Spirited Pondy

In Pondicherry a beach town on the Bay of Bengal. Morning yoga practice of standing poses, backbends, handstands, and core work prepare body mind and spirit for another full day. India is super intense and saturated with heightened energy–kind of like asana with Desiree! I love every minute of it even though ( and probably) because its majorly challenging.
Early day sight seeing…first stop is Sacred Heart Church. A brief stop at THE Gandhi statue. A few blocks away is a short meditation at Sri Aurobindo Ashram then a visit to the huge Ganesh temple where an elephant stands outside to greet the throngs of worshipers. I feel most at home in the Catholic church. And today is no different. Upon entering I immediately drop into a place deep in my heart that is familiar and nurturing. In this Catholic house I love seeing the devotion of the Indian women in full sari. At the other Holy Houses I feel like a welcome visitor. We are all doing the same thing. All of us dropping into our hearts and connecting with our chosen and best understood expression of God, Divinity, Nature, Spirit…we are all one.
Second half of the day is spent shopping which is actually necessary as I have only one shirt which is completely tired and super dirty. Shopping here is the Bomb! Beautiful inexpensive colorful cottons and silks. Finally some color. My fashion homage to Johnny Cash is not cutting it in this hot vibrant French Indian beach town. I already can’t wait to come back here next year. For now, Sleep awaits…

– YogiPod posting from India using iPhone

Location:Pondicherry India

Heart Day

Feb 14

Valentine’s Day (also Michelle’s 40th birthday!) in Chennai/Madras. A half day of yoga study at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram involves Vedic chanting, Classical Yoga philosophy, meditation, pranayama, and asana. I am a student of the Krishnamacharya lineage. He is the ultimate teacher of teachers. To study this subject matter that is so dear to my heart this close to the source makes me beyond happy. It is a real learning institute. I’d love to stay a couple of days and attend a few more classes, But we are on a mission to get to Pondicherry by the evening. On the way to Pondi we stop in Mahabalipuram to tour ancient Hindu temples chiseled out of enormous boulders. The size of the temples, the incredible craftmanship of the carvings, and the stories they depict are mind blowing. There is also the element of monkeys, goats, and dogs running around everywhere which adds kind of a wild vibe to it all. The Shore Temple (in the photo) which contains shrines to Shiva and Vishnu is the last one we see. It is on a beach on the Bay of Bengal and apparently so am I! Wow! The azure blue sky and the ocean breeze remind me of home and family. I miss them! They are so encouraging of my studying and practicing yoga. Without their support I wouldn’t be in this amazing spot today. 10,000 miles away from home as I delve deeper into the history and origins of the vast yoga, I listen within and I can feel their hearts beat in mine. On this Love-ly day I know we are all swimming in the Ocean of the Heart together forever. Which does not make me miss them any less, only love them that much more.

– YogiPod posting from India using iPhone

Location:Tamil Nadu India

All Consuming India

Feb 13
A winding couple hours drive downhill through spiced hills, rubber tree forests, and small towns takes us to the Chennai airport. It’s hot! Wrangling a group of 30 American yogi tourists is a sight to behold. Our guides from Redback travel do an outstanding job. I feel well taken care of. One hour 40 minute flight to Chennai ( formerly Madras). Another cool thing about India–airplane food Is tasty!
On the ground, Dealing with baggage claim, finding and boarding the bus is not a nightmare but its not easy either. My suitcase is small and I’m psyched about it. Also super thankful for my comfy old running shoes and for the months of physical and dietary prep (lots of vinyasa yoga and daily keifer smoothies) that have made me strong and ‘gutsy’ enough to travel in this capacity. Keifer lines the intestines with good bacteria that ward off the intestinal/ bacterial disorders that plague so many international travelers. Knock on wood, right?
The Raj Park hotel is nice. There is no real city center here. Chennai’s population is around 7 million. A few random things I notice on the streets… Not much manicured landscaping of buildings or apartments. Families of three riding a moped together is a common sight. And I love the women in beautiful silk sari riding moped side saddle!
Our hotel is Eco- smart maybe just from a place of Indian practicality than anything else. Americans would do well to follow suit in some of these things..Upon entering the hotel room, there is a slot in which to place the (card) key. For the electricity in the room to power on (a/c included) the key must be in that slot. This ensures that electricity is not wasted when we go out. There is a timer on the a/c so that it will not run for days on end. And there are solar panels on the roof of the hotel. India eco is smart and makes cent$
Great dinner at an all vegetarian popular Indian franchise restaurant Saravana Bhavan. We are the sole Westerners in the packed hustling eatery. It’s totally the real deal. Savory dals, rotis, masalas, dipping sauces, samosas, and the best chai tea! Fennel seeds at the very end act as a breath freshener and digestive. I am completely satisfied.
Back at Raj park – I do my laundry in the sink and it is hanging all over the room drying. This hotel has a superb shower and the water is hot. It is only the 2nd hot shower of the trip. They don’t tell you that in Lonely Planet 🙂
The intensity of travel in India requires total surrender to the given circumstances. Mindfulness to stay safe and healthy. Patience with what ‘is’ in this moment. And utter compassion for all of humankind. It requires a balance of strength and flexibility of body mind and spirit. A letting go of preconceived ideas of how situations should progress. And the ability to find spaciousness, peace, and quiet in the inner realm. This is yoga. This is why I am here. Om.

