Tuesday, November 18, 2008

When is Your Vehicle Going to Run?

Nothing wakes you up out of your habits and patterns of body mind and breath like class with Prashant Iyengar. Last night's class was no exception. He said (I'm paraphrasing) "The Iyengar students are always fixing, adjusting, repairing...it is like I have sold you a car which is always in the shop. You are always taking it to the garage for repair! You are always doing, doing, doing and it is never done. When is your vehicle going to run?"He went on to describe drinking a cup of tea when you are on an Indian train -- the skill it takes to sip your tea without spilling it! He said it was like we were always pulling the emergency brake in order to stop and sip our tea. Being like the conductor, he said we should not be surprised if we sensed a bit of irritation or admonishment in his tone because we keep interrupting his flow by pulling the chain! He led us through Sirsasana cycle (as opposed to variations) a term he used specifically for it's implication of continuity. He asked us not to "jerk and jolt" while we went through the cycle, not to create tremors in the body, mind or breath. We kept that up through the standing poses, Sarvangasana and then some forward extensions. I kept my vehicle running all the way home to dinner.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

My Day Off

When you get a time estimate in India, you should at least double it! We took a sunrise hike to the top of a hill overlooking Pune and were expecting the trip to take and hour and a half. We (Nancy Roberts, Kathy Horak, Dale from UK, and Manu Shahani) agreed to meet around 6am for our adventure. Four hours later we were getting home! That was after some good calf-tightening inclines, climbing to the top of a rickety observation tower, encountering packs of wild dogs and people, conversing with an environmental group who had us take a tour of the 2,000 trees they planted (which they water by hand!!!), taking photographs of the group, called the Green Hills Group and finally being invited to tak part in their traditional "laughing" circle to wrap up the experience! Once our hilltop excursion was finished and we were down on the road, Manu's car brakes failed and we had to leave it and take rickshaws to Vaishali - a very popular restaurant. We scraped together enough rupees for dosas and coffee, which we devoured after a long wait. Finally home after the big dusty trip, I decided to do a load of laundry, which somehow flooded the entire bedroom of my roommate/landlord. Having a taste of water covering my feet as I cleaned up the mess, my yoga roommates and I decided to go lounge by a pool out past Koregan Park. It was lovely and freezing! We stayed for several hours....! After coming home and re-organizing my room, my friend Athena Pappas dropped by and invited me out to ice cream. We enjoyed reading the menu with all of it's endearing misspellings - "pinappie suprim" (pineapple supreme). After we licked our choco-almond cones, we strolled home amidst endless traffic, honking, unexpected large toads on the sidewalk and the magic that India always delivers under the light of a waning moon. More adventures to come!


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Setu Bandha Obama!

The Americans were very excited this morning. We began the ladies class knowing Obama was in the lead but his victory was still unconfirmed. As many of you know, though it is a "ladies" class, male teachers often observe from the steps, and in some cases assist, to expand their knowledge. Halfway through class, our friend Aaron showed up on the steps and started mouthing something to us... Geeta was yelling at us to get into Bridge Pose and we thought he was trying to be helpful by saying "Setu Bandha!" Well, we eventually figured out what he was saying ("Obama!") and suffice it to say, there was much glee around the coconut cart after class. We are all looking forward to a celebatory potluck tonight.

As wonderful as it is to be here celebrating with my compadres and our Israeli, German, Japanese, Brazilian, British, Kiwi, Ausie, South Afrikan, Italian, and last but not least, Dutch friends, in my heart of hearts I am really missing you, struck by an unexpected desire to stand on American soil, exchange hugs, and share this great moment with you.

Cheers and hugs and love,


Patanjali Jayanti Day - October 26, 2008 - by Tori

It is a new month here in Pune with quite a few of us continuing and a lot of new faces too, including three from IYAGNY – Leslie Mannes, Susan Turis and Cynthia Worby. I ran into them in the lobby of The Ambiance Hotel down the road and as Susan’s eyes focused on me she said “Tori! A familiar face!!” Since then, we have, of course run into each other on the sidewalk several times.

Last week, I took a few days to travel by overnight train with six others to Goa’s coast and had a lovely time while the Institute was closed for Diwali. The morning of the 26th was Patanjali Jayanti Day and those of us going on the trip made sure we stayed for that celebration before we went to the beach! I’m so glad we did.

The three hour program began with Geetaji reciting Patanjali’s 108 names, which she did quite quickly. We tried to follow as best we could without a handout, and she very patiently broke the words down into manageable pieces as we went. It was very energizing and great preparation for reciting the Yoga Sutras as well. Since reciting all of the Sutras was going to take too long for the program, Geeta explained, Guruji recommended that we first do Sadhana Pada (Chapter 2), the first 13 sutras of Vibhuiti Pada (Chapter 3) followed by Samadhi Pada (Chapter 1). After the recitation, there was a yoga demonstration put on by the Indian teachers performing asanas of various types with detailed explanations of sequencing, organic effects and more. After the asana demonstrations, two teachers did a pranayama demonstration/lecture. Geeta praised the teachers for doing such a fine job with their last-minute organization.

