Monthly Archives: March 2008

Lotus Flowers along the Backwater

Lotus Flowers along the Backwater

I left the ashram two days ago, and have been doing morning yoga on my own already.  In retrospect, it was everything I’d hoped it would be.  I made some great friends and picked up a yoga habit I hope will counter all that soan papdi. 

Yesterday, I took a boat ride along the backwaters of Allepy in a long wooden boat.  I lay on a comfy mat as my guide rowed through the canals and toward the open lake.  After some time, he made a groaning sound, waited a moment, and then said, “Madam, stick?  Use stick?”  He was asking me to row, and I said ok.  We glided by lines of houseboats, hordes of lillies, a few lotus flowers, and two pet eagles before reaching his house.  We approached a bank, and his daughter and another girl of 11 reached for my hand to pull me ashore.  They held my hands and led me to their house, picking exotic flowers along the way and lavishing me with them.  Their faces were both mature and innocent at the same time.  I sat on a chair while the girls put the flowers in my hair, drank a glass of chai made by the boatman’s wife, and looked out at the rice paddies.  Water buffalo and a flock of white birds flying over them.  Neighbor children with bindis on their foreheads.  Photos with the family. 

Evening brought a raucous outing with an older French couple and some silly Indian guys, smoking and drinking (well, they did while I breathed second-hand smoke and drank mineral water.  I’m a yogini now!) This morning, I slept in, did some yoga and then went for a full-body ayruvedic massage with so much oil that was absolutely exquisite.

Standup India

Standup India

Saturday night Sivananda Ashram has a talent show. I haven’t done standup since I’ve been in India, and I was itching to get on stage. Oh, the “stage” is also the altar to Sivananda, Vishnudevananda and several gods. It’s not your typical smoky comedy club; it’s a sort of temple with 200 yoga-teachers in training, a few swamis and sadhus, and yogis, and yours truly. And I have to say that I totally rocked the temple with a set about Indian toilets and lusty yogis that ended with a hilarious and totally inappropriate bit about “being in the present.” People were coming up to me for days afterward saying they were literally in tears from laughing so hard. It doesn’t get better than that. (I actually captured the set on my camera and will send a link when it’s up.)

Kanyakumari, the Egde of the World

Kanyakumari, the Egde of the World

One Friday (the day of the week dedicated to the Divine Mother) we took a bus trip to Kanyakumari, the southern tip of India. Spent a wonderful day with friends from Quebec, Brazil, and Colombia. We saw temples, the Vivekananda museum and ashram, a place where Gandhi’s ashes were held, and best of all, the convergence of three oceans. In Kanyakumari, you can look out over the ocean, and see the sun rise and set over the horizon without moving from your vantage point. Oh, we also went to a waterfall and ate this delicious flaky desert made with ghee called Soan Papdi, which you have to try. Just do it. Seriously.

Monsoon Ashram

Monsoon Ashram

Something stranged is happening in India. It’s raining. In March. You’ve heard of monsoon season? Well, it usually doesn’t start for at least another month. Chalk it up to GW or pretend it’s just a little spotting. Either way, it’s raining, and it’s wet.

It had already started to rain during my 30 km rickshaw ride to Sivananda Ashram in Kerala two weeks ago. I arrived with the brilliant and shining hope of beginning my lifelong yoga practice here. A Kenyan guy with dreadlocks said, “I tink you brought de rain,” as he showed me to my dorm in the first of many downpours.

The Ashram runs two-week “Yoga Vacations” (as well as month-long yoga teacher trainings.) There’s an exacting schedule of 5:20 wakeup with three daily gatherings for chanting, meditation, and, puja and four hours of yoga per day. It was exhausting until I fell in with a Bad Crowd and learned I could skip the boring stuff and sleep in! Waves of contentment and displeasure would pass over the entire ashram from day to day. One day, people would be complaining and talking about leaving, the next day, the louder voices were from excited Yoga Vacationers who finally achieved a headstand.

Much of the time, I was severely shaking from a deadly combination internet and telephone withdrawal and too much chai. My relaxing Yoga Moments were occasional. It would rain during yoga classes, overnight, while we were lining up for a meal outside, and miraculously clear up for a moonlight walk to the lake. The rain, thunder, and lightning, which are a delight to the senses, are also quite hellish on one’s clothing. The sweaty yoga shirt, once washed in a bucket with some Tide, would hang on the lines next to our beds, fan fan running day and night, damp for three days, turning into a lush resort for some special Indian mold reunion. The clothes do not dry. I began wearing damp clothes hoping my body heat would cure them before the mold took root. And forget about dry feet or sandals, ever. (It’s amazing I’ve come out of the place with all my toenails intact.)

Something about being in an ashram, lax as it was, made me agitated and anxious, and I think it has nothing to do with sitting with myself and having to listen to all those inner voices screaming things like, “Why are you doing yoga?” and “Your foot doesn’t belong behind your shoulder.” and “Who is this elephant god we’re praying to?”

Monsoon Ashram

Monsoon Ashram

Something stranged is happening in India. It's raining. In March. You've heard of monsoon season? Well, it usually doesn't start for at least another month. Chalk it up to GW or pretend it's just a little spotting. Either way, it's raining, and it's wet.
It had already started to rain during my 30 km rickshaw ride to Sivananda Ashram in Kerala two weeks ago. I arrived with the brilliant and shining hope of beginning my lifelong yoga practice here. A Kenyan guy with dreadlocks said, "I tink you brought de rain," as he showed me to my dorm in the first of many downpours.
The Ashram runs two-week "Yoga Vacations" (as well as month-long yoga teacher trainings.) There's an exacting schedule of 5:20 wakeup with three daily gatherings for chanting, meditation, and, puja and four hours of yoga per day. It was exhausting until I fell in with a Bad Crowd and learned I could skip the boring stuff and sleep in! Waves of contentment and displeasure would pass over the entire ashram from day to day. One day, people would be complaining and talking about leaving, the next day, the louder voices were from excited Yoga Vacationers who finally achieved a headstand.
Much of the time, I was severely shaking from a deadly combination internet and telephone withdrawal and too much chai. My relaxing Yoga Moments were occasional. It would rain during yoga classes, overnight, while we were lining up for a meal outside, and miraculously clear up for a moonlight walk to the lake. The rain, thunder, and lightning, which are a delight to the senses, are also quite hellish on one's clothing. The sweaty yoga shirt, once washed in a bucket with some Tide, would hang on the lines next to our beds, fan fan running day and night, damp for three days, turning into a lush resort for some special Indian mold reunion. The clothes do not dry. I began wearing damp clothes hoping my body heat would cure them before the mold took root. And forget about dry feet or sandals, ever. (It's amazing I've come out of the place with all my toenails intact.)
Something about being in an ashram, lax as it was, made me agitated and anxious, and I think it has nothing to do with sitting with myself and having to listen to all those inner voices screaming things like, "Why are you doing yoga?" and "Your foot doesn't belong behind your shoulder." and "Who is this elephant god we're praying to?"