Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Why, oh why, oh why?

Okay, so let me take you back, waaaaaay back...

Actually, not that far back, just about 2 1/2 years ago when I first started yoga. I must admit that I first came to yoga as an open-minded skeptic - very interested in the physical benefits (improved health and relaxation) and some of the mental aspects (better concentration) but the spiritual aspect was something that I was definitely not interested in (to say the least). I have always been very much a believer in science, and the power of man to carve his own destiny in life, and the likelihood of me actually following all the mumbo-jumbo hippy tree-hugging crap that is (so I thought) the spiritual aspect of yoga was as likely as Saddam Hussein turning Buddhist (the mother of all conversions?).

Still, I approached it with an open mind (and an open heart), and here I am. What I found was the same as many people. That yoga is not a religion, it doesn't need to involve airy-fairy "all is love" nonsense, and it is a practical philosophy to help you better yourself merely by learning a bit more about yourself. Can I do lotus or bend my leg behind my head? No, not quite. Have I attained perfect tranquility and oneness with the universe? Nope, still on my 'to do' list. Do I feel better for all my efforts? A resounding yes. In the end, I feel I have a better grip on the world and 'how things work' than I did back then, and that can't be a bad thing!

So, what's that got to do with India? Muuuuuh! as they say on Chewin the Fat. Yoga comes from India, you see. As an unashamed Internet-junkie I have joined in (and left) many an online yoga forum in my time, and watching all the people tell their tales of India, and wheedling off to the sub-continent for months on end one after another I often thought, "I wish I could do that." And in June last year, that thought changed to, "Well why can't I?"

First hurdle - the work! No point in going somewhere like India for a few weeks, I thought, so first step is getting the bosses to agree to let me go for a month or three. At that time I primarily practiced Ashtanga yoga at the Practice Place in Edinburgh. A fantastic place full of great people (teachers, staff and students), I can heartily recommend practicing there to anyone. At that time I was thinking of
going to Mysore to study with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (Guruji), which requires at least a month's practice, so I set my heart on 10 weeks' leave, so that I could spend a month or two there and then do a bit of touring before returning home.

But things change - I had the pleasure of practicing with Guruji in London in October 2003, but by then the dreadful truth of my worsening knee problem was striking home. Went to the doctor and he's now referred me to a specialist to get both knees checked out, with probable cartilage tears in both knees (the left one having had 2 ops already). Ashtanga is not very kind to already-damaged knees, so it was time to take a different approach.

Well, it took my work about 5 months from me first asking to the boss officially saying yes, but I now have permission for 10 weeks paid leave in early 2005. I am having to take most of my leave for 2 years to do so, but it's 'trip-of-a-lifetime' stuff, so who cares?!

Right now, I have nothing but that permission. What I do have is a headful of ideas that I will hopefully turn into plans, a few friends who are trying to join me for at least part fo the journey, a couple of people living in India that I will be meeting for the first time, and a whole load of travel arrangements to make, inoculations to suffer and a multitude of things to buy before I set off. Before all that, there's a whole World Wide Web for me to research, to absorb all the info I can and pass it on to you, if you wanna join me for the ride.

But that, as they say, is another story...