As an antidote to the ‘viral’ negatively-skewed ashtanga video that has been making the rounds, I offer this.

Buy the magazine, the article is actually pretty interesting and there’s a two-page spread of my teacher, who I’m proud to say is portrayed in the most positive (least-flaky) of ways.  Get it, read it.  Forget the video.


Long delayed re-entry post

February 22, 2011

As I write this it feels like my sinuses are filled with lead.  I’ve had this nasty cold creeping up on me since I got off the plane at JFK.  I thought it was allergies as I was waking up every morning with a sore throat and a sinus headache which were deflected by two advil.  But now I’m guessing it was this horrid virus percolating in my system.

I guess people are eager to hear a first-timer’s perspective on practicing in Mysore.  First and foremost, I would do it again next winter in a heartbeat.  In order for that to happen, all the stars will have to align AND I’ll have to win the lottery, more on that later.  I think that people who go to Mysore to practice at KPJAYI fall into two groups: people who want to go back and people who decide it’s really not for them and never go back.  I totally get why someone would not go back.  It can be REALLY overwhelming just to BE in India for a month, much less jump into that intense practice every single day in a room that has some crazy energy (and dirty rugs, ha ha).  I have to say, it is REALLY cool to meet and be with so many other people who are dedicated to the practice.  Who understand that getting up at 5am, 4am, even 2:45am isn’t really crazy.  Well, maybe it’s a little crazy but really it’s worth it while you’re there.  Who understand that it’s not completely insane to have your last food intake no later than 3 or 4 pm.  You know what I mean.  My husband tolerates some of the odd behavior but he definitely still thinks I’m nuts!  Second, I met some truly amazing people.  Seriously, Jaime is just as hilarious and sweet in person as she is on her blog and if you ever get the chance to meet her, I hope you do so.  It was lovely to catch up with Owl once more (even though I had to go to India to do it, WTF????).  Stan is AWESOME and THAT BABY is to die for.  Her husband rocks too (he totally bought Tova and I drinks at Barista, he didn’t even know us!!!).  They are the sweetest little family.  I also met some totally awesome non-blogging ashtangis and they were really good company.  I met some truly wonderful Indian people who were SO sweet and helpful.  Most of the students there would be lost without them. 

How was the practice?  Did I miraculously start binding in poses I couldn’t before?  Did I make a lot of progress?  Was I miraculously able to get over my fears of headstand and do it in the middle of the room?  The answers are “awesome; sometimes; no; no”.  I didn’t make a ton of physical progress although I did see some stuff ‘open up’.  That was mostly due to the osteopath I was seeing while I was there (left hip pain STILL GONE btw).  I definitely made some mental and emotional progress while I was there.  I truly had to learn to let go and not be attached.  I had a massive meltdown when one of the assistants left and I was ready to go home right then and there but sill had over a week left.  I cried, yelled, bitched and moaned but by the next day I was ok again and ready to face practicing without her.  And you know what?  It was totally fine and I received some awesome help from some of the next wave of assistants.  Headstand still tends to elude me more often than not but it is progressing slowly and steadily, just like everything else.

How was the teacher?  In a word, amazing.  This is a man who works REALLY HARD.  He seems to be at the Shala all the freaking time.  And somehow he pretty much remembers everyone and where they are, what their deal is, what they should (and shouldn’t) be doing.  I can’t imagine being able to replicate what he is doing myself.  Yes, I realize it’s not the same as when Guruji was there and you know what?  That’s OK.  Things are different now.  Perhaps not better, perhaps not worse, just different.  Really, it’s OK.

How was India itself?  Honestly, it’s not my favorite place ever to visit.  The physical journey to get there, in and of itself, can be a huge deterrent.  That’s a LONG time to spend on an airplane.  The noise, grime, pollution, beggars, infrastructure issues, stray dogs/cows/goats/sheep, orphans and unrelenting poverty make for an overwhelming experience, especially for those of us who have never been to a ‘developing’ country (you’re not allowed to say third-world any more, btw).  It is beautiful and ugly and friendly and hostile.  If you resist it (which I did, for most of the time I was there) it can make you crazy.  If you just accept it for what it is, it can crack you open and show real beauty that you had no idea was there.

