A Travellerspoint blog

Pandanallur School of Dance

Dr Vasundhara Doraswarmy

sunny 34 °C

After last nights cooking I found it hard to sleep post detox etc and was wide awake at 2am until 4am... I read more of 'The Tree of Yoga' and what Iyengar had to say about the nature of balancing personal responsibilty with spiritual work. After all, you can't live your whole life in Mysore just learning great stuff and giving no thought whatsoever to the rest of life. Though it's tempting. Theres two paths- householder or renunciate (this is a Hindu idea) and they're both pretty tough. Like I often think, theres nowhere to hide in Yoga if you're really practicing it. Its like you've got some kind of Secret police living in your head questioning thoroughly everything you do and think and why you did or thought it, who saw you, who was affected, what you gained from it, are you sure it was that much? Quite sure? You're not lying??? You get the drift... the light shone in your face until you can't remember anything at all.. Anyway I didn't go to Self Practice at the Shala with a sore stomach so will do my self practice at home today, maybe even with the fan on, because pleasantly enough, you can sweat far more when the moon is full... Theres no practice tomorrow as its a moon day but I still like to practice alone despite that, I think it can be beneficial to practice when the energy is heightened and your emotions are a little exaggerated, just take it slower. Went to Anu's early and Ganeshe showed me how to upload my photos on the computer so I've added one or two to earlier blogs, not many but I'm getting better at focussing the camera and all that kind of thing, and I'm climbing Chamundi Hill tomorrow with Susan (who's lovely, a Canadian actress and we really get on) so can take some temple shots then. Though I've taken one or two, like this, of the streets around the Shala.blossom.jpg

I met up with Nick at half ten out we got a rickshaw out to go and see Dr Vasundhara Doraswarmy- world renowned dance teacher of Bharatanatyam classical Indian dance. Nicks been before but it was my first time and so I had to do a 'Pooja' a ritual to Shiva/Nataraja. As this is a sacred dance and an offering the lesson starts and ends with ritual. It all felt quite familiar, going shopping for the ingredients- including camphor, incense and fresh flowers. Another thing I love about India- you hand a grocer a list of ingredients for a ritual and he just gets them for you, no facetious remarks about goats or anything. A girl from Taiwan, Joanna, tall and graceful, gave me a lift on her motorbike to the shops, she was cool, really quite eccentric with a good grasp of Kannada too. She lives here with her husband who's from Santa Monica and she met him here last year; she kept going "if you feel like you should stay, then you stay!" and we went and got garlands of fragrant flowers and grapes and all the rest. If I was here longer I'd hire a scooter for sure. Actually, I probably will in Rishikesh in March. So we set the flame before the image of Nataraja, the deity of dance and Vasundhara chanted and I got that 'quickening' feeling that you get in ritual, when you're tapping into a pool of energy that others have contributed to for millenia and becoming a part of that too and bathing in it... And then she taught me a few basic steps- its a very strong and graceful dance, lots of stamping, hips and legs out as in Virabhidrasana 2 and a massive amount of coordination involved with the mudras and drishtis. Vasundhara has a Phd in her research between the correlations of Bharatanatyam and Yoga. And like Yoga, when you focus on the act as worship rather gestures to work through it feels quite different. When you think of a deity, and my favorite Goddess of all, Ishtar, came into my mind, under a starry sky with owls and animals around her and her lover in the underworld, the energy comes through you, not from you, although that doesn't mean my body didn't get tired, it really did. but there were a few points where I could feel the dance 'coming' though it was hard.vic22.jpg
I felt quite energized afterwards, luminous and yet grounded. Like in ballet, gesture is everything. And there are specific moves for all important human actions- swordfighting, the reading of correspondance- and, my very favourite, the application of eyeliner in one practiced lick...
Tired after, had a good chat with Nick in the rickshaw home about all the men who practice in the Shala, one of those 'is he or isn't he?!' chats I normally have with Scott at home- themes like why do I keep dreaming about this guy I keep seeing around here? And not nice dreams either, we're generally arguing- he's very distinctive looking but I have a feeling he's not someone I'd choose to know, hmmm, maybe I wronged him in a past life or something but he keeps showing up. Also plans for the next dance lesson on Thursday... I have the steps all written down to practice... Then lunch at Anu's, home for Yoga and Sanskrit later, then Dr Kumar for follow up appointment post detox and a party after that, with classical music, quite a full day today...

