Day 3 of Practicing Ashtanga in India

I woke up late this morning, but got to the shala at about 5:15. Saraswathi asked me to be there at 4:30, but she doesn’t care as long as I can find a space to practice.

I always start in child’s pose. Today I made a dedication, something I don’t normally do in my own practice. When I walk in to the Shala, this kind of trance comes over me, the breathing and ambient sounds are so soothing, so powerfully hypnotic. It’s hard not to find devotion amidst all of the hard work each yogi is putting into their practice and body.

I love the way that the practice moves inside. Every time I do the 10 Surya Namaskars (5 A, 5 B), I am exhausted afterwords. Every time, triangle poses feel like freedom. I can see why the primary series is structured the way that it is. Though it is definitely not a suitable practice for someone brand new to yoga. Even a few years could be rendered meaningless in the face of the sequence. Putting both feet behind your head is no easy task.

I only messed up one part before I came to the end of what Saraswathi has taught me. She allows me to practice on my own, make mistakes, then do it over with her guidance. It’s not that explicit, but that’s what is happening. She understands that I know a lot of yoga, but she respects the series enough to tell me to stop at certain points and I’m happy to do so. Today I received Ardha Bandha Paschimottanasana and Trianga Mukha Ekapada Paschimottanasana. Loved it. Half lotus is still very difficult for me, as I have extremely tight hips from football, rugby, and especially basketball. The lateral movement of defense really tightens hips to be able to move very quickly side to side and I am pretty sure this is the major culprit behind why it has taken so long for them to open up into external rotation. Plus, my ankles are weak from lots of sprains, which compounds the difficulty of moving into lotus postures.

I can grab my toe, but the pain in my ankle is just a bit much right now, so I do half-lotus without the bind. I finished trianga Mukha, then Saraswathi told me to go do Sirsasana.

For those of you who don’t know, I am passionate about being inverted and the mental effects of being upside down. I’m always a bit wary of head-stand, but it is time for me to step in and take the activation and full extension in the back of my neck and learn how my body wants to do Sirsasana. In other words, no more avoiding the pose for handstand. 10 breathes without Saraswathi, then she came and assisted me afterwards. I did the closing sequence, and called it a day.

I walked outside to the rising sun. It was beautiful and made me very happy. I had a coconut from the vendor outside of the Shala and enjoyed a 10 minute walk back to my room. Now I’m off to find some more Ayurvedic oils and maybe check out the zoo this afternoon. Maybe tomorrow. I have already bought oil that I want to talk about with you all, so make sure to look out for a post on Ayurveda in the near future.

Getting my India Visa in SF


Why I love San Francisco

I got my visa for India this morning, and took a megabus into the city yesterday afternoon. I have to say that part of me is sad because Urban Flow is closed right now and I really loved that studio. There’s something primitively satisfying about chanting with a couple hundred other humans at the same pace. Top reason why I love SF: yoga. Mostly Rusty Wells at that.

I forgot forms, as usual. I needed a copy of my drivers license and some alternate things form that I have nothing to fill out on. I have a pretty clean record, to be honest. But I printed my visa form there, had to refill that out again because I didn’t include my middle name like I did on my passport. Oh well, the people working there were really nice.

I usually come for a weekend, or a couple of nights so I can head down to the studio and practice and see a couple of college friends, but I am becoming more and more aware of how yoga is continuing to gain popularity. Our society and culture are molding it into something amazing, something that is really American too. I’m always incredulous at the vast diversity of Americans, it is truly awe inspiring.

San Francisco has no shortage of diversity and people are friendly, if you give them the chance to be. Its a rough life in a city, I’m really glad that I haven’t been living in one for the last year, it feels great to take breaks. But the massive stimulation does seem to have a very productive effect on me, being one who was diagnosed with ADD, it helps me to focus. But it is also exhausting.

The consulate was a piece of cake, I used CKGS, it cost $100 for a 6 month tourist Visa with multiple entry. I hope that means I can make it to Nepal, Burma, Laos, and Cambodia. I am also seriously considering Thailand for two weeks in April, maybe a Mango farm? But I am also really excited for 3 weeks in Germany with my sisters and mom. Berlin is going to be beyond epic, I’ve heard so many amazing things about that city. I hope I can see some live EDM, apparently da germans are really into it.

For the past 3 or 4 months I have been making music, really mostly in the last 3. I was so inspired by Lightning in a Bottle that I wanted to learn it for myself. I think I love entertaining people in general, I think yoga might be just one outlet for that. But it is definitely my favorite one, and the most steady of all my passions. A great joy is rising in my heart as I turn to the east again, ready to see more of life on this planet, the world outside of the states. This will be my first time in a 3rd world country, I’ll see poverty there unlike anything I saw in China last May. Though, I can’t say that the people there had much, at least they had some opportunity to farm and work the land. I wonder how India will be.

