December 13, 2012: Dr. Drama
The big drama of the day, of the week, and probably of the whole month here at AYV is that three out of the four doctors decided to quit and leave this morning. My doctor, Dr. Abhijith is the only one staying put. Apparently the other doctors had some issues in the past few months that were not addressed and last night during a management meeting things got ugly. The disappointing thing is that they all left so suddenly without proper goodbyes or speaking with their patients. I understand that they may have been angry about the situation but I thought the professional thing to do was to at least say a few words to those who have trusted their well being and care to these doctors. More than half of the people here are about midway through their Panchakarma and had come to open up and build a relationship with them. Now they have to start all over again with someone else. It’s too bad, really. I can understand and imagine everyone’s frustration. It would be difficult, especially if I had a serious condition, to have this disruption. Dr. Abhijith is doing all the consultations tomorrow and I heard that they’ve already hired two new doctors. I hope things settle down quickly.
It was a day of uncertainty and changes for all of us, including me. I thought I would have a day to rest after my “diarrhea day” but it turned out to be the exact opposite. I was surprised to find out that not only was I getting a new treatment today, I would also start the last half of my Panchakarma as well. That meant doubling up on my treatments. Lucky me. First on the docket for me today at noon was Shirodhara, which I enjoyed during my last visit, a face mask, and Nasyam (nasal drops). I will probably have Nasyam for 5 days; it is to clear and detoxify the head and everything above the shoulders. So for example someone with ear problems or severe headaches would have longer days on Nasyam. The smoke I have to inhale is a bit harsh on my throat but I don’t mind that or the oil they drip into my nostrils. It’s relatively quick and painless. It came at the end of my treatment so I had a lot of time to enjoy the oil massage and Shirodhara. Shirodhara relaxed me so much that I caught myself falling asleep three separate times. Nothing bad about that treatment at all. I think I have Shirodhara for a few days if not for the duration of Nasyam.
Now for the last step in Panchakarma, Vasti, which I also started today. That’s enema for us English speakers. It is for the Vata region, everything below the waist. As someone who is Vata-Pitta suffering from typical Vatha problems, I think Vasti may be the most beneficial and important to my body. Dr. Abhijith said that while most do 5 days of enema, he will probably keep me on for 8 days. I think if I were staying here longer it could have been for 16 days; he said they prescribe enema for 5, 8, 16 or sometimes 30 days. Yikes!
Well, I got through the first one this afternoon and I’m sure I’ll survive the rest. I can’t believe almost three weeks have gone by and I’m looking at the end of this whole process now. What an experience this has been.
December 14, 2012: We transform ourselves from my own efforts
Last week a few people here asked me to help them with their asana practice because the yoga classes here didn’t suit them. Asana practice is different in India than what we are used to in the West and the stark contrast can be jolting. I understand their surprise since I had similar feelings about it during my first week at the Shivanda Ashram two years ago. I had this idea that I would find authenticity, truth, and revelation that took me to a different level, and that my practice would change when I arrived here. I was in India, at the original source of yoga after all. Instead of a transformative practice I sought I found a very rigid set sequences that felt as if I were in a gym class doing exercises. It seemed all “wrong”; there were no alignment instructions, sequences made no sense (how can you end a class in Trikonasana?), no modifications were offered, and words of inspiration were few and far between. Not what I expected at all.
But in time I came to realize that I needed to throw away any preconceived notions and expectations I had about yoga in India, and about my yoga practice overall. Eventually the lesson I came to learn revealed itself to me during a meditative practice and that lesson had nothing to do with any asanas. My daily yoga practice still has me spending time on the mat but I no longer judge one type/school of yoga over another. My asana practice has its roots in ashtanga but it’s not “better” than the Shivananda practice, ISHTA yoga, what I learned at KYM (Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram) or the Tantric school of yoga (a Tantric monk visited AYV to give a talk and a class on asanas yesterday). I am happy to learn from everyone and incorporate what serves me into my life. But for those new to yoga it can be confusing and difficult to develop their own personal practice. Being introduced to yoga in India and wanting to take it home with them can be a challenge. While the teachers here are more than capable, things can get lost in translation when English isn’t the first language to both the student and the teacher. And to that if you add cultural differences, limited time, and certain level of expectations that are not met, you get some confused and frustrated people.
So I became a kind of yoga translator and bridge to close the gap for a few guests. I shuffled around the postures that were given to L-H to make the sequence move along smoother and suggested a few other poses for her. Yesterday I practiced with R because she wanted to learn a flow based sequence she could do on her own. I worked with A today on her headstand and tomorrow morning I will help E with his practice. I am finding it both interesting and satisfying to be able to do this. Becoming a yoga teacher has always been in the back of my mind but I’ve always felt that I was not yet ready to be one. I definitely wasn’t ready when I did my teacher training, not after studying at KYM, and even when when my teachers told me I should teach I thought I simply don’t know enough. I lack so much.
