Monday, 28 January 2013

Internet, Three Sisters (long)

'99% practice, 1% Internet'

That sounds about right. I'll get back to something like that shortly, but while I'm in Mysore, ironically, the balance tends to get a bit skewed, due to my having more (i.e. any) free time. I'm beginning to see why people need to take a step back...

My friend Grimmly and I have resumed the same discussion we seem to have about once a year (yes, we disagree a lot, but I consider him a great guy and a friend). To me, it is never productive. I go over there and make a comment that is meant to be nice, then I get caught up in the comments and make another comment, next thing you know I have triggered a maelstrom. I need to stop visiting and just let him come here and make supportive comments. That seems to work much better. I'm just not into all the analysis, and there are always things I strongly disagree with, but I don't think either of us benefits from the discussion (he might disagree...)

Then there is the whole shitstorm around Kino's video. It makes me sad. Kino is one of my teachers, and has helped me so much over the years, mainly in person. But I also know many people who get a tremendous amount out of her online presence. For example, a couple of days ago on the UO rooftop I met a woman who has no teacher where she lives. The reason she has a practice at all, and has made it to Mysore for the first time, is largely due to Kino's videos. There's nothing new to me in being sad about seeing my teacher run down by others. I basically quit blogging for a while a few years ago when the 'tiny shorts' were upsetting people in cyberspace and causing some really petty comments. Now here we are again and I find it so hard to believe people in the background of this video could be kicking a fuss up about it.

'When dogs bark, it doesn't bother the heavens'

Then again, maybe I'm not so surprised. The VAST majority of people I've met here have been lovely and friendly. There are a couple, though, who emanate bad attitude (I had to check with a few people to make sure I wasn't making this up). To those few (always women) - there is no reason to smirk at people and walk around looking like a bitchy high school girl with a pickle up your ass. Luckily you don't control who eats at the cool kids' table here :-)

But I digress. Like I said, most people here are LOVELY, including some I've met who are on their 10th or 11th trip and aren't above sitting down and sharing meals and experiences with those of us on our first or second trip. That, of course, is the way it should be.....

However, being a yogi doesn't mean you have to be all rainbows and unicorns, and just like, roll over and be like a flower, man, when you don't agree with something. It doesn't mean you have to let yourself be walked all over, not have strong opinions, or not express them. This came up at work recently... it's a high-stress environment, and during a disagreement someone just threw at me, 'yoga??' I just looked at them. I was like, 'what? dude you are taking the piss...' And if I see someone on the Internet depicting yoga as a 'workout' rather than a practice, in order to market energy bars to bodybuilders, I have every reason to object in strong terms. In fact, calling yoga a workout is just plain wrong even if it is not being used to sell something. The 'workout' mindset really isn't helpful in approaching this practice, and is conducive to injury, especially amongst men. This is something we have to work hard against, not encourage. I also object to people hating on Mysore without ever having been here, pretending to know what goes on here without having been here, making token trips here merely in order to further self-promotional projects, or treating yoga as a money-making machine more than as a way of life.... to name a few. I will say what I think and you are free to not read me or delete my comments, as the case may be. The fact that I object to something you do or call you out on your bullshit does not make me 'unyogic'.

And here I would like to slip in an interesting observation: though a yogi may have strong opinions, I find my reactions have really changed over the years. Ten years ago if I read or heard something I strongly disagreed with, I would feel my heart start to race. I might get palpitations or a feeling of pressure in my head. None of that happens now, and I can observe that whilst I might be thinking you are talking an utter crock of shite, my breathing and heart rate remain completely undisturbed as I tell you so.

Being able to strongly disagree without having the physical symptoms of anger is HUGE.
However, it still doesn't do me any good to know about these things.

Other things I notice on the Internet: just as it seems that every yoga student wants to be a teacher nowadays, it seems like more and more teachers are offering teacher trainings. What's up with that? I mean, depending on the teacher this can be good or bad, but is this like 40 being the new 30, and third series the new second series?? (hmm....). Students should be teachers and teachers should be teacher trainers.... I mean, this is where it all goes eventually, but it seems to happen pretty fast nowadays.

