Very funny Bhybu. If there was one pose I was working on while here it was Padmasana. Let’s just say I have not completed the asana yet. Progress yes, completion no. The massage started out like Uzhicull the full body massage. Then Bhybu held onto the ropes on the ceiling and started to use his feet. It was like a dance on the back of my body and he used the same movements and motions as if he was using his hands. Same thing on the front of the body. It was awesome. As I said before Bhybu is the man. Vanseh (one of the doctors) took my picture as I left and they wanted to make sure I emailed them later to let them know how I was doing. Great doctors, great massage practitioners and sweet people.

A student of mine from People’s Coop is a big fan of Meher Baba. I was told that there was a shrine by the place I get my massages so I searched it out today. I wanted to place an offering for my student and take some pictures. I found it after walking up and down the street for awhile. That’s for you Harry.

I must look like a native now. I was talking to my friend Alex and had just told him that if he needs to get something done in India that I was his man. A school boy about 10 years old walked up to me and asked me where the train station was. I said two signals down, go left one block, then right and it is down on the end. He said thanks and walked on. Alex looked at me like I was nuts. I only know a few places here and the train station is one of them.

I have one more task to try and complete before Sunday. The whole time I have been here I have been looking for new blankets for the studio. Nana has been looking all over and we have not been successful. Time is running out but Nana is confident he can hook me up. I am looking for 120 blankets (they are thinner than the Mexican blankets I currently use). The Institute usually sells them but they have been out for a while. These blankets are perfect because they are cotton, they don’t have any bumps and because they are thinner they are more versatile. If I can find them I’ll have to have them shipped and that takes up to two months. The shipping cost per blanket is more than the blanket costs but it still ends up way cheaper to buy them here. It’s India folks!

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Prashant’s class was exactly what we did on Monday.

Prashant Gems.

Learn that in every asana and every pranayama that the breath is different.
Resist taking a consumer approach to pranayama. Don’t think what the benefit is or what your next pranayama will be.
Resist being habitual in the practice.
Be creative when breathing.
Come up with your own vocabulary for the breath.

It seems like everyone I know or have met here that comes from the west gets some kind of stomach upset while they are here. Sometimes severe, sometimes mild. It’s my turn and fortunately for me it is mild. So today I’ll skip the practice session and rest and see how I feel about tonight’s class.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tenth Post From India!!

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Today is Republic day. It is like our July 4th. Maybe there will be fire works tonight and a lot of noise. I’ll keep you posted. My host Arwind sent me the following text this morning:

31 states
1618 languages
6400 castes
6 ethnic groups
29 festivals
Happy Republic Day
Gd Mrng

Heather and I were again invited to Sunil and Shubhanji house for lunch. Sunil and Shubhanji are good friends of Janet MaCleod’s who is a teacher of ours from San Francisco. Excellent conversation and food.

In the pictures below you will see my two body guards and the tent that they are guarding that will be for my going away party. We are a festive lot over here! And Baba must go home.

You will also see my expose on the curb and sidewalk situation. Notice my favorite curb – the one that is two feet high. Careful.

Notice as well the lake that is in my front yard. It’s kind of a private thing although I have been sharing it with all of Model Colony while I am here.

Check out Grant grubbing on the pink jello/jelly ice cream pasta nut fruit thing. He was resistant at first but he finally caved and enjoyed the treat. Of course he blew 20 Rs. on the thing.

Finally, notice Shivaji and the painted prayer.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Ninth Post From India

Monday, 25 January 2010

A Trip to Northern Maharashtra

It was a lot to pack into two days. Lots of car time, walking, and not so good food (Anjali has me spoiled). No wonder some people here suggested taking three or four days to do it.

We left Pune at 6 am. The driver was Indian and only spoke Marathi, there was an Italian woman, a Serbian woman, a Canadian guy and me. The common language was sort of English although the driver, the Italian, and the Serbian only knew a little bit. Lucky we made it. There were some funny conversations or better said exchanges.

We headed for Aurangabad. A city of a million or more.

Our first stop was Bibi-ka-Maqbara – the “poor man’s” Taj Mahal built in 1697. A tourist place for sure but very cool. Bibi-ka-Maqbara is a mausoleum dedicated to Aurangzeb’s wife Rabia-ud-Daurni. Slide show below.

Our next stop was Panchakki or Water Wheel. It was considered an engineering marvel at the time. It houses a working grain mill powered by water, some sweet ponds and gardens. Baba Shah Muzaffar, a Sufi Saint, is buried here. Slide show below.

