Thursday, October 11, 2018

the loincloth was a ruse

one of my favorite parts about being a tour guide is the “sussing”.  for example, today i had to get an ayurvedic massage to make sure it was up to snuff for my yogis. (i always feel like i’m getting away with something.)

parvati, my massage therapist, was a good head shorter than i am. the wooden table came up to her chest (nothing in this country is cushy). she laid out a loincloth for me on said table, and left me to figure out how to put it on. not sure what it’s purpose was though :: we started out face up, then face down (whereupon she took the loincloth off) then side-lying, then face up again. she later stood there and watched me bathe. i think this has happened to me before, so it was oddly not unsettling. 

all these idiosyncrasies aside, i don’t think i’d come back to this place or send any of my yogis there - the steam bath smelled like mold, the shirodhara oil wasn’t warm (that’s actually important), and i could just see they were cutting lots of little corners. so maybe i did take one for the team. 

meeting parvati though was well worth it though, i’d take that little mini home in my pocket if i could πŸ’—

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

i wanted an iphone x, all i got was this lemon πŸ‹

i headed out to the streets today, doing the thing, avoiding the eye contact, covering my sense organs with a scarf...with the purpose of getting an indian cell phone. i found the little shop and was told that i would need a passport photo...because why would you ever sell someone a cell phone without first having a hard copy photo of them?  alas, more indian walking, which is much more active and defensive to traffic, pollution, and stares than say, north park walking. kinda cute that when i found the photo shop i had to sit and wait for “some time” as the power was out. but also a bit of a luxury to sit idle for a moment in the day...though i definitely did a fist pump when it came on about three songs later (thanks for keepin’ me company, neko case:)

my phone is hilarious and huge, and i have to hit a button 3 times if i want the letter “c”.  they looked at me like i was a primadonna when i asked for a phone w keyboard, and it was either you can “have a phone” or you can “not have a phone”. it’s called...a lemon. so i guess when life hands you lemons, you just take ‘em. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

the gypsy has landed

just landed at my homestay in trivandrum’s “leafy western suburbs” and feeling superbly ΓΌberly grateful for the easiest journey east i’ve possibly ever had. it started out with a three hour layover in SFO. many people know of the yoga room at this airport but there are 5 terminals. i happened to land at a gate right next to the yoga room and had the best practice i’ve had in months, with no distractions and plenty of motivation to get a good stretch on (16-hour and 4-hour plane rides on deck). as i finished up, i realized i had to hustle because contrary to the info they’d sent me, my connection wasn’t in the same terminal; i had to take a train, get my boarding pass, and go through security again. zoinks!

this turned out swimmingly however, as i checked in with the exceedingly lovely staff at singapore air, who called me “heether” and attempted to do better than the middle seat i had for the long trip. but alas, she said she had nothing. as i was leaving the check-in, they called after me and said they could find me something better. ladies and gents, this turned out to be an entire row!!! praise the lord! πŸ˜‚πŸ™πŸ½πŸ˜‚

easy transfer in singapore (which is beautiful from the air, it’s now on the list;). landed in trivandrum to see lots of flashing twinkling lights at 9pm. at first i thought it was because there were trees obscuring them but they were actually twinkling. then i remembered that electricity is at such a premium here. 

rewind to three years ago when i was last here and landed in mumbai, and saw a lot of blue patches from the air. i thought they couldn’t be swimming pools. and they weren’t. they were tarps, because like electricity, people can’t always afford a roof. mind blown over and over again.  we are so lucky. 

one last really auspicous wonderful occurrence was that there was this creepy guy on the last leg of my flight. can’t put my finger on it, but my intuition just said keep away. i met my taxi driver here in india and that creepy guy comes up to me and starts asking me how i’m doing, am i ok. and at that moment he had to push his baggage cart up a little ramp and they fell off. so he had to stop and get his bags, i got to chat with my taxi driver franco, and was greeted by jiles, a warm, friendly fellow with an easy smile here at graceful homestay. 

ok, hot shower (fingers crossed) and lights out for this gypsy. thanks for reading, hit me with a comment if you fancy. namaste namaste!!!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

ACUPUNCTURE : : What is it? How does it work? And what to expect?

