All posts by Linda Sama

Yoga in the time of covid

Surprise, kids!
So where have I been?

I have been missing in action since August 1, 2018 when I called out a well-known yoga writer and he blocked me on Facebook. No, that’s not the reason I stopped writing, I mention it because it’s funny.

I often think about deleting this blog because #1, I am not sure if anyone still reads it. But then I occasionally check out the stats and people are still reading me so my writing must benefit someone somewhere. #2, who reads blogs anymore? The few I still see the writers are writing about things I wrote about 10, 12 years ago. Namely, nowadays, diversity in Yoga. Ain’t no new thing, youngins. Respect your Yoga Elders and give them the credit they deserve. I guess when I was writing about it, no one was listening because no one is asking me to do a podcast or a diversity training for their teachers. The squeaky wheel gets the grease as the old saying goes.

I hope you all have been well and relatively peaceful during the pandemic. I know it’s been damn hard on some. In all these months of shut down I’ve taken solace in my Yoga and the Buddhadharma, knowing that things are not permanent even tho they may seem that way. All things are forever changing even tho it seems we are stuck in a loop.

For most of the time during this now 7 months of isolation and shutdown I have felt PLACID. SERENE. NOT BOTHERED. I have occasionally felt guilty (although really not very much) for my feeling of santosa when others have been freaking out. It is in times like this where the REAL YOGA KICKS IN.

A writer of another yoga blog asked me, “Which practices or philosophy in particular have you found helpful during this time?”

I told her: “It’s all contained in the Sutra-s and the Buddhadharma.  The underlying premise of the Sutra-s are Sat and Parinama.  It’s not about any practices per se but about knowing in your bones the truth of reality which is impermanence and knowing the Sutra-s and the Buddhadharma that speak to non-attachment.  Buddhadharma teaches that our suffering is caused by wanting things to be different from the way things are in each present moment.  I don’t know if that can be taught, it has to be experienced. Sure you can read about it, but there’s a difference in “knowing” and “knowing that you know.”

Of course every single experience is real at the moment of experiencing it – the Sat – whether pain, fear, anxiety, worry, joy, pleasure, loss, gain.  However, and most importantly, this reality is inevitably subject to change – Parinama – it will change in accordance with the interplay of the three Guṇa-s that we all have, namely, Tamas (inactivity), Rajas (activity), and Sattva (harmony.)  There are many factors, both internal and external, that lead to a fluctuation of the Guṇa-s.  Given that all objects in the material world are made up of some combination of the five elements (ether, air, fire, water, earth, according to Yoga philosophy) and given that the three Guṇa-s are always in a state of flux, everything that has a material existence is subject to change. What differs is the rate of change and also how we perceive that change as a unit of time depending on our own experience.

SO WHAT CAN WE DO?
The only thing that we can do that helps us in a beneficial way is to accept the reality of every moment as it unfolds – not denying, not rejecting, not suppressing, not fighting — just watching closely, observing objectively and accepting what is as it is at that moment, neither looking back at was with regret nor looking ahead at what will be with worry. Both regret and worry are natural mental processes that lead us nowhere.  Acceptance is not apathy or indifference, both of which come from a place of Tamas.  Acceptance comes from an ability to stay in the present moment and every moment as it unfolds.  Knowing this IN MY BONES is what has kept me on an even keel all these months, for which I am extraordinarily grateful.

WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO?
You can attend my ZOOM YOGA CLASSES where I start each class with a reading that is pertinent to these times and end with Alternate Nostril Breathing that helps with anxiety.  What one long time student has to say:

“Linda has been my yoga teacher and mentor for 18 years.

When the pandemic occurred we could no longer have class in person so Linda quickly presented us with the Zoom option. After a few classes I found that it was so helpful to me that I asked her to provide a second class each week, which we did and have continued for months. I have suffered from anxiety for 20 years and feel that Zoom yoga classes with Linda have been a true lifeline for me. Anxiety is a very prevalent problem these days and I find I always feel better after class. Linda’s classes are customized to the students’ needs and after 18 years, she is still presenting new asanas and giving us options according to our personal body structure. She is constantly educating herself by attending high level trainings. As her students, we greatly benefit from her training as she shares what she has learned. I highly recommend Linda’s Zoom classes as an excellent social distancing option during these trying times.”


Yes, this is shameless self-promotion. I don’t want to go the way of my root teacher who closed his Chicago studio this summer after being open since 1984. Frankly, I don’t blame him because I do not believe the yoga studio concept is sustainable especially during Covid times. Suddha said that Yoga is supposed to be simple, not complicated by social distancing, the constant disinfecting, and the hope that someone will show up. As a micro-business I do not have the luxury of a marketing or advertising budget and I depend on word of mouth. Asking people to promote me is like pulling teeth.

In 19 years of teaching I wish I had a dollar for every time someone told me that they wished they could study with me. That they wished they take one of my classes IF ONLY…..

Now is your chance during the Time of Covid. If Tuesdays or Thursdays at 11:30 AM (Chicago time) do not work for you, pick a day or evening and time that is convenient for YOU.  60 minute classes are $17, two classes a week are $15 each.  I take payment via PayPal and Venmo and Square Cash and Zoom links are sent to you the day before class.

Real Yoga is breath based…
Meet your mind through the avenues of your body.


WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

stop with the faux outrage, people!

pondicherry sign

DISCLAIMER #1:  I have never heard of this teacher and have no reason to defend him. 
DISCLAIMER #2:  I think Yoga Journal sucks.