So I am going to spend at least one day in Bangalore before heading to Mysore, I want to see the trade capital of India, 8 million people in the metropolitan area, and there are a little of ancient temples there. Then its off to Mysore to register with the Ashtanga Institute and practice with Saraswathi. I finally got a confirmation letter after two rejections! But only after calling Saraswathi and asking if I could attend. She said, “come, come, practice here.” Well, don’t mind if I do!

I think what makes me most excited about India is the silence, the time alone, the time in thought and in meditation. It is my favorite thing, which still surprises me every time I take some time to sit down and breath, stop my thoughts and maybe stretch. Lately it has been much more about meditation than the asana practice. Which is probably perfect, because I have a feeling I will get my fair dosage of asana in India.

There is supposed to be a huge storm coming in tonight, its pretty exciting to hear the wind gusting outside. I love waking up in the fog and seeing the sun during the winter, its pretty great to spend the cold month where the weather is good. Geese and ducks have it right. Can’t wait to migrate myself, I think that kind of lifestyle would be really interesting.

What do you love about SF? Besides the yoga, of course 😉

Preparing to Leave for India

I bought a plane ticket this morning. Lufthansa Airlines, 21h30m of fly time, taking me through Frankfurt, GE and into Bangalore, the silicon valley of India. I’ll spend the day there, hopefully after sleeping on the plane, then heading to Mysore on a 5pm express train to stay at a hotel. $15 a night, 4 stars, I guess we’ll see how that goes.

I was waiting to buy tickets for a month and a half, because I was waiting for acceptance from the Ashtanga Institute where Patthabi Jois taught the Ashtanga method and Sharath, his grandson, and Saraswathi, his daughter, continue in his footsteps. I applied for Sharath’s class and got rejected in October for January first (there is a 3 month advance registration required to practice at the institute). I didn’t get the rejection letter until October 28th, so I am not willing to wait that long again. I figure I will take Saraswathi’s class at first and then maybe my second trip I can practice with Sharath. I am open to whatever needs to happen, but obviously would prefer to practice under Sharath because of his experience with the advanced series of Ashtanga. I am also open to practicing at a different studio, but I think that the Institute is the place to be.

I bought my ticket today, one way. I don’t know how I’m getting back, don’t care right now. I can figure that out when I’m ready to leave. So I will probably be gone for a while. I applied for my visa appointment today, but no worries, the appointment is six weeks before my flight. Plenty of time for 5-10 business day delivery, or whatever visa delivery speed is. Worst case, I can always pay a little extra to get it expedited.

Bangalore sounds awesome, I can’t wait to explore over there. The first couple of days will be very intense, then I will probably start to learn the language after the first week or so. I will need to find lodging for the three months, but I think it is supposed to cost around $150 a month. No problemo. Food should be around another $100 or $200 a month, hopefully the former, though how can I complain. So 3 months in Mysore, until the end of April. Then maybe Cambodia and Thailand. We’ll have to see what I can swing by then with my language/negotiation skills.

So by the end of April, I should be finishing up with Saraswathi, Sharath is apparently traveling in April. I’m so excited to practice over there, just to feel myself in the ancient space. Its going to be so fucking epic.

I’ll probably check out some other Ashrams as I leave too, to see if there is anywhere I want to spend some time. I also want to spend a week in the Himilayas and see how I like it, but maybe that will happen in the end of April instead. Then I will head over to Germany in May to see my sisters so I spend the end of May and beginning of June in Berlin, hopefully Warsaw, Prague, Budapest, Munich, and maybe Zurich with my family. We don’t have the trip fully mapped out yet, but that is going to be a nice tour through history that I’ve never seen.

I think I’ll spend a week or two or three in Paris after that. My second family lives in Nandy, which is near Sauvigny le Temple, if you know the Parisien metropolitan area at all. 45 minutes via RER (public train) from Paris, no biggie at all. I first went over there when I was sixteen, it will be a blast from the past because I have a second family over there. Plus, I haven’t been back since I was 21 and in a very different place in life.

I want to say that I will also spend some time in London, but for some reason, it just sounds dreadfully expensive. But I have so many friends there and have never been! Ugh, maybe, I don’t know. I will probably be very broke by then.

So maybe I will be back by June? No idea if I will come back to Auburn either.

Anyways, I am really hoping I don’t get sick or anything over there, that would be awful. But hopefully I can soak up the Ayurveda, Yoga, chanting, philosophy, and everything that India can offer. Wish me luck!