OMG! So much has been going on to fill you in on. I feel a big one coming on... (no, don't worry - I'm not talking about poop at all in this entry)
(Although now it seems appropriate to note that here in Mysore, and pretty much all of India from what I gather, there is poop EVERYWHERE. Cow patties, dog poop, monkey poop, human poop, etc etc. All over the streets, and on people's hands all the time, I'm sure. There's hardly any TP around and only sometimes soap at sinks. And they use ungloved hands a lot for preparing and serving foods. And for eating. I try not to think too much about it, and have faith in my immune system.)
Yesterday was a wonderful magical Valentine's day with Wren. We started the day by exchanging gifts in our little apartment. She gave me a beautiful yoga mat bag that was filled with fresh roses and jasmine leaves, and wrote me a beautiful letter. Wren loved the presents and cards I gave her and said she felt like a princess! (foreshadowing...) After we had breakfast at an outdoor shala cafe with some friends, we headed just outside of town, with our little posse, to a gorgeous & very fancy hotel. The drive there alone was amazingly beautiful, and the place was like a huge magical castle. Complete with a horse-drawn carriage out front that made for a perfect photo shoot opportunity! Still a bit in awe, we went inside and paid for day use of the swimming pool. We walked through the ornate sunlit hallways and out to the grounds, where a lovely oval shaped pool was waiting for us to jump in . We spent all day there, laying in the sunshine, splashing around, sharing a pile of fresh cut fruit off of banana leaves, telling jokes, writing, chillin out/maxin/relaxin... It was splendid. For most of the day we had the place all to ourselves. From there we went to an Indian cafe, where we stuffed ourselves with dosas before heading to Mysore Palace to see it all lit up again (see how this all follows the princess theme?). A magical day all around. I went to sleep feeling grateful for all the love I have in my life (if you are reading this, that probably includes YOU!)
I am learning so much here, all the time. I start each day with asana class, for challenging physical learning. Then I go home for a while to do chores and rest before I head to philosophy class with the guruji. I am enjoying it so much. There is only one other student in the class - a lovely young man from Kerala who teaches hatha yoga and paints murals in Hindu temples. He is very enthusiastic to be learning from the guruji. The two of us sit on straw mats on the floor in front of our guruji, who sits in a plastic chair and tells us the history and fundamentals of yoga and shares all sorts of wisdom on spirituality and lifestyle and lots of other things. He has an uncanny way of knowing things about us that seem like things a 'stranger' wouldn't just know about us. He doesn't even know my name or where I am from, but in moments throughout the lessons he turns to me and gives me little jewels of advice and wisdom specific to my life, without being asked. It's amazing. He is 83 years old and has fewer wrinkles than most people half his age. He rides a moped around town, and says funny little things all the time. Until now, I have been getting a feel for who he is and what he does. And today I feel sold on him. I want him to be my teacher. I think I could learn so much from him. So I am hoping I'll be able to return to Mysore in the future to learn more from B.N.S. Iyengar.
Aside from my classes at the shala, I have been learning Pranayama (yogic breathing exercises) from Wren at home. Every night or 2 she teaches me a little something new and then I practice it. I'm starting to feel it more intensely. And I think it is helping to improve my breathing during asanas, which is making my practice stronger. Apparently after studying with Iyengar for a little while here, people start to look and act noticably different. I could see it in Wren when I arrived. She is more healthy and radiant than I've ever seen her. Glowing! She has lost weight but gained muscle strength and grace. And she thinks I already look different, after only about 2 weeks. She says I look more composed in my body, and that myface looks brighter. Well, I think there are many things around here that probably brighten my face! ;)
Wren and I have been taking some cooking classes here as well. They are held at a woman named Shaila's house. She is a sweetheart and an excellent cook, and happy to have us there. There are only a few people in the classes at a time. She gives us recipes and we watch her make them. It all goes on for about 3 hours. We get to sample everything as we go along, and at the end we stuff ourselves with everything. And it's deeeeeeeelicious! All for about $10 per session. We've learned to make idlis (little white cakelets made from fermented rice & dal), chutneys, curry, desserts, rice dishes, chai, many types of dosas, etc. We just got out of our dosa class, in which we watched Shaila make dosas and then each cooked our own masala dosa. And then ate it, of course! Mmm.... I am truly stuffed.
I have entered the feeding phase. For the first week or 2 I was here my appetite was nowhere to be found. I never really wanted to eat, and when I did I got full right away. Unintentional fasting. Apparently that happens to a lot of travelers when they get here and start the yoga. And then comes the feeding. Now I am eating tons. And fudging on my veganism. (Which probably comes as no surprise to some of you!) I knew I would probably not be able to avoid a little ghee here and there, so I decided to have an open mind about it. But after 2 weeks of intensive yoga practice, I found myself eyeing and drooling over other people's eggs at breakfast. I've eaten eggs a couple times since I became vegan, if they came from chickens that I knew for a fact have a happy life (like at my brother Chalo's house). But I haven't actually craved any animal products at all since I became vegan 4 or 5 years ago. I think the combination of the yoga practice and my dietary differences here left my body needing something, so after a couple days of wanting I caved in. I ordered a couple eggs over-medium with this amazing millet bread toast they have here. I took a moment to respect the chickens and recognize my gratitude to the universe before hoovering every crumb of it and immediately ordering another plate of it, which I wolfed down as well. I felt amazing afterwards! It was like a kind of high, and I was full of energy and happy. So I felt good about my choice. And the next day I did basically the same thing all over again! I won't be eating them everyday, but I am trying to take good care of myself and listen to the things my body is telling me.
Being here is already putting a lot of things into perspective for me, in a healthy way. And I'm feeling physically stronger. Wren and I have a lovely natural way of working in harmony and balancing things in our lives together, like house work, scooter driving, paying for things, preparing food & tea, etc. Especially with the drastic change of going from never seeing each other and barely speaking for 4 months to living together and spending nearly every waking and sleeping moment together! It's all playing out quite nicely.