Monkey See

Feb 25-26
I have found and bought the most fabulous meditation cushion. It is Tibetan made in India. High quality and portable! The weather has turned cold and snowy. Even though we are just in the foothills of the Himalayas, it’s huge, high mountain weather. I sort of have the right clothes for it, although i look like i am wearing a bed spread. Morning yoga has been freezing but fun and beneficial none the less mostly because of the supportive group vibe and also because Desiree works us out pretty hard every time. It’s good but I could definitely use some restorative poses.
I’m psyched about my new cushion because I need to sit and meditate more, especially here in this auspicious place. Group seated meditation has been (surprisingly) sparse on the trip. Its been really challenging to get to my seat every morning because of the go go go go go vibe and the early morning lobby calls for travel. Michele and I have learned so much about how we want to organize our 2012 trip to the South. We are meeting with group leaders tonight to do some planning. It’s kind of like thinking about ‘what’s for dinner’ while super full from lunch. Funny!
Speaking of lunch…Today is spinach tofu momo (dumplings) soup, homemade garlic bread and chai. Hot & Yum. Chai is my new fave thing. Go figure!
Hanging on the wall just next to my table is this quote:
“A Precious Human Life. Every day. Think as you wake up. Today I am fortunate to have woken up. I am alive. I have a precious human life. I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself. To expand my heart out to others. To achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others. I am not going to get angry. Or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.” -Dalai Lama
Good messages everywhere! I can’t believe only 2 more days in India. So much I will miss, (like seeing monkeys outside my bathroom window) but I’m very ready to get back home to my incredibly blessed life. I miss everyone and everything! Love from Dalai Lama country. Om Mani Padme Om.


Everywhere Prayers

Feb 24
This morning the last intense travel push…Delhi to Dharmasala.
Hello Himalayas! The view from the plane is breathtaking. The word that comes to mind is MASSIVE.
When China took over Tibet, and many fled or were exiled, India welcomed the Tibetans. It is the largest Tibetan settlement outside of Tibet. We are now in Buddhist country. the Dalai Lama lives here. We can see his house from our hotel. Our hotel is run by the Dalai Lama’s sister. Super unbelievable wow!
Th contrast of landscape, the look of people, religious ritual and practice, vegetation, population density, and general personality of different states and cities in India is dramatic. The Ganges to the Himalayas in two days. It’s almost too much for my senses to process. I’m loving it but I am pretty zapped tired. The crisp mountain air should be just the right thing for me. strong asana classes are also hugely helpful.
We are high up in the foothills of the mountains. The road up here is all hair pin curves and sheer drop offs. Super intense. And it’s cold! The air and energy here is crystal clear and hums with compassion. Monks and nuns in the traditional red robes are everywhere as are Tibetan prayer flags. They are strung up in peoples’s cars, in restaurants, in the street, in the trees high up the mountain. It’s an incredible sight. Prayers are everywhere!

Psyched to stay in one place for a few days. PEACE!

– YogiPod posting from India using iPhone


Kids’ Yoga

Kids Yoga offers a fun and focused environment that encourages strength and flexibility, fosters creativity and imagination, and promotes self-esteem and a sense of connection with the world. Join Stephanie Williamson, a Child Therapist specializing in Play Therapy.

This is a 4-week series on Mondays.


Yoga 101

Yoga 101 is a 2.5 hour Saturday afternoon workshop. This workshop will demystify yoga for the new student. Students will learn building blocks for practicing 30 essential yoga poses. Time is also devoted to introducing basic yogic breathing with awareness. This workshop prepares new students for flowing and faster paced classes. Also beneficial to give deeper insight of alignment in an already established practice. Participants must be able to move up and down from the floor to standing without assistance. BEGINNER LEVEL. 2.5 HRS. Registration available online.


