Saturday, October 1, 2005

Straight from the Tap
The milk boy delivers fresh milk---still warm from the udder---every day at 4:30 p.m. for the sum of 7 rupees. We’ve bought a milk pail expressly for the purpose. He pours out a half-liter, then dips back into the bucket with his cup and tops it off with a well-practiced flourish, a graceful mobius swirl of the wrist. The boy does, however, walk into our living room sans knocking, which is quite unnerving. He doesn’t stand in the hallway, doorway or even inside the general front door area: the door will suddenly swing wide and he’ll troop right into the living room. Andrew boils the milk for 2 to 3 minutes; it usually ends up foamed for cappuccino although I’ve been known to pour a bowl for cereal.

We Regret the Passing …
Let me take a moment of silence, head down and on bended knee, for the passing of my position at Cosmodemonic Shoe Co, Inc. My job ended not with the usual ritual pomp and circumstance---the farewell lunch endured, smiles and handshakes apportioned to every cubicle, and the yoga-India monologue recited---but by a gradual and somewhat confused un-entanglement. I worked remotely from India for the last two weeks, responding to certain e-mails, disregarding others, and detaching a little more every day.

Mysore’s Subtle Tyranny
Be free from the idea that you must only read books about yoga! Liberate yourself from the creeping anxiety that your free time must consist of chanting, Sanskrit and Sutra classes! Read John Grisham, Michael Crichton, Stephen King, Tom Clancy, Frederick Forsyth, Robert Ludlum! Rent and watch films you would never dream of watching! “American Pie 3!” “40-Year-Old Virgin!” “Orgazmo!”

Casual Piracy
Video Tech is on Kalidasa Road, across from the petrol station. I have to duck my head to enter its open garage-door storefront. Hundreds of VCDs line the racks on the four walls, the DVDs are tucked in a three-foot-tall recessed alcove behind the front counter.

I’m sure I pay Westerner prices---30Rs per DVD!---so they let me sort through the good shit behind the counter. I squat and sit on a stool in confessional and the kid turns on an overhead bulb: “Wedding Crashers,” “Fantastic Four,” “War of the Worlds,” “Red Eye;” incongruously, Renoir’s “The Grand Illusion.”

There’s a 1-in-10 chance my laptop simply won’t read the DVD as existing, and many copies are filmed directly off the screen. We’ve been fortunate, though, as none of the copies we’ve rented have included filmgoers’ heads. “Wedding Crashers” did have an extra audience laugh-track.

I sorted through a basket of music CDs on the counter yesterday. I left with three, for the sum of 15Rs each per day. One CD contained 15 Pink Floyd albums, one contained 11 Metallica albums, and the last contained 13 of the latest pop albums (Backstreet Boys, Jennifer Lopez, Black Eyed Peas, The Scorpions, Richard Marx, and … Nelly?) Tara wanted the two Black Eyed Peas albums, although I swooped the Backstreet Boys album (“Never Gone”) for myself.

Courtesy of Video Tech, last Tuesday I downloaded onto my computer 21 episodes from the third season of “Seinfeld,” and on Sunday the entire first season of “Sex and the City.” Decadent? Maybe. Downright sybaritic? One could make the case ...

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Lakshmipuram Organic Market
From Gokulam, we scooter through the Mysore University grounds on our way to Lakshmipuram. Tara wears the baby in a frontal sling. Rowan is a tiny pushpin in a fluorescent Styrofoam helmet that engulfs her baby head. The helmet slips down over her eyes, so she uses her delicate baby hands to hold it up so she can survey the scenery. Andrew pilots the other scooter, Allison on back, blonde hair trailing in the wind. We’re an eye-catching bunch.

The intensity ratchets upwards during the drive. Lakshmipuram is more compact, tighter, louder, more intense than Gokulam. It’s more concentrated India.

Andrew has found the new location of the organic market he frequented on his first trip in 2001. It’s now in a rundown, mould-covered house, in which the “market” takes up one walk-in closet-sized room. Weevils sit in sacks of dal and spiders leap from underneath bunches of bananas. Andrew buys organic mung dal, liquid jaggery, organic coffee, some honey. Allison stocks up on greens.

Tara and I take baby out front. Her blonde hair and translucent skin are an instant hit with the Indian men sitting around the entrance. One man is an endless fount of folk medicine: One drop of honey on the baby’s tongue per morning, he says, will make her learn to talk better, faster. For teething pain, rub sugar on her gums.

We show baby Rowan to the cow grazing across the street. “Woof, woof,” says Rowan; it’s what she now says when she sees any animal. A two-foot piece of rope ties the cow’s neck collar to its front foreleg. It can’t raise its head more than two feet from the ground.

The folk-medicine man tells us the cow is so dumb that it will walk into and through cars, people, and glass windows. Therefore its gaze is roped down. Somehow it seems cruel. I’d never seen a live farm animal until India, though, so I’m very much out of my depth.

Andrew and Allison finish shopping, and we scooter back to Gokulam. Later, Andrew uses his new coffee in my stovetop espresso maker. When it begins hissing, Andrew lifts the lid. “Look,” he says, “it’s boiling out like cream!” And it’s true: the organic coffee is foaming through the slit like cream.

Getting Internet
Andrew bought two Apple iSight cameras prior to coming to India, one for my Mac, one for his wife’s Mac; he would be able to see and talk to her and his 2-year-old son.

We fished two Internet contact names from the Internet place around the corner and called them. “No connection is possible in your neighborhood,” the first place told us.

We met with a representative from the second place. They wanted a 10,000 Rupee deposit. They had hooked up broadband for a Western yoga student before and the student had made 30,000 Rupees-worth of long-distance calls before vanishing back to the West.

Our landlady’s son intervened. They are putting the connection in their name---no deposit, no installation fee.

We returned from yoga practice one day last week to find an amorphous swarm of workers, numbering not less than eight and not more than 11, chopping up the street to lay the cable for our Internet connection.

On our way to breakfast, in front of the house, and in front of the line of workers, I loaned Andrew 100 Rupees, separating the bill from the others in my wallet, realizing too late I had flippantly flashed a week’s wages to the dark, sun-creased, squat men pick-axing the dirt.

The small army worked for four or five hours, then vanished as they’d appeared.

The cable is laid, but the Internet is still not functioning as we’re now circumnavigating the language barrier and Byzantine Indian business practices to have the wires connected.

The Yoga?
The shala numbers dwindle; perhaps 20 people waited out front last Thursday? Tara and I have been leaving Rowan with Nirmala, our landlady, who has agreed to watch Rowan six days a week, two hours a day, for 1,000 Rupees a month. Guruji has told us to arrive at 5:30, and the last week-and-a-half we’ve entered the studio to an ever-increasing number of floor vacancies.

The density in my back and shoulders, which accreted during six weeks of crisscrossing the U.S. via planes, trains and automobiles, has started to melt. My body unkinked from the flight sometime last week. I had been having strong, light practices, and then one day I felt grounded, strong and light.

Guruji is 90 and fiery. He pads about the room, squat and powerful, shouting, eyes twinkling. Last week he suffered from a deep, wet cough, but it seems to have cleared.

Tara, Andrew and I (and Rowan) registered together, and Guruji demanded to know when our teacher Tim would be arriving, to which I lamely replied, “December?” It seemed a fair guess.

Guruji shuffled our stacks of money into his latest accessory, an electronic money counter, which immediately conjured images of the last few places I’d seen the device, namely at the homes of my drug-dealer acquaintances and in the movie “Scarface.” The machine whirred and beeped when it had processed our 54 500-Rupee notes. Gangster!

What else? Show up early, breathe, move. There are moments of an emptiness so full, a silence so loud I only notice them when they’ve passed.

I did not bow my head to Guruji’s feet on my last trip. Not once. This time it is different. There is a swelling, expansive, sternum-cracking gratitude that puts tears in my eyes---how fortunate I am to inhabit this body! To have found this practice!---and Guruji laughs and says, “Tankew, tankew,” as though I’m doing him a favor.

Fever and Slapstick
The baby today shed the last vestiges of a two-day fever; in June she was much, much more sick---wan and listless, shrouded on our bed, chest fluttering like a baby-bird---but it was still nerve-wracking.

I slipped on a throw rug in our living room and sprained my wrist pursuing a mosquito. Ha! I’ve been performing vinyasa on fists and fingertips.

Sunday, September 4, 2005

Kuala Lumpur Jump-off
A tenuous thread binds consciousness to its vehicle, this body.

That thread is fraying, unraveling around the edges. What time is it? What day is it? Somewhere in the last 19 hours of flying I lost a day, or gained one.

My brain is a balloon floating over my body, and there is a fractional second of time delay between thought and motor response, command and movement.

