Last Day in India

Tues, 9-Jan

This is my last entry until I reach the US. My time in Bangalore, as well as Pune and Bellur, was amazing… and only got better each day. I will be a bit sad when my flight takes off from India tonight. Especially Bangalore!

One big coconut, good for 2 meals!

Mostly because it’s home to one of my favorite yoga teachers. Every class with Arun is a joyous experience even when he’s challenging our senses to the limit. He brings lightness and levity to every practice and truly knows what the body needs for the path of healing… “Hold for 5 minutes, 2 minutes is not enough to make a change.” Another, “tightened the knees, no mangoes, ice cream scoops or English muffins!”

Bangalore aka Bengaluru, which means ‘boiled beans’ has a growing population of over 11 million! It’s considered the high-tech center of India and the home for retirees due higher elevation and temperate weather.

Though traffic is a bit worse in Bangalore, maybe because of its super fast growth and lots and lots of new construction. It took my driver an hour to go cross town, about 4.5 km this morning. It’s not all cars, motorbikes etc, Bangalore seems to have more traffic controls, lights and one-way streets. It’s a city that requires patience.

And I’ve made a new vegan sister friend, Divya Nichani, who has offered her home as my home next time I visit. We met in Bellur and became fast friends being plant-based certified and animal rights. We met for lunch today at JustBe vegan cafe. Yum!

Before meeting Divya for lunch, I went to see the Bengaluru Palace. Ugh, a bit disappointing and expensive. Paid extra just to take cell phone photos in addition to their entry fee (because the defunct royal family can not afford to maintain this palace) and another handout for Albert Francis my guide. Frankie worked me for as much as I could give but after 20 mins that was enough for me and Nandi (Shiva’s bearer of truth and righteousness.)

Here’s some photos from a traditional Indian dance performance I attended with Arun and his wife.

A beautiful visit!

Goodbye and Namaste India, for now.

See you again soon!!

Gems of Bengaluru

Sun, 7-Jan

Every day has been full in Bangalore, from classes with Arun to exploring the neighborhoods, temples, gardens and shopping. My visit to this city will have a special place in my heart.

Experiencing the sattvic sukha of Arun’s practice is a great way to start the day! This morning, I took Arun’s teacher’s class from 8-10:30, with lots of front body openers. After a half hour of Svastikasana twists, we did several variations of Viparita Dandasana and Urdhva Dhanurasana through a passive pilgrimage using props to explore and advance our potential.

Arun has a special way of teaching as he encourages learning the essence of yoga through experimenting and experiencing the effects of drawing inward in the practice. Though his practice is almost always taught with support, the props can help you go deeper. He precisely, patiently and silently enters asanas, encouraging and challenging us to do what we can to simulate his demonstration.

After class, I asked Arun if I could attend classes tomorrow, Monday. Yes, 6:15am and 2 1/2 hours in the evening! Joy, getting my fill of Arunji.

Spent the afternoon walking the Lalbagh Botanical Gardens, The Red Garden in English. Only photos can offer more than words. It was a beautiful day weather wise with a bit of pollution.

The “loo” in the park

Then I found my way to Cafe Toscano after a shopping excursion at Fabindia clothing store. If you’ve been to India, it’s likely you’ve visited this store at least once. High quality Indian clothing presented like PierOne. Ok, better than that.

I know that “when in India, should do Indian” but as for the food, after 6 weeks, it was a real treat to enjoy a delicious cook-to-order pasta dish with veggies and a nice Chardonnay (from India.) Especially after a morning of much liberating yoga. And what do know, they were playing Beatles’ music. Love it.

Like in the States, the Indians are quite talkative. It not that I don’t mind talk, but most gatherings or restaurants are quite noisy. It’s the duality in our lives as we practice yoga, it begins to take us more inward. But then you will be challenged by those who are still fastened to the external world and their ego of sharing every moment. The Starbucks visit in Pune was probably the noisiest cafe I’ve been in (ever! I even recorded it.)

I only brought this up because I would have enjoyed my meal and the Beatles music better without all the loud chatter.

More park photos

A selfie to see if I have a bump on my forehead after getting out of those tiny rickshaws

Bangalore!

Sat, 6-Jan

It was hard to leave the beauty and peacefulness of the countryside of Bellur, but I have moved onward to Bangalore. This is the first time on my trip that I’m completely on my own other since my flight to India back in November. Wow, has it been that long?

I cannot believe how time has flown by and how much yoga I have experienced here in India during my visit. A full month with the Iyengars and their institute teachers, including some insightful Pune teachers, a magical week with Patricia Walden at the BKS Iyengar Yoga Center in Bellur, and now my last few days with Arunji at his studio in Bangalore. It is a blessed yoga experience!

Arun’s practice is a bit different from Patricia’s quick and focused progressions of back-bends and inversions.

