Tuesday, June 29, 2010


And now's the time to get one.

Amma, the hugging saint (aka Sri Mata Amritanandamayi, the "Mother of Immortal Bliss"), will be handing out hugs at the Yorktown Mall this Wednesday through Friday.

If you've never been in the presence of a living saint, now's your chance.

Here's an excerpt from my 2005 article about her:

All I remember about my first trip to see Amma, in 2002, was that there seemed to be a lot of hippies in Lisle. I thought Amma’s handlers were somewhat rough when they guided me to receive a hug from her, and I didn’t feel much during the hug itself. This trip was a lot different.....

.......As I got closer, the handlers started to position me into place--and they were surprisingly gentle! Everything is choreographed carefully so that there’s very little space between hugs. I was kindly handed a Kleenex to wipe the sweat off my face, and I got choked up as I saw a family getting a group hug in front of me.

When it was my turn, Amma pulled me to her and I felt something inside me start to melt. It was a real hug, full of compassion and love, and lasted for some time as she patted my back and chanted into my ear something that sounded like “amamamamamamama.” I thought about my late mother and recent heartache (suffice to say I haven’t felt lovable in some time) and let go. Amma smelled of jasmine and roses. After some time she stopped chanting and pressed a rose petal and Hershey’s Kiss into my hand (the kid in front of me had gotten an apple). She may have put sandalwood paste on my third eye; I’m not sure. Crying, I moved away from the stage. One of the white-clad handlers had the sweetest look on her face as she handed me the Kleenex box (they’re very big on the Kleenex).

After awhile I stopped my blubbering and composed myself and looked for my friends. I experienced that rare feeling not only of being exactly where I should be, but also that even rarer one: that everything would be OK.

Here are details about Amma's current stint in Chicago:

Wed. June 30:
Morning program: 11:00 am to 5:00 pm approx.
There will be no evening program on June 30

Thurs. July 01:
Morning program: 10:00 am to 2:00 pm approx.
Evening program: 7:30 pm to 2:00 am approx.

Fri. July 02:
Morning program 10 am to 2:00 pm approx
Evening program [Devi Bhava]: 7:00 pm to 5:00am (next day) approx
Devi Bhava - Please refer to FAQ's for a detailed explanation of Devi Bhava.

Meeting Amma:

All programs [Morning - individual blessings by Amma, Evening - Devotional singing followed by individual blessings] are free and open to public.Those who wish to get individual blessings from Amma are requested to see our volunteers at the entrance to the program hall to obtain token numbers.

The Westin Lombard Yorktown Center

70 Yorktown Center, Lombard, IL 60148

Telephone: (630) 719-8000

More info here.

Monday, June 28, 2010


Many of the pets in the North Carolina sangha are vegetarian (as are, apparently, Dharma's dogs), so I thought I would try to Kirby on board.

I ordered a sample of Evolution Diet, which is meant to be "the greenest, cleanest, cruelty-free and lowest in C02, CH4, heavy metal contamination and emissions since 1989." It's also supposed to keep the pets healthy and make them live a long, long time.

As soon as I got the stuff home, I sneaked some of it into Kirby's regular food, which is a prescription-only kibble designed to keep his kidneys healthy.

It seems that he noticed the new food, and tried to remove it.

So then I went to Plan B.

I decided to do a side-by-side taste test, and let Kirby vote with his mouth.

The old food is on the left, and the new food is on the right.

Guess which one won?!

Sure, the old food won this round.

But it ain't over yet.

We're going to have one more go at it, now that I read the following on the Evolution Diet website:

Q. How hard is it to switch a Dog, Cat or Ferret to Evolution Diet?

A. Easy, Easy, Easy! Just fast the animal for 1 or 2 days and then offer Evolution Diet as the only food. This will help detox your pet and reduce the risk of vomiting or diarrhea which is so common when changing to a new food.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Each Memorial Day, my friend Steve would do a special "Death and Suicide" show on our college radio station. He'd blow up a balloon, draw a face on it, and hang it from a noose hooked to the ceiling of the radio station. Then he'd play songs like 999's "Homicide," and bands like Joy Division (the suicide of whose lead singer, Ian Curtis, was still fresh in our minds). In those days it was all fun and games.

