31 March 2008

Yogi Tricks, Yogi Celebrations, Yogi Tourists

Howdy Folks,
A lot has happened in the last couple weeks, and I put off posting these pictures for quite some time. In the end there's been too many hours in internet cafes posting, writing, and editing this damn blog (with a two hour effort lost to faulty internet connection!), but I'm so happy it's done, and I think you'll all be happy for the time I've spent.
The biggest best news I have is that I finished my Teacher Training Course! I worked really hard over the last two months to do this, sweating, studying, waking up stiffer and sorer every day than the day before, and now I'm done, and I feel so strong, and so accomplished. The hard work produced a great amount of satisfaction for me. I have no regrets about taking this course. Bharath was the most excellent teacher I could have asked for, and I learned so much from being immersed in yoga. By finishing the class successfully I am now a Yoga Alliance Certified Bad Ass (er, Yoga Teacher), and while I don't think I'm making a career to a yoga teacher yet, I do feel confidently that I can communicate and demonstrate a solid understanding of yogasana.
On the last night of the course we had a sort of celebratory class where we all posed for pictures in our favorite, or best (or coolest) asanas. We had a special guest photographer present, Umed, who along with all of us captured the glory. I never had a chance to shoot much yoga before, and I had a lot of fun taking the pictures you'll see here- especially with the fish eye. It was hard to pick the few I eventually posted because there were so many great shots to choose from. And to my class mates who may be reading, I really hope you enjoy the pictures of yourself that you find here, and please don't hesitate to request copies for yourself. It may take a while, but I'll get them to you eventually.
After the high feelings of our final night's class, many of us went out disco dancing. Finally released from our vows of discipline, we went a little wild at Club High Octaine. I never thought I'd be going to a disco-tech in India, but it's really fun; everytime we go we are the only ones there, the only ones on the dance floor (dancing to the BAD music), and it's like our own private club. So why not?
The next morning after a late night we had a group outing that Bharath organized for our class. Most of our TTC group was there, plus a few additional people: Rishal brought Umed, Patricia's daughter Manuelle came with her, and Alex and Emily, an Australian couple attending Bharath's morning and afternoon classes, were along for the ride as well. While I had many reservations about getting up at 4:30 AM after a late night of dancing to ride on a too cramped bus only to be like a major tourist visiting temples in a big group, they were places I wanted to see and they were people I wanted to be with. I had a good time that day as I'm sure you'll see from the pictures.
Since the course has finished I've been relaxing around Mysore. I'm being good to myself, relaxing poolside, having massages, and thinking about my next step in India. I'm planning my move to the Himalaya, and I'm really excited that I think I've found a good organization to spend a couple months volunteering with in a high, remote region of Himachal.
So I really hope this volumous post isn't too much for you to digest. I know it is very long and a lot is written here. While there is definately a side of this blog that is done for my benefit, I want to assert that mostly, in the end, this blog is for everyone else, YOU, my dear reader. Please give me feedback. Am I posting too much, too many pictures, too many words? Is it too impersonal, too vague, or to egotistical? What do you want to see pictures of: holy cows, busy city scenes, Indian archetecture, landscapes, or people? Let me know what you think.
Take care of yourself everybody. All the best and much love,

Despite the torture chamber looks, this is the 3 Sister's setup for the Kerala style "foot and rope" massage. You lay down, they hold the rope, and give you a good stomping. Actually, they make long, relaxing strokes up and down your body with their feet, giving as much pressure as you want. It's a kind of Ayurvedic massage, so naturally you are bathed in oil. It's probably not for everyone.

We were all lucky that Patricia, of our TTC, brought her husband Marcel and her daughter Manuelle to India with her because they were really delightful people. Marcel is a writer (has written for Nat. Geographic), and he always has something interesting to say. They were both very encouraging of me practicing my almost entirely forgotten French with them.

Very pretty flowers grow everywhere; in this case, Bopy's breakfast terrace (the new home of Sunday's organic market).

On the way up Chamudni Hill lives this great big beautiful bull Nandi. Nandi is Shiva's bull, and, well, he's very cute what with the serene expression and garlands of flowers and all. On special occasions he has milk or ghee or oil poored all over him, and he's very big so that's a lot of milk ghee or oil!

The priest is very happy to give you an orange and yellow string (for protection) and put a bindi on your forehead, but you always have to give a donation if you want to experience this rite.

Two locals take in the view from Chamundi Hill on the long climb up the stairs to the top.

This is me trying to look cool at the Lalitha Mahal pool. I am cool. I am cool. Maybe if I say it enough it will be true!

Eshmael, from Iran and studying Biotech in Mysore, gives us a Tae Kwon Do demonstration. I'm just glad it's Peymon standing there for target practice and not me.

On the night of our last practice we took things a little less seriously and got our cameras out. Cristina looks happy here.

Peymon and Ivan, boxer and theology professor, were an unlikely pair to practice yoga next to eachother every day for two months. They became very good friends, and laughed so hard with eachother!

This is me doing an arm balance I can't remember the name of... I think it's called Pincha Mayurasana. It's really fun, and practicing this posture has helped me a lot to balance with my core.

This is Griet cracking up in Shirshasana because I have the camera so close to her face.

This is Patricia most excellently demonstrating Crounchasana.

This is Ivan doing Chakrasana, something he worked quite hard on during the course. Look at that grin!

This picture of Peyman doing a handstand shows our setup for special class. One person does some fun asanas, while veryone else takes pictures. We even have a special guest photographer, Rishal's friend Umed, as our professional.

Cristina smiles in Titibasana.

Elle shows off her hyper-flexibility in this forward bend.

Rishal does a rocks out eka pada vaparita dandasana.

