Saturday, March 29, 2008


I did some math and realized the following;

I am teaching 35-plus hours a week.
(This does not include workshops or writing the newsletter or updating the website or photocopying mantras / reading lists / explanations of the Yamas and Niyamas; nor does it count the travel time to and from the various venues, plus arriving early and staying late to talk to students, etc.).

The teacher training is taking over 20 hours a week - plus the 45 hours a month we spend in NYC with the guru. (This does not include travel to and from NYC and the requisite flight delays and cancellations; thus far I am four for four, with two flights delayed and two cancelled altogether). More on this in a future post. Suffice to say I spent over an hour today peeling the skins off of sprouted almonds - and I'm way behind on my coloring assignment.

The journalism takes 5-20 hours a week. And some weeks even more; I'm currently working on FIVE DEADLINES.

Something has to give.

Hopefully it's not my lower back.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


The other night I dreamt that I was having a talk with my boyfriend, Shahrukh Khan.

He was complimenting me on my excellent command of Hindi.

He was especially impressed by my ability to pronounce the retroflex R.

It was then that I knew for sure it was just a dream....

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Tonight (March 22) there's a once-in-a-lifetime concert, called A Mystical Journey. It features who's-who of the world's finest singers, musicians and dancers performing music from various Sufi and other esoteric traditions of Islam.

In a sense, they are engaged in a form of bhakti yoga (the yoga of devotion):

The Sufi and other esoteric traditions of Islam manifest their beliefs through diverse forms of devotion ranging from ecstatic movements in dance to meditative exercises in quiet solitude. These acts of devotion seek the promise of enlightenment which offers a divinely-graced vision, moral clarity and all encompassing love. Enlightenment in these esoteric traditions speaks of a dissolution of the very self in a union with the divine that words cannot easily convey and thus music, poetry and dance become critical forms of expression.

It's at 8 at downtown's tony Cadillac Palace Theatre. Tickets start at $22.50 - which is a steal. More here.

*Thanks to Bindi for the heads-up on the concert. Maybe we'll see you there. If you live in Dallas, Houston or NYC, get ready - the tour is headed your way.

Friday, March 21, 2008


It's not just Good Friday and a full moon day and Holi (the Indian festival of colours).

It's also Nowruz - the Persian new year - which is celebrated by Sufis, Bahá'í's and Parsis.

Parsis are descended from Zoroastrians who fled to the Indian subcontinent over 1,000 years ago, after the Arabs invaded Persia in the late 8th Century. (Parsi simply means "person from Persia").

According to legend, when the Parsis first came to India, the emperor poured a glass of milk to the brim, showing that the land could not possibly support more people. The head Parsi priest poured some sugar in the milk, showing that they would enrich the community but not unsettle it. Other versions say he put rosewater or coins into the milk.

Whatever it was, the emperor allowed the exiles to settle - as long as they promised to learn Gujarati, lay down their arms, adopt the local dress, respect local customs, and conduct their rituals at night.

In some ways it was like coming home; founded by the prophet Zoroaster (Zarathushtra) in the 9th/10th century BC, Zoroastrianism "can be traced back to the culture and beliefs of the proto-Indo-Iranian period....[and] consequently shares some elements with the historical Vedic religion that also has its origins in that era."

They believe in one universal and transcendental God, Ahura Mazda, "the one Uncreated Creator to whom all worship is ultimately directed. Ahura Mazda's creation — evident as asha, truth and order — is the antithesis of chaos, evident as druj, falsehood and disorder. The resulting conflict involves the entire universe, including humanity, which has an active role to play in the conflict."

The focus is on doing good deeds to keep chaos at bay. "This active participation is a central element in Zoroaster's concept of free will, and Zoroastrianism rejects all forms of monasticism."

The energy of the creator (not God Himself) is represented by fire and the sun, "which are both enduring, radiant, pure and life sustaining," so worship is usually done in front of some form of fire. (They don't worship the fire itself, but use it as a point of focus.)

I've been wanting to visit Iran since learning about fire temples while writing this article for The Reader.

Nowadays there are fewer than 100,000 Parsis worldwide, with the highest concentration (70,000) in India, mostly in Bombay. (Parsis were the first Indians to embrace BKS Iyengar's yoga teaching, by the way). But their population is rapidly declining. UNESCO projects that by 2020, only 25,000 Parsis will be left, and there's a movement afoot to preserve their culture.

Many special foods are eaten on the Persian new year - including falooda, a milkshake-like drink made with ice cream, pink rosewater, basil seeds and tapioca or vermicelli noodles. For more on the food, check out this Kitchen Sisters story about Parsi cooking.

Famous Parsis include Queen's Freddie Mercury (Farokh Bulsara) and Rohinton Mistry, author of A Fine Balance.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


If you haven't heard, China has been cracking down on Tibet. It's the worst it's been since the Dalai Lama escaped in 1959.