(Well, not really. Suicide runs in my family. But that's another story).

A lot of people seem to have died recently, including The Earl of Mysore, Mr. Joseph, and a local ashtangi - who took her own life.

Both came as a surprise, and served as a reminder about the shortness of life - and how I've been losing touch with friends and family. So I made plans to see the Dreyfuses last weekend.

I also attended the memorial for the local student, which was exquisite. It was attended by the many who knew and loved her - including yoga teachers and practitioners, hipsters, hippies, squares, and family members.

But I'm not good in a crowd. I was hiding out on the lawn when the hostess took me by my hand and led me into the kitchen, where Bindifry had been doing much the same. I had not seen her in eons. We sat next to each other during the program, and made plans to see a Bollywood film the following week. Bindi and I - whose plans usually fall through.

But this time we did it - after only one cancellation.

It was a private early afternoon screening of Raavan at Piper's Alley, just for us (ie; no one else came, which meant we could talk as much as we liked). The tagline for the film is: "Ten Heads. Ten Minds. A Hundred Voices. One man." It starred Bollywood's hottest couple, Abishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai, and was loosely based on The Ramayana. AB played a crazed, out-of-control, Veerappan-esque version of the demom Ravana (whom, we learn later, is crazed because of the rape and suicide of his beloved sister). Ash plays Ram's wife Sita, of course. The Tamil actor Vikram played the Ram character - who seemed godlike until he doubted his wife's fidelity. There was even a monkey-like local guide played by the Punjab-born actor Govinda, who jumped around a lot and tracked down Sita - just like Hanuman.

(There's also a Tamil version of the film called Raavanana, which was shot at the same time and is said to be a lot better - and which starred Vikram as the Ravana character!).

Bindi didn't like the movie. I loved it.

Whatever. The fact is that we managed to reconnect.

Thank you, Katy.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010



NOTE: Dharma often uses "Namaste" as a greeting. The way the piece was edited, it looks as if he's using the term as a goodbye. Click here to learn more about the use and meaning of "Namaste." Also.... Dharma is 71, not 72; just because it's on TV, doesn't mean it's true (although it is entertaining to see the reporter attempt Vasisthasana in heels - which viewers should not try at home).

Sunday, June 20, 2010


On Saturday I went to visit Mr. and Mrs. Dreyfus in my old hometown.

Dreyfus was displaying the Danish flag, since Danmark was playing Cameroon in the World Cup that day (and we are Danish, among other things). Before I arrived, a neighbor came over and asked him what the flag represented and why it was there.

I was rooting for Cameroon of course. Their goalie wore purple. Purple! And they had orange shoes. And they were from the host continent. (The last World Cup game I saw was in 2006, with Matrika at the bar at the Southern Star in Mysore. Everyone else was drinking beer. We ordered chocolate cake and fresh lime soda. How odd to think that I am unlikely to ever go back there again).

After the game, Mrs. Dreyfus came home from work, and we made our way to the local watering hole, where $11 gets you a 14-inch pizza and pitcher of beer (and where, just a few months ago, $10 got you a 16-inch pizza and pitcher of beer). I only had a thimble of the beer, which seemed to be the drink of choice. There were over 25 TVs in the bar - and each seemed to be showing a different program. No wonder America has Attention Deficit Disorder.

Some locals were there, too.

(At first I laughed at this shirt.... but then I realized... it wasn't ironic. The gentleman left alone of course. Bitches can read nowadays).

I shouldn't have had any of the excellent pizza - even if a little mozzarella is OK - because later we sat outside, drinking in the fresh country air....

....and had an impromptu photo session.

The cats love the camera, too.....

....only they were smart enough to eat after the photo op.

All photos by Dreyfus (c) 2010

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Snapped by CK yesterday at Smith Park, at Grand and Campbell.
(They're two-for-$6 this year. Dharma recommends doing a three-day watermelon fast/detox if you want to heal an injury, make progress with your practice, or learn some self-control).

