26 December 2007

on the road again

adios, y'all.

this is my last post for 2007. no blogging for almost a month. the new year will dawn for me in chennai, india.

I started this blog in 2005 before my first trip to India. I had been around the sun over 50 times and had never been overseas in my life. I went to India alone, not knowing what to expect but having an open mind to everything. I wanted to chronicle my yoga studies and my travels but as it turned out, it took a long time for my india experiences to marinate me. I returned to india only 6 months later for another training and more travels.

so now this is my third trip for more yoga and more travels to different cities, even to another sea. now people think I'm the well-seasoned india traveler and they tell me they want to go to india with me. a former yoga student of mine and his girlfriend are meeting me there and neither one have ever been to india. frankly, I'm not so sure how the girlfriend is going to handle india, but they both know that I won't hold anyone's hand and baby them. I told them that they needed to be independent travelers and go with the flow.

no one babied me in 2005, but that's the way it's been most of my life anyway. So far I've stood up to what life has thrown at me on my own strengths, so a 17 hour train ride through the Indian countryside doesn't phase me too much. I like the people I will be with, but I can't wait to be alone and traveling. as jerry jeff walker sings, fast freights make me wonder and that full moon still drives me wild.

they say that once you've been to india you are never the same. india either hardens your heart or opens you up completely. either way, you never look at life, especially your own life, the same way again once you get back. people always ask me about the culture shock of culture shock is when I come back to the US of A.

I know I will have the same experience as I did last year - as I laid in bed tossing and turning in the very early morning when I arrived, I realized what india means to me. it is yin and yang, the Tao, and as I thought about Ma India, I literally felt both halves melting into One, the One that makes me whole.

jai bhagwan

25 December 2007

how does one stand up to evil?

On Christmas night I watched the movie 10 Questions for the Dalai Lama. The movie's director appropriately called the Dalai Lama a "rock star for peace". Nice.

One of the questions the Dalai Lama was asked was how does one continue to practice non-violence when faced with evil. A monk who was arrested and tortured by the Chinese told the director that when he was let out of jail he hated the Chinese. He said he told the Dalai Lama that his message of peace and non-violence is outdated, it does not work, and that the Tibetans must take up arms against the Chinese government. He said that after talking with His Holiness for two hours the monk was a changed man, that he returned to his Buddhist convictions of peace and ahimsa.

Unless you're a jazz fan, you might not know who Oscar Peterson was. This jazz great died just the other day. He had this to say about peace:

...My vision of peace encompasses an awareness of the rights of our fellow man irrespective of race, color or creed. Words spoken and repeated many times on many occasions, political or otherwise, and by many individuals; but so often only used to fill spaces on paper. I believe that if mankind could honestly embrace the true embodiment of those misused words, the world would be much farther along the road to good health....

Pictures of the Dalai Lama are not allowed in Tibet. If I visited Tibet and wore my pendant containing the Dalai Lama's likeness, any number of things could happen to me -- if a Chinese guard or soldier saw it, it would be taken from me and that would be the easiest thing I would have to endure. Would my American passport protect me from a government that shoots Tibetans in the back when they try to cross the Himalayas into India?

When the Chinese army marched into Tibet, the Dalai Lama, then a young man, asked the US for help. The American government did nothing because there was nothing to be gained by helping a country that has no oil.

and so the genocide continues.

Where is the outrage over Tibet?

Why there's blood on the Olympic rings

Boycott 2008 Olympics : Free Tibet & Darfur

24 December 2007

a note from the Universe for all of you

"If it's not yet obvious to you, the real reason for this season is you. A more perfect child of the Universe has never lived. Until now, only a celebration cloaked in myth and mystery could hint at your sublime heritage and divine destiny. You are life's prayer of becoming, and its answer. The first light at the dawn of eternity, drawn from the ether, so that the Universe might know its depths, discover its heights, and frolic in endless seas of blessed emotion.

You are a pioneer into illusion, an adventurer into the unknown, and a lifter of veils. Courageous, heroic and exalted by billions in the unseen.

To give beyond reason. To care beyond hope. To love without limit. To reach, stretch, and dream, in spite of your fears. These are the hallmarks of divinity - traits of the immortal - your badges of honor. Wear them with a pride as great as the unspeakable pride we feel for you.

Your light has illuminated darkened paths, your gaze has lifted broken spirits, and already your life has changed the destiny of all who will ever follow.

This is the time of year we celebrate...each and every one of you."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

those of you who regularly read this blog know that I get "Notes from the Universe", daily emails of inspiration. Sometimes they are right-on with whatever I am going through at the moment. This is the one I received today, specifically for me, but I've removed my name and put in...yours.

Religiously speaking, I am not Christian. I believe Jesus walked the earth, but he is not my personal saviour. I believe the spark of the Divine is everywhere, in everyone, in every thing. I don't call the Divine "God", for me it is about ishvara pranidhana, one of the niyamas as Patanjali wrote in the Sutra-s. It is about stepping outside the ego and connecting with the Highest Good, the Supreme Consciousness, the energy that pervades all life, whatever it is YOU call it. Ishvara pranidhana focuses on the sacred ground of being, reuniting us with our True Self. As B. K. S. Iyengar wrote in Light on the Yoga Sutras, "Through surrender the aspirant's ego is effaced, and . . . grace . . . pours down upon him like a torrential rain."

