the bottom line

I returned from India last week dazed and depressed and feeling like I had been deposited onto a different planet.  The fact that the temperature in Chicago was literally 60 degrees colder than what I had experienced for almost three months in South India did not help either.  But here I am for better or for worse.

My trip was a mixed bag of love and hate, positive and negative, joy and sadness, and bittersweetness.   Like life.   The group trip to the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram and yoga retreat in Varkala was a life training, that’s for sure.  Let’s just say: I learned a lot about egos with a capital E and how to deal with them.

The majority of the time it was wonderful (how could it not be when I am in my soul’s home?) and most of the first timers to India were very happy, falling in love with Ma India as I did 8 years ago.  However, for my next retreat — YES, I AM CRAZY ENOUGH TO PLAN TWO YOGA RETREATS FOR 2014! — there will be ground rules in place like, “accept what is offered to you” and “this isn’t about you, it’s about the GROUP.”  Behavior that I deem inappropriate and not conducive to harmonious group dynamics will not be tolerated and people will be asked to leave, no refunds.   Just sayin’.

Amanda the Yogachicky has been writing fabulous posts about the group trip and her first time in India.  We’ve been online friends for a long time and we finally met in Chennai which she chronicled here. You can read about our week at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram here.

Leaving India gets harder and harder for me each time.  My friends there don’t want me to leave and tell me they love me.   One friend hooked me up with a lawyer whom I spoke to about starting a business in India.  No matter where I am whether it’s a big city like Chennai or a bigger city like Mumbai (that I experienced for the first time and had a wonderful time thanks to another online friend — read Sharell’s story on the amazing slum tour we took) or walking the beach in Varkala, a feeling that suddenly makes me weep passes through me like an electric wave.  It is tangible and visceral, that  feeling of being totally in the flow, how what I am doing in that moment feels so natural and perfect and right, much more so than when I am back living where I live.  The feeling of being dropped onto a different planet never hits me when I land in India only upon my return.

One of the participants sent me this quote from Somerset Maugham’s The Moon and Sixpence  (you can change the pronoun and gender):

I have an idea that some men are born out of their due place.  Accident has cast them amid strangers in their birthplace, and the leafy lanes they have know from childhood or the populous streets in which they have played, remain but a place of passage.  They may spend their whole lives aliens among their kindred and remain aloof among the only scenes they have ever known.

Perhaps it is this sense of strangeness that sends men far and wide in the search for something permanent, to which they may attach themselves.  Perhaps some deep-rooted atavism urges the wanderer back to lands which his ancestors left in the dim beginnings of history.  Sometimes a man hits upon a place to which he mysteriously feels he belongs.  Here is the home he sought, and he will settle amid scenes that he has never seen before, among men he has never known, as though they were familiar to him from his birth.  Here at last he finds rest.”

I started teaching in Varkala.  My style of yoga is eclectic and I taught so that people gradually got into Erich Schiffmann’s Freedom Style yoga as I interpret it.  I know I took two people out of their comfort zone with it and with yin yoga.  The bottom line:  I don’t know what the hell type of yoga I teach.  I put no name to it other than “mindful.” I don’t know how to market my style to draw people and we all know that yoga nowadays is all about the marketing.  I guess my students here who’ve been with me since almost Day 1 of my teaching can answer my question because I sure as hell can’t.  I don’t want to be put inside a yoga box because as a friend told me this morning, I was put on earth to shake things up.  So if you dig what I teach, cool; if not, oh well.

In spite of having some less than stellar moments during the group trip, I love showing people my India (not your India, not his India, not her India, but my India.)  A friend tells me that he thinks I am meant to be a Westerner’s guide to India (this friend has agreed to co-teach the next two week retreat in Varkala so stay tuned for those details!)  The prospect of starting a business in India makes ideas swirl in my brain, one of which is running a guesthouse where I can offer yoga classes and energy healing.  We shall see.  Goddess willing.

This is what one person in the group had to say:

“If Lady Luck or good fortune or the grace of god showers you with her serene and beguiling smile a time or two, you may pause in appreciation and recognition that being alive can be, well, pretty darn good. And when that invisible hand so softly and gently guides you to a place beyond which you have only allowed yourself to imagine, you may pinch yourself again and again to be sure you’re not dreaming.

It wasn’t a dream. It was, in fact, two plus weeks of the most in-your-face, raw, sensual, noisy, chaotic, exhilarating, life affirming, life changing, drama-producing, tranquility-inducing living that you might ever ask for. Oh, and loving and lovely, too. It was my first visit to India. All put together by Linda Karl, our guide, interpreter, arranger, teacher and very passionate Indiaphile.