Posted by victoria8 01:17 Archived in India Tagged women Comments (0)

Perfect Dhal secrets

Sunday cooking class

sunny 32 °C

Made a discovery on Saturday night- if you want to explore Mysore its good to do it after dark. Everythings pretty much still open but you move under the shroud of dusk and don't get so much attention as everyones doing their own thing more, a lot of people are going out to eat or meet up and you can wander around, even sit down and watch the world. As Mysore is the Bournemouth of India, that is, a lot of people go there to retire as its a beautiful and affordable place to be, you see a lot of older couples wandering around. And strangely, most of them are holding hands or linking arms and actually look as if they like being together, not that you never see that in the UK its just not so common. These couples look like they're friends. So I had a good wander, stared at all the locals eating street food- the meat stalls are just labelled 'NON VEG' and found a shop that sells shower gel- finally, its hard to find here as Mysore is such a 'soap' place and listened to Nick Cave's 'Grinderman' on the MP3 player, it was good.
The Sunday morning practice was good- taught by Sharaths mother- a little different from the popular ideal of the Ashtanga teacher as the scary muscley Madonna-esque Hitler-esque dictator- instead, a slightly older lady in a long pretty flowered dress giving the instruction from the front of the room in a gentle way, but the resonance held the practice perfectly and it was good- though the Sun Salutations were cut a little short. Sharath was taking it easier today- in fact he came in halfway through and was a study of nonchalance sitting at the front with his newspaper (he'd fit in well in France), just glancing up occasionally to tell people to stop. I didn't get stopped today so I carried on until Bhujangapasana and then had to stop as hamstring means Upavista Konasana etc too uncomfortable at the present. And I regretted Saturdays swim as I think the cold water did my muscle no favours. Still i felt great afterwards and spent some time with my housemate Lily at Santoshas near my house, a breakfast bar run by a really nice Canadian couple and I ordered coffee to celebrate the end of the Panchakarma- nice coffee too, I don't think its bad to drink coffee as long as its not too often and you treat it as a ritual. And I had fruit salad too and bought this loaf of banana bread which was amazing and had 2 slices (unfortunately Nick and I managed to trough the rest whilst gossiping later on that day, hey ho it is nearly a full moon and bring on the sweets). Then I sorted out an Indian mobile phone for local and incoming calls and dusted my camera down to start taking a few piccys in Mysore.

Cooking class was great! Susan couldn't make it as has stomach parasite poor thing- Dr Kumars come to the rescue though, apparently it was her pitta fire that attracted it.... She starts Panchakarma next week!!! We've had lots of chats about the spiritual and emotional side effects of the treatment, I'm still pretty blown away by it all...
Anyway, it was myself, Nick, Christy and 2 others learning to cook chapatis under the expert guidance of Rajini; also we learned Palek Paneer, (spinach and cheese), Veg Pilau and the perfect soupy dhal and it was all gorgeusviccook1.jpgniccook1.jpgviccook2.jpg
and we had to practice rolling those chapatis out until we had the technique- the secret is to every 1kg of wholewheat flour you add 50g of soya flour, have it all ground together and you fold them over, roll and fold a few times, and everything gets fried in sunflower oil and they come out soft and light and gorgeus. The photos are Nick and I getting down to the rolling... So afterwards we stuffed our faces, but hey it was all good healthy stuff. I'm definitely going to make palek paneer again, the trick is to use crushed cashews, cream, butter and ghee for the perfect texture, and its pretty rich so you only have a tiny amount. Thats something you notice here, the portions are sensible so people are pretty healthy despite the richness of certain dishes, though in the South the food is lighter. rijini.jpgRajini also told us some interesting stuff about the caste system- that there are thousands of sub-castes and the caste you belong to can determine your diet; for example, she eats meat once a week on a Sunday. Pattabhi Jois on the other hand, being a Brahmin can eat no meat. The only problem I have with Indian cooking is the hours of preparation- which is essential, all the chopping, grinding etc that has to be freshly done- the four dishes we cooked would take one person 4-6 hours which to me is a long time- still, maybe worth doing one Saturday, i could just imagine the glass of wine I usually have when cooking turning into a whole bottle... It was SO good, and Christy demonstrated the perfect Padmasana- apparently this can help digestion...christylotus.jpg I had a good long walk before bed... The insects are out en force and I'm mad for repellant as my ankle got attacked by ants the other day and swelled up horribly. Theres also frogs everywhere after dusk which I'm not mad keen on. And the other day I thought I saw a mouse running across my bedroom, but oh no, when I looked it was just a rather generously proportioned cockroach and had me running out of my room screaming as the maid laughed her butt off and chased it away with a broom- it must have been three inches long and was even running noisily.... Do cockroaches attack? I'm a little concerned...

