A Month in Mysore — The First Two Weeks

Our flights departed Philadelphia International Airport on the evening of February 26th, 2015. We arrived at our destination, Mysuru, India, approximated 8,400 miles away, almost 2 days later…

Layover in Frankfort, Germany airport

Layover in Frankfort, Germany airport

Day One in India :: After over 30 hours of travel, including a 45 minute Level 3 Security Screening for me that left me in tears, two 8 1/2 hour plane rides, a 5 hour layover, endless times in lines, and a 3 hour car ride to our hotel, we arrived at a hotel in Mysore at 5am on Saturday. Bleary-eyed and covered in travel-slime, we stayed up just long enough to take in the free breakfast and then all 3 of us crawled into bed and closed the curtains on the arrival portion of our adventure…

First Practice :: John, Raine and I arrived at the Shala during the check in times only to be told to come back in a few hours. Not sure why, but other groups arrived as we walked away and were told the same. We laughed about how this would go over at home — can you imagine if we had listed something on the Dhyana Yoga website and people came thousands of miles at that time and got turned away?!!? Haaaaa! We’d be bombarded with pointy emails! So we go back later, and even though we only have half of our paperwork, we have a 3 year old with us so they mercifully let us through. We get our assigned practice times. John is with Sharat, Mysore practice daily 6am, Led at 4:30am on Saturdays and 5:30am Mondays, off on Sundays. I am with Saraswathi, daily at 8am (so we can trade off watching Raine), Led at 8:15 on Sundays, off on Saturdays. In a twist of fate, I, who wouldn’t mind another day off, will be the first to practice, and John, who is foaming at the mouth to roll his mat out, will have to wait until Monday… the Leela continues!
Sunday morning, I nervously arrive at the Shala almost an hour early. I am not the first one there. A girl smiles at me and I sit next to her and we talk. She is a Vinyasa teacher from Jordan. At some point they usher us into the room. I watch how everyone is setting up and do the same. We wait. 35 minutes later Saraswathi enters the room. I know very little about her, but upon seeing her I remember what my very first Ashtanga teacher, Tim Miller, said about her, that she is “just darling.” We stand and chant the invocation and she begins leading us through Sun Salutations. She messes up the count during the 2nd round of Bs, and she laughs and says, “oh! mistake!”

I didn’t come here expecting anything at all, this is really John’s trip, but at that moment something shifted. I looked at her at the front of the room, sweetly laughing at her little mistake, and I’m all in. She has given us permission to be imperfect. Jai ma!

After practice I was shaking, but a “Love” smoothie at everyone’s favorite local cafe, Depth ‘n’ Green, set me straight. Can’t wait to get back on the mat tomorrow…

Settling In :: On Monday, we could finally move out of the hotel and into the apartment we’ll be staying in for the month. John was detoured on his way to practice, and, again, in full India Leela, he will have to wait another day to roll out his mat. I arrive early again, and go in early, because parents are allowed to go in whenever they want. It’s awesome how family oriented they are at the Shala, but also, in all honesty, it’s a major difficulty factor having a child along. You’re not getting rest, you’re preoccupied with their safety, you’re carrying them and all their stuff…and you’re doing so lovingly, as a conscious parent. As Sri K. Pattabhi Jois famously said, “parenting is the 7th series” — the most difficult Yoga.