What started with very pedestrian concerns about jet lag and more heartfelt concerns about being half a world away from my family, was immediately seized by Mother India and transformed into an experience that was so far beyond my expectations that I’ll spend the rest of my life sorting it out.

Yes, this was a yoga study trip that included a week with some of the most accomplished teachers you could hope for at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandarim in Chennai. We practiced asana and pranayama, learned about Patanjali’s Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita, meditated and, for some of us, used our pitch-challenged voices to bring sound to Vedic chanting. Every day was full and complete and that doesn’t include the walk to KYM on streets filled with noises, smells, sights and sounds that invaded every sensory pore, every moment, unfiltered. It was double Red Bull India.

The second week at Varkala Beach was India light – every bit as real but allowing you to catch your breath. A tropical forest of coconut palms, banana and jack fruit trees and other forms of greenery not found in more familiar climes were set high on a cliff overlooking the Arabian Sea with small shops selling everything Indian and restaurants with the freshest catches of the day and cold Kingfishers to wash it all down. Here each day started with two hours of Linda’s interpretation of Freedom style yoga. The remainder of most days was unplanned and thus afforded time to ease into conversations with the other seven members of our group. For me, this is when the rose came into full bloom. The combination of intense yoga study and practice in a country that gave no quarter to a first time Westerner left me exposed. And into this opening walked seven people who shared some of their most intimate joys and hurts. That’s when I knew this was and will forever be an experience of a lifetime.

Since returning home I have savored innumerable moments and tossed and turned many thoughts. For anyone so inclined, ever how slightly, to consider making his or her own visit to India, allow Linda be your guide. Timshel.”

It’s the most beautiful thing a student can say about the experience a teacher offers them.

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Mumbai sunset

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a car like me: outside the box

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the money shot: in Mumbai market

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in the Freedom Style flow with Alicia Keys music

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where my heart is: Varkala

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Mumbai plate seller

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up close and personal with Ganesha

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in the ladies’ car, Mumbai

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Ganesh Mohan with his father, A.G. Mohan: yoga therapy training, Chennai

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rockin’ out to Freedom Style

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there’s something happening here

Getting ready for a trip to India always gets my energetic body all jacked up.   I’m buzzing and it feels like when I used to take speed back in the day (hey, I was a hippie, OK?)  Now it’s a natural high.

I leave on Sunday for my 7th trip, beginning with continuing my yoga therapy training with Ganesh Mohan, traveling for the first time to Varanasi and Sarnath, then leading my group of 7 intrepid first-time India travelers and global yogis for private classes at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, then my yoga retreat in Varkala, Kerala.  When they go home I’m off to Goa and Mumbai, each for the first time.

To say that this trip is different is an understatement.  I was more involved with learning different energy healing modalities last year (which by their very nature cranks up your energy body) and this week I received some energy work, so to say that I’ve shifted is also an understatement.  My gut is screaming at me that something is happening.  Can’t put my finger on it but in the words of Sly Stone, there’s a riot goin’ on.

The latest is that Kausthub Desikachar has broken his silence.  Coincidentally I received an email today from “Sannidhi of Krishnamacharya Yoga.”  It came to my old email address that KYM has.  The website is sky-yoga.net but when I searched for that site, nothing came up.  There is no name attached to the email, it came from “courses@sky-yoga.net.”

After explaining the Krishnamacharya tradition, it goes on:

The Sannidhi of Krishnamacharya Yoga (SKY) is founded by TKV Desikachar and Menaka Desikachar.  It will be the medium through which the whole range of the teachings of T Krishnamacharya will be extended into the current century in a traditional manner, yet relevant to the modern era.

The objectives of Sannidhi of Krishnamcharya Yoga (SKY) include

  • Increasing awareness of Yoga and its many applications especially in the domains of Health, Healing and Spiritual Transformation.
  • Promoting and sharing Yoga as a complimentary therapeutic approach both in one to one settings, as well as in specialized focused groups.
  • Offering Training programs of the highest standards in Yoga and Yoga therapy.
  • Collaborating with other modalities of healing to facilitate integrative paradigms in healing.
  • Creating and sharing educational resources that support the understanding and study of Yoga.
  • Supporting the network of Yoga teachers and therapist through continuing education. Initiating Research studies to evaluate the role of Yoga in contemporary health care.

…A choice of exciting programs are being conceptualised SKY for the year 2013. These will be conducted by experienced and senior faculty trained in the tradition of Krishnamacharya. Details of these will be made available soon.