The news reports are suppressed, so no one really knows what's going on.

The Dalai Lama is calling for restraint and dialog.

India, home to 100,000 Tibetan refugees, is stuck in the middle.

The US won't speak up; because of the trade defecit, China virtually owns this country.

So what can *we* do?

You could start by boycotting products made in China.

Good luck with that.

Or sign a petition here.

Click here to read my article about the Dalai Lama's moving speech in Chicago last year. An excerpt:

"...He told a story about a Tibetan monk who spent many years in the Chinese Gulag (prison) and later went to India. 'He said he faced danger a few times. "What danger?" [The Dalai Lama] asked. "Of losing compassion towards the Chinese," the monk replied. It is important to keep compassion towards those who cause you disturbances. In spite of difficult life and hostile surroundings, an individual can keep peace of mind,' the Dalai Lama told us."

Photos of the South Indian Tibetan refugee settlement of Bylakuppe
by CK (c) 2006.

Monday, March 17, 2008


Last week, India's Airports Authority Employees Union went on strike to protest plans to open private airports in the high-tech South Indian cities of Hyderabad and Bangalore.

Both new airports are located well outside of city limits and are not yet served by rail.

The more convenient older, state-run airports are slated to be closed down.

Garbage began to pile up at the nation's airports during the strike, although the planes continued to fly.

The union ended the strike after two days, once the government promised it would consider the interests of the workers at the old airports.

I don't think they got anything on paper.

Which is too bad, because experts say keeping the old airports open is not economically viable.

Hyderabad's Rajiv Gandhi International Airport was slated to open Saturday at midnight, although the civil aviation ministry surprised everyone at the inaugural ceremony by saying it would be delayed "by a few days."

Whatever. The high-tech, glass-and-steel Hyderabad airport is a showcase with its own slide show plus a theme song composed by South Indian musical genius AR Rahman. It will open. Soon.

We're not so sure about the 4050-acre Bengaluru International Airport, which was slated to open March 30.

Opening day has now been moved to May 11 due to deficiencies in air traffic and electricity infrastructure.

The Bangalore airport has neither a theme song nor a stunning design. In fact, it is meant to look "like a factory."

It has been beleaguered by delays since day one.

Maybe the delays will keep coming.

I adore the charming old Bangalore airport, where I've spent hours and hours filling out lost luggage forms and waiting for planes to other places.

I love the newly-widened road from Mysore to the airport, and the safe, wonderful pure veg restaurant where we stop at all hours to sit outside and have a bite.

The airport itself small and navigable.

The people who work there are nice (not like in Mumbai!).

It has a Cafe Coffee Day that's open at 3AM.

It's home to my favorite bookstore in the whole wide world.

And it's where I first set foot in India, back in 2002, and encountered its distinct, welcoming, incense-humidity-burning fuel aroma.

I'll really miss it....

Friday, March 14, 2008


India's Supreme Court has cleared Richard Gere of obscenity charges for kissing and mauling actress Shilpa Shetty in public last year.

As you may recall, public displays of affection in India are verboten - unless it's two boys of course.

From the BBC:

The judges said the court believed that such complaints (against celebrities) were "frivolous" and filed for "cheap publicity".

The complainants "have brought a bad name to the country", the court said.

In 2007, a court in the western state of Rajasthan ordered the arrest of Gere for sweeping Shetty into his arms at an Aids awareness event in New Delhi.

It also wanted the actress to appear in court over charges that she did not resist Gere's advances. Two other similar cases were filed.

Shetty shot into the global limelight after being the victim of alleged racist bullying and insults on the UK's Celebrity Big Brother. She went on to win the contest.

The full story is here.

Thursday, March 13, 2008



Dharma's teacher training program includes a lot of "homework." During the first month it included a very specific daily breathing-concentration-meditation sitting practice, teaching free karma yoga classes and coloring a page of Oms (which is very meditative).

If you miss a day of the sitting practice, you are not allowed to eat solid food after 4PM the following day. If you miss three times, you don't get the next plan. Of course it's on the honor system.

This time we have a different sitting plan, with different breathing and concentration practices (including Trataka) and a different meditation focus.

We also received a diet plan.

This month we are to start each day not with caffeine but a stomach-cleansing elixer of hot water and lemon, with or without sweetener.

It actually works; yesterday after sitting I just had to smell the coffee as it brewed and it had the desired effect (ie; an elimination round).

The other thing we must drink each morning is Dharma's Breakfast Blend - a smoothie consisting of one banana, a handful of sprouted almonds and juice or soymilk.

At first I was skeptical; as a former food combiner I had issues with the idea of mixing a sweet fruit with any other type of food.

