Posts Tagged ‘India’

Calm or Chaos Among the Cattle

We’ve all had that experience of waiting in long lines; whether it be at the post office or in line to ride a rollercoaster at our favorite theme park. Some of those lines are ones filled with anticipation and excitement of what is to come while yet other lines are less enjoyable than a root canal (sorry, dentist friends!). As I set out on close to a month of travel, there were no shortages of lines, that’s for sure. After a delayed flight out of Greenville/Spartanburg to Newark, NJ, I was able to sit for a bit and enjoy a meal before the 14+ hour flight to Mumbai, India.

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Despite what seemed like complete chaos at the check-in gate, the cultural intermix was a melting pot of joyful faces and pleasant conversations. “Where are you from?” and “Where are you going?” were questions I could hear all around me. Everyone was out on their own adventure. Some were beginning their journey and others were ending, but the friendliness and positive vibes were in abundance. As we boarded the overnight flight, we were all in the next 14 hours together.

Upon arrival in Mumbai, one of India’s largest cities, I was herded through baggage claim and on to customs and immigration. Though we were all exhausted, spirits were still of the friendly nature. I enjoyed having the opportunity to meet an Indian couple who were travelling from Asheville, NC to Mumbai for a family wedding (December is wedding season in India- and they are parties NOT to be missed!) It was evening (10:30pm) here in Mumbai and I was spending the evening at a nearby hotel. As we approached the hotel security, I was quickly reminded that the security here varies greatly from what I was used to in the USA. The hotel security guard used a mirror on a rolling cart to look under the carriage of the vehicle as well as under the hood. We were definitely not in Kansas (or South Carolina) anymore.

The next morning, I was heading to Pune to visit my friend, Nital. As the driver and I embarked on the 3 hour drive to Pune, we needed to get out of Mumbai first. This meant more lines, more waiting, as the traffic in Mumbai is about 100x heavier than the streets of Manhattan during rush hour. Oh! Wait! I forgot! Manahttan does not have to contend with goats, chicken and cattle weaving their way through the streets.

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While the addition of these furry friends into the streets of Mumbai added another layer of chaos to the already densely populated thoroughfares, no one seemed to notice. Everyone just kept going about their business as if the goats were people. Rather than get annoyed with this, I took it all in. I loved being able to sit back and observe this culture of inclusion. And while the honking horns of thousands of cars created a symphony of sound, no one was rushing. No one appeared angry or late. They were just being present; in that moment, at that time.

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This rush hour traffic scenario was one that would set the tone for the rest of my time during this trip. I wanted to see and observe as much as I could. I wanted to be open to experiencing every single moment that was placed before me. While I fully intend to visit India again in the future, I knew that these particular moments would be ones that I would never have again and I wanted to be fully present for each and every one of them. Not just here, in India, but in every facet of my life.

Inspiring India

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As a child, hearing my father’s stories of his experiences growing up in India as a planted that seed of curiosity in me. This was long before I had ever experienced yoga and before I had ever been out of the country. I took my first trip to India in 2012 with one of my best friends and inspiration yoga teachers, Leeann Carey (http://www.retreatmaven.com). After that trip, I knew I would be back, I just wasn’t sure when.

I constantly remind my the students in my 200 hr yoga teacher training program that the best teachers are lifelong students. Because I believe in leading by example, I decided that I wanted to further my yoga education and explore new ways of teaching and inspiring my students. I came across Tiffany Cruikshank’s Yoga Medicine (http://www.yogamedicine.com) program. When I saw her 1,000 hr program, I knew I had found my next educational path. Not only is Tiffany’s teaching orthopedic in nature, but it is done retreat style! What more could a yogi who loves travel ask for?!?!? Little did I know that my first retreat with her would forever influence my life. Where else, but India! In December of 2014, I received an email from Yoga Medicine describing a module coming up in Kolkata, India in December 2015. The moment I read it, I knew I had to go. With tears in my eyes, I looked at my (incredibly supportive) husband and said, “I HAVE to do this!” What was the message that provoked such an emotional response in me? Human trafficking, homeless children and children living in slums in red-light districts. It seems surreal and just a Liam Neeson movie, but it’s real. And as a mother of two daughters, this hit way too close to home. These are the words I read that inspired me:

“Each year, millions of women and children are trafficked in India. A child goes missing somewhere in the country every eight minutes. Almost 35,000 children were officially reported missing in 2011, however it is thought only 30 percent of cases are reported.
Almost 80 percent of all worldwide trafficking is for sexual exploitation, with an estimated 1.2 million children being bought and sold into sexual slavery every year, and India is the poisonous hub. These staggering statistics aren’t just statistics, they are very real.

