Writing and editing
category: Ashtanga yoga
tags: ,

Waiting in the vestibule at the shala, is really part of the practice. I guess the 4.30 kids don’t have to wait there, I’ve never practiced here at 4.30 – but I hear that lots of people have a spot, and sometimes folks can get a bit territorial about it.  Whatever, that is mostly funny, and I’m sure if I had to get up at 3a I would also be huffy about getting a nice spot.

Over my four visits to Mysore, I have let go of the elbow macaroni business going to led. It is a bit like giving birth. There is this big mass (in this case of yoga students) and a very small opening (the little shala door) and a overwhelming urge on everyone’s part to speed things along. Once everyone is through the door, it is fine. Waiting until everyone is through means I practice in the bathroom, but there is a lot of room in the bathroom! It would be even better if everyone turned off their cell phone, but I can hear Sharath and that is all that matters.

Back to the vestibule. There is something about waiting for your turn, that produces anxiety. I think because I am from Canada and there in no discernible line up – just a group of people sitting and waiting – your position in the queue becomes more riddled with fear and panic. Another thing is you are watching everyone practice, and you have time to obsess. As students are called in, “One More!”, everyone moves forward an inch to be that much closer to the doorway for when their turn comes. If you haven’t grabbed all of your belongings, shot up to standing and raced through the doorway by the time Sharath is finished calling you, you get

“Why fear? Come friend!” Which is actually a nice thing to say, but at the time the panic level has risen so high that he could be telling you that you will be bffs for life and you will still feel flustered.

Sometimes, you get all ready to go – mat clenched in your sweaty little hands – you hear “One More!” and as you are standing up to go in either:

a. Some guy who has just walked in, strolls in and leaves you with this total grade school “He budded!” feeling. Which passes in the three seconds when you get called in.

b. Sharath stops and says, “No, one more Australian!” or “No, one more, Japanese” or “No, one more Masala Dosa!” And since you aren’t Australian or Japanese and you hope and pray with all of your heart that you aren’t masala dosa, you have to wait again.

Currently, I am falling into latter category – I think because I procreated – and I get called in pretty quickly. By my name, thankfully.

Once I am in the shala I wait like a vulture over the poor person who is just trying to have a nice forward bend after dropbacks, once that person leaves I  slap down my mat. Only your mat, rug and a small towel are allowed in the room. Yoga clothes are waaaay too racy to be wearing around town, so I have a little bag with me for clothes, water, and toilet paper (there is no toilet paper at the shala and  if I am just peeing I can’t get behind the hose business).

Invariably, as I pull my rug out of the bag, the roll of toilet paper and my bra cascade down at Sharath’s feet. I pick them up quickly and try to pretend like I didn’t just show my underwear to 50 strangers and proceed to the change room cheeks burning.

I tiptoe into the bathroom because the floor is always wet and it is gross in there. I put my bum down on the damp toilet seat and try to think nice thoughts about yoga students and hepatitis A. Then out to wash my hands, take a small sip of water from the bottle I brought and I’m out the door and headed to my mat.

I get to my mat, plant my feet, check the picture of Guruji and it hits me. I am so fucking tired.

Vande gurunam caranaravinde

category: Mysore
tags: , ,

Some Mysore conversations:

1. Bedtime

David: I can’t believe it is bedtime again already. Feels like we were just in bed.

Stan: I guess it is only 8p.

D And we napped until 3 today. We were just in bed! That’s good.

2. On stirke. Kind of. Not really.

Teacher: There is no school today.

Stan: Oh! I didn’t know.

T: There is a holiday, all the schools are off.

S: Oh, so no children today?

T: There is a strike.

S: A strike?

T: The government is trying to raise the price of petrol so the schools are out.

S: (Am I crossing a picket line?) Okay.

T: But he can come for daycare.

They are big on the idea of bureaucracy here, and so are we in Canada. In both places, sometimes the execution of said bureaucracy is person specific. This exchange  felt comfortable to me as a Canadian, even if I felt like a dummy for having to later google the strike.

3. Sick

I have been quite sick with a sinus infection, and evil evil things are coming out of my nose.

Stan: (blows nose)

Holden: (wrinkles nose and blows)

S: I know, I’m stuffy.

H: I’m Holden

When I was a little girl, I thought every farmer had a couple pigs, a couple cows and some chickens. And then one day while everyone was minding their own business on the farm, the farmer (always a man?) would come out and shoot one of the pigs – Charlotte’s Web style – and then we would have bacon the next day at our house. I loved bacon, but I thought that arrangement was horribly unfair for he pig. My dad egged me on a little and on my 8th birthday I stopped eating meat. I started up again years later, but for a while I ate chip hotdogs at birthday parties and picked the pepperoni off my pizza.