Posted by victoria8 00:28 Archived in India Tagged women Comments (0)

The Deepest cleanse...

weak as a kitten

sunny 32 °C

So, it was a taught practice in the Shala yesterday- a fantastic long 2 hours, sweated away, had a good place next to the wall, made it beyond Navasana, fell over in headstand because for some reason I was having trouble concentrating- its nearly a full moon and I do notice the citta-vrtti increases in the 3-4 days beforehand, as does my appetite, anyway, got yanked up again and ended up straighter than I'd ever been in it. Breathings getting better too, and I find that where gaze really does make a practical difference, like when you look to your navel in Down Dog you really do focus much better, so the drishtis are a good and practical tool- I feel that theres so many little integral parts of a Yoga practise that I didn't always take into account before, its because you have to experience something for yourself until it clicks rather than just go through the motions. And then after it clicks you wonder where its been all your life...

To the clinic afterwards; I didn't realize that it was actually Friday that was 'purge day'(!!!). I had the last oil massage and steam treatment of the week, it was good, my right knee and hamstring have really eased off so much, I'm glad I've done this and taken the practice a little easier. I was then taken to a different room- with, conveniently, an en-suite bathroom and toilet and TV, a really nice room actually. Then I sat in front of the shrine while prayers were offered and I was given a bowl of emetic herbs to eat- they had spices in, the taste was a little like Christmas pudding or mincemeat or something. So I ate them and drank hot water. This was about 10am. On returning to the room I was in, I was given 2 massive flasks of hot water, a small bowl of barley sugar type stuff in case I got light-headed and a chart to record my activities.... reminiscent of when I did care work years ago...
It was a strange day. First I felt really really sick and then after an hour or two that eased off. I finished reading 'Yoga and Magick' but then couldn't read any more as my head was swimming. I ended up switching on the TV (and I NEVER watch TV normally, I think its damaging and I dislike getting sucked into it) and watching a documentary about bears with Jennifer Aniston, an amazing programme about great white sharks and one about insects by that crazy man who lets them bite him. I also started running a bit of a temperature and got very irritable, especially when the staff kept coming in every 30 minutes to see if I was ok and stare at my chart- in one very dark moment I actually wondered if this treatments just a joke they play on Westerners and if they were all shaking with mirth in reception... and I also reflected that people go on about getting a bad stomach when they come to India and I'd just paid for the privilege...
So, between 12 midday and 5.30pm there were fifteen trips to the bathroom and about six litres of hot water downed. At times I felt ok, sometimes just incredibly weak and shakey, and at one point my thought processes seemed to change. A couple of things that had been on my mind and bugging me came to a very abrupt conclusion and it sounds weird, but I actually felt like a changed person by 6pm, as if some space had been created in my habitual thought patterns. Like I'd got off a rollercoaster. I also had a supermodel flat stomach and a complexion that glowed eerily. And one thing that happened, and I can't really understand this, is that suddenly colours looked brighter. Sounds became a lot lot louder and I started to feel hyper-aware of everything. I also kept thinking that I could see things moving in my