Thursday, December 3, 2015

Treat Yo Self: Hot Wheels and New Digs

I have been meaning to write this post for three weeks now... my bad. I was not loving the house that I was staying at in Mysore so I moved. The people were great but the room was small and dark and very very loud (a cafe was being built on the other side of my wall). Instead of being upset about it, I decided to treat myself to an upgrade (which might have been inspired from watching an episode of Parks and Recreation where Adam Scott buys himself an awesome Batman costume on "Treat Yo Self Day"). I moved into a sweet one bedroom flat above an adorable elderly couple and rented myself a scooter.

Here is the place (if I come back, I am brining a hoop... pefect hooping space is hard to find!):

And here is the scooter:

Having a scooter allowed me to really go exploring and feel more like a local and not like a tourist. I was warned not to drive in India (hey Kaush!) but I have to say I LOVED it! It seems like chaos, non-stop honking and no rules but there ARE unspoken/non-legal rules. Yellow light means go as fast as you can, red light means stop unless you can go (then giv'r) and there is no such thing as a green light. Even the walk symbol for pedestrians is red when it means walk (I guess it means walk but only if it's safe to do so, cars won't stop for you so you're on your own). When you turn into traffic, there is no need to look over your shoulder (but don't worry parents, I still did it). Drivers just go and the rest of traffic knows they are going to pull out and slows down to let them in. Then drivers give a little honk, just to let them know they are there. It's not an agressive honk, it just means... hey I'm beside you and I'm probably going to pass you, don't hit me please. I get it and I love it. It's like being in a video game. Even driving on the left side of the road came naturally. It took me right back to the first time I rode a scooter in Bermunda (and fell off... err... umm... yeah, that happened but only the one time).

During my final few weeks in India, I took another cooking class, did a bike tour around Srirangaptnam Island, explored Mysore palace, got a (free) ayurveda massage from a massage student (that was amazing), had another reiki treatment, went to the mall, the movies, the zoo and basically scootered all over the place taking pictures of temples and other pretty things. Oh and small world, the girl who gave me the massage is from Almonte, Ontario (near Ottawa) and we have many friends in common. Such a small world!

Here are a few pics:

My yoga made some small progress, I got better at holding headstand, am comfortable in mariychasana d, and can come back up from bhujapidasana now. I still have some work to do though... definitely not ready for advanced series yet. But I am totally fine with that.

Next up is a few days in Paris and then back to Ottawa!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Part-Time Job, Hilter and Coconuts

Today starts the second week at the Ashtanga Institute. Here is a quick update of the past week:

  • Getting the bind in Marichyasana D fairly reguarly now (wahoo!), thanks to being called out in front of the whole class by Saraswati ("YOU... did you catch?") I didn't catch... but have been catching ever since.
  • Took a cooking class with the woman I am staying with. I now know how to make awesome Indian Thali (sidenote: pressure cookers are the bomb. Literally. How had I never heard of this phenomenal time-saving contraption before?). Below is an eggplant and potato vegetable dish, dal (from mung bean), rice roti, lemon-peanut rice, a beetroot dish and plain rice:
  • Finally got a coconut from the coconut stand outside the shala.
  • I have way too much free time on my hands. I am done class by 7am and then have the whole day free. I'm on a mission to find some interesting courses so I can take advantage of everything this place has to offer.
  • Took a part time job at a local cafe here (see point above). I thought it would be fun and a good way to meet people. The jury is still out on both.
  • Paid a few dollars to hang out at hotel pool all day (and took my first Rickshaw ride).
  • Have read a ton of books. Sarah Colonna is hilarious.
  • Learned that the swastika is actually a hindu symbol. It is a symbol of luck and it said to bring good fortune. Hilter twisted it's meaning (the word aryan is actually from the sanskrit word arya, meaning supreme/pure). It is everywhere. I keep meaning to tell you.