Now I know that we don’t raise meat that way – or at least we don’t raise meat that way anymore. My whole family, except for the cat is vegan and I try to do whatever I can to support vegan organizations and spread the word about how awesome it is being vegan. You do feel so much better. Since I became a mom I had to really think about my choices and if they were safe for my baby. So far, Holden has been a very healthy guy and we are lucky that he has such a big appetite. As a mom, I feel kind of emotional about what breeding food mammals have to go through in a factory farm. Mercedes and Holden are my everything, and it is difficult to think of the horrific nightmare of being constantly pregnant and having your babies taken away over and over again to be eventually killed.

Anyway, I get to keep my baby, so my baby is walking for all the animals who don’t. On September 29th, while his sister and the AYCT team are walking for farm animals in Toronto,  Holdy will be walking on Chamundi Hill. Maybe not all the way up, but certainly up enough to get freaked out by the monkeys (okay that is step number one).

All the proceeds go to Farm Sanctuary. If you donate, I promise to send you a picture of Holden in his official Farm Sanctuary Walk for Farm Animals tee with the monkeys. He is very proud of his t-shirt which came in the mail for him and is for a child 10x bigger. It has a picture of a pig on it, which Holden assures me is actually a dinosaur. So, maybe he will be walking for dinosaurs, I don’t have the heart to tell him that it is a lost cause.

Here is the link to his donation page, with a super cute picture of him. Totally worth the clickity click.

Here is a picture of Holden at Farm Sanctuary in upstate New York this year, petting a goat:

And just a short drive from Farm Sanctuary is a place to get vegan ice cream. it was a big day.

In practice today, I felt all lightheaded and airy again. I added on my poses dutifully. I felt so breezy I came up from laghu like a spring – as though I was 50 lbs lighter. Which I most certainly am not. Kapo was fine, but also giddy and fast. I did my closing quickly and got out of there as fast as I could. I thought I might float away.

And of course, just when you feel completely ungrounded – India is right there to ratchet up the weird a notch. I left the shala and turned a corner, and right in front of me was a cow that had been dressed in colourful blankets with an ornate headdress complete with bells.. A man stood beside the cow playing a drum. The cow was slowly moving his head to the beat. I also heard a horn and it took me a few moments to realize where the sound was coming from. The cow was standing on the man playing the horn. No one seemed that astounded by it. I guess it is a thing. I googled “cow standing on man with horn” when I got home – and sure enough:

It is totally a thing. No biggie – one in every town. I felt so strange looking at his legs in kind of a yoga position – I hurried past in case I totally spun out. When I got home I didn’t mention the cow on the man’s legs for a couple of hours, until after I had some food in my belly and I knew where I stood in the world again.

Ganesh Chaturthi is tomorrow. Holden got the day off school today so that his teachers could prepare for the celebrations. They painted him a picture of Ganesh to hang in his room and gave him a bag of sweets that David was told were very good for him. Today we watched dragonflies at the pool, tomorrow maybe we will get to see the huge Ganesh statues and possibly more cows dancing on human legs.

category: Mysore
tags: , ,

Today, David and I have been married for five years. it doesn’t seem like that long ago, but when I think back to the person I was five years ago -it does seem very far away. My life is so much richer now.

These past couple days have been quiet. Going for walks to the lake and visiting he pool.

Holden got mobbed by a bunch of girls from the slum in Gokulum. They kissed his cheeks and played with his rubber snakes.  A man called out to them and told them to behave. They shouted right back at him. They are all limbs, fearless with toothy energy. Next to them, Holden looks so fat and coddled.

The nice thing about being here is the slower you go, the more people will take a step back and slow right down with you. You get the feeling like if you were to stop altogether India might just swallow you up.

I was initially annoyed that Sharath moved the moon day, but now I am thankful. We can put off worrying about led class until tomorrow. In the meantime, the day stretches out like a dreamy field in front of us. We can run across or just sit and watch. It is up to us.

I played it safe and stuck to 3 poses, but then afterwards I decided I should look more like a fool and so asked Sharath when he was leaving for the day.

Stan: Umm, Hi! Uhhh. Sorry to disturb you – uhhh I was confused yesterday, should I stop at Ustrasana?

Sharath: No, I told you 2 poses. Laghu.