Andrew, Tara and Baby Rowan are upstairs, sleeping in our courtesy rooms at the Pan-Pacific Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. I write this in the Business Center, staring at the monitor as though down a long, dark tunnel.

Jetlag is fucked, but I kind of like it when things get loopy.

Baby Rowan is one mellow toddler, her disposition in stark contrast to the India couple with whom we shared a row---every time their 2-year-old opened her eyes, she began screaming.

I've heard sunlight is great for the 'lag, so I'm now hustling to the hotel pool---waterfall! hot tub!---to soak the sun and unknot from the plane.

Pre-Mysore Numbers
Height: 6-feet-1-and-a-half inches
Weight: 143 pounds
Disposition: Sunny, tired, yet hyper-caffeinated
Kuala Lumpur Jump-off
A tenuous thread binds consciousness to its vehicle, this body.

That thread is fraying, unraveling around the edges. What time is it? What day is it? Somewhere in the last 19 hours of flying I lost a day, or gained one.

My brain is a balloon floating over my body, and there is a fractional second of time delay between thought and motor response, command and movement.

Andrew, Tara and Baby Rowan are upstairs, sleeping in our courtesy rooms at the Pan-Pacific Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. I write this in the Business Center, staring at the monitor as though down a long, dark tunnel.

Jetlag is fucked, but I kind of like it when things get loopy.

Baby Rowan is one mellow toddler, her disposition in stark contrast to the India couple with whom we shared a row---every time their 2-year-old opened her eyes, she began screaming.

I've heard sunlight is great for the 'lag, so I'm now hustling to the hotel pool---waterfall! hot tub!---to soak the sun and unknot from the plane.

Pre-Mysore Numbers
Height: 6-feet-1-and-a-half inches
Weight: 143 pounds
Disposition: Sunny, tired, yet hyper-caffeinated

Monday, August 15, 2005

We leave for Bangalore September 3.

My first trip to India crested on a giant wave of anticipation built from more than five months of waiting, planning, calculating and clock-watching at work. This trip has leapt from an alley-mouth to sucker-punch me in the kidney.

It's fucking two weeks away, man!

Unlike my first trip, I'm traveling with three other people, two full-sized humans (albeit one Australian) and an adorable one-year-old diaper-filler.

The baby's mother voiced strenuous objections to my rather ingenious idea to stow said nipper in a steamer trunk under the plane with some juice boxes, a blanket or two and several well-concealed air-holes.

My other idea, which also met with vociferous disapproval, stemmed from my life-long passion for falconry, and involved fashioning a black light-tight hood for the baby. Slip the hood over the knee-biter's head, she thinks it's sleepy-time, and whammo, instant 20-hour nap.

As it stands, my provisions list involves one gross ear plugs, one blindfold, one bottle of the sleeping pill/coma-inducing Ambien, and two liters vodka.

There are several conditions, or combinations thereof, that will determine when I return:
1. I run out of money.
2. I go out of my gourd.
3. I get severely homesick.
4. My back snaps in half.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

New Espresso Bean of Choice
Giro d'Italia

Not Washing the Stove-top Espresso Maker
Apparently the bacteria build-up adds to the flavor.

The New "Battlestar Galactica"
The mini-series and entire first season on DVD for $40 at San Diego Comic-con. O Lord, you are a just and benevolent God.

Downloading Limewire Porn Clips
I'm perfectly sure I don't know what you're talking about.

Mysore Packing Strategy
One backpack filled with clothes, toiletries, stove-top espresso maker, and other essentials. One steamer trunk filled with books.



Summer Weekend in Milwaukee
It really seems to be true: Americans are lard-asses!

Saying Goodbye to Grandma for Maybe the Last Time
Breathing, breathing. Pain is going.

My Buddhist Friend Said, "Would You Be Sad to See a Sunset?"
No. But that does nothing for the lump of grief in my chest.

The Baby Cries in the Other Room
So it goes.

Monday, July 11, 2005

01SEP Q LAXKUL HL3 140A 1215P 02SEP F
02SEP F KULBLR HK3 1015P 1130P

Friday, July 8, 2005

So serious in the pre-dawn before practice!
I sit on the bed, drink my espresso, read poems about god.
The baby crawls around on my legs.


Pay attention!

The poem about god is not in the book, but right in front of me!
I love Saul-to-Damascus stories, and Lillian's is one of the best: she came to Ashtanga yoga standing in the bathroom of a dive bar at 4 a.m., coked up and staring at herself in the mirror, a bloody chunk of septum in her right hand.

Not everyone is pitched from horseback by the voice of god. Sometimes the call is loud and overpowering, but sometimes it's a faint, ghostly echo, barely heard over the roar of the party and the music from the jukebox.

Lil had partied Wednesday and Thursday nights with little sleep in between. Friday night flickered into early Sunday morning as the party train hit all stops: bar to club, club to house, house to bar. Last stop: Gentleman Jack's, a downtown San Diego dive, small, cramped, dark, seedy.

The bartenders swept out the crowds at 2 a.m. They locked the front door, pulled the blinds, killed the lights, fired up the jukebox, and dumped thick white rocks of coke on the bar. A guy pulled out a hand coffee-grinder and started churning the rocks into powder. Everyone took turns hoovering finger-width lines off the bar.

At 4 a.m. Lil was in the bathroom wiping the drip from her nose. The coke had revved her heart's RPMs so high she could feel the fist-sized muscle thumping into her breastbone, threatening to tear free from its moorings.

And her nose! It itched so bad! She had this booger that just would not quit. Lil closed off one nostril and with a firm snort, blew a thick, blood-red chunk of scab into her hand. It was a piece of her septum.

"Beyond a certain point there is no return," said Kafka. "This point has to be reached." A piece of her nose in hand, Lil had a coke-fueled flash-panic anxiety attack. At that point---her point of no return---three clear thoughts whispered through the din: "I need to stop partying," "I need to get healthy or I'm going to die," and "I need to start doing yoga."

She doesn't know where the last thought came from---maybe she'd read about yoga in Vogue? Regardless, the seed had been planted somewhere. She sifted those three thoughts like a prospector panning for gold, and after a bit of trial and error, found Ashtanga vinyasa.

That was four years ago. Today Lillian is strong, healthy and most importanly, alive.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

My June Itinerary
I spent five days in Los Angeles at the Downtown Standard hotel, followed that up with two days in Encinitas, then hit Dayton, Ohio for four days.

Someone once asked Tim how a trip went; to paraphrase his answer: too much skateboarding, vodka, and dessert. Not enough yoga.

(Among others): meeting "Inside the Actor's Studio's" James Lipton, asking him about his most difficult interviewees (Barbara Streisand, Robert De Niro), tripping out on LA ("Isn't that Hillary Duff?"), telling Anthony Michael Hall "That's a good look for you, buddy" in a dressing room, seeing a kid get choked to unconsciousness for $20 in a hotel bar, and watching two friends get car-jacked at a gas station.

(Don't sleep on Dayton! Thug life!)


All I can say is it's good to be home and settled.

I've written my first play.

It's not actually a play. It's actually conversations to which I was privy that I then wrote down. I wish I could take credit, but reality is so much more unbelievable than anything I could think up.

Three Vignettes from the Downtown Los Angeles Standard Hotel
Out front of the hotel; a WOMAN behind a podium scans a sheaf of papers attached to a clipboard. A BEEFY BOUNCER, ear bud tucked in ear, holds a flashlight. A CUTE GIRL (early 20s) stands behind a velvet rope.

BEEFY BOUNCER: … so there it is, you're not on the list. Sorry about that.

CUTE GIRL: (Playing coquettishly with pearl necklace, head cocked.) There must be something I can do to get in … can we go somewhere to talk about this?

End scene.

Two faceless CLERKS stand behind the reception desk. A short-haired WASTED WOMAN droops on the bench in front of the desk.

WASTED WOMAN: (Into cell-phone) Baby, c'mon baby---don't say that baby, please, I love you. Just come get me. Baby! Please. Just come pick me up. Please pick me up.

(Slides off bench to floor.)

End scene.

Three SLICK DUDES ride the elevator to the ultra-exclusive roof-top bar.

DUDE 1: Did you hear that fucking bitch? All I said was hi, she was all, "Who the fuck are you?" What a skank.

DUDE 2: Did you hear what TJ said to that one bitch at the bar the other night? She gave him some attitude and he was like, "You're not that pretty and you're kind of thick, too, so why don't you fuck off with that fake Hollywood shit?"

(To DUDE 3) Dude you totally fucking gave it to her, man!

DUDE 3: (Eyes self in elevator mirror, adjusts hair.) Fuckin a.

Elevator doors open.


Why I Hate Rilke
Dense black obsidian verse that reflects all light.