That being said, apparently a lot of Western yoga people have lost their shit over the Yoga Journal article I Took My Baby to Mysore, India, for a Month: Here’s What It Was Really Like  that was posted on Matthew Remski’s Facebook page.  He says it is “layers of BS.”  I’m very amused at the outrage — they are yelling that this guy has a neo-colonialist attitude.

As a woman of color I will be the first one to call out colonizers, neo or otherwise — such as white yoga people with dreads who call themselves shamans.

But this article?  Nah, not so much.

While this teacher’s writing is not my cup of chai and smells like New Agey smarminess, he’s naming things in India as he sees them.  Some things he wrote made me say hmmmmmm, but overall I thought his piece was fair.  A month in India is nothing and in this nomad yogini’s opinion he should have left the wife and kid at home — he freaked out about how dirty India is and went a bit overboard.  I’ve walked in Indian streets in my bare feet, boo.  

Yeah, I said it — India is dirty (in fact, filthy in some places) and Indians in India will say the same thing.  See my photo above, the words are painted on a wall for a reason: men piss in the streets.  But India is also beautiful and wondrous.  A terrible thing can happen to you (e.g., theft) and within 5 minutes you might experience such beauty and grace it will make you weep.  The dichotomy of India. 

Landrum writes:  “To survive in India, you have to drop your agenda. You have to relinquish your ideas about reason, order, and even basic sanity. They have no place here. Unless you surrender them, you risk melting down completely. So, you throw off your ideas and you step you into the abyss, allowing yourself to fall.”

Guess what?  When I take people to India I tell them the same thing, more or less.  Because the people who get into trouble in India (I’ve seen Westerners’ melt downs) are those who hold tight to their Western mindsets.  Ain’t gonna work in India.  You MUST go with the Indian flow.  Had my students not known that in 2016 when Modi declared the certain rupee denominations worthless the day after they got to India, there is no way they could have handled things as well as they did.

But no matter how many times you go Ma India will still kick your ass.  I got stories.

No one has the same experience with India.  His experience is his experience, mine is mine.  I have not updated my India blog since 2015 but an Indian reader told me: “You are one of the few who doesn’t bring up the heat and cows when writing about India. You somehow balance your respect and love for Indian traditions with the necessary irreverence making it honest and touching.”  

Becoming outraged about someone naming the negative is just as bad as someone wearing rose-colored glasses about India.   My rose-colored glasses fell off around trip three.  I don’t sugarcoat a damn thing about India.  It’s not all peace love dove and Eat Pray Namaste.  Any Western ex-pat living in India for a while will tell you that it’s not “all good.”  Frankly, most of the people I’ve met who are incredulous at the number of trips I’ve taken to India are Indians who have moved to the USA.  “Why do you go there so many times?,” they ask.  “I’d never move back!,” they tell me.  

I have never been to Mysore but I have done 13 trips to India, staying for months at a time.  I’ve stayed in Rs 300 a night guesthouses and 5 star hotels.  I’ve taken buses with only a backpack with me, done 17 hour train rides, and have hired drivers.  I’ve sat on the floor eating dinner with my rickshaw driver’s family in his two room flat in Chennai and have been waited on by the servants of rich friends in Kolkata.  I’ve gone everywhere from big cities to rural areas, north, south, and in between.  Needless to say my India travel experience is varied and it hasn’t all been fun and games.

What this teacher wrote about and more exists — mangy street dogs, shit (both animal and human) on the streets, piles of garbage, legless beggars, scam artists, red paan spit stains on your hotel room’s walls, a rat the size of a cat falling out of a restaurant ceiling (happened to me.)  Naming it is not being a “neo-colonialist,” it’s reality.  All those things can be seen on the same block with a fancy 5 star hotel, it’s all India.  While polio has been eradicated in India, I did get re-vaccinated for it in 2005 for my first trip.  My doctor told me that after so many trips it might be a good idea to get tested for TB.  I never have.

Despite the outrage on Remski’s page, going to India the first time DOES make you realize how privileged we are in the West.  If not, you’re fucking blind and clueless.  When I returned from my first trip in 2005 I had reverse culture shock for 6 months.  Fortunately I returned to India at the end of those 6 months.  I could not wait to return.

Apparently Remski thinks the mention of India and diarrhea in the same sentence is “not funny” as it reinforces a stereotype about India.  Newsflash: Delhi Belly is REAL AF.  I was beyond Delhi Belly — I almost died from salmonella food poisoning in India.  For three days I shit my brains out and puked in a bucket at the same time.  Did I tell you I travel SOLO?  There was nothing left to come out. I was almost delirious from dehydration.  I was a whole state away from my home base and when I got back a friend took me to a hospital for IVs (the nurse had a hard time finding a vein because mine were flat) and meds (I had to fly home that night.)  When I got home I was 12 pounds lighter.

Here’s some advice from outside the white liberal outrage bubble:  Indians also get diarrhea, in fact, children in poverty die from it.  So it’s not an insult to Mother India to talk about it.  SMFH.

So can the faux outrage, sit your asses down, and get over yourselves.  Because that outrage is nothing but snobbery, that you are so much better than the teacher who wrote his opinion about his experience in India.