Interesting.  Someone subscribed me to this E newsletter since they have my old email address.  The email listed their courses for 2013.   Their address is 6 (Old# 5) Stone Link Avenue in R A Puram, near the neighborhood that KYM is in.   The Krishnamacharya Healing & Yoga Foundation (KHYF) that Kausthub headed and was subsequently dismissed from (rumors are that he still pulls the strings behind the scenes) is in the near area.

Call me suspicious but I doubt very much that Sri Desikachar and his wife would start a new yoga school, not given their ages and Sri Desikachar’s condition.   But did Kausthub start a new school a la John Friend?  Did he name his parents as founders of this new school as they were named the heads of KHYF when Kausthub was forced to step down?

My intuition says yes.

Curiouser and curiouser.

As is my local yoga scene.  In the last few weeks I’ve heard stories that make me shake my head and put my hands to my ears saying “lalalalalalala……”  Then I was handed some foolish online nonsense by a local teacher that it all makes me wonder what the frack is in the air.  The energy workers I know all speak about a shift that is accelerating and you’d better lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way.

I’m out of here.

Enjoy my silence.

Enjoy_the_Silence_by_WickedNox

Mark Whitwell on Kausthub Desikachar

 “I wish to make clear that the sexual scandal around Kausthub has no implication, at all, on Krishnamacharya’s life work and dedication to Hatha Yoga. Although lineage held in family is a historic way of preserving teachings, the lineage is not dependent on this arrangement. Krishnamacharya himself communicated to me, all who represent their teachers work with a clear heart and honest intention are lineage holders.”  (Mark Whitwell, from his Facebook page.)

Part 1:

Part 2:

Mark is a former student of Krishnamacharya and Desikachar, so I am glad that he weighs in on the matter and I agree with what he says.  One of the things Mark speaks to is the cultural (patriarchy) aspect of this and as I said in my own first post , there are various layers to the situation and that is one of them.

In an ongoing discussion of the Kausthub mess, a friend and I cyber-chatted about one of  the latest writings about it in the yoga blogosphere and he gave me permission to quote him.   We have a bit different perspective on the matter having both studied at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram.  Many commenting on this in the yoga blogosphere have not.

“Lots of people are viewing this issue from their misconceptions about India and yoga.  If guru culture (whatever the hell that means) has burned them (or they have never experienced a guru and essentially see them from a strictly xenophobic, American individualism is the highest virtue point of view), they’ll bitch and moan about it.  If large Westernized organizations (whatever the hell that means) have burned them, they’ll bitch and moan about that.

So many comments on blogs have centered on how “organizations” should behave.  It’s bullshit.  Americans are so quick to absolve individuals of responsibility by talking about a “culture” that enables.  Some cultures enable and even promote either good behaviors or bad, useful ones or detrimental ones… usually some mix of all.

But this shit could’ve been staved off easily if people at an individual level had done the right thing.  They all acted in their own self interest… or mostly in their self interest (some acted in the interest of their teacher/friend/colleague).

Nobody acted in the best interest of the student.  And here’s the really awful part because as teachers we are always supposed to act in the best interest of the student.  You don’t give techniques to students just because you know them or are eager to teach them… or even because the student is begging for them.  You give them to a student only if it is in the best interest of the student (and this takes appropriateness into account).

It’s a much uglier thing to come to terms with.  But I can’t imagine that anyone who had taken this situation, regardless of what point of view they were looking at it from, and sat with it in meditation or even just considering it with some common sense to determine the right action would’ve come to any different conclusion than that it had to stop.

And yet it didn’t.”

Kausthub-gate: the latest

Below is an email I received from the KYM this morning.  It’s a damn good thing that KYM has finally publicly condemned Kausthub.   As I said in my  first post about this, I know Dr. Latha as a wonderful teacher and am confident that she won’t tolerate any shenanigans.

The link to this new blog yogascandals was sent to me by the former KYM teacher whose 2007 letter to Desikachar was published online.  In her opinion it is “some ray of hope for the women, an open forum for sharing in anonymity.”  As the blog’s creator wrote:

“this blog is available to anyone to share their stories, with as much anonymity as you wish. if you have a anything to share for any reason, you can send me a comment to any post and I will contact you. I will not publish anything second hand, and I will not add my own commentary to any content.

my reason for doing this is to bring to the public eye, what is being held in exclusive circles of the sangha, the senior teachers, the khyf, kym etc. No one seems to address the confusion and distress of the affected or the students. So many people have spent so much time, dedication, loyalty, respect and money on this teacher and the KHYF and they deserve to know what is going on.”

(underline is my emphasis.)

May the healing begin.

Dear Friends, Colleagues, Patrons and Well-Wishers.

