Sunday, June 29, 2008


This is the line the character Siddhartha says over and over again in the Herman Hesse novel and Conrad Rooks film of the same name.

I saw the film last night; it stars my favorite actor, Shashi Kapoor and is well worth seeing. The cinematography is stunning, the music is from Rabindranath Tagore and the subject matter is, well, enlightening.

The film is said to be about Buddhism; for me, it was more about the alienating, vexing, nonlinear quest for self-realization.
And India of course.

The quote from Siddhartha reminds me of something Dharma says:

"A yogi must learn three things: To be patient. To be quiet. To fast."

In yoga, we're supposed to NOT think.

In yoga, we're searching for the Self within the self.

I think Shashi Kapoor may have reached that goal, if this recent quote is any indication:

"It's only service to the needy that gives you peace. In the end it is only this which will give you strength. Not your wealth - not your stirring performances"

Saturday, June 28, 2008


We will do asana *and* explore the other, oft-overlooked limbs of yoga this afternoon.....

This workshop is perfect for those who suspect there's more to yoga than postures and want to know more.

These sequences and practices were learned directedly from Sri Dharma Mittra, a true yogi who has been teaching classical yoga in all of is aspects since 1967. Dharma says:

"The Yoga Poses are just a preparation for the practice of meditation, and better than meditation is to renounce the fruits of your actions. Now learn to serve others first, and show love to all beings and living creatures."

If you don't have any money, it doesn't matter. Please come anyway.

Dharma Mittra-style Maha Sadhana with Cara Jepsen
Yoga Trek Center, 911 S. Lombard in Oak Park
(one block from the Austin 290 exit & the Lombard Blue Line CTA).
1-3:30 PM
Suggested donation $25, or pay-what-you-can

This amazing session -- it means "The Great Practice" - will help to deepen your yoga practice. It begins with spiritual Purification discourses and practices (including sound work) and continues with in-depth, long and challenging Shiva Namaskara posture practice, a classical hatha flow that is invigorating but not exhausting. It will include a healing deep relaxation and a meditation practice. Personal attention and helpful hints are given throughout the session as well as direction toward the true goal of Yoga - union with the Self. For Intermediate thru Advanced Yogis.

Friday, June 27, 2008


Rather than ask about the contents of say, their minds, some reporters on Tuesday asked the two presidential forerunners about what's in their pockets.*

According to yesterday's Chicago Sun-Times**:

Both presidential hopefuls have admitted that when the going gets rough on the campaign trail, they look to a few lucky charms to pave the way.

Obama showcased a pocketful of trinkets to reporters in New Mexico on Tuesday, including a lucky poker chip, an American eagle pen, and a small gold statue of a Hindu monkey god, which he said represent his faith in luck and voters.

McCain, however, has been reported to put his faith in a total of 36 cents -- two nickels, one quarter and a penny found lying heads up on the ground in various cities he has campaigned in.


*I suspect it might be considered disrespectful to keep God in one's pocket, just as it is incorrect to have a depiction of God on a t-shirt or bag, or to keep a book in the bathroom or on the bed, or put keys or coins in shoes; it's kind of like pointing one's foot at an old person or handing someone money with the left hand (all of which I've been taken to task for in India).

**In the accompanying photo, the pair look as if they are on a can of Arrid Extra Dry, about to kiss.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


On the way home from YogaTrek today the car began smoking and emitting a poisonous melting-metal stench that had subtle overtones of burning plastic.

It started when I was driving by Taste of Chicago.

But it was coming from under the hood.

I thought the engine was going to start on fire and explode.

So I called Dreyfus and had him talk me down. He confirmed that the smoke could indeed be coming from the A/C compressor. For the past year the car had been emitting a loud wail whenever I drove it, and I knew that removing the belt would make the awful sound stop.

After exiting Lake Shore Drive, I drove straight to the mechanic. Actually it's two mechanic-owners; middle-aged brothers with deep voices perfect for radio.

They know me: The single woman with the falling-apart jalopy who questions every repair and always insinuates that they're ripping her off.

They wanted to know if I had an appointment.

"No, the thing just started smoking and smelling so I drove it straight here. Could you look at it now? Do you think it could be the A/C compressor?"

It was the A/C compressor. The thinner, tanner brother came out to the street and confirmed it.

Prior research told me that a new one would cost around $1,000.

"Can you just cut the belt off?"

At first they were skeptical; what if the belt was connected to something inportant? And how does she know about the belt, anyway?