  • I'm still adjusting to this town. It is really spread out and is the complete opposite of Rishikesh. Everytime I need to go get something from the store, it's a long adventure. I am working on making friends but so far, not going so well. I asked a couple that I sat with at a cafe if this was their first time in Mysore and they said it was their 11th year. It definitely seems like most people have been here before and have their little groups already made. It's OK though, I have learned on this trip that I am a bit of a loner and kind of prefer it that way. However, the yoga school has told us several times now that yoga students should walk together in groups for safety. So I'm on a mission to make some friends that will go to the Mysore Palace with me. Will keep you updated!

    Update: It has now been over 14 hour since I made the above post and am happy to report that I made some friends. After I posted early this morning, I went to get a manicure, pedicure and facial (since it is cheap, I had lots of time to kill and why not?). After the pampering I saw a facebook message from a French girl I sat beside at registration inviting me to her place to do massages and an osho meditation. I went, along with a few others and we had a great time. We learned how to do standing massages (i.e. one person lays down and the other massages with their feet), which I would highly recommend. Afterwards we had tea and then did an hour long active dynamic meditation (called "No Dimension"). It started with a 30 minute repetitive dance (and chant) and then we twirled for 15 minutes followed by 15 minutes of silence laying on our stomaches. I know it sounds crazy but it was good times and I liked the music. It was kind of like this (at least for the first part):

    Saturday, October 31, 2015

    The Ashtanga Institute - Day 1

    Wow! That was intense. It's currently 7:45am on Sunday, November 1st and I am sitting in a cafe digesting my first class at the Ashtanga Institute. For those that don't know, the Ashtanga Institute was founded by the famous yogi, Shri K Pattabhi Jois (also known for teaching Madonna how to yoga). He passed away in 2009 but the institute is still run by his grandson (Sharath) and his daughter (Saraswathi). The Ashtanga style of yoga is very popular among Westerners and is a very physical (i.e. sweaty) practice. I was so happy to be accepted since the competition is fierce and everyone wants to come practice at the little shala. I signed up for Saraswathi's class since her classes are not in as high demand as Sharath's (as he is the only one who can authorize people to be a certified Ashtanga teacher) and my availability was not flexible so I wanted to make sure I got in for November. But due to the increased demand, the shala added a new rule this year that you could only practice with Sharath if you could prove two months of training with certified teachers, of whom there are only a handful (none in Ottawa). So anyways, her class ended up being completely full but I got in wahoo!

    My class time is 6am but the shala clock is 25 minutes fast so that really means 5:35. On Sundays we practice at the main shala and Saraswathi leads us through a class. On Monday through Friday we go to her own shala a few blocks away and do Mysore-style class. Mysore-style just means that you do your own thing and the teacher comes around and adjusts as needed (so the person beside me could be working on one arm peacock pose while I struggle with shoulder stand).

    So this could be the guy next to me:
    And this would be me:

    There is another girl staying at the same house as me (Aksana from Russia) and is also studying with Saraswathi so we both got up at 4am and walked together to the shala. We were the third and fourth people there and I was the first one to put my mat down. It was a pretty incredible feeling to be in this room where so many accomplished yogis have been before me and feel the energy in the room. And I was the first one since the shala was closed for the summer/fall. So cool!

    Class started abruptly. There was no introduction, she just started counting in Sanskrit and we all jumped up to the tops of our mats to begin the primary series. Oh yeah I forgot to mention that with Ashtanga you do a set series of poses, the first is called the primary series, then second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth. One arm handstand (yes, that's ONE ARM handstand) comes in the fifth series and regular handstand makes its first appearance in the primary series, which is where I am at. I don't even know what happens in the sixth and will probably never know. It was around this time that I realized how insanely packed the room was. Six people had to practice up on the little stage beside her, many people were sideways along the walls and several people were in the front hallway and could not see anything. Note to self: go early on Sundays. Actually, always go early.
    Here's a photo of Sharath teaching in the same room. It was like this but the mats were even closer together and there were two more people on the stage.

    I was really happy that November 1st happened to be a Sunday, which meant we got to start with a led class. Other than the one Ashtanga class that I took in Rishikesh, it has been a few months since I've done the primary series and my memory is rusty, which is not good when you're expected to have the full series memorized. With Ashtanga you only do as many poses as you can do properly and then when the teacher thinks you are ready, they'll give you another one to add on.

