Sunday, October 30, 2011

India, Land of 1000 Smells

This is the description my dear friend Noelle gave me of India and she was right on! Even in the hotel, going from room to room is a different olfactory experience! It's like a mixture of spices, body, bitter melon, and incense! Not altogether unpleasant--just different!

Day 2 was fantastic. This is a picture of my driver, Deva, who has been such a gift here in Chennai.
He picks me up every day and takes me wherever I need to go. A couple years ago, my yoga teacher and some other people from the KYM paid for a car for Deva so that he no longer had to drive a rickshaw. So now he's got a nice air-conditioned ride which is infinitely better because of street conditions like this:

and this!!!

I started my day by putting on one of my new outfits from Fab India, a great clothing store chain. I have several variations of this outfit:
It is not considered proper to show your legs or shoulders here. (You can't tell very well but I have long leggings on). Actually, you don't even see a lot of women in short sleeves! In fact, I was reading the newspapers (which are very well-written, honestly better than in the US) and read an article talking about the much-anticipated, scandalous and controversial movie scene that shows a man and a woman kissing! I read another article talking about whether a famous Bollywood actress, whose name escapes me, who is marrying a famous Bollywood film director, will or will not be acting until she gets married. Evidently her acting career is over after she gets married. So many things here make me realize how much we take for granted in the US.

Sunday morning, had a great breakfast starting with a nice Masala Chai Tea (nothing like the chain coffee shop's sugary Chai--this is thin, complex, and just a tad sweet).
Also, this was fun-- this horoscope was in the paper which I thought was spookily on the mark:

(No, JK Rowling hasn't taken on Indian newspaper astrology writing....I guess she's a Leo like me!!!).

After breakfast, we went to a gift shop where they sell beautiful figures (Gods, etc), jewelry, scarves/pashminas, fabrics, and rugs. Then we went to see a few temples.

A Ganesh temple (remover of obstacles)
A Krishna temple (Krishna's story in the Bhagavad Gita, the central text of Hinduism)
This last temple was really spectacular. This is a Shiva temple. (Shiva is the God of destruction and resurrection). I got out and walked into the temple. You leave your shoes at a little shack, then you walk through the door you see above. I immediately was struck by the similarities in many of their rituals to Catholicism. As they enter, they touch a sort of bump on the floor and touch their foreheads much like crossing oneself with Holy water....then there were many little enclaves or prayer rooms where people gathered to have a priest bless them with ashes on their foreheads:

As I walked around the temple, I got to get a better view of the intricately carved and painted roof:

Also these strange little chicken-like birds were walking around the temple:
Unfortunately, I could not go inside the temple as there were several sides that said "No Non-Hindus Allowed Inside." Oh well! I stood by the prayer candles (another similarity to Catholic churches) and gazed inside where it looked like they were chanting and dressing a god statue in flowers.

After that full day and still recovering from some jet lag, I was beat so I hit the hay early because I had the first day of class Monday morning!

School is at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram.

Every morning at 7:30, we do our asana practice in this room:

It has been interesting to see how they teach group classes here and how they sequence to build to peak poses.

After asana, we have a nice breakfast on the rooftop.

Today was a dosa, which is like a big thin potato pancake served with sambal, a chili-based condiment, and a coconut chutney--totally delicious but a little heavy for breakfast! Tomorrow, I think fruit.

After breakfast, we have Theory of Asana class, followed by Yoga Sutras and Chanting. Then we break for lunch for three hours!!! Obviously, this gives us time to nap/shop/digest before we get back into the yoga. Yesterday, I took my lunch at a restaurant at the New Woodlands Hotel. I had a 'leaf service' lunch. Basically, there is a banana leaf folded up at your seat. You open it up, pour some water on it, put your hands in the water, and rub the water around. I seriously don't know what a germaphobe would do here--talk about immersion therapy! Anyway, then they come and put globs of different foods on your leaf. The diner is meant to combine the foods and eat with their right hand (eating with the left hand is considered improper/rude/gross because most of the toilets don't have toilet paper provided--people wipe with their left hands then wash them down. I, for one, always have Kleenex with me and would sooner die. But hence the only eating with the right hand thing.) They gave me a spoon, which was nice. This was a $2 lunch and it was one of the most delicious things I've had here yet.

When we do get back to the school at 3:00, we do a pranayama (breathing) practice followed by Application of Yoga class (my favorite) and finally, meditation which actually involves lots of movements and chanting.

It is such a gift to be here in this place where the lineage I study began. The teachers are fabulous, my classmates have been wonderful--very welcoming and kind to me, and the chance to do so much yoga in a day is a special opportunity. I'm so glad that I came here to experience this place, culture, and the people.

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