Just a bunch of pukka sahibs, isn’t it?

teacher trainings: then and now

desikachar kripalu
L TO R: Leslie Kaminoff, Navtej Johar, Mirka Scalco Kraftsow, Gary Kraftsow, R. Sriram, Mark Whitwell, Richard Miller, Larry Payne  ©2018 Metta Yoga: Mind-Body Education

I’ve returned from Kripalu from the Desikachar tribute weekend put together by Leslie Kaminoff and Lydia Mann that I wrote about here.  Leslie entitled it “Celebrating T.K.V. Desikachar: We Are the Lineage” and in the photo above are the presenters who took part.

There were three yoga sessions daily by each presenter, each one presenting an aspect of what they learned in the Krishnamacharya Yoga tradition.  Each night the presenters talked about how they came to the Krishnamarcharya Yoga tradition, what inspired them about it, and how they interacted with Desikachar.

Each one learned different things from Desikachar but the consistent thread was learning one-on-one with him and relationship.  Desikachar always taught that Yoga IS relationship.  Each of them went to India with different agendas, each one wanted to learn something different from the other so Desikachar taught to the individual according to their interests.

None of them went through a typical yoga teacher training with him as one does now, like a 200 or 500 hour training.  Listening to their stories it reminded me how differently they were taught then by Desikachar as opposed to now where people chase the pieces of paper that declares them a “yoga teacher.”

Does studying a mere 200 or 500 hours make you a yoga teacher?  In the 1970s and 1980s you would study with a teacher like Desikachar who would one day tell you “OK, now you’re ready, go out and bring what you learned into the world.”  Nowadays, who would be willing to study with a master teacher until they were told, in the master teacher’s opinion, that they were ready to teach?  What if that took two or three years instead of less than one year?  Be honest.

Each of the above presenters wanted to learn different things — Kraftsow was into religious studies while Kaminoff was not.  Johar went to Chennai to learn dance at the famous Kalakshetra dance school and met a man on a bus who said “you should go see my yoga teacher” and told him to go to the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram.  Kraftsow learned something that Payne did not learn that was different from Miller’s training and so it went with each one.  Same same but different as we say in India.

Which brings us back to yoga teacher trainings as they are currently taught and what makes a good teacher.

I’ve never studied with Rod Stryker but he said this:

“Above all else: never, never stop being a student; study with the best, most notably, those who truly embody what they teach. Only then can you become a teacher of distinction. Only when you grow to understand and feel a legitimate link to the vision of yoga as seen by the tradition of yoga, and relate to it as something that breathes with sublime life and wisdom––and has long before you took your first breath––will you truly thrive as student and only then can you become a great teacher.”

My first teacher training in 2002 was not even 200 hours and my teacher did not belong to Yoga Alliance, he grandfathered into it.  He also did not go through a typical teacher training.  He was living with his Indian guru who told him, “You’re ready, go to Chicago and teach,” so he came and opened one of the first yoga studios in Chicago, if not THE first one in 1984.

I went back in 2003 to do Suddha’s course again where he taught it a bit differently.  I ended up meeting Srivatsa Ramaswami shortly thereafter who introduced me to the Krishnamacharya tradition and the rest is history.  None of the intensives or private one-on-one classes I took at KYM from 2005-2015 were “teacher trainings.”  I do not have one piece of paper from KYM that says I am a “certified yoga teacher” in the lineage, yet I’ve been told that with all my trainings since 2002 I have a PhD in Yoga.  I once received an email from KYM referring to me as a “senior teacher” in the Krishnamacharya Yoga tradition.  Cough, cough.  Yeah, that and $3 will buy me a Starbucks.

So where are the students who want to study with a lineage holder in the Krishnamacharya Yoga tradition AKA me?  Crickets.

After teaching for 17 years I finally have a mentee whom I adore because she said she wanted to study with a teacher from a lineage.  Lineage was important to her.  She drives from Indianapolis (about 4 hours) once a month for a weekend and I teach in the old school way as Desikachar taught each of the presenters mentioned above:  she comes with what she wants to learn, asks questions, and I answer them.  Simple.

She leaves and then until we see each other again, she allows what I’ve taught to resonate with her.  She recently told me:

“I have been processing a lot about being a modern yoga teacher — what is authentic and truthful to the practice and what resonates as authentic and truthful to me (in my understanding of that truth)?
What I am finding is that the Krishnamacharya lineage, as I am learning through you, has strong resonance.  I am looking forward to continuing under your mentorship.  I am also rediscovering and reengaging my practice on a very basic level.  I’m getting to my mat and simply making shapes and witnessing my body respond. …
I am feeling more relaxed about my learning journey.  It’s a lifetime.  … I am letting what I learned settle and integrate.  There is no need to hurry the process.  I was seeking to obtain some definition of who I am/what I do.  It does not matter.  The label is the suffering and has often been my suffering.  I do not fit the mold.  It’s okay.  I am enough.”
That’s REAL YOGA.

Who wants some?

meet me at Kripalu

IMG_0150
T.K.V. Desikachar chanting, September 2005 ©METTA YOGA 2018

For those who have studied in the Krishnamacharya/Desikachar Yoga tradition or for those who are wondering about it, June 2018 will give you a good opportunity to experience what that tradition is all about and you don’t have to go to India.

Leslie Kaminoff has put together a weekend in tribute to T.K.V. Desikachar at Kripalu, June 21-24.  Presenters include Leslie, Navtej Johar, Gary Kraftsow, Mirka Kraftsow, Richard Miller, Larry Payne, R. Sriram, and Mark Whitwell.  You can see all the teachers’  information and register on the Kripalu website.  My flight tix are bought and I am registered but I can tell you that most of the private rooms with private baths are gone.  The site is also very buggy and gets hung up (no matter what browser I used) so it is best to call to register.