Our next stop was the Ellora caves. This is a World Heritage - listed site. The caves are considered the pinnacle of Deccan rock-cut architecture. Over five centuries Buddhist (600-800 AD), Hindu (600-900 AD) and the Jains (800-1000 AD) carved monasteries, chapels and temples into the rock and they are beautifully decorated with sculptures. The highlight was the Kailasa Temple which is the largest monolith sculpture in the world. It took 7,000 workers 150 years to complete. Absolutely amazing. Slide show below.

There was a group of Buddhists touring the site and they stopped to chant a while in one of the caves. Here is brief video of the chanting.


Next on the Western tourists list was the Daulatabad hilltop fortress – moat and all. The fortress is surrounded by 5km of big stone walls. The moat was cool and so was the spiraling pitch black tunnel that was supposed to help trap invaders. At one point I heard my Canadian friend, Grant, yell “Paul, Paul, Paul…”. He and the Serbian woman got a little behind in the tunnel and I had to get the guide to bring the torch back. Cool for a fort. Slide show below.

By then we were totally worn out and we headed to Aurangabad to check into our hotel and have dinner. We made it to the hotel by around 7:45 pm. After we settled for a minute I took off in a Ric to find a storage device for my camera. The one I was using only holds about 50 pictures (old school). I found a guy who directed me to a camera store and hired a ric. We barreled through Aurangabad and found the store. To lots of Indians we Westerners are like gods. The ric driver was no exception. He was great. A card that holds a couple thousands photos (4G) cost me around $23.00. The one glitch to the plan was that we included dinner and breakfast with our stay at our hotel, the Fitz. Dinner was pseudo western food and some fake Chinese food and buffet style. I am usually not one to complain but it was close to being not edible. This is on top of the “Smile Stone” where we stopped for “food” on the way up. Another case of “close to being not edible.” The Smile Stone is India’s answer to fast food rest stop style. I slept well and after holding my nose and having a bit of breakfast, at 7:30, off we went to the Ajanta caves.

The caves at Ajanta are all Buddhist. One of the coolest things about Ajanta is the paintings on the ceilings and walls. These caves predate Ellora. They were built from around 200 BC – 650 AD. The paintings are done in what is considered tempera. The whole layout was awesome - a horse shoe shape and the caves were stunning. There was also a set of waterfalls that were outstanding. Slide show below.

We headed back to Pune at around 2 pm. The drive was supposed to be over 7 hours but we made it in a little bit under 6 and a half hours. The driver was weaving in and out of traffic jerking back and forth. I am not one to get car sick but I started to feel a bit queasy. We had asked the driver to stop somewhere nice for dinner. He acted like he knew what we were asking. When we pulled into the Smile Stone I knew he did not get it. I could not bring myself to eat. Made it back to Pune at 8:30 pm and had the vegetable platter at the Ambiance Hotel. Yummy. Stumbled home and fell asleep after rinsing the grime off of my body.

This week the classes at the Institute are all Pranayama. Prashant stuck to this plan in his own way.

Rope Sirsasana / Chair Viparita Dandasana / Chair Bharadvajasana
Chair Sarvangasana
Supta Baddha Konasana
Supported Savasana
Supported Savasana

At least for me it was hard to tell what he wanted us to do as far as the breath was concerned.

Prashant Gems.

Explore your inner speech. Develop your own inner language of body – breath – mind. Talk to yourself – do not escape and find something to distract your mind (friends, TV, etc.).
Be aware of all of the Maya (illusion) inside and out.

I took this to mean that if you can control this inner speech you can then control the mind.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) is Republic day and the Institute is closed. I think I’ll plan to do nothing. Amazing.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Eight Post From India!!!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Today my injuries are much better and I will be back to my routine on Thursday.

I heard from Grant that Prashant was encouraging the students to integrate pranayama into their asana practice. First he taught uddiyana in a few asanas and then what he called angi (fire) which amounts to pumping your lower abdominal in and out fairly quickly while in an asana. It was Janu Sirsasana that he was having the students work in. I think I’ll buy the class since I missed it and find out what was going on.

I received a call from state side today from my sweet son Ryan. He had good things to report and it was a blessing to hear his voice and get caught up. His older boy, Logan Paul, has a birthday next week – six years old. Amazing. Ryan was just six and so was I!

I had a slow morning. Went for tea and then walked around Model Colony. The shops are packed in and are about 10 X 10. The butcher shop had a part of a tree for a cutting block, a few butchered goats hanging there, and a few goats tethered outside. Right next store you can get your muffler welded. It is like Pune has grown so fast that many things were left undone and/or left out. Next door to a bank a group of women are pounding their clothes out on the sidewalk. I use the term sidewalk loosely. They stop and start, have big gaps and sometimes the steps to the surface street are anywhere from and inch to two feet. Walking takes active concentration. Oh yeah, watch out for big holes.

