19 April 2017

Bombay, Bombay

So when people say, "Bombay," the generally mean "Mumbai," but none of my friends, not those that live there or elsewhere in India say Mumbai. Every time I did, they'd gently correct me, "Oh yes, in Bombay, they do have amazing restaurants." 

So Bombay.

I only had a super short visit here, but I planned on doing as much as I could.

I arrived at night, and basically, checked into my room and crashed. Or that was my intention. Instead, I arrived there, and room number one was noisy and the lock was broken on the door. Room number two smelled like cigarettes. Room number three I just accepted. The chain was broken, but the deadbolt worked, and they upgraded me to a fancy suite for my trouble. Oh well.

I crashed out completely, then woke up a few hours later to meet Amit for a run. The head of Unived, India's first running nutrition company, he's super friendly and interesting. His wife Monica, who I also met last visit, was in America for a visit. He complained of being sore and I told him how my goals were not to poop in my shorts, and we ended up running slow and easy and relaxing. We followed our run with some walking, and then got some coconut water to drink straight out to the coconut. Nothing more refreshing....

Then a shower (obviously) and food...And I went off to a yoga class. It was a fantastic traditional hatha class. I went to YogaCara last time I was in Bandra, and loved it. The teachers are excellent. It was probably one of the best classes I had been to: discussion and questioning and asana and the teacher was great. Ganesh is phenomenal, and so is Radhika.

After, I hopped in a taxi across to go to Colaba. I ended up buying a zillion more bangles that I had no business buying, and went to a bookstore to try to find a book I've been dying to read that I can't find in the US. No luck. 

Hopped back into a taxi and went back to Bandra....ahhh....had a quick shower in my room, dumped off my stuff, then got in a tuktuk to head over to Juhu to the ISKCON temple. Here I was at home, chanting, "Hare Krishna, Hare Rama." After chanting and watching for a while, a monk began chatting me up. He spoke excellent English and knew the Bhakti Center and was a student of Rahadnath Swami. We began talking abt his book and it was a pretty interesting conversation. He gave me some pamphlets and books and his email address (yes, Krishna monks have email addresses).

I had dinner after the buffet opened and the food was much more than I wanted, but pretty good. I needed less than normal because I had been so hungry that I indulged in two samosas before. Yum.

Another tuktuk back to my room....repack my bags, shower again, and omg, I have to leave for the airport in a few hours.

I slept fitfully and got up too early - and was off to a journey back home!

My heart feels like a part of it will always be in India. I know it's not for everyone, but it's for me, and I truly love it. I want to go back before I've even gone. And I constantly say, "Next time I'm in India...."


After a taxi, a wait, and a plane, I arrived at Coimbatore. I saw Ash almost as soon as I got off the plane - his flight had arrived a few minutes before mine. We had an excited hug in the airport, and I was excited to see that he had brought almost as much stuff as me. Ah, runners and their gear.

I hadn't packed as much stuff, because I didn't REALLY look at the weather until I was in Lonavla. Ash brought me a jacket and some extra long-sleeved shirts.

Coimbatore was hot. Humid. Ahhhh, India. I was melting already. We stopped by a friend's running shop, and it was cool to geek out and see all the Indian runners. The running community in India is SO incredibly welcoming and I would never have connected so much with India if it hadn't been for the runners. They are my favorite people.

We got food, and I'm proud to say we basically ate cheese for lunch. (File this under: reasons why I love Ash.) Then we drove to Ooty. I had it in my head that it was 30 minutes or so. Add 2 plus hours to that.

Still, it was fine. We caught up, laughed. I told him all about my yoga course and my job and then we got to our room. I was pretty tired after my long day (getting up at something stupid like 2am because of jet lag and an early flight) and then we just went out to eat, someplace "continental." I had actually been hoping for good Indian food - I had been so sick of all the boring ashram food, but this was amazing regardless.

The next few days were a blur. We drove around to different places - lakes, mountaintops, went running (my stomach was a wreck so the running was greatly reduced, sob sob), bought tea, ate paneer, watched running movies. It was just like hanging out with your best friend, only your best friend lives in another country, so you just chill and drink tea and talk.

