Observations from Prashanti Kutiram after 23 Days

This was bound to be an experience I had no prior schema for interpreting. That is pretty much the only thing I knew before coming here. Where is here? For now, in physical terms it is an ashram/university 35 km outside of Bangalore in Karnataka, India. In more esoteric terms it is a place between actions. In yoga, they say that the silence that exists between actions is the place we aspire to inhabit. It is not exactly non-action, nor action. It is a place of wholeness and contemplation and observation. Am I there? I am not sure, nor am I sure it is a place I honestly aspire to occupy, but I think occasionally I am catching glimpses of that space.

It is quiet here. Sometimes. The Indians who are participating in my program are far less reserved (yogi-like?) than preconceived notions would have one believe. They are a positively raucous group given the opportunity. And that opportunity arises at any birthday, or other semi-recognizable event. I understand Bollywood a lot better now. [I still do not sing and dance – and everyone can continue to be grateful – but I certainly appreciate the vivacity.]

But it is a quiet lifestyle here. There is not supposed to be any television or radio, and participants in my program are not allowed to leave the ashram until the program is over – others here in longer term programs of study are allowed off campus on Fridays. Needless to say, there is television and radio if one wants it… most people have iPods and computers [my neighbors are fans of some genre of film that is very loud. Like BSG meets, well, Bollywood.] Still, I find myself falling into that weird headspace where I ask myself what I am doing with my time and then I remember that this experiment is about not having to fill every minute with things to do and that I am trying to just accept what is going on because I do not have anything else I need to be doing at this moment and I should enjoy that.

It is rustic here. That is real. I am not sure I have mastered the laundry situation, but I keep trying if for no other reason than to minimize the, err, fragrance. I have to wash everything by hand. I shower with buckets. There is warm water occasionally, but the cold water can really get you going at 4:15 a.m. I wash my hair only when I absolutely have to because it is such a ginormous pain in the ass, and it is pulled back all the time anyhow. I am (re?)learning to eat effectively (and sort of gracefully) with my fingers. Using only one hand. While I sit in ardha padmasana or if I am feeling super-fly, padmasana. It is totally communal, not super hygienic, and truth? Kinda fun.

My back started to ache last week and so Soniya and Sunil took me to the acupressurist. This guy is one of the most interesting people I have ever met. I told him my hip flexor and piriformis muscle were ‘paining.’ He examined me and found some pressure points (ouch) onto which he affixed magnets. Then he told me I also had a low back issue (how did he know from looking at my left hand and my right foot?) He told me to press the magnets to the point of pain whenever I thought of it, or felt pain. The shit works.

I am drinking so much water I cannot believe it and have still not had coffee, though I could have it if I wanted. I assume I do not need to mention I have not had any meat (or eggs or dairy for that matter) or beer since I arrived. I have learned the art of truly ‘flushing’ the system… Those 1980s girls would have nothing on me now if I wanted to show them how to vamana.

I took my asana (teaching) exam today. It was pretty easy. I guess 15 years of teaching gives one some skills to fall back on. A lot of the people in my group were palpably nervous, and I couldn’t really work it out. (Though, if I had to teach in Hindi I might have a different attitude.) I think it goes beyond language and there is a real cultural attitude towards anything labeled “examination” in Asia that I just never really got a hold of. For better or for worse, I suppose. We have the written exams tomorrow and the next day. That should be interesting.

As I could have predicted, I am finally pretty adjusted to the schedule: right as I am getting ready to leave. Up and out by 4:30 a.m. and going sort of non-stop until 8 or 9. Not all yoga and not all things I want to be doing, but that is not the point. I am getting in plenty of yoga and appreciating the subtleties of some of the asanas that I would never have gotten with out this degree of repetition. I do advanced asana with a small group in the afternoons and I can hang out in vrschikasana now. As soon as I am able to load photos I will prove it. Real. Talk. I still like asana the best, but I have a better understanding of why… and that was my point in coming here.

In one week I will fly (NOT on Air India) to Trivandrum in Kerala and there will begin a new phase of this trip. Until then, in the ashram I remain. I think this is probably exactly what is meant by the space between actions.



