6.1.2006 – Stepping Up
What I take from today is that India is not waiting for me to step up. I must step up on my own and if not, no one is there to pull me along or hold my hand or say “be strong next time”.
The unspoken attitude is that there is no next time. Now is the time to be polite, now is the time to ask the burning question, now is the time to step up to “what am I doing here in Life? Now is the time to learn and be alive—not tomorrow.
I take this lesson of “stepping up” to sleep tonight and hope it ripens me in time for tomorrow’s medical class.
The medical class is an opportunity for the public to come in to the Institute and get help via the asanas (the yoga postures) with their specific aliments. I have helped the last 2 times I have been in India and today was the first day of this class.
I stepped lightly and shyly onto the medical floor today and did not know that I should have asked Geeta (Mr. Iyengar’s daughter) how to proceed. I shrink away from the top people and try to hide in the shallows, but this behavior is an insult in the India-Way……..if I want to hide in the shallows they are ok with leaving me there, or more accurately, they don’t even want me around.
After helping this one person for an hour Geeta called out: “What is your name?”
I said, “Cathy”
Geeta: “What is your certification?”
Geeta: “Who told you to come on the floor? How many times have you been to Pune?”
I answered these questions.
Geeta: “Humpf, how do you know how to help these people, they are new, you are new.”
And she walked away.
I wanted to shrink, I didn’t know if I was in trouble, should get off the floor, should go back to helping the person, or what. So I did the worst possible thing I could have done: I said “I am sorry”
These 3 words don’t wash over here. They are an insult somehow. I have so much to learn and so much needs to seep in I hope I live long enough for the seepage to erode away my hard-headedness. I got the feeling that saying “sorry” at a time like this was a habit of mine to cover up an insecurity I carry deep within me, and in 2 minutes Geeta brought it up and to the surface.
For now I get to overcome years of wanting to hide. Tomorrow I step back onto the medical floor, asking the questions to the higher ups that need to be asked, and well, if I get kicked out and off the floor, I will live.
Prashant (Mr. Iyengar’s son) taught a class this morning about mirrors. While 70 people were in sirsasana (head balance) he lectured them all on the importance of having a physical body but not getting obsessed with it.
“When you look into a mirror what do you see? You only see your physical self, that is all. You can not see your mind this way. The body is important but don’t get obsessed with it. Notice more your breath. Your inhalations, your exhalations. Notice your reactions to the breath. This will tell you something about what is in your mind.
Yoga is not fitness for the body, it is fitness for the being and the being is an integration of body mind and breath. If this integration never creeps into your yoga you have not started yoga yet.”
Good night to you all, it is 9:30pm at the internet shop and they are closing up. Be well, breathe often, and wish me luck on the medical floor as I learn a lot by showing up and it keeps my feet to the fire.
How is everyone doing?
I am moving into the stream of India with its constant motion of people and autos and noise and colors and smells. The whole commotion of India rises up out of the muddy streets and forms into smiling faces and blooming plants. The beggars and the wealthy walk the same streets, buy from the same mango vendors, cross streets together and disappear around the same corners.
The medical class went well today. I learned much about the proper placement of belts and bolsters for specific abdominal conditions, and how many ways their are to be in setu bandhu sarvangasana. Geeta was helpful today. I approached her for each asana to get her advice before commencing. This went along way in smoothing out my arrogance of the day before. But I still got yelled at! Somehow today I took it in stride and paid more attention to the person needing the work rather than my personality of wanting to be smart. These two hours are intense.
All for now, I will write some asana sentences soon.
Take care, namaste, Cathy
Hi Everyone, I hope you are all well.
The yoga classes at the Iyengar Institute are in their first full week and the emphasis is on the standing poses. Both Prashant (Iyengar’s son) and Geeta (Iyengar’s daughter) are teaching the same poses and bringing them to life in different ways.
Prashant reminds us that we need the alignment of the physical body in order to catch the rudimentary beginnings of where to place our bones and muscles, but a deeper definition of asana is GESTURE. He spent a good half hour on how gestures—facial, or a hand gesture- instantly influences the whole body, and the knee should be no less important in a standing asana. What is the knee gesture in triangle asana? What is the knee gesture in mountain pose? How does this knee gesture influence the pelvis? The spine? The breath? The mind?