peripheral vision. A very extreme day, and I would stress that Dr Kumar spent a lot of time questioning me about medical history, allergies, ongoing health issues etc before I could do this. He is an MD with a lot of letters after his name and an expert in his field and at all times I felt like I was in good hands. The clinic also do great things like run free Ayurvedic treatment camps for the underprivileged and so forth and I would recommend it highly. I can see why it was so important to spend that week detoxing of caffeine, spicy foods, sugar etc and living on warm bland food first, and the massages, its a really truly holistic experience, not always the most comfortable but really not painful. Dr Kumar came to see me at 6.30pm, glowing and gorgeus and enthusiastic ("15 trips! You good woman!!!") and gave me explicit instructions for todays regime at home- rice broth for breakfast, and rice and mung dahl, freshly prepared, for lunch and dinner and only water to drink. The rickshaw ride home, with my heightened sensory perception was an experience. I was allowed to leave after I'd had some nourishing rice broth and raisins for energy. I don't really like getting rickshaws after dark as they are quite open and you can feel vulnerable, I was glad that the driver looked small and innocent and about 16. And his cab, although I couldn't make it out properly seemed to be a Basquiat type collage on the inside with stars on the ceiling. And the roads seemed to howl with noise and the shops seemed to buzz with colour, it was nearly too much. Listened to my MP3 just to tone things down.
When I woke up this morning I really didn't feel like cooking. Had a nice shower and a lie-in till 10 then came up to Rishi's Internet Cafe and Rajini's mum cooked me the mung dahl and rice and it was gorgeus- I was given about a bucket of it, with ghee on the side, so I ate as much as I could. I managed to get the cooking class organized for tomorrow too, so theres 4 of us definites to learn 4 dishes, one being rice pudding (still got weird Ambrosia creamed rice inkling don't know where THAT came from I never eat it at home), I'm really looking forward to it. So taking it easy for the rest of the day, off for a gentle swim and a lie in the sun- after staying in all week I'm quite pale again so will do the cowboy hat and bikini thing... Nice to have a day to myself...

Posted by victoria8 22:32 Archived in India Tagged women Comments (0)

Detoxing everything everything

and the rest...

sunny 32 °C

The day started off well, I felt up for the Shala as leg much much better. Bit of a wait for a space to practise in but I just did a few stretches and waited patiently for my six square inches of floor space (ok slight exaggeration but not much) and managed to get a space not right next to the door but tucked in at the front and it just flowed well today, focussed and gentle. I had a very exciting moment where I felt the butterfly beginnings of a 'jump back' starting to happen but I'm letting it career its way towards me gently. Trikonasana felt great, strong and like being turned around on a wheel, and I've pretty much cracked Marichyasana 4 and it felt more 'spacious' today. I sweated pools on to the mat and when my neighbour was doing a forward bend into my mat, she got dripped on too, in fact everyone was in the same state. There was a window open next to me, but the air felt icy, being so saturated, so we closed it. I love that natural heat that builds with the practice, it feels very pure, practising in a specially heated room is not necessary with Ashtanga Yoga- though I tried it once and nearly passed out, not going there again... Afterwards I felt incredible, light and dancey and all was well with the world.

