A Travellerspoint blog

Strange days...

unexpected help...

sunny 34 °C

Last night I slept like a baby for nearly ten hours after reading more of the Tree of Yoga and struggling with Sanskrit vowel symbols. I awoke just before eight this morning after the most random dream. I was back in the UK and some guy I used to know asked me if I would write him a cheesy Celine Dion type lurve ballad- now this was weird because in real life he is the last person you would expect to listen to that kind of schmaltz and I am the last person you would expect to write it. Anyway, it seemed to be important to him so I sat down with a pen and paper and got to work... I struggled and struggled- I wanted to make it rhyme but having some creative pride I wanted it to be different and not contrived. Anyway, I was stuck and so, BETTE MIDLER, Queen of the cheesy ballad herself ('Wind Beneath My Wings' et al) turned up to give me a hand... She sat opposite me, legs crossed, red hair falling over artfully painted and chewed lips, chattering nineteen to the dozen about how to write love songs... "Honey," she said, "I know how you feel, sure we've all been cynical, I've been cynical too, but you gotta remember that one day you can walk into someones life and be the MOST important thing to ever happen to them..." and we talked for a bit, my song started to flow, and just as I was finishing the second verse, humming the melody and thinking about royalty cheques I awoke feeling slightly bemused. I mean if I'm receiving spiritual guidance from Bette Midler I've definitely spent way too long in Brighton... Well Krishna has many guises I guess...
I needed a coffee and a think after that one so I lay down for a while, loving my cup of Percol. No Shala practice as its Saturday, so I got up and did a self practice for an hour and a half. Today I really took into account what I was reading in the Tree of Yoga- I was careful to balance out the postures for Yama's sake- for integrity- one side of the body not bullying the other and rather than giving in to the temptation to breathe around the asana, I tried to focus on the breath as 'King', allowing my body to be a frame for that. I started with some Hatha Sun Salutations, and when my body had opened up enough, jumped into the Ashtanga ones with a new lightness today. Ashtanga really does create that cleansing heat that relates to the saucha in Niyama- I've started to pray at the start of a practice- a little prayer to Krishna that any energy I have hanging around or in me thats maybe not useful should be taken and recycled, transmuted into something that is of use and moves forward... And sometimes I ask Krishna to give any necessary adjustments too so in a way the practice is surrendered and I don't think of it in terms of whether or not I'm going 'further' today then yesterday. Because another thing I'm learning is that the physical patterns relate to the mental patterns and so you have to have patience- one day you can do something, the other you can't and sometimes it seems to go in circles but why should the process of Yoga development be so linear? I remember once I was in a Gary Carter Yoga workshop and he pointed out that the body and joints did not move in a linear way but often tend towards the circular and I guess this relates too. Its a nice little visualization to imagine misty blue hands adjusting you within your zone. I've also had quite a lot of pain the past couple of days but when I've taken the time to approach the practice in this way it doesn't hurt. I was worried I'd hurt myself, but I'm not doing any asana practice here that I wasn't doing regularly at home but I do have time to think about things I didn't when I was at home and I think thats it.
It was a beautiful practice today and then I had a long hot honey shower-gel shower, gave myself an almond oil face massage and headed into town. I've found a good internet cafe here that you don't have to queue for, tucked away in an old building above the market. The market just out of the KR circle which is all cobbled streets and green trees over the stalls, it has a bit of a Saint Malo vibe about it and I'm very fond of it. Bumped into Maviya from the fabric shop, in fact I keep bumping into him. I'm going to head to the Art Gallery and check out some local art. My next Iyengar book to read is 'The Art of Yoga' where he discusses the Yogi as artist which I'm looking forward to. Iyengar used to hang around with Vanda Scaravelli in Florence so it should be a good one...