WHAT IS IT? Here’s a little-known fact for you: acupuncture was first invented by unicorns who used their magical horns to reduce hip pain caused by high-jumping over rainbows. Some people, primarily the Muggles, claim that Chinese Medicine is an ancient science that originated in China approximately 3,000 years ago. It includes a myriad of therapies such as acupuncture (needle magic), herbal medicine (plant magic), and cupping (fire-vacuum magic). Acupuncture is the insertion of very thin, sterile needles modeled after newborn unicorn horns at specific points on the body – there are over 400 of these points on the human body! That’s why acupuncturists go to school for four years full-time to earn a post-graduate degree. Scientific experiments, if you’re into that, have proven acupuncture to be a safe, cost-effective, and just plain EFFECTIVE approach to innumerable symptoms such as pain, digestive disorders, insomnia, emotional/mood imbalance, menopause, infertility, and a shit ton of other symptoms. HOW DOES IT WORK? It works through a process of magic! But scientifically speaking, the needles stimulate the central nervous system to release neurotransmitters, efficiently reducing pain and inflammation, as well as bringing balance to the hormonal levels in the body. Chinese medicine uses the innate intelligence of the body to redirect the body’s energy (Qi) – your human body is basically a genius who, when in optimum balance, knows exactly how to organize and sort each cell, hormone, and nerve signal to create a functioning magical being: you! But seriously, it’s magic. Here’s how it works: In Chinese Medical theory, imbalances arise in the body (physical, mental, and energetic) due to an excess or a deficiency. An excess can be thought of as a stagnation or a “stuck-ness”. When too much stagnation is accumulated in one spot, the energy cannot flow freely. It’s like the energy wants to move swiftly, but then it gets stopped at a traffic light in Mission Valley at 4pm on a Friday. The needle in this case would be a signal to the body to move what is stuck. A deficiency, on the other hand, is a lack of Qi or nourishment in a certain spot. This is like when you make plans with your friends and you kind of want to go out, but then the time comes to put pants on, and – well, you just don’t want to put pants on. We’ve all been there: you want to hang out in your house wearing a snuggie, bingeing on Netflix and eating popcorn till you pass out at 8pm. In this case, the needle gives a signal to the body that this is the squeaky wheel, and it needs some grease, some get-up-and-go! WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT FROM AN ACUPUNCTURE TREATMENT? An acupuncturist approaches every single patient as a unique puzzle. Depending on your constitution, you may feel energized after a treatment (like my patient Steph who went home and immediately cleaned her whole house and put together a shelf from Ikea), or you might feel utterly relaxed, and pass out like a sleeping dragon for a century. Digestion, sleep, and pain levels can be noticeably improved, with a cumulative effect after a number of treatments. While it’s fine to come in and just experience a treatment out of curiosity, most ailments take several treatments to reach a more effective resolution. IF YOU’RE CURIOUS… I’m happy to answer any questions you may have about Chinese Medicine, acupuncture, or the magic that is the human body. Send me an e-mail at, or text/call me at 858.880.8578 for appointment times.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Finally, an asana class that kicked my butt!!