And I had no idea to sprout almonds.*

Here's what you do:

-Purchase raw almonds.


-Cover with water just above the level of the almonds.

-Soak for ten hours.

-Drain the water. Cover the almonds and wait two-to-three hours.

-By now the almonds should be sprouted. Little white nubs will appear.

-To make it easier remove the skin (which is said to be toxic), pour the almonds into boiling water for a few seconds (not long enough for them to cook or to turn yellow). Drain immediately and rinse with cold water.

-Start peeling

-Keep peeling

-Peel some more

-Finish peeling

-After two days, store the almonds in the refrigerator. Change the water every two days.


I've been blending the almonds and bananas with apple cider. Not only is it tasty, but the stomach has no problem with it. Still, I may try making it with tender coconut milk tomorrow, for an all-raw senation.

Our diet plan also includes consuming at least two items each day from a list of solid foods that ranges from salads, sprouts and raw or steamed vegetables to brown rice, tofu and sprouted breads (If you skip either "diet," you cannot have solid food after 4PM the following day. For me, this is plenty of incentive to stay on track).

Fortunately, the solid diet is the same as what I usually eat.

But even afer just four days of hot water/lemon and the Breakfast Blend, I'm feeling leaner and meaner (actually, I feel a lot nicer) and less hungry.


I have not knowingly killed a cockroach since before last year's teacher training.

This is done in the name of Ahimsa, or non-harming of other creatures. (Ahimsa is the first and therefore the most important of yoga's ethical guidelines. As we learned last weekend, Patanjali always lists the most important item first).

In yoga, each living being is thought to have the same inner light or Atman or soul; in other words, deep down we are all the same.

If you really believe this - and I'm trying to - them you have compassion for all beings - from the jagoff in the BMW who cuts in front of you to the poor little cockroach trying to eke out an existence in your kitchen.

As Dharma says, even the cockroach has a family and just wants to live its life.

As his disciple Andrei Ram says, even killing one cockroach is a step off the path.

And, according to Yoga Sutra II-34, you're just as guilty if you let someone else kill them if it's done within your sphere of influence.

So I've been doing my best to keep the kitchen clean.

It's not working.

A whole family is living with me.

I'm watching them grow up.

I dread it when I don't see them; I dread it when I do see them.

So tonight I bought some Pandan Leaves at the Asian market.

Apparently cab drivers in Singapore Malaysia leave them in the car to keep the cockroaches at bay.

I'm hoping for the best.....

* * *

*Apparently sprouted almonds are easier to digest and more nutritious than their plain bretheren: "Sprouting is the key to preparing many food items that traditionally are thought to need cooking. In order to make them optimally digestible, a raw foodist will simply soak seeds, nuts, grains and legumes, causing them to germinate." More here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


The teacher training was exhausting.

It is not easy to endure 15-hour days (with no breaks) when you are well, let alone fighting a ear-throat-sinus infection.

On Thursday afternoon I learned I was teaching a (public) 10AM Level II class the following day.

On Thursday evening Group B was given a short break, so we checked into the hotel. Just before leaving my head started to throb. By the time I got to the hotel it was a full-blown migraine, and I was nauseous in addition to being sick, dizzy, and in ear pain.

I did not go back to the training that night.

I slept.

And then I went and ate at Angelica Kitchen and got some food to go for the following (breakless) day. The headache was still there.

The next day I still felt awful.

Yet when 10AM rolled around I went forth and taught - with the mental help of my teachers and classmates.

Apparently it was a pretty good class.

The focus this weekend was on the yoga sutras, taught by the wonderful Edwin Bryant. The long (four hour?) sessions were even attended by an NYC ashtanga studio co-owner whom I remember seeing in Mysore last year (of course she did not remember me. They never do).

I didn't start feeling better until Saturday night's Maha Sadhana (a three-hour class with Dharma that includes pranayama, chanting, and various Psychic Development techniques).

Sunday's three back-to-back-classes were doable - although I was still dizzy and tired. I think I've had this ear infection for months - which would explain the ear pain that never went away - and it's not leaving quietly.

Of course my plane home was delayed. Only 45 minuts this time.

On Monday I was so tired I was nauseous.

We'll see how today goes.....

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


I have to fly today to NYC for Phase II of the 500 hour teacher training with Dharma Mittra.

The airline makes you fly today even if you have a doctor's note telling them you need to fly tomorrow, when it's certain the ear infection is no longer at the acute stage and will not explode mid-flight.

To change the ticket would have cost $800-plus.

How lovely it would have been to have one. complete. day. of. rest. before diving into four 15-hour days of teacher training.

To top it off this early morning ashtangi is on the cleanup crew (which doesn't start cleaning til everyone leaves - and these people loooooooooooooooooooooooooove to linger).

Oh, well.....

Monday, March 03, 2008


I saw the doctor today.

