Shaking Hands with the Lepers

When he (the rickshaw driver) introduced me to his father, I had no idea he would be homeless, let alone a leper. I reached out to shake his father’s extended hand. His fingers were rough and different sizes and lengths, as if part of them had rotted off. I held his hand and thought of the scene from Papillon, where the leper hands Steve McQueen his cigar and Steve McQueen puts it in his mouth and takes a long drag off of it. The leper asks him, “How did you know my leprosy was dry?” And Steve McQueen says, “I didn’t.”

I put my hand in my pocket and made a mental note not to touch my face or anything until I washed my hand real good. Like you can just wash off leprosy. Good thinking.

I had seen the man’s father around town. Everywhere he went, he had his skinny yak with him. It was his only possession.

April 20, 2006
Mysore, India



Ashtanga Vinyasa with BNS Iyengar – The lost Asana

I went to Mysore, India in 2010 to study with BNS Iyengar. I wanted to study with him because he was my teacher’s teacher (Sri V. Sheshadri), a direct student of Sri T. Krishnamacharya and Pattabhi Jois, and a local legend. He is also one of the few Indian teachers still teaching both the western and  Indian community. Plus, a few friends called him crusty and I found that appealing since so many Western teachers are like cheerleaders on ativan.

I was looking for roots and I was looking to learn. BNS teaches a little differently now than I had heard he taught previously. He taught Primary Series in a blazing 55 minutes as a led practice rather than the traditional silent practice I was familiar with. It was sometime brutal and primitive. The way I suspect it was taught 50 or 60 years ago, like I had heard  Sheshadri speak of in 2006.


I liked that BNS’s  Primary Series was a little different. It was unexpected. When people think of Ashtanga they think of it in one way, never to be altered. I know a lot of people will scream that it IS only one way. I always found this attitude as surprising as I found the conservative and conformist attitude in the punk rock community disturbing. But remember that when Pattabhi Jois was asked by a student,  “you used to teach it this way and now you teach it different, which way is right?” he  said, “the way I teach it now is correct.”

Some differences I noticed with BNS:

On page 1 (above) you will see that the Namaskara A + B are shorter in repetitions than I had practiced with Sheshadri (I will post the Sheshadri cheat sheet from 06′ in the future) or Manju Pattahbi Jois.


The differences I found on page 2  start with Janu Sirsasana B. It is replaced with what I have heard people call “Open Janu Sirsasana” or Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana nine were you stack the shoulders and open to the side like in Utthita Parsvakonasana. Most interesting was the first pose of column 5 listed as Supta Parivrtta Padangusthasana were you lie down put you right arm behind your head – or as BNS would say “surround the head” – and grab your right big toe on the bent leg that is across your chest. I hadn’t see this pose ever before in the 8 years I had been practicing yoga. When I Googled Supta Parivrtta Padangusthasana I got 18,000 results for the first pose you see on line 4 of page 2 (above)… not the pose I was looking for. When I couldn’t find it easily, I got very interested in this pose. After asking a couple of people who had studied with BNS longer than me and still getting no info, I found this pose listed as the last part of a three-part pose called Supta Padangusthasana Thirteen in BKS Iyengar’s “Light on Yoga” (BKS Iyengar is no relation to BNS, but both were students of Krishnamacharya). When I Googled Supta Padangusthasana Thirteen in quotes to limit the search to only this pose, I got only ONE result. It is on a page that lists a bunch of asanas (poses) and little else. When I Googled it as Supta Padangusthasana 13, I got 7 results, one of which was Polish and another in  Chinese. According to “Light on Yoga,” Supta Padangusthasana Thirteen is of great benefit for people with sciatica and stiffness in hip joints.

I LOVE that BNS is teaching this pose that the rest of the world has nearly forgotten. This is why I went to study with him To get to the unfiltered, non-westernized, un-corporatized yoga.

I learned a lot in my time with BNS, some good, some bad, just like life.  Like the dark and the light, I see with clarity through my practice ever-shifting  glimpses of samadhi समाधि and the terror of the veil of Maya माया being lifted.   BNS showed me a man who could be gentle and fierce in one movement and one breath.