Regarding the former (every student wanting to teach), I read a blog recently where someone with a fledgling ashtanga practice, who hasn't completed primary series yet, is planning to teach. Whether the teacher training will go ahead, though, is in question due to the low number of students enrolled. Therefore this student is considering training to teach another yoga style instead. I asked the question whether, in order to teach, one shouldn't A) have a great love of the subject, and B) not be a beginner oneself? This means that the style you decide to teach isn't interchangeable with another, it is the one that is a central and fundamental part of your life, and you should have been practicing it for several years, minimum. Before that, you don't even know what effects it will have on your own body (and the rest of you), let alone the bodies of others, very different from you, who may come to you with all sorts of conditions and injuries.... I didn't mean to hurt this person's feelings with my questions, but the fact is, if you put it out there on the Internet, you may get a reaction (I'm aware of this and there is no comment moderation on this blog, by the way). If you are a beginner who has fallen in love with the practice, that's great! If you want to take a teacher training in order to learn more, also great, although an 'intensive' - something geared at understanding YOUR OWN practice rather than teaching - might be more beneficial. Or in the case of ashtanga, just keep doing it every day! But please, please, beginners, do not take it upon yourselves to teach until you've been doing this practice (or whichever yoga practice you're into) for a good long while... please realise that you are taking responsibility for the welfare of others, and that that is a Very Big Thing?

Beginning yoga students: caveat emptor.
I won't go into the authorisation question except to simply admit that I teach and I'm not authorised. Just for the record.

Well this is getting long. I'll leave the 'injury is inevitable' discussion, which is so in the air right now, for another post, because that one really deserves some discussion and is a lot less clear.

In general, though, I do need to stop reading yoga blogs, and one or two names need to be culled from my facebook feed. I'll stick to the Buddhist forum and the football blog for my morning and evening online time, they make me a happier person :-)


On Saturday I went for a castor oil massage at the Three Sisters'. I was ushered into the stone edifice and seated in the room where we usually have lunch, beside the 'yogi sister', whose name I believe is Shashalika. She was wrapped up warm with gloves on. Her eyes are very sparkly. We chatted for a while, then the other sisters joined us. Harini explained the treatment options (ayurvedic oil vs castor oil) and I decided to go for the castor oil. I told her about my previous experiments, and she laughed her big laugh. 'Yogis don't know how to do castor oil bath,' she declared. 'I will give you proper treatment.'

We went into the other side of the house and a similar-sized narrow room. Two clocks hung on the wall, forty minutes apart; on the other wall were six identical calendars, of the sort you get free from the supermarket at the beginning of the year, and a few hooks holding bags and articles of clothing. Around the room were some shelves slanting downwards and supported at one end so as not to fall down; a low table, a cubby hole in the wall; all stacked with sheaves of yellowing papers and bottles or tins containing who knows what liquids, with rags stuffed into stray corners; there was a tall metal cabinet with a dusty suitcase on top; an old stereo; a television which appeared to date from the 1950s, and which couldn't possibly work, I thought? From the ceiling hung a multi-coloured ball in a net (?), a fluorescent bulb and some strips of red cloth.

I was kitted out in what was basically a loin cloth attached to a piece of twine around my waist, and I lay down on my front on a red tarp which was slightly padded underneath. I felt a generous amount of the thick, warm oil trickling over the back of my body, and smelled the familiar mild scent of castor oil. Then Harini and Aka held onto the red ropes attached to the ceiling and proceeded to go over me with their feet (Aka's real name is Nagaratna (I think), but Aka (with stress on the final syllable) means 'elder sister', and is easier). Four feet moving over my back, arms, hamstrings, calves... slightly callused for an exfoliating effect... a symphony of feet! I lay with my head turned to the side, and behind my closed eyelids a diffuse light filtered through from two small high windows, with the moving sisters casting shadows against it. The two clocks produced a rhythmically musical effect, with the louder one sounding like a loud drip into a tin bucket and the other producing a clicking counterpoint. In the distance some music approached and passed.... Islamic-sounding chants and the beat of a drum. From time to time I was asked to turn my head the other way as the four feet worked into my muscles and the clocks lulled me into a trancelike state. Sometimes they talked to each other and I wondered what they were saying. Anything about my muscles? Grocery list??

Front and sides of the body next... then I sat up, Aka left, and Harini worked on my back and shoulders with her hands. Her English is very good, and she was keenly interested to learn a new word (sabbatical). I told her about my teachers, Cary, Kino, Hamish. She knows them all and made approving noises. She had already told us stories about Hamish one day at lunch, namely the fact that one year he showed up without his trademark long dreadlocks, which was a massive shock to them all.... and we got to hear her big laugh then. We talked about Sharath, she said he has a very hard job and some people say bad things about him. She talked about how he had hurt his back in the past teaching so many hours. She said he is a good man. Basically we were on the same page about Sharath, full of both respect and fondness. I told her about the last conference, how he seems a little fiercer this year, a larger presence. We discussed some of the questions and his answers, and laughed. I asked her how many massages she gives every week? She told me 3-4 per day. 'This is my season, when Sharath closes the shala, I close'. Between the bodywork and the cooking, they are busy ladies. Shashalika also has a small yoga shala on the other side of the house and teaches there.