The guy who has been living in the apartment the past month is not ready to leave when we arrive, but he told us the day before to come whenever we wanted. There are 3 awkward hours where he and his girlfriend wait for his taxi, and our little family hovers near the door with our bags. On first glance, the apartment is sweet, we are psyched! 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a deck, a balcony, sizable kitchen, and washing machine! But I am anxious to clean and set up house…
Finally, we say our goodbyes to our new friends and I begin to work the magic of the Divine Feminine on the space. It has clearly just housed a bachelor, and being a rental, it’s likely people only invest a certain amount of effort in it each month. There is questionable food in the fridge and there are cobwebs throughout. All but 2 light bulbs in the whole place are burnt out. The altar is beautiful but cluttered with random items like sunglasses and single earrings, likely items left behind by previous renters. The first 3 things I did (that you can also do in your space right now to activate it’s energy):
1. Reboot the Altar : Not being ours, I would not add or take away anything (except trash), but you can put anything that inspires you on your altar. I carefully moved the Ganesh murti, the photo of Pattabhi and Sharat, and the images of various deities aside, dusted, shook the altar cloth out, and replaced them thoughtfully. The incense box got cleaned out and I lit a fresh stick of pungent Lakshmi doop (which I also walked through the entire place with for clearing). Finally, offerings of a coconut, bananas, and flowers were sprinkled around. If you don’t have an “altar” like us, maybe your altar is your mantle of family photos, or something you brought home from a favorite vacation.
2. Get rid of clutter : We didn’t bring much, so packing and putting our things away was quick work, but in your place, you may have to do some letting go, or at least invest in some storage bins. Don’t be afraid to throw things out. Nothing is really yours anyway, and if you haven’t used it recently, either use it, or give it to someone who will. This act is all about freeing up flow. I wouldn’t throw things (except old food) away in this rental, but was able to move the little bit of furniture around so all the pathways were clear and we each had somewhere to put our things. After the de-cluttering stage, look around and make aesthetic adjustments — when your eye lands on something, is it pleasing? If it’s crooked, even it out, if things could be grouped, do so! And whether you are male or female, invite in the Divine Feminine by lighting candles or having some flowers around.
3. Make it your own : Even if you’re renting, you are there for a certain period of time, so your space will effect your energy. Do what you’re going to do sooner than later and enjoy it longer! We reorganized the kitchen and made the beds. I put out a candy bowl and John went to the store for fresh food. All the light bulbs were replaced. We talked about a few things we could pick up at some textile shops to brighten up the place, and John cooked… which is a story I’ll get back to later!

Our apartment is on the top floor of this building in Gokolum, just off of Shala Road!

Our apartment is on the top floor of this building in Gokolum, just off of Shala Road!

Later on, we got in a rickshaw and set off to find the school we are trying to enroll Lorraine in for the month, ABC Montessori, which I’ve been in touch with over email. As we bounce along through the delightfully noisy, dusty streets of Mysore, I keep thinking of a sign I saw posted in a nearby restaurant that says, “Any place is a palace if you see it that way.”

Celebrating :: Even though our taxi driver from the airport said “No, not this month,” when we asked him if there were any festivals about to happen that we should know about, there seem to have been celebrations every day since we arrived in Mysore. There are little celebrations each time we come to our mats, bigger ones as old friends reunite and hug at the Shala, a seemingly continuous rain of chants over a loud speaker we can hear from our apartment at all times of day, and even the actual Springtime holiday, Holi, took up about 3 days last week — and this in a region that is not known for celebrating Holi!

Celebratory Post-Practice Coconut Ritual!

Celebratory Post-Practice Coconut Ritual!

Marking off holidays is one way cultures have used to mark time. We go from one to another, orienting ourselves on our made-up calendars, trying to anchor ourselves in time by season, by year, by month, by day. We try to find a line to walk in non-linear space-time. We look at clocks to figure out when we should be where and get annoyed if everyone else isn’t playing by the “rules.”

As I type this, at 6am, Mrs. Ganapathy (owner of the building we are staying in) is ringing bells and performing her morning ritual. I walked up as she was doing it once and stood back to observe. Eyes closed and lips moving silently, she rang bells over lit oil lamps in front of the doorway to the house. I folded my hands as she held incense and turned 3 times with it, then stuck it in a plant. When she saw me she smiled and I smiled back, our eyes and hearts meeting in the early morning quietude. I felt her welcome me into her celebration of the blessings of this household. We both said Namaste, giggled a little, and then shuffled on with our mornings.

As I understand the Ayurvedic view, it is believed that each breath cycle represents one full day of the universe inside of us. The Inhale is an entire day, the Exhale an entire night. When I honor that cycle of life by paying attention to my breath, it symbolizes the respect for the gift of that breath. It is not guaranteed. My own mother passed away in her sleep when she was just 24 years old, so I grew up understanding that this life is so very fragile that you really might just not open your eyes again one morning, and for no particular reason. It is not guaranteed.

So ring the bells, celebrate! You have morning! You have everything. Breathe.