We, as a global community, have a unique opportunity to make a lasting and deeply meaningful impact in the community of Kolkata. This is our chance to give back to a spiritually rich community that has given us so much.

Our chosen project is to support the day-to-day operation of 15 street kids shelters, preventing the trafficking of kids ages 4-15 living in the slums and red light districts of Kolkata. The shelters provide healthcare, education, nutritional meals, tutoring, job coaching, yoga classes and other recreational activities for over 525 children. Our funds will be used towards teacher’s and supervisor’s salaries, accounting, programming, transportation, and educational materials.”-http://www.yogamedicine.com

I signed up immediately to be a part of this movement to make a global impact on the lives of yoga girls and children who were less fortunate that my own. On December 1, 2015, I set out on this adventure to “Be the change”. It was while I was on this journey that the inspiration for “Travels of a Yogi” was born. Pack your bags and join me!

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Travels of a Yogi: Ayurveda with a side of Fifty Shades of Grey???

I am no stranger to a good massage, or Ayurveda treatments for that matter.  I have been a regular at Canyon Ranch Spa in Arizona for several years.  While there, I thoroughly enjoy the Abhyanga-Shirodara package.  For this treatment (and all the treatments at CR) you are given a cozy robe and slippers and led down a corridor with soft lighting and relaxing music.  The Abhyanga-Shirodara is a treatment that involves two therapists giving you a massage; followed by the Shirodara, which is the warm oil cascading over your forehead taking you into a state of bliss.  Of course, Canyon Ranch is cushy and offers the best of the best, which is probably why this discerning yogi feels right at home!  Lest, we are in India.  No cushy robe.  No soft music.  Reality check ensues.  At the Ayurvedic center at the Somatheeram Health Resort, Ayurveda is their “deal.”  They live it, they love it and they want you to as well.  Upon checking in at the health center, everything is very clinical.  Doctors in white coats have you fill out a lengthy intake form to determine your Dosha.  (If you want to find out yours, go to http://doshaquiz.chopra.com )  In the intake, everyone is very matter of fact and bedside manner leaves a lot to be desired.  Not to self:  you are in India…

I am told that I will be receiving a head massage, a foot massage and Shirodara.  I am then introduced to my therapist that would be with me all week.  Her name is Usha.  She is a voluptuous woman with a soft smile and kind eyes.  Her English is very minimal.  She knows the basics: “How are you?”  “OK” “Pain?” “Sit” and “Problem?”  Ok, I can deal with that, I mean, what more words do we need to have when I am expecting her to whisk me away to a room of relaxation and bliss.  We head off down the path to the treatment rooms.  As we get closer, I ask myself, “What have you gotten yourself into???”  Upon entering the treatment room, it reminds me of something out of Christian Grey’s Room of Pain.  We enter and she closes the door behind us.  Hmmm…Ok, yoga breathing in place.  The room is very clinical with white tiled walls and floor.  The massage table is to my left.  It is a thick, heavy wooden table that looks somewhat like a butcher block.  I can still run now, right?  From the ceiling in the center of the room hangs a 4’ rope with a knot at the end.  The corner of the room hosts an altar-like table with an oil lamp, incense and various powders and oils.  In front of the altar is a small wooden stool with a piece of chintzy gauze draped over the top of it.  A towel lays on the floor at the foot of the stool.  Usha tells me to undress.  Ummm…are you going to leave the room???  Apparently, she was not.  I ask her, “take everything off?”  She nods.  Again, I say, “Everything?”  I’m not a prude, but I am a bit modest.  I’ll be honest, I like my curves, but there are certainly days when I wish they were smaller!  I try to remind myself that she doesn’t know me, she does this many times a day and she’s a curvy gal herself.  I try to push my insecurities to the back of my mind, swallow my pride and get on with the show.  After disrobing, she points to the stool and, in a calmly commanding voice says, “Sit!”  I do as I’m told. She comes back over to me, stands in front of me and puts her thumbs on my forehead at my brow center.  She chants in Sanskrit, much of which I can actually understand- thank you, yoga!!!  The treatment begins with a head massage.  Albeit not what we would normally expect, but with scratches, shakes and movements that are similar to what one does when washing their hair in the shower.  I have to admit, it felt quite amazing; however, I was still trying to stuff down my insecurity of sitting on a stool, buck naked, with a women giving me a head massage.  Next, on to the shoulders… Usha walks to the opposite corner of the room where there is what appears to be a hot plate with a metal bowl on top of it.  She turns it on and I hear the oil begin to bubble.  I turn away before she sees me watching her.  She comes back with the oil and starts drizzling it over me and wiping it down my arms, my chest, back and legs.  She commences with the shoulder massage.  She has super strong hands and worked out several knots I had from carrying my luggage, that is for sure!  The Ayurvedic method of massage is, again, quite clinical and precise.  The therapist performs series’ of strokes, grabs, slaps, pats and “chops” to different areas of the body.  I can tell you that the slaps to your backside while covered in oil definitely get your attention!  Ouch!

