Sunday, February 20, 2011

Life in Kashi

This is the first time I've traveled and stayed in one place for an extended amount of time. Rather than going from tourist site to tourist site, I've kept my schedule purposefully open - NO schedule, really. Every day is an exercise in living in the present. It's a totally different mode of traveling, I'm realizing. I came to India largely also to study yoga, meditation, and Buddhism. In Varanasi, I had almost given up on finding a yoga teacher, because there are so many "fakes" in the tourist/backpacker ghetto. There was one elderly man who almost chased my friend and me down the alleys to convince us that we should study with him (he teaches Hindi, yoga, meditation..."anything we want"). I spent a little time looking online to see whether there was any real yoga at all, since Varanasi is famed for being a major educational center in India (Benares Hindu University is here, after all). I saw a listing for a yoga center near Shivala Ghat, and when my friend and I passed by one day, we decided to walk up and explore. We basically walked straight to the center unknowingly, and once outside the door, I was able to recognize the Devanagari script written on the sign. We walked in and were led to Guruji after a short wait. After some deliberation due to my "short" length of time in Varanasi, the teacher decided to take me on. It turns out that the teacher is Dr. Vagish Shastri, who apparently even taught Sanskrit pronunciation to Madonna! I've been taking classes with him one-on-one lately, for as long as I will be in Varanasi. It is NOT exercise, but truly traditional yoga. I learned 25 physical postures, and am currently learning pranayama (breathing exercises), which is sadly very ignored in American yoga. Today I will continue studying pranayama and also mantra yoga, which I've never done before. I had to buy two flower mala and two pieces of fruit for today. Not sure why...guess I'll see!

Life along the Ganges is very interesting. Varanasi is extreme in sacredness and profanity. Sometimes I experience the sweetest of sweet moments, awed by the common humanity we share amongst each other, and sometimes I am so angry and frustrated at how cruel and disgusting people can be to each other.

The world is such a big, crazy place. How can I go through life without experiencing it?

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