When we remember this connectivity we have a road to the breath and ultimately to the mind.
When Geeta taught triangle asana today, she taught the importance of not allowing the mind to relax in the same way it does when we watch TV…….when we watch TV the mind goes to the TV and gets involved with whatever is on. In the asana, don’t let our mind go just anywhere . . . that is exercise . . . in yoga the mind gets disciplined to go where you want it to go . . . and this is how she had us concentrating on our knee gesture.
I rented a bike yesterday and I am having fun taking the round-abouts at high noon. I move right into the center of the traffic and when I want to go around the round-about I stick out my right arm and twirl it around like I am signaling the hokey pokey and it saves me from being hit from behind.
The front tire is flat today and I am back to walking here and there until the shop can fix it. There are no less than 15 young men running the bike shop. I hope they can fix the tire as I feel like I have wings when I am riding through the streets and I want to keep flapping them.
Sleeping is a mystery to me. I don’t know why I can’t fall asleep at night but I can’t and I lie awake listening to the traffic. The traffic seems to pick up around 10pm-midnight.
For those of you wanting an asana sequence start here:
1. Baddha Konasna: Extend the groins.
2. Upavista Konasana: Pull the femur bones into the sockets.
3. Trikonasana: With the front leg femur pulling in.
4 Upavista Konasana: Feel the femurs into the sockets and the back of legs down.
6. Upavista Konasna: Feel your back legs on the ground.
7. Adho Ukha Svanasana.
What is the gesture of each asana?
Prashant adds that what we hear from teachers is meant for information and not for recreation. And I will add let you be the best teacher you could ever have.
I am off in the night, headed back to the apartment where Kamul, a 100 year old housekeeper waits with lights on for my return. We watch soap operas in Hindi or make hand gestures of how tired we are from the day.
Hi from another day gone by in Pune, India.
The Iyengars continue to teach with clarity and inspiration. Today was Prashant’s day. He taught two classes, one I watched and one I was a student in.
He got my attention when he said: “You do not come to learn asana, you think you do, but you should have learned asana in the beginning…..now your asana should be teaching you about the lessons of life and conduct. You are here to learn the lessons of life and conduct, that is it.”
And thus he began class, taking us through seated twists and standing poses and sirsasana……and then saying at the end, when class was over, “Now yoga begins”.
Quite right he is. The asanas themselves are complete gestures of expression, not something just done with the arms or the legs. The mind and emotions and breath are all in there as well. I am sure I will think about this often over the next few weeks, months, and years and see how I can make this more real and understandable in my own practice.
The morning class he started with seated twists and the evening class he started with sirsasana. The morning class made the standing poses have a natural uddiyana banda action as a result of all the seated twisting, and the evening class result was to make the standing poses more pensive, tranquil, reflective, and receptive. Prashant does not tire from philosophy, metaphor, or analogies. He is the Ever-Ready Bunny Rabbit of Yoga Speech and he does it well.
The bike is back! I got the tire fixed this morning and I have been in the dusty streets ever since. Riding on Riverside in Ft. Collins at high traffic time is good training for the streets of India . . . actually, riding on Riverside and trying to turn left in the middle of the street is even better and will prepare you for the roundabouts.
I am relaxing slowly. I still have some Western habits of taking too many notes and keeping myself alert to “am I doing enough with the yoga and with India” so that I don’t do what Prashant is suggesting: save some energy to be here, to be in the pose.
That is next! To Enjoy India while I am here.
Hope everyone is having a good week. Take care!
This is still the week for standing poses and the beginners and the advanced were both taught the same poses . . . Tadasana, Trikonasana, Vira II, Prasarita Padottanasana, Uttanasana. Doing what we would call “familiar” poses with total concentration was exhausting. The ability to lock in deeply to a knee cap or a shoulder blade and keep a consistent attention to its position and the overall balance of the pose was mind cleansing. The mind as well as the body got a bath.
Such is the power of being present in body mind and breath, no matter what activity we are engaged in. Washing dishes or standing on our heads, both can give us that deep satisfaction that comes when we don’t wish to be somewhere else or wish to be doing something else.