So Christmas has a different meaning to me and has had for a very long time. Jesus' message was timeless and had nothing to do with any specific religion in my opinion. Other religions also have as their base what Jesus said -- unfortunately it is certain believers who spin those messages for their own purposes and egos.

I really do not understand the frenzy that has become inextricably linked with the "holiday season" over the years. It is the new holiday ritual to show people's craziness and greed on "Black Friday", the day after Thanksgiving, the official start of the Christmas shopping season. Reporters now all over the country wait in anticipation as the doors open of a particular store, filming customers as they knock each other over to be the first one in for that half-price sale. Yup...nothing says Christmas like being trampled.

Call me stupid, but I think the "Christmas spirit" (does that phrase still have any meaning?) is better served if we try to live it all year round to the best of our abilities. Surrendering to that Highest Good, not just between Thanksgiving and New Years, but in each present moment and trying to live mindfully.

As His Holiness the Dalai Lama said:

"A religious act is performed out of good motivation with sincere thought for the benefit of others. Religion is here and now in our daily lives. If we lead that life for the benefit of the world, this is the hallmark of a religious life.

This is my simple religion. No need for temples. No need for complicated philosophy. Your own mind, your own heart is the temple: your philosophy is simple kindness."

with metta and blessings of the season to all of you.

see peace
breathe peace
be peace

23 December 2007


painted elephants
starving pups that won’t live the week

begging children
laughing children
in just pressed clothes
run to touch you
giggling girls and
one pen boys

mango eaters
stone cutters
coconut choppers
bucket sellers
tout screamers

jump out of the way
of the family on the scooter
baby on the gas tank

beggars with one eye
beggars with no legs
women dressed in gold
and rainbow saris
gliding in the streets

mixed with jasmine flowers
scenting my hair

music of the people
for the people
cars honk all day
every day
every night
om kali ma
om muruga
temple music wakes me
temple music to sleep by

pure yoga
from the heart
this is the heart
of yoga

on the streets
go with the flow
or you go crazy
I’ve seen the
dead men walking

my india
ma india

21 December 2007

squirrels love me

one more blog quiz before I leave....

You Are A Walnut Tree

You are strange and full of contrasts... the oddball of your group.
You are unrelenting and you have unlimited ambition.
Not always liked but always admired, you are more infamous than famous.
You are aggressive and spontaneous, and your reactions are often unexpected.
A jealous and passionate person, you are difficult in romantic relationships.

hmmmm....many truisms here....
yes, I have always felt like the oddball, like I've never "belonged", whatever that means...
and all my life I've known that I am not always liked...I've been told that it takes an equally strong person to feel comfortable with me, that my "Kali energy" is too much, too intimidating for the more delicate types...
jealousy is not my thing because I try not to attach and cling, but I am nothing if not passionate about most things I believe in.

and given the choice, I'd rather be a strong and sturdy walnut or oak tree whose nuts or acorns help sustain life in the wild than a weak-wooded willow whose limbs snap off in a wind storm (I know because I had one in my backyard.)

all I know is that when I step off the plane next week, this passionate oddball will be home.


like father, like son

I'm going through some of my previous photos of India and the yoga school to get me in the mood to travel next week (yeah, I need to get in the mood to go to India!), and I found this one of Desikachar (we only call him "Sir") chanting for us in our vedic chant class. You can see the portrait of his father, Krishnamacharya, behind him.

Krishnamacharya was the grandfather of modern hatha yoga. His students were Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois, and his son, Desikachar, and others such as Indra Devi, AG Mohan, and my teacher, Srivatsa Ramaswami. Ramaswami studied with his guru for over 30 years. So from Krishnamacharya three major yoga styles flowed: Iyengar, astanga, and viniyoga (although Desikachar no longer calls it viniyoga.)

If you are a "yoga therapist" you owe a huge debt to Krishnamacharya because he believed that you teach to the individual, you do not make the individual fit your style of yoga. Although I study at KYM, I do not want to be "certified" in yoga therapy. No one called Krishnamacharya a "yoga therapist." I believe all yoga is therapy if it's applied in the proper way.

In the 1920s, Krishnamacharya walked from Mysore to Tibet to study with his guru.

mmmmm...6 more days and I'll be in the arms of Ma India.....

20 December 2007

how to accomplish pincha mayurasana - not

look familiar?

c'mon, you know y'all are thinking that, too....

19 December 2007

"yoga is life"

Being inspired by the yoga social network WoYoPracMo (World Yoga Practice Month) that Yogamum created, I created a yoga social network called "Yoga is Life." I whipped up the website on the spur of the moment.

The Krishnamacharya quote "breath is central to Yoga because it is central to life. . .and Yoga is about Life." has always resonated with me. As one of my yoga pals recently wrote in an email "yoga is not just yoga, it's life. It's not a class you attend, it's inside of you all the time." Isn't that beautiful? So true.