About Amanda

I am repatriating expatriate trying to work it all out. Well, to work some of it out anyhow. I am writing here for sanity, focus and general over-sharing.
This entry was posted in Life, Perception, Travel, Yoga and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Observations from Prashanti Kutiram after 23 Days

  1. cbarickman says:

    Most Excellent! (and thanks for the Air India clarification) m

  2. Pingback: 335/365 « Blog Archive « "wake, now discover…

  3. A questions involving 500 USD in cash : Hi Amanda. I like your stuff. It’s very funny. I’m about to apply for the YIN course at Prashanti Kutiram, and I’d be really grateful for ANY advice. In particular, I want to know if you found a way to PAY for your course, without carrying around wads of cash ? ( I’ll be in India a month before, and will use the notes as a pillow if necessary ).

    Many thanks in advance. Enjoy Life ! Keep Going !

    • Amanda says:

      Hi Paola,
      I am quite jealous that you will be in India for the upcoming months! it will be amazing!
      As far as paying Prashanti, I am fairly certain that you can do a bank transfer to them, I know I had paid before I arrived in India, but I had an Indian friend helping me, so I don’t know all the details. If you email them (and send the application in ahead – with a picture – they really care about that!) they will give you the information you need. I look forward to hearing about how the experience is for you!

  4. Hi Amanda, sorry I’ve been slow to get back. Thanks a lot for your answer. Could you please tell me if you need to wear Indian dress on the campus, and are there any other tips you have for stuff to bring or not bring ? I will certainly get back to you with an update after I return home next year.
    Meanwhile, enjoy life, Hope all goes well for you. paola

    • Amanda says:

      Hi Paola…
      Yeah, you need to wear traditional clothes – like modern Western style yoga clothes are not approrpriate – they will provide one set of clothes – loose shirts, pants are best… and remember it is hot…

      I did not find that I was in need of anything while I was there but I was really trying to not continue with my eating habits and stuff – you will definitely miss fresh fruit and veggies as most meals are cooked. If you request it you can get fresh veggies with meals and fruits are for sale in the canteen (where they also sell a lot of fast food/junk food). If you are really dependent on coffee/tea, I would bring that with you. Definitely bring writing materials – you will need them for some of the work and you will want to write about he experience, (they have some for sale, but it is pretty limited.) You are not permitted to leave, but there are full time students there who can go off the ashram once a week and they are often happy to pick up things you may need in town.

      All my best!

  5. Hi Amanda, thanks again. You’re most patient to write. I’d applied for the YIN, but they’re not running it, so I’m doing the basic YIC course – is that the same as you ?

    Your advice is really appreciated. Can be a bit difficult, especially as their link “what to bring” is broken right now 😦 Did you submit all written course work hand-written or any chance to use one of their pc and printer ?

    Is there anything I can send you from India ( once I escape from the campus ) ? I’m happy to send you anything you fancy. You can email me your address and requirements : paola@yogasan.net ( did I already say I teach yoga already on http://www.yogasan.net ). Are you teaching yoga now ? would you say the course was a good preparation for your yoga career ?

    Take good care. p.

    • Amanda says:

      Hi again Paola!
      So, I looked at your yoga site and I have to say that I think the YIC might not be right for you – it is really for people with little experience. I was definitely one of the most advanced yoginis (the students studying there in the long term courses were who I turned to in order to really develop my personal practice). As far as the course work, they are kind of picky about how you turn it in – there are computers and printers available – and many students brought their own laptops.

      I am not teaching yoga now, though I never intended to – I was really there to learn about the philosophy and history of yoga and vedanta. I think it did prepare me in a lot of ways, but I am a teacher by trade and so the teaching part comes rather naturally…. =)

      I would not trade my Prashanti experience for anything, and re-reading my blogs about it remind me why. I will definitely send you my email and look very forward to hearing all about your time on the subcontinent.

      a x

      • Hi Amanda. I’m going to leave you in peace now. Thanks SO much for answering all my annoying questions. And thanks for the advice on the YIC. Unfortunately, they’ve kind of defaulted me to YIC and I accepted. Perhaps once I’m there, something can be done .. Take good care. p. x

  6. Dear Amanda, it’s taken me an age to write back. I won’t say much about the YIC, except that I completed ok, and met some good people at SVYASA, both on the course, and not. That was a great thing for me, to have access to so many other interesting people…

    SO, I hope that you’re doing well, and I’ll take the opportunity to thank you again for all your help, your stuff WAS truly helpful, and also to wish you and your family a very happy Christmas and peaceful new year. Yours Paola x

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