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Two practices to go, before the marathon home starts. Going home is usually a bit easier because you have been camping in Mysore for the last month and are used to cramped quarters and a natural suspicion of any food you are given. Today was led primary for me, but I rush out atfter urdhva danurasana so that David can make it in time for practice. I had a weird sideways spot in the room that was hot with the occasional blast of cold stinky air from the bathroom – so my practice was a bit ridiculous. But I still like practicing to Sharath’s count.

My cold that turned into a sinus infection that ebbed back into a head cold has now evolved into a bronchial hacking cough that actors use in movies to indicate their characters are dying soon. I’m sad to leave my practice here, but if I don’t eat something green soon, I might actually perish.

Holden’s Walk for Farm Animals was a success. We took a rickshaw out to Chamundi HIll and we made it up – okay maybe 50 steps. We didn’t see any monkeys at first, which was totally disconcerting, because usually they are all up in your shit there. Instead the steps were occupied by goat families. When we got down we saw some monkeys hopping around and eating the bugs off each other.  Holden was only groped by one person, before David pushed them off – which is an improvement on our other experiences of tourist destinations in Mysore. Holden also raised almost $1400 for charity, which is awesome, and can be mostly attributed to the greatness of his hair

Last night while reading No Roses For Harry.

Holden: There? (points to a picture of a man in a store)

Stan: That is a man going shopping.

H: There?

S: That is a family going shopping.

H: Shopping. There?

S: That is a lady going shopping.

H: There?

S: I think everyone on the street is doing a bit of shopping.

H: (points to cats) Cat.

S: What do you think the cats are doing?

H: Shopping.

S: What do the cats need to buy at the store?

H: Brushes.

True say, Holdy, true say.

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.

Tomorrow is led primary and I won’t be able to go. The first two classes were squished together into an even earlier 4:15 time slot with led intermediate following at 5:45. Since shala time is mysteriously 15 minutes fast – my class actually starts at 4a, and that is just crazy talk with a baby. But it still stresses me out a little that I can’t/won’t go. I hadn’t totally prepared for Friday to be my last practice at the shala.

I will miss the Practice, capital P here.  Even the things that drive me up the wall: the waiting in the vestibule, the filthy shala toilets, and the bumpy rug. It is healing to be here and focus on meditation. It is strange to be here in a time of transition with the assistants, but it makes it exciting too. I am interested to see how the training works out in the future for authorized students. I got a “bonus 3 poses” this week from Sharath, which was fun.

We leave for Bangalore Sunday afternoon and fly out on Monday morning. I feel quite ambivalent about going. I have been dreaming of flight catastrophe and the week at home of dealing with baby jet lag makes me hate the trip a little. But the sun, and the attention to practice plus lots to family time has been awfully sweet.

Speaking of sweet, I am going to need to go into sugar rehab when I get home. The food is fresh but has basically no nutritional value and sugar and caffeine seem to supplement what you can’t get from white rice, chapati and thin tomato soup. I can’t figure out which came first here: did the caffeine and sugar addiction produce the crazed traffic, non-stop working, constant stimulation or the other way around. Check this out on a package of rice cereal that I had to pick up for the flight.

Awesome that you add sugar to your baby’s food to taste. Ah, maybe not.

The majority of Indians are obsessed with chubby babies and therefore in love with Holden. I feel like I have been more accepted in the culture with a baby.

I am not looking forward to the cold, or to listening to the neighbours play Jessie’s Girl over and over again, but it will be amazing to see my family and friends. I am also happy to be back home where we don’t clean the floor with a toxic nerve gas that may cause facial ticks. It might also be nice to blow my nose and not see black.

I will miss coconuts with Mr. Coconut Head.

Best Mysore Conversation:

Stan: I think The Baby is teething again. It says here (points to interweb) that there are four more teeth due at 8 months.

David: If he is teething again, I’m going to write a letter.

Stan: Who would you write a letter to?