Verse impenetrable to burrowing, chewing, digestion.

Best approached laterally, obliquely.

The lightning will strike in peripheral vision like a balled-fist haymaker in an unfamiliar alley.

In due time meaning detonates, but only in those parts of consciousness inaccessible during the light of day or under the microscope of logic.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Shane was tall, taller than me at 6-2, thinning hair swept up in a rockabilly pompadour and babyish good looks slowly losing the war against fat. He would show up at the studio in white V-neck T-shirts and always smelled strongly, pleasantly of coffee. I want to say he had a bunch of Sailor Jerry tattoos, too, bright and optimistic, the Bettie Page pin-up girls, swallows, stars, and hearts reminding me of forties funny pages with their raw pulp-color brilliance and nostalgia.

I had committed to a daily morning Mysore practice at the yoga studio, a move that had jimmied open a whole new perspective on the yoga and introduced me to a whole new cast of characters: the morning shift.

My girlfriend and I were living in the Mission in San Francisco, on 27th and Guerrero, in a slant-floored firetrap. The flat's amenities included splinters from the peeling wood floor and, living in the building's common basement, an uncountable and ever-changing mass of illegals sleeping on sweat-stained mattresses. On weekends the group of small, sun-darkened men would drink cases of beer and listen to what sounded to me like Mexican polka music, the bomp-bomp of the drum and nerve-grating whine of accordion turned up as loud as it would go. I never felt in any physical danger, but the men on the street would hiss and sometimes grab at Tiffany, so I feared what the men in the basement might do, nerves galvanized by cases of beer.

The yoga studio, Ahimsa, was only a few blocks away on foot. Alice, with her fierce full-back tattoo of Kali, had turned an old storefront into a warm and inviting yoga studio tucked between a grocery and a storefront church.

Shane was gregarious, friendly, quick to laugh. He was inconstant in his practice because, as I soon found out, he was a member of the dock-worker's union. A few mornings a week he would head to the union office to put his number in the lottery for work. I imagined the job hard and exhausting, calloused men in peacoats and beanies cursing in the cold and fog, wrestling giant crates, twisting crowbars, banging, slamming, heaving, and groaning.

Months passed. My girlfriend and I moved to a better apartment in order to better unravel, and Alice eventually closed the studio to have a baby. Shane joined a long and ever-growing list of people I idly wonder about---people I knew only in passing, yet with whom I was profoundly intimate, peope I saw every day, six days a week, for months on end, all of us sweaty and half-naked, moments of poise and grace alternated with shaky struggling and ragged vulnerability. Where is Shane now? Maybe practicing yoga, maybe hauling crates on the Oakland dock, maybe lolling about the union office, waiting for his number to pop up, hair a bit thinner, face a bit fuller, bright tattoos beaming, still quick to smile, still fast with a joke, still good for a laugh.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Notes from a recent Ashtanga Yoga Journal editorial meeting:

Proposed article topics:
Pattabhi Jois: Always Right or Simply Never Wrong?
Coffee Before Intermediate: Good or Bad?
Investigative Report: Does Ashtanga Make Women Hard and Men Soft?
Fashion Report: Men's Apparel---Banana Hammocks Versus Board Shorts
Reader Poll: Shala Voted Best Place to Meet Women
Romantic Advice: Fending Off Creepy Male Ashtangis
Best Pre-tan Tips Before Hitting Southern Star
Beauty in the Shala: Makeup That Won't Run When You Sweat

Proposed cover shots for June issue:
(Note to photog: prefer sharp photo to blurry, poorly framed digi/instant)
Pattabhi Jois smiling
Pattabhi Jois grinning
Pattabhi Jois laughing
Pattabhi Jois waving
Pattabhi Jois counting a led class
Pattabhi Jois and Sharat in conference

Additional notes:
Not enough space to print entirety of Richard Freeman's asana advice column---publish separately as 300-page book?
Tell art director NOT to Photoshop hair onto Swenson's head!
Potential ad buys? Tell reps to call: Ibuprofen, Motrin, Ben Gay, Tiger Balm, Starbuck's, all imported chocolate manufacturers

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

As per the last post's myPod music list: I am an Urban Outfitter's playlist.

Which raises the question as to whether it's better to live in ignorance of "hip," or to expend extra energy moving faster and searching harder in order to live lower under the trend radar.

Lately I've been listing toward ignorance. Well, that, and never setting foot in an Urban Outfitters.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Yesterday afternoon, I applied Tiger Balm to my knee and then urinated.

There was five seconds of dawning realization before the napalm ignited.

And let me tell you something about Tiger Balm: that shit don't wash off.

The "Village Voice's" Johnny Maldoro on Lindsey Lohan
"Everyone says she's a skank, and of course I agree, but ... where was I going with this?"

Me on "60 Minutes''" and "CNN" Reporter Christianne Amanpour
Everyone says she's a skank, and of course I agree, but ... where was I going with this?

1. The new Gorrilaz---Hooks plus beats!
2. The new Fischerspooner---The eighties electro-pop boat is sent down the house river. Consistently great, consistently dirrrty.
3. The new Kaiser Chiefs---Why do I keep thinking late-era Kinks? Which isn't a bad thing, at all.

Get a Late Pass
The Rapture's "Echoes"---You've got your Robert Smith wail, your ominous Joy Division guitar, your Gang of Four jangle, your four-to-the-floor house/disco beats. It's working, it's working!

1:30 PM Sunday Practice Time?
Okay Tim, this Sandcastle Room schedule re-arranging is getting ridiculous.

Backing Out of a Vegas Bachelor Party
It's the new trend for Q3 2005---I started it last weekend.

(I did want to see the Star Trek-themed stripper. Ferengi? Klingon? Borg? Meet me in the Jeffries Tubes.)

Christ, Yet Another Yoga Student Reading Rumi
Submit to a daily practice.
Your loyalty to that
is a ring on the door.

Keep knocking, and the joy inside
will eventually open a window
and look out to see who's there.

---from "The Sunrise Ruby"

Books on My Desk Right Now
Remember, we aren't making qualitative judgments right now.
1. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
2. Fires, Raymond Carver
3. The Garden of Iden, Kage Baker
4. Jhereg, Steven Brust
5. Isle of the Dead/Eye of Cat, Roger Zelazny
6. The Enneagram, Dimension Books
7. Finding God Through Sex, David Deida
8. Guns, Germs and Steel, Jared Diamond
9. McSweeney's Astonishing Tales, Edited by Michael Chabon

Common Asana Stories
It's all one big story, isn't it?
1. My back is too stiff.
2. My arms are too short.
3. My legs are too short.
4. Women can't do that because they're [insert adjective here].

General Yoga Practice Stories
Put a nickel in your Mysore jar any time you get one.
1. I can't get up that early.
(A popular variant: I'm not a morning person.)
2. My body isn't flexible that early in the day.
3. I can't stretch that many days in a row, I just get too sore.

How to Recognize A Story
Sentence structure will involve some form of the personal pronoun "I" and the verb "be": "I am ... ," "I was ... ," "My back is ... ," etc, etc.

Friday, May 13, 2005

As per yesterday's blog ...

I was devastated to learn last night that, since Bush's second term began, Los Angeles has changed the laws for exotic dance clubs: if a strip club serves alcohol, the dancers must wear bikinis.

Which explains why two friends and I---all yogis, no less---were at Cheetah's last night, weeping into our martinis and absolutely gutted to learn that bikinis was all we was gonna get.


What the hell is wrong with this country that two men and their lady friend can't go to an exotic dance club, sip a beverage, and be mesmerized by synthetic breasts shaking in time to heavy metal or rock-rap?

You weren't even allowed to tuck tips into waistbands! So in the custom of the Ishtar love cults of ancient Babylon, I set several propitiatory offerings of dollar bills at the feet of those ladies whose dancing called forth the divine goddess, or who did tricky and athletic pole maneuvers.



PS, and I practiced today, and it was great, so there.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The thing about this blog nonsense is that when I started, I merely fired random thoughts out into the infosphere, a place overflowing with information. I thought, "Who the hell will read more white noise anyway?"

Then I started meeting people who actually read stuff on the Internet (People actually do that? Go figure), and several of them even from the studio here in Encinitas. I noticed my internal editor ramped up a few notches, because now I'm more careful about what I put out there.

I wish to be perceived in a certain way, and as a result I don't write about certain things.

This all leads up to the fact that I've just washed down a handful of M&M-sized ibuprofen with a double-espresso before practice, and I'm sitting here thinking, "Is this something I want to write about? Is this something I want people to know about?"

Because, you know, I want to come off as some serious, dedicated, "pure" yoga practitioner.

Which is nonsense.