Until I got home.
The problem I have personally (this is not a statement for everyone) with practising Ashtanga is that on occasion I feel great afterwards, but in such a very assertive way that when the slightest little thing goes wrong it REALLY annoys me because for a couple of hours after practice I sort of want everything to go my way (like the Michael Douglas Wall Street 'Lunch is for wimps' '80's power mentality). And there was no hot water for a shower, And having just done a long practice, and being mindful of sore muscles and Panchakarma detox a cold shower was not an option. So I swore and shouted a bit. Then went and woke someone up to switch the geyser on. I got my hot shower though. But then the rickshaw driver on the way to the clinic overcharged me and I found myself using the 'F' word and everything, when really its a few pence you're arguing over and I usually just let it go, but it really got on my tits today. Anyway, I pulled myself together... Naturally when I needed a shower after the oil massage and steam treatment today I couldn't get that working either and ran out wrapped in a towel and made a fuss about that too. Then I remembered that in one of the leaflets Dr Kumar had given me it had said that feelings of irritability could surface and oh, they did. I sat down and reassessed everything. How I want my life to be, where I may or may not want to live, whether or not I want this relationship that seems to be pending to work(gave him a hard time via phone too), indeed whether or not I want a relationship at all, I've been having a better and more productive time on my own than I have in too long. All these thoughts and new approaches, actually an astrologer last year told me that the period 8-18th January was going to be an important time, and he was spot on.. How I needed the soothing Shirodhara today- it felt different again, sort of lunar today and it was very difficult to come out of. Then I ate my sattvic food and read a bit of Iyengar's 'Tree of Yoga'- he has this beautiful way of explaining things, I was reading about Pranayama and he was explaining how when you practise regularly it will evolve throughout your entire life- that you reach a point where you no longer have to count the breaths but end up not even being aware that you are breathing at all- and apparently fifty to sixty years should do it. Thats something I love about the practice of Yoga, it always changes, you are an eternal student, theres always something else to discover, it never gets boring. Also, the tree analogy- gave me an idea for 'Yoga for Druidry' workshop potential... The roots of the tree, the foundations are 'Yama'- how you conduct yourself to the outside world, the trunk is 'Niyama', how you conduct yourself personally, the moving branches are 'Asana', the changing postures, the leaves in the wind are 'Pranayama', the moving breath, the bark of the tree is 'Pratyahara', the withdrawal of the senses, 'Dhyana' the focus within is the sap of the tree, 'Dharana' is the blossom and so it is until 'Samadhi' which is the fruit of the tree. Interesting that he picks 'Yama' to start with as a foundation- that treating others right, doing as you would be done by as really the most important thing, before asana or anything else- I think thats a very Hindu attitude too, at least I think so from all my recent reading. And something we would do well to remember.

Left the clinic to a beautiful sunny day outside and went for a bit of a walk and just took it easy this afternoon, going to go out for something to eat later... I really fancy a coffee...

Posted by victoria8 03:46 Archived in India Tagged women Comments (0)

Shirodhara musings

and Sanskrit

sunny 32 °C

When I awoke this morning my hamstring was a lot better than yesterday- so I thought about going to the Shala to self practice, but decided I didn't want someones arse in my face (in a Yoga context anyway) at 6am in the morning when I was still in some discomfort... So, I started to practice by myself, starting off with some beautiful slow Salutations to the Sun and then easing into the Primary series (sneaking in Eagle and Crow as I started to feel saucy), I'm actually learning to love Janu Sirsasana 3- it seems to work around the soreness and is a really beautiful opening. And I got so into it today that I practised for nearly two hours. I remember when I started to self practice, I used to get bored after 30 minutes or so, with no one telling me what to do, I would start thinking about chores, work, boyfriend, how much I would drink that evening, study, in short anything but what I was doing. But when you do start to be present you don't get bored because you're really living the asana and you still get thoughts, but you can observe them. Interestingly, there are certain postures that will bring up random memories, almost like they get unlocked. I read somewhere if this happens it means it is to be let go of, like a butterfly. Like suddenly I could see a landscape in South Africa 2 years ago, that kind of thing. Or you'll remember a conversation at a party. Anyway, it was a good practice. Think I'll be able to handle the Shala tomorrow- I guess if I do both the taught classes and at least 2-3 self practices a week there as well as my own stuff I'll still be progressing and learning. And the whole detox thing means I'm a bit tireder than usual- I actually started the practice with some bhastrika breathing which usually fires me up like anything, but I actually felt like I was about to pass out so I had some water, a handful of almonds, and a sit down and started again.