Take Rest :: Our first Moon Day, or Lunar Cycle, or Tithi, or Holiday from Daily Practice (as you wish) came all too soon for me after our arrival to Mysore, India. I had just started doing (assisted) Drop Backs 2 days prior — something I have not done since, like, the 90s — and was eager to do more of them. But such is the gift of Moon Days. They give you pause so you don’t reach too far too fast, and they bring you back into peaceful awareness of the rhythm of the natural world. AND they stoke a great desire to regain your rightful position at the top of the mat again the following day… at least for me they do!

Being “Bags of Mostly Water” (‪credit: Startrek, TNG), we are as deeply effected by the pull of the Full and New Moon cycles as are the bodies of water on our planet. No one will dispute tides are higher and lower during these phases. So whatever it is you do with fervor, consider getting a calendar that shows Moon Phases and resting during the Full and New Moons. You may find a day OFF is just what you needed to move ON!

The pull of the waters was strong for John, Raine, and I on our first Moon Day, so off to the much talked about “Silent Shores” pool we went! We swam, rested, ate veggie burgers and drank milkshakes to our hearts content, and everyone slept well after a relaxing day in the sun!

With temperatures edging easily to 99 every day, you're bound to spend some time at Silent Shores Pool if you get to Mysore!

With temperatures edging easily to 99 every day, you’re bound to spend some time at Silent Shores Pool if you get to Mysore!

What Tim Said :: As the days of early morning practice, mid morning chanting, getting Raine to and from school, and afternoon Sanskrit classes edge on, we begin to settle into what feels like a very normal life in Mysore. The initial excitement has worn off, and I finally had a morning when I didn’t want to go to practice. My routine (waking, washing face, a quick coffee, brushing teeth, and then changing into the practice clothes I laid out the night before so I don’t have to think too much in the morning) supports me in getting going. Yes, I have a coffee. I also eat 3 almonds I have soaked in water overnight. It’s my jawn. I also carefully lay out Raine’s school outfit for the day, in the order the pieces are to be put on, and make her lunch, leaving John with strict instructions to brush her hair before she goes (which he never does). Finally, I cover up with a long skirt and scarf, grab my mat bag, and flip-flop my way down the road to Saraswathi’s Shala.

As soon as I start, I decide it’s hot enough that I could just do 3 As and 3 Bs and be plenty warmed up. After the 3rd A, I was convinced Saraswathi was counting and freaked out in my head enough to go on and complete all 5 As (I’m talking about the warm ups, Sun Salutations, for any non-yogis here). But I’m still set on just 3 Bs, maybe just 2. Of course by the time I get to the 3rd B, I realize it’s silly not to do the last 2 after coming that far. You just can’t go wrong with 5 and 5.

I’m plenty warm! Sweat actually pours up into my upside down nose in my first forward fold. I don’t remember a lot after that, as practice goes, but I’m left after certain sections feeling like this is a good, solid practice. I’m glad I didn’t give in to the temptation to stay home. “Good for you,” I hear in my head over and over. “No Circus!” and after a particularly nice interface with a certain pose that has been alluding me I also hear, “Some small progress!” It’s Tim Miller’s voice. I hear it all the time.

I have had a lot of good fortune in my life, but practicing at Tim’s old studio in Encinitas, California way, way back in my 20s is something beyond luck. I only went there for 2 reasons, and I have to be totally honest here so feel free to laugh at me! 1. It was close to my apartment, and 2. the surfers went there. Whatever your reason was for starting Yoga, maybe cross-training, maybe because an Ex dragged you there and you kept going after the break up, I get it, it’s all good. God has to get you on the mat somehow. Doesn’t matter how.

Anyway, Tim was the teacher who made me LOVE Yoga. It made my insides hurt (metaphorically) I loved it so much. His place was special and it changed me. But here’s the interesting thing, I don’t remember Tim ever actually paying any attention to me, or giving me an adjustment or anything. There was an assistant in the room who helped me, and I even took a few privates from him, but Tim was helping other people. You have to understand, in the Mysore room, the teacher is helping certain students with some poses that really require a hands on assist, and that they have been working with those students daily for years, maybe decades. Also, I was a terrible student. Much as I loved practice, I was not there every day, I was working at a radio station and doing all the late-night things that come along with that, and you can’t expect a teacher to pay more attention to you than you’re willing to pay to yourself. Still…
I would hear Tim’s voice from across the room. “Why making Circus?” he would laugh. “Good for you,” he would say in a tone that simultaneously felt like ‘congratulations’ and ‘so what.’ And of course, the epic, “Some small progress!”

