Saturday, March 19, 2011

Breaking News: 6'6" woman in India!

At painting class on Tuesday, the TV was on in the background and they had a story about a tall woman making the Guinness book of world records. My teacher, Anand got an idea to call the news about me.

Literally 15min later a camera crew was there and they came for an interview (so I wasn't really dressed or prepared for this). They were really excited about me driving a scooter so we did some street filming. I was on my scooter while these two were on a motorcycle.

I wish I had a picture of that: the anchorman driving his motorcycle, with the camera man sitting behind him backwards filming me. I felt like a movie star :)

My friend Liza found the clip on youtube. It runs from min7:20-10:00.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Notes from March 13th Conference

Ashtanga Conference
Presented by: R. Sharath Jois
Gokulum, Mysore India

“Practice all the angas and the impurities of the body and mind will be eradicated. Then can come the knowledge. Once you get the knowledge, you become wiser and able to judge what is right and what is wrong. This is what the 8 limbs give to us.

This purification system is not instant. It’s not like making instant noodles :) Today everyone wants things instantly. You need to be a student for a long time before you become a teacher. Only once you understand the knowledge are you able to spread it. So many people call us ‘How do I become a teacher?’ First you become a student for 15years, then you can become a teacher.

A bad teacher will have 100 bad students, a good teacher will have 10 good students.

There is much confusion about the different types of yoga. Ashtanga is the only one which has everything. For example, Hatha yoga is Ha=surya nadi and Tha=chandra nadi. These relate to the breath which is also in Ashtanga yoga. Bhakti yoga is the yoga of devotion. The proper complete practice of Ashtanga yoga includes Bhakti. If you do asanas for many years eventually you will want to learn more. One by one you will research ‘what is yama?’… ‘what is niyama?’ etc. The practice helps us to understand philosophies. The shastras are very important. They are the roots, the lineage of where this practice came from.

If you look at the names of the postures, so many are named after great rishis (sages) from thousands of years back. Yoga has not changed. Only the people have changed. And the challenges have changed. For example, we now have TV. When I was 14 the first TV came to Mysore. Since then, less people are moving around. There is more dukha and laziness. When this happens, a person accumulates errors in the body. The body becomes lazy and doesn’t know how to do things. It doesn’t want to do things. Once we strengthen the body and mind through practice we will get the strength to withstand the difficulties in life. When the mind is weak, people do bad things. For example, criminals, their minds are unstable.

It is very sad what is happening in Japan right now. So many people have lost their lives. But we cannot go against nature. We have destroyed nature. We have no respect for nature. When you practice yoga, you naturally want to protect nature. Yoga is the union of jivatma and paratma. Knowledge doesn’t just come to you. You should have a thirst inside of you. ‘I want to learn and get the knowledge.’ For example if you want to be an engineer, you will have that thirst inside of you and pursue it. Once that thirst is inside of you, then you go out and search it. Like a Treasure Hunt. Your treasure is the 8 limbs, first you go to yama and niyama and asana, then you will want to start reading books and doing your research.”

Question: “How do you know if you found it or if its just ego?”
Sharath: “People who have found it won’t praise it. They won’t even talk about it.”

Question: “Is Ashtanga dualistic or non-dualistic?”
Sharath: “Non-dualistic. As I said in a conference before, the Atma inside of you is pure. It is very important that we know what we are and what is the source for us. W are born and we die, in between we are crazy. We are just tenants and we are not even paying rent.

Gandhiji was a true yogi. He practiced ahimsa first. He fasted for the country to gain independence. Not everyone can do this. There is no yogi like Gandhiji. He will be remembered for 200years. Same as Pattabhi Jois. They will be remembered because they have given us the authentic knowledge. Because of them, we are here now.”

Question: “I was practicing second series and my teacher kept telling me to ‘go back to primary.’ Is there a reason he kept saying to ‘go back’?”
Sharath: “It’s difficult to say. Guruji never said to go back, he always said ‘You should progress forward, but don’t rush. Perfect your posture to move onto the next one.’”

Question: “How can you tell when a student understands the asana?”
Sharath: “It is through experience. When you teach so many students, you can tell. It is through their practice, through their ‘asana attitude,’ their dedication and understanding of the practice.”

Question: “Why is there so much emphasis on the asana in Ashtanga yoga?”
Sharath: “Without doing asanas, purification and stability will not come. Without a healthy body you cannot have a healthy mind. You need to activate your body and nervous system, then also the brain will be purified. We cannot progress without this purification. And as a mentioned in conference already, asana is not only physical. It is a very big tool to purify the mind and the body.”

Question: “Why is Ashtanga better than Hatha?”
Sharath: “As I said before, it is the same. It is not better when it is the same process to purify the body through breathing.”