– YogiPod posting from India using iPhone

Location:Chennai aka Madras

Instrument Of Peace

Feb 12
7am morning yoga up on this mountain starts out as a blustery practice. The theme: be instruments of the wind. This practice makes us more flexible and adaptable and more I’m harmony with nature even when its crazy windy. So instead of trying to always ‘fix’ external circumstances we have the opportunity to turn the challenges into beautiful harmonious music. The wind is wild, strong, cleansing and also can be fun! Just like todays asana sequence which leads to dropping back into backbends from standing and from headstand. Working with Michelle Baker in the partner work is an extra special treat. We can take all of this new asana information home to our communities!
Mid day appointments at the Ayurvedic Center entails a drive through the hills and valley which is totally rainforest. I am so grateful for the gift of balancing my energies that Ayurvedic work provides, which i need today. The clinic is founded And run by the local Catholic Archdiocese. How cool is that?!??! The Catholic church is very prevalent here. The taxi driver has named his car Mary Rosary. There is a Sacred Heart poster in the Ayurvedic pharmacy. I LOVE it!!
More asana late in the day working on shoulders and twists. Although no longer windy like this morning, the lesson continues to help me find harmony with some of the challenges of this big group travel scenario.
It’s an absolute blessing to be here but the heavily planned schedule and group dynamic can be intense. So now it is time to take the lesson off the mat… I must find harmony with the people who are most challenging to be around. I have to figure out how the challenging person can help me unveil my highest self and not the opposite which is the tendency for me and most of us. This is tricky sometimes but always comes back to the beautiful melody of compassion. It is the same compassion the Ayurvedic treatment woman showed to me as I entered her room, her 4th or 5th patient of the day. It’s not The challenges, but how we respond to them and work through them that are the mark of our innate wisdom. A couple of songs from different ‘churches’ come to mind… Make me an instrument of peace… Or even better…the answer my friend is blowing in the wind. Peace from India.

– YogiPod posting from India using iPhone


Dreaming For Certain

Feb 11
Surya Namaskar (sun salutation) has taken on a whole new meaning. Watching and breathing with the orange glow of the sun breaking through the palm lined horizon from the bow of the Kettuvallum is the most sensory rich morning meditation of my life. Everything comes alive as if in celebration of another day to be a reflection of the divinity within. How did I get here? Is it a wonderful dream?
Apparently it gets even better. A four hour winding drive where we gain 2500 feet of elevation takes us to our next stop. A few folks are very motion sick. I too am feeling slightly off but not nauseous, thank goodness.
Our destination is Paradisa Plantation Retreat in the Cardamom Hills of Kerala. It is set on a working organic tea, spice, and COFFEE plantation. Did I mention there are fields of coffee surrounding us as we practice asana yoga? OOOOMMMMGGGG!!!!!!!
A deep hip opening and arm balance practice is just the right thing for the post long van ride. Since this is the ayurvedic treatment portion of the trip, Our theme today is to allow ourselves to receive inner body massage. So we find the alignment of the bones and hold that with the embrace of the muscles and wait for the organs to move into more optimal spaciousness for more efficient functioning. Its not a practice of grasping for poses, rather an opportunity for the bones, muscles, and organs to come back into the natural architecture of the body. This embodiment is brilliant, spacious, efficient, grounded, and a balanced pulsation of giving (doing) and receiving (being). Tonights practice is breakthrough upon breakthrough for me in asana (poses) I have never been able to ‘do’ . Desiree is an extraordinary teacher of the Anusara method which teaches the innate pulsation of everything in the universe: stability & freedom, effort & ease, rooting & rising, hard & soft etc.
I now turn in under a moon illuminating a fragrant landscape and know for certain the sun will rise again tomorrow on a dream that is for certain.

