Tag Archives: India travel

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?

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.

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!

Freedom Yoga & Ayurveda Retreat, Varkala, Kerala – November 7-17, 2016

IT’S YOGA RETREAT TIME IN INDIA AGAIN!

 

I loved doing my first yoga retreat in India in 2013 so here we go again!

$1,800 USD Double Occupancy Only
$450 USD Single Supplement

$1500 “Honey Rate” for those partners who want to experience India
but not the Yoga
(includes shared cottage with partner, Welcome Dinner,
daily breakfasts, backwaters cruise)

FULL PAYMENT MUST  BE MADE BY OCTOBER 1, 2016

Join me for a 10 night retreat that includes guided asana practice of yang (MOVEMENT), yin (STILLNESS), and free form movement (INTUITION), philosophy, meditation, Yoga Nidra, and relaxation.

Freedom Yoga is an intuitive approach to Yoga inspired by Erich Schiffman, cultivating the felt awareness and embodiment of one’s instinctual and mystical natures. It is not a strenuous practice but it is a practice that requires you to follow your intuition about what feels right and what doesn’t, listening to your breath and body, but quieting the mind.  As Erich says, “put a comma in it…pause, breathe, relax.”

Enjoy 15 yoga classes with me, from Vinyasa Krama to Yin to Yoga Nidra.  My classes are accessible to all whether you a beginner or someone who has practiced for 20 years.

Yoga teachers will receive 24 hours of Yoga Alliance CEUs as I am now…..

 YACEP

 

Also included: Transport from Trivandrum airport to Varkala resort; a delicious Welcome to Varkala dinner on the first night; daily continental breakfast; one Ayurvedic massage; one consultation by the resort’s Ayurvedic doctor; an all day backwaters cruise to Kollam.

Options at extra cost: Ayurvedic treatments as recommended by the doctor, my Shamanic Energy Work or Reflexology, surfing, paragliding, a Kerala cooking class, trip to Golden Island.

India’s ancient Ayurvedic treatments are practiced in their original form in Kerala such as body massage, oil treatments, and herbal cleansing techniques. Additional Ayurvedic treatment is available at Akhil Beach Resort or at other nearby centers at additional cost.  Please read about Akhil here.

The retreat is 10 nights with November 17 being your travel day back home.  I wanted to keep your expenses reasonable but your stay extremely comfortable.  Daily continental breakfast is included but lunch and dinner are on your own — and it is exceedingly inexpensive to eat in Varkala.

Temple Tour of South India/Tamil Nadu Yatra — it’s a GO!

cropped-india-om1.jpg  Details are finalized, the hotel rooms are booked for 20 travelers and this trip —

SEPTEMBER 8-22, 2015

is a go even if there is only one person who wants to travel with a seasoned Indiaphile such as myself….(and one person has already signed up!)….

“Forget the travel section of The New York Times, Lonely Planet and all those travel sites written by twenty-somethings. If you want to experience the REAL India, check out Linda’s blog. I first “met” Linda through her blog several years ago and was struck by her humor, honesty and down to earth attitude about everything Yoga. When I found out she was a fellow India lover I reached out to her for advice about where to study, where to stay, and where to shop. She knows her stuff. And she will lead you to places that you will not find on a travel website or a map. I don’t know what I would do without her.”
Alyssa T., NewYork

I hear many yoga teachers say “if only I could go to India….”  Well, here’s your chance because I am offering a 5% discount off the $2695 tour price to studio owners and teachers who bring two or more of their students with them.   That is enough to pay for your travel insurance and to buy lots of gorgeous Indian textiles.  A percentage of what you pay will be donated to The Banyan women’s shelter in Chennai, India so by attending this trip you are engaging in COMPASSION IN ACTION AND SEVA.

The ancient texts of India contain the stories of the making of the Universe as well as tales of the many gods and goddesses. Many places mentioned in these texts are fully alive today and are important places of yatra (pilgrimage) where vast temple complexes arose. Within these temples daily worship is performed to the resident gods and goddesses in a tradition that is thousands of years old. To those who believe, the Divine is more easily intuited, recognized, or experienced in these temples.

North India sees more tourists than the South but having traveled to India 8 times since 2005 I believe South India, and Tamil Nadu especially, to be a very special place. For me, it is very different from North India. India can be intense but I find Tamil Nadu to be “softer” and it can be an easier landing than North India for first time India visitors. But whether North or South, India is my heart’s home.

