Shetty Sidewalk Circus!

What a funny morning. Honestly, I laughed so much it almost appeared as though I wasn’t taking this seriously. Or I’m just slightly odd and find these unusual experiences fun…Today we did Jala Neti (pouring water in the nostril and it comes out the other nostril), Sutra Neti (putting a catheter in the nostril and pulling out through the mouth) and Vamana Dhauti (drinking 3-4 litres of saline water within a couple of minutes and throwing up immediately after). As disgusting as it all sounds, it really was a fantastic and fun experience.

To paint the picture. This morning we started class a little later, 6.00pm. I arrived early as usual as it’s always nice to have time to read and stretch before class starts. But the Shala was shut, so I sat on the steps next to the door reading my manual, preparing for next week’s exam. A couple of us ended up waiting until Bharath came and opened the Shala about 15 minutes later. This was unusual as his wife is normally the one to open the Shala. But ok.

We set up our mats in preparation for our morning asana practice. Either I missed something or we weren’t told, but there was no asana practice today. Instead, I heard Bharath from behind shuffling a plastic bag which he was taking to each of us. I noticed everyone was pulling something out. Soon it was my turn to pick from the mysterious plastic bag and it turned out to be a little plastic bottle, which resembled a miniature watering can, and in Bharath’s hand was a packet of terra cotta coloured rubber catheters. With a huge grin and very curious look on my face, Bharath laughed as I took my bottle and catheter from him, which naturally made the rest of the class laugh also. Looks like there was no asana practice after all. We were going straight into it!

With bottle and catheter in hand, we all sat on our mats looking front and listening closely as Bharath talked us through the ‘how’ to perform these Kriyas. Then before we knew it, we were all outside on the sidewalk, directly out the front of the Shala, watching a proper demonstration. Ragu, one of the other teachers and assistants (who has the most infectious smile and clearly found this entertaining), stood on the stairwell with a blue bucket full of warm saline water and the familiar scoop and tumblers we used last week when doing Shankaprakshalana. Flashbacks! 

Bharath, standing on the edge of the gutter of death out the front of his house, lifted his little bottle up to Ragu’s level where Ragu then filled it with water. Bharath then proceeded with his demonstration of how to do Jala Neti, bending over the deep gutter, tilting his head to one side and placing the spout of the bottle into his nostril. I smiled as I watched water pouring from my teachers nose, knowing I would be doing the same in a matter of minutes. It’s fun when Bharath get’s involved in our practice. There is so much confidence built up when our teacher is beside us in class performing the asanas. So seeing him doing the Kriyas was also really fun - and reassuring.

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After rinsing out little bottles, we each approached Ragu from different angles, (base of the stairs, gutters etc) to have our bottles filled. Everyone seemed to be in a rush to get started. With warm saline water ready to go, I squatted at the end of the gutter, tilted my head slightly and placed the spout in my right nostril. At first the water dribbled back out from where it came, but with mouth open and a focused mind, I too had water pouring from the opposite nostril. Water and snot I should say. Let’s not beat around the bush here! I didn’t find Jala Neti too difficult to do which was a great start.

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Next came Sutra Neti - using the catheter. This was a little more challenging to say the least. My gag reflex is generally pretty good, but this took it to a whole other level.

Bharath again squatted at the end of the gutter, and after dipping his catheter into the saline water, with eyes closed and a clearly focused mind, Bharath fed the catheter through his nose and out of his mouth. He then pulled it back and forth, back and forth just like someone drying their back with a towel. Again, I couldn’t stop smiling. I thought it was hilarious we were about to do the same and I was so eager to try.

Now it was our turn. With fresh saline water in my little bottle and catheter in hand, I walked to the side of the road where I squatted among others in preparation for this new experience. I drew my attention to the rocks on the ground and committed to stilling my mind. I knew without 100% focus on what we we’re doing, that catheter would go nowhere!

