Thursday, October 30, 2008


This Chicago Avenue window says it all.

I've been subbing downtown a lot lately, and have noticed many misspelled or gramatically incorrect signs. In India, it's charming. Here, it's less so....

Especially when it's deliberate.

I had to throw in a Water Tower / Hancock photo.

This sign is on the South Side, where I did a Dharma Mittra workshop last weekend. The students were awesome. (Sadly, this shop is no longer open for business).

Monday, October 20, 2008


I've spent the past week in hell, getting rid of stuff.

So far I've shed 11 bags and boxes of things.

I could easily get rid of 111 more and still not be finished.

It's a lonely, overwhelming, draining task that brings up many dormant memories.

But it has to be done. The apartment has 14 years of stuff in it - including things that belonged to the mother and grandmother (also packrats) - and it's time to let it go.

I've had help from Karen Kingston's Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui.

During breaks I watched many episodes of the Style network's utterly irritating Clean House, which is impossible to turn off. Sadly they only deal with messes in the LA area.

The front door and bedroom door now open freely, without hitting anything. (According to Kingston, opportunity can now come a-knocking. What has happened so far is that the, ahem, irregularity that's plagued me since India magically vanished).

It takes eons to sort through things and put them in their proper places -
- such as finally burying the small animal skull I've been keeping around for nearly 20 years.

Somehow this procrastinator and neo-luddite also managed to use Skype for the first time, hook up the new printer, and install curtain tie-backs.

Perhaps it's because I think of it as a Sadhana.

And if it continues, well, anything is possible.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Seeing Dharma and my Life of a Yogi teacher training classmates again was amazing. It felt like I'd last seen them several years ago, even though our last session was in May (when Dharma turned 69).

After arriving on Friday, I took a taxi straight to the yoga center for Andrei Ram's noon class. We did some poses I'd never tried before, and as usual I could feel him helping me - even though he was on the other side of the room. The body was stiff as could be, and halfway through practice I noticed a massive knot on the right shoulder/neck. It was so painful I gave up doing headstands. Apparently there are some residual effects from the scooter crash in Mysore. Apparently a trip to the chiro is in order.

Sometimes the lower back aches from walking, and on Saturday it seized up after Catesey and I walked to the Prospect Park farmer's market. It was so painful, I thought I'd have to forgo the evening's graduation ceremony. In fact it was too acute even for back exercises. So I lay down for 20 minutes with a bag of frozen spinach at the small of the back and a pillow under the knees, in the hopes it would stop throbbing. It calmed it down enough to do some very gentle back exercises, which calmed it down even more.

That night, at the shala, the back was fine for Dharma's three hour Maha Sadhana class. Tears started streaming the second I laid eyes Dharma, who spoke about the spark of light that resides in the heart of all living creatures. I took it easy as he led us through an intermediate-level sequence that featured a lot of repeated poses. Later, during graduation, there were more tears as I watched the fellow trainees receive their certificates. I felt genuine love even for the ones I hadn't liked very much; Dharma has that effect on people.

On Monday I took Dharma's noon Master Class. It. was. hell. The body was tired and felt broken, and was resistant to the many handstands, pigeons and Hanumanasanas (splits) we did. But by the end of practice even I was trying the incredibly inventive inversion-backbend sequence he showed us.

During the next day's Master Class, the body started to feel more like it had before I went to India - when I was still doing Dharma Mittra yoga (in addition to the ashtanga) and eating a mostly-raw diet. In other words, it was becoming purified. Dharma showed us another inventive sequence, which built off the previous day's and included Couch Pose - easily the most uncomfortable asana I've ever encountered (you sit on the heels with the toes curled under and go into a deep, deep backbend).

Yet in his presence the body was able to do it - for the first time ever.

With the right teacher - guru - and the right intention, anything is possible.

* * *


These photos were snapped out the window during a madcap drive with Little E. from Manhattan to Brooklyn via Chinatown (where, it seems, everyone is in a hurry).

Monday, October 13, 2008


photos by Catesey

* * *


February to May, 2008

More photos here.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


The 6am flight out of Chicago was delayed 1.5 hours because the airline could not round up a co-pilot (apparently there is no pool of pilots waiting to be called into action; eventually they pulled someone off an incoming flight).

So instead of going to Brooklyn and taking the subway into Manhattan, I cabbed it straight to the Dharma Yoga Center for the noon master class with Andrei Ram.

Walking up the long stairway, I felt profound relief, like I was coming home. That feeling was intensified in the dressing room, when I caught a whiff of the familiar burnt-bagel smell wafting up from the shop downstairs, and flashed back to the 500 hour teacher training intensive earlier this year.

It was a wonderful class - although the body felt like that of someone who'd just spent six weeks doing ashtanga and consuming cooked food in India (Dharma advocates a raw diet and says, "If you eat cooked food, you feel cooked."). Also I discovered a terrible knot in my right shoulder (probably left over from the scooter accident). Like Dharma, Andrei can help students into asanas mentally, from the other side of the room. He led us into poses I'd never tried before. And the savasana was out of this world.

