Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Canadian Me

This is me and Carol shopping in the market. She and I met in Anu's over dinner one Friday evening. We instantly bonded over our waitress past, love of samosas, hailing from a small Ashtanga community, and our dirty little shared secret love of celebrity gossip web sites. I can't remember when I have had such an instant connection and comfort level with someone I just met. I think it has been her friendship that has brought so much of this experience together for me.

This is my last week here in Mysore. I couldn't have even imagined typing that sentence upon my arrival. I feel strong and connected to myself and the tradition of yoga. I am very much looking forward to sharing this India experience with so many dear friends from home. I'll be seeing some of them dark and early in the Bangalore airport this week.
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Friday, August 29, 2008

Jill Shout Out

I just went to Kyle's blog and he gave me a shout out and a posted a really nice picture of me from the morning.
Check it out you'll find it in the post "People at the Shala." Very Mister Rodgers, I love it.

This Is India

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"....Like A Polaroid Picture"

Today is the end of my 6th week of practice at the Shala. It has been a truely tranformative experience. At the the end of the led class this morning, as Sharath said to lie down and take rest, I put my practice towel over my eyes, and started to cry. I feel different. In the last two weeks I feel like I have found my inner Shakti. Shakti meaning sacred force, power or energy. It is always associated with the feminine aspect of the divine. I have always thought of myself as Shiva's girl, especially as my wild hair has grown over the past few years, and taken up the very intense and sometimes forceful practice of Ashtanga Yoga.

I think really working on "minding my head" and since I've been here in Mysore this time I've tried to practice "oily." In this process of being here alone, on my own, I have found her. I look forward to shaking more Shakti this year. Maybe you will too!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

What can I say?

I have found myself in the position back home where someone asks me about India, or the Shala, or Guruji, and I can tell that they don't want to hear how amazing the experience is which is the truth for me. What have I done? I down play the whole thing, and end the chapter of that conversation very quickly.

For me I will never be grateful enough for these experiences. As I right now look out my bedroom door and see the brightest blue sky with the whitest clouds only interrupted by the most brilliant palm tress. I've got to pinch myself. Ahhh! India, what sweet friends we are.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

photo by Carol Reynolds
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Sharath you totally "set the bar"

Some days I can't think of one single thing to blog about. Then there are days like today and I find little nuggets everywhere. I am finding that I have a habit of hearing the smallest phrase that no one else thinks is enlightening then I begin to riff on it in my head. There have been too many today.

The rain this morning was a joke. A big cosmic joke. It's dark, it's pouring, and it is before 5:30am. Practice was strong today and I made sure that I remembered to add Bhekasana. As I was starting my back bends Sharath came over to me and told me to add, as in today, as in stop what your are doing and do this, two more poses. This is no small thing! Again I start with the back bends and he is there waiting for me. I tend to go faster when Sharath is standing there. Faster for me when it comes to drop backs is sloppier. After my third he caught my waist and said, "Wired?" I made a face that must have conveyed my confusion. He said it again, "Wired?" Oh! Tired. An Indian head wiggle comes in handy in these situations. Had my ankles today, I know that Sharth thinks I can do it better.

As I walked to the changing room, I passed him and he and I giggled. His laugh said try harder tomorrow, and mine said OK, I will.

Thanks to all my teachers who set the bar higher than I thought it should go.
Namo Namah

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

See the pattern differently

I think that I have found the secret to yoga. I think that I have known this all along, but today I really got it. We must train ourselves to be more and more flexible. I know that in the practice of asana this concept is clear. Like many of the practices asana sets up a great foundation, it feels like a starting point in a way, through the physical aspect of practice the student can clearly see change.

Then what?

How can you begin to and then continue to develop flexibility of the mind? What about flexibility of the heart? This phrase popped into my head the other day. How can you begin to see the pattern differently? The pattern does not change; you change in relation to the pattern.

I was all set and excited to go to Philosophy class this morning. We had off on Monday for a holiday inspired by Lord Krishna. When I arrived at Jayashree’s and opened the door, I saw all the students sitting in the large entrance way in front of a newly built large alter built to Lord Krishna. Jayashree’s family was in the next room performing puja. After some time listening to the chanting, Jayashree came out and said, “One by one come in and see God.”