But the thinner, tanner brother came out and checked it out. He returned with a tool, got under the hood, and cut the cord.

He dirtied his white shirt getting under the car to retrieve the belt.

And didn't charge me a cent.

No complaints there.

But I felt like I'd betrayed the poor car.

And now I must spend the rest of the summer (or at least until I leave for India) in a car with no A/C.

If you've never done this before, in Chicago, you have no idea of what hell is really like.

When you don't have A/C in the car, and you're pitta dosha, and you're stuck in traffic in 98-degree heat, it really is awful.....

The body overheats.

The skin breaks out.

The mind becomes stupid.

Brain cells die.

It's tapas - literally.

Not to mention yet another unexpected lesson in non-attachment.


*Today's heading is in homage to American writer Dorothy Parker's famous line, "What fresh hell is this?" which she reportedly uttered when her train of thought was interrupted by a telephone. According to this website, "She then started using it in place of 'hello' when answering the phone or a knock at her door."

Other famous witticisms by Parker:

I require three things in a man. He must be handsome, ruthless and stupid.

The only "ism" Hollywood believes in is plagiarism.

(Quote about the Yale prom) Quite an affair...If all the girls were laid end to end, well, I wouldn't be a bit surprised

You can't teach an old dogma new tricks.

If you want to see what God thinks of money, look at the people he gave it to.

This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.

When asked to use the word 'horticulture' in a sentence: "You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think. "

That woman speaks eight languages and can't say no in any of them.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


The Aleve ad is finally out; Catesey spotted it in the July issue of National Geographic.

I would be the one with the straight legs (on the left), forming the first hump of the "M."

The unexpected modeling gig helped ALEVE-iate the high cost of air travel to and from NYC for Dharma MIttra's advanced teacher training (where we met for one looooooong - 45-hour - weekend each month from February through May).

The audition took place during a blizzard. Yet somehow all of the models were perfectly made up.

The shoot took place on a subzero Monday morning at 8AM, after a gruelling weekend of teacher training.

My flight from NYC was delayed and didn't get in til after 11:30PM the night before: nonetheless I awakened at 5AM to raid my closet and teach a 6:30AM class before the shoot.

It's a good thing you can't see my face in the photo.

Nice work, Andrew!

Friday, June 20, 2008


I'm in the process of booking a ticket to Bangalore.

If all goes as planned, I'll arrive on my birthday.**

If all goes as planned, many many bloggers will be in Mysore at the same time, including Krista, Ursula, and Elise..

And on the way home from Mysore I hope to visit Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria.

What a lovely trip that would be.....


*In yoga of course we are trying to get away from thoughts of "I, me, mine." I know that it's not my India - it's everyone's India. Kirby is not my cat - he's everyone's cat. In fact he's spread so much cat-love during my trips to India that two of his past hosts have adopted cats of their own. Well, they're not their cats.....

**Pattabhi Jois was also born on 26 July. It's not my birthday. It's our birthday.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


I'm offering two free* Dharma Mittra yoga classes each week though mid-July as part of my teacher training.

These Level I classes are suitable for all levels of student - from raw beginners to seasoned practitioners who wish to slow down. I find this meditative sequence helpful to my ashtanga practice; it opens the hips and shoulders like nothing else. It also seems to magically alleivate aches and pains caused by everything from air travel to overpracticing. These classes are small - very small - and you will get all of the personal attention you need. They each end with pranayama (breathing techniques) and a brief meditation.

FRIDAYS, 10-11AM, through July 11
Silverspace, 1474 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago
(Just south of North/Milwaukee/Damen; look for the black door, just north of the Bongo Room). Yes, we will be holding class on Friday, July 4.

TUESDAYS, 11:15-12:15AM, through July 8
Yoga Trek Center, 911 S. Lombard Ave. in Oak Park
(It's literally a few steps from the CTA blue line's Lombard stop and the Eisenhower Expressway's Austin exit).

*(NOTE: The suggested donation for each class is $5, which benefits future teacher trainees. If you can't afford $5, you are welcome to come anyway).


Maha Sadhana with Cara Jepsen at Yoga Trek Center
Saturday, June 28
1-4 PM
Suggested donation $25 (or pay-what-you-can)

This amazing session -- it means "The Great Practice" - will help to deepen your yoga practice. It begins with spiritual Purification discourses and continues with in-depth, long and challenging Shiva Namaskara posture practice, a classical hatha flow that is invigorating but not exhausting. It will include a healing deep relaxation and a meditation practice. Personal attention and helpful hints are given throughout the session as well as direction toward the real true goal of Yoga. For Intermediate thru Advanced Yogis.