    I was super nervous and expected her to tell me to stop when I didn't get the bind (i.e. grab my wrist) in Marichyasana D (see pic below) but she didn't (or maybe she didn't see). As the class went on she told many people to stop (which means they just sit crossed legged on the mat waiting to join the rest for the closing sequence). I kept waiting for her to point and me and say "you, stop" but she never did. I made it the whole way through! (This is a big deal.) I guess it paid off to get up early and go over the sequence a few times. She only gave me one adjustment at the beginning but the rest was pretty smooth (and sweaty) sailing all the way to sweet savasana (aka lying on back). After class, I walked outside to a waiting coconut vendor eager to give fresh coconuts to all the yogis. It's a pretty sweet life here.

    So that's it for day one. I feel amazing and am looking forward to a cold bucket shower (not really but it's better than a swim in the Ganges). Have a feeling I'm going to be sore tomorrow.


    p.s. Sorry if my non-yogi friends find this boring! I'll try to spice things up next time.

    p.p.s. I want to document my progress over the next month, so here goes (non-yogi people probably want to skip this part):

  • Kept hip in line for trikonasana but could not touch toe. Work on a wider stance.
  • Work on wider stance in padottanasana to get head to ground. (And better stagger so don't hit neighbours bum!)
  • Work on bind in Marichyasana D.
  • Work on getting chin to touch ground in Bujapidasana.
  • Figure out how to fit legs behind head/body for supta kurmanasana.
  • Work on setu bandhasana without supporting hips.
  • Work on holding sirasana (headstand) for 15 seconds.
  • Work on holding half headstand for 15 seconds.
  • Hold utpluthih for 10 breaths.
  • Study all of the mantra chants that Saraswathi recited after baddha padmasana

  • If any yogi friends have tips for how I can improve. Let me know :-). ❤️

    Mysore... made it!

    The last few days in Rishikesh went by quickly. I completed a level 1 Reiki healing course, attended a few yoga classes (one of them was taught by an Ashtangi from Ottawa! Eric Desjardins), did some last minute shopping, watched some movies (Breakfast at Tiffany's and Samsara) and visited my favourite cafes for the last time. I also bought a Tibetan singing bowl and discovered I am terrible at playing it (sorry to my neighbours!). But I found a shop today in Mysore that offers lessons so I think I will try that out.

    This is my Reiki Master, Deepak. He is a wonderful teacher.
    This is my singing bowl. I bargained it from $15 CAD to about $7.
    Julia and I left Rishikesh at 2am via taxi to Delhi. Here is a pic of her enjoying the brisk winter air around 4am for our forced tea break:

    The flight to Bengaluru (which is the captial of Karnataka, one of the southern states) was pretty quick and I had a nice driver waiting for me (although he didn't speak any English so the entire ride was silent). My first impression was "wow, this place is beautiful". It did not feel like India at all, it felt more like Costa Rica. There were so many trees everywhere, big billboards, nice houses and the air was clean. I left the window open the whole drive and enjoyed the fresh air and the sunset. It was nice not to smell rotting pollution and pee for a change. And while outside the Delhi airport, there were tons of people living in cardboard boxes and people just lying in the street whom you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive; outside the Bangalore airport, there were flowers, water fountains and endless trees. I didn't snap many pics, but here are a few:

    After more than 17 hours of travel on less than 3 hours of sleep, I arrived at my host house and was welcomed by a LOT of people. The only people that actually live in the house are a husband and wife (both of their kids are now in the USA so they rent out their kid's rooms to yoga students). However, one of their nephews is getting married tomorrow and so they were throwing him a little party and his entire family was here. I just barely dropped my bag off in the room and then was told to come upstair and watch the "show". The show consisted of rubbing tumeric all over the groom, waiting for him to shower and change, blessing him by dipping your finger in a bowl of goo and touching his forehead and then feeding him a lot of sweets. After this they had a big dinner and I think there was alcohol based on some of the craziness I heard (I was able to sneak away just before dinner and hit the sack... although the family wanted me to stay I just couldn't do it). Here is a pic of me (trying not to look completely exhausted), the groom and the host lady (Shaila):

    And here are some pics of the family (although this is only a fraction of the people that were there):

    Thanks for reading if you're still keeping up with me! I'm all registered at the Ashtanga Institue and start classes tomorrow at 5:30am (gasp!). Hope all is well back in Canada (or wherever you are :-))


    p.s. Happy Halloween! I don't think they celebrate it in India but I will watch an episode of American Horror Story in honour of the day :-).

