If you can’t stand the heat…

21
Mar
2007

It is damn HOT here. I have had to take a sleeping pill the last two nights, just to fall asleep in a pool of my own sweat. I just moved beds in the dorm to one under a faster fan, let’s hope that helps. Although I am loving the courses and really want to deepen my practice and understanding, I am seriously thinking of moving on and picking yoga back up somewhere in the mountains of Rishikesh.

Back Pain and Bhakti

20
Mar
2007

Learning yoga here has been amazing. My back hurts, but I am told this is normal. After a few days here I already have a lot more flexibility than before. And it doesn’t hurt that I have availed myself of the Ayurvedic treatment center here for a couple of hardcore oil massages at 400Rs a pop. I have met some great people who I will probably cross paths with again, since they are also travelling for a few months here. The one downside is that although we have internet access, it is limited to 15 minutes each day, so I am unable to keep up the quality of posts my readers have become accustomed to. My apologies guys, I will try to write more in-depth when I leave here (which will probably be in 9 or 10 days if I can stand the heat and humidity) .

Yoga Hell

17
Mar
2007

I only mean that in the sense that it is HOTTER THAN HELL here. I am seriously thinking about switching to the course in the cool mountains near Rishikesh. Other than that, it is pretty interesting place. I have been learning about the various forms of Yoga tought here, from Bhakti (devotional, prayer, etc) to Raja (which includes our postures and asanas) to the beautifully named Karma yoga (which basically means cleaning the toilets). I think I will stick it out another day or two and see if I can take the heat.

Yoga beginner

16
Mar
2007

Am I ever. We have a choice of intermediate or beginner courses, and I can tell already by my groin and back and leg pain that I am most definitely in the latter camp.

This place is pretty interesting, everyone I have spoken with is very nice, the accomodation is..basic, and the food is ok. There is a strong devotional aspect to the practice here that involves twice daily prayer and meditation. The cool thing about this is that it is entirely within the framework of Hinduism, thus giving me the education in this tradition that I have been looking for. Let’s just hope the prayer stuff doesn’t weigh on me too much over the course of 14 days.

Yoga Vacation

15
Mar
2007

Yes, that is what it is called, although it will hardly be a vacation. I am heading to Neyar Dam today (just north of Trivandrum in Kerela) to begin a 2 week yoga training at the Sivanandra Ashram here. I am not at all sure that I will have internet access during that time, so if the blog goes dim for a couple of weeks you will know that I am locked in some serious asanas.

Kanyakumari

15
Mar
2007

Sean, Breandon and I spent our last day together in Kanyakumari, the southernmost tip of India and a holy place for Hindus. I have to admit there is something pretty powerful about a place where 3 oceans meet and one can watch the sunrise and sunset from the same point over the ocean.

Getting a handle on Hinduism

13
Mar
2007

Hinduism has been one of the most difficult religions for me to conceptually grasp here in India. It is not so much the tenets of the faith (karma, rebirth, etc) that are difficult to understand. It is the rituals that leave me perplexed above all else, followed by the mixing of the real history of places and people with the mythological gods and goddesses.

Hinduism is messy in a kind of glorious way. One need look no further than the Meenakshi – Sundareswarar Temple for an example. All manner of activity mingle here from blessings by elephant, ritual bathing, offerings, snacking, hanging out, souvenir shops, meditation, and prayer. The layout seems to mirror the lack of hierarchy present in Hinduism, as does the layer upon layer of painting, signage, architectural style, and worship alters to various icons. It seems very much to me that Hinduism bears very little separation between the sacred and profane. Put another way, all of life is sacred or all is profane, the flow of all is present here in the temple as it is on the street.

I need a lot more time in India to understand Hindu worship and ritual — and how they relate to basic concepts like Dharma (ethics and duties), Samsāra (The continuing cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth), Karma (action and subsequent reaction), and Moksha (liberation from the cycle of samsara). When I have asked people what the worshippers are doing (for example when they prostrate themselves before a statue of a particular diety) I am invariably told that they are asking for some favor or wish to be granted or asking for advice. How this relates to basic tenets of the faith is beyond my current understanding. I need to find out more, but am not sure where to turn. Stay tuned.


From Madurai

Thirunelveli

12
Mar
2007

What a fascinating little city, well worth a stop. Our hotel is pretty swank, the veg restaurant next door is fantastic, and the people everywhere are very helpful (even at the train station). There are areas in the old city that are supposed to resemble Jodpur (we are told) with small scale, colorful blue wash houses everywhere. The massive Hindu temple at the center of the old town we will try to visit today, although we are not at all sure (not being Hindus after all) if we can go inside.

(Last) Resort

12
Mar
2007

We decided to go a bit of the beaten track and head to a few not very frequented (by toursits, anyway) places on our way to Madurai in Tamil nadu. First stop: a hill station at the bottom of Kerela called Ponmundi.

It was all Indian families and us at the KTDC (government) guest house. The culture of government run guest houses in India is fascinating. There is a huge variety of style and quality to these and they are scattered throughout India. The one in Ponmundi is a bit of a dump, run more like a prison camp than resort. Just about everhing in our cabin was broken. No hot water. No water every few minutes (like right when I needed to flush). Broken door and windows. The fans worked though, thank god. The one restaurant has a choice of veg or non veg meal, just one type each. We chose veg, assuming it to be safer. It was not bad, not great. It was pretty interesting that this hill station is supposed to be known for its trekking, but asking everyone at the resort only produced puzzled glances. “You want to do what?! WALK? WHERE? Are you insane?”  We finally found a road that went up a hill to a windy rock face. The scenery was nice. The most interesting thing about the whole trip here was just how out of place we seemed. Westerners rarely come here. And the Indian families that come seem to just hang out on the grounds of the resort, although there is not much to do here.

If you are thinking about health tourism…

10
Mar
2007

Think again. Or be very careful. Having heard many good stories about the quality of medical/dental care in parts of India, I decided to try out the dental clinic on the north clifftop in Varkala. It looked clean, the brochure looked very professional. I wasn’t planning on having major reconstructive surgery (although they list crowns, bridges, etc in the brochure). I thought it would be a fairly safe bet to get a teeth cleaning. Was I ever wrong. The equipment was in bad shape, the hygiene a bit suspect, the training lax. The dental hygienist used one of those sonic things to clean my teeth, but wielded it more like a jackhammer and took a small chip out of the side of one of my front teeth. When, after the cleaning I noticed this and went back to complain, he assured me that it wasn’t him, it couldn’t have been him. Then he sat me down in the chair and did an extremely fast “patch” job on the chip with some enamel colored whatever and a hot light to bake it into place. Fortunately for me it is not super visible and doesn’t hurt at the moment, but I will definitely need to visit a real dentist at some point to fix this. ugh.