we are children, we will conquer the world.

Yogis are some crazy people. They talk about chakras and eat lots of weird stuff and are extremely open about bowel movements. (Don’t hate. We’re in India; it’s inevitable.) But they’re also capable of doing some beautiful things, of bringing people together and shining light on things that may otherwise go unnoticed.

My afternoon on Friday was one of those things. A group of yogis in Mysore have been volunteering with Odanadi, an organization that rescues and rehabilitates people affected by human trafficking, and has a home for girls just ten minutes away from our cozy little home here in Mysore. Odanadi is currently working on building a home for boys as well, since the boys currently live in what I can only describe as a dilapidated shack. So the beautiful leaders at Odanadi worked with some volunteers to organize a fundraiser where we were able to meet the beautiful young women – and kind young men – who lived there.

We arrived by rickshaw and were instantly greeted by smiling faces and a beautiful oasis within the outskirts of Mysore, all palm trees and beautiful buildings and bright colors and laughing children. Throughout the afternoon we were treated to performances by some of the girls, a renowned flautist, and a beautiful dancer. We got henna and ate delicious food and enjoyed beautiful music as the sun shone down on us.

But the true beauty of the day was meeting all the sisters (as they call each other): receiving a tour from the spunkiest and toughest 15-year-old i’ve ever met (“come, sister, come on!” I couldn’t follow quickly enough), getting countless hugs and waves and smiles, partaking in tickles and songs and dances and warm embraces that didn’t require introductions or words or anything more than human contact, than “you are loved. you are loved.” surging through my brain.

I literally cannot imagine what these girls have been through. Not just the small ones, the delicate ones, but the tough ones who look like they could be my friends but have seen a lifetime’s worth of ugliness that I may never begin to understand. I wanted to ask them more about themselves, their lives, where they come from, but I knew that the slight language barrier wasn’t the only thing holding me back. Those are questions I couldn’t ask. Answers I didn’t want. Memories I didn’t want to bring up.

I have given time, money, clothes, assets to nonprofit organizations before. I’ve seen pictures of orphanages, seen their smiling faces, and thought “these are God’s children too. they deserve our love and our compassion”. But I’ve never felt so taken aback by my desire to do something, to help a specific community. As I sat there, listening to the program director explain how proud they were of their brothers and sisters, of the women who have graduated college and gotten married and the men who have become such good, moral people despite being given so little, tears didn’t come. Emotion didn’t come. All I could think of was action. What can I do? When can I come back? Has anyone ever given these girls cooking classes?

There are endless answers to these questions. But I realized that one of the most useful ways we can contribute after an experience with such a wonderful organization is to share. Share stories, share information, share ways to help. Please take five minutes out of your day to look at Odanadi’s website. And if you’re so inclined, please please consider donating just five or ten dollars to the organization. Funds raised will go towards building a home for the kind young men we met today. It will go towards funding programming for the beautiful sisters I met. It will go towards children, towards their future.

At the beginning of the afternoon, we all joined two older girls — with such poise! — in reciting a prayer that they say each day at Odanadi. Translated into English, one of the last lines announces the following: We are children. We will conquer the world.

Let’s give what we can to ensure that they do.

all who wander

There are many things I have loved so far about my time in Mysore: yoga, food, new friends, napping at restaurants (I legitimately did this yesterday), and observing the quirky and often confusing but always beautiful Indian culture. But some of the most meaningful and enjoyable memories that I have from the first few weeks of my trip have been the few long, spontaneous, deep and thought-provoking conversations that Mariel and I have shared.

Monday was a new moon, which meant we didn’t practice yoga in the morning (we don’t practice on moon days here). We spent our morning off sleeping in (I was in bed until SEVEN!) and sitting out on our balcony, drinking coffee and reading and writing and talking. It was so nice to be able to take a day off…from our vacation. Life is so hard!