For me the medical classes are the most intriguing place to be. Like bees swarming around their hive all the assistants buzz around in unplanned trajectories until the work is done. Today I was involved with helping a 40 year old man who had no muscle tone and a 27 year old woman with cervical neck pain. The assistants are expert at helping them in the therapeutic versions of the same asanas we are familiar with in class. The yoga asanas, when applied properly, can positively benefit the practitioners’ health and give some control over their situation. Most of these patients have no knowledge of yoga or how structurally their body may have contributed to their conditions. I recognized 2 gentlemen from several years ago. Two years ago they were depressed and hunched over and could barely move their legs due to stiffness. Now they had life in their faces and eyes and they walked with confidence and grace. They were both on their own doing their asana practice with very little help from the assistants.
The road to the internet is being worked on, night and day. Laborers take pick axes and hack at the old rock road and pull it up in chunks. Someone else comes by with hubcaps for pans and hauls away as much rock as the hubcap will hold. Other laborers fill in the holes with uniform sized piles of rock. It all seems to be rock. It is hard for me to look these laborers in the eye, I usually look away as their constant hard work does not look to pay much and I feel so rich in their presence. I did smile at one man as I passed him but he looked back expressionlessly. Maybe he was dazed from the sun and the hard work and the mountains more of rock still to move, or maybe he had no idea why I was smiling at him, or maybe he just didn’t care to smile back.
I don’t know.
The little kids love to have their pictures taken and so do some of the adults. Today three adults asked me to take their picture . . . but they wouldn’t smile when it came time to shoot.
I jumped up and down until they did and then took the pictures.
I hope you are all well and keeping to your home asana practice . . . and may your mindful actions from the mat flowing naturally into your life.
Everyone, the first week here in India is drawing to a close and Prashant has urged us, yelled at the top of his lungs, and generously poured forth his heart in saying: “Your yoga should teach you subjective wisdom. You all come to class and want to know if you are doing the pose right. You want to know if your leg is straight and how to do that, you all want to know if you have twisted properly and how do you twist more . . . you want and want and want. To do more and more and more is a drug and will make you toxic. Doing more and more will boost your arrogance and your pride. There is a difference between doing more and doing better. Do better. Doing better will boost your humbleness. You should know how you are in an asana. Go back to the lab of your asana and learn. You want someone to tell you how you are doing, do you also want them to tell you if you are tall or short, or young or old?. Do your lab workout and be pensive about this.”
These great words echo through me during the morning practice sessions. It is easy to see 50 different students go into the lab of their own bodies and minds and come forth with 50 different practices. There are 50 different ways people are practicing back-bending depending on their stiffness and their understanding. 50 different ways of head-balance and triangle and dog! The morning practice time is a rich time to see the Indians, the Australians, Norwegians, Canadians, Chinese and a handful of US students at work in their individual labs. I fell asleep in my lab this morning. I was in a seated forward bend with a 50 pound weight on my knees and half an hour later I woke up. My knees felt great and I was rested. Oh well, what are you going to do? Perhaps there is a category in the great asana journal in the sky: osmosis asanas.
A few observations come to mind as the week ends. The first is that better than being lucky is to practice. Luck will run out and be random in its rewards. It requires constant vigilance on the part of the practitioners to wake up and having a consistent practice to attend to keeps us on this path of waking up. Whatever waking up means to you, and in whatever endeavor you are involved in, waking up is a worthwhile thought. Prashant said yesterday: “Get out of basement thoughts. If you go up to the 10th floor you should look up be able to see the sky better. Don’t take your basement thoughts with you as you ascend.”
The last observation I have concerns when does a thought or wish become a prayer?
I don’t know yet, but I find that each day I climb to the top of the yoga institute and pause in front of Hanuman . . . the big Monkey King . . . and bask in the strength that he is known for. I know that better than hoping he is rubbing off on me, paying sharp attention in the medical classes and the general classes will keep me going on my path of what wakes me up. But maybe it doesn’t hurt to climb up the steps to the top of the building, because then I look around the city and above the tree tops and I do not have a basement thought in my head.
Enough for now, be well all of you.