Above all else, I found my ‘Mysore wife’.  I already knew Tova through another friend.  We had met a few times in person and practiced together, emailed, texted, Facebook, etc.  She’s lovely.  She was generous enough to skew her travel plans to when I could go and I’ll be forever grateful to her for that.  But I had no idea how our relationship would turn out.  I have a hard time spending concentrated amounts of time with any one person.  I’m a bit of a hermit most of the time.  People bug me, mostly because I’m a cranky old bitch with a very low tolerance for bullshit.  I’m able to spend a lot of time with my husband, mostly because he’s pretty tolerant of my crotchetiness.  I had no idea how Tova and I would deal with each other once we got there but it was totally awesome.  I’ve never laughed so hard and at so much in my whole life.  We seemed to pretty much know when to leave each other alone and when not to.  I can’t imagine spending that much time with anyone else on the planet.  I feel very fortunate to have had her as my travel partner.

Stay tuned, I may post periodic life/practice updates here.  And if you have any specific questions about going to Mysore to practice that you don’t want to post publicly, feel free to email me at sonyalee9 at gmail dot com.

It’s my last full day in Mysore.  I’m honestly starting to get a little delirious.  I still have some last minute shopping to do but I’m going to take a rickshaw to the Regaalis instead!  Ha!  I’m hoping to get there before all the ‘good’ chairs that are directly in the blazing sun are gone.  I started packing this morning and it made me a little sad.  Must shoulder on!  Some pics from yesterday’s goodbye party.  And by the way, I met Miss Stan, her lovely hubby and THAT BABY.  I have pics but I haven’t asked her if I could post them.  If I get permission I will post them here.  All three of them are totally awesome.

Don’t break the floor

February 3, 2011

Sharath has these funny things he says sometimes.  When no one comes through the door quickly enough after he says “One More!” he sticks his head into the vestibule and says “Come, why you fearing?”.  When someone hits the floor hard after a dropback or whatever, he says “Don’t break the floor!”.  It’s really charming.  The other day his little son (who is about 2, I think?) ran through the Shala wearing only a shirt and holding his pants.  Look out, naked baby in the Shala!  Sharath picked him up and carried him back to Saraswathi’s office saying to him “Shame, shame, shame”.  Hilarious.

Today was my last Mysore class.  I got my last two assists from Sharath.  Tova says he loves me but I’m pretty sure he just feels sorry for me that I can’t bind, ha ha ha!!!!  Either way, I’ll take it.  Lots of ‘high profile’ teachers in the Shala right now.  It’s kind of nice to see people who can really bust out the Third and Fourth.  I mean, I see it at home but somehow everything here is different.  Several people have been authorized while they are here, which is pretty exciting for them.  I know it’s not the same as when Guruji was here but that’s really not such a bad thing. A whole new slew of assistants started this week also. My favorite went home, I miss her terribly! It’s now time for me to go home as well.  I miss my washing machine and dryer!

Jaime’s ‘healer’ (osteopath? I don’t know what to call her!) is DIVINE. After my session with her yesterday she said ‘I think your practice will be different tomorrow’.  Um, hell’s yeah it was!  I got my second side ardha baddha padmo bind back (that’s been MIA for months due to weird neck/shoulder pain) and also parsvotanasana was MUCH improved.  When I left her place yesterday it felt like 20 lbs. had been lifted from my shoulders.  Seriously amazing!  I have one more session with her on Saturday before I leave.

I’m not going to miss the choking exhaust fumes, the dust, the staring men or the ubiquitous Indian ‘head bobble’.  But I’ll definitely miss the people I’ve met and the amazing practice in the Shala.  Three more days and two more led primaries to go!

End of week three

January 28, 2011

Well, it’s the end of week three and I’m starting to feel like I might just miss this place once I’m gone.  here’s one reason:

My Backyard 1/28/2011

That’s what I get to go home to in about a week.  Super.  BTW, that fence is about five feet tall.  The one at the top of the picture that’s almost covered withs now.  Yeah.

Today and tomorrow I miss practice due to ladies’ holiday.  I’m actually grateful, especially since LH has been MIA for a couple of months.  Yesterday I went to Jaime’s healer.  She does this combo of ‘regular’ massage, Rolfing, Thai massage and energetic healing that Jaime has been saying really helps her.  I finally followed Jaime to her appointment the other day.  “Come back at 4!”  “Well, ok then.”  The treatment was quite painful but when she was finished the persistent pain in the back of my hip was pretty much gone.  I’m going back tomorrow at noon.  I’m hoping to get a few more treatments before I leave.  And she lives in Pittsburg so if I need more I can go see her, ha ha!  We’re both hoping she can unlock my hips.  She has more faith in that than I do, LOL.

I went to the same cooking class that Jaime went to and it was AWESOME.  Anu is the sweetest lady.  She explained the health benefits of all the spices and which ones to grind, which ones to roast, which ones to fry.  It was totally awesome!!!!!