Though his practice is complimenting our efforts in perfect balance. It is wonderful to be apart of his studio and community of practitioners. And I just love his ‘Guidelines for Students’ signs. Might have to incorporate.

Here’s my treat after Arun’s morning class, though I think this coconut seller charged me twice what he charges locals as I saw others selling for half the price. I might have to go by tomorrow and collect another coconut treat to protect his karma.

Then I spent the afternoon walking through a nearby bazaar market…

And look what I found, Iyengars Bakery.

Ha! No, I didn’t buy pastries. Staying away from anything that might have dairy. I don’t want to trigger my sinuses before flying home on Wednesday.

Patricia’s last class in Bellur readied students for a week at RIMYI in Pune.

We began class with chanting and discussing several sutras, II-15, I-31, I-33, & II-29 (the 8 limbs of yoga, an important reflection before beginning practice)

End our practice chanting sutra I-33

The first class with Arun’s the next morning, general class sequence…

Svastikasana

> Parsva

> UBA

Tadasana block btw feet

PP

> crown on blanket support, arms forward

> hands to ankles

> on forehead, arms reaching under

Tadasana w vertical block btw knees

AMS, hands at wall, crown supported

AMS, heels on wall, forehead supported

Trikonasana, 3 different variations

Ardha Chandrasana, on wall, off wall

VD over chair, head supported

Most of these poses were held for 2 to 5 mins!

Essence of Yoga

Thurs, 4-Jan

Our time here in Bellur is such a magical experience. I would describe it as living the Yoga. It’s not just the yoga we do on the mat here… it’s in every moment from the design of the campus, to the people who make the experience possible, to those who donate from the around the world to make Guruji’s dream come to realization, to the children whose lives have been transformed with education and health care. It’s not just a place to visit, it’s a community transforming through the essence of Yoga coming to life.

Guruji had such a wonderful dream for this campus and the impact it could make on the village of his birthplace.

There’s so much to share…

Our early morning walk to the village and seeing the impact Guruji’s dream has had on the villagers’ lives

Our puja to Patanjali, chanting, offerings and blessings at the renovated ancient Patanjali temple, the only one in the world, guided by an Iyengar family member priest, special connection to their Bhramin lineage of priests and academics

Our connection to the children of the village who are coming to the campus every morning for school, all levels up to higher education college; their alternative would have been working hard labor in the quarry with their parents at a very young age

Our delicious sattvic meals, prepared with variety and sensitivity to ensure that they balanced and nutritious (vegetarian, no oils or eggs, and light on spices and sugars) by wonderful chefs and staff 👏🏼

My tummy has been happier here Our yoga experience with Patricia Walden, who shines a the light on Mr. Iyengar and his divine teachings

It is such a blessed opportunity to to here embodying an essence of the Yoga that Guruji has made possible on so many levels.

A Special New Years!

Mon, 1-Jan

Wow, what a fabulous New Years day we had here in Bellur! It started better for me, after getting a good nights sleep, I even slept right through the New Years countdown. Basically there wasn’t one here, maybe a few fireworks, but heard none of them.

Hope everyone had a special New Years and wish all the very best for 2018!

Life at Bellur retreat is quite full with spontaneous surprises. Here’s, our typical day is like….

We wake by 6:30 for breakfast at 7:30am

Gather at 8:30 to walk to Bellur village for a Puja at the Patanjali temple

Walk back to campus for our 10:30am yogasana practice with Patricia

Lunch at 1pm (we’ve yet to make these times, we’re eating more closely to 2pm)

We have a break from 2 to 4:30, mostly it’s been an hour to rest, write notes, wash clothes, whatevers

Then back to practice hall for afternoon class from 4:30 – 6:30

Dinner at 7:15

Shower & in bed by 9pm!

But needless to say, this year being apart of Guruji’s Centennial celebration, special moments come up suddenly and our schedule changes to accommodate. So back to our New Year’s Day… it was quite special! After an earlier breakfast, we were told to dress for a special puja at the temple.

Every day, we walk this trail through neighboring farmlands into the village. The villagers created these greetings for us along our route to the Patanjali temple.

They shared that this Patanjali temple is the only one in the world. Guruji had this ruin of a temple rebuilt in Bellur in 2004. Today, we were a part of their the temple’s Abhishekham Puja, an auspicious offering & blessings ceremony.

They start with waking the “god” up with a massage of the idol, then bathe him with water, then milk, yogurt, honey, holy ash, and ghee. Then a cleansing wash, an offering of the 5 nectars (bananas, coconut, jaggery, raisins, sugar), and a turmeric bath, followed by installing turmeric paste balls on auspicious spots. All this is performed with non-stop chanting to Patanjali, expelling our negative karma and making these offerings for good health and blessings for new year.

Then a bigger wash and they drew the curtain, sending us away to do the 108 Names of Patanjali chant which lasts about 20 minutes. Quite meditative.