– YogiPod posting from India using iPhone


Great Expectations

Feb 10
Minor insomnia. Five hours of sleep isn’t terrible. Plus, I might as well stay awake for as much of the adventure as I can.
Coffee before asana class at 7:30–good idea! Desiree’s theme today is about expectation and disappointment. And backbends! It’s totally perfect as most of us are coming to this journey into India as first timers, we venture into the unknown With expectations– just like backbends. What’s cool is that flexibility in the upper back comes from exploring ways and means of really lifting your heart. We lift from the support of the shoulder blades hugging strongly in and literally offering the heart from the back to the front. This bursts the front body open with beautiful heartful posture. Oh yeah and of course we practice it upside down in peacock pose and handstand. Once again an exploration of the heart leads us confidently and skillfully into the unknown. Instead of moving in to this work with expectations of how we think it should be, which often is the set up for disappointment, we honor the alignment principles without pushing beyond or too hard and see where the body goes. When given the chance to take its natural course, the body is so brilliant! When properly aligned she comes into optimal balanced operation even in upsidedowm backbends! We let go of expectations, adhere to the structure of this trip which is to see The Many Faces of India–and like in asana, not try and force anything and the magic just bubbles up and all around us. The sights the smells the unknown it ALL works out and the beauty of India reveals itself. We don’t miss out on any of it because we aren’t limited by preconceived expectations. My heart is open to whatever happens here.
Tonight I am sleeping on a Kettuvallum house boat in the the back water canals of Kerala. The huge orange sun set over a rice paddy to the soundtrack of exotic birds, moos of Holy Cows, and the ethereal melody of men chanting and singing prayers in the distance. All this and we have a/c in our cabin–which of course was unexpected 🙂

– YogiPod posting from India using iPhone

Location:Allepey Kerala India

Heart Strong

Feb 9
Still in Fort Cochin.
A great full night’s sleep. I am refreshed and feeling like myself. Yoga with Desiree at 8am. Awesome to do a strong practice with 30 yogis in an Indian guest house. It’s tropical hot like I love it! What a blessing to study with Desiree on this trip. Today’s lesson for me is to take full power of my limbs, draw them strongly to the core of my body (i.e. legs bones and arm bones snug into their sockets) essentially connecting limbs to heart. And to practice doing it upside down in a handstand! This is STRONG action. Through the filter of my understanding, by choosing to move in this new and empowered way in asana, I take it off the mat to consciously work so that all of my actions are strony and clearly inspired by and reflect the infinite gifts that reside in the oceanic heart. Whoa! And YES!! And all before 9 am.
More sights, shopping, and a tuk tuk ride before lunch. Scents of pure sandalwood, jasmine, and Kerala flower oils are wafting through my bag. Yum!
The day ends with a traditional dance theatre performane called Kathakali at the local Cultural Arts Village. The scene performed was from the Mahabharata. The professional and highly practiced players skillfully move, and sing beat by beat (just like in yoga) straight from their hearts to and for us who are watching. It’s totally interactive. And the costumes (Holy Cow the costumes!) are the only ones I have ever seen that might give Mardi Gras Indians a run for their money. Sacrilege… But really 🙂 Stay tuned for photos and video.
Tomorrow we leave this coastal, spice infused town full of incredibly nice people. This has been the perfect port of entry on this journey to the heart and spirit of the Motherland. OM!