River of Life

Feb 21 & 22 & 23
Internet connections have been hard to come by these last several days. When I do encounter one that enables me to post there will be a barrage of recent blog entries. I feel so far away from home. And just want to share the incredible experiences I am having with everyone in my life.
We are now in Varanasi, staying in The Palace on the Ganges hotel. This is the oldest constantly inhabited city in the world. It is super charged with tangible energy that literally pulsates in your body. The Ganges is considered by many to be the holiest place in the world. Its an honor to be here.
Today started with watching the sun rise over the river. Walking the ghats (steps that go the water’s edge) is like walking through an ancient scene of morning spiritual rituals, laundry, bathing, and river life. A herd of buffalo walking in the water catch our attention so we just sit on the steps and take it all in. Out day meanders along the bank, into a silk emporium- which is a shop in someone’s home. We remove our shoes and step into a cushioned room filled to the ceiling with amazing fabrics and garments. We have chai with Vijay who’s family has lived in the house for hundreds of years selling silks on the Ganges. We stay there for over an hour playing in the vibrant fabrics and shopping in warm hospitable company.
We meander again to the Main Ghat and sit again inhaling this culture of congested bustle and ancient ritual. It’s so colorful and fragrant and it flows and flows like the River.
Our day takes bends and turns and we find ourselves in the maze of tiny lanes off the river. We hook up with Rikhu a local friend of one of the guides from Redback. He takes us ti his family house. Again we remove shoes and walk through the cow stables that are at the threshold of the house. We meet his brother who is a 6th generation Varanasi perfumer and masala spice crafter. Another chai infused incredibly sensory shopping experience ensues. Again we play. This time in the exotic scents of Sandalwood, Agar, Amrit Tara (Nectar Flow), Indian Green Grass, Lotus Flower, Jasmines, Frankincense, and more. We have more chai made with the house milk and the special blend of Masala. Chai will never be the same again! We make purchases then Rikhu takes us to the Golden Temple. He ‘hires’ a Brahmin to guide us through the temple. Because of bombings several years ago, the place is heavily protected. It is a crazy process of giving passports to armed police to get into this sacred place. We make the cut! The next half hour is a blur of holy chaos… bells, fires, monkeys, dogs, chanting, offerings, blessings, garlands, holy water. I feel like a pinball bouncing around and being all chai high in Vaanasi– it’s really so fun. I am so glad to share the experience with Michele. We just look at each other like ‘OMG how did we get here??!!’. Apparently this isnt even the highlight. The whole day is geared to Arati- the sunset ritual at Main Ghat. Arati happens every dusk and has been happening every dusk for over 3000 years. And I mean every evening- never cancelled for anything. Amazing! My night concludes on the roof of the hotel watching the moon glow light up the white hulls of old wooden boats tied to the banks of the Ganges River. I think of my uncles and how they would be fascinated by this waterfront culture. And then I think of Burke and how he would be fascinated to see this spiritual epicenter. Everyone needs to come to Varanasi at least once in a lifetime. I know this is the first of many trips here for me. Sad to leave and happy to be one day closer to home. Paradox in everything …
– YogiPod posting from India using iPhone


Elephant Love

Feb 20
We seem to go non-stop. This is an amazing vacation but not relaxing! India is not for the faint of heart. Today we visit an incredible fort that was the home of a rajasthani’s harem. It’s a nice 15 minute walk to the top that winds up the side of a mountain. There is also the option of taking an elephant ride to the top. Several of the group want to ride an elephant. I am completely opposed to it. The elephants are treated inhumanely and live in wretched conditions. Its so sad. Today it depresses me. They are beautiful sensitive creatures who belong in the jungle. There is nothing I can do except voice my opinion to a few people and not take a ride myself. My heart hurts. It turns out that there was an altercation between a tourist and an elephant just prior robots arrival, so the elephants were ‘put away’ for a few hours. None of our group has an opportunity to tide anyway. But the elephants are back in business before we depart. Gee wizzz. No breaks for them.
The rest of the day is a blur of Lassi Walla, more shopping, and another completely insane tuk tuk ride and a huge group dinner then back to the hotel.
The group is a bit worn down from yesterday’s bus ride and apprehension of having to take it back to Delhi again tomorrow.
We also have not had an organized yoga class in a few days. Delays and space have not allowed. It is starting to show on us group of physical asana junkies. This group of yogis is practicing another kind of yoga involving extreme patience, surrender to what ‘is’, and attitude in action. It’s way harder than handstands and backbends!
Tomorrow … Jaipur- Delhi- Varanasi. Bring it!!
God bless the elephants, please. Thank you.

– YogiPod posting from India using iPhone


Big Picture Attitude

Feb 19
Today we board the bus for a five hour drive from Delhi to Jaipur which ends up taking 10 hours. Needless to say we are wiped out and a bit disappointed mostly for having missed a day to see The beautiful palaces and vibrant street bazaars here. Not much you can do about good old fashioned heinous traffic. Good thing we are all yogis who practice keeping good attitudes. Despite the major delay we do visit a small textile factory where we watch craftsmen make rugs followed by some retail therapy. In addition to hand woven rugs there are exquisite silks, the softest pashmina, and so much more. Beautiful things galore. It’s hard to not go overboard. Tonight I sleep in Rajasthan. The big picture is wonderful. More from here tomorrow.