It’s unclear how our conversation started, but we must have been out there for hours, discussing our plans once we get home and our deepest hopes for ourselves (always riddled with a bit of fear) and our dreams and the things that might be dreams but we can’t quite be sure of them yet. We talked about what we want for our children, for our country, for our communities and for ourselves. We talked about farms and helping people and homes and jobs and road trips and all of the big questions that loom above our twenty-something heads as we navigate not only this trip but our own personal journeys, our own futures, our own plans.

I have no return flight booked after I walk the Camino de Santiago with my Dad this summer. The end of my trip has always been a question mark — to go to Africa, to travel more around Europe, or to go home? An absence of any plan upon my return to the states made me cling to the idea of prolonging my trip, of doing more. I thought that, maybe, if I kept doing more, experiencing more, seeing more, then the idea would come. I would magically decide how to spend the rest of my life, and return home with renewed purpose and clarity.

What I gained from our conversation on Monday, however, was that it’s okay that I don’t know my next step. It’s okay to be searching, to not have the answers to these lingering questions. And luckily, since my parents are awesome, it’s okay to just go home. I think that for our generation, the importance of going to college and immediately finding a job (not just a job, mind you, but the right job) has been drilled into our heads so much that the idea of embracing uncertainty is rejected, looked down upon, or never considered in the first place.

I had this idea in the back of my head to go to Africa, to see a new continent, to help communities in need. I truly wanted to do good — the bright-eyed, bushy tailed desire to help was strong. But as the dates move closer, and no plans have materialized, I have realized that just going to Africa for the sake of going to Africa may not be the best use of my time or skills or efforts. Is it useless? Of course not. Helping others is never useless. But if I am going to spend a chunk of money getting myself to a remote place for a significant period of time, I want it to come from a sense of purpose.

I think this can be applied to so many things in the rest of our lives. Jobs. Relationships. Social engagements. Whatever. It’s natural do want to quell uncertainty by simply masking it with action, but that’s not always the best way to find an answer. Simply jumping into any and every opportunity I can think of won’t necessarily show me my future by the process of elimination. As Mariel kept saying: It’s okay to take time off. We need to allow ourselves this.

Now, I’m not saying that we should all quit our jobs and wander around in a constant state of self-examination. I was lucky enough to be able to save up and plan for some time off, and I am lucky enough to have friends and family who support my decisions. Not everyone can just up and leave. But we can all cut ourselves some slack and not expect all the answers right away. We can give ourselves time to think and explore and let go of the suffocating expectations with which we burden ourselves. We can allow ourselves to wander a bit.

Not all who wander are lost.


(Image source: Pinterest)

more beyonce. always more beyonce.

I know. I KNOW. I’ve written enough about how much I love Beyonce. [Sidenote: I understand that the last ‘e’ in her name has an accent over it, but I am currently typing on a PC, and do not understand how to insert said accent. Typos make my skin crawl, so I feel the need to be upfront about this terrible mistake. B, forgive me.] I’ve posted a few songs to the blog, and often tweet about Girls running the world (GIRLS!), and generally shout about her awesomeness in real life and cyberspace alike. If you’ve never seen me perform the Run The World choreography or explain my theory on how she reclaimed the stanky leg for women worldwide, you should feel neglected. Or happy. I’m really not sure.

But just bear with me for a second. Last night, I got myself in bed at 9 PM [yogis get up early, don’t hate] and felt wide awake. Loud Indian voices pouring into my room from downstairs weren’t helping. So instead of improving my brain capacity through reading or writing, I made myself a playlist and played Angry Birds. Whatever.

The playlist was inspired by a need to listen to some Avett Brothers, starting with their live version of “November Blue” (the first of their songs I ever heard, and to this day one of my favorites). Following that was some Bret Dennen, some Les Miz, some Mark Knopfler, half the tracks from a CD my high school boyfriend made for me (hey, it was good), and of course – some Beyonce.