So I decided to try to start a little global community of yogins who feel the same way. Read below for what the site is all about:

Visit Yoga is Life

"Let this site be for anyone who believes that yoga is much more than what we do on the mat. It's for those who are weary of yoga snobbery and brand name yoga. It's for yoga lovers who are serious about yoga but who don't take themselves too seriously. It's for those who believe that an open mind rather than an open body is what will further their practice and lead to their personal transformation. It's for yoga teachers and yoga students and all those in between who try to live their yoga to the best of their ability -- and if any of us stumble along the way, all of us are here to pick each other up.

Feel free to start a discussion, start a blog, or start a rant. Feel free to laugh or cry. Add a song, add a video, or add your favorite yoga or spiritual quote.

Above all, live mindfully and be here now.

salaam aleikum
so shall it be"

I sent invitations to people in my address book to start off with. The ever riotous Yoga Dawg is a member calling Yoga is Life the "Hip New Yoga Network" (thanks, Y Dawg!) Some of my own students are members. It's a group of yoga teachers and yoga students, both seasoned and newbie.

One thing I have learned this past year in the blogosphere is that people you don't know and probably will never meet embrace you without any agenda, and that the global yoga community is sometimes much more supportive than the one in your own backyard. I found that out with the drama I went through with my former studio.

So if Yoga is Life sounds like something you want to be a part of, please become a member. I'll be in India during January, so y'all will have to keep the global party going.

17 December 2007


This is the second time I've been tagged by a blogger. Nate from the Precious Metal Buddhist blog tagged me -- check out his blog for Buddhist news, good stuff! The first rule is post the rules so here they are:

• Link to the person who tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
• Share 7 random or weird things about yourself.
• Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs
• Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

I think my life is pretty boring (other than going to India!), but here goes:

1. I read the Encyclopedia Britannica. yes, really. When I was a kid my parents bought a set and one day I just picked up the first volume starting with "A" and read right on through to "Z". Not word for word -- I mean, there WERE some subjects I was not interested in -- but I did read most it. I loved to read, what can I say?

2. I wrote lots of poetry when I was in high school and college and was named one of Illinois' best high school poets. Also won awards for my poetry in college and my poems always appeared in my schools' literary journals.

3. My claim to fame is OMing with Beat Poet and Buddhist Allen Ginsberg when I was in junior college, about 1973. How he wound up at a city college in a non-descript neighborhood on the south side of Chicago I'll never know, but he came to a do a poetry reading and he read from his famous "Howl". As a young poet, I was mesmerized . After the reading, he led us in chanting OM and other vedic chants and afterward someone yelled "hey, let's go to our house for a party!" -- remember this was back in the good old hippie days and stuff like that happened all the time -- so we did, me, Allen, and everyone else.

I remember the packed apartment, the loud music, and the haze of marijuana smoke...and Allen Ginsberg looking so small and scared behind his big glasses as he sat on a stool in the kitchen surrounded by half the party, everyone hanging on his every word.

4. I moved out of my house when I was 18 and never looked back. got an apartment, found a roommate, and supported myself all through junior college and private university on work-study jobs and grants. My roommate and I lived on food stamps and I was turned down for welfare (public aid as it's called now) because I had $100 in my checking account. I ate lots of government cheese back in the day -- my roommate and I used to wait in line for government food handouts -- and didn't mind a bit.

5. When I was a sophomore in high school I was in a riot. Sly and the Family were supposed to play a free concert in Grant Park in Chicago and they never showed. Sly was known for not showing up for concerts, so when the crowd figured out he was a no-show people got a little hot under the collars and started to riot, throwing garbage cans and port-o-potties around. I watched people ripping off the instruments that were up on stage. The infamous Chicago police -- you may remember them bashing in hippies' heads during the 1968 Democratic Convention -- showed up and my friends and I outran the cops. Tear gas doesn't smell good, y'all...stay away from riots, if you can...

6. I worked for lawyers for 20 years. I quit after 20 years, then got a certificate in horticulture and had my own garden design business. I still design gardens touched with the Spirit Wild. Then my first yoga teacher encouraged me to teach, and the rest is history.

I've reinvented myself twice since the age of 45. I truly believe that all things happen for a reason and that there are no coincidences. It's never too late to do what you want to do. live your bliss. follow your heart. and do not die an unlived life.

7. I dropped out of college for financial reasons in 1976, never finishing my degree. I returned to college in 1990 -- 14 years later and in my late 30s -- finishing my BA in English and graduating Magna Cum Laude. The same poem that won a writing award when I was in junior college 15 years earlier won another writing award when I was in my 30s -- proving that good poetry is timeless...;)

I'm tagging:

Bindi from Bindifry's Itty Bitty Brain Basket

Tracy from A Lotus Girl

Yogamum from Yoga Gumbo

YogaSuzi from Yoga Like Salt

Fran from FranIAm

Gartenfische from De Die in Diem

Sirensongs from Feringhee: The India Diaries

If anyone I've tagged doesn't want to play, that's cool. This is only the second time I've been tagged in the blogosphere -- tagging is the thing to do I guess and I won't respond to all tags. I don't even know the definition of a "meme". I understand if you don't want to talk about yourself, because I don't either (says the blogger.) It took me 6 months to write anything about myself for my own website.