Then, Geeta asked Guruji to speak. The room turned away from the marble platform toward Guruji, who was seated against a pillar in the middle of the room, on the floor with the rest of us. He gave a short talk connoting how the kosas, which he condensed into the three bodies – the gross body, the subtle body and the causal body relate to Kriya Yoga, the first sutra of Sadhana Pada. 11.1 tapah svadhyaya Isvarapranidhanani kriyayogah. He explained how the gross body (anotomical) needs tapas, the subtle body ( physiological, intellectual, mental) needs svadyaya and the causal body (blissful, spiritual) needs Isvara Pranidhana. After Guruji’s incredibly intelligent words on such a vast subject, we were invited down to the courtyard for prasad, Indian sweets, including a special ladu made for Diwali, as that day was Diwali’s official beginning. Geeta and Guruji welcomed us all into this extension of their humble home as many swarmed like paparazzi for a photo opportunity. The mood was light and warm, and each was good-natured as the shutterbugs clicked away.

As I walked out of the driveway, I paid homage to Patanjali, lavishly dressed in a garland of flowers. Then I took all my kosas to the train and spent the next several days enjoying a rest by the Arabian Sea, including the common sighting of cows on the beach, dolphin spotting from my sea kayak and a great motorbike ride with my friend Larry Lopez from San Francisco. With no pollution and ample time, I reflected on the profundity of my first month in Pune. Here’s to another one!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Goats, rivers and bicycles - by Tori

As I was coming back from a shopping trip to the vegetable market early this morning, I noticed a goat with a tether hanging from his neck grazing at the car dealership at the chowk (traffic circle). Though this is not an unusual sight, for me it is still such a novelty, so I took his picture. A voice behind me said "It'll turn out much better when you're in the picture too!" I turned around to see our very own Lindsey Clennell and we exchanged smiles and hugs as we made our way back toward the Institute. It was so wonderful to see him there on the road.

Then, I went to Geeta's Wednesday morning Women's Class where we are practicing pranayama this week. As we sat in Swastikasana, she spoke of keeping the edges of the body aligned like the two banks of a river so the pranic energy can flow correctly and evenly. She talked about the tilts of the body and how they "bang" in different places - at the shoulders, ribs, pelvis, etc. Our job was to study where we were "banging" - like the ocean crashing onto the shore - how it bangs. She said to exist in the middle of the sea, and then one can even venture under the sea...

Last night in his Tuesday night class, Prashant compared learning pranayama to learning how to ride a bicycle. He took me right back to a memory of my father pushing me (no training wheels!!) from behind on our driveway over thirty years ago. He talked about how you sweat and perspire and need momentum in the beginning otherwise you "wobble" and you could easily tip over without that velocity. It is only when you have gotten first the momentum that the understanding and refinement can come and then you can practice "super slow-motion."All this he applied to the breath and the practice of pranayama, which he reminded us is not to build our lung capacity or manage stress (which of course it will, but that is a by-product), but to increase our wisdom per Patanjali's yoga sutras.

So many jewels to share with you...much more to come. Off to practice and then dinner with Lindsey.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Tori Milner @ RIMYI - October 21,2008

I am in India for my third two-month stay in Pune studying with the Iyengar family. Apologies for taking so long to get something started. I think it’s taken me this three weeks to get my rhythm, which I why I always try to stay for a long time.

I am living on the second floor of a ten-story building right next door to RIMYI (Ramamani Memorial Iyengar Yoga Institute) and the Iyengar home. In fact, last night as we were getting in from dinner we saw Prashant Iyengar watching television next door. It is the natural course of events here to see and hear the Iyengars every day, not just when they are teaching – a concept that seemed so novel my first trip here and now seems so natural.

Change has come to Pune since I first visited in 2004. I’ve noticed many new things – new buildings, malls, stores, wireless internet, higher rents, higher tuition, more women and men wearing Western clothes such as jeans and t-shirts….evidence of recently stricken strong economic times. But so much is the same too….random power-outages, animals moving along with the flow of traffic on the road, off the chart horn-blowing, over-the-top festival celebrations – which now seem to include an endless array of fireworks. Life is good in Pune.

My roommates are Frances and Greg, from New Zealand and Canada respectively. And our landlord, Sanjeev, lives here in the apartment too. He is a local, who is very helpful to consult on a regular basis. We each have our own room and bathroom. There is a washing machine here in the apartment, but I still sometimes wash by hand in my plastic bucket.

I’ve been attending class every day with Geeta, except Tuesdays, which I have with Prashant. I have also been observing and lending a hand in “Medical” class, which is always an adventure.

This week is pranayama and we had our first class with Geetaji last night who asked us to gather all parts of our body under the same umbrella. Our spine was the stem of the umbrella and we were to study the tilts and where the energy is flowing and where it is not and collect everything together, she said, like a kindergarten teacher has to get all the children to do the same thing. It was lovely.

I went home and ate the sweetest pineapple for dinner.