Posted by victoria8 23:18 Archived in India Tagged women Comments (0)

Natyashastra

more dancing

sunny 34 °C

Dragged my ass out of bed and down to the Shala for 6am self practice- it flowed ok today though I'm still suffering some stiffness. I was talking about it to Nick later on though, and came to the conclusion that as it took me a few months of intense and mental gym work outs to turn my hamstrings into the balls of tension they are at the moment they're not going to unwind straight away so I have to keep going easy- its probably a good thing that after this month of Ashtanga I'll be doing a month of much more gentle practice and then Ashtanga balanced out with Yin in March up North. Some asanas I used to dislike and find a chore are now a pleasure because I was such a forward bending fan before that would take precedence, so its good exploration. Afterwards I was exhausted so I had some juice and went back to bed for an hour and then I met up with Nick and we went to see Vasundhara Doraswamy again for more dancing..
I love listening to Vasundhara- she is this really intoxicating mixture of scholar in the true sense that she has done groundbreaking research into the history of movement, dance, Yoga, mudras and she is fascinating to talk to, with a real presence around her- she is also part old style Diva with men kneeling on the ground and kissing her feet which she accepts graciously... She has a strong physique and can move so, so fast and precisely, and eyes the colour of dark rain. All forms of Indian classical dance are based on a book called the Natyashastra (I think 'shastra' means secret) written by a sage called Baratha around the 4th Century BC. Often viewed as the fifth Veda, it is also one of the sources for music and drama. And according to the Natyashastra all dance forms revolve around the nine 'rasas'/emotions. These are happiness, sorrow, anger, compassion, disgust, wonder, fear, courage and serenity, these emotions being expressed in great part through the hand mudras. So, through dance the very best and the very worst of the human condition is expressed. I want to get a copy of the Natyashastra to study because this would be a good key to understanding other forms of Indian imagery such as sculpture- and elements of Western art, as well as the traditional Tarot imagery... Anyway, we had a good hours lesson, it got hot and sweaty, and it can be difficult to focus but you just have to repeat repeat repeat and it starts to come and then you get this odd moment of bliss. Theres a local dance event in the Palace on Sunday evening and so we got passes for that and we're going to get dressed up, go for lunch, and then go watch dance.
In the afternoon we went to the Chakra House for lunch which is this beautiful really chilled out cafe just round the back of my house- I didn't realize it was so close, I had tofu and veg scramble which was really good. Then I felt tired, its hot today, so I just headed home to shower and read my 'Tell Me Why' childrens guide to the history of India- its a really good series thats only published in India and intelligent enough for an adult to learn from- lots of good stuff about the history of Buddhism in India and that kind of thing- Sushruta, the author of the Sushruta Samhita, the worlds first surgeon who lived in the 6th Century BC, invented the nose job- in fact, his technique is practised almost unchanged by plastic surgeons to this day... The Mauryan Emperor Ashoka who commissioned great pillars of stone inscribed with Buddhist teachings in Pali, a simple form of Sanskrit that the common people spoke and had them erected all over his empire... all really interesting...

Theres three classes in the Shala tomorrow- they seem to have realized that theres too many people for just two. I'm glad. Hopefully it won't be like trying to get backstage at a Robbie Williams concert then. When I finished practice this morning there was a crowd just waiting- to self practice! Thats why sometimes I'd rather do it at home, I was getting other peoples sweat dripped on me again first thing. And sweaty tight muscles in camouflage shorts all start to look the same after a while. Theres such a huge emphasis on the physical here that people don't even question it. I guess that to get into some of the advanced balances your mind has to have trained itself to a degree to get there, but looking around I see two approaches- one is working with the breath and 'yielding' to the asanas in a flow that comes from natural order. The other, and you see it a lot, usually its men, is pushing and pulling into the asanas using muscular effort- and that can work too, but to me it looks like a 'sandpapery' approach, almost chaotic. My lessons at 5.35am tomorrow. I'm not too good at going to bed early so I may just rest and sleep and do Sanskrit study for the rest of the day after that. Power cuts again tonight, I now have a good little array of household candles at the ready...