And on a related tangent about one's own perceptions, if I could just tell you the countless times I've had what's come to be known as "The Volvo Conversation."

I drive a 2001 Volvo V70 wagon (a T5, suckers! That's "T" for "turbo" and 5 for 5-cylinder. Shit is bad-ass).

At least five people at Cosmodemonic Shoe Co., where I work, have said, "A Volvo? I never would have pegged you for driving a Volvo---what with all the yoga you do."

What do they expect a yogi to drive?

Well, when I would tell people I was looking for a car, I got one of two responses: One, "Check out those hybrid electric cars, they'd be perfect for you," and two, "My cousin/brother/roommate is selling a VW bus."

So I practice yoga and therefore should be driving a bio-diesel or electric car. Or a VW bus from the sixties.


Tuesday, May 3, 2005

I'm back in India, in Goa, at the beach.

I've wandered out onto the sand and clambered over some large rocks. I turn to head back to shore when the tide rushes in, and I'm forced to wade through rapidly rising water, holding my iPod over my head. It mustn't get wet!

My hand wavers and it dips into the salt water.

"It's ruined!" I think. The screen reads "Water Damage."

Anxiety dream about traveling to India? Or just an anxiety dream?

Friday, April 29, 2005

Back from the Rotten, tightened hip flexors, tweaked knee and all.

New Yorkers are a savage people. They don't use cars! Often they don't use escalators or even elevators!

Like our nomadic Stone Age forebears, they walk, run, and jog everywhere---on foot.

I remain horrified.

We steady mobbed to LA this weekend to say goodbye to Noah and Kimberley. Like waves on a sandy shore, friendships and acquaintances swell and recede.

It would seem the Los Angeles ashtanga community has been roundly hammered in the last month, as in addition to Noah's and Kim's departure, Chuck and Maty are also departing the city.

Would now be an appropriate time to reflect on how thankful I am that Tim Miller has seen fit to show up at the studio every morning and unlock the shala door for the past 20-something years?

Well, now he's unlocking the door to the Sandcastle Room, but you get my drift.

If you head to LA, don't fear---the lovely Maia has stepped in to run morning Mysore until mid-June for the students at Noah's and Kim's.

Otherwise they all would have had to switch to Bikram's. Hah!

There seems to be a post-Guruji-tour fever of India trips in the works.

Tons of people are packing up their Western lives, putting their affairs in (semi) order, and lighting out for Mysore this summer. And god help me, I'll be one of 'em.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

As those of you who've been to New York City know, there's not a whole lot going on here. Not much to look at, not a lot of places to eat, nothing much to do.

Well, maybe there're like two places to eat. But that's it.

I'm not sure which god I've pleased lately, but some cosmic hand has seen fit to bestow spring-like weather, even summer-like, on New York City.

This isn't novel for those of us from SoCal, where there's incredible weather all day, every day, all year---for us, rain is the novelty---but let me tell you why I've fallen to my knees in thanks in the intersection of Prince and Sullivan Streets, to the amusement of oncoming drivers and the Korean guy stocking the fruit at the corner store.

White wife-beaters.

New York's unending supply of cripplingly attractive women have all seen fit to crack out their white wife-beaters. They're parading about the city, oblivious to the ensuing sprained necks and car crashes.

Yoga has happened in the dingy, grime-encrusted Russian and Turkish Baths, located on E. 10th Street.

An exhausted-looking Russian guy does you the favor of taking your money. You change in the grimiest locker in the known universe, and then descend downstairs to the "spa."

They have a Turkish steam room, a dry sauna, a Swedish sauna, an ice-dip pool, and the best room in the joint, the Russian sauna.

In the Russian sauna, the kiln in the corner is filled with rocks that are baked all night, and then left to radiate temps of 165 degrees all day. Faucets with buckets underneath are interspersed along the ampitheatre-style stone steps.

When the heat gets unbearable---about every five minutes or so---you dump the bucket of frigid water over your head and let it cascade down your body.

What follows is a milisecond of pure consciousness whiteout and bliss.

That's some yoga right there.

It was coed, which meant it wasn't a total dude-fest. I was a little apprehensive about the joint's gay quotient, and scoured the website for hints that this was any place other than an OG Russian Jewish "schvitz" bathhouse. I couldn't find any, and subsequently only got hit on once.

("Say---are you by any chance a model?" Damnit, that line works on me every time.)

I've been practicing at Eddie Stern's joint, sans Eddie, who's apparently very sick. I've heard about his dedication, so he must be incredibly ill to have missed a week of class.

The space is incredible, and there's a lot of shakti in the room. Everyone faces in the same direction, towards an altar at one end of the room, and there's a warm, inviting feel to place. Everyone's been very friendly, if not a bit harried---it is New York, after all.

I also keep running into people I've met in Mysore---maybe 10 people or so? That's a lot, man. It's been too sweet.

Of course, my experience at Eddie's is made sweeter by the fact that I will soon be returning to the Best Western's Sandcastle Room.

There are also new Mysore plans in the air. I'm at 90-percent certainty there will be an extended 05 trip. More soon.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

A special treat: two entries in one day!

The Morrisey firestorm rages unabated.

Quite simply, the world is divided into two camps: those who love Morrisey, and those who must be pushed screaming from a helicopter.

My mom always says, "Remember when you broke up with Tiffany and then listened to The Smiths and Morrisey for the next six months?"

Don't laugh, I was 25.

In my defense, I was listening to the Mozzer before the break-up.

Well, maybe my Morrisey phase was symptomatic of some larger issues at hand.

On a lighter note, after practice today, my spine hurts. But baddha konasana felt great! I do feel a lot physically stronger after Guruji's two-week stopover.

With that, I'll let Morrisey take it away!

I was good kid
through hail and snow
I’d go
just to moon ya
--"I Have Forgiven Jesus"

Off the rails I was and
off the rails
I was happy to stay
--"Piccadilly Palare"

Angel, don't take your life
Some people have got no pride
They do not understand
The urgency of life
But I love you more than life
--"Angel, Angel, Down We Go Together"
Speaking of coconuts, how does one get the little bastards open?

Monkeys do it, and here I am with my opposable thumbs and giant, evolved forebrain, smashing the thing around the parking lot like an idiot, unable to get at the sweet, sweet meat inside.

I'm right fucked if I ever crash-land on a deserted island.

I've been using the DeWalt drill to bore two holes into the coconut, after which I insert a straw.

Even with the DeWalt, I still can't get it open as fast as Beg the Coconut Man of Mysore, who holds the coconut in one hand and swings a machete at it with the other---yet still has all his fingers!

My Electric Lady betrayed me the other day. Tim's been running Sunday classes in the Sandcastle Room much later in the day, so I've been practicing at 1 PM.

Like a true Western yoga student (read: "idiot"), I ate a banana and some almonds at about 8 AM, and immediately washed it down with my vaunted Electric Lady Hammerhead. And that was it.

Needless to say, by 1 PM I was a jittery, sugar over-loaded, dehydrated mess.

Back: not bending. Muscles: trembling. Demeanor: shaky.

After practice, Andrew and Jess told me they'd eaten pancakes for breakfast that morning. Pancakes! Doubtless covered in cream. Nothing like a bit of common sense to set one on an even keel.

As Jay-Z says, streets is talking, and the mean yoga streets of Encinitas is talking about the location of our new shala.

I don't want to say anything about the new spot just yet.

I'm fighting an immediate knee-jerk "Jesus-Christ-are-you-fucking-serious!" reaction. What I'm trying to say is that I'm still trying to process the information.

What else is yoga for, than to recognize our conditioned patterns of behavior?

Change is good, right? Things can't stay the same forever.


I'm trusting that regardless of where Tim hangs up his new shingle, he'll imbue it with the same degree of love and devotion as the last location.

I mean, we all gather because of The Big Guy (in this case, Tim. But through him, the Other Big Guy---Guruji).

We don't gather because of the studio space. The studio space will become a reflection of The Big Guy's personality.

So maybe the new spot is flash, but just like the last spot---which was funky, literally and figuratively---it's going to have the same vibe.

In New York City news, I've roughed out a practice spot for the next 10 days or so. And I am psyched!

So if you're in New York City and see a long-haired, string-bean guy with nut-hugger yoga shorts and characteristic tattoos (chief among them Hanuman, hence the blog name. Duh) at your studio---that's me.

I will not be lurking through the streets in the nut-hugger attire. Normallly I wear clothes. However, for a nominal fee, I will don my grape-smugglers and come to your house to perform a series of erotic dances for you and your friends.

I'm going to start an on-line poll: just how bummed do you think my work will be when I quit---again!---to go to India?

Since I've made up my mind to go again, the hardest part has been NOT going. Meaning, there's a tendency to make my target date earlier and earlier ...

