Monday, January 31, 2011

LH, AliBaba Pants, Bylakkupe, First-Time Neti

Well of course it had to happen. A month in Mysore and at some point that "ladies holiday" has to make an appearance. Gentlemen, you may excuse yourselves at this point if you like and pick up on this post once I'm done with talking about our "feminine occurrence". I will mark when you can pick up reading this post again with a row of asterisks like this:

*********** Girl Talk: START *****************

Interesting conversations abound whenever the topic of whether menstruating ladies should practice or not. It is strict shala RULE that you shouldn't step foot into the shala during the first 3 days of your period. And this not only means that you shouldn't practice... It also means you don't come for any of the chanting nor Sanskrit nor Sutras classes. Like... Literally... Don't STEP FOOT into the shala.

Hmm... You can see why interesting conversations arise around this.

I've always gone with the theory that women should follow that downward Apana energy that our monthly flows bring. I mean - engaging the Uddiyana and Mula Bandhas pull your internal energy upwards, going against that downward Apana flow. Besides, an Ashtanga practice just wipes me out even more during the time of the month so why would I fight that?! I usually just take the first couple days off.

Another theory has been that the above energetic theory is probably how the Western sensibility has tried to make sense of this Indian cultural point-of-view. Coz if you think about it - if its *ONLY* because of the energetic flow, then granted, it's fine if you don't do asana practice... But then why shouldn't you be allowed to come to the other classes like chanting and Sanskrit?

I remember reading in the Guruji book that whenever Amma was on her LH, she would basically keep to herself in her room and not do anything. Guruji would then take over all the female duties in the house, down to the cooking and cleaning (I'm pretty sure I remember reading this. Correct me if I'm mistaken?) ...So clearly there is some cultural difference here where this aspect of femininity is acknowledged in India (I wouldn't go so far as to say it's "celebrated", but it's definitely "acknowledged"). Whereas in the West, the view is more like "All is well, nothing to see here. I'm having my period and so what? That ain't gonna stop me". (Just look at all the feminine hygiene ads on TV for a start.)

I hardly think it's misogynistic AT ALL to get a chick to slow down during her time of the month. Show me any Western dude who's gonna take over ALL the female duties in your house when you're having your period and he has my R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

ANYWAYS... I digress. Since I was only gonna be here for a month, I had every intention of being a rebel Ashtangi and just practicing through my LH (and why don't they add 3 days extra to every girl's class pass in lieu of this, anyways?!) I suppose the Universe was probably not having any of my rebel plan coz... um... the floodgates opened Friday morning after led Primary, and thankfully this gave me an excuse to skip the next day's led class (Saturday was a practice day, the 7th day of practice last week, in lieu of Sunday's rest day coz the Dalai Lama was giving his talk in Bangalore).

I was secretly overjoyed I didn't have to do that 7th day of practice, and dunno about you, but um... there ain't NO WAY I'm practising a led class on my LH coz um... There ain't no way I'm doing inversions and screwing up my flow even more... But then this would also mean that (1) the WHOLE ROOM can see this and then work out I'm having my period, and (2) I don't wanna be yelled at for being in the shala coz I'm not doing inversions hence I must be on my LH and so WHY THE HELL ARE YOU HERE IN THE FIRST PLACE?! (This happened to a friend of mine last week, so I wasn't about to get caught out too. She was sent to the changing room to do Savasana when everyone else was in inversions and given a talking-to by one of the female assistants).

Also - I dunno why it seems OK to tell the whole internet about my LH, but not the practice room of oh say about 100 people.

OK. Enough with the Girl Talk.

*********** Girl Talk: OVER **********************

*********** GUYS CAN JOIN IN THE POST FROM HERE NOW **********************

For Evelyn, who wanted pictures of my Ali Baba, I mean, MC Hammer pants. The first pair is made of soft black cotton material, with an elastic waistband at the top, with a whole row of elastic smocking. The top most elastic waistband was waaaaaaay too tight (it could fit my thigh comfortably, which meant it gave me a serious muffin-top around the waist), so I got Rashinkar to measure my hips and make the top elastic band looser. They made it 3 inches looser and it's STILL way too tight. I give up.