It took some convincing, but we got Bharath to show of some moves. He proceded, in his usual fassion, to do advanced backbending series and difficult balancing asanas without warming up at all. Here he's doing the classic pose natarajasana, but I think he was suprised when I came so close with the camera, cause he made this funny face...

Do not try these at home...

This is Shalabasana. Go ahead and lie down, and see how high you can lift your legs off the ground using just your back muscles.

Or, inversely, see how high you can lift your chest and arms lying on your stomach. Bhujungasana.

This pose isn't really that hard (for Bharath), but then what is? Anyways it looks really cool; it's called Vrchiksasana, or Scorpion.

The triumphant and multicultural TTC class of March 2008. Top row left to right: Bharath, our illustrious teacher, Elle from Thailand, Griet from Belgium, Peyman of Azarbaijan, Me, Rishal from Delhi, India, and Eve from Switzerland. Bottom row: Ivan from Goa, India, Patricia from Belgium, and Cristina from Ireland.

After our final class many of us went to expend some energy and currency at Club High Octane, Gokulam's local discotech. Each time any of us go we're the only ones there, so the dance floor is all ours, and the bar too... Griet here looks annoyed I'm taking her picture looking so un-yogic.

Umed, from Delhi, was our professional photographer in class. He went to school for photography in NYC, and now is traveling around India building a portfolio for work. He's a wealth of information for me about the Himalaya, and pretty much a bad ass in general.

Umed, Peyman, Rishal, and Griet at High Octane.

After a late night at High Octane our entire TTC class (and Umed) got on a tight bus at 5 am for a tour of three Hoysala temples north of Mysore. This is the first one we went to, Belur, with two school kids in their uniforms also.

It's a big, intricately carved temple, and going around the base of the whole thing are these elephants. It's like the elephants are carrying the temple. I kept asking people to count how many there are, but no one accepted.

Inside the temple hordes of tourists took pictures of the Puja the priests were carrying out. Not wanting to be a tourist myself, I thought if I took pictures of the tourists taking pictures, that would make me less of a tourist. No?

The whole that Alex, Emily, and Peyman are standing around collects the water and oils that flow from the temple during special rituals.

I don't know what this guy is, but to me he's the Indian version of a gargoyle. I thought I'd give him a little kiss...

Rishal does some goof-asana in front of Belur. Back to the bus for the next temple...

Next of the Hoysala temples was Halebidu. Charecteristic of all Hoysala archetecture are these impressive pillars that are actually somehow carved on a lathe.

The gardens around this temple were pretty sweet, but unfortunately I cannot remember the name of this pretty flower. Hybiscus? Help me out Mom.

Before shipping off to the next temple (no one is too eager to get on the bus...) we were sitting around in the grass by Halebidu and Bharath starts playing around with yoga. Before long we were all involved in some cooperative yoga. Here Bharath flies over Cristina.

And here amazingly enough Ivan, biggest man among us, sits on top of Bharath, littlest man among us, for some time. The people around are there to support Ivan, not Bharath.

I wanted to have a go at this so I had Cristina, who is light as a feather, sit on top of me. Amazingly, the wieght distributes evenly over your body like you are a bridge, and there isn't much pressure on your back. So cool!

We got to the next place, the temple of Shravanbelgola, around four oclock, and it's very hot. No one had mentioned that this temple is at the top of this very high granite hill! I thought it was really cool how the stairs were carved right from the granite.

Yoga isn't really cardio vascular exercise, and although our group is very flexible we're perhaps not as fit as we think. Here Alex is struggling a bit in the heat; guess it's not so hot in South Australia eh buddy?

Elle also was not so happy with the heat, the climb, or that I was taking her picture. Don't worry she survived.

Temples are apparently good habitat for Indian monkeys as each temple has its own small population of them, and who can blame them with the large supply of banana's Indians on pilgramages are always bringing for the Gods. And isn't it a nice view?

I could not resist showing off for the camera with this one of a kind background. This is Virabadrasana (3)... I was always curious what I looked like in this pose, especially in sunglasses. (I am cool... I am cool...)

Manuelle was the best incentive for me to practice speaking French that I've had in a long time. I was able, occasionally, to stammer out a bit more than the usual "comment ca va?" "oui ca va bien.", but after 7 years without practice, it's little surprise my French is a bit below "conversational".

The top of a granite mountain is, in my opinion, a pretty radical spot for a temple. It's impressive, no?

There are many ancient carvings in the stone, sanskrit texts that I have no idea what say, and also the temple itself as you can see here comes right out of and into the mountain. Like the stairs leading up to it, the temple is often carved out of the rock.

At the top of the mountain is where this big guy, "the largest colosus in Karnataka", resides. I read later that he's carved directly out of the mountain. It boggles my mind! I'm not sure really... anyways I like his serene look with his head up there in the pillowy clouds.

Griet gets a bindi and a blessing at the feet of the colosus. You know what they say about a colosus with big feet...

Manuelle and Umed lend complementary symmetry in this picture gazing accross the landscape from the uppermost temple. There is a nice breeze where they stand, and there is no hurry to walk down the stairs back to the bus. Can you imagine you are here?

There can be no doubt, Rishal is one handsome devil. The camera loves him, especially high over the city. If yoga doesn't work out maybe he'll go to Delhi to model his rugged good looks.

I came accross this game outside a fancy hotel, and the people were playing so excitedly! The object, based on what I saw, was to pick up the ball with the string and carry it to a designated spot faster than the other team trying to accomplish the same thing (not pictured).

Naturally I thought about this game as a team building initiative to be used in a wilderness setting, and decided if I'm ever in that line of work again I'll be sure to put this in my arsenal of distractions and processing tools. I mean check out the focus on this guy's face! This is good stuff...