Finally, in sartorial news, I have procured a new Morrisey shirt. It doesn't even say his name! It's just a picture of the young Mozzer! Thus far, it ranks as 05's hottest purchase. So so def.

Ladies! You can either form an orderly make-out line, or just tackle me en masse.

Friday, April 8, 2005

The Pope's been buried. Good fucking riddance, I'm tired of reading about it everywhere, all the time. Who knew he had such a devoted following?

(I posted this a few minutes ago, thought about it, and came back to edit it out---but you know what? Fuck it. I'm going to let it stand and hope no one declares jihad on me. Or molests me and then covers it up.)

Today, BBC News' website has a photo of an Iraqi woman's face as the thumbnail image for a photo essay. Is it wrong to think she's totally hot? Inaam Tadra, student, 24---if you're reading this, drop me a line.

We had a massive moon-day breakfast at Andrew's house. The poor guy got shanghaied into whipping up pancakes for about 10 yoga homies (yomies?) from the studio. He also makes a great latte. (Of which I had two, thanks.) He only has himself to blame, for being such a damn fine cook.

I also have come to appreciate the Australian way of eating pancakes, which is to pour cream on top.

The only way to build and sustain a community is to do it. Which means breakfasts, coffees, lunches, dinners, and around these parts, child-watching.

I'm currently reading a copy of the Gheranda Samhita, which Julie was kind enough to float my way. It's actually a great version, but more forthcoming ...

My homeboy at work and I have spent the last hour browsing espresso machine websites, as we've concocted this fantastic plot to order an illmatic espresso machine for the office and expense it to the company. Charge it to the game!

In days of yore, when in Vegas for a trade-show, I'd always somehow end up at Crazy Horse 2. The homies would be running up cash advances on their work credit cards (getting those Crazy Horse dollars) and purchasing unholy amounts of lap dances. The recurring battle-cry: "Charge it to the game!"

Is there yoga in a lapdance? In the stripclub? It is a place filled with ritualized behavior that harnesses a deep, dark (dare I trot out "cthonic"?) energy. Tantric yoga, maybe.

Perhaps this line of inquiry bears further investigation.

Wednesday, April 6, 2005

I probably shouldn't have written about baddha konasana---because now the slim progress I've made will slip away again as my hips tighten like a fist. The Greeks called it hubris.

I was surfing Richard Freeman's website yesterday (don't ask why) and saw that he's written four (FOUR!) pages, using 9-point-sized font, on the subject of baddha konasana. Wow.

Here's a small sign of insanity for you. In my defense, keep in mind this was years ago. I went to Home Depot and bought two empty plastic sandbags for fifty cents each. Next, I walked down to the beach and filled 'em with sand so I had two 25-pound home-made sandbags.

I would get up an hour before practice and watch The Weather Channel with a sandbag on each thigh.

Every morning I would think, "Dear god, when will this nightmare stop?"

And because I was watching The Weather Channel, I would also think, "Dear Jesus, it's cold in other parts of the country!"

Tuesday, April 5, 2005

1. Kapotasana.
Is it possible to break one's spine in half? Just wondering, because it sure feels like it. Can your spine fall out of your back?

2. The Sand Castle Room at the Encinitas Best Western
Tim is asking that you refrain from hitting the wet bar until after practice.

3. "Trance Classics" Volumes 1 and 2
O the shame! The degradation! Yes, yes, a thousand times yes---I admit it, it's all true!

4. David Elsewhere
You call that twitching you're doing popping and locking? This is the real deal.

5. Two weeks with the Guru
I'm physically wiped out, but only realized it today. That led intermediate was gee-damn tough.

6. "Sin City"
It was too long, but there were some great moments, especially the grisly, hands-on demise of That Yellow Bastard. (Shades of Sonny Chiba's "Streetfighter"!) The very closing scene, obviously directed by Tarantino, was the only scene in the movie with a jittery, dread-filled spark of something real unfolding on the screen.

7. Speaking of "Sin City" …
Before making "Sin City," I wish director Robert Rodriguez had watched less Peckinpah and more Raoul Walsh, Sam Fuller, "Touch of Evil," Anthony Mann, Robert Aldrich, Jean-Pierre Melville, or even Budd Boetticher's later Westerns.

8. New York City
In two weeks …

9. Recipe for baddha konasana
Six days a week for three years, have a 185-pound man flatten you. Also, sit cross-legged every chance you get, all day, every day, for 18 months.

10. Bloc Party
The album is called "Silent Alarm."

11. Sheenon's tour shirts
"Ashtanga Yoga---Pure for Sure." And it's the Bharat Petroleum logo! Way too tight. Get one now, while supplies last. Or be reduced to envying mine.

12. Vajroli mudra VCD?
Who was in Mysore when that VCD was circulating, the one that showed that nutty British guy performing nauli kriya, dipping his Tiny Tim into a glass of milk, sucking the milk up his urethra, leaking it back into the glass---and then bloody winking at the camera? Jesus, how do I get a copy?

13. You can do drop-backs, but you're having trouble standing up.
Widen your feet one (and only one) inch.

Friday, April 1, 2005

A Santa Ana has gusted through Southern California, too, bringing with it 85-degree temps and flocks of butterflies. The air is crispy and ionized, charged with immanence and portent. Of what? Hopefully something good. Keep your eyes peeled for a virgin birth here in SoCal.

For those readers who demand to know my personal tastes, I've jumped from Jai Uttal's "Radhe Govinda" to a Ferry Corsten CD mixed live at Spundae. Who's Ferry Corsten, you ask? He's a fucking trance DJ!

There's this one part in "Digital Punk" when he drops the bass out and you hear the chanting, cheering crowd singing along. Then, as the break roars up, the entire audience sighs as one, a giant, amorphous body with no mind ... Corsten drops the bass and absolutely steamrollers the dancefloor. A room full of people goes absolutely apeshit.

I tell you, there's yoga out there in the clubs and tents, warehouses and dancefloors. It's just that getting to it in that context will wear holes in your soul.

(There was a similarly dramatic moment on that live Fatboy Slim record, when you can hear the crowd go ballistic during that cheesy yet triumphant house break.)

The Volvo is spectacularly dusty and filled with empty water bottles; a snorkel parka sits forlornly in the trunk, waiting for winter.

Today's practice: the Cabana Room. After practice, there were a million toast/croissant/bagel particles stuck to the bottom of my mat, as the Cabana Room is where the Best Western hosts its complimentary morning buffet for guests.

Mmm, toast particles.

Two weeks of the Guruji tour and I felt stronger than ever in practice, although perhaps it's attributable to the late hour (1 PM!), the tile floor (a harder surface), or the fact that an hour or so before I'd consumed my first ever hammerhead.

This variation of what must surely be an American invention---"Caffeine with extra caffeine? Sounds swell!---had two shots of espresso topped with coffee, shot through with condensed milk, and dusted with cinnamon.

Sweet Christ, I almost experienced rapture right there in the coffee shop, and it definitely made the Wittgenstein I'm reading ("Lectures on Aesthetics, Psychology, and Religion") go down smooth.

Music-wise, I'm trying to slide back into the death metal, but the black metal just works out so much smoother. This band Isis is killing it! Also copped a few Krishna Das albums, some Bloc Party for that Gang of Four feel, and a Spectrum album for droning guitar pulse.

My shameful secret: Community Resource Center Thrift Store, a couple hundred feet from the old shala. I like to go buy shitty (and I mean absolutely crappy) science fiction and fantasy books for a quarter, and then horror of horrors, read 'em. Then I donate 'em back. Sort of like a Dragonlance catch-and-release program.

But I can never turn down a good Mack Bolan ("The Executioner") or Destroyer book, either.

I ducked into the old shala today. The owner of Detour salon, the joint next door, took over the place, and is primed to knock through the walls to enlarge the salon.

The inside was totally gutted! Walls stripped and carpet gone! In a few places, the old color scheme---tan top, green bottom, bisected by purple---hung in abstract rectangles, but the rest was skeletal. She'd had to pull off the walls to bleach out the wood struts underneath to get rid of all the mold, and the carpet---well, obviously the carpet was headed for incineration.

Apparently the mold has permeated the walls, and was worst under the front windows.

I tell you, to see the studio gutted so brought a wee tear to the eye ... but only for a second, because as I said before, a room is just a room.

I got LA on tap for Tuesday ... and NYC in two weeks.
Tarik-from-Tokyo is 6-feet, 6-inches tall. The Best Western's Sand Castle conference room has ceilings that are maybe 8 feet tall. You do the math.

We were all crammed in there anyway, so it didn't really matter that there was a row of (mostly) pasty white appendages flapping about, catching unsuspecting yogis/yoginis unawares. Still, Tarik's one tall dude.