After practicing together yesterday R told me a story about a dentist she knows in France. Several decades ago he earned his degree without once having extracted a tooth in real life. But he set off to work in Africa in service of people who had no access to medical treatments as a doctor, a dentist. Those who received him in small villages taught him things he didn’t know (including how to extract teeth), and he in turn shared what he knew. He worked in Africa for 20 years. R told me this story and said that I will learn as I teach.
She’s right, of course. I will never truly be ready to teach if I think I have to know everything before doing so. I will never know everything. I know that I will forever be a student and this is a lifelong journey.
As if the Universe was waiting to give me a sign, a “Roots of Buddhism” lesson by Jack Kornfield entitled “generosity” was queued up for me to listen to during my walk after spending time with R. It was about what it means to be generous, to share, and to serve for the benefit of others but also for yourself. Maybe this is how I can give what little I have to offer to those that might be in need. I am at my happiest when I am learning but there is also much joy when I can share my yoga practice.
I’m looking forward to seeing how this manifests and where this thought leads me. I’m open to all the possibilities…
It’s my last Sunday here at AYV. In the past two days a bunch of new people arrived to start their Panchakarma journey and the place feels full once again. As they begin their detox program a whole group of us is finishing up and getting ready to leave. Yesterday we said goodbye to D, our lovely friend from Iceland. This week will have us say our farewells to the two spunky Australians, then spirited L from England, and on Saturday there will be seven of us leaving to rejoin the real world outside. Before D left she said she couldn’t imagine AYV without the group we had together here. I couldn’t agree more, but I told her about the wonderful people I met when I came two years ago and how this place attracts those who are ready find something special, those who believe in the extraordinary. I know that my time has been enriched greatly by having met the wonderful people I shared this experience with. I came here exactly when I was supposed to and met the people I was supposed to meet.
Special Sunday Thali meal at AYV.
There are beautiful pink roses blossoming next to my porch and the namesake R moved to the cottage one over from mine. The two of us practiced together after the morning pooja and this afternoon I had the honor of giving her son the very first yoga lesson he’s ever had. I didn’t have a lot of time to myself today but I got a relaxing oil massage and shirodhara, listened to Mozart’s piano sonatas while sitting on the porch, enjoyed the special Sunday Indian thali meal (including some delicious payasam for dessert), and flowed through my own yoga practice this evening. I don’t know if things get any better than this. Well, maybe a hot cup of masala chai could make it ever so slightly better. A few of us have been bothering Vicas to make us some chai, and I got him to agree until Jitin stepped in and put an end to it. He said I could have a cup on the day I leave, noting it was Dr. Vipin who gave the order. Oh, I know the right thing to do is to stick to the clean Panchakarma regiment.
I really can’t believe I am almost through the whole process. Unless the good doctor wants me to continue for a few more days on enema, I’m finished by tomorrow to start the rejuvenation phase. Whatever he decides tomorrow morning I already feel that I’ve learned and experienced more than I could have hoped for.
December 17, 2012: Old Monkeys with Mystic Powers
The air had a chilly bite this morning and the swirling winds made most of the guests take their breakfasts indoors. I took my scarf with me so that I could sit outside but we didn’t linger as long as we normally do. I have been doing my practice in my cottage every morning but I went to Rohit’s class today after pooja. I had taken a few of his classes when I first arrived, and found his style of teaching very rigid and his tone quite harsh. I know that some of the guests have spoken to him about the way he teaches and I think he has been listening and changing (a bit). This morning he seemed to be a gentler and kinder version of his previous self. While I noticed the changes the new guests commented on how rough and abrupt his class was to them. When asked for additional explanation on a posture he apparently replied, “Cow makes s$#^ and cow makes milk. You decide what you want to make.” True enough but maybe not as helpful in this situation.
During Savasana he told us to imagine a series of various objects and animals, and then told us a story about an old monkey by the seashore who had forgotten his mystic powers. The monkey was eventually reminded of what he is capable, grew as large as a mountain, and flew across the ocean. The class ended after that. Rohit asked if we were all awake during the story but didn’t elaborate further. My take away was that we live through this life unaware of who we really are. Until we awaken and recognize the true brilliant inner Being that is all of us, our suffering will continue.
But maybe he just shared with us an Indian folklore about old monkeys and that’s all…