Stan: Yes, thank you (sooooo confused)

Sharath: Kapotasana next week. Hahahahaha!

Stan: ha, uh.

Okay, I’m not going to throw shade all over that because I am happy to get laghu. I don’t like having a month long break from that pose because it always kills my legs to get back into it. After having Holden I had to learn how to do it all over again and it sucked. For me, there is always a couple days right before it comes when I can’t walk up or down stairs properly. Kapo makes me feel ill and scared but I can do it.

The big issue beyond being a complete weirdo around Sharath, is that I am TIRED. I have been working on pincha and split for over a year now at home and my practice is short, short, short. If I am in a rush I can bust it out in 50 minutes or less. Now suddenly, my practice is long long long. I recognize that it can only get longer. Here I spend my afternoons watching Holden run circles around me as I trudge towards bedtime. This blog, actually, is often cruelly in between me and bed. So, no more asking Sharath. No more blubbering, no more ashtanga math. I’m hiding for the next 3 weeks.

We went to the park today with some friends. Holden stayed in the same position for about 30 minutes while his friend played around him like a normal child.

He did come down briefly to pick up a turd.

Today after back bending:

Sharath: What pose do you do?

Stan: Bhekasana

Sharath: Tomorrow you do Dhanurasana, Parsva Dhanurasana, Ustrasana.  Mmm mumble. Bonus 4 poses.

Stan: Okay, thank you.

So, math is totally not my strong point that seems to be 3 poses not 4. If I just do 3, will he get mad and ask me why I’m not doing Laghu? If I add on Laghu – am I adding on Laghu – and will he get mad? If I ask tomorrow I am going to sound like such a tool. Sigh. I think I am going to do 3.

The real question, however, is: did I pay Sharath $700 to put my weird anxious shit on him for a month? If so, no wonder he charges so much.

Also Today:

A trip to the Rail Museum. If this museum were in Canada you wouldn’t be able to go inside the trains and play with the levers and the coal box. But if this museum were in Canada you wouldn’t have to negotiate with your kid about crawling into the coal box.

Holden wasn’t feeling very well today. I am back to fretting about him. His tummy hurt and he was cranky. He sat on my lap for lunch and dinner, but he ate some nice noodle soup. He needed a lot of cuddling.


Holden’s first school was a little Dickensian. Everything looked nice on the outside, but his little classroom was a small dark box with a stinky bathroom attached. When I first walked in, the children were all sitting around on the floor scraping chalk against small boards. Two-year-olds. Just sitting there glumly. The teacher was a bit of a bitch, but in strange preening way that didn’t really resonate with me. For the couple hours that I spent there, I was swamped with kids. Everyone needed a button buttoned, a clip fastened, a puzzle piece righted.  When I was a kindergarten teacher, it generally took a couple days for the children to warm up and start demanding help from a strange adult in the classroom, but not here. Holden was fine, but I felt badly for the children at that school. it cost a lot of money to go there, and I felt it wasn’t totally a fair exchange. Like where was all that money going?

Holden’s new school is in the head teacher’s house. His new teacher is a bitch too, but in an awesome way that helps everyone get their job done. The school is filled with toys and happy crazy children. Every time I am there, someone is dancing around the main room. Holden likes the monkeys painted on the walls. His teacher told me that she thought he looked like Dennis the Menace, which is probably accurate for a few reasons. He likes to sit on her lap and have a cuddle. He was excited to go to school this morning.

I am so happy. It is hard to describe this feeling, when you are worried about your child and then everything worked out nicely. Like nothing can touch you.

Holden has also been peeing on his potty, which has thrown me for a bit of a loop. I had been half-heartedly continuing the Toronto potty training here, thinking that we could just maintain, because who wants to fly for 30 hours with a newly potty-trained 2 year old? But yesterday the bugger peed twice and pooed on the potty. Today we had no pee in the potty, but some pee on my foot. Here, all the children are out of diapers by one. Holden is in these XLarge diapers, the biggest size before adult diapers, that I think are really just meant for night time accidents for children with less of a booty.

Today. Sharath helped me grab my ankles in back bending. I just started to do that a home, but I haven’t done it in almost two weeks, and my back let out an evil airplane crack. But it felt good. I am a scaredy-cat ankle grabber and can only do it with a few people – hopefully no one tries to cowboy me into it.

We found the park!

We were there early, and there were no other children in the park so we ended up being mobbed for photographs. We had to leave at a certain point because Holden couldn’t go down the slide because he was being held mid-slide by a group of 15 adults vying for a picture. But we found the park.