Friday, June 18, 2010


A fellow sadhaka recently shared with me some insight from the out-of-print book, “Health, Healing and Beyond: Yoga and the Living Tradition of Krishnamacharya” by T.K.V. Desikachar with R.H. Cravens:

Krishnamacharya’s definition of Vinyasa: “That which has a beginning, middle and end.”

“For teenagers, they should only focus on Asana and do them quickly, one after another, so they don’t get bored.”

“Adults can focus on both Asana and Pranayama when young, mostly Pranayama and Dhyana as they reach middle age, and just Dhyana in old age.”

Desikachar relates that his father’s entire method was devoted to reconciling the received knowledge with modernity. “One practices in India early in the morning because only then is it cool enough for comfort. This would be entirely inappropriate in Switzerland in winter – midday would then be best.”

“Each student is an individual and the practice should be designed specifically for them.”


*Because we're, like, you know, a nation of teenagers. Or whatevs...

Help support the dancer and proprietress of SilverSpace - who helped make Dharma Mittra Yoga in Chicago a reality.

And read her new Leaving Chicago blog, here.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


"Every living thing is connected....

"The only thing keeping you from being happy is the belief that you are alone."

-Anna Draper to Don Draper (the best ujjayi breather on television), Season Three

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

(and Greg Tebb)

Photos by CK and Eiee

Monday, June 14, 2010


Joseph Dunham passed away last weekend, after suffering a heart attack in Cambodia.

He was the travel adviser and friend of Pattabhi Jois; after arriving in Mysore to study yoga for a month, he ended up staying for two decades. He was also quite close with Manju Jois - who expressed great sadness today about his passing.

I first met Joseph in NYC, during Pattabhi Jois's 2000 World Tour. He was so kind (and dashing). I also practiced near him in the old shala in 2002 and the new one in later years. He ways always friendly, helpful and welcoming - even to the novices. Especially the novices - who needed it the most. In recent years, he opened his home to ashtangis in Mysore.

(He's in the center/top of the photo above, which was snapped after a conference in the spring of 2002).

OM Tryambakam Yajamahe
Sugandhim Pushtivardhanam
Urvarukamiva Bandhanan
Mrityor Mukshiya Mamritat

I meditate on Shiva
The three-eyed one
Of sweetest fragrance,
Helping me flower spiritually.
Like the fully-ripened fruit easily snapped
May I be free from the Bondage of Death.
May I not be without the nectar of immortality.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


This weekend's workshop with Manju Pattabhi Jois has been wonderful, of course. Today, we did primary and part of second, through Yoganidrasana.

His vinyasa count is a bit different from what I'm used to (I'm more in tune with Pattabhi/Lino/Sharath) but it's so nice to be LED, and to hold poses longer than usual.
(His holds average 8.5 of my own breaths, vs. three when his father - aka "The Pattabhi Express" - was teaching led primary). It seems interminable during Boat Pose and the final part of Utthita Hasta Pandangustasana, but he makes up for it by avoiding Uth Pluthi altogether (instead, we chant!).

Then he says "Thank you" and tells us to "Please, take Savasana"

(NOTE: He says Savasana, not "take rest.")

While we lie down, he puts on a song by Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan.*

Perhaps it is the music. Perhaps it is the practice. Perhaps it is his presence. But the Savasana is heavenly.

(And, when we wake up, there's pranayama, chanting and Q&A).


A Sufi at heart, Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan was once greatly moved by the poem Hari Om Tat Sat, and rendered it musically in the haunting raga, "Pahari." Years later, he explained, "God, Truth and Haq is one. I've Allah in my mind when I sing these words...Different people in the world have different names for the Supreme Being who is 'One.'"

Saturday, June 12, 2010


During last night's interminable bout of insomnia, I shoved aside obsessive thoughts of the oil geyser in the Gulf (WHY would you allow the company that caused the problem, to solve the problem?), said some prayers, and went online. I spent a long time on Chandra Om's website, listening to an interview she gave a couple of years ago. She advises us to "Stay clean, humble, sweet and close to God" - exactly what one needs to hear in the middle of a sleepless night.


