26 February 2008

Coconuts and Crocodiles

Please enjoy some more pictures of life in and around Mysore.

Peymon decided to try the art of coconut chopping. We all thought he would lose a finger learning.

Sweet success. "Coconut is good. I like."

Eve, part of our TTC group, has a true Swiss sweet tooth. This is our favorite lunch desert: roti (like a small tortilla) + ghee (clarified butter) + jaggery (unprocessed sugar). It's delicious.

Empty bowls are all that's left of Sandia's never ending buffet after we hungry TTC students get at it. So much yoga makes so much hungry!

Food at Sandia's is prepared on the floor in her colorful kitchen. She's been cooking amazing meals for yoga students for years now. (Sandia not pictured)

This is it for many Ashtanga yoga students and teachers: Shri K. Pattabhi Jois's Ashtanga Research Institute of Mysore, India. Although Pattabhi himself isn't teaching any more, yogis come from all over the world to practice here.

It's best not to give begging children money. Most of them belong to "begging circles" and the money they get might be put to bad use by the leaders. Better instead to give them food directly, especially if that food is a coconut that you get to see them drink and eat.

You have to do something...

On Saturday Rishal drove us out of Mysore to a neerby bird sanctuary. Migrating Herons, Cranes, Spoonbills, and Stork were nesting in great numbers. I'm afraid without a telephoto I won't be able to provide very good wildlife photos, but here you can see a crocodile eyeing a couple Painted Storks.

The little white dots are exotic birds... everyone should be really impressed.

Rishal and Peymon heckled the boatsman for a turn at the oars. Their antics were for me one of the best part of the boat ride.

"We can't stop here... this is bat country." Oddly enough, there were as many bats in this bird sanctuary as birds. With the crocodiles, storks, and bats the place really made me think of Australia and Kakadu.

The Green Hotel, once home to Sunday's fantastic organic market, tries to be environmentally friendly. Government owned, the proceeds go to environmental funds, and renewable energy is utilized wherever possible. Food is really good here, but you can expect the typical Indian service whic is uniquely, sometimes endearingly, and always utterly, atrocious.

21 February 2008

Teacher Training and Chamundi Hill

Hello Friends,
Life is really moving fast here with the Teacher Training in full swing. Last Friday night to end the week we did 120 Surya Namaskaras (Sun Salutations)- talk about moving meditation! Weekdays there is hardly time to breath and weekends go so quickly; it is intense, immersive, and the best way for me to learn. The following pictures reflect my life: while I would love to show everyone photo after photo of India, most of what I have for now are pictures of fellow students and Bharath my teacher. So, my friends, please try to enjoy pictures of new friends, as well as some from the sacred Chamundi Hill. More to come in a few days. Much love everyone, Ethan.

This is Bharath, my yoga teacher. He has began studying yoga with BKS Iyengar's book Light On Yoga secretively when he was 14 because his parents did not support it. For 4 years they did not know, but when his full page picture started appearing in the newspaper for winning major asana competitions, he gained their approval. Eventually he studied for two years with BKS Iyengar, as well as a number of other of India's most prestigious yoga guru's.

Now, with his humble shala Yoga India, he takes small classes of 9 students maximum and just radiates youthful light as he teaches. He's 30, but looks 20. Here he's in his breadfruit tree checking for ripe breadfruit to share.

Welcome to Chamundi Hill. This is Mysore's most sacred hindu temple, and the carvings are really impressive. Many of the Hindu Pantheon are represented here, and the temple itself is dedicated to Shiva, I think.

Fellow yogic adventurure Hanna and I got to the temple at sunrise, beautiful, and before standing in line to go inside we wandered around and met people. Everyone's first question is "What country?"

These were the most adorable kids... that is the most adorable kids we saw that morning. Everywhere you turn your head in India you see "the most adorable kids", leading one to the conclusion that every kid in India is, somehow, "the most adorable."

Quite a number of people had come up Chamundi Hill to exercise. We saw a lot of joggers on the way up, and at the top were lots of various exercises. I joined a trio that were practicing handstands and probably amused them far more than I impressed them.

Monkeys around the temple are trouble. They live by stealing offerings for the Gods and generally making roucus.

When the temple eventually did open people raced in, jumping barriers, to get inside. We brought with us flowers and gave offerings at several places. In exchange hopefully our prayers are answered (Please Ganesh, open my hips...) and a priest marked us each with a red Bindi (the spot on the forehead of Hindus).

I'll have to get back to you on which Godess this is... but the detail is great!

The rickshaw is a versitile thing, and so is, Rishal tells me, the coconut husk. Not wasteful people, coconut husks are collected, dried, and used for fire to heat bath water, among other things.