    Sunday, October 25, 2015

    Thoughts on India: Little House on the Big Steaming Pile of Cow Shit

    Granted my experience in India is limited to the Delhi airport, the drive from the airport and 6 weeks in Rishikesh. Regardless, I wanted to update you on my opinion of India. I was warned before I came here that I would love it and hate it, that it is the land of extremes, it would break me down and build me back up, that I would see a lot of poverty and dirt (and beauty), among other things. And I'd say that is pretty much true. I absolutely love India when I am doing yoga as the sun rises, sitting in a cafe reading a book, climbing a mountain to see a temple, watching young kids play cricket or see a mama cow licking her baby cow. But when I come out of the bubble and step in a fresh pile of cow dung, almost get run over by a car, see an old man peeing on the side of the street, get stalked by creepy guys who want pictures of white girls, smell the rotting garbage that is EVERYWHERE and am harassed by store clerks... it's hard to stay blissful. When the 5th street vendor yells "Hello madame, come madame, fresh chai madame, best chai* in India, good price just for you madame..." it takes every happy yoga vibe in me not to yell back "I hate chai and don't call me MADAME!". But I will say that the harassing is not nearly as bad as I have seen in other countries. I think St. Lucia was probably the worst. Here at least, if you say no people tend to leave you alone and move on to the next person. And I am in Rishikesh, which is a happy tourist town. Some of the stories I heard of Delhi were so disturbing that I decided to change my travel plans. Also, I found out that the Taj Mahal is the most visited place in the world. So that means there must be a million pictures of it already. I will just instagram one of those, avoid the crowds and pretend that I went ;-).
    Being in India feels like stepping back in time. It kind of reminds me of Guyana but with 100 times more people. You need to carry a headlamp with you at all time since the power goes out multiple times per day. Like you are taking a shower and then all the lights go off... this happens often. The roads are very thin, usually the width of one and a half cars. But there are cars going in both directions, tons of motorcyclists and scooters weaving in and out of traffic, street vendors pushing huge tables of items to sell, cows, dogs and TONS of people also walking on the road (since there are no sidewalks). And the cars honk like crazy, nearly giving me a heart attack or running over my foot every time. I have seen multiple walls built in the past few weeks. All of them made with 3rd of 4th generation bricks brought in by young boys carrying as many bricks as they can on their heads. The concrete was mixed by hand... everything is done by hand. Even carrying dirt is done with the use of horses or donkeys. Many roads are too small for vehicles even so they use animals to transport. Here's a pic:

    What I love about India (or at least Rishikesh) is the sense of community. People here work hard and they work long long days. Everyone knows everyone. If you go to the corner store, the post office, the stationary shop, etc., it's always the same shop owner working, usually from 8am to at least 9pm. And when the power goes out all of the store clerks hang out together in the street and talk. There are no distractions of modern technology, they form real bonds. When someone gets a flat tire, everyone helps. When someone is pushing a trailer of cement by hand up a hill, others jump in and help (see photo above). You also know where you food comes from (for the most part). It has not been processed and sent all over the country. You get your fruit and veggies from local farmers (there is no meat at all in this town) and everything is made fresh. It might take awhile for your food to be made, but nothing is frozen (mostly because they can't keep things cold with the power going out unless they have a generator) and it feels like the path from the ground to your body is much shorter. My yoga teacher was telling us about how when someone dies, the whole community comes together together to hold a ceremony. Neighbours make food, store clerks provide necessary items by donation only and friends and neighbours take care of all the details so the family can just mourn. He could not believe that in the Western culture we hire people to do these things. He felt that we use every opportunity to make a profit and commercialize everything. It was hard to disagree with him.

