Thursday, August 23, 2007

Yoga for Breakfast

We practice every morning at 6:15 a.m. Except Sundays which is an 8:00 a.m. class.

Arun (my teacher) says that you should learn to have yoga for breakfast. That if your practice in the morning the yoga will nourish you. Nice thought!

I'm on the last stretch of my most recent trip to India. It's Friday morning here and I fly back on Sunday. So many wonderful classes I can't even begin to describe them all. I fell asleep in class this morning it was so comfortable. We were holding a reclining backbend over a bolster and it was just heaven.

I trust you're all practicing.


9:15 a.m. IST
Friday - 8/24/07

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The DEEPEST forward folds!

Yes - today we did some of the deepest forward folds I've ever experienced. As I was driving home from class tonight, I realized that it's so hard to share the "experience" of the class - that just describing the poses and the sequences really doesn't give you - the reader - the experience. Therefore, I recommend you just come to my classes when I get back and I can share some of this with you.

Regardless - here are the poses we did in class today:

Uttanasana - Adho Muka Svasana - Padotadasana (then back and forth between those three about three to four times). Then Parsvotanasana. Then Ekapada Pascimotanasana (with one leg in Virasana and one leg forward). Then Krounchasana (three different times and variations - each variation getting deeper). Then Paschimotanasana with a block at the feet holding the block. Then Urdhva Paschimotanasa (on your back). Then Supta Padangusthasana II. Then a few seated twists - and all done!

Lovely class. Great forward folds - very deep. You'll have to experience it.

I'm back on 8/27 - Monday - and I'll be at the 7:15 p.m. class.

Namaste -

Bangalore, India
8/22 - Wednesday - 9:30 a.m. IST.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Calmness of Mind - Safety - and Leopards

I've been practicing calmness of mind in every pose these last few days. Arun says you have to feel as if you're going to sleep in every pose - that you're that relaxed - yet still active. I know that it's hard to understand that unless you've experienced it. Yet, you can start to feel it in supported poses like Sarvangasana and Setubhandasana. Get comfortable in the pose, relax - extend - stay active - yet soften your breathing, then soften your mind - let your body be firm, yet still your mind. Let your mind be aware yet not active. This is moving towards perfection in asana. Feeling this feeling in Headstand, triangle - every pose - it's great.

A side note - Safety First! A woman broke her fingers (I think two - defintely one) in class yesterday. We were doing down-dog hanging from ropes and straps. She didn't buckle her strap right. She was a beginner. She fell on the marble floor with a crash and when she got up her fingers were snapped. Arun's wife took her to the clinic. Morale of the story: "Pay Attention to what you're doing - if you don't know how to do something - ASK!"

Leopards on the loose! A leopard (250-pound leopard) wandered into town on Friday from the local jungle. It was apparently hunting Bangalore's numerous wild dogs for food. When it was spotted in town during daylight hours the local people and authorities tried to trap it. One woman and a police officer were badly mauled. They finally called in experts from the National Game preserve to tranquilize it. The cat was re-released into the jungle. WOW!

Never a dull moment in India - that's for sure!

Namaste -

Jim -
8/20/07 - 8:30 p.m. IST

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Arun has returned to Bangalore

Pretty exciting stuff!

Arun arrived back in Bangalore yesterday morning and he taught both the 6:15 a.m. and 7:45 a.m. class this morning. I attended both. Full classes of 25-30 students. All his "regulars" were so excited to see him back as he's been gone over a month.

The precision and certainty with which Arun teaches is inspiring and refreshing. He notices everything. He encourages to "lift" "stretch" "move forward" "extend" "rotate" in ways that just make you expand beyond what you've ever done before. Very good vibe in class today.

Nothing fancy - here was the sequence:

Supta Padangusthasana, Upavista Konasana, Trikonasana, Parsvakonasana, Virabhadrasana I, Sirsasana (or Padotadasana), Sarvangasana and Setubandasana. Did each pose at least twice - several variations of "triko" and "parsva" - lots of spiraling of the arms and hands in triangle and parsvakonasana.

