Saturday, April 21, 2012

Golden Temple

While visiting Temples, Churches, and celebrating festivals is a normal thing here in India before leaving Canada I was determined to see the Golden Temple.  The Golden Temple (Harmandir Sahib) is the most important temple/gurudwar for Sikh Indians.  It is located in Amritsar, Punjab, India.  This temple holds the Adi Granth which is the Sikh Holy Scripture.  The Gold Plated Temple with interior fresco and gemstone artwork draws people from all over the world.  There are four entrances, upon entering you must remove your shoes and wash your feet and hands in little pools of water.  The actual Temple is surrounded by water where some people bathe as a symbol of purification.  No alcohol, meat, or smoking is allowed in the shrine.  People wait in procession with prasad (offering) for when they enter the Temple.  All people must have their heads covered as a sign of respect.  This particular day I did not wear a Salwar, instead I wore a Kurtha Top, and so a head covering scarf was provided for me and Ram and Shankar who accompanied me.  The Golden Temple is a beautiful place to visit.  Outside the Temple you can find many beautiful bazaars to shop at, delicious Punjabi Foods, and street side foods like Kulfi.

While I wish I could stay in India longer, visit some more relatives, attend one of my cousins weddings in May, and of course study more, I must return to the West and share this Love & Light.  Thank you India. ~ Namaste

Thai Yoga Massage Certified

During my travels in India I have had the pleasure to study with some brilliant teachers. India has been the place where people come from all over the world to learn ancient systems of knowledge. For centuries the biggest producer of both Allopathic, Ayurveda and Homeopathic medicines are from India, due to the land rich in natural herbs and plants. The one thing I realize after my months in India, there is a special authenticity when you learn from these Indian Gurus, that leaves you eager to learn more and leaves you deeply humbled by their wisdom. While in the Western part of the world Yoga has turned into a method of exercise where a quick course gives you the title of Yoga Teacher, here in India, the awareness of Yoga is in their essence, life long devotion to the practice, family lineage and humility. Here Ayurveda (the science of Life) is the natural way of living. While in Kerala my family home is surrounded with various plants that are ayurveda remedies that have been handed down from my great great grandparents. I was suffering with a health set back while in North India, and when I returned to Kerala, my aunt whipped up some leaves that helped tremendously.

 Ultimately both Yoga and Ayurveda are systems designed for higher consciousness which can only be achieved when an individual is disease free. The wise sage Patanjali says: purusarthasunyanam, gunanam pratiprasvah kaivalyam svarupapratistha va citi saktiriti (KAI PA. 4.43) 

Which translates: Yoga takes us to the portals of consciousness beyond the mind.

Many gurus here in India teach how proper practice of Yoga, daily pranayama, proper diet, and ayurveda is a natural system that eradicates disease. After weeks of illness, I realized had I maintained my daily pranayama practice, my health situation may have been a little different.

This trip has allowed me to deepen my understanding by more in-depth studies of Yoga, Ayurveda, and recently Thai Yoga Massage. As I have years of study and experience with Body Work Modalities like Yoga, Shiatsu, Ohashiatsu, Reiki, Lomi Lomi, and Ayurveda Massage, this course was a beautiful addition to my list of things to share. The course was an intensive course with world renowned Ram, from Om Yoga Ayurveda. We learned the history of Thai Yoga Massage, the sequence, the stretches, the points, ayurveda, mantras and much more.

 Many people would assume that Thai Yoga Massage was created in Thai Land, however, the system was originally developed in India by Dr. Shivag who was close friends and Doctor for Buddah. When he returned from Thai Land, he found some literature that helped him develop this modality that we now call Thai Yoga Massage. We learned the creative sequence that much like the modality of Ohashiatsu, leaves both the "giver" and "receiver" feeling wonderful. We learned important points and meridian lines on the body.

 The best part was we learned so much about Ayurveda as well. Ram is an amazing teacher.  Himachel Pradesh is a region of India known for it's mountains, so one day as a treat, we walked down the mountain to Dharmshala to go to Baba Ram Dev's Ayurveda store. During our hike, Ram explained in depth many of the plants, herbs and flowers and their Ayurveda benefits. One herb very similar to the Jamaican chew stick, but here in India we call it ThiraMira. This stick is said to make your teeth strong, and it's little seeds are like bursts of licorice and mint in your mouth. While I am now officially Thai Yoga Massage certified, I am looking forward to learn more, to practice more and share this beautiful modality with people. Thank you to Ram, Shankar, and my wonderful classmates (Chris & Julia) for making this a wonderful experience.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Love Thy Neighbor...and their Elephants.