    So yeah at this point, I still have mixed feelings but I do like it here. I am getting used to the smells and the people, becoming really good at bargaining, and am slowly discovering off-road pathways that may take longer but that don't have cars honking focing me to jump out of the way and step in cow shit. I leave on Thursday for Mysore (in Sourthern India). I hear that Southern India is totally different and more modern... might even be able to show my shoulders in public :-O.

    Until next time...
    ~Amanda :-)

    * Chai (or Masala Chai) is the drink of choice in India. It is black tea brewed with tons of spices. Most people love it.



    Hello blog readers! It's nice to finally talk to you again. There was a bad storm here a few weeks ago (which made for a very intense meditation class) and the wi-fi went down and stayed down for two weeks. The school brought in some repair guys and finally had it working again last week but that was the final week of classes and I was busy working on lesson plans, preparing my final presentation and finishing up homework.

    The last week was pretty hectic. I taught two 90 minutes classes to the 200-hour students (everyone else taught one class but since we were an odd number, they needed a volunteer to teach a second). I'm really glad I volunteered since I was much more comfortable the second time around and got some helpful feedback. It definitely gave me the urge to teach more when I get home. I forgot how much I love it :-).

    My final presentaiton was on yogic management of common diseases. I talked about various yoga techniques that can help with headaches, arthritis, asthma, heart issues, common cold, back ache and constipation. If you want to know any of them, just let me know!

    We graduated a day early since our teacher had "other duties to attend to" (as he told us). The ceremony was nice, we put on our nicest travel clothes and had a pooja (Hindu ritual) where some priests came in and chanted while offering things to various deities on our behalf. Then we did the fire dance again (where they give you a plate of candles and you squat up and down while holding it and circling the altar... I think while giving thanks. Again, I was just trying not to drop it.).
    After the ceremony, they took us to a Indian restaurant and I had the best Indian food I have ever had. After 6 weeks here, you'd think I'd be able to tell you what the different dishes were but I still refer to them as "yellow mush", "green mush", "vegetables" and "soup". The entire platter is called Thali. This is what is looked like:

    Yesterday was the day after graduation. It was a werid feeling knowing that there was no class to go to, no homework to finish and no schedule to follow. I treated myself to a facial and a manicure, spent 2 hours browsing bookstores, sat by the Ganges and read a book, attended a free yoga class and then went for a reiki healing/emotional blockage session. It was a pretty lovely day.

    I decided not to go hiking up north. I actually really like this town and would like to stick around and do some local classes here. There are also lots of temples to hike to around here so that will give my fix. Plus, the school is letting me stay for free (and feeding me) and I don't have to pack. Win!

    Talk soon!
    ~Amanda <3
    p.s. for those that don't follow me on instagram, I got a little tattoo on my heel/ankle of a sun and moon (to represent Ha-Tha, as in hatha yoga teacher training or yin/yang, balance, ida/pingala, masculine/feminine, whatever you want!). My German friend (Julia) and I got matching ones (but hers is on her arm). It was a spontaneous decision we made while having lunch across the street from a tattoo parlor. Don't worry parents, the place was clean and safe.

    Sunday, October 4, 2015

    Hiking to Shiva Temple and Flying Headstands

    Another Sunday and another great adventure. Our senior teacher decided to take the 300 hour group on a 6km hike up to Shiva Temple in the mountains. What he didn't tell us was that it was 6km straight up... we basically walked up huge stairs made of rocks for 3.5 hours. It was incredibly tough but definitely worth it as the views were breath-taking. And we took taxis back, which made me very happy :-).

    After the hike, I relaxed my legs for a couple of hours and then went to a 3 hour acroyoga workshop that was put on my a nice French couple who I met in a cafe close to the yoga school. My friend Julia (from Germany) came with and we had an amazing class. It was very advanced and a lot of fun. I still can't believe some of the poses that we did.

    We went straight from acroyoga to dinner across the road at this amazing restaurant called the Moon Light Cafe. We were there for about 5 minutes when four of our of classmates from the yoga school happened to come in and joined us. Was a wonderful day!

    It is Monday now and another 200 hour group just started at the school, which brought in 60 new people (whom we will be teaching classes to as of next week). It's a little chaotic around here but nice to see some new faces. I am excited to see what kind of adventures will be planned for the following Sundays. Stay tuned!