I laid on my back in my little Indian bed, covered in a paper-thin sheet, and fist-pumped emphatically to track 11 from her most recent album: “I Was Here”. I may or may not have listened to it four times. I couldn’t help it; the song evokes a physical reaction for me. I sort of do this thing where I look like I’m conducting an orchestra or playing an accordion and I’m pretty sure I make lots of embarrassing faces while doing so. I flashed back to all the mornings that I drove from yoga to my office in Charlotte, blasting this song, reminding myself that there would soon be more to my life than a cubicle and pencil skirts. That there was something inside me that wanted to experience the world, that there were big things in my future: not fame or riches but meaning. Passion and appreciation.

I’ve never really been fanatical about musicians. I remember being an awkward middle schooler when the boy band craze swept through our nation and our TV sets, MTV showing rows and rows of girls crying and holding posters that professed their love for Joey Fatone. It never made any sense to me. (Let’s be real here. His last name is FAT ONE. I just don’t understand the appeal. And don’t get me started on Chris Kirkpatrick’s bleached whiteboy dreadlocks. Such a waste of a good Irish last name.) But for some reason, listening to this song and watching the video (linked below) — I get it.

Well, I still don’t get it, but I feel it. The total and utter inspiration by, and connection to, the person singing that song that you can’t stop listening to, can’t stop thinking about, want to grip onto with your fingers and your whole heart. The feeling of YES. That somebody understands. I think of all of the girls screaming over the Beatles, the girls I saw sobbing on TV when I was in first grade and Kurt Cobain died, all those crazies whom I’ve never understood. This song makes me want to smile and cry and run off and see the world and do something that makes a difference. It makes me trust that that thing will come. That I will find it. As long as I keep searching.

And yes, I am aware that Beyonce is a pop culture icon, and it’s so typical to love her, but I just don’t give a shit! Have you ever listened to her sing or seen her dance or heard her speak? Homegirl is SMART and GIFTED and a ROLE MODEL and she just had a baby. A baby! WITH JAY Z! She also loves Jesus. If I ever have a little girl, I will be fine with her dancing along to mommy’s old Beyonce CDs. (I’ll hide my Lil Wayne with the booze and the Photospecialties pictures. I promise.)

Have you ever wanted to pursue an opportunity so much that it made you want to scream, made you want to walk up to someone’s office and knock on their door and just cry about how badly they need to let you do something? The knowledge that you may fail, the fear that goes along with that knowledge, the persistence in doing it anyway? The feeling of being completely lost, knowing there is something out there for you, but not knowing when – or if – or where – you will ever find it? This song speaks to the part of me that is experiencing that right now. It speaks to everything.

So I just wrote this lengthy rant, but all I want you to do is watch this video. It gives me the chills and makes me teary. Please? Just do it.

Love,
Marian

to market, to market

Since our first day in Mysore, Mariel and I have wanted to visit the ever-elusive “Market”. We had read about it online and heard of its beauty by word of mouth, but our search on our first day in Mysore city was fruitless. People pointed us in a few different directions, suggesting we visit the “clothing bazaar” and the “fruit and vegetables market”, but we had no idea what we were looking for. It was confusing and frustrating and all I wanted was to smell some incense and see some pretty things and just walk around while vendors yelled at me. Too much to ask?

Yesterday we took a rickshaw into town to visit the bookstore (“Mysore’s Largest Book Mall!”) and search once again for the market. We discovered that, yes, the fruit and vegetable market is the one that we were looking for, and yes, it’s lovely. As we walked through a small archway, accessed from the busy road, we entered a little maze of produce stands, the aisles covered with tarps, sunlight peeking sporadically through. Like stepping through a wardrobe to Narnia. The first words out of my mouth? “It smells like VEGETABLES!”