– YogiPod posting from India using iPhone

Back on Track

Arrive Cochin 7:20am. Totally easy peaceful ride especially after the events in Bombay.
On the descent into Cochin the palm trees are everywhere and look massive from the air which means they look even bigger on the ground. It is very jungle-y. The excitement of arrival and exploration pump more adrenaline into my system. I want to get ‘out there’! Airport greeters and waiting taxis make this arrival a much better experience.
Short drive to Fort Heritage, the group hotel and finally I meet up with my Sister Swan, Michelle Baker of Swan River Yoga. We are roomies on this trip! We hug and have a little food for energy and we embark on our long awaited tour of India. We stroll Beaches and watch ancient net fishing, and peruse the first of many market shopping opportunities. Next stop: prayers at the Saint Francis Catholic church. You must take your shoes off to go in. How cool is that??!!!
Back at Fort Heritage, Ayurveda massage and steam bath await. Ambelie, a tiny, super-strong wise woman has literally removed all of the past few days’ stress and travel out of me. Her name means ‘moon’ and right about now I think she hung it! India, you and me, we’re back on track. Namaste.


Ticket To Ride

Arrive Mumbai Int’l Airport.
Go to Air India to get boarding pass for Cochin flight. The flight does not exist. The flight that is printed on two itineraries that I am holding (one from the internet reservation and one from a ticket agent at Newark) WTF???!!!??? Slightly in shock, feeling alone And farrr from home, I wander around the Ticketing/Departure area asking random people who appear to have some authority for help to get a flight to Cochin. My heart is beating so hard and loud that immediately my mantra emanates from there. Maranatha. Maranatha. Maranatha. Come to me Lord. Once again clarity replaces fear.
No help like helping yourself. Got online on laptop in a closet type wifi room. Google tells me I need to go to Bombay’s other airport to get a domestic flight to Cochin.
Through a myriad of asking soldiers (there are armed soldiers everywhere) and suits where and how to get a taxi, I prepay a taxi, a porter appears to carry the bags and escorts me to a small black car in a sea of tiny taxis. Backpack with me, I realize green rollie bag not in sight. Driver put it on the roof! Not attached to anything! I demand the bag be inside with me. He says it’s OK on top. Noooooo sir! I jump out and in a one handed swoop, hoist the bag down and put it in the car. The men and porters really don’t like for the women to haul and carry heavy stuff. I’m sure the gesture takes the driver by surprise. Mind you this is all happening in super fast speed mode amidst horns honking and people yelling and then ZOOM we’re off…
The drive to Santa Cruz airport appears to be through major construction or maybe just good old Indian chaos. At one point the driver stops, gets out of the car in the middle of what seems like serious hustle and bustle…what now??? apparently getting a receipt for me. In the meantime a couple of women come up to the car banging on the windows begging for money. I can only just look within and immediately my mantra comes to me and I am OK. Driver gets back in and we are off again. Um, BTW, My bag totally would have been toast had I left it on the roof.
Finally make it to the domestic airport. Seems not as chaotic but maybe bc it’s almost 11pm. I am pretty shaky none the less.
I wander around looking for the Air India counter being directed this way and that way and upstairs And downstairs until finally I am at a counter waiting in line to tell my sad weird story to yet another ticketing agent. In front of me are two Americans carrying yoga mats and backpacks. I spot a Redback Travels luggage tag on one of them. They’re on my trip! And they are having the SAME problem with the ‘non-existent’ Air India flight to Cochin. I’m with friends! So I buy a new plane ticket at the counter for 5558 rupees (about $165). I dont care that the airline company messed up. I dont care that the chaos has had me run in circles around both of Mumbai’s airports. I am just glad to have a ticket to ride. Now I’ve got a rock n roll mantra happening…
“She’s got a ticket to Riiiiide And she don’t care!”
Santa Cruz Domestic Airport. Mumbai India 2:30am 2/8/11

– YogiPod posting with iPhone


Peace and Football

It’s been a whirlwind weekend in Miami and Palm Beach visiting family. Hanging out with my gene pool totally enlightens and explains a lot about how ‘I am’. The South Florida clan is well. And like my Yoga Birds family, my husband and my blood kin couldn’t be more supportive and happy for me to trek across the planet and explore Yoga. The LOVE is just everywhere and so wonderful!
I have several more hours to hang out in the Newark airport. All the sitting and waiting and literally being herded are opportunities to deepen my practices of standing well in tadasana, chanting internal prayer mantra, patience, and compassion. It’s good prep for what’s to come in about 20 hours when I land in India. Actually good prep for it ‘all’. Ready to see the world, after the Superbowl of course. PEACE & FOOTBALL Y’ALL!
Feb 6 Newark NJ
– YogiPod posting with iPhone

Location:Newark NJ