We will stay in 4 and 5 star hotels, eat vegetarian food, and travel comfortably from town to town. We will have morning yoga and meditation practice every other day. A guide will travel with us to answer questions and discuss our experiences. Arrangements can also be made with local priests for the proper performance of any rituals you may wish performed.

We will have ample time for the usual sightseeing, shopping, and exploring that travelers enjoy. The pace will be relaxed and sometimes the travel will be hours between each town – since this is India, always expect the unexpected!

Included in the Land Cost of $2695:
This trip will be 15 days with the first and last days being for arrival and departure. I want to keep your expenses reasonable but your stay very comfortable. Meals will be South Indian vegetarian which can be spicy. You receive breakfast but you must pay for lunch and dinner – eating in India is very inexpensive compared to the West. Travel will be in a comfortable bus and any entry fees (for one visit) are included.

The above price includes:
–15 night accommodations, DOUBLE OCCUPANCY ONLY. Single Supplement is $750. I will assign a roommate, however, if none is available you must pay the Single Supplement.
–Daily breakfast.
–One South Indian cooking demonstration with farewell dinner on last night in Madurai.
–All applicable tax on hotels/transportation.
–All transfers, sightseeing, excursion by Air-conditioned mini-bus or larger bus.
–English speaking guide throughout the tour.
–Adequate mineral water during the tour available in the vehicle.
–Entry fee to the monuments during sightseeing for one visit.

In 15 days we will go to:

CHENNAI
MAHABALIPURAM — a UNESCO World Heritage site
KANCHIPURAM — famous for silks
TIRUVANNAMALI — walk around the holy mountain Arunachala and visit the Ramana Maharishi Ashram
PONDICHERRY — visit Auroville International Village
KUMBAKONAM — GANGAIKONDACHOLAPURAM — SWAMIMALLAI – DARASURAM
TRICHY — TANJORE
RAMESWARAM — where Hanuman lept across the ocean to Lanka to save Sita
MADURAI — visit one of the greatest temples in South India and have an evening cooking demonstration at our hotel followed by farewell dinner
BACK TO CHENNAI

“Trip of a lifetime” can be an overused cliche, but in this case you WILL have the trip of a lifetime, guaranteed.

I am very impressed with the hotel choices the tour company has made which will make for a soft landing in India for first timers.  The last time I was in some of these towns I arrived with only a backpack, having taken a bus through rural Tamil Nadu and staying in $10 or $20 a night rooms.

I have seen tours of this nature advertised for twice as much and you would get less than what I am giving you.  The price is less than what most yoga teacher trainings cost nowadays and frankly, India can teach you much more — it will take you out of your comfort zone but you need to be open to receive what Ma India will give you. My first trip to India was transformational and where I am taking you, it can be the same for you.  Read about my India adventures here.

If you want complete information give me your email address and I will email you my informational flyer.  My website designer is busy configuring my Event page on my site to take credit card payments.

IF NOT NOW….WHEN?

Gangakodaicholapuram, 2008
Me, Gangakodaicholapuram, 2008

Spiritual Tour of South India, September 2015: Update

This 15 day tour is continually being tweaked and the details and pricing are being finalized for September 2015.  I am looking toward having this trip start the day after Labor Day, 2015, so as to give an extra travel day.  Fifteen days is two calendar weeks.  This is going to be an amazingly awesome tour of South India!

YOGA STUDIO OWNERS AND YOGA TEACHERS WHO BRING
TWO OR MORE STUDENTS WILL RECEIVE 5% OFF THE TOUR PRICE!

Because hotel prices are less expensive in September, the anticipated cost of this tour will be less than I originally anticipated.  Right now I am estimating the trip to be about $2,600, with a single supplement making it $600 more.  Bring your students and receive 5% discount — that can pay for your travel insurance!  You will be offering your yoga community an amazing opportunity to see the Heart of India with you AND a seasoned 8 time traveler to India.  We will practice yoga and meditation in the mornings where possible.

I shot the photo below on my first trip in 2005.  Mamallapuram is a UNESCO World Heritage site where you will explore the mythologies of India.  Mahabs (as I call it) was a thriving port about 1,400 years ago where hundreds of craftsmen worked to create some of the greatest shrines and sculptures of India.  You can visit the shops of the modern stonecutters and buy your own statue of Patanjali.

This will be a trip of a lifetime. 

Ask yourself: if not now, when?