In order to avoid serious cases of Delhi Belly, travelers in India are advised to stay away from raw fruits and vegetables (unless they are peeled, like bananas or oranges). As somebody who loves salads, farmers’ markets, fresh produce, and generally anything that comes out of the ground, I have found this difficult. (Seriously. If anyone out there can figure out a way to FeDex me a fresh salad, that would be great.) So it was a bit bittersweet, walking through rows and rows of peppers, beans, carrots, greens, and tomatoes, not being able to give them all a good home. But I loved it anyway — the bushels and bushels full of veggies, the green beans laid out in little piles, the smell of cilantro, the piles of gourds like stone walls and that one strange vegetable that no translation or vendor could identify as familiar (it’s greyish-brown, hard, and I think they call it “Chinese”).

chinese?

Confession: I’m a very self-conscious traveler. I hate the feeling of being an obvious tourist, and find myself uncomfortable when I’m so clearly an outsider, intruding into people’s everyday lives and treating them as a spectacle. I couldn’t resist snapping pictures of the beauty around me at the market, but I felt insecure, wanting to hide my camera not just to protect it from potential thieves but also to hide the telltale sign of a visitor, a spectator. Oh–there was also the slightly noticeable fact that I was the only white person there. And wearing a fanny pack.

But as we walked deeper into the maze of stalls and tarps, and found ourselves not just among fruits and vegetables but also colorful powders, fragrant oils, and even a bit of cookware, my shoulders began to un-shrug. When men yelled “miss! miss!” from their stalls, the urge to turn away, to ignore, left me and I began to listen, to smile, even to talk. Where am I from? America. What is my name? Marian. Very nice to meet you. Have a nice day.

I think that many westerners – especially young women – are warned so incessantly that travel in other countries can be unsafe, that people will try to swindle and cheat and accost us at every turn, that our instincts are to turn away rather than to embrace. As I walked through this market, my smile softened and my heart opened to all the friendly people I passed, simply going about their day and trying to sell a tomato or a banana or a trinket. I realized that these barriers we build between ourselves and others — not just the barriers of ethnicity, creed, or language, but the assumption that we are fundamentally different, or at best unable to relate to each other — well, they’re bullshit.

Yes, we must keep our wits about us. No, you shouldn’t get into a strange man’s car when it’s dark and you’re in a foreign place. But we shouldn’t be afraid to admit that we’re all human, all basically the same, all God’s children and capable of the same emotions and successes and failures. Maybe, yesterday, I just learned how to walk through a market in a foreign country; maybe I was previously extremely naive, or overly fearful of strangers, or insecure. I’m slowly learning that it’s okay to be a tourist. It’s okay to be from a far away place. To come experience a new culture and a new population and to talk to them, learn from them, exist together, realize we can still relate despite any preconceptions. Acknowledging what outwardly differentiates us can help us move towards embracing our fundamental similarities.

At the end of our visit, a young boy came up to us, asking if we’d like to come watch him make incense. If we would just come visit his stall for a minute. Letting go of my (silly) hesitations, I followed him through the market, sitting down on a small plastic step stool that he brushed off for me. I, transfixed behind the small counter packed full of essential oils and crystal bottles, as he explained the incense-making process to us in perfect English: Mix powder, glue, and water. Make a paste. Roll over a stick of bamboo. Dry in the sun. Did you know there are no incense machines in India, since it is so simple to do by hand? Of course, I had to try my hand at it. Rolling the gum over the bamboo felt so clumsy in my hands, compared to my teacher’s quick and easy movements.

Our new friend was so sweet, so savvy, such a bright little kid, we couldn’t help but be charmed by him. Mariel was in love. And though he tried to sell us some of his beautifully scented oils, he conceded when we promised, no, we don’t need any perfume, but thank you. He was all smiles and waves and yells as we walked away from his little stall. All he wanted was to talk to us, to make friends, and for us to take a picture of him.

Leave it to a little Indian boy to show me the beauty of strangers.

things I’m loving

I’m still in India!