15 December 2007

mantras and shoes

Tracy from A Lotus Girl wrote about the Tantric Heart Wheels and when I saw them I knew I had to get one. om mani padme hum is one of my favorite mantras and there are over a million mantras on microfilm contained inside the pendant. From the Tantric Hearts website:

"The Om Mani Padme Hum mantra is unique in its incredible potency in purifying karma and accelerating enlightenment realizations. Known by advanced yogis and Dharma masters to enhance siddhis (spiritual powers) it helps to uplift others from lower states, accumulate merit (good karma) and actualize the wisdom to realize enlightenment.

These sterling silver mani-wheel pendants are easily spun. With a flick of the finger they whir like a mini-tornado radiating blessings. Spinning a prayer wheel while intoning Om Mani Padme Hum imbues you and your surroundings with the expansive luminosity of Pristine Interconnected Non-duality. This is another way of saying that while spinning a prayer wheel you are practicing a profound Dharmic path that will help you realize the true essence of your natural mind - unlimited cognizance free of solidifications. At the heart of this Dharma practice is the ACCUMULATION OF MERIT (good karma) and the BLOSSOMING OF WISDOM. Prayer wheel pendants this powerful bestow extensive compassionate benefits to those openhearted enough to reap their fortunate karma."

I ordered the one in the picture and I received it in within a few days. The picture does not do the pendant justice so if you love prayer wheels, order one because you won't be disappointed. I think mine is beautiful and I will wear it in India.

and below are the shoes I am wearing with a sari I will wear to a wedding....

I made a good friend on my first trip in 2005 -- she calls me "akka" which is Tamil for "older sister" -- and she invited me to her son's wedding. I am honored and very excited about it. it is not a Hindu wedding, but I will borrow a sari from my friend, or if she does not have one that matches my shoes, she said she will buy one for me to wear. my friend is taking me to a beauty parlor, will arrange for my hairdo, sari fitting, facial, makeup, and anything else I want. hmmmmm....not many Indian women have hair like mine -- curly/coarse/frizzy/ringlet curls. we are also renting jewelery because I can't wear a sari to an Indian wedding without the proper gold. I so wish I still had my pierced nose!

if I look awesome all decked out in a sari with lots of 22K gold and a bindi, you can bet I'm taking lots of pictures!

christmas gift idea: poo paper

My students love me so much that they gave me a box of paper made from elephant ca-ca!

Seriously, I love it...this morning my private students gave me a box of handmade note paper that is really made from, well, elephant poo poo. Go to The Great Elephant Poo Poo Paper Company. My students know I'm all about the environment and that I love elephants so they thought it was the perfect gift. The paper is 100% recycled and odorless (good thing!) A percentage of the profits from the sale of the poo poo paper (I love that phrase!) is contributed towards the conservation of elephants.

So check out the website. They have neat journals for people on your Christmas gift list who love to journal and also stationary sets for people who still write letters.

I love handmade paper. It has character. One of the things I'm taking to India is a handmade journal I bought at an art fair. Everything is handmade, even the leather cover. The artist told me that he buys hides from a beef processing plant (yuck), tools them into journal covers, and also makes the paper. My journal has a deep, rich burgundy cover that will become seasoned and burnished the more I handle it, like the way an old saddle gets or an old pair of boots. The paper inside is rough and scratchy with a nice earthy feel to it. I looked at many journals at the artist's table, but when I picked up this particular one, a picture flew into my mind -- I saw myself sitting outside a temple in India, journaling. I was meant to have this special journal. When I paid for it, I said to the artist, "I know this sounds weird, but...", and I told him what I "saw." He looked at me, smiled, and said, "it's not weird in my world..." mine neither, bro.

and yes, that IS a picture of me being blessed by the temple elephant in Pondicherry, India, 2005. now THAT was the money shot!

14 December 2007

feel good friday

For those of you who want a little taste of why India is in my heart.

This video has a nice "first time in India" feel to it and the Three Dog Night song is perfect for it. Video was shot in north India where I have not been -- yet. One day.....

you'll see lots of westerners in the video, but where I go, I'm usually the only one! and that's just the way I like it....


13 December 2007


"i am so very happy to be a student instead of a teacher for a few weeks. cause teachers need love, too. often my students don't understand this & don't want me to go away. but we are no different from them. we are all students who need guidance. and i can't give if i don't receive. a teacher who does not continue to study & practice is nothing but an empty vessel with nothing to offer.

and no one wants that."

[emphasis added]

another pithy bindi comment from from her blog bindifry's itty bitty brain basket. I emailed her to tell her that I'm lovin' what she's writin' because she's sayin' what I'm thinkin'....

The Buddha pictured above is the Medicine Buddha. Read more here:

"Medicine Buddha's blue sky-colored holy body signifies omniscient wisdom and compassion as vast as limitless space and is particularly associated with healing both mental and physical suffering. Making a connection with him, practicing meditation, reciting his mantra or even just saying his name helps us achieve our potential for ultimate healing.

The historical Shakyamuni Buddha provided teachings on healing and systems of medicine which were collected into four volumes called "The Four Medicine Tantras". These teachings became the basis for the system of medicine practiced in Tibet and other Buddhist lands. They are characterized by a belief that all disease is essentially rooted in a psychosomatic cause, namely, spiritual confusion..."