Mahabalipuram, UNESCO World Heritage Site, 2005
Mamallapuram, UNESCO World Heritage Site, 2005

Spiritual Tour of South India: Proposed Itinerary

It is never too early to start planning and saving for a trip to India, especially if it is your first time.

I am using the tour company I used for my trip to Rajasthan this year because I was so happy with their customer service and they have come up with an amazingly awesome itinerary.   It is so amazing that even I, an 8 time traveler to India, am impressed!

I am planning this trip for September 2015 when the hotels are less expensive and the timing gives prospective travelers one year to save.  A friend told me she saves every $5 bill she receives for her vacation fund.  It all adds up!

Also, as I did with my yoga retreat trip in 2013, a portion of what you pay will be donated to The Banyan women’s shelter in Chennai, India.  Go on this trip and you are helping women.  Compassion in action.

Where possible we will have time for Yoga and meditation as well as discussions regarding our experiences.  We will have one guide throughout the entire trip.  You will have ample time for the usual sightseeing and shopping.  Travel between towns will be via a comfortable bus.  The complete trip will be 15 days with the first and last days being for arrival and departure.  Final pricing yet to be determined however I estimate the final price to be under $3,000, excluding your airfare to Chennai.

You can Google all of these cities to learn where you will be going!

The bottom line:

1.  if you come on this trip it will be a trip of a lifetime;

2.  you will help women in a women’s shelter in Chennai, India;

3.  it will be the trip of lifetime

IF NOT NOW, WHEN?

NOTE: O/N = OVERNIGHT IN A CITY

DAY 01 : Arrive Chennai. O/N stay at Chennai.

DAY 02 : Leave Chennai to Kancheepuram (75 kms / 02 hrs), visit Ekambaranathar Temple (element of Earth) & Kailasnatha Temple (shiva temple).  O/N stay Kancheepuram.

DAY 03 : Leave Kancheepuram to Tiruvannamalai (130 kms / 03 hrs).  Visit Arunachaleshwarar Temple (Element of Fire), circumbulate Arunachala Mountain
O/N stay at Tiruvannamalai.

DAY 04 : At Tiruvannamalai visit Sri Ramana Mahrishi Ashram.  O/N stay at Tiruvannamalai.

DAY 05 : Leave Tiruvannamalai to Pondicherry (100 kms / 0230hrs drive). O/N stay at Pondy.

DAY 06 : Visit French quarters (old part) of Pondicherry & Auroville International village.

DAY 07 : Leave Pondicherry to Kumbakonam (180 kms / 04 hrs drive),  enroute visit Chidambaram Sri Nataraja Temple (Element of Sky), and later continue to visit Gangai konda Cholapuram (Shiva temple). O/N stay at Kumabakonam.

DAY 08 : At Kumbakonam, visit Kumbeshwarar temple (Shiva), Swamimallai Temple (Murugan), Darasuram Iravateeshwarar Temple (Shiva).  O/N stay at Kumbakonam.

DAY 09 : leave Kumbakonam to Trichy (110 kms / 03 hrs drive), enroute visit Tanjore Sri Brahadeeshwarar temple (Shiva) and Tanjore Palace with Art Gallery. O/N stay at Trichy.

DAY 10 : At Trichy, visit Rock Fort Mountain temple (Ganesh), visit Srirangam Ranganathaswami Temple (Vishnu), Thiruvaanaikovil Sri Jambukeshwarar  Temple (Element of water). O/N stay at Trichy.

DAY 11 : Leave Trichy to Karaikudi (90 kms / 02 hrs), on arrival visit Chettinadu village well known for their architecture and Chettinadu food and where group can witness the Chettinad cooking demonstration at the hotel.

For more info of Chettinadu, please visit  http://www.srmuniv.ac.in/downloads/chetinad.pdf

O/N stay at Chettinadu.

DAY 12 : Leave Karaikudi to Rameshwaram (150 kms / 0330 hrs drive), O/N stay at Rameshwaram.

DAY 13 : At Rameshwaram for full day visit of Sri Ramanthaswami temple. O/N stay at Rameshwaram.

DAY 14 : Leave Rameshwaram to Madurai (175 kms / 04 hrs drive), visit of Tirumalai Nayak palace and Sri Meenakshi temple with rituals. O/N stay at Madurai.