Warm Greetings from Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram.

On behalf of the Board of Trustees, Staff and Teachers of the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, I wish to express KYM’s deep condemnation of the alleged misbehavior of Mr. Kausthub Desikachar. Our deepest sympathies lie with all the women who have been affected in this issue. Since these allegations have been brought to light, the Board of Trustees has obtained Mr. Kausthub Desikachar’s resignation from the Board and severed all ties with him.

We wish to reiterate that the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, since its inception in 1976 has been functioning as a Public Charitable Trust under the direct supervision of not any one individual but a board of carefully selected trustees who are each distinguished professionals in their own right and most of whom are direct students of Yogacarya T Krishnamacharya and/or our founder, TKV Desikachar.

The Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram has never had and never will have any involvement with any activities of the KHYF.

Every one of the Trustees is deeply committed to taking forth the valuable teaching legacy of T Krishnamacharya as handed down to several generations of teachers by his son, TKV Desikachar. The Board of Trustees firmly believes that the institution and the teachings themselves are far greater than any individual and all efforts will be made to ensure the transmission of these teachings as envisoned by our founder, TKV Desikachar.

In the context of the current situation, it is our deepest wish to carry forth the commendable work, especially in the realms of health and healing, done by the teachers of the KYM over the years. Hence, we are giving the greatest impetus to the uninterrupted transmission of these precious teachings and will ensure that all our activities – yoga studies programmes, teacher training programmes, chanting programs with a thrust on health and healing, individual therapy sessions, individual yoga studies lessons and individual chanting sessions will proceed as before.

Several new programmes will also be announced shortly on our website. We shall also establish a strong support network of old students of T Krishnamacharya and TKV Desikachar who have expressed their willingness to sharing their invaluable knowledge, so that there is continuity and growth in learning for students of this tradition worldwide.

As always we seek your continued support and patronage. We value your feedback and suggestions so that we may carry on our work of spreading the healing message of T Krishnamacharya in a transparent and positive manner.

Best Regards

Dr. Latha Satish
Managing Trustee

thoughts from a yoga subversive on the latest yoga scandal

Ganesh, God of Wisdom, with Vishnu

By now many people know about the latest yoga scandal about Kausthub Desikachar, all the allegations about him regarding sexual, emotional, and spiritual abuse.  I learned about it a week before it hit the yoga blogs, first from the search terms people used to find this blog:  “kausthub desikachar scandal”; “kausthub desikachar sex abuse”; “kausthub desikachar allegations”; “kausthub desikchar rape.”

What the frack!  Something huge is going on!  “Uh, oh,” I thought, “this is going to be bigger than John Friend.” Then I got a Facebook message from a teacher asking me, “have you heard….”  I put 2 and 2 together and then I was sent emails with attachments of the letters that have now been published in various yoga blogs.

As many of you know, I have studied yearly at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Manidram since 2005 and have written many times about my experiences there.  I was shocked (but not surprised) when this news came out.  I have no allegiance to Kausthub whatsoever, he was never my direct teacher.  He was my teacher once for a class on Chapters 3 and 4 of the Sutras during my second trip to KYM in 2006.

The allegations made me physically ill. I will only say that I am privy to information that is not public and that I will not make public.  I will also say that I am appalled that the 2007 letter from a KYM teacher to Desikachar outlining the reasons for her resignation from KYM has been published in yoga blogs.  I don’t know if she knows her letter has been passed around in emails and published in blogs (I have written to her via Facebook as she was one of my teachers 2005-2006), but I am sure no one wants their private letters published without permission.  Maybe she does not mind that her private correspondence was published, but I have to ask the yoga bloggers who made it public: did you ask her permission? Two women yoga bloggers came forward to write about their own experiences with Kausthub but that was their own choice.

As an advocate for trauma survivors, I believe KYM must be open and transparent about all of it.  What made me angrier than Kausthub’s actions was that they were ignored by those in charge, including his father.

Many people asked me whether I wanted to speak or write about what was happening.  People expected me to write about it because of how many times I have studied at KYM, but I decided not to because it was too soon and my feelings were too raw.  My plans to take a group to KYM for private classes have been in the works since March and I seriously reconsidered my group trip.

The first person I asked for advice was my teacher, Srivatsa Ramaswami, whom many of you know I have studied with since 2004.  I also study with Ganesh Mohan, whose father also studied with Krishnamacharya.  They are the two I know who are closest to the lineage — they gave me good advice that I will keep private because it is between teacher-student (as was Saraswati’s 2007 letter to Desikachar.)  Not keeping teacher-student confidences private is one thing that Kausthub is accused of.