The weather has turned warm and sunny and seeing the moon at night reminds me to look up more often and get out of the “basement thoughts” when they get too heavy. Prashant made a point today of reminding us that doing all the asanas in the world won’t bring evolution if we simply keep doing them for the sake of having a healthy body. “The body can only do what the mind tells it to, so why do you only pay attention to the body? Why can’t you pay attention to your mind states? If you slow your breath down to super-slow mode you will see how much is going on without your help, in your body and in your life, and you will stop trying to do so much that is really wasted efforts”.
He taught a class of standing poses, twists, and inversions, and then ended the class with how we need to know the sequence of the wild mind going to tranquil mind. “Nothing can be done without tranquil mind, but to get there is a process. And once you reach tranquil mind, it doesn’t stop there. You must go for neutral mind. If you do not reach neutral mind, it is an unpardonable blunder.”
Geeta taught similar poses with the added: “search your intelligence, have a single -minded intelligence that reaches everywhere.”
I am resisting giving asana sequences in favor of passing on some of the yoga philosophy according to the Iyengars. Those of you practicing on your own, keep it up! Trust in your own understanding of sequencing, keep going to the Lab of your own mat, put forth your tapas, your best efforts, and strike a tranquil and neutral mind and you will be in accord with yourself. On a day like this morning, I had to work hard not to judge my own practice as inferior to the others who were practicing back-bending and intense rope work at the wall. I am learning how little I have been working in the simple asana Baddha konasana . . . embarrassing little tapas on my part . . . I just learned—or re-learned—that the feet should stay in Tadasana-action during this pose . . . and wow did that find my stiff hips in a hurry. It is true what the Iyengars say when they holler, “you are worse than beginners” . . . because I thought I knew what the pose was about for me and I don’t. Oh well, this is why I am here, to be a student over and over and over again and learn that while according to Prashant the “physical pose is incidental to the mental”, Geeta is close at hand reminding that this body is what I have to work with and there is a proper way to be in it that gets the energy of the blood and the universe to course through it.
Perhaps we can add another unpardonable blunder: those moments when we ignore our intrinsic wholeness. When our separateness screams loudly about its shortcomings or merits, lets put or practices of asana and breathing and meditation to work and get back into the stream of living, a stream that keeps changing and transforming, and is a joy to swim in.
I am looking forward to coming back home and getting the yoga studio up and running. See you soon!
The electric power goes out unexpectedly in Pune! So far it has gone out every day that I have been typing this letter to you! This is the 4th attempt at sending messages home about the second week. I hope it reaches you before the lights go out!
Well, what a week! The medical classes are called Remedial and several assistants have been explaining to me how certain asanas are helping the patients and how individual each one needs to be to fit the body type and condition of the person. I would like to get wall ropes up some day so we can experience the work . . . there is neck curvature, Rope 1, Rope 2, rope motion, and a whole variety of back-bending and standing asanas that can be approached from the wall.
Wall work allows for an in-depth internal study of what is happening in your body; the rope holds you while you breathe and open those areas that have been stiff or in the dark.
Geeta taught a forward bend class that was amazing. The next time you do a forward bend, say a seated one, ask yourself where you are holding back . . . what we found after a few minutes is we were all sinking and contracting in the abdomen and chest . . . here it is to be a forward motion yet we were all going backward. Geeta taught in a way that our chests opened, or side ribs flew forward, the thoracic spine came in to its rightful place and most of us had our hands well beyond the feet . . . the experience was deep exhilaration, not the usual heaviness of 2 hours of forward bends.
This was a good example of how excellent teaching fleshes out the multi-dimensions of yoga. The class was more than just asana—it was going beyond our personal shortcomings: physical or emotional.
She said at the end: “Why do you stop going forward? Many of you get close to climbing Mt. Everest, but then when you see it you stop short. Why? When the body fails it is really your mind failing, do you know that? The body cannot fail. Only the mind plays tricks on you.”
In essence, get hold of our minds! Be aware!
Prashant taught a class this morning which I watched from the steps. It was full-tilt-on with long holdings and ended with a lecture about meditation.
“The goal of yoga is to forget about you. You can not be present when it is time to fall asleep at night, if you are present, if you are worrying about your personal identity or shortcomings or dress wear you will not fall asleep. “You” cannot be present to fall asleep . . . and then you are unified in body, mind, and breath. Savasana is to be unified in body, mind, and breath. Each asana is to be unified in body, mind, and breath. By the time you reach savasana your innermost plane should be surfacing and no longer are you man or woman or old or young or disabled or defeated or deformed and incapable, because at the core we all have the same identity.”