Outside the Yoga India, another serious discussion of yogic philosophy breaks out... that or they're talking about where we'll eat tonight.

Bharath on his scooter "Scooty Pept". I think the ever energetic Bharath supplies the Pep.

Rishal takes a stab at driving Elle's Vespa. Scooter's are a ubiquitous, easy way to get around town. The more adventurous rent a motorcycle.

Sandia's lunch is worth the trip to neighboring neighborhood Lakshmi Purham. This food is made with so much love, and the atmosphere is unbeatable. Yoko, in the yellow, tastes the love.

Sadly this was Hanna's going away luncheon. Now she's trying to stay warm in Finland after almost 6 months in India. Be well Hanna, Gokulam remembers you!

This is world famous rickshaw driver Siddu. He's driven yogi's from all over the world! Not all rickshaw drivers are created equal, and Siddu is probably the nicest, most reliable driver in Mysore.

This is Pemar, and he may be the most unique personality in our Teacher Training. From Azarbaijan, he's using yoga as training for boxing. Never taking things too seriously, he's a good one to help us laugh.

14 February 2008

One morning at the coconut stand...

The coconut stand at Gokulam's main intersection is a happening place. It's quite common for gathering place for local's and yogi's alike to stop for a minute and drink some nutritious coconut milk, lopped open to order, or maybe some hot chai. I try to drink at least two coconuts a day; they have a very healthy alkaline balance and replenish vitals lost during a vigorous practice. One morning the coconut stand had an interesting visitor: a beggar, his monkey, and his cobra.

I was troubled by the expressionless face of this boy. He did not appear sad, or happy, or expectant. He appeared empty, hollow.

His serpant had been defanged, so it was harmless. Rishal told me that keeping snakes has recently been made illegal in India, and that I should not encourage this beggar by giving him money. We bought him a coconut.

The monkey, a devious fellow, would lunge at my camera and grab the lense like he would take it. Every moment here has something to offer, something to teach. Meeting this trio left me thoughtful for some time, and the expression in the boy's eyes, that haunting, hollow look, has not left me.

09 February 2008

Places and Faces

Hey Folks,
Lazy Sunday here. We've had a spot of rain, very out of season, but it's a good excuse to put some pictures up. I think everyone will enjoy these; I have been getting my groove on with my camera more recently, and seeing some sites around Mysore. Tonight, weather permitting, I will go to Mysore Palace and see it illuminated with a million and one light bulbs.
Leave me some love with comments, or better yet an email, because I am eager to hear from YOU!

Nothing like a fruit salad after morning asanas and pranayama. Shakti house makes a delicious mix of papaya, banana, pomegranite, pineapple, and grapes. But breakfast doesn't stop with fruit salad...

Rishal lounges as we wait for a home cooked lunch. Many families open their doors to hungry yogis at lunch time, and many offer cooking classes.

Lights wrapped around tree trunks and lanterns hanging from branches create a story book Dr. Suess effect at the Green Hotel at dinner time. In India such unique atmospheres are not unusual.

Sandra, what kind of flower is this? Oh, a talking flower.

Christina wanted to do some sight seeing at the local hospital, so she checked herself in with severe dehydration. And she smiles yet! Ah, the inner peace of a true yogini.

No room for gears on their bike, Indians use just a single speed to peddal their wares around the city.

Essential oils of Mysore: sandal wood, jasmine, lotus, and geranium. Price is negotiable.

A trip to the fabric store; next stop the tailor! You too can have clothing made for just a few hundred rupees.

The famous dies for sale at Deveraja Market. This place just explodes colors.

Mountains of geranium blossoms, and I was too busy gawking to ask what they were for.

How many people took your picture today?

It's busy around the market... it's busy everywhere!

This is the outside of the Deveraja market. It's not as impressive on the outside, but just walk in and let it bombard your senses.

All those piles of incense were rolled by hand... amazing.

While this Ayurvedic Doctor tried to sell me more oil and incense, I just wanted to take pictures of his beautiful daughter. Anyways, his newly married nephew is now my loyal rickshaw driver.

There is no problem my landlord Rani cannot solve with a dial of her cellphone. She also makes a mean banana dosa and masala chai, and does she love to talk!

Hamar stays with Rani and does much of the work around the house. Her English is not very good yet, and she is very shy, but she sings very beautifully and we were lucky enough to hear a song.

This is the house guard dog Snowbell. Obnoxious at first, the little furball is growing on me.

This is Rishi, the son of the owner of the internet cafe where I make these posts. He is four years old and already clever enough to take pictures and show me movies on his parents cell phone. He is dangerously cute.

Anyone who's looking THANK YOU!