For the last three years I haven’t done any major yoga things so I’m excited to attend as I’ve never been to Kripalu.  If you go and want to share the cost of a car from the Albany airport to Kripalu, contact me.

If you are not familiar with the Krishnamacharya/Desikachar Yoga tradition this is a heartfelt piece written by Gary Kraftsow.  Yes, there are still teachers who have never heard of Krishnamacharya or Desikachar.  I met a Canadian yoga teacher during my trip to India last year who had no idea who they were.

This part of Gary’s piece rings so true for me:

“From the beginning, he emphasized what his father had told him: “The teaching is for the student, not the teacher.” He taught me that I was not teaching students to do yoga techniques correctly, but that I was teaching them how to use yoga techniques to help them understand and transform themselves. My job, he told me, was to see the student’s needs and interests, meet them where they were, and provide appropriate and accessible tools to help them move from where they were to where they wanted to go. He said that my real goal with students should be to inspire and empower them to deepen their own understanding of yoga and to commit to a personal practice.”

  I have recently started mentoring a young yoga teacher and we did not talk about one asana for the entire weekend.  We talked about personal transformation because she wanted to know how to incorporate that idea into her classes, how to move beyond the physical practice.

While I studied directly with Desikachar in only my first two trainings at KYM, every teacher there who studied with him and were teaching us always imparted that as teachers we are teaching students “how to use yoga techniques to help them understand and transform themselves.”  I remember how nervous I was to chant a few lines of the Gayatri Mantra for Sir (as we called him) during my second visit.  He said “Good” when I finished and that was all I needed to hear.  🙂

Every year for 10 yrs, from 2005-2015,  I was immersed in the idea of YOGA AS TRANSFORMATION via the trainings and the personal one-on-one classes I took with Desikachar’s senior teachers.  At the same time from 2012-2014 I also studied with Ganesh Mohan, son of A.G. Mohan, in his yoga therapy program.  I’ve always said that “Yoga cooks us” so I was definitely getting cooked!  😀    I am so very grateful to Srivatsa Ramaswami for introducing me to the tradition in 2004 on his first visit to Chicago.

While I will never be a well-known teacher like Leslie Kaminoff, Mark Whitwell, Gary Kraftsow, Erich Schiffmann or other famous students of Desikachar, sharing the wisdom to thousands of students a year as they do, I am glad I can impart my small pieces of Krishnamacharya Yoga tradition in my tiny yoga space in suburban Chicago, one student at a time — Yoga as it is meant to be taught, in my opinion.  My mentee has already started taking it out into her yoga world in Indianapolis and that does my heart good.

I am sure this will be great weekend.

Sí se puede y viva la huelga!

medusa

In case you can’t read Spanish or are too young to know what the title means, I wrote “Yes, you can” and basically, “long live the strike!”  A strike is one of the most powerful tools workers can use to fight business owners.  “Viva la huelga” was the rallying cry of Chicano farm workers in California and Texas when they fought for decent living wages, decent housing, and for the right to be represented by a union.

I am certainly NOT comparing the working conditions of yoga teachers to farm workers who perform back breaking labor in the hot sun but…

what if yoga teachers stopped working for shit pay?

I mean, all over the country, in every yoga studio.

After yesterday’s post I was told that in Salt Lake City, Utah the rate for yoga teachers is more like $1-$3 per student instead of the Chicago rate of $6 per student.  Maybe someone who is fresh out of their 200-hour is fine with that, but for those who have been teaching for 10+ years, it’s damn insulting.  Add to that basic 200 hour training, years of study in India (if that was the teacher’s path), any type of specialized training like in trauma or addictions or Yoga Nidra, etc., or becoming a Certified Yoga Therapist via a 300/800/1000 hour training.

Obviously the current yoga studio model is broken and abysmal.

It also doesn’t help that yoga teachers are (and have been for years) a dime a dozen in America thanks to too many yoga teacher trainings.

BLOW UP THE MODEL AND INVENT A NEW ONE.

But people always get what they put up.  Always.

What if yoga teachers banded together and refused to teach for shit pay at studios?  What if they demanded a living wage where they could support themselves and pay bills?

How many teachers do you know — maybe you are one yourself — who are completely burned out and injured from teaching too many classes a week in order to support yourself?  You don’t even have time for your practice, right?

I know that some studio owners ask their established teachers to teach for free in order to introduce or attract people to the studio.  JUST.  STOP.

There IS power in numbers.  What could yoga studio owners do?  NOTHING.  If it meant yoga studios going out of business, so what?  Aren’t there too many studios in some places, a studio on every block in large cities like Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles?

Or would this scenario mean that only the corporate studios stay like CorePower and their ilk?

Think about it and talk amongst yourselves.

Spread the word, forward this post.  Maybe we can start a labor movement.  Dare I say it, a union for yoga teachers?  Oh wait, I just woke up from that dream.

What has the Yoga Alliance done for ya lately? 😉

 

 

ask me again why I don’t teach in yoga studios

all aboard, Madurai
Yoga teacher getting ready to throw herself down the shitter

Chicago area yoga studios still pay their teachers SHIT.

$6 a student?  I was paid $5 a student at a Geneva IL studio 10 YEARS AGO.  The owner also gave out “first class free” passes all over the Fox Valley and guess whose yin class she’d send them to because she thought yin yoga was a “beginner” yoga class for people who’ve never done yoga.  If you had never done any yoga whatsoever and knew nothing about it, imagine coming to a yin yoga class for your first time.   They never came back AND SHE WOULDN’T PAY TEACHERS FOR ALL THOSE FREE STUDENTS.  Some months I’d lose $100+.  Ask me why I don’t teach in studios anymore.