And lucky for those of us who fall into basement thoughts about ourselves—there are ways to loosen the grip on our basement self! The ultimate goals of yoga and meditation are to allow us to experience this as fact. Experience the unified whole of who we are and begin to live our lives from this truth, our truth of unity not the pretend truth of separateness.
This was a strong cup of chai! I hope this makes sense, and to borrow Prashant’s words: “I have done my best, but if you still don’t understand I will try better next time.”
Well, I am off to shop with some friends from Australia. I have bought things on my own and it is a disaster: 2 tea strainers, a rolling pin and a statute. My friends promise to help me out!
I hear it is hot in Ft. Collins. It is hot here as well. There is not a breeze to speak of at any part of the day to waft the heat away. You just sort of plop yourself in front of a fan or under a tree and wait until you cool down enough to go on.
This morning was a real treat as BKS himself taught a class of 70 about the importance of the knee position. He demonstrated on his granddaughter what he was getting at, and then told a story about the big football/soccer tournaments that are going on right now. He said: “All of you are aware of where the knee is, but do you really know where yours is? In soccer, where do they start the game—in the middle! Where is the goal net—in the middle! How many of you do not keep your knee in the middle of the leg in standing poses? The knee is the goal, the knee is the soul, move from this center and you will create a firm foundation. Move from your soul”. And he was right. Working hard on this one little of the area of the knee created more stability and freedom with which to be in the pose, with strength and poise.
Prashant told his own story last night in class, also about soccer. He said: “The soccer tournament has been won and it was a hard fight. The boys go out to celebrate and get drunk in their merriment. They see a river and decide to row across it. They laugh and row and have more merriment until the early dawn, and then they see where they are. They have not moved. They never untied the rope of the boat from the dock. Don’t be like them, untie your ropes. Untie the knots in your heart so you can live. The knots are greed and arrogance and pride and ignorance. Untie these knots”. And then he proceeded to teach a 2-hour class of nothing but triangle-pose! We did triangle-pose for 2 hours. By the end, we were in savasana state doing triangle. It was an extraordinary way to feel a standing pose that is normally done with aggression and vigor, also have such a deep gesture of inwardness. Once again, it felt like the Iyengars were bringing the yoga alive and allowing us to feel closer to ourselves.
Prashant’s second story was about ladders. “If you climb a ladder, you want to get somewhere. But do you ever bother to ask which wall your ladder is on? If your ladder is on the exercise wall, you will exercise, perspire, and expire. If that is what you want, know that. But at least ask yourself what wall your ladder is on so your efforts get you to where you want to go.”
It’s worth thinking about!
In the early morning rise of India, somewhere between 4-5am, there is the most quiet you will hear all day. And then what begins as one bird call gives way into hundreds of bird calls, and what starts as one auto-rickshaw blends into the roar of the Indy-500.
I have tried to be aware of this transition as it is happening and each day I miss it.
I suppose because at some point I become one of the many bodies of matter contributing to the mass movement of 4 million people all going somewhere.
This morning there was one hummingbird in the trees outside the balcony. I have seen them before, wings beating fiercely fast and their little bodies darting around. But I have never seen one float. This one floated from branch to branch. It just picked its little body up and floated to its next destination. Just watching this bird reminded me of the many times I saw my great-grandmother “just watching” something. Could have been people out the window, the floor, one of us kids walking by. I thought how bored she must be. And now that I was “watching” I see how wrong I might have been about her internal state. Just sitting and watching was getting me out of my own way of always controlling or being busy about the next thing I wanted to do, and I got to see this little bit of nature float around the trees.
Prashant said: “if you just stop and lie down, you are not guaranteed slowed-down mind. You can stop your body, lay it down, and your mind can be all around the world. You must give yourself some talk in the beginning, give yourself one thing to focus on, or you will be around the world in your mind, yet your body is lying right here.”
Watching the bird I was watching my breath, and in savasana stay keenly aware of the breath. The breath is so close to all of us, closer than our kneecaps! Yet its presence slips silently to the background in a second. I guess this is why we set aside time to be alone with ourselves. We can remember our being-grounded, our breath, and re-set our ladders if they are not on the right wall.