And it’s still awesome. And I’m done philosophizing, at least for the next twelve hours or so. So here is a list of things that are bringing me serious amounts of joy:

Yoga.
I love yoga. You know this. Yoga is awesome. Yogis are awesome. Yoga pants are comfortable. My daily yoga high is legal and unbeatable. Ashtanga is beautiful and difficult and fascinating. Nobody is surprised.

Coconuts.

Mysore’s biggest hot spot is not a dance club, but the people there are still sweaty. The place to be at any point in the day, but especially after practice, is the coconut stand. For the equivalent of about 30 cents, you can get a fresh coconut hacked open for you, drink the water, and then get it hacked open again – this time in half – and scoop out the delicious flesh. The difference in flavor between these refreshments served out of nature’s prettiest water glass and the stuff you can get at whole foods is like the difference between, say, a salad at McDonalds and some freshly picked organic kale. And the coconut meat? I die. It’s delicious.

CARBS.

Roti. Chapathi. Paratha. And, yes, naan. I can’t get enough of the stuff. It’s fluffy and warm and often doughy and so incredibly satisfying. I take it over rice 90% of the time and I never regret it.

The Way of the Heart by Henri J. Nouwen

My Dad got me this book for Christmas, and since it was small and seemed interesting, I brought it along for my trip. I got through it in about 36 hours, marking up the margins with my scribbles and underlining and recording quotes in my journal. The author discusses the importance of silence, solitude and prayer in our search to be closer to God, citing the “desert fathers” of thousands of years ago who retreated into the desert in the search for divinity. I found his ideas beautiful, fascinating, touching, and simple: that by retreating from the busy and crazy world around us, we can recede into the silence of our hearts and finally listen to – and be with – God. And while it argues the importance of silence and solitude, it does not suggest that we all adopt a life of hermitage; rather, that we use these tools to share their benefits with others. It is written with a Christian view of God, by a Christian, but I think that it would be of interest and of use to anyone, regardless of their faith background. I even wrote “THIS IS JUST LIKE YOGA” a few times in heavy black ink along the margins. It’s the perfect gift for the Catholic yogi with a short attention span on your Christmas list.

Our little balcony

The house where Mariel and I are staying has a beautiful little balcony on the second floor. I can sit here in the mornings after yoga, or on a lazy Sunday, or in the evening to capture my last thoughts in my journal before bed. It’s so quiet and peaceful, and I can enjoy being outside without applying — and then subsequently sweating off — half a bottle of sunscreen (yes, Mom, I’m still wearing it). We were so lucky to end up with such a lovely “host family”, such a lovely house, and such a lovely little place to sit and relax. It even comes equipped with a wind chime painted with oms, which I absentmindedly hit with my head roughly three times a day.

Nature’s Tums

Apples may be nature’s toothbrush, but fennel seeds are nature’s Tums. You’ll find them on your table after almost every meal in India – a digestif, if you will – and they will calm your stomach after even the spiciest of curries. While I generally hate anything licorice-flavored, I can’t get enough of these. And, after all the delicious Indian food I’ve been eating, neither can my stomach.

Gokulam

Gokulam is the neighborhood where we live, a little part of Myore that is residential, quieter than the big city, and full of beautiful homes and roaming cows. The motorbikes are still loud, and the pollution is still plentiful, but our little corner of India is basically paradise. I love walking home after yoga each morning and looking at the beautiful architecture, the sunrises, and the culture that’s constantly zooming — or grazing — by.

Happy Monday!

relax.

Sundays in Mysore are, in the truest sense of the word, a day of rest. They’re my only day off from Yoga, and serve as a way to keep me from completely losing track of what day it is, what month it is, or where in the world is Carmen Sandiego I am. Not that that would be a bad thing. So today, I got myself up, headed to church (I’m always the lone foreigner there; I love it), and came back to enjoy a lovely little Sunday brunch with friends. (In case anyone was wondering, Mysore’s tendency to cater to western yogis means that my oatmeal habit is alive and well. Only here, it’s a porridge habit.)