Better than Philosophy class….participating in a Jayashree’s family puja.


Then as I waited outside for Kyle, who I split a rickshaw with, it was decided that we would go with Niko to find a book on Sanskrit that he was looking for. As we walked Kyle asked if anyone knew where Krishnamacharya’s Shala where he taught Guruji was. And just like that Niko brought us into the Shala where Krishnamacharya taught. The pulsation was off the chart, for real.


Now I am sitting in what has become my office at Anu’s Bamboo Hut sweat dripping down my body and off my nose…it is so hot, isn’t suppose to be Monsoon season?

Ahh Flexibility.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Nothing Remains the Same

Everything is changing very quickly around Mysore. The Shala has really quieted down, and with that comes earlier start times (I am now arriving at 5:30am), earlier bed times, and more and more familiar faces. The pace of everything starts to slow down.

The weather is wild. Since the day I arrived we had very typical Monsoon season weather. I learned to never leave the house without, at the very least, my umbrella. I was growing accustomed to the sunless days, and the damp downright chilly nights. Since Thursday it has been hot and sunny with very little humidity. I am trying not to get overly attached to this weird weather pattern, it is still Monsoon season after all.

As I left for the Shala this morning I noticed my neighbor across the street had his light on and too was preparing for the predawn march down the road. Over an after practice coconut I told him that seeing his light on gave me comfort, a feeling that I wasn’t alone in this crazy dance. He then told me that the sound that my gate makes signaled to him that, “ahh, Jill is walking to the Shala now.”

What to say about practice? I am learning that in the intense back bending section it is ok to not be in control. As I surrendered to Sharath he easily put my hands right away on my calves, this time with no argument from me, he then said “Wednesday you do Bhekasana.” Just like that…Pade, Pade.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I'm Sick

I have been not feeling really great for about a week, but I kept pushing, and pushing. Then on Thursday night I woke up in the middle of the night with a sore throat, and a very runny left nostril. I decided to rest and I skipped my very first practice since I have been here in Mysore. I am glad that I did because I still don't feel well, but I will go to practice tomorrow, and press on.

I haven't felt torn about being here since that very first week. Now that Mike is home from his adventure I just want to be near him, and Angie. These things tend to cycle and I am sure by the middle of the up coming week I will be once again relishing each moment.

Today I am just resting and trying to heal myself so that my last two weeks of practice can be as amazing as the first 5 have been.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Try Again

Every Sunday feels fresh and full of prana and possibilities. Today is Thursday and just by looking around the Shala you can see the fullness, and the fatigue. It is like every student is wearing a different t-shirt each with a personal message they say, "not another sutra", "I can't tell my "i's" from my "e's", mine said "no more drop backs!" As I approached my first, it was passable, but sloppy at best. By my second Sarasvati was there and I could not come up, and took a little tumble to the floor. As I stood ready to move on, she said "try again" and I did try again, and gave her the look that said, "I am all set today."

Lessons learnt this week:
Do not book a massage on the same day as Sanskrit
No Chai after 3pm
It is good to be a geek

Tomorrow I am in the early led group. New waking time 4:00am. Two weeks until the Philly yogi's leave for India!!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Finally it feels like India. After practice this morning, I am slowly starting to get used the early morning routine, Ida from Denmark informed me that the weather report was to be sunny for three whole days. Sun, she said, sun. I haven't seen the sun since I have been here, and clothes have dried very slowly or not completely at all. This will be a good time to do some laundry.

I have been taking at afternoon philosophy class that is given at Jayashree's. Her brother combines lecture with a question and answer period in a 90 minute session. The classes are really tough, and challenging to sit through. The room is packed, like Shala packed and I sometimes leave there with my head kind of spinning.

I have some interesting feelings arising. I am very contented to be here, at the same time I am very excited about seeing my friends in Kerala, and at the same time looking so forward to coming home. This seems to be the exact opposite of the definition of dharana which according to Patanjali is binding the mind to one place. Maybe my practice will be stronger tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

This picture is courtesy of my friend Carol, from Canada. I am wading through a market full of mud looking for the perfect beads for my sister.
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Fall in love with the journey

Going to re register at the Shala yesterday was a new experience. It sometimes feels like everything around me is going to turn into a pumpkin. I have been here for more than one month, but not quite two. Sharath called me a bad lady for not staying longer, I bobbed my head put my tongue firmly in the third position and said, "What to do?"