Also did a little shopping at the Silver Nest.  Got some stuff for myself and a few gifts.  I’m still on a mission for gifts for all the men in my life.  ARGH!  Everyone gets a statue of Ganesh, that’s it!  Today more Silver Nest shopping, an appointment with the healer and Tova is going to make PIE while I do my ‘maintenance day’ work.  Tomorrow is a trip to Bylakuppe.  Hopefully I’ll have lots of pictures from that.

Week 3

January 25, 2011

Wow, I owe you guys a post!

It was an exciting (read meltdown) weekend, we moved twice.  It was kind of a pain in the arse actually but we’re all settled now.  Our new digs has a washing machine (and someone to DO the laundry) which is nice.  Practice is about the same.  I haven’t had any huge practice epiphanies yet (not that I really expected to).   I honestly don’t have much to report other than this week is a SEVEN DAY PRACTICE WEEK.  Apparently the Dalai Lama is in town (Bangalore?) so Sunday’s led classes were moved to Saturday.  YIKES.  I’m praying for Ladies’ Holiday, ha ha!  A trip to the Bylakuppe Temple is tentatively planned for this weekend (which is Skippetty’s last, btw).  Hopefully I’ll have lots of pictures for you!

Deep into Week 2

January 20, 2011

Week 2 has proven to be better than week 1.  I have managed to venture out on my own a few times without my fantabulous roommate/Mysore wife.  She is TRULY a saint, putting up with all my dumb pre-trip questions and then explaining to me over and over where things are.  Maps are somewhat useless here as the street signs are in Kannada (but all other signs are in English, WTF?).  So you really have to pay attention to landmarks.  I still don’t know how to get to stuff that’s not within a three block radius, which would be Loyal World, Sixth Main (Indian restaurant), Pascucci (Italian restaurant) and Barista (coffee shop).  But, I’m figuring it all out.  Just as I get it figured out we’re moving!  We are leaving Anokhi Garden and going to stay at Vivian’s.  We’ve been there for breakfast a couple of times, it’s pretty yummy, clean and cheaper than here.  Before we leave here I’ll try to get you some pics when our room is somewhat clean!  I’ll miss Juanita the dog too.

Yesterday was a moon day.  Tuesday evening they held a fundraiser for the local orphanage here at Anokhi plus I had a conference call with work.  I was up until 9pm I think!  Woo, party time!  So, yesterday we got up at the regular time (don’t want to get off our schedule!) but I hadn’t slept at all so I was a major crankypants.  While my Mysore wife surfed the interwebs in the wee hours, I fell back asleep.  When I finally dragged my arse out of bed I discovered there was no water in the shower.  Crap.  I dressed and went to get my flip flops and go out onto the patio where everyone was having breakfast.  But I didn’t see my flip flops.  Went out to patio and moped about how someone must have taken them the night before at the party.  Pouted my way back to my room and proceeded to have a good long cry.  Mysore meltdown?  I hope so.  My wife found my flip flops (which were apparently hiding out in plain sight) and all was better. 

Later in the day I went shopping with three new friends.  I bought some gifts for others and a pair of pants and pashmina for me at a store called The Museum Store (weird name but whatever).  Then we hit a big bookstore and I found these awesome wind-up rickshaws to take home to the boys (adult and child).  Finally we stopped at Pascucci.  It’s basically kind of an Italian chain restaurant that has light Italian food (little pizzas, bruschetta, salads, panini) plus all kind of crazy good coffee drinks.  The best part is they have lemon iced tea.  I’m a whore for iced tea and I’ll go anywhere they have it here.  There are few places to get ‘raw food’ like salads and stuff so I have the feeling I’ll be going to Pascucci fairly frequently.

Today was REALLY productive.  I went to the ATM for cash and actually got some (always an unknown), went to the tailor to have a mat bag made (can’t wait to see it!),  went to the chemist to get something to make me sleep and – best of all – I bought two wi-fi cards, one for me and one for the wife.  Getting any kind of communication device here is really weird.  The phone stands look like drug dealer dens.  Lots of shady-looking dudes standing around.  You give the phone dude the money and he says ‘come back later’.  Um, ok!  I’m supposed to be able to go back and get them tonight.  Fingers crossed!

Work is going pretty well too.  I’ve tried to be disciplined about getting some work done every day.  The only problem is that it’s hard to communicate with the co-workers.  Everything takes a day.  Such a bummer.