I trust you're all practicing.


8/16/07 - Thursday
10:32 a.m.
Bangalore, India

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Jai Hind

Salutations to India!

Today is India's 60th birthday. I feel a unique difference between how India celebrates Independence and how we celebrate the 4th of July. While the feeling of "pride and patriotism" are strong for me as an American during July 4th celebrations - the feeling of "hope and joy" is strong in India today. It's like a child's birthday celebration - with balloons and streamers - only the child is 60. There's a playful, freeing, innocence about it all.

Jai Hind translates as "Salutations India!" - and when you greet anyone in India today with that term they beam like the sun shines right out their mouth. Unlike the "average" American during the 4th of July - the India people I met with today have a personal experience of feeling free. They relish it, are proud of it, and they're excited about it. It is the one day in India where rank, caste and class make no difference - they're all Indian and they're free. It's a pretty cool thing to be here and see it firsthand.

Soon I'll write something about yoga. No class today - even yogi's get a day off. Yet, yesterday I attended two classes with lots of twists, twists, twists. Think about this...can you be in "tadasana" in every twist? Can your shoulders be broad and even? Can your chest be lifted? Can your sides be long and tall in every twist? Try that and let me know what you think. You may be suprised to feel "freedom" and a sense of "independence" in the twist.

Namaste - Jim
Banagalore, India
9:15 a.m. IST - 8/15/07

Monday, August 13, 2007

India and the U.S. - kindred spirits

So Indian and the U.S. have something in comon. We both kicked the British out of our respective countries. Only India was able to do it without firing a single shot.

On August 15, 1947 Lord Mountbatten handed over the Indian Subcontinent to the new Prime Minister - J Nehru. Tomorrow marks India's 60 year celebration of Independence.

Now remember, they didn't fire a single shot to achieve their independence - so they don't shoot off fireworks like we do on the 4th of July. Instead they have flag raising ceremonies and hand out sweets (because the victory was so sweet).

In 1947 - 400 million people recognized their freedom. 60 years later the population in India has tripled to 1.2 billion souls. That makes India the LARGEST DEMOCRACY IN THE WORLD!!!

More than 1/4 of the population - over 300 million people - are considered middle class. That's larger than the ENTIRE population of the United States of America.

It's hard to believe until you see it and live with it and interact with it on a daily basis.

India is free and they love it.

Namaste - Jim

Saturday, August 11, 2007

India and Yoga

I'm well into my second week here now. I realize why Yoga and India have so much in common. Because once you're just about fed up with both - they find their way back into your heart. Last week I was fed up with India - with it's population problems, pollution and poverty, etc. Yet, yesterday I fell back in love with the colors and the people and the vibrancy of the place. There's really nothing like it. It makes the U.S. look like a black and white movie in comparision (Pleasantville?)

The practice of Yoga is like that too. Just when you think you can't do another down-dog or triangle pose again something changes and it becomes brand new again. You find undiscovered country within your own body and psyche.

I took 3 classes over the last two days with Arun's wife Srimatha. Lots of twists, headstands with variations, forward folds (janusirsasana), handstands and backbends (not all in the same class of course). Too much to write about so you'll just have to wait until I come home on the 27th and I'll teach you some.

I broke through a few fears for myself in handstand today. We were practicing backbends in handstands - working towards "scorpion" pose - where your feet are on your head while standing on your hands. Needless to say I'm no where near expressing the full extent of that pose - yet - I could feel the dynamic nature of the pose and how to move towards it.

I trust you're all practicing. It's what will keep you young, healthy, vibrant, new and sane.

Namaste -
Bangalore 08/12/07 - 10:50 a.m.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Tapas - the power of heat

Tapas - burning zeal, heat, is one of the 5 niyamas of yoga.

The yamas (ahimsa, satya, asteya, bramacharya and aparigraha) teach us how to relate harmoniously in society.

