Tag Archives: yoga in India

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?

Modern American Yoga (TM)

IMG_0334I no longer write as prolifically as I once did.  I started this blog in 2005 and the Yoga Blogosphere as changed tremendously in 10 years.  Modern Yoga Bloggers have forgotten whom their elders are.

What some bloggers write about now I wrote about 3, 5, even 7 years ago: ageism, diversity, “slow yoga.”  “Slow Yoga” is a thing now (Google it) and I’ve been teaching slow since 2005 when I first came back from the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in India.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.

But sometimes things scream to be called out and discussed.

A long time, old school yoga teacher told me that where she’s from a yoga studio requires newbie teachers to “brand” themselves before finishing a one month yoga teacher training, i.e., make a website, a Facebook page, social media presence, etc., etc. etc.

Do the math.  If a large city has 1000+ YTTs, old school teachers like her and I are doomed.

BRANDING before teaching.

BRANDING before experiencing.

BRANDING before Living Your Yoga.

When I did my first website it took me 6 months to write my yoga bio.  Even after I studied in India the first time I thought that if I wrote too much about myself it would look like I was bragging.

Some people say that social media is the new normal. But I believe in what Buckminster Fuller said:

“In order to change an existing paradigm you do not struggle to try and change the problematic model. You create a new model and make the old one obsolete.”

Believe me, I try. But I’m tired.  Damn tired.  I believe in old school yoga teacher training, mentoring.  But my mentoring page is the loneliest page on my website.  I am not concerned with offering a standard 200 or 300 hour training because I believe in quality, not quantity.  Unfortunately, that’s not good for business because people chase the piece of paper that proclaims them a certified yoga teacher.  I can easily put together a 200 or 300 hour training based on 10 years of notes from the Mandiram alone.  But frankly, no one is interested.  Here.  I believe it takes 10 years of yoga teaching to learn how to teach besides having a dedicated personal yoga and meditation practice.  No one wants to hear that.

Like in real estate, it’s about location, location, location.  All I know is that in my area yoga teachers are a dime a dozen.  With yoga studios cranking out new teachers every week, there is no place for Yoga Elders.  I’m not whining, I’m just being realistic.

So I’m leaving.  Done, baby.  I’m going somewhere where what I teach is valued and appreciated.  One of my students gave me a testimonial:

 “Linda is Yoga. Living, breathing, in every aspect. Caring, supportive, knowledgeable, fun-loving, she walks the talk.”

That’s why I’m leaving.  Because I have too much passion for what I do if that makes any sense.

Goddess willing, I’ll live in Kerala, India by the end of next year and into 2017.  I’ve already started to look at houses to rent with space to teach.  I’ve been asked to do teacher trainings in India.  When I’m in India and I am asked what I do and I say “I’m a yoga teacher” people actually have respect for that.  They ask me who my guru is instead of telling me, “I do Pilates.”  No one asks  me what style of yoga do I teach.  I’m asked not to leave, to stay and teach, to help people.  No one pillories me for using the phrase “real yoga.”

Yeah, I said it.  REAL YOGA.  I’ve always said the real yoga kicks in during a health crisis or dealing with your own mortality. My yoga sadhana helped me through an ovarian cancer scare years ago.  It made me realize that “I am not this body” and it brought me peace.  When my time comes I’ll be chanting and doing pranayama, Goddess willing.  Thanks to my friend Cora Wen for making this beautiful video.

But what Cora talks about in her video, you can’t brand it.  You can’t Instagram it,  You can’t trademark it.

You can only live it.  Because Yoga is Life.

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

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.

Mark Whitwell on Kausthub Desikachar

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

Part 1:

Part 2:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And yet it didn’t.”