Saturday, October 31, 2015

Small Pleasures

I finally crashed in my room at 4:30a.m. after a long day of travel.  The road noise was audible to a degree that made it feel like there's no glass on the windows.  But there is.  Glass and a screen to keep out the mosquitoes in case you want a breeze and open the window, which makes me feel like I lucked out even though the mosquitoes still manage to find their way in.  There's been reports of Dengue fever in India recently, especially in this area, so anything to help dissuade the mosquitoes is welcome.  I had Dengue once as a child and though I have no memory of it my mother has made it clear it is not something you want.

The last time I was in India I stayed in a hotel considered posh by India standards but lacking by American ones.  I liked it and have fond memories of it but it was hard to look past the gaping hole in the bathroom that allowed all kinds of vermin into my room.  First mosquitoes, then larger mosquitoes, then larger insects I didn't think existed that ate the mosquitoes.  The parade of fauna culminated with a gecko that scared the hell out of me when I first came across it but which kept my room insect-free for the rest of my trip.

I'm staying at a modest apartment building where one of the apartments has been turned into a guest house.  It has three bedrooms, both of which are occupied by people working in India.  A crew of young men show up daily at 7:30 to make breakfast and then again close to lunch to clean.  My bedroom is spacious by India standards and grants me a space to write and ample floor space for the practice I've been given by my mentor in the program I'm joining.

This new journey began a few months back when I learned that the Krishnamacharya Healing & Yoga Foundation (KHYF) would be holding a two year long teacher training.  Every six months involves a visit to India to study at the center for 3 weeks and in the interim you work with a mentor who provides you with daily practices and with guidance in your own understanding and teaching.

The center is 10 minutes by foot from my apartment according to Google, which is not altogether reliable in Chennai.  So my intent is to test the walk this weekend before class starts on Monday.

Many people have asked me why I would join another yoga teacher training after I have completed three already in the U.S.  Even my mentor for this program asked me that.  My answer is simple: in the U.S. we don't have the breadth of yoga tools that have been available traditionally in India.  The Krishnamacharya tradition, especially in India, has a much greater emphasis on breath control/extension (pranayama), on chanting, visualization (bhavana), special gestures (nyasa), alignments (mudras) and locks (bandhas),  and meditation.  It also uses postures (asana) in ways that we don't typically see in the U.S. and blends the practices I mentioned together for greater emphasis and effect.  In my experience, the combination of tools has been much more powerful than any of the tools alone, and definitely more powerful than asana practice alone.  So this is an opportunity for me to learn these tools and their applications.  

The credential isn't what I'm after.  It's the knowledge and experience.


I woke up exactly at 7:30a.m. and despite having slept only a handful of hours I'm not feeling particularly tired.  I had a text waiting for me from my friend Julianna, who I met on my first trip to India and who is also joining the program at KHYF.  She's in Chennai after a long delay she thought would originally put her here on Sunday instead of Saturday.  I tell her to join me for breakfast since it's being provided at my guest house.  

That's one of the things I love about India.  The same informality that is such an inconvenience allows you to surprise the food service crew with an additional mouth to feed and they won't mind... nor would you be charged extra.  This doesn't exist in the U.S.

When the young men arrive, the only one who speaks some English asks me if we want an Indian breakfast and Julianna and I are both excited to say "Yes!".  He quickly serves up dosas with sambar, chutney, and slices of of fresh papaya.  All of it tastes like heaven after the long journey and the flavors, as well as having Julianna for company, bring back so many memories of what my first time in India was like.

We lingered at the table for a while, talking (I learned Julianna, too, had Dengue fever once!), eating, and sometimes just silent, taking in everything.  Small pleasures like this, when savored, can feel like indulging.  

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