My electric razor that I use to buzz my head gave up. Don suggested that I go to the barber down the street. I think it was a gift that my gadget broke down. For 140 Rs., around $3.00, I had a buzz cut, head massage with coconut oil, and a face massage. The barber used a vibrating gadget to massage both my face and head. One of them strapped to his hand and he used this on my front and back side as well. For another 100 Rs. he offered to provide me with a facial. Maybe next time.

I have another massage scheduled with Bhybu today. The work he did yesterday really helped.

Srinath came by on Tuesday to give me a dvd of a movie called Secrets that he was sure I need to see. He gave me a tour of the gardens at Pune University. The campus is beautiful. The main building was built by the British and was gutted for remodeling. It is sometimes referred to as the Oxford of the East.

When backing up most cars here beep or play a song. I have heard some Christmas Carols but my favorite is Amazing Grace. I have never heard it played on a beeping horn.

I finally got back to my practice on Tuesday. I felt okay but was still only at about 50%. Hopefully my final treatment with Bhybu will heal things up.

I took the Tuesday Pranayama class. Here is what we did:

Savasana with two bolsters with the shoulders in between, head supported – to open the dorsal spine
Supported Savasana - Viloma on the exhale
Supported Savasana - Viloma on the inhale
Sitting Ujjai
Sitting Viloma on the exhale and on the inhale

The teacher was an older woman, maybe in her 60’s, and she was fabulous. She spoke slowly and clearly, made some good jokes and the class was smooth.

Friday, 22 January 2010

I am back to at least 99% based on my Thursday and Friday practices. It feels good to back in the game. Good timing because Geeta’s class is tonight and they are very difficult. I’ll back off a little trying to keep out of her radar.

On my way home from practice I saw a totally supped up Ricshaw. Check it out in the photos below. The driver was very cool.

When loaded into iTunes, some of Geeta’s classes end up in the Blues genre. What should I make of that?

Geeta’s Friday night class was awesome and had some fun to it – at least from my perspective. Backbends, backbends, backbends!!!!

Adho Mukha Virasana
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Urdhva Mukha Upavistha Konasana
Prasarita Padottanasana (concave back)
Salamba Sirsasana I
Hanumanasana in Salamba Sirsasana I
Virasana in Salamba Sirsasana I arching back
Focusing on the tailbone moving in…….
Urdhva Dhanurasana I X 6
15 minutes of moving props from the window walls to the middle of the room – absolute mayhem
Viparita Dandasana - legs bent X 6
Eka Pada Viparita Dandasana X 6
Another 10 minutes of mayhem as the assistants tried to get stiff people to get the posture. It was comical. During this time we cooled down to be prepared for:
Bharadvajasana I
Janu Sirsasana
Bharadvajasana I
Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Ardha Halasana
Putting the props away at the window wall

A good time was had by all – well maybe not the stiff folks who were getting forced into the poses.

Tomorrow (Saturday) I’ll be skipping class and practice and going to the Ellora and Ajanta caves which are out by Aurangabad. I’ll watch out for holes. This will be a two day trip.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Seventh Post from India

Saturday, 16 January 2010

I woke up really tired this morning and almost missed my 7 am class. Geeta’s twist class fired up my energy. Twists do not usually do that to me but there I was after midnight and still reading and wide awake.

Prashant’s Class Saturday the 16th

Adho Mukha Svanasana

Back and forth between…
Rope Adho Mukha Svanasana
Bharadvajasana I
Marichyasana III
Rope Sirsasana
Supta Padangusthasana I
Utthita Parsva Hasta Padangusthasana
Rope II
Supta Padangusthasana II
Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana (with Udonic breathing)

Janu Sirsasana

He went over some of the basic stuff he has been talking about for two weeks and taught us the Udonic breathing technique. Basically it involves pulling the abdominal area in and out creating a sucking and squeezing feeling. Hard to do and still stay in the pose mentally and physically.

I plan on resting for the remainder of the day to prepare myself for the Karla cave trip tomorrow.

Monday, 18 January 2010

My trip to the Karla caves, Bhaja caves and the Lohagad Fort was incredible.

Angali, my host, gave me some sage advice as I left the house at 6 am for my day’s adventure. She said,”Don’t eat any sweets given to you by Saduh’s because they sometimes drug you and take your money. Just take the sweets, do Namaskar, and toss the sweets out later. Do not look any Saduh’s in the eye for very long because they can hypnotize you and steal your belongings. Take the train back by 6 pm.” Points well taken. It was the advice that her son had given me a few weeks ago that I should have heeded.