After MUCH consideration and literally sleepless nights about this, I decided to continue with my group trip to KYM.  Why?  Because I received advice from J. Brown, whose essays and opinions on modern yoga I deeply respect.  He is familiar with the lineage via Mark Whitwell.  He told me that he thinks the situation is different from Anusara because there is no “spiritual head” of the tradition and it is by Desikachar’s example that there is no brand name (KYM does not call the style “viniyoga” as Gary Kraftsow does.)   This means that no one person can lay claim to it and, therefore, no one person’s bad behavior can diminish the power of the teachings.  In his opinion, he thought that I should carry on as planned and “stay true to your practice and the experience you were hoping to provide the people joining you and it will be good enough. The experience of going to India and studying at the Mandirim is not contingent on one particular teacher.”

“Stay true to your practice.”  I will let that resonate for a while.

I also received advice from one of my favorite teachers at KYM, who is still there and whom I have known since 2005.   She told me that it is always about the teachings and what we learn from it, that the essence is important and nothing else.

Finally, it was hearing the Vedic chant to Patanjali every morning in my training with Ganesh Mohan this past week that helped me decide.   The chant told me what it’s really all about.   The practice.

That, and the fact that the people who have signed up for my trip told me that the allegations against Kausthub did not make any difference to them — they want the teachings and they trusted my judgment and wisdom about the situation.  As soon as the news hit, I sent an email to everyone who had signed up or who was thinking of signing up letting them know how conflicted I was about continuing with my plans.  I asked them to give me a week to make a decision.   One woman told me that she appreciated my honesty and it was because of my  open and honest writing in this blog that attracted her to my trip in the first place.  Only one woman cancelled her plans to go on this trip because of what happened and I respect her decision.  We all have to follow our own hearts and I am at peace with my decision to continue with the trip.

Krishnamacharya’s teachings belong to the yoga world, they do not belong to the institutions or any one person whether it is  Desikachar or his son.  While KHYF is the money-making part of KYM, the two have always been considered separate entities.   Although international students attend classes at KYM, it has more of an “Indian” emphasis and influence, with Indian teachers.  KHYF was always geared to bringing yoga therapy training to the West with Kausthub teaching and overseeing the Western teachers (KHYF did not exist when I first went to KYM.) I rarely saw Kausthub at KYM other than in 2006.

About 6 years ago I considered entering the yoga therapy program (their first training) but decided not because of Kausthub. I thought his responses to my questions were arrogant. He expected me to fly to where he was teaching in the United States for a personal interview even though I had just returned from my second trip to KYM that was within 6 months of the first.  Regarding acceptance into the training, he said a personal interview would take precedence over a telephone interview.  I told him to forget it, that if two trips to KYM within 6 months did not show my allegiance to his grandfather’s teachings I don’t know what would.

Don’t lay this all on KYM.  As I said all during the Anusara debacle, the teachers who knew about John Friend’s shenanigans and said nothing are equally culpable.  The KHYF yoga therapy training program has Western senior teachers like Chase Bossart and Sonia Nelson and Kate Holcombe who work closely with Kausthub.  If they or any other Western teacher had any inkling that something horrible was going on, they should have stepped forward, gone public, disassociated themselves.  We now know that these things have been going on since at least 2007.  Did they really not know any of this?  I saw Sonia Nelson work closely with Desikachar every year I was at KYM.

From all that I know about the situation thus far, I think nothing short of an exorcism can help Kausthub.  Seriously, he needs long-term, intensive help.  It’s not just about the sex but also about power and privilege — and power can be very sexy and attractive to some women, whether it is sexual, political, financial, or spiritual power.  We all know this but may not want to admit it, Every one of us has a shadow side with secrets. And REAL YOGA is about pulling up those demons and dealing with our shadow selves. It hurts like a MFer and it ain’t pretty.

Sometimes we need a radical change and a brand new perspective and the Kausthub situation is giving KYM just that.  I know they have separated themselves from Kausthub.  In an email I received from the Director of Yoga Studies in response to my concerns about bringing my group, she said that KYM “strongly believes in the teachings of Shri Krishnamacharya and Shri Desikachar.” KYM appointed Dr. Latha Satish as the acting managing trustee in place of Kausthub and I know her as a wonderful teacher.