The Niyamas (saucha, santosa, tapas, svadyaya and Ishvara Pranidana) teach us how to grow in a balanced and harmonious way as individuals.

I have first hand experience of the power of tapas -burning heat - fire.

The two early gods in Hindu mythology are the god of fire (Agni) and the god of wind (Vayu). Fire and Wind.

I couldn't breathe a few days back. Vayu - the god of wind - was weak in me. I needed fire (Agni) - heat - expresed in the act of tapas - sweat - to burn the bug out of my system to be able to breathe again. The transforming power of heat can heal and destroy - that is why it must be respected.

Balancing the pairs of opposites is what yoga is all about. Fire and Wind may or may not be considered opposites - but they do have a relation to one another. Fire cannot burn without wind (air). And if a person can't breathe - the heat leaves their body.

How strongly does the fire burn in you?

Namaste -


Monday, August 6, 2007

Air Pollution

This is going to be a different entry from the others.

Bangalore is polluted - very polluted. The air is barely breathable. I'm not exagerrating. Imagine driving up a mountain road and you get stuck behind a diesel truck and you can't escape the fumes. It's like that every day here everywhere you go - most days it's worse - much worse. You see the gray smoke and blue exhaust and when you're stopped at traffic light with the windows rolled up you wonder if you're going to succumb to carbon monoxide poisoning and just pass out. I would put all my money on the fact that less that 50% of the motor vehicles in Bangalore would pass a California Emission test. In fact, you know when California has those "spare the air" days - and they tell the elderly and children to stay inside because it's a bit smoggy out? That would be an unbelievably clear day in Bangalore.

The reason I'm writing about this is that I've succumbed to the health hazards of the air again. I've tried to deny that it affects me - but here I am again - choked up, coughing and feeling like I smoked two packs of Marlboro's before lunch (and I used to smoke cigarettes prior to 1987 so I know what that feels like).

A human respiratory tract can only take so much and I think mine's telling me in it's own special way..."HOMEY DON'T LIKE BREATHING THIS AIR!"

When I leave the hotel room - or my office - and go outside, I have to wrap a cloth or shirt around my nose and mouth in a make-shift surgical mask so I don't gag on the fumes. My lungs can't handle the tightness that comes from breathing the air and my throat has been coughed raw by trying to expel the diesel waste products from my chest. I have no energy and it makes me mad and scared at the same time. It makes me mad because I can't believe how fricken STUPID an entire culture would be to the health hazards of this crap! And it makes me scared because I feel like I'm going to choke to death here. It's horrible.

Mind you all I've been coming back and forth here for the better part of two years. But little by little I'm seeing that this has a cummulative effect that can't be denied. I don't think its psycho-somatic on my part. Nor do I think I'm a hypocondriac. I've always prided myself on being a pretty darn healthy guy. I think if I could bottle this air up and bring it back to Califorina, you would barely be able to shine a light though it.

So - what does one do?

Get still
Let it go
Practice Equanimity
Practice Inversions (like Sarvangasana) to get the junk out of my lungs
Stay inside as much as possible
Slow down
Get rest -

- and try to make it 20 more days so I can get home on the 27th of August and smell that clean, fresh, vibrant, sea-charged air of the San Francisco Bay.

You guys don't know how lucky we are to live where we do!

Namaste -


Sunday, August 5, 2007

Srimatha's class - Sirsasana - Sarvangasana

Monday - 8/6 - Srimatha - Arun's wife - is back in town. Class with her this morning was challenging and wonderful. You can read about her background here -

Class was basically 5 poses.

Adho Muka Svanasana (downward facing dog) - hanging from the hips on ropes - hold 15 minutes. Finish with Uttanasana (forward fold)- 5 minutes

Sirsasana (headstand) - 10 minutes - then Sirsasana variations including: badhakonasana, upavistakonasana and padmasana - all in headstand - 20 minutes total.