Sometimes Some Small Progress creates Some Small Boo-boo!

Sometimes Some Small Progress creates Some Small Boo-boo!

I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever in a million lifetimes ever be able to thank Tim enough for making me love Yoga. There is nothing I could say or do or give him that would be proper repayment. Anything I have offered to anyone in terms of Yoga or Dhyana Yoga or just talking about Yoga all goes back to him, though. What I can do is practice. Especially on the days I don’t want to go. To sweat up my nose. To finish with pruned fingers and completely disheveled hair. To not force or want or strive for anything, and to do it all AGAIN.

ALTERED SPACE // I GO TO WORK

Last week I was talking to a group of teacher trainees at DY about business, and I found myself saying what I always say when asked how I’ve managed to build a successful business : “I go to work.”

I joked about trying to write this article for weeks now, and having a block because my big secret is : “I go to work.” End of story. Publish. Share.

My husband and I have another joke about how we are people just made to work. We come from hard-working stock. My mother’s family was from Baja, Mexico and worked hard not only to get to Los Angeles, but to survive there. I am actually more Mexicana by blood than Italiana, but my driven father who raised me is Italian and he instilled in me a gut wrenching work ethic which he himself had to develop at a young age in order to put himself through school. When I am happy, I go to work. When I am sad, I go to work. When I am tired, I go to work. When I am scared, I go to work. When I am depressed, I go to work. When I am excited, I go to work. It’s this weird reflex I have… I go to work.

If you could see the table I am sitting out now, I have my computer in front of me so I can do this work. To my right is my journal and some scribbled notes I just used to work on an update of my Bio for the website. To my left is a stack of colored paper and beads and goo to work on some crafts when the baby wakes up from her nap. Off to the side a pile of Italian grammar and vocabulary books tugs my eyes their way and whispers, “don’t forget to do your homework!”

When I am on the mat, it’s hard work. Nothing comes easily to me in Yoga. You might find it funny that I am not particularly good at Yoga asana. But I persist, 25 years into practice, and when I have that great blessing for all the stars and planets and things in my busy life to align that allows me to actually get on the mat these days, I am just happy to do my work there. I know other people are more graceful and accomplished and playful than me on that mat, and that looks nice. But it’s not what happens for me. When I practice, I have to work. Oh sure, you’ll see me smiling here and there at something the teacher may have said, or laughing when I splat out of a hand balance, but then, it’s back to work!

Work sustains me. It makes my heart feel full. I love my work. It’s never about the pay, either. You could be getting a huge paycheck and be miserable, and be getting a little check and be happy. That happiness has more value than ANY paycheck. I happen to get an effervescent feeling from doing a good job at all things big and small. I enjoy contract negotiations as much as cleaning out the fruit bins in the fridge. I sit back and look at the paperwork or sparkly drawer when I’m done and marvel at the job well done! If I am not satisfied with my work, it’s just not finished, so I get back to it. No biggie. To me, that’s the nature of work, do your best, wait for some feedback, and plan your next step. Adjust. Get creative. Maybe you are done. Maybe you need a toothbrush to get into the murky corners, or maybe you need to let go. It’s all part of the process.

One of the verses from the Bhagavad Gita that has always struck a chord with me is, “Finite bodies have an end, but that which possesses and uses the body is infinite, illimitable, eternal, indestructible. Therefore fight, O Bharata.” (2.18) Krishna is advising us to do our Dharma, the “fight” is a metaphor for the task at hand. The good work we do is infinity being channeled through us, and the deeds we leave in our wake are a legacy of energy that we ride until our own finite body turns to dust, and that all of those thereafter will inherit. In other words, you’re here for a short while, why not leave something nice behind?

I’m just going to call this the “Preface” to future installments on how I started Dhyana Yoga and things that I learned along the way, and I will definitely address the great questions people have specifically asked, especially the ones that you can’t find out through a Google search. But for now, the baby is rustling around, so it’s time for me to… ah, probably PLAY for awhile!

Make shapes that create Harmony, Peace, and Love in your life!

Sat Namaste!