Dharma Mittra has been teaching the science of yoga since 1967 in New York City. He is the creator of the Master Yoga Chart of 908 Poses and author of the book 608 Yoga Poses (he’s also the teacher doing the hands-free headstand in Vanity Fair magazine and the inspiration for the Yoga Journal book Yoga).

Cara Jepsen began teaching yoga in 1998 and first studied with Dharma Mittra in 1999. She has completed his 200-hour teacher training and is currently finishing his advanced (500 hour) Life of a Yogi intensive. She also teaches ashtanga vinyasa yoga and has spent nine months in India studying with ashtanga guru Pattabhi Jois.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Morning Mysore with Manju has been wonderful so far.

Yesterday I practiced next to NYC teacher Greg Tebb, and borrowed some of his boundless energy during backbends.

I stood up and dropped back with relative (for me) ease.

Afterwards we went across the street for coffee talk.

Such a treat, to have such conversation and connection with the teacher(s).....

Manju also brought my old teacher Eric Powell with him to Chicago. Sadly I did not get to see him. Last I heard he was still in Istanbul, where he's been teaching the past two years. Apparently he's now back in NYC.

Eric is the one who told me back in 1998, as he was leaving Chicago, that I should take over some of his classes. I was horrified of course. "Absolutely not," I said. He talked me into it of course. I took Suddha Weixler's training, and began teaching that same year.

I still teach his old Sunday noon class at the Chicago Yoga Center.

And, this week, I also teach 18 other classes.

Nineteen classes in seven days will be a new record for me - if I make it through.

The key is to remember to offer it up...

To do my practice (with Manju!)....

And take proper rest.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

JUNE 13-20

If you can't make it to the source, go to the teacher who's spent the greatest amount of time with the guru.

Manju is Pattabhi Jois's son. Guruji started teaching him yoga when he was 8, and Manju began teaching others when he was 15.

He's lived in the US for eons, and is one of the few teachers who has a thorough understanding of both traditional ashtanga and the western mind. He also knows the correct pronounciation of the asanas and chants. Sanskrit is a precise language, and misprouncing even a single syllable can completely change the meaning (Let's just say that when Manju does the opening mantra, it doesn't sound like no "CHARRA-narra VIN-day")

He also has a refreshing attitude about the asanas, which he tends not to hoard and fetishize. Instead, he says, "They're just poses."

Manju will be teaching daily 6:30-8:30AM Mysore classes in Chicago for seven days, starting this Saturday:

Sat June 14
Sun June 15
Mon June 16
Tue June 17
Wed June 18
Thu June 19
Fri June 20

The cost is $215 for all seven classes, $170 for Mon-Fri, $40 for a single Mysore class, or $35 each for two or more sessions.

Manju will also conduct a weekend workshop July 13-15 and a five-day teacher training starting on the 16th.

Manju's weekend workshop is wonderful because it goes beyond asana, and includes mantra (chanting) and pranayama (breathing practices). If you feel like there is more to ashtanga than asana, this is the workshop for you.

All events are at the Chicago Yoga Center, 3047 N. Lincoln Avenue (773-327-3650).

Details here.


Photo (c) 2004, from Manju's first Chicago teacher training - where Cara the Giant and Krista first met.

Sunday, June 08, 2008


This blurry photo was snapped yesterday morning, while I was practicing second series and listening to Mysore-based Sanskrit scholar Dr. M.A. Jayashree's recording of the Yoga Sutrani of Maharsi Patanjali.

(Yes, I practice on Saturdays - sometimes with devotional music in the background. For the record, my day off from ashtanga vinyasa yoga is usually Tuesday or Thursday, when I teach four classes).

Kirby, the cat, seems to enjoy the chanting of the yoga sutras even more than I do. (He also seems to appreciate vintage, high-end turntables, but that's another story).

Kirby seems to prefer a vegetarian diet - even though eating greens (his favorite) inevitably makes him walk backwards and womit.

He likes to sit next to me when I sit. Although he's one of those nervous, high strung cats, he becomes very calm when he does this.

He often brings his toys to the altar and leave them there, as if making an offering.

These behaviors make me think he is a yogi, trapped in the body of a cat.

I used to tell him as much.

In fact I used to tell him a lot of things - until yesterday.

That's when my teacher asked if I was practicing mauna (silence).

"That's not hard to do when you live alone," I replied.

Then she asked if I had a pet.