This morning, in very non-yogi fashion, someone stole Mariel’s flip flops while we sipped on seemingly endless coffee and chatted with some new friends. She had to run home for a phone date with her mother, so I lent her mine.

You know you’ve achieved full-on hippie-dom when you’re walking through the street in India barefoot and loving every second of it. The way the gravelly pavement felt on my feet, the closeness to the earth, the sun shining through the palm trees…I couldn’t have been happier. After taking a few days to adjust to the pace of life here — relaxed and full of languorous enjoyment — I am finally at the point where I can fully appreciate a leisurely walk through town by myself, an afternoon spend reading and writing on our balcony, or a few hours at a cafe with new acquaintances.

Simple enjoyment hasn’t always come easy to me. Although I’ve always been able to find joy in the little things — smiles exchanged with strangers or the smell of toast or a quiet afternoon surrounded by family — it has taken me a while to learn to appreciate pure relaxation.

Blame it on my ADD, an overactive mind, or the self-imposed feeling of obligation to make EVERY SECOND count, but over the past year I have had to teach myself to just let go and enjoy those times where nothing is required of me but to soak it all in. Over a delicious lunch with friends the other day, I was remembering a week I spent in Maine with my parents this past summer. Away from work for a whole ten days, I wanted to make the most of my vacation. I wanted to feel as relaxed as humanly possible. I HAD to take advantage of my time off. I needed every vacation day to be perfect. And it was up to me to figure out how.


MAINE.

Well, that was insane. I would stress myself out every morning figuring out how to craft the perfect day. I didn’t exactly realize that when you’re on the coast and surrounded by family and ocean and rocks and mountains and sunsets, it’s kind of hard to have a shitty day. By the end of the week I finally felt the vacation mode setting in, but only as I was gearing up to leave. It’s the catch-22 of taking time off from work: only when you are ready to leave, are you truly ready to stay. Of course my memories from the week are cherished and full of happiness, but looking back now, I laugh at myself for the self-imposed need to become the happiest person alive in a matter of days.

2011 was a big year for me. I went off on my own in a lot of different ways, and I had to learn to spend — and appreciate — a good deal of “me time”. Relaxing breakfasts at home, Friday nights spent cooking dinner for one, strolls through the farmers’ market, the daily pilgrimage to yoga class in the dark of morning. I knew that this time spent alone with my thoughts would be good, helpful, cathartic, formative. But it took me months to relieve myself of the pressure to feel perfectly blissful and appreciative at times when these emotions were expected. Sitting out on my porch and eating a salad was frustrating because my happiness was only an 8, rather than a 10. God didn’t speak directly to me at Church and I therefore wasn’t experiencing it fully enough. Quiet time with my thoughts was frustrating rather than therapeutic. The expectations I put on myself were suffocating.

Slowly, and I’m not sure how, I learned how to just chill the fuck out relax. Without the pressure to feel like a shining orb of gratitude and peace 24/7, I was able to simply experience my emotions as they passed through me. Happiness and loneliness and frustration and pure appreciation. And, finally, the quiet of my mind. The pause it took to say thank you, to appreciate, to look up and realize my surroundings or look down and find the earth beneath my (currently bare) feet. I don’t know how I did it; I just know that I wanted it. I prayed for it. I needed it.

I’m not trying to get all The Secret on here. I don’t think I buy into that. But I think in order to make a change in the way I experienced the world, I had to want it first. And wait. Days and weeks and months until I found myself here, in India, in complete vacation mode. Happy to sit and smile and write and read and observe my emotions and whisper a quiet thank you to God for letting this happen.

I don’t mean to say that the key to happiness is to run off half way around the world — or that I am even close to knowing the key to happiness at all. Or that one even exists. But I am thankful for the past year. I am thankful for alone time. I am thankful for loneliness. I never knew what was ahead, or what I was preparing myself for, or that I was preparing myself at all. At times I didn’t even know if I was doing anything right. But here, now, the wind is blowing through my room and I’m considering having a coconut for lunch and oh, also, I am in MF-ing India. Along the way, something went terribly right.