Shared from a teacher friend (who’s been teaching a very long time):

“I know that for many independent yoga center owners keeping the doors open is an ongoing financial struggle. The business model needs reworking, but what to replace it with?  I don’t think that paying instructors $6 per student is part of the answer. I was approached by 2 local studios in the past 3 months, & that’s what they were offering. “It’s an incentive to build your classes. If you get a big enough group you can make some pretty good money.”

She made that comment when she posted this article:

Yoga Center of Minneapolis abruptly closes, withholds teachers’ paychecks

From the article:

“It was no secret that the center was struggling, he says, even though people weren’t aware of just how bad things had gotten. He didn’t know how to tell staff in advance that there was no money left to pay them, and he didn’t want them to work another minute without compensation.”  [emphasis supplied]

WHAT?!  HE DIDN’T KNOW HOW TO TELL THE STAFF IN ADVANCE HE COULDN’T PAY THEM?!  HOW ABOUT THE TRUTH?

Do you think this would have given him a clue?

“He says he lost $1 million on the business, borrowed money from family and friends, declined a salary for years, and worked up to the last minute to try and make payroll…”

A yoga studio doesn’t lose a million bucks overnight so I think over the years he had a bit of a clue as to how his business was doing.

A friend and I taught at a now defunct yoga studio in Sycamore IL and when my friend’s paycheck bounced, the owner became insulted when my friend told her “I need that check to pay my bills” — as if my friend had no right to get upset about a bounced check.

In 17 years of teaching I have found yoga studio owners to be of two types — one (the most prevalent) is the airy fairy type who has no idea how to run a real business.  The ones who are all peace love dove and about manifesting abundance but never returning the phone calls of people asking for information about a workshop.  Guess who was giving the workshop and had to cancel because “no one was interested.”  Uh huh.

The other is cut throat who doesn’t give a damn about yoga or the teachers who show up every day.  The less you need to ask about anything, the better, because you’re on your own.  For that type of studio owner it could be a Pilates studio or a dance studio or a butcher shop for all they care.  Just make sure you clean the toilets.

99% of the owners I’ve dealt with have no business whatsoever running a shoe shine stand let alone a yoga studio.

Now before anyone tells me what a big meany I am or how judgmental I am or wants to tell me how hard it is to run a business, check yourself.  I run TWO businesses, my yoga biz and my India travel biz.  The latter requires me to deal with people 8000 miles away, most of whom I’ve never met, setting up hotels, drivers, guides, etc., a year in advance of the trip and then hoping and sweating and fingers crossed that everything I’ve set up is OK when I get there.  If you don’t think that causes many sleepless nights, try it.

Plus, I grew up watching my father run his business, a neighborhood grocery store and meat market, that he owned for about 40 years.  I learned about running a biz via osmosis.

So if you’re a studio owner reading this and you are not one of those two types and who knows the difference between a spreadsheet and a mandala drawing, your teachers are very lucky and blessed.  I commend you wholeheartedly and I wish I was teaching at YOUR studio, being valued and compensated appropriately for all my experience and knowledge and emotional labor.

You are a very rare bird indeed.

 

 

 

 

where in the world (2010)

IMG_1469

After 5 trips to India I finally made it to the north, to the banks of the Ganges in Haridwar, a city in the foothills of the Himalayas. I was attending the Maha Kumbh Mela, the largest spiritual gathering for Hindus that has gone on for milennia.  Me and about two million of my closest friends.  When I walked onto the terrace of my hotel the river took my breath away. I stood there amazed because I instantly knew I had been here before. I had known in my bones that I had to be at THIS Kumbh Mela at THIS time in my life.

I stood for a long time and it was such a deep, visceral knowing that I could only compare it to when my feet first hit the ground in south India five years before, the feeling that I had come home. It was the week of Maha Shivaratri, the Hindu festival to honor the god Shiva. The orange robes of the sadhus across the river looked familiar to me on a level that was very different from seeing them in photographs.

The week before I had been in Kolkata at Kalighat, the main temple in India for the devotees of the goddess Kali. When I walked into the temple I received such a blast of shakti that I had to sit down before I fell down. It felt like I had been punched in the chest. Inside the temple a Western woman told me that my eyes were so dilated that I looked like I had dropped some LSD. The cockroaches crawling over the metal grill that surrounded the statue of Kali sparkled so brightly that they looked like crawling jewels. I mentioned them to the woman but she could not see what I saw and turned away.

After I made my offering and the priest rubbed my forehead I came to the area where goats are sacrificed. The idea of an animal dying for the Divine is abhorrent to me but I take many things in stride in India.

I watched a woman butchering the meat as stray dogs gathered waiting for a morsel to drop. Goat heads with eyes that contained their last image of life lined the edge of the sacrificial platform and I looked at the dogs. In my shakti induced high their panting mouths seemed to be smiling. Kalighat is next to where Mother Theresa tended to the dying and instead of feeling sick at the sight of headless goats I took in the entire scene and all I felt was pure love. In the Bengali tradition, the goal of the Kali devotee is to become reconciled with death and to learn acceptance of the way things are. The love that I felt was raw and primal and my heart space filled with the fire of bhakti. I felt as if I were on fire. I felt extraordinarily alive.