Pressed between my right thumb and index finger, I began feeding the rubber catheter through my right nostril. At first there was a slight burning pain and then a very uncomfortable pressure, but as I worked with the catheter, knowing I must have been going up the wrong way (as we had been warned) I suddenly realised it was just going in and in and in and in with no pain at all. I then felt the catheter enter the back of my throat and this is when the difficulty came. I instantly starting gagging on it. All I wanted to do was swallow but this just made the gagging worse. I was worried I was about to do my own version of Vamana Dhauti on the side of the road but with the wrong Kriya! All around me I can hear people dry reaching as they try to pull the catheter through. With eyes watering, dribble and snot running down my arms and hanging from my mouth and nose, I was determined to keep trying. My difficulty was in the grabbing part. I just couldn’t get hold of the catheter as it sat so far in the back of my through. But after a few more attempts, and still focused on those rocks, I pulled it through. The immediate response was to vomit, but after a couple of deep breaths I managed to control that feeling and actually walked over the Ragu and asked he take my picture! I was so proud of myself. I wriggled the catheter back and forth through my nose and throat, just as Bharath did, before pulling it out through my mouth. That was probably the most sickening part. It felt like I was pulling my insides out. I can’t even describe it, but let’s just say it was not a pleasurable sensation.

I then did the left side also. Same story. A little tricky at first, then gagging, then retrying again whilst trying not to vomit, then getting it through! To finish, you then do Jala Neti again to clean the nostrils completely. I was really chuffed with myself by the end of it. I was so pleased I did it. All the people who, earlier in the week, had repeatedly said they don’t think they can do it, or complained about doing it, struggled and didn’t end up completing the Kriya. Their negativity about the process made their bodies completely shut down when it came to doing it. This is why an open mind and acceptance is so important. Then anything is possible.

Finally, we were onto Vamana Dhauti. The grande finale! Ragu stood on the steps with a full bucket of warm water, tumblers and the scoop ready to pour the cups of water. We needed to work quickly here to make the vomiting happen. Bharath selected two of the boys in our class to begin as he was confident these boys would set a good example of how it’s done. Bharath said he needed people who won’t struggle to start this off so everyone else is not affected. If one person struggles, then everyone thereafter will struggle also. Tio and Paul, our two Frenchmen, stood on the edge of the gutter near to Ragu and prepared for the race to drink. The goal was to drink 10 tumblers, about 3 litres, as quickly as possible. Paul was ridiculously quick. I think he downed his in about 2 minutes. Tio was a little slower but not far behind.

And then then vomiting starts! With fingers in throats, bending over the hole in the ground Paul started heaving and water just gushed out of his mouth. All over the floor and into the drain. Bharath stood on the other side of the gutter with his hand Paul’s back, patting him firmly to encourage Paul to keep vomiting. Tio then started. My goodness what a sight we must have been. With the entire class plus strangers on the street stopping to watch, this was not for the faint hearted.

Next was me. Tio was pushed along the edge to make room for me to start also. Ragu handed me my cup and filled it to the brim. The all too familiar warm feeling of the metal tumbler was enough to cause a shudder. With my left hand I held onto the black metal post of the fence, focused on a small black spot on the white paint, took a deep breath and went for it. I sculled my first cup within about 5-8 seconds, the next the same and just kept going. The pressure in my belly was building up so quickly but as soon as I thought there was no more room to keep drinking, the pressure would mildly release and another tumbler would go down. Water was dribbling down my chin and running down my arms. At this point another student had also commenced the process but I think he only drank about 4 cups before starting as he clearly struggled to drink. I could feel the water from his spew spraying all over my feet. Not nice! But it was just water so nothing to stress about.

I lost count after tumbler number 7, so I think I ended up drinking 9 when Bharath said it was ok to stop. I honestly thought my insides were about to explode. I handed my cup to Ragu urgently and then turned to face the hole in the ground, where my friends had just vomited, and started heaving. Water just started pouring out, like turning a tap on high. As I started to slow, as I was using reflexes alone, Bharath told me to put my fingers down my throat - so I did! With Bharath’s hand on my back making me feel completely safe throughout the process, I kept heaving and throwing up. The amount of water which came out was incredible. Water was gushing all over the floor and my feet. It certainly wasn’t a pleasant experience, but it was an experience! Bharath kept willing me on to keep going, always sounding so pleased the more I threw out.  I think he really loves doing this stuff with his students. Because it is just fun!

With legs shaking, snot pouring from my nose, dribble all over my hands and eyes watering profusely, I wasn’t sure I could keep going too much longer before collapsing into the hole! I probably stood there, bent over, for about 3 minutes and then it was done. With a proud pat on the back, especially as I was the first girl to give the challenge a go, I was sent upstairs with the others to lay in Savasana for half an hour.