I thought I was taking the local train from Pune to Malavli but about 45 minutes into the trip the train stopped at Talegaon. I was the only one who stayed on the train and this kind sir asked me where I was going. I told him Malavli and he said I had to get off because the train was going back to Pune. He told me in an hour and fifteen minutes there would be a train to Malavli. Good to know. I walked into the village and had some tea. This was the first time I encountered a woman Chaiwalla and I saw women drinking tea. I ordered some chai and stood around sipping my tea. I think I was in the wrong place. It appeared as if the tea drinking was gender segregated because right next door there were a bunch of men drinking tea. Again, leave it to the clueless westerner to not follow the customs.

The trains have “Ladies Only” sections because men have been acting gross and groping woman in the regular cars. Too bad it had to come to that. Big surprise.

At Talegaon I met Amar Dongus who was a 20 year old engineering student. His English was okay and we had a fun conversation. It turns out he knows about Mr. Iyengar because his Guru’s Guru is Mr. Iyengar. He was excited about the connection. He introduced me to a few of his friends who were also engineering students. Nice young men.

I also met another young man who was going to Malavli and to the little village of Bhaja and he said he would guide me there. I rode with him on the train and he led me towards the Bhaja caves. He turned to go to his sisters and pointed me in the direction I needed to go. There is freedom in not knowing where you are and having no clue what is around the next corner. I had to pinch myself again reminding myself that I was in India way out in the countryside.

I continued to walk and was taking in all of the sites. I was watching a group of men laugh and converse on the deck of a pretty luxurious house and was looking at some construction that was going on. A ric came barreling around the corner heading right for me even though I was on the side of the road. I stepped back a little bit and ended up falling into a four foot hole. One of the passengers in the ric looked horrified as I climbed out. Kedar, Anjali’s son, has warned me to always look down to make sure I did not fall into a hole. I found my hole. A severely bruised left thigh, a sprained left wrist and a sprained right ankle were the result. I gathered myself for a minute and decided to forge on. I figured I could take it slow and since there were no broken bones I felt it would be better to move than let things atrophy.

I got to the steps to the Bhaja caves and asked this young man if I was on the right path. He confirmed that I was. I asked him where he was going and he pointed to a tall ridge across the valley and said it was the Lohagad fort. I asked if I could go with him and he welcomed me.

I was blessed tens times over by meeting Srinath Gopakumar. He is a 26 year old, masters in biology and general physical sciences, a snake expert, and a seasoned trekker. He often leads others on hikes and was checking out the hike for a trek he is leading next weekend. His last job would be my son’s dream job – quality control for Kingfisher beer. He said he had to go through about 5 beers a day as part of his job! We had the best time talking and hiking. All of his formal education was in English so his English was good and very formal. He told me of his plans to pursue a PhD in Germany and of the application process. He shared with me his interest in snakes and told me of the many he had personally handled. Personally, I think he should pursue a PhD. in snakes.

We made it to the top and walked around taking pictures and discussing the layout of the fort and how it might have been used. It was an amazing feat of construction and architecture. They had catchments areas for water and other interesting features. As we walked up the mountain he was hoping to see some snakes and maybe handle one. After we were at the top he said that today would not be the day for snakes because now it was too hot. We walked another fifty feet and I heard “Snake!” Turns out the day was a day for snakes. Srinath caught the snake and everyone gathered around him to view the snake. The snake bit him and everyone was aghast. He knew that the snake was harmless and he has taken it upon himself to help his fellow Indian’s overcome their fear of snakes. He said that when most Indian’s see a snake their first reaction is to want to kill the snake. He handled the snake for a while and then released it. It was a bronze backed tree snake. Srinath kept saying perfect day, perfect day.

We made our way down and had a conversation about religion. He is a confirmed atheist much to the chagrin of his family. They think it is just a phase. Given his biology background and what he told me I do not think it is a phase. Even though he is an atheist he is a very spiritual person. He is very concerned about the people around him and our environment. He expressed interest in being more patient, compassionate and loving in general. He said that once religion is politicized it because a dangerous weapon more so than nuclear power. I found him to be smart, sensitive, giving, a person of high morals and very loving.

Our next destination was the Bhaja caves. A short twenty minute walk up the hillside brought us to the caves. What an amazing piece of work. The caves were built in the 2nd – 1st century AD. It is hard to imagine how the work was done without our modern tools. The carvings are amazing. There were rooms all around the prayer hall. I called it the Buddhist hotel. There were water catchments areas that consisted of dug out caves that collected the dew. Nice work.