The last story is a personal one, one about going broke in India. What started 3 weeks ago on this third trip to India was my Western Mind expressing one of those unconscious identity knots in my heart: arrogance. I came with enough money to see me through the costs of classes, an apartment, food, and a handful of knickknacks (who wants the tea strainer? the rolling pin? 3 huge bags of black tea you can get our Food Coop?). What I didn’t think about was the cost of sending 10 bolsters to our yoga studio in Ft. Collins. It is costing $150 to send them by sea……
I paid the money and then quickly went to the ATM machines to get more rupees. And the machines did not work, they refused the card at 3 different banks, and the bank teller said they could not help me.
I went into this frightful and scared place inside, what was I going to do, there are 10 days to go? How will I get to the airport? Eat? I have never been without money before. I got on my bike and rode slowly home. I passed 2 million people in the same boat: no rupees today, none tomorrow, none the day after that. And that bike ride home brought me into India. No longer was I living on the outside of India, watching it go by.
I was now in India and I was awake.
My situation is temporary; for the poor here, it is not temporary. I have friends, I can get money somehow and pay them back. For a lot of people this is not possible, their friends have less money than them.
With not a rupee to my name I became “undone” in my arrogance of what was separating me from India: money. I needed this jolt, I needed this shock to get back in touch with humaneness and self-worth, and the shared oneness of all of us. Money has no right to dictate one’s value. When I got back to my apartment, the housekeeper and cook, Kamul gave me the biggest smile. She was so glad I had come home to eat the lunch she had prepared. And then I realized that just by showing up in time for lunch, she felt her hard work and worth recognized. Some sort of circle of energy got completed that day, some lesson deep in my cells got learned. I don’t know all the ramifications, but I know they are good.
Ok, a long letter from India, hope not too long.
Well this month is closing in fast. My friends are buying Indian saris and elephant statues, and I found a Levi Jean store that took my credit card and bought a pair of jeans. The shop I ordered bolsters from overcharged me for the shipping and thus I got enough rupees returned to make bus fare to the airport, buy more toilet paper and water, and, well, have a piece of chocolate cake. With only 4 days left Time is speeding up. I have made friends with the 78 year old mother of my host, and we play cards together. I taught her my grandmother’s favorite game: “That’s It” and she is teaching me Rummy. Going to anyone’s house means getting chai and cookies and I love it. I will keep this up back in the states!
Geeta has been ill all week but came out last night to teach a back-bending class that only she can teach . . . look forward to it next month in class! Her teaching is clear and exquisite. None of the 3 Iyengars think that a “good class” is one where you workout, a class where you can’t think or walk afterward. To the Iyengars, a class or a practice should deepen our understanding of ourselves, unifying any endeavor we are involved in. Their teaching is so much more than the body, but yet they use the body to actualize the non-goal of being present with what it.
Prashant taught a 2 hour pranayama class this morning . . . his comments were wonderful, some funny, and by the end, so profound that if there is any doubt that yoga approached from this kind of depth is transformational, those doubts got totally washed away.
Skipping the sequence, lets save that for class, he began with how ‘. . . the breath is global currency. You should be able to use it anytime and for any function . . . is your breath like this? Can you exhale profoundly when you need to? Inhale softly when you need to? Sharply? Silently? Tenderly? When you inhale, you are inhaling nobility and tranquility, when you exhale you are exhaling not carbon dioxide but ignobility . . . each breath becomes a prayer, a silent OM . . . have hilltop mind, commence your breath as prayer, prayer that is personal and trans-personal. Completely surrender and know your breath is in flow and so is mind, always in flow.
His class was transformational in that what started as focus on the physical body gradually gave way to an inward focus on what is not seen, the mind and breath, and then he said “. . . in order for the mind to have accomplishment, it NEEDS TO FEEL DELIGHT. FEEL DELIGHT AND PLEASURE AROUND THE NOSTRILS. JUST AS TONGUE TASTES THE FOOD, CAN YOUR NOSTRILS TASTE THE DELIGHT OF BREATH. THE NOSE NEEDS A FEATHER TOUCH CONDITION OF DELIGHT.