For the next phase of treatment, Usha has me stand up and moves the stool to the corner of the room.  Again, the politely commands me to  “Sit!”  She then proceeds to unfold a huge mat that resembles a vinyl gymnastics or wrestling mat.   She positions it underneath the hanging rope and ties another scant piece of gauze to the rope.  She performs a ritual of cleaning the mat (I’m not sure what with) by sprinkling the cleaning solution on the mat and “skating” across the mat on another piece of gauze with her feet.  After cleansing her own feet, she spreads a paper thin sheet onto the mat with a piece of gauze at the top.  She points to the mat.  Ummmm, what?  Are we naked oil wrestling???  I thought I was getting a foot massage?  Well, apparently, this type of foot massage was with the therapists feet.  Hmmm…ok, I’ve had the Ashiatsu at CR where the therapist massages your back while holding onto bars attached to the ceiling.  I follow her command and proceed to lay face down on the sheet.  I her the oil boiler again.  She then sprinkles yet more oil onto my body.   I feel her slightly scratchy, large feet begin to press on my sacral area and my low back begins to release.  Again, she performs succinct, calculated movements up and down and across my back.  As she approaches my hips and thighs, I can’t help but think to myself,  that with all of this oil coating my body, one wrong slip of the foot and she is going to end up in a place where the sun doesn’t shine!  Yikes!  Whew!  Thankfully, it does not!  She tells me to turn over and she proceeds to massage the front of my body with here foot.  I have had a stomach massage before, but never with a foot!  A bit odd, but not terrible.  Once this portion of the massage is completed, she cues me back to my stool in the corner.  She takes the sheet and places it on top of the hard, heavy massage table.  She calls me over and has me hop on to the table face down while she cleans up our massage mat from the floor.  The massage begins again.  Precise movements, circles, strokes, pats, slaps and chops to my well-greased body.  By this time, I have decided to just let it be and tried to quiet my mind.  Now for Shirodara…

For the Shirodara, Usha covered me with near-transparent pieces of gauze, hardly covering anything.  She positions the oil cask over my head and lets the warm oil begin to flow over my brow center.  It feels great!  My mind starts to drift off and I begin to forget my insecurities of just moments ago and nearly forget that I am scantily clad on a rock hard table in a room that had ants climbing the walls, in India.  I even catch myself dozing off a few times.  At one point, my leg even jerked- now that was bizarre!

When the treatment was over, Usha guides me back over to the “submissive” stool where she wrings the oil out of my hair, rubs some type of God-awful stinky powder into my scalp and then wraps it up turban-style in a piece of gauze.  She then tells me that I need to keep this on for one hour.  Yikes!  The oil, I can take as I tell myself it’s like a deep conditioner, but the stench of the powder was almost unbearable.  Despite the fact that our cottage only has hot water for a mere 30 seconds, I couldn’t wait to scrub my hair!

Usha then walks me back to the Ayurvedic reception area and tells me to sit.  She comes back with the local beverage of “Herbal Water,” which is similar to tea, but not quite.  The doctor then calls me back into the makeshift “office” and pulls out bottles of brown liquid, two kinds of tablets and a jar full of a pudding-like substance (which, by the way, tastes NOTHING like pudding!)  She directs me to take these concoctions either before food or after food, tells me to eat the foods on the buffet that are marked for my Dosha and tells me to come back the next day at the same time for the same treatment.  Ummmm, you mean I gotta get nekked again???  Yep, ‘fraid so!  I completed a week of treatments here.  I followed the medicinal regimen and the Ayurvedic treatments that were prescribed for me.  By the end of the week, I was feeling wonderful and was grateful to Usha for taking such good care of me in what turned out to be no where near Christian Grey’s room of pain.  Thank you, Usha 😉

Namaste’
Lisa

 

Travels of a Yogi: Planes, Trains & Rickshaws???