– YogiPod posting from India using iPhone


Beauty and Toilets

After last nights intense walk, most of the group is feeling a bit worked as we arrive on our yoga mats at 7:30am. It doesn’t take Desiree long to get us deep into the body, guiding us skillfully to open up for big fun energetic backbends. How quickly the contrast occurs! Although seemingly a big challenge for how we feel at the start, it is THE perfect thing to get us in the right frame of body for a very long day of travel.
Today is the midway point of the trip. The day we travel from South India to the North. Five people have left to go home and tomorrow we gain eight new members to the group.
The drive from Tiruvannamali to Chennai is four hours. On the road we stop at a gas station to use the restroom. The good news is that there is a choice between a squat toilet (the hole in the floor–which I have had to use once on the trip so far) and a commode toilet. Our guide recommends I use the commode as it is much nicer. Let me backtrack to the fact the standard of clean in Indian public toilet is far different from what I am used to and that in most Indian toilets there is no toilet paper. For this I am prepared. Public toilets anywhere can be rough. And I have deffo encountered some doozies here. Bavk to the gas station stop. A fact of life is, despite the condition of the facility, when you gotta go, you really have no choice but to ‘go with gratitude’. What amazes me is I see Esther, our guide, emerge elegantly and smiling from the humble squat toilet, mind you dressed in full gorgeous silk sari. She wasn’t all crinkle face, running desperately out of the stall, holding her nose complaining of the nastiness. Just another example of the lotus rising from the mud. A little bit later out of the window of the bus i saw a dirt hauling truck painted with beautiful vibrant images of birds and pretty flowers. Another theme of India… beauty in the dirt. Living harmoniously side by side. India doesn’t pretend to be perfect. What you see is what you get. India does not hide her dark side. India embraces the stark contrast of it all seemingly with no shame. Not that I want to downgrade my toilet standards, but this is a great lesson to take home.
We have just landed in Delhi, supposedly one of the dirtiest places of all – where the lesson is sure to be of help. More to come from the North…

– YogiPod posting from India using iPhone


In The Current

Feb 17
Sunrise over Arunachala is the backdrop for rooftop morning asana. The group needs a more mellow stretching practice. So Desiree delivers a sweet mix of hip openers, and hamstring stretches and a nice long savasana. Good prep for a day of activity and lots of sitting.
After yoga I head back to Ramana Maharshi Ashram in an auto rickshaw with Michele and chanteuse. Betty Roi. We missed bookstore hours yesterday and also want to sit in the meditation hall for a little while. Mala bead shopping and chai tea follow. We LOVE India!
In the afternoon we attend satsang with a wise man named Mooji. From our brief visit my take on him is that he is interested in illuminating the sameness and unifying forces amongst people and practices, not the differences that separate. I am way into this. He talks a while about big questions in life like ‘what is my purpose’, ‘who am I’… It always comes back to the essence of our embodiment is unchanging forever present divine nature and our bodies and minds are temporal. We sit for meditation again, this time led by Mooji. Very peaceful. A real blessed experience.
Oh, did I mention it’s full moon? Every month on the full moon hundreds of thousands of people pilgrimage here to walk around the base of the mountain which is about 9 miles. Michele and I set out for the adventure. We are DEEP in the culture here. There are very few Westerners.The people and the energy are a massive current and we simply step into it and go with the flow. This is the definition of Anusara. And we are in it tonight! Words and photographs just can’t capture the experience. The paradox is that between the two of us, walking together for nearly 6 miles for 2 and a half hours in this river of Hindu men and women in a devotion to Shiva as an expression of Mt Arunachala, Michele an I have quite different impressions of the walk and we talk about it afterwards. This doesn’t surprise me in the least and also takes me back to Anusara. We all adhere to the same Principles of Alignment and to the templates of the teaching methods yet, every teacher does and should have a unique presentation of the material. As well, each student digests the info individually which manifests as varied because we are experiencing with the body and mind. What is the same is this: the essence of our being, the divine light within has the same experience of union and oneness with all of these amazing friendly souls. Although at times the energy is frenetic and ecstatic, completely foreign, and admittedly out of my comfort zone, I feel safe and protected by the light that I share with every person– whether in Fairhope, Alabama or Tirunavalai Tamil Nadu India.
It is our last night in the South. A night whose energy will, on some level always be with me. The insane rickshaw drive home is the subject of another story some other time–holy cow!
– YogiPod posting from India using iPhone

Location:South India

Holy Hospitality

Feb 16
One of Desiree’s friends has died unexpectedly. Some of the group know him. So the morning asana class begins with a dedication to him which once again brings us into the recognition of the preciousness of the present moment. In asana yoga we talk a lot about the back body representing universal consciousness (the front body, the ego consciousness or ‘I am-ness’). We also work constantly on expanding and breathing into the back body which cultivates spaciousness freedom and courage in the body and in asana. This is helpful for challenging asana and life situations alike. When we courageously expand into unknown places we evolve physically, mentally, and spiritually. So today our practice is hip openers and arm balances. Lighting up dark the dark and unknown halls of the inner body.
Our cultural foray is to Arunachalaleswar Temple, one of the largest in all of India, dedicated to Shiva. You’ve really git to see it to even be able to begin to comprehend the magnitude and the ecstatic and holy energy that saturate the air and people. After a couple of hours there is a visit to the Ramana Maharshi ashram, home to one of the most highly revered gurus in the modern history of India. It is an enormous privilege to be in these holy places and to feel welcome to take part in and/or observe the rituals of the devotees beliefs. Sitting in meditation in the back of the hall at the ashram while the residents did evening prayer chants takes me deep into my heart center. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the hospitality of holy folk who let us in to their worlds of worship. When we trust in the Spirit and breath into the unknown, we evolve we expand we understand more we feel connected to all of humanity. Fear subsides and compassion blossoms. Can’t really ask for much more than that. And then there is the best chai tea in the whole world…om namah shivaya.

– YogiPod posting from India using iPhone