And I went to conference!

Conferences have changed a little. At first, there would be very long pauses, and then a series of shorter pauses in between each topic. I liked those pauses, they were so awkward. We stared at Sharath. He stared at us. No one spoke. And then, almost as if startled from a reverie, Sharath would  begin to chant. The pauses are still there, but they are less pregnant.

David noted he is speaking louder, his tone is a bit more forceful. He sits in a chair now, and not on the corner of the stage. The questions today too, were less provocative, more sincere – which is nice. As you can imagine, with all us crazy know-it-alls, there is almost always someone who needs to monopolize the conference in the most tedious way. But right now, thankfully, no one seems to be up for the challenge.

He still flits from topic to topic. Saying some very poignant things that just kind of breeze by you and as you try to unpack one statement, another one, seemingly unrelated,comes floating up away form you. Other stuff, I feel like I have heard every single conference – but like the practice – I can keep hearing them in new ways. Today when he spoke about Japa meditation, it reminded me of the first conference I went to in Goa when he talked about it. I wasn’t sleeping and I used that technique every single night for the rest of the trip to help me sleep.

This afternoon’s new/old insight, creating steadiness in our minds and bodies with vinyasa and in turn using this steadiness to create a calm mind. He spoke later about learning how to manage ourselves and our thoughts and I immediately thought of my emotional and overwrought reaction to Holden’s school. I wonder if sometimes I am just used to feeling rather stable with this practice, that when I am clearly not stable – I imagine something is dreadfully, horribly wrong. I mean, the school was nice, it isn’t Syria or anything – just not the right fit perhaps – no reason to feel totally victimized. It is interesting how easily I can be thrown off track. I still have a long way to go, which is fine.

The complete conference notes from a competent person who doesn’t make everything about themselves are here.

categories: Ashtanga yoga, Mysore
tags: ,

David and I had a complicated plan for led primary. There are only two classes, 4.30 and 6. Holden has not been waking up in time for me to feed and change him and then walk down to meet David in time for the 6a class to start. We asked Sharath if David could leave a little early on Friday and me on Sunday, at which point we would run to a rickshaw, get home, ask the rickshaw to wait and the next person would run out and rush to practice just in time for class.

Everything worked out well, and I ended up in led primary with a great spot and no elbow macaroni at the door. Perfect! I have loved doing primary this week, I feel like I’m getting in shape again – all those humpbacks. God, it is relentless. I am so fearful of intermediate, that I feel like I run out of breath just because I am so terrified of kapo, dwi pada and pincha and now Karandavasana too. I don’t have any anxiety around primary but it feels like such a marathon. I have’t done a led class in months and it was clear that I hold some poses for two breaths. Anyway, it confirmed for me how important it is to do led once a week. I get kinda lazy otherwise.

Change Hoarding

I recognize that in Canada we have countless indiosyncracies that can seem baffling to visitors. In India, I find it always takes me a couple weeks to settle in and adjust to the pace. But the change thing never ceases to confound me. Maybe this is just in the south, but no one here wants to make change for you. If you buy something for 90 rps and you give them a 100, they will ask you for change. I can’t quite figure it out because the shopkeeper or rickshaw driver almost always has the change.

Yesterday at the grocery store my bill came to 495. I passed the cashier a 500

Cashier: Do you have 5 rps?

Stan: No, sorry.

C: Do you want a chocolate? (Okay so this is what shops do instead of giving you your change – they give you a chocolate. But most of the time they don’t ask.)

S: No.

C: Do you want a biscuit?

S: No

C: Do you have 5 rps?

S: No. I only have 10 rps.

C: (She looks at me like I am so stupid, and granted I sort of deserve it because it was a dumb thing to say). No change?

S: No, does no one have change here? (I gesture at the other 7 cashiers)

C: (looks doubtful) Umm, no.


C: (Deep sigh, buries her face in her hands, shakes her head and then pulls out a STACK of 5 rps and passes one to me).

S: Thanks, sorry.

C: (Head still in hands, looks up briefly to send me a disgusted look).

Okay, what? Like it isn’t her money. Does Loyal World department store give bonuses to those that hold on to change? Is there a dearth of change in the country? But then why does everyone have change?

On the other hand, what is up with me saying sorry five million times? Am I actually sorry? No. What is the big deal about 5 rps? That is like, 10 cents –  why didn’t I just take the stupid chocolate and give it to a child. Then I wouldn’t looks like such an asshole.

Clearly still adjusting.