Any situation is never black or white and there are many levels to this, including cultural.   I am absolutely not making excuses for Kausthub’s actions, but one thing I have learned in my 6 trips to India is to not view things in India through a Western lens — and I know that is something very hard to understand if one has not been to India as many times as I have or if one does not live there.   It is something I have discussed privately with people (both Western and Indian) and it is also something I will not write about, but one can begin to get some insight from the book Being Indian

All that being said, I am wise enough to not let Kausthab’s personal failings get in the way of my respect for the Krishnamacharya lineage.  What Kausthub did (and he denies nothing) is a disgrace — but he only disgraced himself and his family, not the tradition.  If anything, this should be another wake-up call to yoga practitioners about putting their teachers on pedestals. Funny how people are so quick to question everything in their lives but their own yoga practice and teachers. And please…I don’t want to hear anything about how a “guru” is a bad thing — click the link and read what Kausthub has to say about the teacher-student relationship (in retrospect, apparently speaking about himself.)

As I heard Kausthub himself say this year, “If the spiritual teachings are valid, yoga will sustain; if yoga is merely a fashion, it will not sustain. The teachings are much larger than any crisis modern yoga is currently experiencing.”

When he said that I thought he was referring to John Friend, but I know now he was predicting his own future.

Every thing is but a flow and will pass.

UPDATE: who wants to go to India?

looking toward south cliff, Varkala, Kerala

the Heart of Yoga, Chennai

That’s a serious question.

Long time readers know that I started studying at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in 2005.  I thought back then that I would never return to KYM or to India, I thought it was a one-time thing.  Little did I know that I would return to KYM only 6 months later in 2006 and that I would be blessed enough to return there yearly.   Who knew what a grip India would have on my heart?  Who knew that the longer I study in this lineage the more I know that I can study here the rest of my life?  It is an honor and a responsibility to be a representative of this lineage.

The senior teachers know me by name now.  When I walked into the building on the first day of training this year I was greeted like an old friend and it did my heart good.   The intensive, “Discover Yoga Anatomy”, was amazing.  It truly was an advanced training, beyond asana, on a deeper level.  Although the teachers have studied with Desikachar for years and years, they are still students of yoga.  One of my favorite teachers said she is still learning, that they learn from us and from each other.  They are humble.  One touches the feet of Krishnamacharya in his photo portrait that is the classroom.  They are not afraid to use the word “guru.”

I have scheduled the week of March 11-15, 2013 for taking a group for private classes.  I have scheduled an asana class; theory and practice of pranayama; chanting; meditation; class on the Sutras; and an introductory class on the Bhagavad Gita, 6 classes daily for five days.   The classes will be geared toward the students’  yoga experience.  When I was there an American yoga teacher had brought 18 people with her.  My group will be limited to 12, and I need a minimum of 6 people for the trip to happen.

After that week, I will lead a yin-yang yoga retreat March 16-24 in Varkala, Kerala.  In between my trainings, before I went to KYM, I spent 15 days in Varkala, a place where I had never been.   In fact, I spent 10 days, returned to Chennai, and then flew back to Varkala because I missed the vibe and the friends I had made so much.  They did not want me to leave.

Varkala has a chill vibe, as people there say, and I thought I would be put off by all the westerners.  I must say I had some culture shock when I arrived because I had never been with so many westerners before in my travels (apart from KYM.)  But I grew to love it.  The place is a mix of backpackers, package tourist groups, retirees, old hippies, young hippies, and families with children.  It’s easy.  Real easy.  And it would be a great place to chill after the cacophony of Chennai.  Besides which, ladies, you can get some great yoga pants made for about $10 by the tailors on the clifftop, pants that sell in the US for 7 times the price — I had 4 made.

The retreat — where I will teach one class in the morning — will be here.  I have already booked all the cottages facing the pool.  Double occupancy only so bring a friend!

I had energy work done by an amazing energy worker so a session with her and a dinner party in her garden on our last night are included in the price.  Ayurvedic consulations are available as well.  I had a back issue for five years (thanks to being Miss Gumby all my life) and after doing the yoga therapy practice every day that I learned in my first training and having medical ayurvedic treatments for 7 days at this place, I now wake up pain free — and I still do my yoga therapy practice.  The Varkala resort has its own ayurvedic doctor or there are many choices in Varkala.

Other activities are available if you want to run around, but I guarantee that chilling on the beach, eating fresh food every day, and meeting great people will be enough for some.

You will arrange the domestic RT flight from Chennai-Trivandrum and the 5 star hotel in Chennai before flying home on March 25 (very early morning) with my travel agent.  Those prices are NOT included in my package price.

PACKAGE PRICE IS $1,950.00 (OR $1,925.00 for one garden view cottage at Varkala resort) WITH A PORTION OF YOUR PAYMENT GOING TO THE BANYAN, A WOMEN’S SHELTER IN CHENNAI.

