H's blog: Yoga and Travel
 
After India Comes India
 
Nothing compares to being in India and especially learning yoga there. Travelling to the heartland of yoga there is no other place that has the potency to remove you from your comfort zone and into the flames of the unexpected and unforeseen. Precisely what yoga as a vast and often misunderstood subject can and should be doing.
 
After 13 trips (now totaling 2 years in India), I still believe there is something more ‘spiritual’ and less materialistic in India than the West. Mind you, roaming around the airport and hanging around a busy street on MG road (Mahatma Gandhi) in Bangalore might not give this impression. The billboards are triple the size of those in North America. One wonders where the stereotypical images of decrepit and demolished buildings with villagers and beggars have gone. But somthing of this can be found if one ventures past the tourist traps and out of the main cities; experiencing what Gandhi referred to as the ‘real’ India.
 
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Notes from Abroad
 
Being in the Motherland of inspiration, India possesses 'something' that most people who travel here understand. In my old beaten up copy of the Lonely Planet there is a brief introduction on traveller's either loving or hating India; many swearing never to return. A more accurate travel advisory, however, would read that India is both: the great adventure in challenging your comfort levels and capturing your heart.
 
Certainly a country like India is not without its challenges. The poverty and the pollution are just a few of them; juxtaposed with incredible beauty and historic reverie. For me, these are the reasons I need to return to India. That is, challenging my tolerance for the hectic and chaotic but above all to renew my spirit. The mountain range and a child's face do not look different. The disparity between the rich and the poor is captured by the villagers living below a five-star hotel. India promises to provide both the terrible as well as the wonderful. There is no better cross-reference experience in getting to know extremes . . .
 
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51 Breaths
 
Arriving in Bangalore I am greeted by Ravi, a taxi driver whom I have known for several years. There is something settling in being greeted by a familiar face when so far away from home. It is 4:30 a.m. but it feels like midday from the activity at the airport. Heading toward the car and into the cool morning I comment on the weather being cold. Ravi replies, "Not hot madam, medium temperature."
 
As we make our way along the Bangalore-Mysore road the one thing in my mind is starting practice again with my teacher. The traffic is surprisingly heavy as we pass oversized billboards and tour from one side of the road to the other. In a way the Bangalore motorway is a kind of analogy for practice. There are clear parts, troubled areas, challenges and continual disturbances. The honking horns (an accepted protocol in India) are like the endless fluctuations or vrittis that enter the mind during practice.
 
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i-bend blog: General writing on becoming bendy.
 
The Practice of Doubt
 

There comes a point in most practitioner’s journey when the questions of 'why' am I practicing and 'if' the postures of yoga are worthwhile begin to surface. Doubt (one of the 9 kleshas) as laid out by Patajalim in the Yoga Sutras is an affliction or mental aversion. As my teacher, Yogacharya Venkatesha, pointed out to me it is best to deal with doubt as soon as it arises. Otherwise it can follow you and wreak havoc with your practice. But this is not to imply that it won't continue to come up again. In fact, it may be masked by other feelings such as frustration, pain or recklessness. The main point is not how it appears but rather that it is acknowledged and dealt with. From the perspective of the teachings of yoga it is a part of the path; not something to be thrown away or rejected. It can be used to strengthen practice and oneself provided it is properly understood.

First, in the Yoga Sutras the concept of doubt is a mental fluctuation arising from past karmas and deeply rooted in the mind. Second, doubt is not as solid as it looks and feels, but changeable and workable. At a time when you'd love to skip the sequence, jump the track and move onto something else doubt, frustration and impatience keep you stuck. In many ways this is something to be grateful for because the practice will not let you bullshit yourself. Either you have practiced the basics well and are ready to move forward or you have not. Simple.

 

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Breathing and Backbending
 
It is surprising to realize that our longest standing companion, who has been with us since birth and will only leave us at death, is often the most taken for granted and neglected. And yet interestingly enough, it is only with the breath known in yoga as the vital source that energy, drive and the will to carry forward are ignited. The breath is always there even if we are not. The most common approach when practicing the postures is to think of the breath after stretching the body. However, in yoga it really is the other way around. The breath is first and also last.
 
Try this exercise: a simple but good exercise in awareness.
 
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Meeting Your Edge

 
In yogasana (the postures) meeting 'the edge' is often discussed as the place you feel challenged or have come against a point that elicits fear. It can also be meant to refer to the place where you feel you have bent or extended to your limit. Trying to push past this usually does not work because the muscles have not been trained to endure it and the mind is not yet familiar with what is coming up. This limit, however, can be looked at as a relative point in time, practice and space. It is subject to change. More often, however, we perceive it as something solid and not subject to change with time and practice.
 
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