Then I ran across this wonderful Yoga+ article about Sri Dharma Mittra. I'd read it before, but it's always good to hear/read the same concepts over and over - until it finally sticks.

An excerpt:

Dharma uses the word “God” with the frequency of a televangelist. It’s his way of reminding students that yoga isn’t gymnastics. Where other teachers urge students to “rotate the thighs inward” or “engage the quadriceps,” Dharma offers this instruction for refining postures: “Now think of God.”

Asana—the physical limb of yoga—is part of a process Dharma calls “divine purification.” The postures tone the body and prepare one for seated meditation. Dharma enjoins students to reflect daily on questions such as these: Who am I? Why does everything die? Is anything eternal? Why do some people suffer? Why are some born into privilege and others into poverty? Is there reincarnation? Is there karma? When body and mind have been purified, the answers will reveal themselves, he says.

Breathing exercises and mantra recitation are also part of the purification process, according to Dharma. So is study of ancient texts, particularly the Bhagavad Gita, Yoga Sutra, and Hatha Yoga Pradipika. (“Yoga without these three is like spaghetti without the sauce,” he says.) Dharma is especially emphatic about another building block: proper diet. He advocates a live-food vegetarian diet and occasional fasting. Stimulants, heavy foods, and foods that foster cravings inhibit deep concentration, he warns.

Read the rest here.

Friday, June 11, 2010


(No, not today's parade!).

These little white fluffy seeds have been blanketing the city for the past few weeks.

Sometimes, when the wind blows, it looks like a snowstorm.

Later, it collects in piles of fluff.

Apparently it comes from the Cottonwood Tree (and it's the female who spreads the seed).

I've never seen it this bad before.

Apparently the people with allergies are really suffering.

And it causes cats to become even more curious than usual.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


While waiting to interview Tim Miller on Sunday, I heard the dulcet tones of the Hanuman Chalisa wafting from the studio where he was teaching. Apparently that's how he ends his improv class.

The famous devotional hymn has been in my head ever since. I found a few versions while trolling online. My favorite so far is the one above. It's by the great Karnatic singer Dr. M.S. Subbulakshmi. Unfortunately it's in Hindi, not Sanskrit (click here for Sanskrit lyrics and translation).

It is believed that the person who chants the Hanuman Chalisa 100 times for 100 days will become free from the cycle of birth and death and enjoys the highest bliss, as stated in verse 38.

I also found Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram (aka Ram Dhun) - another favorite. It's about Sita and Ram, whom Hanuman served in The Ramayana*, and celebrates the unity of all religions. It was favorite of Mahatma Gandhi:

Lord Rama, Chief of the house of Raghu,
Uplifters of those who have fallen, (O divine couple) Sita and Rama,
Beloved, praise Sita and Rama,
God or Allah is your name, [meaning that the supreme can be called by many names]
Lord, bless everyone with this wisdom.

*One of my favorite things about the Ramayana is the fact that the palace has an anger room, where occupants go to let off steam. Every house, apartment, condo, tenement, shelter and squat should be outfitted with an anger room!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010


-Add a few shakes of cayenne pepper to the wake-up yogi elixir of hot lemon water and honey.

-Forgo the tiny cup of home-made, nondairy chai that usually follows (caffeine somehow lowers iron levels).

-Drop two slow-release iron pills.

-Drink water.


-Do the asthanga Intermediate series (to activate the nervous system and raise the pulse)

-Drink Dharma's Breakfast Blend, a smoothie whose base is high-protein (raw, soaked, peeled) almonds.

-Drink water.


-After class, accept five dark chocolate-covered almonds from the boss - who assures you it will raise blood pressure.

-Eat a handful of salty snacks, just in case.

-Eat a sandwich of Ezekiel Bread with peanut butter and honey.

-Drink water. Lots of water.

-Drive to donation site.

-Fill out the forms.

-Pass the tests!

