Your Iyengar guide to yoga poses on planes

You can tell — I’ve found — who the yogis are when traveling to India on the long, near day-long flight (from the U.S., at least). They get up a lot; you’ll find them around the bathrooms stretching; they might have their mat in their carry-on.

Writing from experience, it makes a lot of difference.

Now, if those yogis see this (meaning what I’m about to link you to), you’ll really be able to pick them out. Because they will be doing these Iyengar-inspired “in-flight” yoga poses:

Now, experts have created an in-flight yoga guide which helps keep the body supple during long haul flights and relieves tension in nervous fliers.

The ‘Yoga in the Sky’ guide was created by travel website, which enlisted chartered physiotherapist and certified yoga teacher Dr Christopher Norris and experts from Iyengar Yoga Deutschland.

‘The benefits of practising in-flight yoga are extensive,’ Dr Norris said.

The link comes with handy-dandy illustrations.

Posted by Steve

If you go on this trip to India, your life will change forever

Bear with me as we talk once again about our summer Yatra via Namarupa.

This one, Yatra Divine 2104, will focus on northern India and up into the Himalayas. (Oh, and quick pause: The headline is my effort at an Upworthy-like one. I give myself a B+.) Bobbie and I pretty much knew we’d be going once we heard that.


I’d skimmed through the itinerary — as always, presented with the caveat that this is India, after all, and anything can happen or change — but not given it a really deep look.

I did this week, and my jaw dropped. The map above, which presents it in a lovely way, also doesn’t do it justice.

And so, I want to present you a few highlights on the off chance you might be thinking about going, or even just on the chance that seeing some of the highlights will get you to consider it. As I wrote: “Your life will change forever.” (And despite the hyperbole, I do mean it.)

One last note before diving into the details: Another reason to go is the other travelers, who in our experience are terrific. And the leaders, Robert Moses and Radhakunda Dasji, could not be better. Robert lived in India for many years, and returns annually — and there’s the whole Sivananda Yoga experience and knowledge he has. Radhakun brings laughter and enthusiasm and protection to the travels. He’s awesome. Honestly, about 1/3 of the reasons I’m going back is to spend more time with him.

This is real travel, in real India. Plus Kate O’Donnell leading Ashtanga practice.

On to the highlights:

  • Sunday June 29 ~ Puri – Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra Witness the largest chariot festival in all of India. Lord Jagannath, his brother Lord Baladeva and their sister Goddess Subhadra are seated on massive colorful chariots that thunder along the street pulled by thousands of devotees. 
  • Thursday July 3 ~ Varanasi We will perform the Panchatirthi Pilgrimage. Beginning at the southern end where Asi River meets the Ganga before dawn we will walk all along the Ganga Ghats to the northernmost end where Varana River flows into the Ganga and then enter the heart of the city for darshan of Lord Vishvanath, Annapurna Devi and Sakshi Vinayaka. We will perform sankalpa and worship at Five Tirthas.
  • Friday July 4 ~ Varanasi Morning class. Free day to rest and explore and shop the many alleys and bazaars of Varanasi . Optional visit to Sankat Mochan – Lord Hanuman.
  • Saturday July 5 ~ New Delhi – Train to Haridwar We will travel by the afternoon Janshatabdi Express train to Haridwar and check into our hotel right on the Ganga and in the heart of the bazaar. Bathe in the swiftly flowing cool Ganga to wash off lifetimes of sins as well as the dust of travel up until now. Free time.
  • Sunday July 6 ~ Haridwar Morning class. Visit Manasa Devi temple by cable car. Bus ride to Kankhal to meditate at Anananda Mayi Ma’s samadhi shrine and darshan at Daksha Temple. We will be back in Haridwar in time for Ganga Arati. And more evening shopping in the bazaar.
  • Monday July 7 ~ via Rishikesh to Uttarkashi Morning class. Travel by bus to through Rishikesh stopping at The Divine Life Society to meditate at the samadhi shrine of H.H. Sri Swami Sivananda and to take his permission for safe travels to the holy places of the higher Himalayas. This is where the mountains begin. Proceed to Uttarkashi visiting a number of Goddess shrines en route. Night halt in Uttarkashi.
  • Saturday July 12 ~ Ravada Village + Guru Purnima Guru Purnima is celebrated on the Full Moon of July. We will join the Swamijis in Uttarkashi to celebrate and also host a sadhu bandhara (feast for sadhus)

Honestly, I’m not sure what the absolute highlight is. The optional visit to Sankat Mochan, maybe? The washing off of a lifetime of sins? And I’ve not included above the karma yoga part of the trip, just because that feels like something all of its own. Nor have I mentioned the promised “hot springs.”