Paddotadasana (wide-leg forward fold) - 5 minutes with head on the ground

Sarvangasana (shoulderstand) - 10 minutes in chair - then variations including: nirlamba sarvangasana, padmasana (or swastikasana) in sarvangasana - then, with legs folded - bringing knees to the forehead - hold - then back up in padmasana sarvangasana (several times). 20 minutes total

Setubandasana (bridge pose)- sacrum on the chair - shoulders and head on the bolster (the long way). 15 minutes.

Then Savasana -for 5-10 minutes

She's a tough teacher - but a very good teacher. She demands "honesty" in your poses. She really asks you to work and extend and stretch and to do everything you can to get into your best possible pose - then - when you think you're done - she says "ok - now that you're in it - hold it." And thus, that's where the work starts.

All the best

Namaste - Jim

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Pavritta Janu Sirsasana

I arrived at the yoga studio at 6:00 a.m. Saturday morning (8/4). I was the first student to arrive. I knocked on the door of Arun's house and his mother-in-law greeted me with great warmth. I gave her Arun's bag which he sent with me, and she handed me the key to the studio. I walked up the stairs to the third floor and unlocked the door.

One by one Arun's "regular's" - his students - came walking in. They all recognized me, but this time it was a sincere acknowlegement that we (the Downtown Yoga Community) had been a generous host to their beloved master. People came up to me and thanked me for taking care of Arun. They asked how his teaching was received. They all loved the fact that the United States was getting a real experience of the teacher they call "Sri Arunji"

Most of class was seated twists - starting with twisting in swastikasana. Then we stayed in swastikasana and placed our head on a chair in front and slowly moved the chair away (thus extending the spine). Next was several variations of Janu Sirsasana using the chair as support (head on chair). Then, we began twisting (or more accurately revolving - pavritta) the pose.

Pavritta Janu Sirsasna (2-3 times - several variations)
Pavritta Upavista Konasana (2-3 times - with variations)
Trikonasana & Pavitta Trikonasana (standing of course)

Ending with:

Supta Baddhakonasana
Adho Muka Baddakonasna (downward facing with legs tied in strap)
Setu Bandhasana

After class as I went to pay my 300 Rupees for classes for the month (equivalent of $7.50 for the MONTH!) I was whisked down to the house again and invited in to have tea with Arun's son. He's 21 years of age and finishing his senior year in college -studying Computer Science. The living room is adorned with statues of Ganesha, pictures of the Hindu trinity (Brahama, Vishnu, Shiva), Pictures of Arun and Srimatha (his wife).

When we finished tea I excused myself and hopped in my cab back to my apartment. I had been up since arriving in Bangalore the night before. When I arrived back I had breakfast, showered and slept the entire day and half the night (16 hours). No class on Sunday as Srimatha (Arun's wife) usually teaches then and she's on her way back from the north of India. Next class - Monday morning.

All the best.

Namaste -


Friday, August 3, 2007

The Longest Commute in the World!

I'll never complain about commuting to San Francisco again. My commute today was 36 hours door-to-door. I left my house in Pleasanton 9:00 p.m. on Wed 8/1 and arrived at my office in Bangalore, India at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Daylight time Friday 8/3.

It's early Saturday morning 8/4 now. I'm working with our team of recruiters that works through the night since they work on US hours. We have 42 people here. Nice people - young people - India's up and coming people. NONE of them practice yoga. I just think that's so funny.

I'll head out at 5:30 a.m. to Arun's house on the other side of town. 6:15 a.m. class and a 7:45 a.m. class. So I'll be practing 6 days a week from 6:15 to 9:00a.m. Class on Sunday is 8:00 to 10:00.

Arun's still in Mendocino until 8/16. That's odd too when you think about it. I'm in India and he's in California.

Arun's wife left last night for a one-month stay in the Himalayas. So Reika will be teaching classes. Reika is one of Arun's teachers. A nice young woman and very good yogini.

I'm here until the 26th of August (three-weeks) so I'll use this blog to keep a journal of my trip and yoga practice.

Hope you're all well.

Namaste - Jim