The other one is a similar Ali Baba style, but with a dropped waist too and a drawstring top. I made this with a thicker dark grey, textured fabric and really like this one. It's a little too short but screw it, I can always tie it lower down my hips.

I have a feeling they might be pants I'll never wear outside of India again... But HEY! I have my wardrobe for my next Mysore trip sorted. Heh.

On Sunday's official rest day, 4 of us decided to go to Bylakkupe, an area 2 hours' drive away from Mysore that is a Tibetan refugee settlement. The drivers here have some pretty crazy hanging ornaments on their mirrors, but I haven't seen anything as crazy as this:

We made it to the Golden Temple - a Tibetan Buddhist temple, and its surrounding grounds look like dormitories for the monks. Because this was the day of the Dalai Lama's big talk in Bangalore, we were hoping for it to be rather quiet here. Even though it definitely had a different, non-Indian feel to the place, the noise level of all the visitors definitely reminded you that Yup... You're still definitely in India!

The "Shoe Keeper" asked me something in a language I didn't understand. I said "HUH?" Again he rattled off something then said "You speak Hindi?" ...Erm... I haven't even mastered Sanskrit and he's asking if I speak Hindi?! ...I'm wondering if he thought I was Tibetan or something. That would be pretty cool. Heh.

It was pretty stunning, and I felt like I was on a movie set. I like how those boy-monks were also taking photos in there.

I love these random signs.

Everywhere we went, local guys kept asking Alice and Sonya if they could take pictures with them (as in: they wanted photos with the white people!! HAHAHA!) It got to the point where Alice was fed up and turned to one group and said "Picture? 10 rupees". HAHAHA! ...She never followed up though.

I was looking forward to the Tibetan Momos all day. They're vegetarian dumplings. Sadly, they were a little disappointing. These pictures look better than they tasted. Guess I'm used to delicate dumplings with thinner skin. These had really thick skin and were a pretty tasteless mix of cabbage and um... some mystery green veggie.

I'm not sure if it was worth the 2-hour drive there and another 2-hour drive back just for the half-hour wander around the grounds, though.

I forgot to mention that earlier that morning, I had gone over to my healer-friend's house for my very first neti-potting session. She has been giving me therapy sessions and it's hard to explain what she does except it can only be described as a mash-up of Indian-style Osteopathy mixed with Rolfing mixed with energy realignment mixed with Thai massage. It is AWESOME. But whenever she's had me laying down on my belly and my sinuses act up, she keeps saying I need to do neti. So she finally kicked my ass out of bed at 6am on our only rest day of the week, to do Neti with me at sunrise.

Neti is nothing like the waterboarding experience I imagined it would be. I had a SNOT-FEST of GROSS YUCKINESS that flowed out both sides. And I had NO IDEA my right nostril was completely blocked until I'd done this, along with the Kapalabhati breathing exercises you do before and after.

ANYWAYS... I felt great all of yesterday - my head felt light and clear, but halfway through at Bylakkupe, I had a gush of salt water exit my nose. Randomly, just like that. Oops. Guess I didn't Kapalabhati it out enough earlier that day. And then I started having cold symptoms that evening and went to bed at 7.30pm, the earliest I've slept since being here.

All of this morning, through the sun salutations, my nose was a dribble-fest on my mat, it was SO EMBARRASSING!! But... by the end of practice, I'd stopped blowing my nose and things felt clear again. I'm not sure what to make of this. Feel scared to do it again! It's supposed to clear your sinuses out! Why am I dribbling like there's no tomorrow?! I seriously felt like this chick on my mat this morning... like it was a continuation of my Neti experience. Minus her silly big smile.



  1. this is my favorite Mysore post yet! love the ladies hol talk, the no shala rule is a bit harsh (getting caught! how awful!) but personally I always feel relieved to get a few days off.

    Oh and those pants? Man repellers for sure!
    Which doesn't mean I wouldn't wear them :)

  2. Hey Loo! BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I LOVE THAT SITE!! ...and... I LIKE MY MAN REPELLER PANTS, OKAAAAAAAY!! Here in Mysore, you certainly need them. Especially with the various incidents happening early in the mornings (I got groped in broad daylight, saving that post for when I return to the Dam or my mum's gonna freak. I doubt she reads my blog comments so figure it's safe to mention it here). But yeah... the more repellent, the better. Oh, also... with the public toilet situation here, if your pants have an elasticated hem that you can hike up, there's no chance of anything getting wet when you pull your pants down. See... Form AND function! ;p

    And... It's almost seen like a dirty thing, LH. Kinda like in mosques too. Women with the flow aren't allowed inside. It's just a cultural difference, that's all.