Maybe you had to be there to get the profundity of the class so if I didn’t convey this very well, I will try better next time.
Geeta’s pranayama class was equally deep, giving us the stability with which to sit and feel the breath touch us, not philosophically but actually touch the sternum, the collarbones, the skin.
And in a breath, the day has gone by.
Emails will be shorter as I prepare to leave.
Thank you all who wrote back and kept me connected to Ft. Collins and your lives.
It has been a rich experience to be here. I am deeply grateful for being able to leave home for a month and make India home for a month. Although I am looking forward to getting home, one eye is looking back at India and taking in a long glance at so many indescribable emotions and events. I guess this is Life, and I have a good one and I feel it.
This is a Farewell to India e-mail. India has been a wild ride, most of which doesn’t translate into words. The experiences are rich and unpredictable and right now I am out of words to describe them. There is no need to “plan a day” here in India; you just walk out your door and look out, Circumstance is just waiting for you to show up and respond.
This was Pranayama week (breath) and both Geeta and Prashant taught classes of profundity and inspiration. Geeta helped us find our shoulder bones in sarvangasana and halasana and carried this imprint into seated breathing. Prashant helped us see that Prana -Yama does not mean what we think—it is not control of the breath. He said that prana is not something that can be taught, it can only be felt. Like the wind we can not see, we can only see the effects of wind . . . how trees move in the wind. Prana can not be seen, and it is not breath, but it can be felt be when we sense breath around the nostrils. He went on “ . . . you need to feel DELIGHT when you breathe. Delight is needed to overcome SORROW. Sorrow has to be counter-acted. Have some delight, breathe delight. Breath tranquility! These are not oxygen particles you are inhaling. These are not carbon dioxide particles you are exhaling. You are breathing tranquility and tranquility is a cosmic ingredient. Prana is not to be controlled. Prana is felt by the breath, but is not breath.”
BKS taught several points in the pranayama class this morning. One about keeping the softness in the elbow area just above the joint . . . keep this softness in sarvangasana—learn it here, first! If the body can’t hold the softness here there will be shoulder pain and neck pain forever in sarvagasana. This arm position translated into the seated posture like lightening, it gave us stability and freedom to sit without pain and rigidity. Another point concerned the lift of the shoulders in head-balance, he gave us a lesson in sirsasana II concerning the skin on the back of the palms that was dynamite in how it brought stability, lift, and steadiness to the entire body. I will tell you about it in class.
Well it has been great fun writing home and sharing this month’s experiences; thank you for listening to it all. The friends I have made, one from Australia, and 2 from the States, all share birthdays in May and we just exchanged emails so we can stay in touch.
I did some final shopping. I can’t say as I got any better: I bought another rolling pin to make chapatis, a bigger one. I bought some flour to make the chapatis, hoping it doesn’t explode somewhere between here and home, some pots and pans, and a tiffin. A tiffin is a little 2 pan container, sort of like stainless steel tupperware, and it is good to take your lunch in. I am not sure where I am taking my lunch, but I am all prepared should I need to go. The housekeeper has been exhibiting much patience daily, at high noon, when I get home from class and announce I am ready to roll out “my two chapatis”. She hits her hand on her head when I roll out rectangles. She goes, “Why Didi? Why?” Didi means “sister” and she calls all of us Didi. She rolls out perfect circles and I roll out rhomboids and trapezoids. We end up laughing. She either scraps my chapati or re-rolls the one I have on the counter. Her hands and fingers are quick and nimble and I have promised her I would make 2 chaptais everyday, training my hands to one day be quick and nimble, too. Hence the purchase of the rolling pin and the flour! I don’t want to miss a day when I get home, saying I have jet lag and can’t get to the store to buy these two necessary items.
I also had coffee! I have come half way around the world and had my first cup of coffee. I had a mocha, and I loved it. A mocha costs 50 cents and with all the sugar and milk in it, I have to say the taste was delightful.
My plane leaves Bombay at 3 pm on Wed and arrives in Denver at 4 pm on Friday, with a 6 hour layover in Germany somewhere in the middle. I am coming home happy and content, grateful for my time here and ready to settle back into life in Ft. Collins, Colorado.
See you soon!