Got to the Dixit Clinic for 8.30 am, the massage was blissful and oily- full head and body, it was wonderful. Then sat in steam chamber, sweated out more poison- I like to imagine that poisonous thoughts are leaving my body too along with stress hormones, tension and residue of last years wine. Then I went to rest and lay down in that weird, detoxy, tearful half awake, half asleep thing and managed to observe the thoughts from there as well, and some thoughts are starting to affect me less now, using the body as a gage, it doesn't tense up as much. Sattvic lunch with cauliflower today and then I had the Shirodhara oil stream massage. It was different today, a different guy doing it, who was amazing. It was like there was some Reiki-type (but not) energy healing going on around my head. I could feel myself travelling far far away. I saw a pair of stone hands opening up to reveal a landscape. And buildings in an arid hot Middle Eastern country. And a circle of bare womens feet as I floated above them. I couldn't feel my body at all. I was glad to lie there alone afterwards. And they left me alone for longer than they normally do, like 15 minutes instead of 5, like they knew. Or perhaps I'm just being fanciful and they were just smoking fags and reading the football results round the back and forgot to watch the clock... The staff there are great, very sweet, very young. I cant really talk to them because of the language barrier, my Kannadas very limited and they tend to talk to me in one word sentences- "OK?!" "Lunch!" "Turn!" and they laugh a lot and chase each other round a bit, its funny! I read a bit more of my book on Hinduism and got going mid afternoon.

I had the best rickshaw ever back to Gokulum- the drivers here really personalize their vehicles and it can be really interesting, like extensions of their home or something, like some have their baby photos up, some have little palaces on wheels, all silver and gold padding, 'Essex Rococo' stylee, and some take no pride in them whatsoever. This guy though, had a highly original kind of Pop/Graffiti urban chic thing going on though- he'd made a sign out of beaten metal that said 'City Rides' (i think) and nailed it to the interior of the cab and he had a kind of turquoise/pink Jamie Reid kind of colour scheme and little Rastafarian sort of black fringes hanging off the mirrors. I complimented him on his creativity! I have to start taking my camera out with me for stuff like that.

I've started Sanskrit lessons at the Shala. Had my first one today. Had to go and register for it in the shop and walked into an office by mistake and there was Pattabhi Jois doing his paperwork.. Gave him a little wave, he nodded back politely and I ran out of there quick.. Weirdly old school style of teaching- the teacher even takes the register to start (!) and then picks on people to read out vowels and the like. We had to keep reading them out, again and again and again and again until he was satisfied no-one was was mispronouncing- there was a touch of the John Clees as a Roman soldier in the Life of Brian about him...! He calls me 'Victoria'- thats how I've started to introduce myself here, rather than 'Vicky' as most Indian people I meet go "No! Vickys a boys name!" so I just use my 'good name' rather starting a debate. I quite like it, maybe I'll use it more in the future. We worked on the vowels, guttaral and palatal consonants today. The tough bit is that he wants us to have them all memorized in 2 days- using the Sanskrit alphabet- obviously writing in in the Western alphabets for pussies... I'm going to do my best, after all, I've learned the basics at home so this is a good chance to get a deeper feel for it. The chanting was fun, the Yoga Sutras, some of the Bhagavad Gita and some prayers, in praise of the 5 Pranas and so forth. I need to keep reading, the vocabularys coming but its a slow process...
Had beautiful dinner at Rishis, best chapatis in the world ever, with more cauliflower, soup and curry, mindful of my detox I gave my cake away to Nick who reckons I'm starting 'to glow' with the detox. It has to be said, when I'm not feeling tired I do feel a lot better. And its so exciting to be reading so much, I feel like I'm inhaling books or something, my head feels a lot clearer too. However, I'm looking forward to Sunday morning, when I can have a coffee and a swim (because cold waters a no no too at the moment) and not spend the greater part of the day reflecting, think 8 days is about my limit for that, theres so much I want to do. Dance classes next week. And its dance as a form of worship, taught by an Ashtangi too. Its all good. In fact the only bad thing about today was the call I got from my mobile phone company regarding the 'unusual usage' of my phone and how much I owe them. Aaaargh! Made a payment then switched the thing off to be email girl only from this point...

Posted by victoria8 06:20 Archived in India Tagged women Comments (0)

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