I simply can’t wait for late July to roll around; this will be a test of my very limited patience.

Think about joining, how about? We all could use for some life change.

Posted by Steve

‘Yoga practice helps us to adapt to change’

Travel tips are starting to fill our inbox well ahead of our December Yatra to south India.

The big, eye-opening one thus far has been: fast during the trip to avoid jet lag and help ensure we’ll start sleeping through the night right away. It might be awful as we do it, but we’ll be glad when the rest of the Yatra group are zombies and we’re happy, refreshed little daisies. (I’m paraphrasing.)

This week, Tim Miller — just back from Europe — offers a slightly less aggressive means of dealing with long travel in his latest Tuesdays with Timji:

Enduring only slight delays during our Mercury retrograde travel experience, we made it home late last night after our 24 hour journey from Copenhagen. I managed a couple of hours sleep on the last leg of the journey from New York to San Diego, and maybe two more before my alarm went off at 4:30 this morning. … I find the practice of pranayama particularly helpful with jet lag, or “vata derangement,”as it would be called from the ayurvedic perspective. Yoga practice, quite simply, helps us to adapt to change.

That certainly is a less extreme measure. (We’re open to more travel hints, by the way.)

Tim then discusses the dual nature of the universe, as represented by the nakshatra in which today’s new moon is happening. It leads to a reminder or Rama, whose life wasa influenced by this nakshatra, Punarvasu. But you’ll have to check Tim’s blog to get that; he’s the expert.

I will grab one more quote from him, though: “Nonetheless, I am looking forward to a yoga holiday tomorrow in honor of the new moon.” We are absolutely enjoying this day off, too. For me, the extra 90 minutes of sleep is a big blessing. And, as I expected, the slight alteration to the practice yesterday has left its mark. I will be trying to rest as much as possible today, although the fact it involves a commute into downtown Los Angeles may counteract all my efforts.

Posted by Steve

Yoga rant: Applying for an Indian visa is making me homicidal

At the risk of having our Indian visa applications “delayed” — that seems to be the threat for any misstep in the process — let me just say:

Trying to apply for a tourist visa to India makes the DMV / credit card / health insurance industries feel like ’60s love-ins.

I can’t help but think of Douglas Adams’ take on British bureaucracy in the Hitchhiker’s Guide and wonder if this is some horrible vestige of British colonialism. Or perhaps revenge for that colonialism.

The fact that the visa process has been outsourced to some private company seems the final, cruel twist of irony.

My simple question is: Why is this so hard?

My longer form questions and reactions for whoever or whatever is behind the online application process are:

  • How many times do you need to know my nationality? And whether it was by birth. Are you expecting me to trip up and admit I’m actually Chinese?* Or worse?
  • The worse: Yes, I do understand why you’re asking if I have any Pakistani ties.
  • A sewage bill? Seriously, a sewage bill can help prove I live where I say I do? I don’t recall the last time I had a sewage bill. We barely have water bills at this point. Why not add an Internet / cable bill to the mix? That’s a more basic utility these days.
  • The photo uploading process for the passport photo and signature makes me triple homicidal. That was the point I called Bobbie and told her we weren’t going to India.
  • You want to know my religion. This feels, too, like a trick. Will things go easier if I pick the right one?
  • Why do I have to figure out how many months are in five years? Why can’t I apply for a 5-year visa and not a 60-month one?
  • On the upside, I was happy to be able to describe myself as a “business man.” On the other hand, there were about three or four variations on “journalist”, which made me extremely suspect.
  • Right now I don’t have any visible identification marks. But what happens if something horrible happens between now and December? (Knock wood.)
  • What’s with the payment options? How many fees can you tack on? Are you Ticketmaster?
  • What’s the obsession with photo copies? And who on your end sets the price if you have to do it?
  • Do you really think the videos and other descriptions are helpful? (OK, the video is maybe the most helpful thing.)

We are delayed right now in this process, by the way, as we figure out how to get all the confirmation documents — that sewage bill — to prove we live where we say we live. This is why we have begun six or so months early.

Posted by Steve

* Note: My father traveled to India in 1980 and faced some entry and exit hassles, as well as some others during his trip. This despite being on a fairly high-level engineering conference trip. The reason? Seemingly a collective, but understandable dyslexia that rendered Cahn as Chan in many authorities’ eyes.

Three things to read, from Eddie Stern and the NY Times

I’m waking up for my first practice in nearly a week (see why here), and I’m getting my prana on — i.e. I’ve just started my second cup of coffee. And three things on the Internet catch my eye that seem worth sharing.

Maybe it’s five things. You judge. The first two are via Eddie Stern, at his blog.