Tim brought his yoga studio jump-start kit---money box, sign-in sheet, incense, candles---everyone unrolled their mats, and we got to work. Just like that. A room is just a room, I guess, and what matters is the intent that fills it.

Nary a dry eye yesterday, the last on Guruji and Sharat's Encinitas stop. Like today, I practiced next to Andrew and Tarik, and had to dodge the requisite limbs. I was pretty fried physically after a week of led intermediate, and was glad for the first-series breather. Which I phoned in, might I add.

It was sad to say goodbye to so many people, and as I said, there was quite a bit of crying. (Never fear---as an incredibly masculine, macho, ass-kicking man, I didn't cry.)

It is so beautiful to come together for something like this, isn't it? Hundreds of people, unified in purpose, intent, and gratitude.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Yoga summer camp slides into week two. I've got the Portland contingent posted up in my living room---Casey and Sheenon have thankfully left the Oregon rain behind, and San Diego appears headed into summer.

We hammered through first series last week---sub-zero temps in the gym at 7 AM forced me to tuck socks in the pocket (Why not on my feet? Flip-flops or death!) for the pre-practice sit-around session.

Second series commenced this week; Sheenon was feeling out of sorts, so he sat out for today. After class, Casey and I grabbed food and coffee and returned to watch first series. The room was positively steaming hot. It was a magnificent sight. You could see an angled forest of diagonal legs or a sea of upturned faces.

We watched people sweating and straining, either trembling or floating, and listened to the deep, rhythmic breathing, ebbing and flowing like a slow, loud wave.

I whispered to Casey, "Yoga is so hard!"

Sometimes after a led-class savasana, Tim will say to the class, "That was a valiant effort." The sheer size of this morning's class compounded that feeling: 200 people gave up their Easter morning to practice together and pay their respects to this man whose teachings have meant so much.

Guruji, Sharat and Tim hosted the best conference I've ever been to last Wednesday night. They held it at the shala, and it was quite moving. I've never seen Guruji that engaged, rested, and excited. And then there was a reception for Guruji last night. But more on all this nonsense later.

As I mentioned, it's been yoga summer camp: yoga, coffees, breakfasts, lunches, dinners, get-togethers. Jesus Christ, has it been social. And fucking great. I can't lie. It's nice to get together with like-minded, passionate people.

Okay, we're playing lap-top wars in the living room, and I've got a date with a hot-tub.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

I guess I could go more journalistic about this whole tour business, and write about the whos, wheres, hows, whats, whens, etc, etc. But the novelty of that has passed.

The tour stop in Encinitas is held in a giant, frosty gym. Today, there must have been roughly 200 people in there. They left the overhead lights off, which was quite nice. Guruji called out many sun salutations to fire up the heat.

During those extended chaturanga holds I have been saving my rotator cuffs by beaching myself like a whale---belly-up on my rug.

I observed Casey J. Palmer grabbing his ankles on the third backbend. I resist coveting, especially others' practices, but oooooh---it looked so neat.

Guruji was heading to a long uth pluthi count. He shouted at someone and tried not to smile at them. Failing to hide the smile, he called out "Ten!" and ended it. Laughter all around.

Two thoughts: One, leave the towel over your eyes in savasana and take as long as you want.

Two, the noise of people shuffling around for darshan, the cold blast of air from people unfurling their rugs, and the sound of talking before practice is Ma pullling you from the silly seriousness of this Shiva practice.

(I meet Ma every Tuesday and Thursday. She sets up her mat right in front of mine, then clears her throat loudly, deeply, and often. She's not sick---she's been doing it every day since September and there's no phlegm being cleared. She waits until we're in savasana to loose the really loud throat-clearers. Oh Ma, I love you.)

I might be imagining things, but Tim seems incredibly relaxed and happy. Shakti infusion from the guru?

In the darshan line today I told Guruji, "Thank you very much for teaching yoga to Tim Miller."

I like to think he understood, because his eyes glinted and his gaze sharpened.

I am so very grateful for what he has made possible.

Monday, March 21, 2005

The last time I can consciously recall finishing practice and, suffused with a physical, palpable sense of light-ness, spontaneously humming the names of god, was in India ...

... and this morning. Perhaps that ought to tell you something of the energy in Encinitas for Guruji's first two classes.

It's been more festive than anything---my friend Casey clocked over 300 people in the gym yesterday! There must have been close to 200 today.

And just like the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's album cover, close to everyone I've ever practiced yoga with is there, from distant friends to daily acquaintances. You're such a lovely audience, we'd love to take you home with us. Too, too sweet.

But dudes, can we turn the AC off?

(Tomorrow morning: thermal shirt, wool socks, knit cap, snorkel parka?)

Remember Mad Balls? God, I wish I had one, because I would hurl it at your head.

Remember those Carvel ice-cream TV commercials? I want a Cookie Puss right now. Mmmmmmm---Fudgie the Whale.

On my iTunes, Jai Uttal's "Radhe Govinda" just sequed into Raekwon's "Verbal Intercouse," Jai Uttal's sandstorm howl of "Radhe Govinda" followed by Nas' opening salvo, "Through the lights, cameras and action/ glamour glitters and gold/ I unfold the scroll, plant seeds to stampede the globe." Both good, both god? Yes.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Let's have a collective moment of silence for the closing of the Encinitas Ashtanga Yoga Center.

This morning was the last Mysore practice ever to be held at the E Street location; Guruji and co. are teaching for the next two weeks, and Tim has accordingly cancelled his classes.

The lease runs out March 30 ... and that's it. After 12 (13?) years, there will be a new studio. Whenever they find one ...

Everyone's been complaining about the mold smell, which did get particularly harsh this winter, especially after California's extended deluge. I thought Matsya, Vishnu's fish incarnation, was going to have to manifest to strap our ark to his horn ...

And it was better not to think too much about the studio's carpet. You didn't really want to know what you were rolling around on. Or whose sweat you were rolling around in. And those hairs stuck to my body are long, black, and kinky---i.e. not mine.

But the room had such a powerful feel to it---warm colors, high ceilings, natural lighting, photos of Guruji, statues of Hanuman, Virabadra, Shiva, et al. There was the faint, pleasant smell of clean sweat mixed with incense.

Tim's studio was the real deal. It was an accurate, authentic reflection of the studio's teachers and teaching.

Who cares if there was only one bathroom and no waiting area or "boutique"? People showed up in droves anyway.

And they'll continue to show up, regardless if Tim runs classes out of his garage or a conference room at the Best Western.

With a little sadness, we're on to the next space ...

I hope one day to see anyone and everyone who reads this there.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

My Favorite Mantras
Maybe revealing your own personal mantras robs them of their power, but I thought I'd share anyway. I use these during the inhales, exhales and retentions of pranayama, as well as during moments of asana practice.

1. Shambo Shiva/Mahadeva Shiva
This one has some very powerful personal associations that stem from Mysore.

2. Bhajelo ji Hanuman
He's the monkey-faced god, friend of Ram, re-uniter of Ram and Sita, leaper of Lanka, son of the Wind, etc, etc. Such a friendly guy---why not ask him for help?

3. Om namah Shivaya
For the cleansing fire.

4. Nothin' to it but to do it.
This one helps counter avidya, asmita---basically, all the klesas that begin with "a."

5. Mmmm. Toast.
This one helps me through those late-in-the-morning practices, when all I can think about is eating some fucking food!

(Like me, you may substitute "toast" with "cereal," "muffin," "yogurt," "mango," "peanut butter and jelly sandwich," "banana," "omelette," or "egg muffin with cheese.")

6. Fuck it.
This one is pretty self-explanatory.

Popping and Locking
Maria was talking about her knee problem today. Now I'm hyper-consciously kneading my right patella like dough. I have no pain or anything ... but my right knee has clicked ever since the summer of 98, when I did an atomic knee-drop from the Foundation mini-ramp's six-foot-high deck straight to the flat-bottom.

It swelled up like a balloon and I was on crutches for a hot minute.

People ask me why I stopped skateboarding ... and don't really get it when I try to explain to them that often you don't skateboard so much as just fall down flights of stairs.

(As an aside and an example, my man Ryan just returned from shooting some photos for his upcoming shoe ad, and in the process he took three hits down a set of 17---straight from top to bottom.)

... and the list of my body parts that click, pop, and crack is long and illustrious. But still ...

Guru Shooters
It was absolutely wild the last time Pattabhi Jois came to town! My frat brothers and I caught a hotel room right next to the Boy's and Girl's Club, close to all the action. We totally trashed the room, just Jack Daniels, brown rice and tofu totally all over the place.