Basically, this ceremony was to “wake” Patanjali, “undressed, washed, feed, and cleaned up.” Now the big unveiling…

All decorated in his ceremonial flowers, fine fabrics and jewels to be presented and ready to offer the blessings. What a vision!

It was shared that this time between Dec 15 through Jan 15 is very auspicious time in the Hindi religion. This is a time to dedicate to God so you shouldn’t celebrate anything about yourself. Argh, for all those with birthdays during this time.

This was just first 2 hours in our morning, we came back to campus for class, lunch, and a brief rest before our afternoon class. Before class, we participated in planting trees by the dormitory, all medicinal fruit bearing trees. I picked a Jamun fruit tree to plant. They dug such deep, wide holes.

Fortunately, it was more ceremonial than actual having to do hard labor.

The day ended with a beautiful back-bending class with Patricia and a soothing pranayama practice.

What a wonderful New Years Day!

Happy New Years Eve from Bellur

Sun, 31-Dec

It’s been a few days since posting about my India experiences. Friday was spent mostly traveling to Bellur. I caught a very early flight from Pune to Bangalore, waited 3 hours at the airport for other fellow attendees to arrive. Then we took a shuttle bus to the BKS Yoga Center of Bellur, the birthplace of Guruji and his life’s dream to give back to his family’s community. It’s a stunning, magical oasis in the middle of the country. I’m only defining it as an oasis in comparison to the conditions in Pune.

I left Pune with a cold virus which has managed to get worse from the air travel. So for the past few days, I have been struggling with sinuses, headache, jaw ache, and clogged ears. It’s worse at night when lying down, the congestion moves right to the top of the lungs and into my throat which leads to not so restful night.

Even though I’m in fresher air than Pune, there’s still dust, pollution and dryness in the air, so my condition doesn’t seem to be improving. After two restless nights here, I decided to go to the campus hospital for some help. The doctor on call, probably just graduated or could be an intern, gave me four different pills, one antibiotic that I already have and have been taking, something to clear the congestion (seasonal allergy med), a pill for the pain in my jaw and ears, and a just in case pill if the antibiotics causes burning in the stomach. Within 10 minutes, I had a consultation, scripts were written & given and I was out the door. Hey, how come we cannot do that in the US! And no paperwork, no money, just health care.

The campus of the BKS Yoga Center of Bellur is a wonderful retreat center for yogis but more importantly a contribution to the community. Their website shares Guruji’s dream, “he started Bellur krishnamachar sheshamma Smaraka Nidhi Trust in 2003 to improve the quality of life for the local villagers. The intent of this trust is to bring about a silent revolution and uplift the entire local community. Guruji believed that good health and education would form a firm foundation for social and economic reforms.”

http://belluriyengaryogacenter.com/yoga-retreat/#bksabout

Sadly, though he approved the development and plans, he didn’t get to see his dream come to life. But here we are, living it!

My Last Class at RIMYI

Thurs, 28-Dec

Well, my visit to Pune has been bookended with a cold virus. It seems to be spreading through the practice hall. Last night, I had another restless night of sleep, with sinuses creating throat congestion. This morning, I woke with too much congestion for Prashant’s pranayama class. Sad to miss my last class with Prashant, my last RIMYI class.

Likely after tomorrow, I will not have regular access to WiFi while in Bellur attending Patricia Walden’s workshop. I’m quite excited about being out in the countryside (hopefully fresher air.). Bellur is 90 minutes north of Bangalore and is BKS Iyengar’s birthplace.

New friends made Pune, here with Maria Calabria

Since I didn’t make class today, I’ll share my recall of yesterday’s sequence from Abhijata’s 9:30 women’s class. I have purchased recordings of Abhi’s and Geeta’s classes from this month, which will be interesting to listen while comparing with my notes.

Abhijata’s Wed 9:30 am Class:

Back bend asana sequence to open & prepare mind for pranayama

AM Virasana > AMS > Uttanasana

Repeated, connect to back ribs

AMS, move from back ribs not allowing shoulder joint to collapse

AMS, from head on floor

Ardha PP, bend elbows to get “diving of tailbone” (I’ll have to give this a listen again)

Ardha Padangusthasana 2x

Sirsasana > Ekapada > Ekapada back leg back, buttocks in

Urdhva Dhanurasana 5x warm-up, 5x repeat

> w/ partners at wall, outer elbows against slant board, pulse chest towards wall

Viparita Dandasana at wall, elbows against flat bricks, partner holding foam brick on wall to bring top & bottom sternum to touch, many couldn’t get without height

So we repeated VD with feet up on platform or grill ledge, partner bracing elbows, holding brick for sternum, hit top shins towards buttocks to back ribs

Sarvangasana, notice the lightness in the pose

Chair Sarvangasana w arms under front chair rung, C7 on bolster on mat, nothing on seat, use arms to to dig seat into back ribs

Sitting Pranayama in vertical bolster

Savasana pranayama, notice how this sequence helps with the breath.

Goodbye to my window friend