On Saturday I went to Chamundi Hill with Skippety and four other lovely ladies whose names I of course do not remember.  Three of them walked up all of the steps.  One of the four had had knee replacement surgery so she and J and I took a rickshaw most of the way then walked the last 300 steps.  Ugh, was I huffing and puffing.  It was quite warm in the sun but very nice in the shade.  The temple is pretty cool looking.  We didn’t go inside, the line was too long due to the festival this weekend.  Before we got to the temple we stopped at the bull and went in the cave there to see the Swami.  I, of course, got a major attack of claustrophobia.  I scooted out of the cave before the others.  Then J came out and said ‘hey, the Swami wants to have tea with us.’  Um, WTF?  So the rickshaw driver graciously let me in around the back so I wouldn’t have to go through the cave again.  The swami came out a little while later and he had his ‘helper’ get us all chairs and make us chai.  I had exactly three sips (and got ill later, sigh, me and my sensitive non-globetrotting stomach).  The swami was SO CUTE and very funny.  You’ll have to go to Skippety’s blog to get pics of him, I didn’t get any.  All in all an exhausting but good day.  And J has the BEST rickshaw driver, seriously.

Led class on Sunday.  Brutal is all I can say.  Today’s class had its ups and downs.  Somehow I ended up on the STAGE at the beginning.  I don’t know how that keeps happening.  Then at some point I was directed back down to the floor.  Sharath assisted my last two poses.  On the last one, after the first side he said something like ‘remove jewelry’.  I had no idea what he was saying (being starstruck at the moment) so I said ‘what?’.  He pointed to his wrist and said ‘take off jewelry’.  Oh, my bracelet, ok, so I took it off.  It’s a big chunky silver Tiffany bracelet.  It took me two years to learn to practice with it on.  He pointed to it and said ‘Is gold?’  I looked at him quizzically, ‘no, silver!’  He laughed.  Oh, you were kidding.  I was so embarassed, ha ha. 

Pictures from Chamundi Hill:

Mysore Pixie Dust

January 14, 2011

My knees hurt.

My hamstring hurts.

My left SI joint hurts.

I’m exhausted and tired of having dirty feet.

But the Shala is magic and filled with pixie dust that makes the impossible seem suddenly very very possible.

Well, I’m on Day 5 of the Six Day Week.  Tomorrow is led class.  At 5:45, when my normal start time is 7:45.  Eeeek!  Good thing we’ve been getting up at 5.  Tomorrow morning we’ll have to get up at 4:30.  At least.  Yikes.  Today I was in the front row, which has its good points and bad.  Better than in front of the busy door, I’ll take it.  I got to Marichy B and got a good firm bind with an assist from one of the assistants (more on them later).  Took my hair down to do backbending.  I was on my back and suddenly Sharath was standing over me (how does he do that????). 

Him: “You catch B?” 

Me: “Yes, catch B with help”. 

Him: “You do C”

Me: “Tomorrow?”

Him: “No, right now”

Crap.  So here I am, big frizzzy hair EVERYWHERE, trying to do Marichy C.  Did I mention I’m not a twister? Ugh.  Jumped back and became Cousin It, hair totally over my face.  So ridiculous.  So, I guess I got my first pose, ha ha.  I didn’t really want it but whatever.  It’s fine.   THEN I had to do finishing on the STAGE.  Triple UGH.  It’s like a big spotlight….WATCH ME BACKBEND.  Actually they felt pretty good and I was able to walk my hands in about five inches on the third one.  Of course, there was NO WAY I was going to brave a freaking headstand in front of all those people.  What can I say, I’m a big chicken shit, LOL.

Indian breakfast today at Sri Durga (sp?).  So yummy!  I have no idea what anything was called except the paratha but it was GOOD.



With Menu, woops

This morning I was awakened at 4:51am by my Indian cell phone.  It was my boss.  That day I made some changes to the email system.  They didn’t go so great and there were issues.  Woops.  Got them fixed in about an hour, just in time to go to class, thank goodness.  My boss said ‘You used your mulligan awfully early’.  Yep, I guess I did.

So, the ‘western’ assistants here are absolutely stupendous.  I really can’t say enough good things about them.  Fabulous adjustments, wonderful energy, so nice about everything.  Without them I’d probably be struggling a lot more because Sharath and Saraswathi certainly do not have time to help every single person who needs it.  And these people are EXPERIENCED.

Time to do some real work now but I’ll leave you with some more pics.

Juanita, Anokhi's resident Mysore mutt


Bird of Paradise in back of Anokhi Garden


Coconut tree in back of Anokhi Garden


Hugs from Mysore!