5:45am is my new start time.

4:45am for led classes.

Practice today felt great even for such an early start. As I went to work on my drop backs Sharath again was standing waiting for me. It is not an unusual thing to see Sharath on the final drop back bringing students hands to their calves, or in some cases even higher. He has not been moving me in that direction....until this morning. As I tried to surrender to the teacher he put my right hand on my right calf, and then as he went for the left I started resisting. I got the "Don't fear" mantra, but there I was fearing, fearing, and then there it was my left hand holding onto a part of my body I never dreamed it would go.

Now I've got to dream bigger.

As I stood up to move to the stage for closing postures he said "tomorrow you do salabhasana." I am plugging right along. Two weeks from Friday I'll be saying goodbye to this part of the journey. I am working hard to stay present and not anticipate what is coming next. In the short term what is next...a Thai massage, and a Sanskrit lesson.

Hari OM

Monday, August 18, 2008


Devotion is defined as ardent, often selfless affection and dedication, as to a person or principle. Also known as love.

I awoke this morning to the alarm. It was 5am, and completely dark in my room. The only sound I heard was water rushing through pipes onto the street and the rain falling. It was kind of a relentless rain.

Get up, get dressed, and go.

One by one we assemble on the stairs, there is an earlier class, and wait. Waiting in the rain. Waiting 40 minutes in the rain to begin. As I look around the group I see all the familiar faces, it seems as though no one has decided to stay in bed this morning, although I am sure we all contemplated it. Sometimes it is very hard to define devotion, or bhakti, or love, but you sure know it when you see it.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

I am sitting in my room watching the soft Monsoon rain out my front door and loving every minute. Ahhh India, what a sweet place.
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Friday, August 15, 2008

Independence Day

Somehow I thought this would be louder, bigger, and more outwardly celebrated. I am finding it however way more inspiring that it is quiet in Mysore today on India's Independence Day. I am also exploring a bit of my own inner Independence, I can hear Manorama in my ear saying,"whatever that means." This is my first time experiencing the endless practice cycle. I have really never known past the forth week of practice at the Shala, and I am totally getting the built in rest days. My practice time gets earlier and earlier, and after I re register it is surely to be predawn.

There are more days behind me on this leg of the journey than lie ahead. I have no idea how this time will come to be shaped and manifest in my life and teaching, but I do feel different already because of it.

Things that I am inspired by:
Mike, my husband, check out his blog
The beauty of India
The other (hopelessly) devoted students who like me traveled so far and risked so much to be here
Uncertainty, "is it raining, or is that just the palm tress rattling?"

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Walk of Shame

In this whole time I have not gotten yelled at once. Everyday in the Shala you will hear the yells. "No, you first!" when someone is coming into the Shala out of turn. Today someone somewhere in the room was catching their big toes instead of the sides of their feet, "Catch your feet, catch your feet!" The there is the ever popular, "Sit down!" this is when someone is trying to do dropbacks, and they didn't know they weren't allowed.

My morning started crummy. I should not check my email first thing in the morning, no matter how much I want to hear from my husband. As I walked to the Shala my mind was racing, and I contemplated going back home and stewing there. As I made it into the lobby to my surprise there were no students waiting. Then I heard it, "One more!" I looked around and then went into the room. Making your way through the Shala is kind of like making your way through series of land mines, arms and legs are flying from every direction it is best to move quickly and decisively. Just when I went to lay my mat down all the way across the room I heard, "What is your time?!" and just like that I was sent back to the lobby. Just because I am feeling a little sensitive today I started to cry a little.

This is what I am now referring to as the new "Walk of Shame." Like in college, but without the messy mascara.