All the people who had died next door, all the goats who had given their lives for the Mother, all those dogs who were going to eat. It was my own surrealistic version of Eat Pray Love. And I was filled with joy.

In Haridwar on Maha Shivaratri I watched the procession of the mostly naked naga babas as they marched to the Ganges and I knew that I had never been to such a joyful event in my life.

My hotel in Haridwar had its own ghat – steps into the Ganges – and after the yogis took their bath I walked back to my hotel and down the steps into the Ganges and dunked myself three times. I had been in Haridwar for five days but I wanted to wait until the day that Shiva married Parvati to really feel the river.

During my third dunk I stayed under a bit longer and I felt electric. I came out and sat on the steps with my feet in the water. The waters of the Ganges are called amrita, the “nectar of immortality.” Hindus believe that there is nothing as cleansing as the living waters of Ganga Ma. I wanted to sit with my feet in the water and never leave. Something was coursing through me and once again all I felt was joy.

That night I met a swami of the highest order, a man who is the spiritual head of the Juna Akhara, the naked yogis I watched that morning.

That morning the swami had thrown a rose to me — he stopped his chariot in front of me, looked into my eyes, threw the rose and smiled, and then moved on. I held the rose tight because people were already pushing me out of the way to pick up the holy rose petals from the street. I did not know that in the afternoon I would be invited to a special puja that night at his ashram, the oldest one in Haridwar. A mantra teacher friend found me to invite me to a special Maha Shivaratri puja. I had no idea that he was staying in the ashram of the rose throwing swami, I did not even know the swami’s name.

When the rickshaw arrived at the ashram I saw the swami’s picture outside and froze in my seat. Once again a shakti blast felt like a punch in the chest and all I could do was stare at the billboard with his picture.  I sat there for so long that some of his devotees asked me if I was well. I walked into the ashram and was taken into the swami’s compound before the start of the special puja. That night my friend chanted to Shiva as I sat on the floor gazing up at the swami. The gold in the mala around his neck looked like the crawling sparkling jewels I had seen in Kalighat a week before.

Everything just happened, merely the flow of experience, the essence of allowing things to unfold as if by Divine plan. I was told that night that it was my good karma to be there, that I was meant to be there from the moment I caught that rose in the morning.

I thanked the Goddess I was capable of such joy.

baby steps

writing

I hope that everyone who told me since I started this blog in 2005 that I should write a book will buy it when it comes out.  Y’all, put your money where your mouths are!

OK, it’s not published yet but I am taking baby steps.

I wish I had a $1 for every email I received over the last 13 years from every person who told me I inspired them.  Or helped them get back on track with Yoga.  Or told me my “fierce voice” was needed in the world.  Or told me that they went to India to study Yoga because of this blog.

Or who emailed me just to say THANK YOU for my emotional labor.

Forty-five years ago my creative writing professor told me that I oughta write and if I don’t oughta get kicked, hard and swift. Mr. Brooks, I’m finally listening to you.

I’m also listening to those people from places far and wide who told me that I have a fierce voice that the world needs to hear, that there are people who need my insight and wisdom.  They had more faith in me than I ever had in myself.

My writing was always stream of consciousness.  I wrote in spurts.  So I will take baby steps: I joined an online writers’ group that concentrates on writing memoirs.  I am hoping it gives me focus and helps me discipline myself.

I’ve always written SOMETHING, way before I started this blog.  I was an English major in college and made it half way through a Masters.  I wrote poetry in high school and was named one of Illinois’ “best high school poets.”  I also won a few writing awards in college.  Back in the day I wanted to teach English in a junior college but life got in the way.

In the past year I have felt a change coming up, a life turn, so to speak, where I must do something different.  I have not done a yoga training since 2015 because I don’t see the point anymore what with the Modern Yoga Scene.  I’ve taught in India and Africa but does anyone invite me to teach anywhere anymore?  Not for many years.

I became a Certified Yoga Therapist (IAYT) only because someone might find the piece of paper important if I shop myself around, not that I thought it actually meant anything.  Only to people who are impressed with pieces of paper because no one gives a shit I studied for 10 years at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram.

I thought about going back to school for a Masters in mental health counseling because I figure I’ve been doing that for 17 years of  yoga teaching anyway.  I hate to say that age has anything to do with going back to school, but for this subject, yes.  I’d be too old once I graduated, had to intern, etc.  Ageism is real and I’m not stupid.

But writing….the Universe was telling me something again.

My writer friend, a pissed-off yogini, asked me for some advice.  After I gave her my two rupees she had a few things to say:

“The writer in me wants to request that you write a book on these topics.  Right now we are flooded with spiritual books, practices & such. But very few really nourish.  It’s like eating donuts with pink frosting.  I truly value your journey in this lifetime & your insight. Your insight sparks — it really does. It cuts thru the bullshit. Goddess, it’s such a necessary voice.”

She suggested a memoir.  Hmmmmm…..

  • I have my Yoga journey — DUH, go back to my very first post here.
  • I have my upbringing — abuse and finally finding out my true roots, my real ethnicity.
  • My teenage and college years — running away, drugs, sexual assault, domestic violence, surviving what would have killed others.
  • I have my 13 years of India travel.
  • I have my gardens that I can use as a metaphor for growth and life cycles.

garden 2

garden 3

We shall see.

Get your popcorn.

And hold my beer.

Viniyoga (trademarked) and #MeToo

pondicherry sign
Don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining

The more things change, the more they stay the same, huh?  Life in this here Modern Yoga World.