(Darwin be forewarned).

Here is a hot shit poll in honour of all the students at KPJAYI!

I had my last Mysore-style practice in Mysore today. I was a bit sad. Mostly, because I have not one but TWO led primary classes before I leave. Yeech. Sharath helped me with backbends this week and made me walk into my heels which hasn’t happened in a year and a half. He is such a great adjuster. Very soft, but never ineffective. He always seems to pull me deeper than I think I can go. And it is very effortless.

We said goodbye to Sharath today because it is always tricky in led class to get his attention. He promised to be back in Toronto when his house is finished being built. Holden crawled around the vestibule and Sharath and Saraswathi tried to get him to crawl in, but he wouldn’t pass the threshold. Smart boy. Saraswathi held him and he didn’t cry this time. I got an awesome picture of David and Sharath, which I will post when I am not being lazy.

Here is yet another video of The Baby. Of course, I think it is a perfect example of his sublime intellect. However, you will notice from the wear on the page that fuzzy bear gets lots of action.

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I wasn’t really feeling Saturday led primary  and evidently many people felt the same way because the room was quite empty this morning. There is something nice about the Friday break, Saturday on and Sunday break again for Holi because it means I can eat late night dinners twice in three nights. I know, I know – thrilling life – but it is kinda exciting for Ashtangis who rise at 4:30. The little practice squished in there makes me feel a bit better about the stack of set dosa I plan on eating tonight. Woot!

Today during practice instead of focusing on drishti, breath or contracting my whatever I made a little goal to be at the same place in practice June 18th (Holden’s first birthday) as I was before I got pregnant. It might be a bit of a stretch – literally, because I haven’t added on kapo yet. I think it is possible. I was able to grab my heels pregnant – so I’m hoping it can be negotiated without too much backbending drama.


David and I tried searching “Holden crawls” on youtube because we are self-obsessed we sort of assumed our video would be at the top of the list. It wasn’t. And we felt a little defeated after watching the very first video on the list when the mother filming loudly exclaimed to her baby:

Mother in Video: No! That’s a cat, n**ger!

David: Umm. Did she just say….

Stan: No, I mean it just sounded like that because why would she post that?

David: Let’s watch that part again.

(We backtrack/rewind – what do you call it digitally?)

Mother on Video: No! That’s a cat, n**ger!

David: Ugh. She did just say that.

Stan: Oh. My. God.

Dear God. Please God, where ever you are. Please do not let Holden be a Klan name.

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Friday is a full moon day, which means no practice. Ordinarily, that would be two days off but Sharath has a family function on Sunday and so we are practicing on Saturday instead. This will make it the second Saturday this trip that I have done led primary. I’m not complaining, (Ok I am) but they are really bucking tradition here. I momentarily thought I would skip Saturday practice and practice in the hotel on Sunday, like many of the students here. But it does seem silly to come all this way and then practice by myself. I’m sure I won’t burst into flames or anything if I practice on Saturday. Although, the thought of led primary…ugh. I would rather scrape my nose along the sidewalk for a mile.

The Baby is still not sleeping. Yesterday, I was going to blog, but I decided to shelf my draft and sleep (or not sleep) on it and I’m glad I did. Geez. I really have the whole cycle of blame thing worked out. I wonder what it would be like if I didn’t practice – I think I might be a monster. Or as Paul and Rachelle Gold call it “a reaction machine”. So, the first stage is always self doubt:  I am the worst parent, I have made millions of mistakes and now my baby will never be happy again. And then the blame turns outward: Why am I here with The Baby? Why must everyone here scream at each other? What is with the eternal beeping of horns? And why can our neighbours not PICK UP their furniture before moving it around the room (I guess if you are constantly moving it, you would be too tired to lift it up).

Anyway, today I am feeling better. Still very little sleep but I drank an amazing amount of coffee, and if I just top myself up with sugar and chocolate I can ride out the day nicely. Self medication is the best.