After Bhaja we walked back to Malavli and rested for a few minutes having tea and buying some water. I had forgotten my hat and my bald head was getting burned so I bought a scarf to cover my noggin. We took a ric up to the Karla caves trail head. More like a parking lot with all kinds of things for sale. It was another twenty minute hike up the hill to the caves. The place was packed with Hindu’s and a lot of them were covered in red powder. I was wondering why there were so many Hindu’s at a Buddhist site. Turns out that the Hindu’s built a temple right in front of the door to the Karla caves. It was like they kind of co-opted the place. There was tons of stuff for sale as we walked up. All the regular stuff for offerings, junk and food. These caves were bigger than Bhaja and had more details inside but it was a very dirty site and the Hindu temple kind of took away from the energy of the place. Like our “modern” culture the Buddhist had an unrealistic view of women’s breasts as represented in the carvings. Srinath commented that the carvings looked like they had had silicone implants. We made our way down and headed back to take our train to Pune.

As per Anjali’s instructions we caught the train before 6 pm. On the train ride out, there were hardly any people. On the trip back, the train was overflowing with people hanging out the sides. It was a super tight fit and we had to stand the whole way. Watch the video clip below for an idea of what it was like.

We made it to Pune and Srinath gave me ride on his scooter back to my flat. It was perfect because it is about a two mile walk from the train to my place and my injuries were bothering me.

Nana had called while I on the train and I called him from the station and told him about my injuries. Once back to my flat I called Heather and asked if she could get me some arnica for my injuries and some food. She jumped on it and helped me out. Nana also showed up and brought some Auyrvedic cream to put on my bruises. Anjali was also doing everything she could do to help me. I am blessed to have people to care for me while in India.

I had to miss class and practice today and it will likely be Thursday before I get back to it. I’ll practice on my own until then. The hardest part is getting up and down and putting my pants on. As Heather said, “Welcome to India Paul!”


Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Rolling out of bed is hard too when your whole left side has been mashed. Things are better today. The postures that would cause me extreme grief are Malasana and Virasana – ouch to even think of them. In light of the hitches in my get-along I am moving better today. Tomorrow I will start to practice again. I am pretty sure I can do Adho Mukha Svanasana and Salamba Sirsasana because my wrists feel better.

The man in green worked me over today. Bhybu is the guy you want when it comes to Auyrvedic massage. I was scheduled for three sessions of Chavetty Uzhicull this week but due to my injuries we changed the focus to Uzhicull, full body massage with hot oils and Ela and Podi Kizhi which involves boluses filled with herbal leaves and/or powders and hot oil. The Kizhi helps with sprains and other muscle problems. It was amazing. After the full body treatment Bhybu heats the boluses up in a little wok with the oil and then dabs it on the tender spots and squeezes out the herbs onto my body and rubs it in. I felt better instantly. Bhybu is a master at understanding how much to do and when and where. Sounds like what we need to do in our Yoga practice. Two more of these and I’ll be ready for something foolish again. I did reschedule the Chavetty Uzhicull which is where the therapist holds onto a rope attached to the ceiling and massages you with their feet. It comes from a martial arts background and is described as the culmination of massage, Acupressure, Acupuncture, and Marma Abhyangam. This type of massage is performed for rejuvenation, vitality, lower back ache, Vatta Raga, to provoke Marma points, to keep the sputa dhatu in balance, to provoke the chakras, for enhanced blood circulation and to increase mental strength. I’ll get back to you as far as the above benefits are concerned.

One thing about going to AyurJoyti – Fab India is right across the street. Careful, it can draw you in and next thing you know you have yet another short sleeved kurta.

While I was getting through my emails today at the internet cafĂ© I heard these loud booms and what sounded like a marching band. I finished up and hobbled outside. There was Ganesh on the top of a truck being led by a marching band. Yesterday was Shiva’s day today it’s Ganesh’s turn.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sixth Post From India

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Prashant’s class on Tuesday morning was awesome. Same format as usual. The class was a lot like Saturday’s twist class except we did a sloppy version of Jathara Parivartanasana towards the end and chair Sarvangasana.

Prashant Gems.

When we work from the exoteric towards the esoteric that is Yoga. Otherwise it is materialism.

Use asana to observe and inform your embodiment process.

You all do Yoga for the here-and-now. What if I told you Yoga was for the hereafter? Would you still come?

Work udonically in the body, breath and mind.

You may have heard that lots of people come here for medical treatments because it is of good quality and inexpensive. I know two people who have had or are going to have colonoscopies while they are here. The doctor here said that it is a procedure that is not often done. The reason she said was because Indians eat fresh vegetables and fruit – not packaged and/or frozen and that they eat what is in season. Food for thought (or for nourishment and health). The streets are filled with carts of fresh fruits and vegetables and some merchants push their carts around to the housing coops and call out that they have fresh goods for sale.