“Do good, be good. Be good, do good.” ~ BNS Iyengar

A thank you letter from Odanadi to you

Dear Yoga Stops Traffickers,
We hope this email finds you all well and we would like to, once again, thank you for all your amazing efforts for YST 2011.
Amazingly, funds are still coming in from the 93 events around the world, which you organized, participated in and made such a huge success. The last count was roughly £30,000, which constitutes about two-thirds of Odanadi India’s annual running costs! This is a huge achievement, so well done!
The following list should give you a better idea of the crucial ways in which your financial contributions are helping Odanadi India:
• First and foremost, a significant portion of the money raised from YST will go towards PREVENTION, a cornerstone of Odanadi’s work in the fight against human trafficking. Through its 60 pioneering village vigilance committees(which cost thousands to run each year), Odanadi will be able to continue its work, educating and empowering some of the most vulnerable communities in southern India – including the Dalits and Adivasi tribal communities. There have been times when Odanadi has had to stop its crucial prevention work due to lack of funding, so this is a hugely significant achievement for them and you.

• Over £1,500 will be spent each year on rescue operations. This includes transportation costs  and financial support for those rescued and reintegrated. A further £1000 pays for legal fees incurred by Odanadi as it takes action against traffickers in the courts.

£9,000 will pay for all the food for the residents at Odanadi for a year, currently 60 in total.  With food inflation running at over 10% this is vital.  The residents are also working to grow their own organic food and your money will also help with this.

Home grown produce.JPGRadishes and gardeners.JPG

£1,000 pays the salary of the cook for a year.

£2,000 will pay for the upkeep of the buildings at Odanadi for a year.  This includes repainting large parts of the building, repairing the floor in the kitchen and fixing broken windows.
odanadi 08-1.jpg

£1,500 pays for a counselor for a year. The counselor deals with family disputes, domestic violence issues as well as working with the residents to help with their issues and concerns.

• £2,000 pays for the education of the children.  This includes materials such as book and pens and also the fees for the five residents currently studying at university.  Informal education also takes place.  In this picture the residents are working on a project where they say what they like at Odanadi and what they would like to do in the future.  Many of them want to be doctors, teachers or social workers.

Consultation with children.JPG• There is also a range of other rehabilitation activity that the students also partake in, such as yoga, art therapy, ceramics, dance, drama and Karate!
Yoga Practice.JPG• Lastly and most importantly, every remaining penny, dollar and cent will be needed for The Boys’ Home Fund, which is one of Odanadi’s most crucial – and ambitious – fundraising projects. The Odanadi boys currently live in temporary mud structures on a piece of land just outside Mysore. They have been waiting years to build a safe, permanent home with basic necessities such as electricity, running water, bathrooms, a kitchen, and new dormitories so Odanadi can provide a home for up to 60 more boys and young men, so many of whom are desperate need. The cost of the project is an estimated £90,000, so every penny you have raised counts! 

Thank you so much for your ongoing support! 
With best wishes from all of us at Odanadi

Yoga Stops Traffick Benefit

Runyon Canyon Yoga Benefit to Stop Human Trafficking 3/12/2011

Find an Event in Your Area : Here

Both times I  was in India, I did work with Odanadi, a non-profit group devoted to ending human trafficking.

On Saturday, March 12, 2011 at 10:30am, I will be teaching the 2nd annual Yoga Stops Traffick benefit class at Runyon Canyon, joining yogis all over the world in solidarity with the children of Odanadi, who will be holding their own class at the Mysore Palace in India. This international event is to raise awareness and money to help bring and end to human trafficking. Even if you don’t do yoga, come out and show your support.

This is a donation-based class. All proceeds from the March 12th class at Runyon Canyon and the sister classes around the world will go directly to Odanadi in Mysore, India.

If you can’t make the class, you can still donate at:

Find an Event in Your Area : Here

YOGA STOPS TRAFFICK is a one-day global Yoga event to raise awareness about human trafficking in India and across the world. On MARCH 12th 2011, yogis everywhere will roll out their Yoga mats to take a stand against trafficking and show their support to its millions of victims.

Yoga Stops Traffick India will be led from the grounds of the Mysore Royal Palace by 90 young people from local anti-trafficking organization Odanadi Seva Trust, many of whom are survivors of slavery, domestic abuse and forced prostitution. Over the years, Astanga Yoga has come to play a vital role in their rehabilitation process: building their physical and mental strength, and restoring a sense of peace, confidence and self-worth.

Over the past 21 years, Odanadi has rescued more than 1850 women and children, carried out over 60 brothel raids and brought 137 traffickers to justice. 100% of the money raised by this event will go directly to Odanadi, to support them in carrying out this crucial work.

LA Yoga Magazine

Video from last years:

Ask a yoga teacher #1: My third eye hurts

Hey Daniel

I just (legitimately) meditated for the first time today. For a while–months, maybe longer–I don’t remember exactly when that I began to notice a slight pressure in the area of the location of the third eye chakra! so I wound up looking into the 7 chakras. Now I’ve been noticing an increase or I should say becoming more intuitively aware and having empath episodes more often. I just was curious to see what you thought of these things.

thanks for reading


Congratulations on making meditation a part of your life. When we meditate, we’re doing ourselves and the world a big favor.