On Saturday Catesey and I walked to Prospect Park Farmer's Market, where the longest line was for fresh eggs (which I've been trying to avoid since Dharma's 200-hour teacher training in Feb '07. Sivananda says they are an animal product, and Pattabhi Jois says "y'eggs bad!").

On the way home we walked through the park, which was indeed a walk in the park.

We passed the dog beach, where a crowd was watching two Golden Retrievers do their thing.

On the way from the F-train to lunch in the East Village, I saw former Blue Man John Grady (star of the short film "Doga") shooting a video, dressed as a tree. (Apparently Jon Stewart passed by a short time later).

I met dear friend and fellow sadhaka E. at Angelica Kitchen*, where we each ate half a Wee Dragon Bargain, and took the rest to go.

Then we sat for a spell in Stuyvesant Park before using the loo at the Hotel 17. On Third Avenue we purchased white roses and pineapples and then headed to the shala for Dharma's three-hour Maha Sadhana class, followed by graduation.....


*The recipe for the moist, wonderful, wheat-free cornbread at Angelica Kitchen (and the accompanying miso-tahini topping) is right here.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


The gas prices are lower

And the headlines are funnier

Photos by Catesey

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Here, mosquito nets are not a necessity but an accessory. Not that I don't love Rubin's - which is in the building where I did my first teacher training (and still teach).

The transition home has been interesting. For the first several days back I itched all over, and it was difficult to sleep. Then the allergies kicked in, and it was difficult to be awake. All the while I was dealing with jetlag and trying to unpack and remember where I put my old cell phone, since the Razr expired at the airport (I found it in a box marked "Phones"). Then there was the car problem to deal with. And Kirby's disappointment with being torn away from his fabulous new family (he hid under the bed for two days, which he's never done before). And there were the calls to the various phone/cable/internet companies, to find out if I should switch providers (bad idea). Then there was the credit card bill that never came in the mail when I was gone, and hence was never paid (something like this happens on each and every trip), and the fruitless attempt to void the late fee and finance charge (they no longer will do this, regardless of your past record), and now the gas bill that never came and went unpaid. And then there were the deadlines (all met). And the cold weather with no heat in the house and the head cold that came with it (the heat has kicked in, now that the temperature's warmed up).

What held it all together was seeing friends (everyone wants to see you in the first week or so, before the novelty wears off) and practicing yoga (boy, has the body gone downhill) and teaching (for the first time in seven weeks I actually felt useful).

After the wonderful Paulie Zink workshop this weekend, the pace is slowing down and things are becoming familiar again... which means I'm about to go out of town - to NYC for graduation from Dharma Mittra's teacher training.

Halloween in Chicago isn't the same as Germany; here it's about boxes of stuff at Stanley's. Not that I don't love Stanley's - which recently got a new sign.

Monday, October 06, 2008


I'm working on my Mysore Diary for YOGA/Chicago, and wanted to figure out how much the first month cost in dollars at the AYRI.

So I went to the currency converter and put in Rs 27,530.

It said I paid around $575 for the first month at the AYRI.

That seemed a awfully low, since I paid $555 back in 2002, when the dollar was strong (and they were still taking dollars).

The rate was just 42 rupees to the dollar when I registered in July, and I remember feeling some pain as I handed over the thick wad of Gandhi notes to Sharath.

So I did some checking.

For some reason - the impending nuclear deal with India? The impending war with Pakistan? The impending worldwide Depression? Indian financial woes spurred by the Tata Nano plant closure in West Bengal? - the rupee tanked today (read more here).

In fact, it's nearly 48 rupees to the dollar right now - the same rate it was back during my 2002 trip.

I redid the math with the old rate; in July, I actually paid $656 for a single month at the AYRI.

There's a chart showing the rate fluctuations here.

Sunday, October 05, 2008


Those of you who've been wanting to take a Dharma Mittra class at a reasonable time, here's your chance. I'm teaching a new Dharma Mittra class today (and every Sunday) from 10-11:30 at the Chicago Yoga Center. It's Level I-III and is less strenuous / more meditative than ashtanga - yet can be just as challenging. It opens up the hips, shoulders and upper back like nothing else. I've found that it actually helps my ashtanga practice. To learn more about Dharma, read my 2005 article here.

Monkey kung fu master and Yin yoga founder Paulie Zink is in town doing a workshop this weekend. He's the teacher of Paul Grilley (who spent a year studying with him), who is in turn the teacher of Sarah Powers. Grilley learned only Yin yoga from Paulie, whose Taoist Yoga actually combines both Yin and Yang aspects (ie; you're not merely sitting around in hip-opening poses for five minutes at a time). Paulie has been teaching for over 30 years and is AMAZING; despite being a kung fu master, he's totally humble - just like a real yogi. His yoga is playful, and based on the movements of animals in nature. The last segment of his workshop is today from 2-6 at the Chicago Yoga Center. Please come; no prerequisite is required. If you already practiced today, you'll be fine. Read my article about Paulie here.

Both Dharma and Paulie will appear next March at the Yoga Journal Conference in Lake Geneva, WI.

Thursday, October 02, 2008


You must - must! - take a few minutes and watch the short film Doga, starring our friend (and former Blue Man) John Grady. It placed 10th at Tropfest NY.

You will not be disappointed.

Click here to view Doga.