Nana picked me up after lunch and we headed out for some more temple hopping. I am about done with all of the running around but the sites are “worthy” as a friend here said. We went to a few temples on the way to Alandi, which is about an hour out of Pune. A temple dedicated to Sai Baba and one other one. Alandi is dedicated to Dynaneshwar the Great. Dynaneshwar is a local hero. The temple was huge and there were tons of people lining up to go through. It is an interesting juxtaposition between what I thought the practices were all about and what goes on. I get the contemplative part – the prayer, chanting, and meditation – but the group stuff still needs some exploration. The site was cramped and there was lots of garbage around. You move through pretty quickly because there was always someone behind you leaning into you wanting their turn. In the slide show below the Alandi temple is next to the river. The people in the area of Alandi are called Warkari.

We went to few other temples in Alandi and one really stood out. It was clean, quiet and beautiful. It is dedicated to the Goddess Santoshima. The icons were beautiful and the energy was awesome. Note the beautiful icons in the slide show below.

On the way back we had an excellent meal. 325 Rs. (rupes), which is about $7.50. Great paneer and garbanzo massala, roti, and rice. For dessert I ordered a rose milkshake. Nana looked at me like I was crazy. He ordered one too. It is now his new favorite. The owner is a friend of Nana’s and he suggested that I try the pistachio ice cream. Why not? It was amazing. Yup, living the high life in India.

The drive back was like a carnival ride. At one point there were vehicles going the opposite direction on both sides of the ric. Nana was yelling like he was riding a horse in the wild-wild-west. We made it back to Pune in record time.

Thursday 14 January 2010

Yesterday while I attempted to update my BLOG I watched as some Indian’s used the escalator for the first time. You should have seen the hesitation and then the smiles. It’s the little things. The brief videos take forever to upload so I might be limiting those in the future.

Prashant taught an intense backbend class today. For and hour and twenty minutes we were back arching. He actually even mentioned a few points. His instructions were about preparing ourselves asananically for the trip. ????

Adho Mukha Vrksasana
Rope Sirsasana
Tadasana arms in Urdhva Baddhanguliyasana

Back and forth between:
Standing back arch
Viparita Dandasana
Urdhva Dhanurasana I
Eka Pada Viparita Dandasana
Bhujangasana on the ropes

Salamba Sarvangasana I – with variations
Chair Bharadvajasana I

It was an intense class. I decided to not do my own practice right away and will do a more restorative practice in room. I have pranayama class tonight and I want my energy to be even.

The pace here is fast and I think it is time to rest for a day or two.

Friday, 15 January 2010

I was planning to rest on Thursday but Nana had other plans. He called and said he had time to look for a few things that were on my list like some music that I heard at the festival last week, a couple of statues, and some dishes. We had already found a place for dishes and were negotiating with them to place an order. After we left the shop and started to turn around Nana noticed the very same dishes in another shops window. We went in and they had the dishes I wanted in stock for way less. I saved at least 4500 Rs. ($100.00). The plates I wanted were 280 in this store and 460 in the other store. Stick with Nana he has got it going on. We found the music and statues and called it a day.

The evening Pranayama class was with a different Indian teacher. She spoke really fast and with no inflection so it was hard to get what she was saying. I got enough of it to understand what I was supposed to do. A lot of the teachers here say do something “in such a way” that something else happens. It is interesting. In the states our teachers would ask us to eliminate the extra words.

After Paranayam I was picked up by Nana for dinner at his place with his family. Nana’s family was welcoming and sweet. The women, Nana’s wife and daughter in-law, waited on us even though the other guest and I wanted them to join us. That is how it is in lots of India. The dinner and company was awesome and it was sweet of Nana to invite me. He lives a bit outside if town in what I assume is a poorer area.

Thursday was a cultural festival day that is called Makar Sankarnd. I don’t know the entire meaning but it has something to do with the sun being closer to the equator. The coolest thing was all of the women and girls were dressed up in beautiful saris and jewelery. The women were passing out candy treats, honoring each other and every one else.

Friday I get to sleep in because my practice time is not until 9 and there is no early class for me. Practice time was perfect today. I arrived a little early and staked out my spot. I watched one of the Indian teachers move in and steal a Russians mat. She watched while the woman got up and walked a few feet away and swooped in and took the woman’s mat. The Russian woman came back and looked around and I pointed to the alleged thief. Weird. There are people here from all over the world. I hear many languages going on at the same time always with a bit of English thrown in. Russians, other Asians, people from all of the Americas and Western Europe. I have not met any Aussies or New Zealanders but I am sure they are here. There is at least one person of African decent from Western Europe and there are people here from Israel and the Middle East. Does that cover it?