I have to admit: I had a lump in my throat saying goodbye to Ash. He invited me in to his home and family and shared with me so much. If he lived closer, we would def hang out and run all the time. Now, I have to settle with rare occasions and WhatsApp.

18 April 2017

Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training in India

I had been wanting to do a prenatal yoga teacher training for a while, but had trouble finding one that would fit my schedule. And then - found this one at Kaivalyadhama Ashram in Lonavla, also known as Gandhi's ashram. But it wasn't really his ashram; it was just the ashram where his teacher was, and some actually say that Gandhi's ideas were his teachers. But a true guru shows the light within - and thus, Gandhi was merely shown the ideas he had in him all along. But, alas, I digress.

There were only eight women in my program, which meant for lots of time for all of us to ask questions, speak our mind, share, and get to know each other. I have heard of teacher trainings with 100, 200, more people in a yoga teacher training program. In my YTT200, we had five. I found that perfect. Everyone gets to share, grow, connect, explore.

In the program, there were five Indian women, a Russian woman living in Bahrain, a Romanian woman, and me. We all had our own styles, our own ideas, our own energy. The teacher was VERY theoretical - perhaps too theoretical. She was a yoga therapist, so came from quite a different background, but we all learned a ton.

Days were intense, as they typically are in these sorts of programs. 6:45 we began with a little chanting, meditation. We'd move into lecture or practice, depending on the day. There were guest speakers: Ayurveda doctors, Indian OB/GYNs, naturopaths, meditation instructors, chanting experts. It was nice to get the flavor of India...even though our teacher had lived in the US for 30 years.

There was also a yoga college at the ashram. The students seemed very focused, but at night, in there rooms, you'd hear them giggling as they chatted on their phones, hanging laundry washed in buckets on rickety rusty drying racks ready to soak up any sunlight that would hit them come daytime. There were also lots of people there for different courses. And some just came for "the rest." They would see Ayurveda doctors and practice yoga and eat the sattvic food.

Speaking of...I don't like sattvic food. I find far too often that it completely lacks flavor, food tends to be overcooked. I know, I know, some people love it and say it's great for you...but I was sad. The food in India was wonderful. My WhatsApp messages to Ash were full of complaints of the food.

Ashram life isn't for me. I'm more of a "study yoga on the beach in Goa." I don't want to party and drink and etc in Goa, but I like being around different things, like beach and bikinis. I was told by my classmates that I was "pushing" things by wearing leggings and tank tops. They didn't know that I really just wanted to wear my short shorts and sports bras because it was approximately 1000 degrees every single day.

One night, we all went to visit a local temple. It was amazing because my classmates were Hindu and taught me all about who each god/goddess was, why we were given certain Prasad, what the priests were saying...It kind of gave so much more meaning to everything. Pretty incredible.

After getting soaked with holy water, buying extra batches of the cookies they gave with Prasad, we went to the temple for dinner. For 100 rupees (about $1.30), we feasted like yogi queens. Everything was incredible, full of flavor, spices, even spiciness. I was in heaven.

Our final morning, we did a hike. It was beautiful and always special to be in India. There was a lovely view at the top, and then, we went to the cave where Guruji himself meditated. A lovely energy.

The last day was a typical ceremony of yoga in India: flowers, certificates, photographs, sweets. There was crying. The assistant was super sweet and told me, "You must come back! You must! You must! You are most welcome here in India!" We did a bit of crying and a lot of hugging.

And then we all went to the market. There was a flurrying in helping classmates arrange train tickets. I bought samosas for us to eat on the street. We bought random things: stainless steel plates and pitches and statues of Ganesha and armfuls of glass bangles and sweets we couldn't pronounce and grapes that tasted like nothing we ever had before. The chaos of the streets was a shock after being in the ashram for a week - and I loved it!

And then we went back to the ashram for one final dinner. I was so relieved to be leaving the next day, and eating delicious food w Ash. We all hugged each other and swore we would stay in touch...and for now, I must finish my final paper on Fertility Yoga.

25 March 2017

What to Pack on Your Yoga Retreat (or Yoga Teacher Training Program) in India

Before I went to India for the first time for my yoga teacher training, I was a little clueless about what to pack. The bulk my trip I spent at my yoga teacher training and other yoga intensives. My second trip was spent at a prenatal teacher training, and traveling to see friends. And of course, I still didn’t learn, and packed poorly, and oh well. I’ll survive with a heavy poorly packed bag. That’s life, I guess.