THE BEST PART IS THAT I AM GIVING A $100 DISCOUNT IF YOU MAKE ONE PAYMENT IN FULL BY JANUARY 1, 2013!

YOU CAN REGISTER AND PAY NOW ON MY WEBSITE PAGE.

ASK ME ABOUT THE “NO YOGA” RATE IF YOUR FRIEND/PARTNER WANTS TO ACCOMPANY YOU BUT DOESN’T WANT TO PARTAKE IN YOGA.

You are responsible for your international and domestic flights, one day/night stay your last 24 hours in Chennai, your Indian visa, food other than breakfast, sight-seeing, ayurvedic treatments in Kerala (if so desired), tips, and ground transportation in Chennai and Varkala.  Please be aware that your India visa starts on the day it is issued, NOT when you land in India.

This trip will be geared toward yoga teachers, serious practitioners, and those who are independent travelers and who can go with the flow.  I won’t sugar-coat it:  Ma India can kick your ass but good.  It did mine the beginning of this trip, my 6th, and then I surrendered and let go.  Once I did that, all was good.

The entire trip will be from March 10-March 24 (arrange  your flight to leave Monday, March 25 or thereafter.)  You must spend a day decompressing from your flight to India and acclimating a bit before KYM classes start on Monday, March 11.  However, I can tell you that after 6 trips with 16+ hour flights to India, I do not have jet lag when I arrive — I hit the ground running.

I’m throwing this out to the Universe.  Doing the best I can and letting the rest go.

Let me know your interest.

not where I had my treatment — I liked the sign!

looking healthy and happy in Varkala

“Personality According to Ancient Indian Teachings”

Patanjali

Written by S SRIDHARAN, TRUSTEE, KRISHNAMACHARYA YOGA MANDIRAM, CHENNAI — from KYM Newsletter, April 2012

The ancient Indian model of human beings. “Personality”, given in the Upanishads, consists of the ‘five’ sheaths.  They are ‘Annamaya’, ‘Pranamaya’, ‘Manomaya’, ‘Vijnanamaya’, and ‘Anandamaya’.   ‘Annamaya’ represents that segment of the human system which is nourished by ‘anna’, i.e. food.   ‘Pranamaya’ is that segment which is nourished by ‘prana’, i.e. ‘bio-energy’.   ‘Manomaya’ is the segment nourished by ‘education’.   ‘Vijnanamaya’ is nourished by ‘ego’ and ‘Anandamaya’ is the segment nourished by ‘emotions’.

[NOTE:  THE WORD “KOSHAS” IS NOT USED TO REFERENCE TO THE SHEATHS  BECAUSE KRISHNAMACHARYA DID NOT BELIEVE THAT THE BODY COULD BE REPRESENTED AS “BAGS”, WHICH IS WHAT KOSHAS MEANS]

Each of these five segments has a head, two wings, a body and a tail.   ‘Vijnanamaya’ which represent our ‘individual personality’ has ‘shraddha (faith)’ as head, ‘rtham (righteousness)’ as right wing, ‘satyam (truth)’ as left wing, ‘yoga (meditation)’ as body, and ‘mahat (source of all knowledge)’ as the tail.   “Vijnanamaya” represents ‘Buddhi’ which is the ‘determinative knowledge’ or ‘intelligence’ of what has been learnt through the ‘Manomaya’.

This ‘Vijnanamaya’ is different from one person to another and that is why the textual knowledge learnt is interpreted and practiced differently by different people.  However, for the ‘Vijnanamaya’ to lead towards the right path, the most important factor is ‘Shraddha’, the faith in what one has learnt.   It should be backed up with righteousness and truth in practice.   For these to be firmly imbibed one should take to ‘Yoga’.

Development

While the words ‘Development’ and ‘Evolution’ are considered as one, there are differences.   Upanishads talk of ‘Evolution’ rather than simple ‘Development’.   Evolution involves ‘discovery of the divine’ in us and everyone.   While ‘Development’ calls for sharpening skills and adding certain traits, etc., ‘Evolution’ calls for removal of impediments in the ‘realisation of Self’.   The major impediment in ‘Evolution’ is the ‘Klesas’ which consist of ‘Avidya’ (Wrong knowledge), ‘Asmita’ (Ego).  ‘Raaga’ (Lust).  ‘Dvesha’ (Hatred).  and ‘Abhinivasa” (Fear).   ‘Evolution’ is continuous process till the goal is reached.   It does not stop with simple ‘recognitions’ by Society or Institutions.