Posted by victoria8 05:42 Archived in India Tagged women Comments (0)

Perfume

and Indian time

sunny 34 °C

Got up early this morning, 4.45am, had 2 cups of coffee, didn't want to be crowded in the Shala in self-practice so did a 2 hour practice at home and worked through it well, it was pretty focussed. Glowed afterwards and needed 2 showers before I could leave the house at 10am... I was on a mission today, I brought some clothes with me that are too hot to wear and weighing down my rucksack and wanted to send some of the stuff that I've bought here home- like my flame red Yoga mat bag with the yellow sun salutations embroidered down them (oh the AYRI is a haven of Yoga merchandise, if I wore some of the trousers I've bought here back in Brighton I think I would be banished from the city gates) and my blue and silver silk clothes etc, I have to travel light after all. So, today I got my first taste of 'Indian time'- its a little like Celtic time except the heat makes it longer. I thought it would take 20 minutes to sort out a parcel, oh no no no how wrong I was- and it was hard being a little lunar irritable today... first I had to take it to a tailor to get it sewn up in cotton. Then I had to fill out customs forms and they don't give you two- no you have to then go photocopy them. Then a queue in the post office- start to finish the process took nearly 3 hours.... At one point I got so ratty the tailor politely suggested I take myself off for lunch. Rather than sitting in a chair and sulking and looking pointedly at the time presumably. Actually i found a great new place for lunch, even better than Indras I think- its called 'The Modern Cafe' and its a proper old stylee Indian diner with a seperate section for ladies and everything so I didn't get stared at too much whilst in my bad humour- well, until I inadvertantly ordered the Indian equivalent of a truckers breakfast- when that small mountain arrived at my table I got a few looks- small children staring at it and asking their mothers if I was really going to eat all that, that kind of thing... a massive pile of rice dosas and veg. Actually I did pretty well and it was good so the rest of the parcel fiasco wasn't so bad. It got sent.

To recover from the trauma I went shopping, secure in the knowledge I wouldn't spend more than about 3 or 4 quid- so I went to the sweet stall in the market- Guru Sweets that make the best 'pak' in Mysore- that is, a crumbly thing made of ghee and maize flour and awesome, sort of fudgey, it reminds me of something but I'm not sure what.... this week seems to be all about eating, its a good thing I'm doing the Ashtanga... Then I went to go buy some fruit and got accosted by one of the little artful dodger types that hangs around the market. Actually I met him last week and he showed me round the shops then- really cute and about 10, he charmed me with his confidence- he walks around like a 45 year old managing director and when the other guys in the market saw I was with him they left me alone! It turns out that his uncle Noor has a perfume/oils/incense shop in the market and so I got taken there and got an incense making demo and some free samples- its amazing, they actually put honey in it so its all squidgy round the sticks. And a visitors book because its one of the place where Parisian perfume makers go for their ingredients. It is a family business that has been running for over forty years there. And I tried some Calvin Klein 'eternity' blend made entirely from oils, nothing artificial, that Noor reckons Calvin cribbed from Mysore '9 Flowers' blend. I talked to Noor for a while and tried on every single oil there as I'm into aromatherapy in a big way, ever since I got 'Aromathereapy and the Mind' by Julia Lawless- oils are very powerful. I bought a minute amount of blended jasmine oil for perfume and emerged from the market smelling like a cheap whore in Rotherham on a Saturday night and considering opening up a shop in Brighton- a tiny one- selling nothing but incense made by the lovely Noor and his eyelashes... we had a bit of a mutual eye admiration thing going on (he was staring in my eyes going "What are they? Green?" while I giggled a bit), it was fun...
Then home. I wanted to study this evening but plagued by power cuts this past couple of days- I'm so glad I was anal enough to bring a torch with me...

Posted by victoria8 06:54 Archived in India Tagged women Comments (0)

Chamundi Hill

photos photos

sunny 34 °C

On Tuesday, no practice as it was a moon day.... So I did an hour and a half at home then went for a papaya and soya smoothie and Susan and i climbed Chamundi Hill....