While in Kerala I enjoyed yoga, teaching, family and the gorgeous landscape that makes Kerala also known as "God's own Abode". All my life coming to India, it was not uncommon to see Elephants in Kerala. My Uncle's neighbor has had Elephant's as a pet almost all my life. People who keep these beautiful animals as pets, either use it for work (like a truck for transport) or used for Hindu Festivals, and sometimes both. One time I was driving with my daddy and cousin and made the driver stop, only to ask to ride a roadside elephant. Roadside Elephants are not really trained, so my daddy was petrified and I was thoroughly elated to climb atop this beautiful creature and go for a spin. This time while in Kerala, the elephant that was next door was not feeling very well, and as it reminded me of some of my friends with sick pets, the thought occurred to me that my friends in the Western part of the world are used to having a neighbor with a dog or cat, rather than an elephant. Meet my neighbors pet elephant....Balan.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Jai Hanuman

Since my travels in Himachal Pradesh had me encounter many monkeys, especially Hanuman Monkeys.....My dear friend took me to the Hanuman Temple in Delhi. This giant temple is made in the shape of the Hindu deity Hanuman, devotee of Lord Ram. When you enter through the mouth/entrance you give pooja, and make your way through dozens of tunnels, cave like corridors, and stairs that lead you to the top. There is a Pandit reciting Hanuman Chalisa and various other Mantras. Hanuman is the devoted Monkey god known for his giant leap to save Lord Ram's beloved Sita. In Yoga asana, the splits is the pose named after Hanuman, as it represents his giant leap of faith. Hanuman is known for his intelligence, strength and celibacy. This temple is a beautiful place to visit if you come to Delhi.

"Om Anjaneaye Vidamahe Mahabalye Dhi-Mahi Tan No Hanuman Prachodayat Ommmmm." (Mantra to Hanuman for Increasing Love in Performance & Selfless Service)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Jackfruit in Kerala

I am back in Kerala for a week of Easter Celebrations with my family. To say that it is beautiful in Kerala is an understatement. It is paradise. At present it is a Hot, Sweaty Paradise. I came here on the heels of health recovery, and my aunt was quick to whip up some special leaf concoction (some natural ayurveda type of home remedy) and thankfully it has seemed to help. Now is mango and Jackfruit season. Jackfruit is a beloved fruit of south India. We eat it raw like a fruit, we fry it like banana chips, and we boil/cook it like tapioca. It is a very sweet fruit. The tree itself is large, and the jackfruits grow in clusters. While the fruit itself resembles the smelly durian fruit, jackfruit has sweet fragrance. When the semi thorny skin is cracked open, there are tiny yellowish bulbs inside, each with it's own seed. The seeds are apparently very high in A, C, B and Zinc.

Photo: Me with a Jackfruit in my family's yard.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Discovering Yoga in Dharmshala

My travels in India have taken me on the journey of a lifetime. Though I have been to India numerous times my entire life, this is my first solo adventure. I am now in the northern part of India, Himachael Pradesh. This is my first time seeing snow in India, well at least snow capped mountains. The streets are filled with Tibetan Monks, as the Dali Lama lives in this part of India, and has regular Dharma Talks. There are tourists from all over the world. I have seen more monkeys than NYC has pigeons. I had a hungry monkey creep it's way to my table with friends, to which I said "I'm outta here", and monkey ate my left over gnocchi. Recently I left my back door open, only to have to shoo a monkey off the balcony.

I met my beautiful teacher, Shivam on the Hindu Festival Holi, only to have my face adorned with brilliant colors. While teaching here with Shivam, and on my own, was part of the plan, my health took a different turn. Initially it was beautiful to practice with a view of the magical Himachel Pradesh Mountains, the footsteps to the Himilayas. However, while my asana practice soon been minimal due to feeling extremely weak from a little turn with my health, I have discovered a beautiful meaning of yoga. The word yoga that is, meaning union or to yoke. My mind, body and spirit have united with gratitude for a beautiful landscape that is India, and compassionate new friends who have cared for me on days when I had barely enough energy to sit up and miles away from family. This has been a time to reflect in prayer with gratitude in stillness. As my health is getting better, I know I will be back to teaching and learning in no time. With some tears, some pain, and a whole lot of JOY, I am so grateful to discover yoga in Dharmshala.

Pictures: 1) The Monkey that ate my gnocchi, 2) Shivam and I 3) Me peaking in the line of Tibetan Monks 4) The Tibetan Monks marching for FREE Tibet 5) The beautiful landscape of Himachel Pradesh