DAY 15 : Full day free for independent activities and connect evening flight at Madurai airport to Chennai.

elephant pondy
Getting blessed by Lakshmi, the temple elephant, at Ganesh temple in Pondicherry, 2011

I’m not dead. Or, how the yoga rubber meets the road.

me in India, only half dead
only half dead in India, 2008

Miss me?

I used to be a prolific yoga blogger.  I used to be a well-known yoga blogger, once called a fierce voice in the yoga blogosphere, and was even quoted in the New York Times during the Tara Stiles controversy.  But everything has its expiration date.

I got tired.  I got tired of writing about Yoga in OMerika because I thought, “what else can I write about?”  I read this excellent piece today and it addresses issues that I wrote about years ago.  Bottom line, same shit, different day.  Not much has changed since I started writing this blog in 2005, almost 10 years ago.  The funny thing is, you know how each generation thinks they’re original, like they’re the first ones to come up with an idea?  Kinda sorta how I feel when I read a yoga blog nowadays, like, been there, done that, you young whipper-snapper, ’cause back in my day….

It has also appeared for quite some time that the yoga blogosphere has become a tad cliquey, all rah rah, kiss kiss, pat each other on the back.  OK, a lot cliquey.  When I first started this blog the yoga blogosphere was a bit more outlaw-ish, the voices were of different tones, not so scholarly.  Not that there is anything wrong with scholarly (hey, I went to grad school), but I remember being called “anti-intellectual” by a well-known yoga blogger because I dared to question the overanalysis and didacticism.  I knew I was no longer in the top echelon of yoga bloggers (my tongue is firmly in cheek) when this post only received 5 comments where in the past I know it would have generated many more.  One has to be one of the Kool Kids now, someone who is Someone to continue to get your blog posts Facebooked, tweeted, or interviewed or asked to review books. You know what Groucho Marx said about being a member of a club.   Another photo of the latest celeb du jour walking into a yoga studio?  Really?

Over the past year I have had some major epiphanies that rocked my energy body.  Last March I dealt with two very problematic people on my yoga retreat in India who I realized later were my teachers.  Of course I did not realize it at the time because then I only wanted to kick their ungrateful asses into the Arabian Sea, but they taught me much about how to deal with people of their types so I thank them.  They were a lesson in how everyone can be your teacher and the more difficult ones more so.

I dealt with betrayal.  Lots and lots of meditation helped me with that one.  I am here to tell you that if someone fucks with you, just sit and meditate daily on their sorry ass until the vision of them no longer brings up feelings of attachment or aversion, until you can see them and feel neutrality.  It works and it’s wonderful.  Very freeing.  I learned to finally love myself completely.  Not a bad lesson to learn as I enter my 6th decade of this incarnation.

I dealt with trust issues I have with women and also (again) in my local yoga world.  The resolution to that is that I am damn fine with being alone and a loner.  Well, I was already, but I truly came into my own in 2013.  Probably because I finally owned what I do.  I’ve been teaching since 2002 and it took me all this time to realize that yes, I AM a damn good teacher, I am unique in what I do and fuck outside validation, I don’t need it.  My yoga is outside the box and I own the fact that what I offer is not found elsewhere.  I have studied with direct students of Krishnamacharya both here and in India and am damn proud of that.  Never mistake my confidence for arrogance.  Yes I do say I teach Real Yoga and don’t care if someone takes offense.  Mine is a bold statement and people like J.Brown who puts it out there when he says that he “seeks to change the dialog and direction of yoga practice in the west” inspire me.  You bet your asana I do the same in my little corner of the yoga world, one body at a time (“…you taught me more about Yoga in five minutes than anyone I’ve ever met in a yoga class, teacher or otherwise,” said a satisfied Yoga customer.)

I also finally came into my own as an energy worker.  That was a huge energetic shift for me in 2013, so much so the shift was also physical.  It is no coincidence that I learned I am part Native American (more on that below) in the same year I decided to make known the energy healing work I have practiced for over 10 years — because my work is akin to that of a Medicine Woman.  Energy healing is a deep, spiritual practice for me.  It feels natural.  I finally own that I am a facilitator of profound change.

I am happy to reside in my little yoga cave of my home studio with only two or three students in class.  If all my students suddenly disappeared, I am fine with that.  Bottom line, if I never taught another class in my life, I’m good.  The thought of never teaching again for whatever reason used to freak me out.  “Yoga teacher” used to be my identity but no longer.  I have peeled my onion layers down to the core.  Yoga is life, but Life is more than Yoga.  DING DING DING!  EPIPHANY TIME.  I am not This or That because I am so much more.