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Its a beautiful walk to the top and over one thousand steps... So we pounded up there in the searing heat in our trainers and hats- going up there is a glutes workout and coming down is a quads and theres monkeys everywhere, and unfortunately, quite a bit of rubbish just dumped there.... We were both feeling a little tense (women/moon stuff) and I think we dealt very well with the hoards of people around- we got our photos taken a million times, my goodness theres going to be some really nasty sweaty images of us circulating India- and the thing that makes me laugh every time is that you get these cheeky young lads, and they come up to you in quite a cocky jovial way, brandishing their cameras... So you go along with the banter and have a bit of a laugh with them, and just as you're grinning for the camera you turn round to look at them, and boom, suddenly they've metamorphosed into 'Victorian Dad'- arms straight down by their sides, back rigid, impassive face regarding the camera sternly, then, click, the photos done and they go back to normal, its really weird...
Anyway, it was a lovely walk and we're both into exercise so we didn't hang about, stopped for pineapple and melon and eventually got all the way up to the temple. Halfway up the hill theres the most incredibly huge sixteen foot high granite statue of the bull deity Nandi that guards the hill and has its own staff.... It was a gift to the city of Mysore from the Maharaja back in 1659 and resonates with something.. All the repeated anointing with oil and sacred waters over the years have turned it black. Apparently theres a long long history of this hill being an important place, legend says that for years both animal and human sacrifices were made up here- but not after the early eighteenth century. The temple at the top is a twelfth century Dravidian structure and it is just stunning- the tower that you can see for miles is wonderful, and interesting. I joined the long queue of pilgrims and had a walk around. There is a solid gold statuette of the Goddess Chamundeswari, one of the forms of Kali, inside and some beautiful carvings, crescent moons and the like. Theres also two smaller shrines, to Ganesh and Anjaneya. I stopped and made an offering to Ganesh, a good deity to be in cahoots with if you're a bit of a risk taker...

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We were so tired afterwards that we just headed back to Gokulum for food and bed. I found out where the home-made chocolate shop is, though I'm not sure that was a good discovery.... I went for an evening walk and found a Sanskrit book for my class for 25 rupees and spent quite a bit of time writing out my homework- 4 consonants followed by every single vowel, over and over again, using the proper alphabet which I'm really having to work on. I'm quite a visual person but its not easy to get the lines right and have the professional 'level' look to your script. I tend to look at the letters and see little pictures in them- like a gimp with a neck chain on, or a cobra about to strike- I wonder if anyone ever used the Sanskrit alphabet as a system of divination? Probably, I'm sure its not an original thought.. Anyway, I'm determined to crack it, the lessons are refreshingly strict and structured, its like when I used to have Latin lessons at the age of 9 with a 'steel lady' like Margaret Thatcher.. You get told off for talking or smiling! I got told off for missing a class (though it was due to last day of Panchakarma when I couldn't be more than 15 feet away from a toilet for 5 hours for everyones sake) and told to put my pen down and 'Listen Properly!' Its great, it makes you remember it, because if you're a Sanskrit virgin it would be overwhelming being left to your own devices. The good thing about it is that it is very logical. In the local paper yesterday it said that they are trying to make it more of a 'living language' again, and to start teaching Scientific subjects at university in it so that it is vital, and not only associated with 'tradition'. It'll be interesting to see if that takes off.

Posted by victoria8 06:54 Archived in India Tagged women Comments (0)

The Full Moon...

the sweetest moon...

sunny 32 °C

Went to see Dr Kumar for last consultation. My 'vata' and 'pitta' energies now in synch. He asked how I felt and I told him that mainly it was mental, I felt happier all round. I got some clove pills too, for annoying sore throat thing.And we talked a little abour Ayurveda and he told me that all the treatments I had had were used in exactly the same way four thousand years ago, its documented. He's got a real passion for his work, I could happily have sat there all night, I asked him whether it related to Chinese medicine at all as it seemed to have that same 'alchemical' element and he told me that the Chinese medicine came from the Ayurvedic system way way back in the day. We talked about how intelligent it is- that when used properly it cures you of things you didn't even know were wrong, that more people should be aware of it. He's done some teaching in the West- the USA and Canada too. He let me take his photo too! I told him that I want to return once a year for a Panchakarma for the rest of my life! It was truly such a pleasure to meet him and go there. Its a shame his photos blurred- I had it on the wrong focus so he has a bit of a Francis Bacon thing going on but its not too bad- the other one I took of him was just full of strange lights- i think probably ancient spirit forces of Ayurvedic medicine got in the way...

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I can really feel the full moon this evening, am full of energy and just want to walk and think. On the way back from the clinic I hung out the window and looked up at the moon thats grown out of the horseshoe shape it was just a few days ago.. Its beautiful...

Posted by victoria8 08:08 Archived in India Tagged women Comments (0)

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