The others who were very negative or fearful of the process told me they weren’t going to try it - and so they didn’t. I think this is really unfortunate, as these experiences offer so much learning. Not only about the technical part of the Kriya, but about our own minds. Our ability to control our thoughts, remain focused and challenge ourselves. This is so important and is the whole point of yoga! But, I appreciate not everyone is comfortable so of course it’s up to them. I just know I would have been terribly disappointed had I not tried all three of these Kriyas, and I feel pretty proud of myself that I completed them all.

After spending some time in Savasana, Bharath gently tapped me on the shoulder to get my attention. He told me to pack up and go downstairs for the famous kitchari his wife had made. The same, bland kitchari with olive oil (for me - others have ghee) as last week. Again, this is important as the oil needs to help coat the lining of the stomach again, whilst the lack of flavour stops any irritants from harming the digestive tract whilst it’s vulnerable.

Myself and Tio sat in my favourite front room of Bharath’s home, as we ate our breakfast. As I had my camera with me I couldn’t help but get a couple of pictures of the glowing sun coming through the gorgeous bay windows. Bharath came and sat with us, explaining how important it is that we now take time to be silent and notice the pranic body. That it is only those people who have an inner awareness who will experience the pranic body and as teachers, we need to experience what this feels like. Its not about theory - its about the experience. Only then comes wisdom. I love this.

Bharath explained that those people who are too focused on the outside world are unable to do Kriyas like this. Their body is not open to it. This meant more to me than he probably realised. Considering I am someone who has really struggled to find balance in my life, to block out all the noise - I really felt like I must have made progress with my practice as I was able to complete the Kriyas. Yay!

So that’s my story. My experience with Jala Neti, Sutra Neti and Vamana Dhauti. Three kriyas which I definitely recommend people do under the right supervision and with the right mindset. The benefits can be infinite.

I shall now rest and study for the rest of the weekend before returning to class Monday morning.

Namaste xxx

Shit’s about to hit the fan!

Well… the time has come. If ever there is a time when I will feel completely vulnerable in a public setting, it’s going to be tomorrow.

As I have mentioned along the way, there is an incredible energy in a yoga classroom, especially when you have been training with the same people for 9+ hours a day for 2 months. There is a connection with everyone. An intimacy. But not to the level where we are all prepared to not only poo with everyone around, but have explosive, repeated diarrhea. This is going to bring those relationships to a whole new level. How I look to someone from my class today, may not be how I look to them after 7.00am tomorrow morning. And vice versa.

With towel and toilet paper ready to go, tomorrow morning at 6.00am (I’m in the second group. The first group is starting at 4.45am) I will begin the Shanka Praksalana Kriya. For 2 days we have been preparing our gut for this by eating very specific, light foods. Today we have all pretty much fasted all day as this will make the ‘process’ much easier tomorrow morning. You want to get those bowels emptied as quickly as possible, and with as little difficulty as possible.

Looking to the purpose of this Kriya. It’s like having a shower. If we are dirty, we like to wash our hair and clean our skin, leaving us feeling fresh. The same goes for the digestive tract. It is full of all sorts of impurities, dirt, and so we are essentially washing our insides. In doing so, there will be incredible benefits to the body. For example, our immune system will be boosted, its flushing our abdominal organs, cures constipation, IBS, inflammatory bowel disorders, malabsorption syndrome, indigestion, piles etc. The list of benefits goes on and on. So this is in no way harmful to the body. What can, however, be harmful to the body is poor preparation and post preparation of the digestive tract. We have eaten a very specific diet in preparation for tomorrow and then following the ordeal Bharath’s wife and assistant is cooking a very bland kitchari for us all. As the lining of the intestines no longer has the protective mucus layer, we need to be careful with the level of acidity of the food with ingest immediately after (especially) and for the following two days. A bland kitchari contains good fats and is an easily digestible, non irritable food (rice). Vegan kitchari is being made for me, with olive oil, however ghee is meant to be the best oil to use in this first meal.

So on that note, I shall leave it there. I now need to meditate and prepare myself for the morning. Fingers crossed I make it through… See you on the other side!

Namaste xx


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White is all they have at my apartment building…

Brace yourself - prepare to evacuate!