I rested after class and read a book on Hindu philosophy written in 1921. a very interesting book I found in my flat. Nana took me for spin looking for some fabric for the Yoga studio drapes. I am such a shopper, actually comparing prices and taking pictures of samples so Katie, who is going to make the drapes, can comment on my choices.

Pune is famous not only because of the Iyengar’s but also because Osho is here. Osho? Some of you may remember the Bagwan Shree Rajnesh who created quite a stir in Oregon in 80’s. Osho is a “meditation” retreat center based on his teachings. To enter you have to have an AIDS test. It’s all about free love folks….. I’ve moved in over there and will not be coming back. Ha! In the area of town where Osho is there are a few western restaurants and other western stuff. It’s in an area called Corrigon Park. Apparently there are the most beautiful gardens on the Osho grounds. My first day here I drove by the place with Bill and Nana. That was my Osho experience.

Tonight the Aunt of Anuja called to tell me they wanted to give me a CD of her playing the drums. She is the 10 year old (or around there) girl I met at the music festival. How awesome is that. Pune – my second home.

Ah, Geeta, Geeta……her class tonight was beautiful. It was one of those classes that you aspire to teach and love to take.

Adho Mukha Virasana
Parsva Virasana
Parsva Dandasana
Bharadvajasana I
Bharadvajasana II
Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana
Parivrtta Paschimottanasana
Parivrtta Trikonasana
Parivrtta Parsvakonasana
Salamba Sirsasana I – variations
Parsvaika Pada
Parsva Virasana
Parsva Padmasana
Salamba Sarvangasana I – variations
Parsva Eka Pada
Eka Pada
Parsvaika Pada
Parsva Virasana
Parsva Padmasana
Parsva Karnapidasana
Supta Konasana
Parsva Halasana
Salamba Sarvangasana I

The most salient point she made was about twisting.

Breathe in and broaden and lift the chest.
Breathe out and draw the abdominal area in creating a sucking action that draws the sacrum into the body – and twist from there.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Fifth Post From India

Saturday, 09 January 2010, Noon

I took some pictures of the Institute so you can see the class rooms. Check them out in the slide show below.

Geeta did not teach last night. She left instructions with Abby, Mr. Iyengar’s granddaughter, to proceed with a class he designed in 1963. Apparently on Tuesday’s back in the day they did a silent forward extension class. The asanas were called out and we went through the class silent. It was awesome. No yelling. We did the basic forward bends first, then the twisty forward bends, some upright twists and then Sirsasana, Salamba Sarvangasana, and Halasana. It was a very supportive practice although for me it is hard to start my practice off in Paschimottanasana. The twists were my savior because my lower back was starting to feel it even though I was using lots of support.

After class I took my new friends from New Orleans and New York / Los Angles to the Classical Indian music festival. We made it in time for a few notes of the famous flute player Hariprasad Chaurasia and for all of one vocalist. Jonathon knows the history and structure classical Indian music and explained a lot of it to me. It is a very technical and intellectual process that involves very active listening. The show was great and my friends were elated at the opportunity to attend. Tonight I will skip practice and go for the whole evening 4 – 10 pm. Bill and Don are my guests tonight.

Prashant’s class this morning was great. Same format.


Rope I / Rope II - alternating groups
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Upavistha Konasana
Parsva Urdhva Mukha Upavistha Konasana
Bharadvajasana I
Marichyasana III
Ardha Matsyendrasana I
Supta Padangusthasana I
Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana
Salamba Sirsasana
Parsva Sirsasana
Parsvaika Pada Sirsasana
Salamba Sarvangasana

Prashant Gems.

Doer – Doing – Done. Know what is going on. Understand the interplay between these three concepts, learn how to “done” the “doer” to “doer” the “doing” and so on. Make Sense?

He mentioned that we needed to insource. To learn about the doer and what it means to be done and doing and so on. Make Sense?

He suggested we finish doing in asana, finish doing in breath and finish doing in the mind.

He said that coexistence is not the right idea. He said coexistence means that we have a problem between us and we decide we can exist next to each other. He suggested that we consider multiexistence where we exist for each other. Prashant makes up words all of the time. It’s fun. He quoted a Yoga Sutra today that suggests if you know THAT then you know everything. And if you know everything you don’t automatically know THAT. He mentioned we have all kinds of beautiful bodies and intelligent people who can perform great duties but often the mind is not intact and there is no embodiment of THAT. Figure that out.

This was Bill’s last class as he is heading home tomorrow. He waited to say goodbye to Prashant. I was sitting there listening in and I got all choked up. I saw a different side of Prashant. He knows Bill now and said anytime you want to come you come. He was super sweet.