Yoga retreats everywhere require slightly different packing lists. Feel free to read this if you’re going somewhere else, knowing that much of what is on here is specific to India.

  • Yoga mat. Most places have mats, but a lot of the time, they’re dirty, falling apart, and/or smell terrible. They’re heavily used. I brought a Jade Travel Mat, and stowed it in a Gaiam bag. The Gaiam bag has two pockets, so I stored mat cleaner and a rag in one pocket, and a strap in the other.
  • Mat cleaner. No one had any but me in my training program, and I was glad to share with my group. You can make your own. Get a small spray bottle and put 10-15 drops of lavender and tea tree oil each. Fill it up ⅔-¾ of the way with water. Top it off with witch hazel. Cap and shake to mix. I brought little bottles of tea tree oil (great also for pimples and bug bites and a good antiseptic) and lavender oil (you can sprinkle it on a dank pillow for a pick-me-up) so you can make more as your trip goes along. I used a very small spray bottle so I used less lavender and tea tree oil and didn’t use the witch hazel when I was on the road.
  • Anything to make your practice special. I like to put my mala beads and a crystal off the corner of my mat to provide focus.
  • Face wipes. I wish I had packed these my first time, when I was sweating like a pig. These would have been nice for times I wasn’t able to wash my face in between practices. You are rushing around a lot, and odn’t always have time for a shower like you’d wish.
  • Sweat towel or bandana. I wish I had packed this. Some training programs provide, but most don’t. If it’s miserably hot like it can be in India, this makes practice easier.
  • Sports bras. Comfy good ones.
  • Yoga tops. Depending on where you are, a sports bra might be all. But bring baggy loose non-revealing short sleeve tops if you are in certain ashrams, and tank tops should work elsewhere. Bring long sleeved shirts for night practice so you don’t become dinner for the mosquitos.
  • Yoga bottoms. Depending on where you are going, shorts might not work. In Goa, shorts were so necessary - it was miserably sweaty grossly hot and short shorts for yoga (I love my Athleta ones) were great. In some ashrams, dress is sattvic….so baggy pants. You can buy the harem-type baggy yoga pants for pretty cheap in India; in some ashrams, even yoga tights are not okay. You will prob sweat a lot and they will be gross.
  • Scarf. It will cover you during savasana, provide coverage if a top you have is a bit revealing, keep you warm, and they’re fashionable in India.
  • A sarong. You can sit on the beach with it, it can work as your top sheet (Many places do not have a top sheet - just a bottom - so if you’re grossed out like I am, a sarong is great), it can be your blanket on a plane, it can be a cover-up. Sarongs are indispensible.
  • A reusable water bottle. While you can’t drink the tap water in India, a lot of places have purified water (for free or for a smaller cost than buying a bottle) that you can fill with your own bottle. You also might buy large botles of water and refill from there.
  • Snacks. Think about things that won’t melt and that will travel well: different bars are great, small, and take up little room in your bag. You can buy things like nuts and dried fruits in many places, but if you’re going to an ashram straight away, you should pack some of these too. Many retreats and yoga centers only have meals at certain times, and you might starve until breakfast, or in between. Also, the food might not be so delicious. Snacks will keep you sane.
  • Melatonin. Helps you sleep at night and helps with jetlag.
  • Sleep mask. Ear plugs. Who is your roommate? Maybe it’s some bugs...just ignore them.
  • A journal to write yoga notes in. For neat sequences, taking notes during lectures, etc.
  • Soap to wash your clothes in. I just use body wash or shampoo, saving on space, but this is critical. A lot of ashrams and yoga centers are in the middle of nowhere. You have to wash your clothes by hand in buckets and hang dry them in the room. Also, it makes more sense to pack only a handful of yoga clothes and wash them repeatedly. With the extra space in your bag, you can buy more mala beads and bangle bracelets.
  • Sunblock and bugspray. You might not need either of these things, but especially if you’re in the middle of nowhere, you’ll appreciate it.
  • Extra soap. You will be showering more than you planned.
  • Any kind of lotions or essential oils that help you relax. Practicing asana for long hours every day is exhausting...Some lavender essential oil mixed with almond oil (carrier agent) will be nice to rub on your wrists before your savasana. Or Tiger Balm for sore muscles can be lovely.
  • Kindle or books to read. While you’re in class nonstop, it might seem, on those rest times, you probably don’t want to be reading yoga texts. Pack something else.
  • Unlocked phone. You can get a SIM card at various phone shops. If you have an Indian friend, they can get you a SIM much faster; otherwise, you might need two passport photos. It depends. But you need an unlocked phone (or you can buy a cheap one).
  • Slip on shoes, ideally flip flops. In India, you can’t enter many meditation halls, restaurants, or shops with shoes on. Flip flops (cheap ones) are best to leave outside in the front. I specify cheap ones because so many people get their shoes stolen...it’s best to not be too attached (aparigraha) to anything, and if you are, leave it at home.
  • An open mind. Not everything in India is as pretty as the pictures. Be prepared for trash, horrid smells, and mind-blowing poverty. But also be ready for kindness and warmth, vibrant colors, diversity, and so much fun.