You know what is also the best:  our Ergo carrier. It has been incredible and so comfortable.  I can carry him for hours in it. It was recommended to us by two amazing moms – Jill and Sadie. thank you, thank you!

Plus it goes well with big sunglasses.

Here is Holden in the Rickshaw:

Practice notes

I am still working on the mula bandha technique as outlined in the previous post. It is hard. I am really in the habit of lifting the pelvic floor which is an entirely different and less subtle action. Sharath told me on Wednesday that next week I would be doing “More”. I think that refers to backbending. Next week is my last, I’m not sure how much “more” backbending I can do. I still get  a kinda icky stretching feeling in the front of my body when I backbend, probably post-surgery angst. Forza!

When I was little I was really worried about pleasing my teachers or upsetting other people. That need to please people has carried me through my life. At one point I had a parent teacher interview where I described one of my students as being helpful and wanting to please. The father looked stricken and said, “I am not raising a pleaser!” I sort of, “Oh yes, no, he isn’t really like that….” But I actually thought I was complimenting his son.

Anyway, this is all a dumb lead up to my experience in Led Primary on Friday. Usually, I will do anything to hold uth pluthi or whatever to please the teacher. Friday – it was weird – I couldn’t have cared less. I wasn’t opposed to practicing or trying hard. I just didn’t want to please Sharath. It was a new feeling. Sort of liberating, but also a bit empty.

David took Holden and let me sleep in this morning, so perhaps tomorrow’s led primary will be different.

David shot this video of Holden crawling around the apartment and finally eating the camera.

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Yesterday, I had an *intuition* during led primary that I need to eat more. I told David when we were out for a walk and he said we should go get a dosa immediately. I ate a large bowl of oatmeal, idly, cookies, chocolate, 3 pieces of fried bread, miso soup, and brown rice with veggies and tofu.

This morning, I’m not actually sure that intuition was 100% correct.

Led primary was hard but fine. I held my headstand and uth pluthi, which made me proud and happy and deserving of a third piece of fried bread.

So, it is Yoga Spot Terror Chart time! Just to recap:

Booberry Severe Yoga Terror: Next to a door that opens suddenly and often and on the marble. Person beside you is always on your mat

Frankenberry High Yoga Terror: Squished between two tall angry students in Led primary.

Count Chocula Elevated Yoga Terror: Next to a busy passageway between the changeroom and the practice space. Person in front of you lands on your mat frequently.

Fruit Brute Guarded Yoga Terror: The person next to you insists on lifting their hands up to the side and almost smacking your face every sun salutation.

Yummy Mummy Low Yoga Terror: You are in the middle of the front row next to two small polite students.

Yesterday was absolutely Yummy Mummy terror. It really helps that I am not pregnant and I can direct my neurosis towards my baby.

I like the energy in the shala this year, but it always makes me miss the community we have in Toronto. I love the people I meet in Mysore – but occasionally there is a bit of attitude here that is kinda funny. I mean, I thought doing this practice would dispel any belief you might have held about yourself being hot shit – but apparently that isn’t totally the case all the time. I know it is shyness and nervousness most of the time and I should be a more forgiving.

Speaking of thinking you are hot shit, I was reminded of something by Liz’s comment in the last post. I had initially written, before editing to “I was paranoid that Sharath was looking at me.”, “Sharath was staring at me.” I realized after I wrote it, that I had no idea if he was looking at me or not considering my face was pushed up against my mat. Also, if he was, in fact, looking at me – most likely he wasn’t like, “Wow, can she do it?” But more like, “And then there was that cricket match…” Not that Sharath is distracted, by any means. But it is so easy to get carried away and put stuff on him that isn’t really there.

Do you feel like a poll?

Don’t feel like a poll? Here is a picture of The Baby in his new Indian bathtub.