I am using my trip to India as a healing mission. I have private classes set up at the yoga school where I will get a private consultation regarding my health, physical and otherwise, and a yoga/pranayama/meditation practice will be prescribed. I will then do my private asana class every day with a senior teacher of TKV Desikachar along with pranayama and meditation classes and a Sutras class.

There is nothing seriously wrong with me, at least that I am aware of. A medical procedure I was to have today has been rescheduled. but all this year I have felt "off" and ungrounded no matter how much yoga I did or how much I meditated. I have only myself to blame because I went off my thyroid meds early this year which wreaked havoc on my body. let this be a lesson for y'all: don't mess around with your thyroid!

But in my bones I know it is more than that. being in a state of energetic dis-ease all year took its toll, and then the coup de grace of the dysfunctional yoga studio was the finishing blow on my subtle body, my sukshma sarira. I know that the rage I felt about what happened, while no longer consciously apparent, settled into my subtle body which then manifested physically into conditions relating to the first, second, and third chakras.

So I'm going to India to heal myself. India is always psychically healing to me but it is my hope that it will especially be so this time. like bindi's experience, my students also are never thrilled when I'm gone for a month, but it's the way it has to be. India feeds me and nourishes me and without it I am just that empty vessel that bindi wrote about. This is only my third trip, but each time I am there I feel like I have always been there.

My students know how I feel about India and they always ask me if I am coming back "this time." Last night a student said that if I don't come back he's going to come looking for me which I thought was sweet and funny.

I told my students last night that this time I am not bringing anything back. I usually return home with a large suitcase filled with gifts and items to sell like shawls and silk scarves, jewelery, and cool Indian "yoga stuff." this time I will be selfish -- no lengthy travelogue emails home describing every street cow I see or every bit of yogic insight gained. and absolutely no blogging about my adventures. I'll be in-country and off the grid. So to my friends who read this blog, sorry, but don't expect to hear from me for an entire month.

It's time for me to lose myself in the arms of Ma India. and whatever happens, happens.

it's time for this vessel to be filled.

yoga every day?

World Yoga Practice Month -- January 2008

can you do yoga every day in the month of January?

sure you can! and blog about it! read more about it at Yoga Gumbo.

I'll be off to a good start on January 1 because that's when my classes start in India at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram. I'll just have to make a commitment to stick to my practice while I'm traveling the temple trail through Tamil Nadu on my way to Kerala.

jai bhagwan!

12 December 2007

if you can't stand the heat...

...get out of that yoga studio -- or at least ask the teacher to turn it down.

I've been reading bindifry's itty bitty brain basket blog for a while now. bindi is an astanga teacher in chicago. proving once again that it's a small world, I already "know" bindi from the yoga studio where I trained although we have never met. such is life in the blogosphere!

bindi is in india right now so I emailed her and told her how I loved her post about cranking up the heat during yoga because I totally agree with her. bindi gave me permission to quote her blog:

"for all of you who like to turn up the heat in the yoga room to 80, hear me out. not everyone can tolerate that kind of heat. us pitta/vata people have a tendency to overheat. and that is not good for us. the yoga room seems to be a constant battle of heat/cold depending on the dosha make up of the individual. sharath talked about this last year when i studied with him in australia. he said there should always be windows open, ventilation at all times. and it is dangerous to have sweat dripping off your body because that means the body is unable to cool itself anymore. too many salutations is not good when you are this heated, and you should do less. and you should do more when you are very cold. when i practice yoga, i do not even turn the heat on. because it's actually dangerous for me to over heat. there aren't any totally closed rooms in india, so this western idea of a sauna room with steam on the windows & puddles of sweat is just that-a "western" ideal of yoga. we want the heat to "do" the yoga for us, instead of us making that heat ourselves by working hard. the room should not be heated above 69 degrees. the last thing you want to do is ingest other people's toxins. someone like me has a real reason for needing to practice very early in the morning. especially in south india. and this is the reason. i lack kapha in my bodily make up. i like to make my own heat. too much makes me overheat. sick, even. and i turn very red & am unable to cool down for a long time. i lose my appetite, and get heat stroke.

i am reading an interesting astanga book right now called, "ashtanga yoga practice & philosophy," by an australian named gregor maehle. he talks about this phenomenon.'s some paraphrased words from the book regarding heat:

'care needs to be taken not to overheat. overheating is not good. sweating too much drains the life force from the body. 68 degrees is ideal for practice. heating the yoga room above 77 degrees produces flexibility, but decreases strength, stamina & concentration.' he goes on to discuss how overly flexible people are lacking strength, a result of biochemical imbalance. and too much strength without flexibility restricts the range of joint movement.' 'a cold room increases awareness and attention to detail & pays off in terms of benefits. there is more learning if the temperature is low & the body becomes sturdier due to the awakening of physical intelligence.'

so please consider others in the room when you enter the yoga shala & take it upon yourself to turn the heat up to 80 degrees. if you are that cold, you need to do more salutations, move faster, and do not stop moving. sensitivity to others is supreme. and think about that when you close a window, too. because some of us are losing our life force."
(italics emphasis added)

the yogis reading this know the yoga styles where it is customary to turn up the heat. I have done both styles and frankly I think it's a gimmick. I think it's a gimmick to cater to the western mindset of "it ain't a workout unless I sweat." I know that people who do Bikram yoga claim that they are more flexible after a class. well, yes, because it's the heat that's doing it, not the yoga. it's a false sense of flexibility.

flexibility has everything to do with the connective tissue (tendons, ligaments, and fascia of the body), not the muscles. and the connective tissue must be therapeutically stressed (i.e., held) for a minimum of three to five minutes in poses like cobbler's pose or pigeon or low lunges or hero, to name a few. that's yin yoga. connective tissue must be worked every day, consistently, in order to achieve true flexibility. anything less, and connective tissue will literally shrinkwrap your joints. you don't need heat to achieve the flexibility that working your connective tissue in this manner will give you.

