Tag Archives: yoga 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.

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.

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

UPDATE: who wants to go to India?

looking toward south cliff, Varkala, Kerala
the Heart of Yoga, Chennai

That’s a serious question.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YOU CAN REGISTER AND PAY NOW ON MY WEBSITE PAGE.

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

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

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

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

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

Let me know your interest.

not where I had my treatment — I liked the sign!
looking healthy and happy in Varkala

the writing on the wall

Enjoy the silence.

A week from today I leave for my 6th trip to Ma India, my longest trip yet, 10 weeks.   My internal alarm clock goes off and my body and mind start buzzing a week before any India trip.  If you’ve been keeping up you already know with whom I’m studying and where I’m going.  I think what is making the buzz even louder is that my bones are screaming at me that this trip will not be like any other I’ve taken.  It is going to be very different.

2012-2013 will be transformative.  Maybe transitional is a better word because I feel like I am a turning point in my life.  For whatever reason a whole lot of stuff is ripening, maybe that’s the buzz I’ve been feeling for the last 6 months.  As a long-time gardener I am very in tune with a garden’s growth so a sense of fecundity is certainly not lost on me.   I recently had an amazing Tarot reading and one of the cards the reader pulled was that of a pregnant woman with a huge belly lying in a pumpkin patch entangled in thick vines…waiting to give birth but feeling like it will never happen.

For most of 2011 I felt stuck, trapped in the tired paradigm of what constitutes yoga in the modern scene, but also trapped in tired paradigms of relationships of all kinds.   How to digest traumatic experiences without having them fill our hearts with hate and despair?  I experienced despair last year that I have not experienced for a very long time.  Buddhi (intelligence) is the function of the mind that digests our experiences by wisdom so that they serve their purpose of growth and renewal.

Fecundity, growth, renewal…see a pattern?

Toward the end of 2011 I came to grips with my place in the Universe.   It’s about walking my path alone, shaking people up, turning things inside out and upside down.   You best believe I have plans for that when I return.  But that’s not an easy path and not always welcome, even in the yoga world.

The Tarot reader said that India mirrors back to me my true self, who I really am, and what I am capable of.  She said  there are many reasons I am drawn there but a major one is affirmation, people that bear witness to my work in this world.  I’ve always said that people “get” me more there than here.  Going back to India yearly re-charges, re-nourishes, and nurtures me in a way that nothing else does here.  This is the first time since 2008 that I will be traveling alone in India and I am going to relish it — no one’s agenda but my own.   Freya Stark said, “To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.”

In her book Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman’s Skiff Rosemary Mahoney describes how I feel when I go to India, a solo woman traveler of a certain age:

I was alone, finally, with no one to protect me. I wanted to sing for happiness — a rare, raw, immediate sort of happiness that was directly related to my physical situation, to my surroundings, to independence, and to solitude. The happiness I felt that morning had nothing to do with the future or the past, with abstractions or with my relationships to other people. It was the happiness of entering into something new, of taking the moments simply for what they were, of motion, of freedom, and of free will. I loved not knowing what would happen next, loved that no one here knew me. I felt coordinated and strong, and the world seemed huge and vibrant. It was a relief to be alone…

My happiness was a feeling of physical lightness, of weightlessness, like drifting on air…

To prepare for her trip up the Nile, Mahoney read the Egypt travel journals of Gustave Flaubert and Florence Nightingale.  She writes that she recognized in Flaubert’s notes of 1850 the same kind of happiness she felt.  She quotes Flaubert as he witnesses the Nile:

I felt a surge of solemn happiness that reached out towards what I was seeing and I thanked God in my heart for having made me capable of such joy; I felt fortunate at the thought, and yet it seemed to me that I was thinking about nothing: it was a sensuous pleasure that pervaded my entire being.

Mahoney quotes Florence Nightingale’s reaction to a Nile sunrise:

It looks. . .so transparent and pure, that one really believes one’s self looking into a heaven beyond, and feels a little shy of penetrating into the mysteries of God’s throne…

This is the sunset taken from the top of a temple in Rameswaram and just beyond the horizon is Sri Lanka.   During that evening in 2006 as I stood at the top of that temple and stared into the limitless expanse of ocean, I began to cry as I imagined the monkey god Hanuman leaping from rock to rock to rescue Sita.   Like Flaubert, I also thanked the Universe that I was “capable of such joy.”  Such profound joy and pleasure that it indeed pervaded my entire being.

Finally Mahoney describes Flaubert and Nightingale as neither having “any desire to fit the tediously cliched expectations that society had slated for them”; that they both “prized solitude”; and both traveled Egypt during periods of “considerable personal uncertainty and self-doubt”, agonizing “over how they would use their talents and answer their natural impulses.”

I am a woman of a certain age who travels alone, relishing my solitude.  After traveling around the sun over 50 times, India was the first country overseas that I visited and if I can never return, I always carry India with me as a talisman.

I also do not suffer tediously cliched expectations gladly.

The wounds and arrows of my misfortunes sneak in sometimes when I’m not looking and I can only tend to them in the arms of the Mother.  One way of tending to them is by reading the writing on the wall and acting upon it.  The writing on the wall tells me “to inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me, to make me less afraid, more accessible, to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise.   I choose to risk my significance; to live so that which comes to me as seed goes to the next as blossom and that which comes to me as blossom, goes on as fruit.”   I will not die an unlived life.

The last card the Tarot reader pulled was called the Speaker of Trees and it contained a picture of a snake rising up through the center of the tree.  The reader said that the card means power, confidence, brilliance, communication of new ideas and plans, everything coming together.

I’m going home to shed my skin.

first uploaded at http://tudodeom.blogspot.com/