I hope I’m not getting repetitive — sometimes I feel like all I can write about is how grateful I feel and, conversely, how shitty I’ve felt at times over the past two years — but I think it’s important to share. To realize that it’s okay to want something different. To reflect and remember our struggles. So that’s that. I promise some more light-hearted posts are coming soon. I’ve been taking lots of pictures of food and cows (to clarify: those are not the same thing) and other beautiful sights around Mysore and I need to get around to sharing them and I need to stop writing exclusively in run-on sentences.

Happy Weekend!

the healthy struggle

Here in Mysore, I practice Ashtanga for roughly two hours a day (I go slowly), six days a week. While I practiced regularly back at home, I would generally practice Ashtanga three to four times a week, and add in a few hot vinyasa classes to mix it up. But when you come to Mysore, you do so in order to practice all Ashtanga, all the time. I had a feeling that I would experience a bit of a honeymoon phase during my first week or so here, and then things would really get interesting. I was right.


day one. so perky and closely shaven.

This morning, practice was rough. I felt a bit tired and sluggish when I arrived at the shala, but I told myself that I would just focus on taking it easy during the first few sun salutations (introductory postures) and let the rest come from there. This was such a nice exercise: no need to achieve the deepest folds, the straightest arms, the tightest abs right out of the gate. Just letting my practice wake up alongside my sleepy body.

I never really got that surge of energy I was expecting, though. I felt lethargic and weak the whole time. Getting through the entire primary series (and the first posture of second series!) was a challenge. I’m certainly not unfamiliar with crappy practices; they happen to everyone (unless you’re a superhuman freak). If I were at home, though, this would be the type of practice where I would likely give up. Too hard, too slow, not enough energy, not enough determination. But here — maybe it’s Saraswathi‘s presence, or my sense of purpose here in Mysore — not completing my practice isn’t an option. I just did what I had to do to get through it. Breathe, stretch, shake, let it go.

This was such a great little Ashtanga lesson. Just because a practice is difficult, just because I’m not “feeling it”, just because I struggle mentally, does not give me reason to give up. In fact, it is in these practices that we build character, learn dedication, realize our own strength, and get an ever-so-gentle reminder that life isn’t always easy. As with most lessons that I learn on my mat, this is so relevant to all aspects of life. Don’t expect everything to be easy. Don’t be afraid to push through struggle. And when the going gets tough, get your ass on that yoga mat.

Sometimes I worry about my ability to maintain a daily practice after leaving this magical little Ashtanga paradise. It is so much easier for me to pause, get up, give up, in the middle of my practice when I’m not in the presence of a guru, when a glass of water or a bed or a cellphone is just a few steps away. This is something that Sharath mentioned in his weekly talk last Sunday when a student asked what to do when away from a guru or teacher. After joking that we should all simply carry around a picture of him, Sharath explained that when you aren’t with your guru, their presence is still with you. We can hold the lessons and the inspiration we get from our teachers throughout our travels and throughout our days, just as the memories of loved ones can stay with us when they are gone or far away. (Hello family!)

I keep thinking of Mysore as an antidote to all the forces in my “normal” life that pull me way from my practice. Now I see why people keep coming back; why people need to come back. I hope that my time here, this invaluable time spent studying under Saraswathi, will sustain me once I leave. I am so inspired by her and Sharath, so filled with love and gratitude. I am already learning so much about the benefits of a daily Ashtanga practice (hint: it’s awesome), already falling more in love with the practice than I was before. Hopefully I will never forget these lessons. And if I do, I hope to find my way back here and learn them anew.

Pictures in this post were taken on our walk home from yoga this morning, and are dedicated to my mom, who loves a good sunrise.