In a vinyasa class we can create heat by holding the pose longer and watching the breath or by engaging in kumbhaka after the inhalation. But many yoga students can't be still for that long. You don't have to do "power yoga" or move fast to create heat. I sweat a lot anyway and I'm dripping with sweat if I practice in an unairconditioned studio during a hot midwestern summer. The sweat rolls down my face so I don't need the heat cranked up.

bindi is right on when she talks about heat not being good for certain doshas. teaching pranayama indiscriminately in a group class without knowing the students' doshas is also not wise. for example, kapalabhati breathing aggravates vata, and if the student is vata/pitta, and does kapalabhati breathing in a room that is heated to over 80 get the idea.

is yoga about soothing and harmonizing the mind/body complex or is it about further aggravating an already stressed and aggravated body?

during my first training in India the class was predominately western yoga teachers. the asana class was the first class of the day, from 7 to 8 am, before the heat of the day, in an open-air room. all the classes were taught by Desikachar's senior teachers.

one day a teacher was speaking about certain asanas and one of the American teachers asked, "but will it create heat?" The Indian teacher looked confused. "heat?" "yes, heat. like in the core." the teacher still looked confused. "why do you want to create 'heat'?," she asked. now the American yoga teacher looked confused. she did not know how to answer that and remained silent.

the Indian teacher laughed. "South India is already hot. we do not want to create more heat! we do not understand this idea of 'creating heat' in your yoga classes."


thanks, bindi!

11 December 2007

forget Bollywood

...give me Kollywood!

This video is from the Tamil movie Sivakaasi starring the popular Tamil actor, Vijay. Between Frankfurt, Germany and Chennai, Lufthansa shows a Tamil movie. Some of them are pure escapism like Vijay movies, others are serious like Kaadhal, a movie that left me sobbing at the ending.

Kaadhal takes place in Madurai, a city I am familiar with. It's the story of tragic young love. The main character, Murugan, falls in love with a girl but no one wants them to be together, and he is beaten by the girl's father when he refuses to leave her. At the end of the movie, the girl -- who is now grown with a husband and child -- sees her old love in the street. Murugan is now a crazy beggar. She is with her husband and child, but despite that she runs to her old love, falls to the ground, and holds him. It is raining, she is crying, and as her husband looks on, she tells Murugan that she will never leave him again. By the look on the husband's face you know that both she and her husband will take care of her old love.

I was told that the movie is based on a true story -- supposedly the director heard the story on a train journey from the actor who plays the husband. I was bawling at the end of this movie and when I stepped into the Chennai airport last year I still had tears in my eyes.

Many people here only know about Bollywood movies, that is, Hindi movies. The word "Bollywood" comes from using the B in Bombay (now Mumbai) and linking it to "wood" in Hollywood. Bombay is where many of the early movies were filmed. However, there are Tamil movies based in Chennai, Malayalam movies from Kerala, and the Bengali industry based in Kolkata. In fact, the number of Telugu (Tollywood) and Tamil (Kollywood) movies that are made have outnumbered Bollywood movies for the last ten years. Movie fans are so loyal to the Tamil actors that they are elected to the government in Tamil Nadu. When I ride in a autorickshaw sometimes there's a picture of Vijay next to the Shiva or Ganesh decal. I'll ask the driver, "you like Vijay?" -- "Yes, madam, Vijay No. 1! He is SUPER, madam!"

It's too bad that nowadays Indian movies are defined almost exclusively by Bollywood movies, most of which are musicals. But of course that's why people love Bollywood movies, for all the flash and the singing and dancing. You have to admit that the Bollywood stars aren't hard on the eyes:

...long time Bollywood actor, Amitabh Bachchan AKA the "Big B". The guy is in his 60s and to me he's definitely the bomb!

or Shahrukh Kahn...

and when the Big B and SRK are in a movie together.... THAT'S what I'm talking about!

But I love the old classic movies of Bengali movie director, Satyagit Ray. one of my favorites is Charulata made in 1964. Satyagit Ray was one of the greatest film directors of all time, not just in Indian cinema, but in world cinema.

Two more weeks and I'm back in Kollywood!

09 December 2007

one world?

This is a message for people like Pat Robertson and Mike Huckabee, a Southern Baptist minister, who in 1992 said he would segregate people with AIDS. The fact that Mike Huckabee is gaining in the presidential polls frightens me. The fact that I have heard people say that would not vote for Barack Obama because they believe he is Muslim frightens me.