The Journey to Lonavla

You take a train and a train and a train and a train and a plane and a wait and a plane and a taxi and you are there. That’s all.
It was the G train and watch two trains pass and then an M train and an F train and an E train and an airtrain and an airplane to Kuwait City and a seven hour wait in the airport and an airplane to Bombay.
Welcome back to India, girl. Welcome home.
It was a long, difficult journey. I slept most of my first flight, lucky to have a row of seats to myself. The airport wait was long, and then a Jamaican-American began chatting me up. He was friendly, but then said that he was conservative sometimes, and passed a not-very-nice transgender comment and I began ignoring him. Back to my Kindle.
I was excited on the flight to India, especially when the flight attendant learned how long my journey had been.
Immigration. Baggage. Customs.
At the gate, I began looking for my taxi. And looking. And looking. Finally I asked a security guard to call. He did, and apparently, the driver was almost there. I met the driver, who took me to the car of another driver, and then I was on my way.
My driver was driving a bit erratic. We stopped for chai, which was amazing. Then we drove a bit more and he told me he hadn’t slept. Oh, great. Another hour, another chai. He also got pakora in between two rolls - delicious. And then, another 10k, and we were at Lonavla!

18 March 2017


A cheap flight, with a six hour layover in Kuwait....okay, I can do that. I'll survive.

I spent the time people watching, chatting with other travelers, reading, writing....I noticed an obvious lack of women...most of the women I saw were covered up (those who weren't were in transit like me....but these were few). Most of the men were dressed all in white, head to toe....sometimes people stared at me, with my pink and blonde hair, hot pink hoodie, and clearly looking out of place. But I'm a friendly face. Sometimes they talk to me. Sometimes they ignore me.

I tried to leave the airport - was going to head to the souq. But they said I couldn't leave. So it's here. 

It's almost like America. There is a Shack Shack, a Starbucks. There are some clearly American men - they all look like former military, prob here in Kuwait or the Gulf, working in the oil industry. They look like they took the wrong exit on the higway back home....dressed the same, acting the same. It must be weird to live in a culture that is so different from back home, so you try to keep your home culture because that's what your coworkers have in common...

It reminds me that we're all in transit. Even if we're not actually going anywhere, we're in transit of our lives.

Now and Next

Sometimes life is hard. No, it always is. But sometimes it's harder than other times.

Like when you can never get enough sleep and your injuries and illnesses aren't getting better like they should and when you're not getting enough sleep and it's too much, too much, too much....when you get up every day at 440 so you can practice yoga, because that's what saves you, and when love is so sustaining and everything can be too much and your side jobs are relaxing and everything is confusing.....

sometimes it's just nice to take a break.

My life isn't bad. Sometimes I just feel like I'm drowning. I'm figuring things out more and more and they are getting better. I like my days. I'm challenged. I'm passionate. 

I have two weeks off now. I could have spent the time, sleeping in, writing, practicing lots of yoga. And that does sound great, honestly.

But I like to do more. So I'm heading to India. A prenatal yoga course. Seeing some good friends. Some good running. Lots of paneer. 

I can't wait...

12 February 2017

What if money were no object??

"Better to have a short life full of what you love doing than a long life spent in a miserable way."