  3. oh goodness... those pants... it's a good thing you're cute, because THEY ARE NOT. ha ha!! But I like your sassiness in trying to wear them! They would be really good in metallic gold. Think about it.

    Your LH story was crazy! I can't imagine being busted. I would die. I think I'd just take the break, even if I felt fine. I'd be too scared I'd give myself away in some strange way. And you know what? I'll take menstrual blood over stinky feet and pits any day. HA HA!!!!

    The neti pot adventures are hilarious. I can't believe you were all drippy! I love the photo to illustrate.

  4. OMG you were groped??????????? Ah, how terrible. I bet all the Indian men think non-Indian women are whores. Well, now I am super glad you have two pairs of man-repellers handy!

    and the neti pot, yeah, totally forgot to mention how I loved that part too. Dripping!

  5. So... it seems the cultural rules around women's menstruation vary. I wasn't allowed to go to the temple at Mt Agung in Bali, but I was allowed in the grounds. That kinda sucked!

    But in the tradition I study (classical Tantra), women's menstruation is considered sacred and not tainted. So we can spend all the time we like in the temple/shala etc.

    Of course, regarding practice I'm with you on assisting the flow of apaana vayu. So no practice or restorative practice (I just did a workshop on restorative practice recently - and I'm using it as of today!). Much better for the body that way.

    But worrying about letting your shala-mates know? I reckon they would be the most understanding of anyone!

    Now regarding neti, it IS a great practice but it's very important to get all the water out or you get the cold-like symptoms you currently have.

    Doing kaplabhati breathing is NOT enough! I usually turn myself upside down in a forward bend, do kaplabhati there. Also, I blow my nose several times. But most important is to turn yourself upside down and force the water out with lots of breathing. Because otherwise, what you're going through happens and it isn't pleasant. My sympathies - I've made that mistake before!

    Once you have the cold symptoms you just have to rest. Don't try neti again until that has gone away. Hope you feel better soon!

  6. Dear Jaime
    I would have been the first one to comment, but my computer froze last night. bohoo. Not that that is important. Both pants look great. Why not wear that in Europe? It would draw a lot of good attention. I have permanent muffin top regardless of being skinny. haha. Thanks for the temple pictures. I like the hall with the row of three buddhas.

  7. First of all, *what* muffin top are you talking about? No evidence in those pictures. #2, even if they look like man repellents, I bet they are super-duper comfy (assuming they're not super tight of course). Love the 'instructions' at the Buddhist temple about not walking on the grass hahaha.

    Yoga has taught not to feel guilty about taking time off from *everything* during LH, especially the first few days. I think it's important to do so considering the changes the body's going through, but of course, it varies from person to person and culture to culture.

  8. Evelyn - metallic gold?! I'm not that crazy. Nor young anymore to pull THAT off. 10 years ago, I would probably have done it. HAHAHA! And what do you mean they're NOT CUTE?! I like them!! :p

    Loo - Yup! Whacked in the boob by a passing loser-dude on a bike. In broad daylight. I still have a bruise on my arm to prove it. I was appropriately dressed according to the cultural norms - long pants, covered shoulders (so wasn't "asking for it" if you will) And there are more stories like this from other girls. Gokulam is not the safe idyllic place it used to be, apparently. Will post more about this later.

    Svasti - THANK YOU! Of course you'd know the answer to my neti woes. I kinda suspected it was coz I hadn't drained my nose properly, so it's good to get confirmation. Thanks for your insight on LH in the tantric tradition, I never knew that but of course it makes so much sense!

    Arturo - I thought it was funny that you could sit and meditate in the hall - they provide cushions - but it's sooooo noisy from all the loud tourists!

    Danielle - It's called "suck in the belly when taking photos"! haha! The elastic band is not comfortable. That's all that matters. Yup, I usually take LH off too... But since I'm here with limited time in the shala, I thought I'd maximize practice time regardless of LH or not. Kiasu Singaporean. Haha.


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