I’m coming out of self-imposed writing exile to write about Kausthub Desikachar again.  The latest is that he trademarked the word “Viniyoga.”   Here is his justification for the trademark.   The word “viniyoga” is in the Yoga Sutra-s so it is as if Kausthub is trademarking the word “AUM.”  Whaaat?!  I’m told that he is already sending cease and desist letters to those using the word “Viniyoga.”

Leslie Kaminoff wrote his response to Kausthub’s trademarking.  Leslie has said all that needs to be said about it, in my opinion.  I won’t add anything else other than I believe it’s all ego on Kausthub’s part and extremely misguided.  It would make more sense to trademark “Desikachar Yoga” like “Forrest Yoga” or “Bikram Yoga” or “Jois Yoga” but “Viniyoga” as a style?  Since he does not have an heir to carry on the Krishnamacharya Yoga lineage (he has a teenage daughter from a first marriage who has no interest in yoga), maybe that is his reasoning?  One can only speculate.

The ill will and anger he is creating is his own karma.  It would not be the first time that shit rains down on a yoga teacher because of EGO.  You can draw your own conclusions from both writings.

BY THE WAY, KAUSTHUB, I AM ALSO LINEAGE HOLDER
OF YOUR GRANDFATHER’S YOGA TRADITION.
JUST BECAUSE YOU TRADEMARKED A WORD
DOESN’T MAKE THAT LESS SO.

As for the #metoo movement, it affected me.  Deeply.  I have my own #metoo stories as a survivor but not from the yoga world.   At the time I looked at the Facebook pages of certain yoga teachers who were accused of sex abuse to see if they came out to own their shit, to support women.  Kausthub was one whose page I looked at.  Nothing.  Crickets.  For those who need a reminder, this is the first piece I wrote about him in 2012.  I also wrote about him here and here.

I know those who are currently studying with him in India and I respect their judgment.  I am not going to disavow friendships because of whom they choose to study with.  I also attended a workshop he taught last year in Dixon, IL given at a woman’s house because frankly, no Chicago area yoga studio will host him (that I am aware of.)  That being said, John Friend has no shortage of workshop opportunities from what I hear so who knows if Kausthub will teach here in the future.

Quite honestly, I went because I was curious, to see if things had changed with him.  I last saw Kausthub at length in 2006 in India.  Kausthub was an arrogant albeit excellent, even brilliant, teacher.  I previously wrote about him when he gave a lecture in one of my KYM intensives about 5 years later.  At the Dixon IL weekend the wisdom teachings in the yoga tradition that I have studied for 10+ years were wonderful, but all weekend I felt that something wasn’t right, something felt off to me about him.  Kausthub asked me if I wanted to bring students to his new school in Chennai as I had to KYM in 2013.  I couldn’t and I wouldn’t.  I also would no longer bring students to KYM either (given another “yoga war” which is another subject), however, I won’t tell people not to study there.

Now Kausthub says that Viniyoga (R with a circle around it) “honors women.”

I will leave that right here and you can digest it given all that went down in 2012.  As Australian yoga studio owner, Nikola Ellis, asked, “What does Kausthub Desikachar have in common with Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein?  They’re all great supporters and defenders of women (and partial to trademarking).”

The stats he cites are just that.  Stats.  Everyone knows that yoga is practiced mainly by women and the majority of teachers are women.  KHYF does not hold women higher merely because a high percentage of women study there.

Kausthub also mentions his mother.  When I was in India in 2013 I was told that his mother was encouraging women to study with her son even during the uproar of the accusations against him.

Ironically Kausthub’s message about how he honors women arrived on the same day that Yoga Alliance published their new policy on sexual misconduct.

This morning I received this email.  I don’t know who sent it (obviously someone who has my email address) or who the “concerned yoga teachers and women” are, but I believe the trademarking together with his statement on “honoring women” lit the flames of a long simmering seemingly unresolved outrage:

Kausthub Desikachar, son of TKV Desikachar and grandson of T Krishnamacharya, was reported to have abused numerous students in 2012. The allegations were extensive, pointing to serial and systemic misconduct, but were either covered up or not examined impartially.

Kausthub, and his organization, KHYF, are now aggressively promoting themselves through his family connection to his famous father and grandfather. He is offering program on topics closely related to his alleged abuses, such as granthis, shadow side of yoga etc.

He has also been registered by the Yoga Alliance recently.

More details here: https://saveyogasavewomen.org.

By sharing this and adding your voice to this message, you are doing the right thing. If the allegations have no foundation, then Kausthub will address the issue and clear himself. If there is truth to it, as we have significant reason to believe, then you will stop more people from being hurt.

Please share this email and our website. Speak up against serial and systematic misconduct. Support ethics and abuse prevention in yoga.

You can also write to the Yoga Alliance at: iwanttohelpya@yogaalliance.org.

Thank you.

Namaste,

A group of concerned yoga teachers and women

I knew in my bones that as soon as the shit hit the fan with his trademark, that someone would again raise the topic of his sexual misconduct.  It was only a matter of time.  Some of the things I referred to in my posts in 2012 are also mentioned on this new website such as how KYM and long time teachers knew and did nothing.  You can read all the links on the site.