The biggest revelation of 2013 came to me in the form of genetic testing and discovering my true ancestry.  I grew up believing I was 50/50 German-Polish, but I also always intuited that I wasn’t.  I am part Native American, enough that I can self-identify as a Native American; unfortunately, a genetic test can not determine tribe.  Either I was the product of an affair or my sister was really my mother.  My nephew who is only 7 years younger is probably my half-brother.  How would you handle that if you found out in your late 50s that you were lied to about your heritage and parentage?

As for handling things, after planning my 8th trip to India (departure in 9 days) for yoga study, my yoga therapy course was cancelled just last week.  This affected my entire trip because my trips are a tax write-off — no yoga study, no tax write-off.  Plans I had made almost a year ago and reservations on planes and trains all had to be changed when I got the news.  I cancelled the last 7 weeks of my trip and I would have cancelled the entire trip but I would have lost too much money in airfare and other fees so my trip changed in one day from almost 3 months to one month.  Dharma 101: How Life Changes in a Second.

The day I received the news of the course cancellation I was more than a little freaked but by evening I was at peace.  A deep peace and I was surprised at how deep that peace was — because YOGA ISN’T REAL YOGA UNLESS IT HELPS YOU DEAL WITH HOW LIFE CAN CHANGE IN A SECOND.  

Knowing how I love India (in reality it’s a love-hate relationship), my friends thought I’d be more upset than I was about cutting my trip by more than half.  Nope, not really.  Because that’s where the yoga rubber hits the road.  What good is your yoga if you can’t deal effectively with life’s major and minor ups and downs?

As for Ma India Herself, if this upcoming trip is my last I am good with that.  Finally.  Because in the past the thought of never returning to India created such angst I would shake.  Even cry.  India is in my bones and always will be and each time I am there I know I am Home.  I know I will die there but just like Yoga Teacher became a piece of my identity, so did India.     DING DING DING!  EPIPHANY TIME.  I am not This or That because I am so much more.

Real Yoga sure as hell ain’t about the asana but I already knew that.  108 Sun Salutations or a sick arm balance would not have helped me when I learned that the woman I thought was my mother was probably really my grandmother.  Or maybe my sister is really my mother.  I will never know.  Made up yoga, as A. G. Mohan calls what passes for yoga nowadays, could never help me with that.

Real Yoga is so much more.  It’s Freedom.

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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the Rune Inguz

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original upload http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/inguz

“Drawing this Rune may mark a time of joyful deliverance, of new life, a new path. A Rune of great power, receiving it means that you now have the strength to achieve completion, resolution, from which comes a new beginning.”

“As you resolve and clear away the old, you will experience a release from tension and uncertainty.
You may be required to free yourself from a rut, habit or relationship; from some deep cultural or behavioral pattern… The time of birth is always a critical one. Movement can involve danger, and yet movement that is timely leads out of danger.” -Ralph H. Blum

Runes are the letters in the runic alphabets which were used to write various Germanic languages before the adoption of the Latin alphabet and for specialized purposes thereafter, some of the specialized purposes being divination.

Today I had a tarot card reading specifically for my upcoming trip and the reader asked me to pick a rune out of bag.  I picked the rune pictured above.  It gave me chills.  The meaning was potent because my astrologer has been telling me for years that I’m “pregnant”, ready to give birth to something BIG, something that will rock my world.  Or THE world.   She has told me more than once that I am at the end of a learning cycle, near completion.  Done marinating as I like to say.

What is fascinating to me is that this rune is about male fertility AND the Moon, which is feminine energy.  That’s fine because I am a woman with more yang energy than yin although  yoga has balanced that out over the years.

From my readings today I learned that inguz contains the essence of both male and female energy.  That’s certainly Shiva-Shakti — if they are not held within the seed, there can be no life.

What Rune Inguz means

The first Osho-Zen tarot card drawn in the tarot reading was “traveling.”  Coincidence?  I don’t believe in coincidences.  Every card after that had words such as rebirth, totality, breakthrough, silence.  Breakthrough, busting out of stale paradigms, I can dig it.  The reader said that when I return from India things will be very different for me in my personal yoga world, that I should seriously consider finding a space for teaching.

I’m going to Varanasi, the city where the dead are cremated on the banks of the Ganges and their ashes thrown into the holy river.   Death and rebirth.

I’m ready.

 

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