"Your religion is not the garb you wear outwardly, but the garment of light you weave around your heart. Discover who you are, behind those outer trappings, and you will discover who Jesus was, and Buddha, and Krishna. For the masters come to earth for the purpose of holding up to every man a reflection of his deeper, eternal Self." Paramahansa Yogananda (Hindu)

When did we become so lost?

07 December 2007

feel good friday

You can read a larger version here. And thanks to the Y Dawg for posting it so I can liberate it!

hey, you can't make this stuff up!

happy friday, y'all...enjoy.....


05 December 2007

yoga from hell

more from the "yoga is evil" battle front thanks to a link on souljerky...

Vicars are Right to be Afraid of Sweaty and Sensual Yoga

"Children's yoga classes have been banned from two church halls in Somerset, by vicars who regard the practice as "un-Christian". 'Yoga impinges on the spiritual life of people in a way which we as Christians don't believe is the same as our ethos,' said the Rev Simon Farrar.

I'm a yoga devotee, but I can understand Mr Farrar's position. If he wants the kiddies of Somerset to grow into passive, faithful churchgoers, he's right to keep them away from the ancient Hindu art of self-realisation....

...In Hindu mythology, yoga was developed by Shiva, the maverick, dreadlocked god of destruction and regeneration. He renounced the world and sat atop mount Kailash, manipulating his body in 8,400,000 postures, to reveal the basic animal instincts and desires that motivate us. Shiva was an outsider who refused to fit into mainstream society, cultivating his innate individuality instead, and yoga became the practice of rebels and nonconformists throughout Indian history."

I love the comment about the early yogis being the nonconformists of Hindu society because if you read my post about my California training, Stephen Cope emphasized that the renouncers of the Hindu rituals, the sramanas, starting from the 8th Century BC to the 2nd century CE, used their own bodies and minds as laboratories for the direct experience of yoga and for the research on the nondualism of body and mind.

The actions of the sramanas were similar to that of Martin Luther when he told the Catholic Church, in essence, "I don't need a priest to be the intermediary between me and the Divine." In the same way the sramanas told the Brahmin priests "we don't need your fire rituals and sacrifices to know the Divine." Iconoclasts and rebels, I love it. By the way, I'm a very lapsed Lutheran. and always the rebel.

The author of the Guardian article finally asks, "Who knows what dangerous urges the Rev Farrar has repressed with his Anglican dogma, which might gush forth with a mere sun-salutation? Perhaps it's not yoga that scares him, but what it might release within himself."

What indeed makes someone so fearful of the unknown and the unfamiliar, whether it is within us or out there? Once I gave a cloth painting of Durga to the owner of the yoga studio where I used to teach because she said she wanted something that expressed "strong feminine energy." She returned it to me within a week because she said that two students complained about it -- two out of over 100 students that attended the studio every week. They told the owner they were "Christian" and the painting of Ma Durga made them "uncomfortable" because it was "Hindu."'s always the few....

No one tied them up, taped their eyes open, and made them stare at Durga the same way Malcolm McDowell was forced to watch graphic violence in A Clockwork Orange. I have never been to a yoga studio where anyone was forced to chant those evil MAN-tras to Vishnu and Krishna, those MAN-tras that strike fear in the heart of Pat Robertson. I wouldn't go to a studio where anyone forced me to do anything. Apologies to any kundalini yogis out there, but I never went back to a kundalini yoga class because I was told I HAD to wear a white scarf. thanks.

I have my own opinion about what the owner should have done, but the fact that these women were so fearful of something that was not in their realm of experience gives me pause. would it go over if I walked into a church (my own choice, forced by no one) and told the minister or priest that as a Buddhist, looking at Jesus on the cross bugs me and I want it taken down. I would probably be politely told, "get over it. this is a church. this is what we do."

Be afraid. be very afraid. yoga might make you think.

04 December 2007

pray for Pat Robertson

you heard it here first from this Buddhist: let's all pray for Pat Robertson because he needs to get help for his own brand of evil and narrow-mindedness. Pat needs an intervention. I humbly request the help of Shiva, Ma Kali, Buddha, and Tara and all the boddhisattvas to lead this man from his delusions and into the Light. you think that's enough help?

Pat Robertson Not Down With Yoga

According to Robertson, "stretching before exercise" is great, but those evil yogis are going to make you chant mantras to Vishnu and Krishna...and you won't even know you're doing it!

Yeah, that Krishna dude, what the hell was HE smoking?....

"Be fearless and pure; never waver in your determination or your dedication to the spiritual life. Give freely. Be self-controlled, sincere, truthful, loving, and full of the desire to serve...Learn to be detached and to take joy in renunciation. Do not get angry or harm any living creature, but be compassionate and gentle; show good will to all. Cultivate vigor, patience, will, purity; avoid malice and pride. Then, you will achieve your destiny." (Krishna, Bhagavad-gita)

Does the thought of Jesus being a self-realized yogi frighten you, Pat? Hmmmmm...Jesus as a bhakti yogi or a karma yogi? ......naaaah....that's too far out to believe...kind of like that notion of a virgin birth, I guess.