I hung out with Bill all day on Saturday while he did a few final things in India. I took Bill and Don to the classical Indian music festival. Don left early but Bill and I stayed around for the whole show. At one point I looked over at Bill and his eyes were closed, he was swaying back and forth slowly and had a big smile on his face. Sweet.

The sarod player, Pandit Bishvajeet Roy Choudhary, was outstanding as was the vocalist Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar.

As we were walking out after the show we ran into the jovial guy who told me the first night that he loved me. Check out the slide show and see a picture of the two of us and of his whole family. Even though he owns a pharmaceutical company he is a singer and wants me to be his manager when he comes to the US tour. The whole family was sweet.

I also met a young boy who was studying to be a vocalist. He is in the slide show with his sister. I knew him when.

Check out the brief videos below for an idea about the content of the performances.


Sunday, 09 January 2010

After a good nights sleep Nana picked me up at 9:30 for a pilgrimage to Sasawad (St. Sopan Kaka) and Jejuri (Khandoba, Shiva). We picked up Don and Heather and with Nana’s son driving a car we headed out of Pune. We stopped at Sasawad first. In the pictures this is the temple with the colorful steeple and paintings. We went through the devotional process of placing flowers and other offerings on the shrines. As with most temples it was important to pay a few rupes. Yup, you can buy as much enlightenment in India as you want. Just like back home.

After that we went to a restaurant for a wonderful lunch and then to Jejuri. Jejuri was over the top. I could have stayed at this place all day. We parked and walked up hundreds of turmeric covered steps lined with vendors selling offering supplies, Bollywood videos, sweets, and everything else. We ran into a few Sadhus and lots of turmeric covered people. The locals liked Don’s bald head and were happy to cover it with turmeric. Check out the photos in the slide show and the little boy drumming and chanting in the brief video. Amazing place.

I made it back just in time for the final night of the classical Indian music festival.

Heather and Lydia (from London) were to be my guests but Heather was too tired from Temple hopping so she stayed in. I rinsed off quickly and went to the festival. Another amazing evening. The highlights were Pandit Ramnarayan playing the Sarangi and Mallika Sarabhai performing classical Indian dance.

I met a young girl, named Anuja, who is studying the pakhawaj which is a drum. She and her dad were at the performance together. Anuja must be about 10 and she asked me for my address in the US and said she will send me letters. I have been blessed by meeting so many sweet and wonderful people. Check out their pictures in the slide show below.

I took a few other pictures and recorded some really short videos so you can get an idea of how the evening went. It was a late night. I got home late and called home which kept me up later but was well worth it.


Monday I woke up tired. I skipped my morning pranayama to rest before going to Prashant’s class and the morning practice time. I have minimal notes from Prashant’s class but the asana was similar to what we have been doing. He was talking about speech and doing the practice for the benefit of the senses. But reminding us that most of the stuff we do for the senses is nonsense. He mentioned that it is of no use to tell people your problems because that can only serve to disrupt their mind. He said tell only an immutable force your problems. Talk to God. He did actually correct a student’s asana today. My practice after class went well.

I figured I would have a nice lunch made by my host Anjali – her meals have been the best – and then rest all day.

I had a wonderful lunch and took a short nap and then Nana called. He has taken it upon himself to give me the whirlwind tour of Pune and the surrounding area and to make sure my needs are met. Yeah, he gets paid well but he still goes above and beyond. Today we visited a Catholic Church, the Christ Church, two Muslim mosques, a Synagogue, the Krishna Consciousness Center, and three Hindu Temples.

I talked with the priest, Fr. Obedas Gaikwad, at the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception and he invited me into his room and then opened up the church for me. He told me that this was the oldest church in India, over 300 years old. It was built before the Portuguese and the British came in. I took some pictures and then said the Prayer of St. Francis. What a cool church and what a nice guy.

The Muslim mosque with the tomb like shrine is called Baba Jan. The steward told me I could take a few pictures and then one of the worshipers said no. The worshiper was over ruled because the steward wanted to get a few rupes out of me.

The Krishna Consciousness Center was interesting. Lots of stuff for sale and some sweet chanting going on.

Across the street from the Christ Church is an abortion center. That is an interesting placement of the two entities.

One of the other Hindu temples, the one with the colorful exterior, is a place where Mr. Iyengar goes to pray. Nana and I spent some time together in this one. There was a group of older men chanting in Tamil the whole time we were there. As Nana would say, “Very Nice.”

I saw lots of cows in the streets today. There was cart that was carrying a ton of long pieces of rebar pulled by two cows. A wild mix of the old with the new.

Check out the slide show to see the sites. There is also a picture of the soon to be famous chiawalla man. He makes the best tea.

Now can I go to bed?