Afterwards I was led into the back of the house into a small stone bathroom with a partial roof of sticks through which you could get glimpses of the floor above through cobwebs. I was covered in soapnut paste (she doesn't use the arapu powder) and fully rinsed off bucket-bath style, bit by bit while I shivered a little, then left with another bucket of nice warm water to complete my bath, and a clean, very fresh-smelling large tea towel.

No-nos for the rest of the day: tomatoes, lemon, coconut, pineapple, curd, cool drinks, going to the pool and swimming in cool water, climbing Chamundi Hill or the like. I was to go home and rest and see how the oil affected me. I woke Appu from his nap in the rickshaw and got him to drop me off at Amruth... I wanted to sit in the warm sun with a chai for ten minutes. After that I went home and, erm, went on the Internet for a while (!). I was actually pretty full of energy, but made myself rest as instructed. No nap, though. A short walk and masala dosa later.

The next day I was so full of energy, I went out for a walk and walked all the way into the city along KRS Road, past Supna bookshop, sat down on a corner in the sunshine for ten minutes and walked back down Hunsur Road (past the Metropole and Regaalis). Walking past the lake, I noticed the sun scintillating on the waters, and since it was actually a good time of day to walk around it (meaning it was open), I took a large detour all the way around. Then after that peacefulness I wanted to avoid the main road, so walked back to Gokulam through some back streets and got a little lost. I ended up walking for THREE HOURS, basically without stopping. Castor oil? Full moon? In any case, I felt tremendously good in led 2nd this morning, loose and open. So I guess it is safe to say, castor oil does not knock me out. This apparently means I'm not very toxic :-)

I'd recommend the Three Sisters for massage or lunch (delicious!!). If castor oil makes you nervous or you don't fancy being washed off after, you can have a treatment with 'ayurvedic oil' (not sure if this means matched to your constitution or not?)

I'll leave you with some pictures of beautiful Lake Kukkarahalli.


Anthony Grim Hall said...

Hope the tac is going well and a little less fretfull...or is it the tic never quite sure which is which.

susananda said...

Cheers :-)

It's the toc. Haven't been able to have a go since the last blog (Thursday)... I'm quite happy to do another 20 jumps on my own again before help arrives, if that's the way it goes. He must think I'm accomplishing something that way if he lets me do it, plus I am stubborn :-)

sereneflavor said...

Now that's travel writing! This read like it was videotaped Susan. Thanks for writing long, Much appreciated!

Anonymous said...

You walked for THREE HOURS?? That's some serious walking going on. Love your description of the Three Sisters massage, I did the Ayurvedic massage and Harini kept checking in "Are you ok?" "How do you feel?" "Yes, some pain is necessary" lol. I feel as if I could sit and chat with her for hours!

The lake's my favorite spot in Mysore, we didn't get a chance to visit as often as we'd like. Next time.

Re: Teacher trainings - you're right that the student-to-teacher transition is happening a lot more quickly these days. Recently heard about a student who started Ashtanga last summer and is now assisting Mysore classes at another studio. Say what??

susananda said...

Thanks Maria :-D

The Lake is awesome, and the perfect antidote to all the dust and traffic. I don't get there often even either!

Assisting, at least you're under someone else's watchful eye.... and at least you're in a mysore program in the first place!

susananda said...

I need the long walks to burn off all the sugar.... :-/

susananda said...

Often *enough* ...

Boodiba said...

" there is no reason to smirk at people and walk around looking like a bitchy high school girl with a pickle up your ass"


I'm glad your feathers aren't getting so ruffled these days and I agree that limiting exposure to potential annoyances can be the way to go.

juliagrace said...

Amazing description of the decor at the Three Sisters' place Susan! I'm glad you were brave enough to get a massage and that it was a pleasant experience. Makes me want to have one!

T H said...

Hi there, thanks for the interesting read. "To those few (always women) - there is no reason to smirk at people and walk around looking like a bitchy high school girl with a pickle up your ass. Luckily you don't control who eats at the cool kids' table here :-)" brought a good laugh.

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Rahul Mane said...

Great read also loves the beautiful Lake Kukkarahalli photographs

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