Beware...keep doing yoga and before you know it you're worshiping a MONKEY GOD!

and then...before your final descent into hellfire and brimstone for all eternity... when you've become totally brainwashed by an evil mantra-chanting yoga teacher like me...hey, but I'm only 37% EVIL....

This site is certified 37% EVIL by the Gematriculator'll smear your body with ashes, wear your hair in dreads, and start smokin' a few chillems everyday! OM NAMAH SHIVAYA! You're gonna need those chillems where you're going, sucker!

Robertson says that all that other stuff about getting into a higher consciousness, merging your spirit with an ever-present God, and that God is everywhere is pantheism and that's where "YOGA GETS REALLY SPOOKY"!

Yoga is spooky? You know what I think is spooky, Pat? People like you who promote numb groupthink and abhor the Feminine Divine, jai ma! People like you who think we need protection from vile pagans like Buddhists and Muslims. People like you who can only get your message across by pandering to guilt and fear. what exactly is the definition of pantheism?
(taken from Merriam-Webster):
1. a doctrine that equates God with the forces and laws of the universe.
2. the worship of all gods of different creeds, cults, or peoples indifferently; also, toleration of worship of all gods.

what?!? "toleration"? oh my heavens, toleration is exceedingly evil! we really can't have anything like that because that might mean that we're really not better than anyone else.

God is everywhere? you mean He's not an old white dude with a long white beard somewhere up in the sky behind the clouds? I'm crushed.

Think I'll follow the Dalai Lama's advice and send Pat Robertson lots of metta, lots of loving-kindness. HHDL says that true compassion is having compassion even for your enemies, even for people who hate you.

I am sure Pat Robertson would tell me that I am going to Hell unless I accept Jesus Christ -- just like what the flyers said that were being handed out by the Christians (friends of yours, Pat?) who demonstrated against the Dalai Lama when I saw him this year. According to them, HHDL is going to hell unless he accepts Jesus Christ. I also don't know right from wrong according to them because Buddhists never talk about an all-powerful God. Yup, that's a bee line straight to hell if ever I saw one.

Fortunately, Pat, I'm a lot smarter than you -- because I don't believe that everyone who calls themselves Christian are as close-minded and hateful as you.

That's OK, Pat. Buddha loves ya despite your disgusting ignorance. and you know something? Despite all your holy-rolling, there's no guarantee you have that one-way ticket to Heaven because karma is karma. You believe in karma, right, Pat? You might use different words for it: the Bible says you reap what you sow. You just might come back as a naked Shiva baba.

Maybe I'll see you in a Buddhist Hell Realm. I'll be the one doing yoga.

03 December 2007

musical monday

My regular readers may have noticed that I haven't written much lately about yoga, Buddhism, Tibet, or social action, the subjects that are near and dear to my heart. For whatever reason as 2007 draws to a close, I find myself pre-occupied with other things: my impending trip to India, a medical procedure I will have next week, and teaching at a new yoga studio. but the drama never ends at the studio where I used to teach.

Another teacher quit last week for the same reason I left -- the alcoholic dysfunction of the owner. It so happens that the teacher who quit was the only teacher who supported me when I had my confrontation with the owner in September. it had come to her attention that the owner yet again had taught her class in, shall we say, a less than functional state, and my friend decided, enough is enough, that she could not continue teaching at a studio that is based on lies and delusions and the denial and complicity of the other teachers.

as the saying goes, all things happen for a reason. I am enjoying teaching at the new yoga studio. I live in a suburban area about 45 miles outside of Chicago -- think of the stereotypes about "white bread suburbia" and that pretty much sums up where I live. But all I have to do is drive 15 minutes and I'm in the middle of corn and soybean fields, and in another 20 minutes the landscape is dotted with farms and stables and farm tractor companies. I prefer that environment much more but we live where we do so The Husband can have a quasi-sane drive to his office.

The location of the new yoga studio can be called rural small town which happens to be right next door to a small university town. So the vibe and the mindsets of the students are immediately different. For one, they are appreciative of whatever style of yoga is taught at the studio, it's yoga for the sake of yoga. There is no yoga snobbery. There is no sense of entitlement as the students had in white bread suburbia where Tyler and Tiffany are bought a brand new Hummer for their 16th birthdays. The students don't come in the latest yoga clothes with the hand-painted chakras, endorsed by Seane Corn, don't cha know -- many come in sweat pants and baggy T-shirts.

So I am grateful to teach in this environment and am humbled by the response to my teaching. I did a second yin yoga workshop yesterday that had over 20 students and because the first two workshops were so popular, the owner asked me to do another one in two weeks. Twelve students signed up for it immediately after yesterday's workshop.

Maybe humbled is too mild a word -- blown away would be more accurate. One of my students who studied with me at the other studio lives in this town and has just gotten a job with the local paper as a free-lance writer on fitness. She gets paid $20 an article -- I told you it was small town -- but she is happy for it because as she says, it pays for a yoga class. She wrote a story about my first workshop that was entitled "Local Yoga Enthusiasts Thrilled as Popular Instructor Comes to Town." She gave me a copy of the article yesterday and I got all choked up. really. wow. I felt like Shiva Rea. But you'll never see a picture of me with my hair blowing in the wind.

Yup, all things happen for a reason.