The earlier is an Op-Ed by American comedian/political commentator/TV show host Bill Maher. It comes on the heels of an unusually full week of made-up or at least over-emphasized hysterics in the political world. Eddie reposted it all at his blog, here’s a taste:

If it weren’t for throwing conniption fits, we wouldn’t get any exercise at all.

I have a better idea. Let’s have an amnesty — from the left and the right — on every made-up, fake, totally insincere, playacted hurt, insult, slight and affront. Let’s make this Sunday the National Day of No Outrage. One day a year when you will not find some tiny thing someone did or said and pretend you can barely continue functioning until they apologize.

If that doesn’t work, what about this: If you see or hear something you don’t like in the media, just go on with your life. Turn the page or flip the dial or pick up your roll of quarters and leave the booth.

I shared Maher’s commentary last week with one of my best friends, who is far more conservative than I am. I wish I could easily pronounce that he’s as far right as I am left, to create a nice balance, but we’re both more complicated than that. If I noted that I live outside Los Angeles and he lives outside St. Louis, Missouri, would that explain it well enough? Too stereotypical, still? Probably. Well, he’s a wonderful guy and a dear friend, and suffice it to say we agree on almost nothing politically other than that people should be able to discuss issues with a little civility and decorum. My friend agree with what Maher wrote, and suggested Maher also practice what he preach.

The second item from Eddie is the short video below:

Here’s what Eddie says about it:

This beautiful video was filmed in Hardwar by Rishi Kaneria; the dialogue is a recording of Nehru (a little hard to hear), and the music is by Hans Zimmer. The music originally was used in Terrence Mallick’s The Thin Red Line, one of my favorite movies of all time. It is one of those rare movies that approach a level of mystic poetry, with meditations on life, death, love and war that we hear as the voiced-over, internal dialogues of the movie’s characters as they face sorrow and hardship.

The third — or third, fourth and fifth — thing to read is, like the Maher piece, from the New York Times. It’s a suitably long set of itineraries for trips to India. It’s broken into one, two, or three-week trips. (Thus the third, fourth and fifth thing to read.) Here’s a little taste from the piece:

From the placid vantage of a laptop, the world looks manageable. In real time, the degree of travel difficulty unfolds in agonizing increments. Did I really think I could fit all that into a week? I did.

Across almost three decades of travel I’ve often noted the general custom; I’ve inflicted it on myself. And it occurs to me that in few other places are Chanel’s words of advice better applied than India, a country my passports inform me I have visited more than 20 times. Assuming, perhaps, that the first trip to that compelling and bewildering country will be their only one, friends cram itineraries full to the point where misery is a guarantee. Thus my advice to pals heading to South Asia is to appraise the itinerary with a ruthless eye and then, long before heading to the airport, strike something off.

First-timers to India tend to be guided unvaryingly (and sensibly) around the so-called Golden Triangle (Delhi/Agra/Jaipur). This route, straightforward enough on paper, requires some discernment to get right. A policy of less is more is always sensible in India, in order to limit the shock the place inevitably delivers to an average Westerner’s system.

A question often posed is whether a week is enough time to cover the birthplace of three great faiths — Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. The answer, reasonably, is no. But travelers are not reasonable people, and it is distinctly possible to absorb the essence of India in CliffsNotes form.

I don’t think any of them include long stops to practice Ashtanga.

Posted by Steve

India in New York? National Geographic checks in at Broome Street Temple

A nice little feature at National Geographic’s travel site on finding India in New York features Eddie Stern and the Broome Street Temple:

As a former punk rocker, Stern used to play guitar in three bands, one of them called Losers of a Dying World. Once he began exploring Indian culture, he said his life took a dramatic turn.

“Within a few months of learning about a vegetarian diet, starting to do a little bit of meditation and a little bit of chanting … everything began to change for me,” Stern said. “I felt like I was alive. I could explore and get to know myself in a new way because before I was covering it up.”

The piece touches on the temple’s opening just after the Sept. 11 attacks before leaping onto a list of five ways to experience Indian in New York. They include: the dazzling dosa, Little India in Queens, Bollywood dance studios, a couple of spots for curry and a tour of the city’s Hindu temples.

But it all starts at Broome Street.

Posted by Steve

Yoga in Sri Lanka? Judging by this video, yes please

A new video up on ye olde Internet makes for a compelling enticement:

It has a few key endorsements in my mind:

  1. Tim Miller links to it from his page. (He also led the first workshop there.)
  2. Fred Lewis, who people who have attended Tim’s Shasta retreat will know, founded it. He’s a student of Tim.
  3. And Jack Moore, who people will also know from Shasta, is among those who endorse Ashtanga Lanka on its webpage.

The page? Why, of course. Ashtanga Lanka has a webpage.

Posted by Steve