She said I have an ear infection and a throat infection that are rapidly mushrooming into a sinus infection.

She gave me a 'scrip for some medication.

I asked the assistant if she would phone in the presciption so I wouldn't have to wait in a long line.


I drove to Pharmacy A.

One person was in line ahead of me.

He did not know which prescription he needed to fill.

After several minutes the pharmacist told him she could not decide for him.

She said she would print out a list of the medications he's taking, and he could choose from the list.

I as so feverish and fatigued at this point that I sat down on the floor.

Ten minutes later the pharmacist produced a list for him.


He took it and skulked off.

Then it was my turn.

I scraped myself up off the floor, and leaned on the counter.

First the pharmacist clarified the spelling of my name.

Then she wrote down my date of birth.

Only then did she tell me that the computer was down, and it would be "at least a few hours" before my prescription was filled.

I said I'd go elsewhere, and fled.

Now, I had the chills.....

I drove two miles to Pharmacy B.

Four people were in line ahead of me.

After five minutes the line hadn't moved, so I sat down on the floor. I was feverish again.

Five minutes later the line still had not moved.

I scraped myself up off the floor, made my way out of the store and got in my car.

I drove three miles to Pharmacy C.

There was no line.

But the pharmacist could not find my name in the computer.

I told her several different ways to spell it.

Finally she located it.

"Twenty minutes," she said.

During that 20 minutes I learned that my only possible sub for tonight's class cannot cover for me, as she is suffering from the same infection I have.

(I also learned that the silver ballet flats I like are on sale for just $14.99).

Twenty minutes later I went back and voila! the scrip was filled. For $37.00. Out of pocket.

Now, if only I could muster the energy to find subs for tomorrow's four classes.

I actually got a note from the doctor saying that I cannot teach today or tomorrow.

I should also have gotten her to write that "The above named is far too sick to make scores of stress-inducing sub calls and should stay in bed and rest."

Oh, to have a normal job where one simply calls in sick and is paid for taking the day off and does not have to find subs and has insurance and the visit to the doctor is a simple $10 copay......

Of course that normal job wouldn't allow for endless teacher trainings and regular trips to India, would it?

Sunday, March 02, 2008


What are the ethics regarding teaching when ill?

If an instructor is trying to follow the Yamas and Niyamas, shouldn't they abide by ahimsa (non-harming) and try not to infect their students with whatever it is they have?

And shouldn't they refrain from harming themselves by teaching when they feel sick?

Yet I've had studio owners tell me to teach anyway, because I hadn't given 24 hours notice. I was told that if I stayed home, they could dock me $40.

Yesterday I fell ill rather quickly in the afternoon; by 5PM I knew I shouldn't teach my three Sunday classes. With a great sense of guilt and trepidation, I started making calls.

Two classes got subbed out rather quicky (one, thankfully, was at a health club where they find your subs for you).

I was not so lucky with the third.

I called all 13 people on the list - no small thing when you can barely speak.

Three people actually picked up their phones and said no.

I left a message for the others, asking them to call back either way. I told them they could call as late as they wanted.

Two sent texts: can't do it.

I phoned the group exercise coordinator and left a voicemail telling her which teachers could not do it. I suggested I'd do it if no one else could.

An hour later my fever hit 101 and I started coughing up chunky pink sputnum.

The coughing was so deep and painful that I began to womit.

I was so dizzy I could barely make it to the toilet.

Later, when I'd righted myself, I called the group ex coordinator and told her that there was no way I could teach in the morning.

I never heard back from her.

Or from the other six yoga teachers on the sub list.

All night I had nightmares about teaching the class.

Yet this morning my sense of dharma(duty) kicked in.

First I fortified myself with chai and ibuprofen and honey loquat.

Honey Loquat is a traditional Chinese concoction that you drink like cough syrup. It provides instant relief the moment it hits the throat. It is by far the most effective remedy I've ever encountered for throat / lung pain. (I heard about it from another yoga teacher, David Wallin; you can find it online and at health food stores).

I also took a bath. Saucha (cleanliness) and all that.

And boy, was I dirty!

Then I went to teach the class.

Luckily I found a parking space right in front of the club.

I took the elevator up, to conserve my flagging energy.

Ten people came to class.

I told them I was under the weather and would be giving verbal rather than tactile adjustments, since I didn't want to infect them if I did indeed have something.

Of course there was a new person who needed me to demonstrate every single vinyasa and every single pose - just the thing when you should be home in bed.

Somehow I got through the class.

Yet an hour into it I could barely speak, no matter how much water I drank. The throat was so messed up that the eyes began to tear like I was crying.

The students got a very long sit and an even longer savasana.

I promised them more energy the next time I teach.

I still haven't heard from the group ex person, which is really out of character.

Could it be that she's sick, too?