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Today Bharath sat at the front of the class on his blue and yellow mats, as he normally does, and just looked at us. Analysing us, noticing. I’m not sure what he was noticing but I think he was merely trying to get a feel for the energy of the class. He then asked the following questions; “…how many of you are sore or stiff; how many of you feel hungry; or not hungry at all; how many of you sleep very well; or wake up during the night; or don’t sleep at all; how many of you are suddenly crying and you’re not sure why; or laughing too much…” For many of these I put my hand up, as did the rest of the class, and with our answers Bharath just simply said, “Good”.

This is expected. Our bodies are going through so much change with the intensity of our practice. When looking into the Pranic body, it is trying to balance itself, and in doing so we are going through, as Bharath would say, “fluctuations”. It’s lovely to know I’m not going crazy!

These fluctuations are only about to increase. As of tomorrow, we are beginning a 5 day Sadhana - “an ego transcending spiritual practice.” What is it you ask? Well, on Saturday we will be completing the Kriya - Shanka Praksalana. Definition: Dhauti cleanses the upper digestive tract. Shanka Prakshalana evacuates the intestines and thoroughly cleanse the whole digestive system (from mouth to anus). Nice!

We will be drinking about 5 litres of saline water each and practicing yoga between each ‘round’ to get the water moving through the body and ‘out the other end’. OMG! For someone who doesn’t like to ‘go’ in public toilets or other people’s homes, this is going to be one hell of a challenge. Dignity may be completely gone come Saturday lunch time… We’ll see.

But in order to prepare for this process, there is alot to consider. The foods we eat must be very simple, nothing heavy like oils, or spicy, and we will fast the night before. Then the first meal we eat afterward will be prepared by Bharath’s assistant. As the mucus lining the stomach and intestines would have been removed, our bodies become sensitive so a very specific, bland meal must be eaten as the first meal post. We then need to be very careful the two days following the practice. I’ve been told no tea for 5 days!

This Kriya is important as we need to a) understand the technique properly and b) it will prepare us all to go deeper into our practice for the final weeks. I will keep you posted!

I met with Bharath today during my lunch break, to chat about a few things. How to pull together a sequence for someone with migraines (my thesis), the stiffness in my knees and back, the type of bed Owen and I choose when I get home… During our chat I couldn’t help but be in awe of how calm this man is. In his presence, you cannot help but be completely focused on what he has to say. Nothing else can distract you. I think this is merely a reciprocation of how he is treating me? He too is completely focused on what I have to say, which is such a rare quality nowadays. I know I can be terrible at being completely present - trying to do a million things at once. That path only leads to stress in my life. I think it’s time to actively work on the other.

With advice in one hand re my sequence and recommendations for a firm / rough bed to help with my posture and back troubles, I left Bharaths home with a big grin on my face the whole way home. He just has this effect on people. It’s a wonderful gift he has and I feel privileged to be training under the guidance of such a man.

So, with that said, it’s time for a final tea before prep work begins tomorrow.

Goodnight.

Namaste xx


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The house is world famous!

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A simple one, but a great one

I didn’t do a lot today, but of what I did do, I had an amazing time.

Something one comes to realise when living in the bubble of Gokulam, is how fast the outside world is moving. Why do we fill our days with so many activities? Why do we feel the need to buy more and more material things? Do we need those extra shoes or bracelets for example? And why is it the quiet person, who is happy with the simpler things in life, or better still - one’s own company - is frowned upon?

These are the honest thoughts which have just come to me whilst trying to work out how to structure tonight’s blog post. I say this because my amazing day may seem nothing short of boring to so many in the world. And it may very well be. But for me, I make no excuses for being the quiet one, happy with the simpler things in life, as this is where the bliss in life lies for me.

With that said, my day involved nothing more than a wonderful conversation with two beautiful young women I met at Anu’s (over a chocolate smoothie of course), and an evening class with Bharath (lesson not asana) followed by a simple dinner on the floor of Barath’s home. No extreme sports, shopping, wining and dining. This was it. Oh, and my weekly washing. I love getting this done!

Today really was a highlight day for me - of the entire trip. For one, these two lovely women, Marie from Norway and Amy from Scotland, were just genuine people. As I find it so challenging to meet genuine people nowadays, meeting them were like a breath of fresh air. We chatted for hours, and had I not needed to go home to get my undies off the line in the communal downstairs car park, I would have stayed longer.