-Donate while squeezing a ball and watching a soap opera on TV.

-Wait for ten minutes afterwords. Drink juice. Eat pretzels.

-Later, take a nap and eat and drink more water than usual, so you don't get faint. Drive to the evening class. And avoid demonstrating too much, or adjusting too many students (since lowering the head and lifting it up again makes the aperture start to close).

-Make an appointment to do it again.

Click here to learn more.

Sunday, June 06, 2010


The new Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute - USA will have its grand opening on August 19.

The new shala will be in Encinitas, California (not to be confused with the existing KPJAI-USA shala in the Florida Keys.

(Encinitas is where Pattabhi Jois first brought ashtanga vinyasa yoga to the west, in 1975).

"Yoga is universal -- not one man's property."
-Sri K. Pattabhi Jois


Saturday, June 05, 2010


The last time I wrote about Tim Miller was 2001, and the last time I went to his workshop was a few years ago (yet somehow he remembers me). Anyway, I'd forgotten how knowledgeable he is - not just in Sanskrit and yoga philosophy, but also in terms of the physical practice (especially when it comes to anatomy, adjustments, research poses and using the practice to heal the body). No surprise, considering he was the first American certified to teach ashtanga vinyasa yoga.

Yesterday's exploration of Second Series was a sweaty, wonderful practice through Eka Pada Sirsasana that include ample research before each of the "roadblock" poses, such as Bhekasana, Kapotasana and Eka Pada Sirsasana. The research poses made the body feel GOOD. There was a lot of focus on pulling the elbows together and moving the scapula apart, which can be done in many, many poses. And instead of the usual closing seated postures, we chanted the Bhija Mantra (with Tim on harmonium) and did pranayama as taught by Sri K Pattabhi Jois in Yoga Mala (in our 2001 interview, Tim said that way-back-when, Guruji taught pranayama to students who were doing second series. Interesting....). And of course he read Rumi to us while we were in Savasana.

The evening practice was an exploration of The Mysterious and Elusive Bandhas, and included Nauli Kriya / Agni Sara and prananyama. In the main ashtanga pranayama, you begin and end on the right, and there are holds at the end of the exhale (as well as at the end of the inhale). The last makes it incredibly easy to find the locks. Tim's explanations of the locks, etc. were wonderful, of course. I generally can't stand too much Bla bla bla , but Tim is economical with words and gives exactly enough so everything makes perfect sense. And then we would do a practice. I loved all of it - especially the demonstration/discussion of the difference between SKPJ's and BKS's Downward-Facing Dogs, and our practice of both followed by an attempt to find the middle way *and* keep the locks (SKPJ's spinal position makes it much easier to find the locks).

Also at one point Tim demonstrated Mulabandhasana - not bad for not being warmed up.

I think my favorite part, though, was his retelling of the bird story from the Sri Mundaka Upanishad.

Two birds are sitting in a mango tree. One is eating everything in sight. It keeps searching for the plumpest, most ripe mangoes, and eats all of them. It cannot stop eating. Even while eating, it is looking for the next mango. It is the Eating Bird.

The other bird just sits, watching and witnessing. It is peaceful and content. It is the Watching Bird.

Of course the Eating Bird is the conditioned mind, full of attachments and jumping from one thing to another. The Watching Bird is the Atman or real Self - the witness who is always at peace.

We are all the Eating Bird. And we are all also the Watching Bird.

At various points last night, Tim asked us if we were the Eating Bird or the Watching Bird.

It was amazing - and such an easy, accessible way to think about these things.

Tim's yoga studio is in Encinitas Californa, and his workshop runs through Sunday.

Thursday, June 03, 2010


Look closely to see a gentleman raising a flag.... or something.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010


Today I stopped at the lake on the way home from teaching, and did some work.

The lakefront can also be a good place to meditate. If you know the right spot (and time of day), the Bad Men stay away.

Today I was near the Dog Beach, which was packed; apparently the dog days of summer are already upon us.

A man on the shore was feeding the birds.

But some preferred to watch.

On the way out a hunch was confirmed; the water level is rather low.