I think it is very much human nature to want the unexplainable  explained. I think it is also very much a thing of the west to ask, “can you give me a list of the top ten side effects and experiences that will be coming my way now that I am here?” Which is very helpful in getting us to miss the point of being here. Now.

If you haven’t guessed by now I’m going to take a lot of time telling you I don’t know what it means for you.

Existence is a very personal experience. Our attempts at mediation and moving beyond the physical world will be difficult to explain. I have had other people mention the pressure on the third eye during meditation. When I was meditating under the supervision of Nagaraja S. Pande in Mysore, India, I experienced that same sensation. It was like a finger trying to push it’s way out of my skull. I mentioned this to N.S. Pande and he gave me no explanation. I should make it clear after this experience I still consider my self “Still not Enlightened” and didn’t feel much change in my day to day life besides the general calming from the meditation itself. My friend experienced the same thing and told the head of her Yoga teacher training group and her fellow students, who all told her with great joy that she had activated her third eye. (I think developing the third eye is a better way to describe it than opening or activating the third eye.) I remember Harjiwan telling me that through meditation and Kundalini yoga, the opening of the third eye will become physical. The skull will actually open in that spot.


trepanation, trephination


Native Americans had skull opening rituals. People have used power tools to create these openings in modern times. I don’t advise this. Meditation and yoga sound more appealing. But an extra hole in the head seems to give people a sense of euphoria. Is it the extra oxygen now reaching the brain that is now producing these effects? That might explain the power of Pranayama.

Some people have said you may be experiencing the opening of some old, blocked-up energy and not the opening of the third eye itself… just a clearing out of the third eye energy path.  It’s so subjective.

The chakra in the third eye is an interesting place for us to be suddenly having some action. It is said that most of us are living in our first and second chakras and that by moving our kundalini energy up the spine, we activate each chakra until we reach the top (enlightenment?). But if we are reaching our third eye in meditation, how did our kundalini energy jump over the other chakra areas to reach the 6th chakra (called Ajna)? Can we just jump around from chakra to chakra? AND if we already reached the other 5 chakras wouldn’t we know?

Cymry Mongan of Color my Chakras had this to say:

The Third Eye can only be properly activated when the lower five chakras are balanced and aligned.  If the Third Eye is not linked with the other chakras, we may become obsessed with the search for altered states of consciousness and psychic powers to satisfy our ego. This extinguishes our inner light, moving us further away from Enlightenment.

As far as becoming more intuitive through activation of the third eye/6th chakra, I don’t think it exactly relates to the third eye pressure but is  more an artifact of sitting in meditation daily.  In my opinion our intuition is 100% on, 24/7, but most of us are not listening or have not learned to listen. Which is the point of meditation. Learning to listen. Heightened intuition would be a good sign that your meditation practice is on the right path.

With meditation, we are trying to unlearn and clear the way so we can receive the information that is already available… information we can’t hear because we are already full of so much information. Meditation is not about trying to learn or acquire more. Meditation is a vehicle on a trip to the no mind, or the know mind.

Thanks for your question, Keith. Sorry I don’t have an answer. 😉

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Also from Cymry Mongan of Color my Chakras

The 3rd Eye Chakra is the sixth in the 7-Chakra system.  It is located between and just above the eyes. The Sanskrit word for this sixth chakra is “Anja,” meaning ‘command.’  Working with this chakra gives us a greater spiritual command of our lives.  The color is INDIGO, and the element is Light.  Physically, it is connected with the pituitary and pineal glands, eyes, ears, and nose.  It relates to vision, intuition, intellect, inner wisdom, perception, and mental clarity.

Live from Mysore #14 ( in through the outdoor)

Just back from dinner at Auntys. It’s 6:15pm so we had to rush into our flat (apartment) and put up the mosquito net before the power goes out. It goes out for an hour or 2 every night around this time and if you don’t get the mosquito netting up before the power goes out you have to do it in the dark. Then there is a greater potential that a mosquito is stuck in the net with you. Did I mention I go to bed at 8pm most every night? We get up at 4:45am. Anyways, there were other things I wanted to do first but I had to get the net up. And I said out loud, “There are so many things I have to do before I can do the thing I want to do.” Then I started laughing a lot. So the mosquito netting is up and if you have ever spent the night with a mosquito you’ll know the importance of the net. It also made me remember something I heard: “If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try spending the night with a mosquito.”