Modern day ills

In the modern day context, Personality Development is the sum total of the achievements of the individual in academic, art, sports, business or other areas.   Often a successful person is considered to be a totally developed person.   However, the moral and ethical aspects of life are not given importance.   Today’s ills are on account of the fact that textual knowledge is segregated from the practice of ‘truth’.   The university education lacks ‘Shraddha’ and that causes the mind to act in ‘sinful’ ways.   It has become a common scene to see how highly educated individuals take to violence and deceitful ways.   To put it in terms of the ancient Indian model, the development is just up to the “Manomaya” level.

Holistic approach

A holistic approach in personality development, in this context, therefore, would mean a proper development in all the five maya-s.   Any practice should aim at developing the maya-s simultaneously well and work in harmony.   “Personality Development” is “Evolution” towards reaching the ‘Divine’ in the individual which is at the ‘Anandamaya’ level.

Message from Bhagavad Gita

The first and foremost message of Bhagavad Gita in the context of Personality Development is that even the most learned, highly successful and fearless can suddenly enter into a state of ‘despondency’ leading to ‘inaction’.   Arjuna represents the state of normal human beings, even though achieving greater heights have a chance to ‘fall’ if they don’t take to the path of ‘divinity’ and achieve the goal.

The ‘Divine’ qualities one should aim to possess are given in the Sixteenth Chapter and are as follows:

Abhayam:  Fearlessness
Sattva samsuddhi:  Purity of Mind
Jnanayogavyavasthitam:  Practice of Yoga for Self-realisation
Danam:  Charity
Damam:  Control of Senses
Yajnam:  Performance of Sacrifice
Svadhyayam:  Study of texts for ‘Self-realisation’
Tapas:  Austerity
Aarjavam:  Straightforwardness
Ahimsa:  Nonviolence
Satyam:  Truthfulness
Akrodham:  Absence of anger
Thyagam:  Renunciation
Shanti:  Tranquility
Apaishunam:   Aversion to faultfinding
Daya:  Compassion
Bhuteshvaloluptvam:  Freedom from covetousness
Mardavam:  Modesty
Hri:  Shame in doing unrighteous deeds
Achapalam:  Absence of craving
Tejas:  Vigour
Kshama:   Forgiveness
Dhriti:  Fortitude
Soucham:  Cleanliness
Adroham:  Freedom from envy
Natimanita:  Absence of self esteem

The ‘demonic’ qualities one should aim to get rid of are:
Dhamba:  Pride
Darpa:  Arrogance
Abhimanam:  Conceit
Krodha:  Anger
Parushyam:  Sternness
Ajnanam:  Ignorance

Yoga the best tool for Personality Deveopment

Yoga is aptly fitted, for holistic personality development, because its tools are varied and integrated.   ‘Asana’ practice for ‘Annamaya’, ‘Pranayama’ for ‘Pranamaya’, ‘Svadhyaya’ or Study of scriptures for ‘Manomaya’,  and ‘Vigyanamaya’ and ‘Isvarapranidhana’ for ‘Anandamaya’.

While the practice for everyone could differ from one to another, there are some ancient methods which have been handed over from time immemorial.  One such practice, which aims at ‘holistic personality development’, is the ‘Sandhyavandanam’, the prayer to Sun.

The word ‘Sandhyavandanam’ is split as ‘sandhya+vandanam’.   ‘Sandhya” is the name of ‘Sun God’ and ‘Vandanam’ means to ‘prostrate’.   There are at least 22 steps, which has ‘asana’, ‘pranayama’, ‘nyasa’.  ‘mudra’,  and ‘japa’.

There are a number of vedic mantras used in the ‘Sandhyavandanam’, but the main mantra which is used for ‘japa’ is ‘Gayatri Mantra’.

The ‘Gayatri Mantra’ is:

“Om hurbhuvassuvah tatsaviturvareniyam bhargodevasyadeemahi dhiyoyonapprachodayat”

The brief meaning is:

“Let me meditate on the effulgence of the Supreme Being in the Sun, which kindles our intellect.”

The concept behind this Mantra meaning is that all our actions lead us to happiness or sorrow and behind the actions is the intellect.   If the intellect is clear and is bereft of the impurities of selfishness, greed and lust, our actions will always lead us to happiness.

Sun is considered as the ‘visible God’ (pratyaksha devata) the provider of life to the Universe.   Sun is responsible for all the development in the Universe.

The highest knowledge is that which takes one towards the Supreme Being and that is ‘Brahma Vidya’.   The best form of meditation which qualifies one for enquiry into the Supreme Being is Sandhyavandanam.

The holistic development should aim at making human being divine.   Such a development will make one realize divinity in the ‘self’ and in every aspect of the Universe at large.   There is total love and that brings the eternal peace.