We talked of many things, but as one would expect when you have a group of yoga practitioners together, the conversation naturally turned to that of yoga. Marie and Amy practice Ashtanga yoga, something I am not too familiar with. But type of yoga aside, fundamentally the purpose of yoga is the same. That is, we are seeking a way to still our mind. Asana is of course the first way to do this, hence the practice is so common and widely spread in the world. Something I really appreciated was Amy’s comment that yoga is bigger than all of us. She is absolutely correct. This statement can be interpreted on so many levels, but for me, as yoga helps me to connect with the deeper parts of myself, I can then connect with deeper external/universal energies (well, try to!). For example, if my energy and awareness in life is poor, then my connection to the greater world, including energy I omit and receive in return, will also be poor.The opposite is also true. If my energy is high and I can connect with myself on a deeper level, then my ability to connect with the world is also heightened. It’s important to remember yoga is not just about asana. That is one component of yoga. Moreso, it is the ability to bring yoga into your daily life. Whether on a boat, in an office or a crazy market place, an ability to maintain presence demonstrates a true, deeper level has been attained.

With yoga, we need to remember we are practicing what our teachers have taught us, their teachers taught them, those teachers were taught by other teachers and so on and so forth. This practice is thousands of years old and as practitioners we have a responsibility to honor this practice and its history. To treat it with utmost respect and remain committed to implementing the learnings into our daily lives. Often people can forget how old this practice is, how important it has been to many millions of people over the years. Yoga is not the latest trend, or fad diet. It is an art form which should be treated with respect. As a teacher and practitioner, I have a responsibility to this practice. To continually strive to deepen my own practice. Only then, am I in a position to teach it to others.

We also chatted about whether it is good or bad if people miss classes. As Amy pointed out, our teachers do not care if we miss a class as that is not their problem. It is our problem. If we miss a class, we are the ones who have lost, have missed out. The enormous benefits by which this practice can give to every human being have been lost. I too agree. To the practitioner who has a regular routine, they will notice the effects within themselves when a practice has been missed. Energy is not quite right for that day. However, in saying that, one also needs to allow themselves the freedom to miss a class should their body need this rest because, as I mentioned before, yoga is not just about the asana. It’s about how to bring yoga into our daily lives which is where the real power lies.

A lovely conversation I was disappointed to leave.

View of the sunset from the Shala

Ready for Part II - bring on 500+Hrs TTC!

This evening we commenced the second half of my 500+hr TTC. There are nine of us in total. Two new students, who completed training with Bharath in previous years, have joined our small group. Duncan and Josephine. They seem like lovely people.

In class, Bharath took us through the course structure for the coming month, and I have to say I am very excited about what’s to come. We will learn about (and practice of course) advanced kriyas, bandhas, mudras, asanas, adjustments - among many other things. This month is all about achieving Sadhana, about deepening our practice. Its not about learning asanas and their limitations etc. We know all this. Now we go deeper. We will also be writing a thesis (and delivering a one hour presentation in two weeks time) on working with a student who suffers a particular ailment. Again, we are going deeper now which is exciting.

As Bharath has gotten to know us all, he has also become much more ‘chatty’. He maintains the respect as a teacher, but there is a wall he has removed allowing us to get a little closer to him (if that makes any sense). The class format seems far more relaxed and I guess this is more easily achieved when working with a much smaller group. Bharath also seemed more comfortable at dinner sitting on the floor with us, laughing and eating, telling stories and sharing lessons. For such a young man, only 35, he has so much wisdom. I could listen to him talk for hours. I am completely inspired by this man. Unlike yesterday with obsessed followers of Amma who tend to lack any rationality around why they are so obsessed, with Bharath everything he says has reason to it. There is logic to his words and he only speaks of what he knows and has studied intently. This is why I hold him with such high regard.

So, as one can see, today was a simple day, but a truly great day. Because, for me, it’s the simple but meaningful conversations with genuine people, with no agenda or ulterior motive but to purely share and learn from one another, which brings joy to my world. This is where the substance is. To me, this is living.

With my alarm set for 4.00am (yes back to that routine) it is now time to prepare for bed. I have a vinyasa flow class first thing!

Enjoy your practice, and remember to ask yourself - “are you bringing yoga into your life?”

Namaste xx