As I mentioned before, the energy is definitely different in Delhi.  The people getting from point A to point B by walking, public busing, tuk-tuks, buses, motorbikes and rickshaws is a bit overstimulating to say the least!  And the incessant honking!  Oy, vey!  It’s constant and is meant as a means of communication between the drivers of the various forms of transportation, but for us Westerners, it is hard not to take offence.  Another reminder that we aren’t in Kansas anymore (or South Carolina, Ohio, California or England for that matter!)  The craziness of the streets carried with us onto the railways as we caught our 6am train to Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal.  Upon arrival at the train station, we are reminded of how the rails are a significant part of mass transit in India.  At the station, there are people EVERYWHERE!  They are bustling about like an ant colony on crack yet, others are at a complete standstill laying anywhere and everywhere trying to catch a little bit of rest before their next train.  We are seated in the highest cabin possible, yet the accommodations leave a lot to be desired.  While the seats are fine, describing the bathrooms as disgusting would be an understatement.  We are served water, tea and breakfast on the train, albeit only the bread and the stale cornflakes sans milk were palatable.  I am told this cabin is about 1200 Rupees or about $22 for this 2 hour ride.  The other classes of cabins went down as low as 200 Rupees; just under $4.  Those unfortunate enough to be in the lower class cabins were lucky if they even had a seat.  We could see them packed in this metal box like sardines with no A/C.  At one train station, we see a passenger on another train being motion sick out the window.  Not a pretty sight and I am again reminded to give thanks to the man sitting next to me for switching his seat so that I could face forward in the direction that we were headed, otherwise, I would have my head out the window as well.

The arrival into the Agra train station was my first realization at just how much poverty and despair there is here.  Women carrying babies, small girls who couldn’t be more than 10 or 11 years old carrying babies passing them off as their own (or who knows, maybe they were their own) and little children begging for anything and everything:  food, water and even asking for shampoo, of all things.  This was almost unbearable.  The pulling at your bags, your sleeves and your pants as they beg and plead was yet another reminder of the amazing life I lead back in the States and I wonder what my own children are doing at that time—hopefully behaving for Daddy!!!  To add to the experience, the number of disfigured and crippled beggars is gut-wrenching and since I am at a loss for words to describe the pain I felt in my heart at that time, I won’t even attempt to try.  Until next time…

Namaste’
Lisa

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Travels of a Yogi: Ayurveda 101

Greetings from the Somatheeram Ayurvedic Health Resort in Kerala, India! In previous posts on Facebook or Twitter, some of you may have seen me mention Ayurveda and asked yourself, Ayur-what??? Broken down, AYUR means “life” and VEDA means “science,” so literally, the science of life. Ayurveda is a scientific system that uses mostly plants and herbs to treat common ailments and to keep the body functioning optimally. Ayurveda is a form of medicine that is approximately 5,000 years old. In Ayurveda, every living thing is made of of 5 basic eternal elements:

1. Earth
2. Water
3. Fire
4. Air
5. Ether

These elements are present in each person, but to varying degrees. The elements are broken down into what is called our body’s “constitution.” The constitutions are then further broken down into what are known as Doshas. There are three Doshas:

1. Vatta
2. Pitta
3. Kapha

Each Dosha carries different properties, functions and present themselves in different places of the body.

Vatta is the prime Dosha and steers the ship for the other two Doshas.
Vatta Properties: Dry, bright, cold, rough, subtle and minute, moving
Vatta Functions: Controls movement, breathing and natural urges, tissue transformation, motor functions, sensory functions, controls secretions and extretions, fear, impluses and anxiety.
Vatta Sites: Large intestines, pelvic regions, thighs, ears, bones and skin

Pitta Properties: Slightly oily, penetrating, hot, light, unpleasant odor, spreading nature, liquid form
Pitta Functions: Facilitates metabolism & hormonal function, regulates body heat & temp, helps digestions, intelligent, hunger & thirst, perceptive, color & complexion, anger, hate, jealousy
Pitta Sites: Naval, stomach and upper part of small intestines, sweat, lymph, blood, eye, skin

Kapha Properties: Oily, cold, heavy, slow acting, slimy, soft, stable
Kapha Functions: Gives stability and energy to the body, development of the body, lubrication, enthusiasm, sexual urges, forgiveness, immune resistance, attachment, holding, possessiveness, greed, accumulation, knowledge
Kapha Sites: Chest, throat, head, trachea, joints, stomach, lymph, fat tissue, nose & tongue.

Hmmmm…any of these sound like you How can you know for sure? You can visit one of my favorite websites and answer a questionnaire to learn what your Dosha is and how to care for it to keep you body in balance. More on our Ayurvedic treatments in my next blog.

To learn what Dosha you are, please visit: http://doshaquiz.chopra.com

Namaste’~ Lisa

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