At the end of practice, another day, another set of dropbacks, Sharath saw me move my right foot a tiny bit and when I came up like he was the Meryl Streep character in the Devil Wears Prada. He softly said, "don't move." For the next two dropbacks I swear I didn't move even an

It's Thursday and I am exhausted from the routine. I just got back from a special lunch for Mary from Yoga Sutra Philly, and now I am officially "taking rest."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

"Keil Envy"

I am suffering from a rather serious case of what I am referring to as, "Keil envy." In the last 24 hours I have received so many messages from people back home who are working with one of the best yoga teachers I have ever met. I am very happy and humbled to say that he has been a great influence on my practice, and in turn my life. He is probably the biggest reason that I am here in India (for the third time in less than two years) and thus the Keil himself is why I am now suffering from Keil envy. There must be a lesson here.

Here are some highlights that you all wrote me that have me living vicariously through you:

"I am flying high!"
"both of us are good and sore."
"something stirred of how good it was to see him, made me happy"
"I was so wiped out by the end, and definitely fell flat on my butt in karandavasana"
"David is like a velvet hammer. I miss your "are you KIDDING me??!!" looks (pre-mayurasana) that always help me through mysore week!"

Missing David Keil very much, but very much so missing all of you!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Me, Junita, and the Shala

It dosen't get better than this!
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The Experience IS the Transformation

I have received loads of emails/messages from home. It f eels like they are pouring in from students/friends/family that are all reporting about their own journey with Ashtanga Yoga. The teacher who has opened so many doors for me with regards to this practice is in my home town, Philadelphia. I am missing him and the transformation that comes from the experience of working with him. He is a wonderful teacher.

I have been thinking a lot about the role of the teacher, and what it means to teach, and how so often a good teacher may not answer your question, but will invite you to examine the question and give you the space to expand into the answer for yourself.

Here in Mysore there in no shortage of wonderful teachers. As always the best teacher starts from within. Sitting in Sanskrit today as everyone in level 2 was struggling away Lakshimish just casually said, “Effort may fade, but never fail to make the effort.” I think I’ll sit with that for awhile.

The sky is getting dark and I am about to head out to chant, it is sure to be a rainy rickshaw ride.

Jai to all of my beloved teachers, and Thank You.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Ok, Ok

I know that I have taken a few days off from writing, but I have had some things on my mind that I don't think were blog appropriate. The end of last week was really hard. I wasn't sleeping because I was feeling very vulnerable about my place at home. It felt as if I was unaware of changes that I would otherwise be made aware of. Anyway, you gotta get over all that. I am here so I need to fully commit to being here and as my friend Mary told me, "don't worry, Guruji will take care of everything."

I believe.

Saturday was an off day from asana, but my turbo Sanskrit class met and it feels like there should be a level between one and two. I think I need a level one and half. I am managing, while struggling and learning a whole bunch.

Sunday I had another Sanskrit lesson, I know turbo charged, and then conference. What an experience. Listening to Sharath speak about yoga, and so skillfully answer or not answer questions humbles and awes me. I will be forever grateful for that experience. I made the choice to not take notes and I am still processing the gems. More on that later.

Big News. Just as I wrote an email to my teacher back home saying that I think Sharath had forgotten about me. Today I am starting my back bends and I hear from across the room "Krounchasana, you do krounchasana." He didn't forget about me at all! So, I received another pose and a new start time 7am!

I am very happy, and very full from a North Indian Thali.

Love, Love

Friday, August 08, 2008

The Reminder

I have been staring at the computer screen for to long. I am trying to come up with something meaningful and profound to say and it feels like I got nothing. I think the enormity of this experience is finally hitting me. I think that is the wave that has crashed into me and pulled me back out far away from shore.

I have been thinking a bit about what I sometimes refer to as the personal and universal experience that is inherit in a led vinyasa class, like the ones I teach at Wake Up Yoga. The same is true here. There is this overarching universal experience. We are all here practicing in the Ashtanga Vinyasa Tradition. We have all traveled from far away to drink from the source. So, what separates us? It seems that it is the personal intention that creates such uniqueness here.