Forgot to meditate before dinner so have to do it now before I sleep and with a full stomach. I guess it should never be something you feel you have to do, but shit happens. My TM teacher says you have to fall in love with the practice to get the most of it. True that… or for those of you not down with the hip–hop, that is true.

Took some pictures on the walk to Aunty’s and I realized that, besides my unhealthy obsesion with monkeys, when I use the still camera (not my video camera) I have been taking pictures of doors and windows I think look cool. It was a strange thing I wasn’t doing consciously. The question is: Am I looking for an entrance or an exit… AND is there a difference?

Not going to yoga tomorrow. That old man has beat me. I am whipped. 25 yoga (asana) classes in 26 days. BNS Iyengar does not take off Saturdays or full moons like normal yoga teachers in Mysore. He only takes the new moon off. Definately a sadist. I know he loves it, the crusty old bastard. Yes, there is such a thing as too much yoga.

Nancy and I were both invited to be extras in a Bollywood movie tomorrow. It was supposed to be last week but got rescheduled so I had to pass this time around. My days are numbered with these teachers. I can be an extra back home. But Nancy will be doing the gig. She’ll be playing the tall white foreigner.

Live from Mysore #13 (animals)

I was standing on Double Road watching 5 monkeys in a tree. I took out my camera and started to film them. I looked over my shoulder for a second and I noticed an Indian woman in a slow passing bus using her cell phone to take a picture of me.

I woke up in the middle of the night to use the toilet. I lifted the toilet seat – because I am a gentleman – and an orange gecko jumped out of the toilet and onto the wall. The gecko moved quickly up the wall and out the window.

The next morning BNS Iyengar was pushing me really hard in Marichyasana D. I was trying to remain silent, but a sound came out of me—a squeak, like Ned Beatty in Deliverance.

We went back to the Devaraja Market to see if the 3 boys that ran the incense and oil stand I visited in 2006 were still there. They were- They have everyone who buys something sign a book with a list of what they bought. They have a guest books for every year and every country. While they put together my small order of incense, I filled out some info in the America 2010 book.

We then went to the Ashoka bookstore to buy a couple of Osho books. I decided I wanted some more incense so we went back to the oil and incense stand and the boys had gone through their old guest books and found my entry from 2006.

Tonight—as always—dinner at Aunty’s

Live from Mysore #12 (people and stuff)

If you read my book you have heard the name Jonathan. He helped me out when I was lost in Bangalore in 2006. Jonathan is from California also (funny), but is living and co-operating a yoga shala in Gokulam called Bheemashakti I did a drop-in class there and studied with H.R. Suresh, Jonathan’s partner and teacher. Suresh is a real easy-to-be-around guy. He put me on this jungle gym thing to help me open up my back and more. Their yoga is not the yoga we are used to, but it is some cool stuff. The class is done on the roof of the building under an awning so you can see a bit of the city.

Viola is our neighbor; she has been to India many times and is going next to Goa to study. She has already studied with everyone in town… she is the Joni Yung of Mysore. We had a going-away breakfast with her at a nice café in Gokulam. We ate on their front lawn under a canopy.

Between French toast and a few odd yoga poses (I did shoulder stand on Viola while she did bridge), I ran into my friend Sean. I also know Sean from my first trip to India. Sean is involved with Odanadi ( and is setting up an around-the-world sun salutation event to bring awareness to and help stop human trafficking. We will be joining him in LA in March.

Got the wrap on Marichyasana D on my right side for the 3rd time since being here. It would be nice to get the other side but we’ll see. Of course, then where do I go? Because it never ends. BNS Iyengar took a photo with me after class today and even smiled. Someone is making a documetary on him so I guess he’s getting used to being an 83-year old yoga rock star. I don’t think he would have done it by choice. When someone asked him why he doesn’t have a current web site he said, “Am I doing something wrong?” His classes are full seven days a week. He only takes the new moon off.

Nancy has started an Iyengar dictionary. Here’s what she has so far:
“see the top” = look at the ceiling
“surround it” = bind the pose
“introduce the hands” = put your hands under your feet in padahastasana
“come to the position” = samasthiti
“roll on” = do chakrasana
“reverse the leg” = fold your leg out to the side for pashimottanasana C
“get up!” = into utkatasana; or from garba pindasana into kukkutasana
“fold the knee” = bend your leg for utthita parshvakonasana
“arrange your head” = tilt your head back and put the crown on the ground for setu bandhasana, matsyasana, uttana padasana, etc.
“Right leg! Right leg!!” = could be any number of things he wants you to do with your right leg (or left) but isn’t telling you.

I’m sitting now in the Mandala café having chai and scrambled eggs. It’s 8:30am here.