Question: “What about a sick person who cannot do Ashtanga?”
Sharath: “It is not necessary that everyone do jump backs and head stands. Anyone can practice Ashtanga. If you understand the breathing, you can do Ashtanga. You should first learn the breath. There are many poses that can be done to remove the toxins through sweat. After several years, you will see the body change over time. When you practice asana the body becomes light. You might look thin, but you are very strong!”

Question: “What if you are injured in practice?”
Sharath: “There is a method. A good teacher understands your body and can see if there is something you are doing wrong, or improper alignment, or fear. You should be doing a true practice in which you think about what you are doing. If we keep practice, it will come. If injury occurs, sometimes it is the body changing. Relax in the posture. Do the proper breathing. Sometimes if you don’t breathe properly you can get injured.

When I was learning Ekapada Shirshasana (see photo) I had so much hip pain. There was so much pain to walk or change the gears on my motorcycle. Eventually that pain went away, and then a new pain came :) New asana…new pain. Because the body has to adjust.

It is a process. It takes time. For some people it happens quickly, for some it takes time. One student came to me ‘My shoulder hurts’ I said to him ‘Good, now you know you have a shoulder. Do not fear.’”

Question: “If there is shaking in an asana, how do you know if its just the body changing or if its fear?”
Sharath: “Which posture?”
Edwin: “Navasana and Parshva Dhanurasana
Sharath: “It is fear. Ill give you a mantra: ‘Jay Hanuman’ He is the god which gives you strength. That’s what I would say when Guruji was coming to give me backbends. :) “

Question: “Is the Primary Series enough? Some people have back pain because they only practice Primary and don’t have all the backbends of Secondary.”
Sharath: “Through many years of experience, a teacher can determine what kind of pain a student has. Doing asanas will help you get through the pain you got from asanas. Once when I was practicing one advanced posture I was feeling really good and went deeper and deeper until I felt something rip in my shoulder. For two weeks I could not lift my arm over my head and it hurt to breathe. The day after this happened, Guruji told me I was doing a demo. I did not know how I could do it. He helped me and I did the demo. Then for two weeks I only practiced half of Primary series. I do not know even how I did this, Guruji helped me.

There was an older woman who came to me with arthritis. She was in so much pain. For six months she practiced here. Years later her son called me, he was a friend of mine. He asked, ‘What have you done to my mother? She is now hiking mountains!’

The practice has healed so many people. Dick Mortenson was a student of Guruji’s. He came here and he was very hunched. Guruji worked with him for one year and his posture got straight.”

The conference with Sharath leading chanting for the people of Japan.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Rangoli is one of the first things I noticed in the neighbordhoods here on my first trip three years ago. It is a custom that I love and wish I had the energy and discipline to do in my living space.

Every morning, the woman of the house sweeps and washes the front porch or entry-way and uses chalk powder to create a beautiful geometric design. I've practiced this with with regular chalk - the kind we have, the stick of chalk used on chalk boards, and that's hard enough to get symmetrical and pretty. These women sift chalk powder through their thumb and forefinger with perfect grace and ease. I guess like anything it comes with practice.

There are a variety of traditional customs around India that explain the purpose of this - from bringing good fortune to warding off evil spirits. I can tell you the benefits I feel. There is a loving care that is given when someone takes the time every day to clean and create beauty. Each day is a new creation.

Here are some of the designs around my neighborhood, and I even asked this woman if she wouldnt mind me taking her picture.

I love how the dog is also interested in her work :)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Coconut Oil Hair Massage

I must rave about my favorite treatment here. Its called a Coconut Oil Hair Massage. (If youre here in Gokulum, I go to Subbu's tel:2511799/ on the main road in Gokulum across from Nalpak). Beauty salons in general are for women only, so there's a relaxed vibe going in already knowing that its a secret world just for us girls.

In order to protect our clothes we get these sleeveless moo-moo's (pictured below) so comfortable and allows for easy access to back and shoulder massage during treatments for the head.

The hot coconut oil they use smells AMAZING!! Like macaroon cookies (which I love) and the woman patiently parts my hair section by section to rub it into my scalp.

After she gets in on the scalp, she massages my face with amazingly strong hands and soft fingers that find pressure points I never knew I had. She massages my neck, shoulders and arms and works the oil into all of my hair.

When its all set in (45minutes later) they wash it out and blow dry to the softest hair ever! All of this for 175ruppees (just under $4).

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tina's Top Ten

My favorite things in India...

  1. Powerful Shala energy and instant-sweat warm-up
  2. Excellent courses in Sanskrit, Chanting, Painting
  3. Fresh coconut juice cut open with a machete
  4. Homemade chocolate
  5. Eating on the floor
  6. Fresh tropical fruit that melts in your mouth
  7. Indian Breakfasts (idlis, dosas, sambar, chutney..)
  8. Chai available on every corner (...most of these are about food :)
  9. Coconut oil hair massage (and other treatments which last hours)
  10. Riding a scooter
I’m going to miss you all dearly. Especially at these local prices!