In Teacher Training we spend so much time emphasising the question, "What is your intention?" By knowing your intention dichotomies disappear and as a result self confidence grows. I think this helps when trying to relax into an experience. I should remind myself of this everyday.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Release Me

It feels like I hit my first wall here. I am for the first time since my arrival really looking forward to Saturday as a day off. I am also struggling today with the intensiveness of the experience. My body hurts, my mind is totally full, and I still have to finish Sanskrit homework and go to class. I woke up this morning, and it felt like I dragged myself to practice, and then half way through a practice that I can best describe as limp, I thought what the **** am I doing here. I didn't want to do drop backs again today and I thought that I would just skip them, but I don't know how or where the energy came from I completed them and retired to the ladies changing room for closings and savasana.


Someone with a child told me that is how children make their strides. They seem to take a few steps back before they launch themselves forward. So, I am working on this visualization of me in a sling shot and right now I am being pulled WAY back. Back so far that it is totally uncomfortable and I'll wait to be released.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Rama Rama

I am missing my husband today, so I have gone through my photos and found one from our last trip. I really miss him. Today I feel that my brain might explode right now. I went to take my first harmonium lesson and it was a real trip. Aunti Ji is about 75 years old and she is one intense teacher. When I asked her how often students come to take lessons she said without hesitation, "every day." So, I am embarking on this journey for the remainder of my time here. Just as my brain was nearly full, I went to Sanskrit and whoa, overload. The homework, how I forgot about the volume of homework. I think with the amped up study regimen, time will fly.

Practice was great! Finally, my time was moved up and now I am starting at 7:30 shala time (7:15am.) I am very happy about this. Again Pasasana was more than passable. After my third back bend I could feel Sharath standing on my mat so without any drama I simply came to standing. I know the cure for not being able to do drop backs. Have Sharath standing there watching every single one, waiting to do the assisted back bends with you. Oh Dear!!

Now I am sitting in Anu's Bamboo hut, in the company of other yogi's from all over the globe enjoying the breeze and the sound of the palm trees rattling. Life is Good.
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Monday, August 04, 2008

You win some, you lose some

I finally lost the battle with my trusty alarm clock. Last week it petered out on me, but by the grace of the god powering all things technical it came back to life. It was the birds of South India that provided me with a wake up call this morning. As I turned to see what time it was it came into sharp focus that my alarm clock had officially passed away. Above is my new alarm clock courtesy of Loyal World.

I walked to the Shala this morning feeling great. My Sanskrit class started yesterday, and I already feel that level 2 is going to be a real challenge. We learnt "personal terminations," which someone had to explain to me that was the Indian way of saying personal endings. Lakshimsh laid those out as foundation and then gave us at least 25 verbs that need to be memorized by Tuesday. I forgot how serious he is when it comes to homework and showing up properly prepared. At Jayashree's there are rules written and hung on her wall the first one states:

"Be sincere and regular."

I love that rule.

Practice was strong, very energized. As I bent down to practice Pasasana, I tried to put into practice surrender and non-attachment. Viola there is was on the left then the right. Here is the real lesson, Sharath was in the office speaking with another student. What's that expression about the tree in the forest falling? It still for me was a really powerful moment.

It has been raining less and slowly heating up. I am heading to chanting this evening, and I made an appointment with the famous Auntie-Ji for a harmonium lesson tomorrow. I am excited to add that to my study here.
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Saturday, August 02, 2008

Surrender is Now

I took off yesterday from blogging, it was after all a Moon Day and after nearly two weeks here I wanted a day to climb in rather than expand out. Yesterday was totally the tipping point for surrender. I have finally come to grips with several things:

#1. bucket baths are not so bad

#2. it is ok if I never move past Pasasana

#3. mosquito bites while annoying will not kill me

#4. while some in India experience diarrhea, I on the other hand spend more time constipated (this is good to note if you are on the Wake Up Yoga pilgrimage)

#5. here, no matter how many times you have made this journey, is not HOME

#6. Laundry takes a very long time to dry during Monsoon season

#7. I have no control over what happens at home

I gave myself two weeks to really get into the experience here. Starting tomorrow I go from wading in the yoga to the full submerge, as Mike would say, "just dunk it."

Thanks for all compassion about my neck pain. It is feeling much better and I am excited to get back to the Shala for tomorrow's led class. Hopefully soon I'll have some postings about classes/workshops/Sanskrit meetings for the fall. Until then if you or a yoga studio you frequent would like to schedule a workshop please send me an email

Namo Namah

or as Ali G says, "respect!"

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