Hurray! Tomorrow is Friday, led primary and my day off. My shoulder is still causing me some grief, but I didn’t crunch into it too much during last night’s sleep. I’m also coming down on my knees during chaturanga, which I have resisted for some time now. I think the weight gain is too much for my arms. I need David arms for the next two months.

David has these dinner roll-shaped bicep muscles that can lift and pull 75 people a day in mysore. Mercedes inherited his strength, and although she doesn’t have David’s dinner rolls, she is crazy strong. I felt her biceps today and I was a bit jealous.

Cockroach Vampires

Just because my life is that interesting, I decided to do a little research on the notoriously factual interweb about cockroaches. I learned that cockroaches bleed white, and don’t have blood vessels. All that white blood is just sloshing around like milk in their little bodies. That sounds a little vampiric to me.

So, I looked up vampire cockroaches again on google images. I still don’t have any photographic evidence but I did happen to stumble across this picture of a “Worm Fiend”.

Worm Fiend is made of a mass of squirming worms. The literature also said, a “hive mind” helps it move. I would like to tell that hive mind to pick a different shape to emulate rather than the string doll I made in grade two. Tiger, snake, shark, huge vampire cockroach. It looks kinda flimsy and not so fiendish. Plus I feel badly for the worms who have fallen off that shaky thing and are trying to get back on.

Poll time!

I made it through another led primary today. There was certainly less adrenaline than in Mysore, but it was nice to waltz in right before opening chant. I could also lay on my side for a little while after class instead of Sharath calling out after the last vinyasa, “Ok go home, take rest!”

In Mysore, everything revolves around the crazy thing we all do in the morning. But here, we are a bunch of crazies who do something in the morning. Because yoga is an umbrella term in the west for general stretching, it is hard to communicate that what we do is a system, passed through a lineage of teachers. I often wish we could just call it something else. Most people can understand the tradition and system in Karate school, for example. But yoga is under a different set of rules in North America.

If I took a self defense class and learned a Karate move to kick a man in a padded suit, no one would say that I am a black belt in Karate.  I guess the same could be said of language. I may know the word for tomato is “pomodoro”, but that doesn’t mean I speak Italian. Yoga, like language, has a set of rules – a structure. If we decided to make up the rules of a language based on what felt comfortable to us as individuals, then it would render it meaningless or insensible.

Ultimately, kicking a dude in a padded suit might be infinitely more useful to me than years of Karate. And it might be way more fun to call a tomato “gooky goo”. I’m not trying to pass a judgement on yoga classes or their efficacy. It is great and very healthy to breathe, move your body, and connect with like-minded people.

David thought a better word might be meditation. The Ashtanga Meditation Centre of Toronto. Of course, that opens another can of worms because we aren’t sitting around cross-legged om-ing. But it might be closer to the truth, since the system is just teaching us to be stronger and stronger meditators no matter how flexible or agile we happen to be, whether we never bind in mari D or we practice Advanced A.

When I came back from India the first time, it was after years and years going to vinyasa classes – based on whatever happened to be in the teacher’s head at the moment. I remember talking to people about the tradition and feeling so overwhelmed with gratitude that I would start to get a little teary. I couldn’t believe the practice was there for me the whole time and I had brushed by it. After this trip, it feels more matter-of-fact. I practice this way, there isn’t really another way for me. It isn’t a strong, emotional attachment like when I went the first time. It is just part of a routine in my life. The funny thing is I am in a position where I speak to a lot of people about the practice. Some feel the same way I do, some have questions about its efficacy, and some feel very turned off by the idea. I’m always intrigued by the questions I’m asked. I rarely feel like I’ve said the right thing. It seems the further I go into this whole thing, the less I have to say about.

Sharath is right. It is like brushing your teeth. I just do it because if I don’t, I notice and probably other people do too. I’m trying not to smell. That’s about it.

So, a new name for the studio, with a new tagline:

“The Ashtanga Meditation Centre of Toronto. Try not to smell.”

Ohh… that’s good. It works on a few different levels.