Before the morning classes, these hot yoginis would totally flash us because we were chucking mala beads to all of 'em. Guruji and Sharat stormed the stage to fireworks, and then at one point Sharat was suspended in a steel cage 40 feet over the crowd, and it totally started spinning! Guruji had a head-set microphone, and totally was like, "Encinitas! Are you ready to rock---Ekam! Dwi! Bad man! Bad lady!"

We all got totally crazy in the foam pit during standing poses. There were strobe lights firing off, and then they totally showed Joey doing eka pada paschimattasana on the Jumbotron. They totally had like 10 kegs throughout the room, and everyone was doing like, keg-stands during headstand! It was so hot!

We did that for like, a week, and I was totally wrecked! It was so totally killer! I bought this shirt that said, "Co-ed Naked Ashtanga Yoga---Encinitas 05."

I'm totally going back next year.

Wednesday, March 9, 2005

I'm trying a new tact for this blog business: less volume, higher frequency. Watch out, though---I've salted a bit of profanity in this one, because you know what? From time to time, I myself favor a bit of profanity in conversation.

There's that one song by that one band Sonic Youth where Thurston sings "It takes a teenage riot/ Just to get me out of bed." Don't you feel like that sometimes? No? Maybe it's just me.

I listen to my breath (I have loud thoughts, so loud breath), I follow correct drishti as much as I can, and the practice really demands a fierce amount of focus to link all those poses together like prayer beads ...

... but fuck it, I'm going to say it anyway. Spring has arrived, and spring fever along with it, so let me go on record as saying that you ladies are lookin' mighty good up in the shala.

I know, I know---that's not what we're all there for. At least, that's not what I'm there for. But as a friend once said to me, "It sure beats lookin' at dudes all day." Thank god for the shakti, because it helps balance such a Shiva-like practice.

(I probably shouldn't have even mentioned anything, because I know several people from the studio actually read this. Damn them for their Web savvy.)

Alcohol update: I was absolutely feelin' a half-glass of wine the other day. A half glass! Not hammered, mind you---but the door to hammered was definitely open. My non-existent frat buddies would be so disappointed. Keg stand? Beer bong? Beer shooter? Certain death.

I watched Gwyneth Paltrow at the Oscars last week---I'd like to take a poll of how many ashtangis annoyed everyone else in the room like I did at that point by saying, "She does ashtanga! Just like me!"

Speaking of celebrity ashtangis, I heard tell the only photos actually in Guruji's bedroom---not just his office, but upstairs in his house---are of Madonna. Who can confirm or deny?

That's actually pretty cute. Yet again, I'm reminded of Tim, who will think longer and speak less in response to a question than anyone save the Sphinx. Gregarious he ain't: "I've never met a saint."

Guruji is set to hit Encinitas in less than two weeks, and I bet heads are going to turn out en masse. Here's an open letter to all you older ashtangis, the ones who braved Guruji in the '70s and '80s: let's do this! I want some history up in that room.

Do you reckon people will be clawing for mat space like they do in Mysore? "Oh! Oh! I'm terribly sorry, there's been a tremendous mistake---I just feel so foolish about this! But you seem to have put your mat down in my space! I feel just horrible!"

I do look forward to sliding through first series with 200 other people, though---I expect to be veritably buoyed by the energy in the room.

I do not look forward to having to slide into those backbends immediately after, though. Ye gods.

Fans will doubtless be pleased to know the heavy metal high-water mark has been hit, and the waters are slowly receding as I turn to other, gentler, more yogically appropriate genres of music, such as polka.

How to identify a new age bookstore? Listen for chimes tinkling softly in the breeze, over the sound of burbling water, and sniff for the potpourri of incense, soap and candle scents. Time was in my life I'd have as soon lobbed a cinderblock through a new-age bookstore window as set foot in the place.

Incidentally, I'm pretty sure the statute of limitations has run out on that one, so don't bother ringing your lawyer.

Alt country? So hot right now. I've been running the Handsome Family: "This is why people OD on pills/ and jump/ from the Golden Gate bridge/ anything/ to feel weightless again." Dart to the heart.

For all the club kids no longer out running the late nights---e is a drug of diminishing returns, after all---I've also been running some Swayzak for that dirrrty laptop disko krunch. When you hear that grimy electro fuzz, it only makes sense to use "k"s.

I just re-read a book that I loved when I was younger---I'm not going to humiliate myself by repeating the title here, but suffice it to say I have a staggering weakness for sci-fi.

(Actually, I reckon I have a staggering weakness for crap books, and I've been known to scoop up armfuls of trash series like Dragonlance, The Executioner and The Destroyer at the thrift store. But I digress.)

Man, it really wasn't that great of a book. It really sneaks up on you---listening to music, reading a book, or watching a much-loved movie again, years and years later, and discovering that you don't really like it.

Sort of like visiting an old yoga teacher and knowing in your bones that you've outgrown them, or moved on, or even just moved over.

You want asana talk? What am I going to tell you that you don't already know from your own practice? "It all gets easier, just keep doing it."

For the record, it took me three years of practicing four to five times a week to get the strength to lift up and jump back. It took me roughly four years to sit in lotus.

Four years? I almost blacked out re-reading that last sentence because I'd buried the memory somewhere deep and dark.

This is some discursive-rambling-about-daily-minutia, in which I've used swear words, made a drug reference, and even admitted I think ladies who practice yoga are hottt (that's right---with three-Ts). On that note ...

Tuesday, March 8, 2005

It was a greenhouse in there today. During drop-backs I looked at the guy next to me, and it looked like we had both taken baths---both of us soaked head to toe, water beading and dripping into pools on the floor, hair wet and plastered, steam vaporizing, the whole nine.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

I'm slacking on two levels right now, which makes me a multi-dimensional slacker. If I wanted to exercise the intellectual rigor, I'm sure I could extrapolate my slacking into all four of Ken Wilber's quadrants, which would make me an all-level, all quadrant slacker. Wait, does my recognition of that elevate my slacking to yet another dimension?

First, I'm supposed to be cobbling together some dialogue for some MTV Cribs segment as well as some consumer marketing communications. Second, I've actually started another blog entry on yoga, yoga consumerism, and the yoga industry. However, none of those options are remotely interesting to me at this time.

Therefore, I'm doing a list, because everyone loves reading lists. This list goes into effect from now until I post another one; however, never assume that I still think what's on this list is hot.

Can I even use the word "hot" anymore, or did Paris Hilton grind it into the dirt?

Oh well, on to the next.

So Hot Right Now!
Thursday, February 24

1. Lavash bread.
I have been killing it with veggie wraps lately. My secret: tahini.

2. Metal.
As in the music. For some reason, the black, stoner, doom and death genres have been sounding appreciably tangy. There is a band called Orange Goblin. They have a song called "Saruman's Wish." They absolutely shred! I could not make this up if I tried.

3. I heart kapotasana.
Forget what Yoga Journal tells you, everyone should be doing this backbend. It'll spike your nervous system, rattle your soul in its very cage, and make you pee your spandex nut-hugger yoga shorts.

4. Which brings me to urdhva dhanurasana.
Just as sweet as his cousin kapotasana, urdhva dhanurasana is coming in hot this month. I've been on the Mysore brand of back arches lately, just to see how they feel: up for five breaths, rest on the head for one, up for five breaths ... three times, two sets daily.

5. We end with low back pain.
I've been pretty good about never, ever having any, over the entire course of my yoga practice. Until last week. Hot damn, everyone was right! Back pain sucks! Thankfully it's receded over the past few days, and I'm optimistically chalking it up to an "opening."

6. Australians
You people are so friendly! Except for the drunken head-butting thing, that is.

7. Grape Nuts
The secret: sugar. Heaps and heaps of it.

8. A 2001 Volvo V70 T5 wagon
It's long, it's black, and your wife wants to go for a ride. 'Nuff said.

(I'm actually pretty gassed about having a car that starts. Every single time I put the key in the ignition!)

9. Sankalp
I'm not showing you mine until you show me yours. But suffice it to say I have been attempting to refine the roaring heat of tapas into a laser-beam of precise intention.

10. Shiva as Bhairava
These last few weeks, I've taken to offering up my practice to Shiva ... and I've been considering modifying that to Bhairava, a particular emanation of Shiva.

Bhairava is the embodiment of fear, and it is said that those who meet him must confront the source of their own fears. What if meeting Bhairava is one of your fears? I'm scared to aim my intentionality in that direction, because who knows what would arise?

I guess in this instance Hanuman might help, with his strength, faith and love.

11. Mold
Just to bring this back down to some secular ish, I'm really starting to love burying my face in moldy carpet in the studio, a result of the recent deluge that's drowned Southern California.

12. No TV
Where'd it go? Why don't I miss it?

13. Spring NYC Trip
It's in the works ...

14. The new Morrisey album
Morrisey has dropped some hammers on this one. Don't be scared to admit that the Mozzer still has some chops.