As much as I abhor Kausthub’s actions from 2012, still think he has a massive ego, and his trademarking of the word “Viniyoga” is extremely misguided, I believe that anonymous attacks are questionable.  When I wrote about Kausthub, I put myself on the line.  When I reviewed his book on the Hatha Yoga Pradipika,  I put my reputation on the line.  When I attended the weekend workshop with him last year I put myself on the line because of what I wrote in 2012.  I was accused of being an enabler by people who don’t know me and by some who do, none of whom knew anything about my reasons for doing his workshop last year.  I am not responsible for what people think about me.  My true friends never doubted me for a moment.

I understand the need for an outlet for victims/survivors.
During the #Metoo discussion I saw the face of my rapist in my mind’s eye daily. 

But an anonymous website, should it be done that way?  I don’t know and I am certainly not going to tell a victim/survivor what they should or should not do.  You can draw your own conclusions about the “save yoga save women” website.

Kausthub will never see the inside of a courthouse.  Instead, he will have to deal with the court of public opinion that can be more brutal than what happens inside a real courthouse.

Karma bites us all in the ass in one way or another.  The Universe pushes us towards things we are supposed to do and things we are not supposed to do.  Sometimes we go against our better judgment and do questionable things anyway.  There are lessons in all of it.  My teacher in Chicago just shrugs his shoulders and says, “Life.”

One thing I’ve come to realize in my old age is that there are no enlightened beings, only enlightened actions.

no more free lunch

chettinad food
typical lunch in Tamil Nadu, India — YUM!

“Emotional labor.”

What does that mean to you?

On her Facebook page in August Layla Saad said that a “complete stranger just PayPal-ed me a generous amount of money as a way of saying thank you for the emotional labor I put in to writing my open letter to spiritual white women. I’m in shock. And in tears. I did not write the letter with that expectation in mind, but I am so grateful for this unexpected gift.”

That got me thinking.  In a dozen years I’ve received two payments from readers.   Years ago I received $100 from an anonymous person who merely said “thank you.”

I’ve written this blog since 2005, a good 12 years, and over the years people have sent me countless emails telling me how much my writing meant to them.  They thought they were the only ones who felt the same way I did about shit in the Modern Yoga World.  When I have thought about completely shutting down this blog and never writing again, I get an email from someone telling me how much my words meant to them.   So I continue albeit not as prolifically because, let’s be honest: people just don’t read blogs anymore.  I have been fortunate to meet people in India in my trainings who have read my blog, one woman from Kuala Lumpur telling me that she was at the Krishanamacharya Yoga Mandiram because of me.  A few readers have told me that they consider me one of their yoga teachers even though we’ve never met and who knows if we ever will.

Today Facebook reminded me:

“If you have never visited Linda’s Yoga Journey, it’s worth every minute you can spend on it. I met Linda in India and she’s one of the most loving, sassy and funny people I’ve ever come across. She keeps it real with serious topics that the yoga community often prefers to ignore, but refuses to sensationalize them and more often than not gives you food for thought that tastes a whole lot different than the stuff we get elsewhere. She is also not one to pass up the opportunity for a good laugh. She has a solid following of educated readers from all walks of life who offer some really interesting and varied points of view on the things Linda reports on so the comments are definitely worth a read.”

I have always said that I have the best readers!  Thank you dear readers for continuing to read me for 12 years!

And to think I’ve never been podcast by J. Brown.  Or asked to give any public talks.  Or sit on any panel discussions.  Go figure!

I wrote about topics such as ageism and diversity in the Modern Yoga World long before yoga blogs like YogaDork and It’s All Yoga, Baby, and before yoga writers whose names I won’t mention because you know who they are.  Because I was considered a “fierce voice in the yoga blogosphere” by the author of this book, he put me in it.  Drove all the way from California with his dog to interview me. 🙂

As Kelly Diels says in this article: “I, as a woman, am not a community resource.”  Beginning in January 2018 I am transitioning the best of my blog posts to Patreon, a website that will allow me to get paid for my writing, i.e., my emotional and intellectual labor.  If my writing about yoga has helped you or made you see things differently, you can become a monthly supporter or pay me per piece on that site.  The posts that I transfer will no longer be available for free here and I will use Patreon as my writing outlet, no more blogging for free.

The same goes for my India travel advice.  I have received many questions over the years about how to travel in India, where to go, etc. so I am now charging $50/hr for trip planning, how to handle India, etc.  Please do not expect to pick my brain for free unless you come on one of my trips.  I have 12 yrs of India travel experience and my info can not be found in guide books.  As a solo woman traveler to India since 2005 and learning about India as much as a foreigner can, you will be paying for my emotional and intellectual India travel labor.  To curate a boutique trip to India for those who ask, I start planning it one year in advance starting with a ton of emails to the providers in India that I use.  I can’t tell you how many sleepless nights I’ve had worrying about things so they are just right.  Some of you may say that it’s my “cost of doing business” but if I really charged for every hour of time that I use in planning a trip for people, the price would be exorbitant and no one could afford it.

I receive no upgrades or freebies since I am not a travel blogger with a “brand” to promote.  I pay my own way to India.   You can get some questionable advice for free online or go to a bookstore and PAY for a guide book.  Well, I am that same guidebook.

I get questions about how to start a travel blog, where to go in India, and yoga questions from strangers who ask “I have X, what yoga can help me?”  Mind blown on that one!

After all these years (how fucking stupid was I?!) I am tired of playing the role of teacher or advisor or consultant without getting paid and without even receiving acknowledgement for the time and energy I have spent in doing so.  Free advice has no value.  People value what they pay for.

No more free lunches.  To that end, I can be paid via Square Cash or if you want my Papal ID, message me.

Thank you for your future support!