Less than two weeks left. Gonna make the most of it!!

..and a few things I won't miss:

1. not being able to wear shorts and tank tops in public
2. 10.5hr time difference from my loved ones
3. dusty dirty air in my sinuses
4. waking up at 2:30am
5. having to travel for internet connection

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Notes from March 6th Conference

Presented by: R. Sharath Jois
Gokulum, Mysore India


Sharath quoted the Bhagavad Gita referring to the need for faith. He expanded by saying: “We must have faith in our practice. Only those with faith will receive the knowledge. Once you devote yourself to a guru, then you can gain the knowledge. A guru is one who has gained the knowledge through his own experience. Only then can he take his students from the dark into the light… that very big journey which is not easy. The student must have faith and dedication in his teacher over a long period of time.”

The Yoga Sutras I:14 sa tu dirgha-kala-nairantarya-satkarasevito dridha-bhumih inspires us to practice for a long period of time uninterruptedly, only then is it possible to become firmly grounded in the practice and to withdraw the sense organs. When this is achieved, the extremes of life (sukha & dukha) will not affect us. Anger and depression, which come from the sense organs and create a desire will be avoided.

He went on to say: “Why is it necessary to struggle in asana practice? It is not only a physical struggle, it is a complete body, mind and spirit struggle. This is a complete practice which teaches you to control the mind. Do your practice, put in the effort. It is not easy and all three aspects of it are challenging. From Yoga Sutra II:1: tapah svadhayaya isvara-pranidanani kriya yoga.

Kriya yoga, the yoga of action, consists of:
  • Tapas: following a principled life
  • Svadhyaya: self-study
  • Isvarapranidhana:surrendering to God
Only through this complete practice can we gain the knowledge.


Sharath spoke about the Brahman daily worship of offering oblations to the Sun-God three times a day-at sunrise, midday and sunset for good health. He spoke about how the sunset is a naturally peaceful time as sunset are naturally beautiful and serene and create a good time for calming the mind.


“Lakshmish is teaching you chanting, do the chanting. They are very powerful. For example Aditya hridayam is the destroyer of all enemies.”


  • No Coffee, No Prana
  • No Pain, No Gain
  • No Chapatis, No Strength


Question: Will you be taking Guruji’s place after his passing?

Sharath: “There is only on Guruji. No one can replace Guruji. No one can put their feet in his shoes. We all have faith in him and in the practice. I will not change the system, I am connected to Guruji, if you like what I do, call me whatever you want. Just don’t call me a lazy man! ” :)

Question: Should we practice Karma Yoga?

Sharath: “Yes, we all have our karma. Mine is to be a yoga teacher. I must follow my karma. As Krishna said to Arjuna, ‘you are a warrior, you must fulfill your karma and fight this difficult battle.’ Karma (action) and Dharma (truth) go together. Similarily, a doctor must follow his karma honestly. Everyone must recognize the karma given to him by God and follow it honestly.”

Question: “Why is there a lack of faith in the practice?”

Sharath: “Yoga is not for everyone. To practice yoga you must be mentally and physically strong and able to withdraw from the senses in order to see the atma ( purity of the soul). Times when this is not possible are listed in the sutras, for example: Sickness, Doubt, Not properly grounded, Not spiritually strong. It is your responsibility to do your work and find the connections in the teachings: sutras, upanishads, etc”

Question: “Can a teacher help the student who does not have faith?”

Sharath: “A teacher can only do so much, for example, if you want to climb that coconut tree. I am only 5’6”, I can only life you up so much, the tree is another 30’. No one can do the work for you, only you have to do the hard work. I have seen over 20,000 students come and go. Some are dedicated and they stay, some do not.”

Question: “What percentage of the students you have seen stay dedicated to the practice?”

Sharath: “60%. Maybe all do not come here, but in my travels, I see that they are working. Dedication does not mean authorization, getting more postures, etc. It is dedication to the practice. One student, Ed, was here. He is working every day. Three years ago he could not sit in half lotus, now he is doing Marichyasana C. Many people are only looking for the certificate or the next posture. Do your practice, automatically it will come, your job is only to practice.

When you practice every day you are bright. Even if you have back pain, you are bright. This is because the yogi has the the following qualities, from the Hatha yoga pradipika II:78 Arogata bindujayosgnidipanam Nadivisuddhirhathasiddhilaksanam

“When the body becomes lean, the face glows with delight, Anahata-nada manifests, and eyes are clear, the body is healthy, bindu under control, and appetite increases, then one should know that the Nadis are purified and success in Hatha Yoga is approaching.”

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Jen's Blog

This is my roommate Jen's blog. She is a much better writer than I and I'm sure you will love this touching story of her and the wounded elephant.

Thank you for sharing Jen.