It was then pointed out that the practice of mauna applies to all talking - not just to people.

You cannot talk to the cat.

You cannot make little grunts or clicking sounds to communicate with said pet.

And when practicing mauna, you cannot talk to yourself, either. No more audible thoughts.

This is easier said (so to speak) than done.

Try it and see.

Kirby later in the day, listening to the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra.


The ego must be destroyed, yes. But Robert Feder's referral in the Sun-Times to our recent article about the This is Hell, the best radio show in the world, was very welcome reminder that when the fruits are relinquished our toil is not for naught - which in a way is the theme of the article.

Thursday, June 05, 2008


I've had this CD for some time - the late M S Subbulakshmi is one of India's greatest Carnatic singers (she's Tamil) - but had no idea what the words meant. I knew it was devotional, but not exactly how. Watch the video and you'll see the translation (you fools). It's quite moving, actually.

When I saw this video, I couldn't figure out why they keep showing Shankaracarya. Those of you who've been to the AYRI in Mysore have no doubt seen his framed picture in the shala, next to Guruji's chair.

Shankaracarya lived during the 8th Century AD, when Buddhism was all the rage. He decided to become a renunciate at the age of eight, telling his mother:

"What the yogi alone knows is that in the cycle of samsara one is born and dies again and again a million times. In the cycle of samsara he sometimes plays the role of a son, a father, a husband, a daughter, a mother, or a wife in an unending succession. Therefore true and lasting happiness can be achieved only by transcending birth and death through renunciation, which is the gateway to self-realization. My dear mother, please permit me to embrace that state and strive to realize myself. Allow me to accept sannyasa."

The mother finally relented in order to free him from the clutches of a crocodile. At their parting, he told her, ""My dear mother, you have always been my provider. Now I am going out into the world and henceforth whoever feeds me is my mother, whoever teaches me is my father. My pupils are my children, peace is my bride, and solitude my bliss. Such are the rigors of my undertaking."

Young Shankaracarya spent four years with his guru, Govindapada, who realized he was an incarnation of Lord Shiva, and told him,

"Proceed to the holy city of Banaras immediately and start instructing the people on how they can understand their real self. That which is taught by the Buddhist philosophers does not reveal the nature of the atma or self. It is your mission to bring the people to the path of theism. Banaras has many well-known scholars in all systems of philosophy. You must hold discussions with them and guide them along the lines of correct thinking. It is most urgent! Please do not delay even one minute."

In Varanasi, at the age of 12, he brought people back to the True Self. He also compiled commentaries on the Brahma Sutra, Bhagavad-gita, and the principle Upanishads.

According to Shankaracharya we ourselves are God. When the veil of ignorance is removed one will realize his complete identity as being nondifferent from the Supreme Brahman or God.

Apparently he wrote this beautiful bhajan, too.

Many scholars hold that this composition encapsulates with both brevity and simplicity the substance of all Vedantic thought found in whatever other works that Adi Shankaracharya wrote.

The refrain "Bhaja Govindam" which defines the composition and gives it its name invokes the almighty in the aspect of Vishnu; it is therefore very popular not only with Sri Adi Shankaracharya's immediate followers, the Smarthas, but also with Vaishnavas and others..."

On the other hand, "A mystery surrounds these prayers in that Shankaracharya taught consistently throughout his commentaries that brahman is the supreme goal. Yet in his prayers he says, "Just worship Govinda."

As for the story behind the prayer: It is said that Adi Shankaracharya, accompanied by his disciples, was walking along a street in Varanasi one day when he came across an aged scholar teaching the rules of Sanskrit grammar to his students by rote. Taking pity on him, Adi Shankaracharya went up to the scholar and advised him not to waste his time on grammar at his age but to turn his mind to God in worship and adoration. The hymn "Bhaja Govindam" is said to have been composed on this occasion.

Which explains the lyrics, "Worship Govinda, for in the hour of death the formula of grammar will not save you, o fools."

Monday, June 02, 2008



The view from the front of the mat (ie, every time we inhaled and looked up, this is what we saw).

The Shiva fountain behind the shala...

....and its rainbow

The shala locker room (ladies). Yes, those are shower stalls on the left.

The shala is big. Very big indeed. And this is just one corner of it.

The swing in the shala garden.

The view from the pasta + pasta restaurant.

A picturesque pier.

Waiting for the sun (to set)

The sunset itself.

One could get used to this.

The sunrise, as seen from our pier.

The blurry lotus feet of the guru.

Photos by Katy and Cara and Matrika
(c) 2008