Diana

ALTERED SPACE // WHAT WE EAT

In 2002 I moved back to Philadelphia after 14 years mostly in Southern California, and partly on a journey literally around the world (more on this later). I came back in July, and it was hot. By August I had found a little room at 12th and Walnut and rented it in a handshake deal with plans on opening a yoga studio. I sweated it out the next few months getting that room ready by refinishing the floors, painting the walls, and doing a 3 layer lotus stencil design 108 times around the top of the walls. I wasn’t used to the humidity, and as I sewed curtains and made pillows and even stapled in some carpet, I longed for the cool breezes of San Diego. On October 5th, 2002, Dhyana Yoga at 1212 Walnut Street, 2nd Floor had it’s Grand Opening celebration, though, and my friends and relatives showed up in support… and in sweat. The turn out was great, and the room was HOT! It got even hotter as more people arrived, and even more so as my new friends Simon Park, Marni Sclaroff, and Phil Migliarese did asana demonstrations in the front of the room.

And then it got cold. So very cold. I hadn’t endured an East Coast winter for quite some time. I thought I owned a coat. It was not a coat, it was a thing with sleeves. In San Diego, a nice, heavy, cozy sweatshirt is a coat. In the middle of winter in Philadelphia, that sweatshirt did nothing to protect me against the biting wind as I walked my also cold dog, Santa (AKA “Bob”) morning, noon, and night. I fell on the ice in my Puma sneakers and Bob ran home without me. It was almost too much to take. I had to rally. Winter lasts awhile. So I bought a big, unflattering, puffy jacket at a thrift shop on South Street and my neighbor gave me a hat. And I practiced a lot because at least the practice room was warm! I’ll admit, I wondered more than once that long winter why I ever decided to leave San Diego and come back to my hometown.

Now 11 years later I have a little stockpile of winter gear, the right boots for snow and ice, and that gritty Philly girl that got soft on the West Coast resurfaced, and even enjoys the winter cold these days! I also have support from the inside, via my Ayurveda practice, to keep me warm. Below is an amazing, easy, and absolutely delicious recipe for a hearty soup that will keep you toasty, nourished, and going back for another bowl! Also keep in mind that Ayurveda says when you feel wet and cold, to favor lighter, warmer foods and spices that balance out Kapha (the earth and water elements that may make you feel cold, damp, and lethargic). Also, during times of transition, be they seasons of nature or seasons of your life, it is wise to pay special attention to the basics of good health: meditation, regular exercise, sensory nourishment and emotional healing. I hope this healthy soup recipe will warm your body, delight your taste buds and make you happy! Enjoy!

Heart-y Ginger Vegetable Soup

Ingredients: 3 carrots, 4 rutabagas, 3 stalks of celery, 2 inches of ginger, 3 garlic cloves, 1/2 an onion, 1 turnip, 2 cartons vegetable stock, 1/2 small carton of Pomi tomatoes, 1 tablespoon evoo, salt & pepper (parsley to garnish)

John's 3rd bowl of this yummy soup!

John’s 3rd bowl of this yummy soup!

Preparation:

1. In a stock pot, warm oil. Add diced garlic, ginger, and chopped onion, stir 3 mins (don’t burn the garlic!). Add chopped celery and turnip and cook on medium heat stirring lightly 5-7 minutes so they can soften.

3. Add chopped carrots and rutabagas, which look like crazy carrots. If you have knife skills it’s best to chop them by hand because your shakti (love and power) goes in them, but I don’t have knife skills so I do them the in the food processor and say a mantra instead, which is also fun! And fast…

4. Stir up everything in the pot and keep cooking for 5 more minutes, then add the crushed tomatoes and vegetable stock. Stir more. Everything should be in the pot now. Bring it to a boil.

5. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes.

6. Stick an immersion blender in the pot and blend everything up. You might end up with a few chunks of rutabaga or carrot but that’s kind of fun to come across in a bowl of this soup so don’t worry about getting it perfect.

7. Salt and Pepper to taste, but you won’t need a lot. When you serve it up, put some fresh Italian parsley leaves in the bowl if you have them, totally optional.

This yields about 8-10 bowls, but everyone will want seconds! Enjoy!

  • Find out first about our special offers and events!

    Every month Dhyana Yoga offers a sale, discount, or freebie -- don't miss out! Email us at dhyana.staff@gmail.com to start getting our newsletters.