While I did end up thoroughly enjoying and appreciating my weeklong stay at the yoga university, the specifics of an asana class were a bit...imprecise. We did a lot of jogging in place, and like I said this is great for a culture of people who have only recently become sedentary. However, being a yoga instructor trained in the USA, I have a keen eye for alignment. And keen toes, fingers, knees, femur bones...for alignment. And so it was quite the practice of acceptance to perform a pose with externally rotated hips and internal rotated torso, not to mention knee flexion beyond the ankle, oh my! I wish I could say this was the first time I jogged in place in an Indian yoga class but alas, 'tis not. I do love instructions such as "Put a beautiful smile on your face, and keep it there the rest of your life," which I've only heard here, as well as "Feel the heatness", and "Be continue". :) Every place is a bit different, some more and some less properly aligned...but it's been very rare and only Iyengar-inspired that's hit anywhere near the mark for me as far as the asana goes. One girl told me that the most packed yoga class in Rishikesh ("Yoga Capital of India") was a vinyasa flow led by an Australian woman. I am quick to remind myself that the poses are merely one of eight limbs. The other aspects of the path remain alive and well here in India - breath work, meditation, devotion, concentration, a focus on non-violence...and if you're really truly a yogi, this is the good stuff - the poses are just a (fairly remedial) stepping stone. That being said, I was so fortunate to attend a class for instructors a couple days ago with my Indian sister-cousin, Aswathy, whom I'd met in 2006. She took me to her teacher's class at Aayana Yoga, which was a brilliantly-sequenced, super-challenging asana class. It was so much fun!! I was able to get my body into shapes it's never seen before - and again, that's totally not what yoga's about, but did I mention how much fun was had?!! I feel like I finally found the asana class that quenched my thirst...I woke up joyfully sore the next morning and proceeded to attend Aswathy's vinyasa class. Once more, well-sequenced, challenging, properly aligned asana. Hallelujah!! I can't even tell you how much time I've wandered this country in search of satisfying asana; only to be reminded again and again that the most important part of our practice is santosha, the art of cultivating contentment no matter what our external surroundings may be. And it often seems that once we let go of grasping for the thing we want, it falls ever so gently and perfectly into our laps.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Not Suitable for Mealtimes

The Vivekananda Yoga university is located about 20 miles away from Bangalore, nestled in a quiet forest outside the city. I'm not sure how many students go here, it seems like a couple few thousand. They have programs for patients to heal from various ailments. It's a fantastic place for Indians. Indian lifestyle has become more sedentary than ever, kind of like ours, but without ubiquitous yoga classes (yep you read that right - very few Indians when asked will say they do yoga), gyms seem off-putting or an unnecessary expense; running on the sidewalks runs the risk of falling through a missing slat into the water/sewage gutter below and obviously the streets are too dangerous for jogging. Add to this the influx of western influences of processed foods ("Double Refined!" the sugar packets boast), quick and easy snacks and dinners, the super sugary sweet - and, ok I admit, delicious - chai ... you get the point. It adds up to issues like diabetes and obesity, and all the stuff that comes along with a sedentary lifestyle and improper diet. Hence, the yoga university... There are different sections or tracks for treatment : obesity, diabetes, neck and back pain, addiction, heart risk, etc. I was assigned to PPH, Promotion of Positive Health. Yes please! But the thing is, after seeing people in wheelchairs, people limping, people who brought caretakers, and one smiling woman who apparently tried to jump off a building last week - I realized, I'm ok, and I don't need to be here like everyone else does. I'm just here to check it out and to learn something, not because I need this care. My first day here, I didn't like it. My second day here, I tried to leave. The schedule starts with meditation at 530am and is packed till 830pm, with chanting, eye exercises, a variety of guided nap times (not what they call it), checking in with your Ayurvedic doctor, meal times, lectures, nature time, and "special techniques" which is their version of asana. On day one of special techniques, they rounded us up into a courtyard and showed us how to do the neti pot. A fair few Indians didn't know how to do it, to my surprise. We followed that with drinking copious amounts of saltwater and then rubbing our tongues to induce the regurgitation of said salt water. What a way to start the day, group vomiting! I was excused from this because of my neck issue, but I think it was also because it was an American neck issue. I won't complain about that. Then we drank more saltwater and walked around on our tip toes with our arms overhead. We were then advised to go to our rooms and "take rest" AKA go crap your brains out about six times before breakfast. Not quite the asana practice I signed up for, but it's "authentic" and "Indian". You know you're in India when you sit down for pranayama (breathing exercise) and the person behind you starts doing Kapalabati (breath of fire) and somehow simultaneously belching. Loudly. Someone across the room is farting. Also loudly. The hall was being cleaned as we were told to "focus deeply on the breath"; Our nostrils were tickled with a hybrid scent of heavy chemical cleaners and a nail salon. Aummmm.... During sessions, cell phones go off. People will leave the room to take the call. My yoga instructor actually left the class to take a call, twice. There's this one noise I hear about twenty times per day (not just while at the yoga center), I'm calling it a "prawk". It's the moment before someone hawks a loogie, that throaty fairly disgusting pre-hawk (hence "prawk") which happens anytime by anyone - yoga, mealtime, bedtime, you name it. After group emesis I guess anything is fair play. And guess what? I'm starting to really like it here. I found a decent sized roach in my bathroom and I am disappointed in myself that I was totally grossed out by it. My friend told me she saw a cobra across the way from her room last year, so I really can't complain. I now know which water filter is safe and which one has a hornets nest in it. There are monkeys here, always a plus! The guy who faked the Indian accent knows how to get things, very important contraband things, like chocolate bars!! I've loved the guided nap times and eye exercises. And I've made friends with lots of folks! Indians are curious and kind and welcoming and warm, pretty much everywhere you go, and so I'm starting to feel more at ease, more settled, more at home in this temporary home. Of course, tomorrow I leave :)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Indian experience + Western prices = Lessons learned