15. My back
Forget all the Cirque du Soleil jumping-around bandha histrionics. Will my back ever bend?

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Situationists had something going on ... I like Debord a lot, but Vaneigem is the poet:

"Certainly, the perspective engendered by having to pass away one's life in a factory or an office in order to make the month's rent money is not one that is inclined towards the exaltation of dreams of happiness and the harmony that nourishes infancy."

"Education has to do with the creation of human beings, not with the production of commodities. Will we have revoked the absurd despotism of gods if we have tolerated the fatalism of an economy that corrupts and degrades life on the planet and in our everyday existence?"

"The only defense available to us is the will to live, allied with the consciousness that propagates it. Judging by the capacity of human beings to subvert what kills them, this will can be an invincible weapon."

Monday, February 21, 2005

You never know who's going to walk through the studio door.

In the last week, on three separate occasions, I've unexpectedly run into three friends from Mysore.

It's very gratifying to know that the personal connections I made over there have withstood the withering glare of day-to-day life. Grumpy Mysore detractors say what they will ... there's still something going on there.

Witch's Boobs and Well-diggers' Butts
My heart and thermal underwear goes out to anyone slogging to class and then practicing in sub-zero temps. Although it's less uncomfortable now than ever before, I still really dislike practicing in cold-ass weather.

I was reminded of this after listening to Mysore homie Jeff's descriptions of biking to practice in NYC, the mercury at 10 below with the wind chill.

Tim's studio doesn't have a waiting room, entryway, hall, or foyer. It's just one big room with a door. All year round, we wait for class out on the sidewalk.

An incredible luxury for which I am eternally greatful.

Ladies, Ladies---Please! Wait Your Turn!
2001 Volvo V70 T5 wagon: photos coming soon.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Damn Right
tad-artha eva drsyasyatma
The universe exists to set us free.
—Yoga Sutras II.21

Ah, the Stoics
Everything is right for me, which is right for you, O Universe. Nothing for me is too early or too late, which comes in due time for you. Everything is fruit to me which your seasons bring, O Nature. From you are all things, in you are all things, to you all things return.
—Marcus Aurelius

... And From that Many, One
The whole drift of my education goes to persuade me that the world of our present consciousness is only one out of many worlds of consciousness that exist.
—William James

Sthira Sukham Asanam
At times of great stress it is especially necessary to achieve a complete freeing of the muscles.
—Konstantin Stanislavsky

Monday, February 7, 2005

The lease on the shala is up in March, so after 12 or 13 years, Tim's moving the studio. The new location is up in the air, though, because they haven't locked down a new space.

The other night I dream that Tim is moving his studio to Chicago. I picture walking to practice as the winter wind knifes in off Lake Michigan. I think, "I've just moved back to Encinitas! How the hell am I going to find a job in Chicago?"

Sunday, February 6, 2005

My alarm is set for 4:03 AM, but I always wake minutes before it goes off. Somehow my body anticipates it; often I drift back to sleep.

But sometimes I lie awake, smelling the crisp pre-dawn air and listening to the early hour's utter stillness, a stillness that reaches from my flat to the universe beyond.

In that hazy early hour, as sleep's touch is slow to recede, Mysore comes back to me, charged with dream energy, stronger and starker than it ever could be in my waking hours.

Scooter rides to the shala, my hands cold on the plastic handlebars, with cotton-swab clouds soaking up spilled-paint oranges, purples, and pinks in the pre-dawn sky. The chill cuts through my sweatshirt, and the streets, normally crammed full, are wide and deserted.

The puppy up the block from our house with a six-inch leash, the end of which is weighted to a pile of gravel with a cinderblock.

The other puppy who lived around the corner from the house, who used to follow me for three blocks as I walked to the shala, then three blocks as I walked home. The puppy became a dog right before my eyes! And one day doesn't follow me the three blocks home because she's stiffened in the ditch by the road, dark, stiff body sharp against grass so green and bright it hurt the eye to look at it.

The trip to the river, when we swam out to the rock crusted with dried birdshit. We were so careful not to put our heads under the water! We sunned and laughed and talked in the middle of the river, everything so clear and perfect, and I felt I could tell these strangers anything, and I could be anyone, most of all myself, whoever that may be, and it was right and true, and this was as perfect as life could be. We hopped in the passing coracle for the lift back to shore, the coracle an inverted hat woven from thick bamboo that by all rights should not have floated.

In the early morning hour, I often just get image fragments: peeing on rubble downtown, a passing truckful of workers cheering, I wave one-handed, deciding not to be embarassed; the spongy, manicured grass at Lalith Majal---so decadent on the bottom of my feet; "Every seed a longing" on the sign at Southern Star; hanging out the side door of the Shatabdi Express, watching green countryside clack by; the cool, dark finishing room at the shala and the mosquitoes waiting until headstand before striking.

There are more visitations, too, some moments so beautiful and pure they're painful to think about during the day, the sting of loss lessened by half-consciousness.

These visitations arrive sporadically, and sometimes not at all. I often think, "Was that me? Did I live that life? Was I that person?" Sometimes Mysore seems so very far away.

Something happened there, something more than consumption or vacation, something more than even the yoga practice. A way to be with none of the accumulated trappings of the "me" that have built up over the years, a way to shake off the habits, routines, and expectations that fix in amber the ideas of "I" and self.

My alarm will fire arbitrarily at its appointed time, clearing away the last of the dream cobwebs.

I know that when I go back to Mysore it won't be the same, and I know that I never visited this Mysore because it never existed. But the longing and the love remain, as I chisel and sand and heat my heart to keep it open, every moment of every day flooded with Mysore's numinous energy.

Wednesday, February 2, 2005

After years of daily dedicated practice, my legs shoot 180 degrees into the flat splits. My foot nestles behind my shoulder, below the shoulder blade, even. I bend in half backwards, reaching around to grab my thighs.

And then what?

When meeting a beautiful woman, Vimalananda, Robert Svoboda's Aghori teacher, would picture kissing the skull beneath the skin. Time melts the skin away and the skeleton that lies beneath is inevitably bound for the funeral pyre.

My body ages, decays and declines, a rented suit that becomes more and more threadbare. My legs no longer reach into perfect splits, my foot no longer fits as easily behind my head, and my spine yields less and less into back arches.

And then what?

Is a deeper backbend yoga? Is putting your leg behind your head yoga? Is that what this is all about?

Of late, "And then what?" has provided nice ballast to my physical practice. Ashtanga vinyasa can be so physically demanding sometimes that I have to be extra attentive to focusing the heat it generates.

Over the course of my life, there's been a brief span of years that I can do a handstand, a forward bend, a backbend. None of it changes the fact that I'm headed for the funeral pyre, too.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

A six-month hiatus ...

It got to a certain point, while I was in India, where I felt I was undergoing the effects of a process, a subtle transformation, a slow, intense burn.

The yoga was definitely instrumental in that process, but the experience of India itself, and the slash-and-burn method in which I'd closed up shop on my Western life and identity, were also key.

As a result of that process, at a certain point during my stay in Mysore, probably the three-month mark, with the vehemence and burning clarity of someone in the throes of culture shock as well as dealing with the process of the yoga, I thought, "Fuck it."

What I was experiencing was for me, and was not something I wanted on the Internet with the tens and hundreds of other Mysore blogs floating in e-space.

I got back from India mid-September. It's taken more than four months for the cabin pressure to equalize inside and out, for me to settle down and develop somewhat of a life. For Christ's sake, I've even gone out and purchased a mattress! A mattress is some hardcore roots.

I've decided I want to continue posting because there are friends out there with whom I wish to communicate more than the usual daily pleasantries. And of course, Mom deserves something more to read from her son than terse telegram-style e-mails.

To end, let me sum up my advice about Mysore: Go.

Cobble the money together, demand time off work, buy a ticket for you and your kids---they'll be fine---and just fucking go.

It's cheaper than you think, it's more fun than you expect, and if you let it, it'll be more profound than you imagine.

It will be hard to let go, I know. You'll ask a million questions and try to have every picosecond of your trip reserved, planned, and secured, but trust me on this: let go of it all, get your ticket, and go.

Don't worry about hotel reservations, sitar lessons, or how you'll maintain your sugar-free, raw food diet. It'll all work out once you're there.

And if I may add a post-script on this:
To the garish, worrisome woman I practiced next to last Saturday, the one freshly returned from a month trip to India: Mysore is not at all like Southern California. This is something you would have discovered had you visited there.

Mysore, population (roughly): 500,000.
Maximum number of AYRI students at any one time: let's be generous and say 250.

I don't know. You figure it out. Mysore is definitely India, man.