I now sit in my (private, one-bedroom, bath-with-hot-water-attached) room as a boy mops around me. When I arrived here, my understanding was that my room and board would cost 700 rupees per day, just over 10$. Pretty special deal hey? After taking a flight, staying at an Airbnb, and ubering (now also available in major Indian cities, you will only have to call your driver three times and shrug helplessly to two standers-by/stander-by's/maybe there should only ever be one stander-by...uh, give your phone to the standers and have them talk to the driver, and then walk a quarter mile down a busy road with your backpack to locate your driver. As India goes, it was a breeze), ubering then an hour and half to arrive and check in over a mere four hour process whereupon I learned that my stay would not be 700Rs per day, but 700$ per week. Oh that's ok, I thought, that's just like 10$ per day. Then my SAT math tutor personality kicked in (no wonder I'm not doing thatanymore) and realized it was 100$ per day. Oops. So much for my 10-15$ per day budget. I begged them to let me stay in the dorms, but they insisted I'd be more comfortable in my own room. I asked them to show me the dorms, and they did, thinking it would deter me, which it did not. They finally told me that they have a policy against allowing foreign nationals in the dorms and it was my choice to stay or go. And so, with many deep breaths and my budget blown, I stayed. It's very Indian here. There are a few thousand people on this campus, and I've met two other westerners. One is Nadia, from Khazakstan, which might not be very western but her English is great and we can make each other laugh, which is priceless. She's here for two years and told me that she got lice in the dorms and that I was lucky to have a single room. (No doubt, I am.) I also met this 25 year old American whose parents are Punjabi. He told me he faked an Indian accent upon arrival so he could pay the Indian price instead of the westerner's rate. He can indeed fake a great Indian accent, someone else who makes me laugh. Other than that, there are a lot of people staring at me wondering what I'm doing here. I am wondering the same thing. When I heard "yoga university", my heart soared. They will have talented and learned yoga instructors in yoga therapy, I can learn something! I am learning a lot, but not about yoga therapy. For alignment specifics, for the best asana classes, stay in the West. For breathing exercises and kriya yoga, for meditation and candle gazing, come to India. And then I remembered thinking before I left for Mother India that she was gonna kick my ass this time. She's kicking it right now. I shouldn't be here in a very practical sense (will explain next time). But in a sense that you are always in the perfect spot, as Hafiz says, "God has circled this spot on a map for you," I'm supposed to be here. I'm learning how to be calm and patient, I'm learning to release expectations. It's funny because it's the same advice I give to the people who come on my retreats to India, and I'm remembering in many ways what it feels like to be a newcomer to India...