Sunday, January 23, 2005

After weeks of stuffing myself with a nearly all-carb diet of chapattis, rice, and lentil soup, I awoke on Saturday determind to find a yoga joint. Try to run and you choke on dust and pollution (and get even more stares and half assed cat calls). The bike machine and stairmaster from 1983 at the nearby Olympia gym is more likely to injure me than whip my flabby stomach into shape.

So Neeta and Push took me across town in their white boat of a car--as frightening an experience as it always is with him at the wheel--to an Ayervedic hospital which I was told had a yoga program. I sat helplessly while their pot bellied director/doctor/yogi told Neeta in Hindi they couldn't take me on. It's not customary, it seems, to drop in on yoga classes here. But this seemed to be the only yoga in Jodhpur. (So much for thinking India was a yoga supermarket. I think certain regions are and obviously Rajasthan is not one of them). So after pointing out that I was here for two months I was allowed to attend their 5pm class.

The other yogi/doctor/psychologist consultant, short, squat women in thick glasses, gave me a tour of the hospital first, after protesting that she knew no English and could not accommodate me in her yoga classes. A central room with narrow cots, scattered with mostly emaciated women swaddled in shawls, led off into corridors with dark, dirty rooms. In these rooms were mysterious metal implements vaguely explained to me in Hinglish. There was a giant metal sphere where patients use somehow to alleviate digestive problems like constipation-- this reminded me of AbFab Edina's meditation vessel--and a black hose that gushed steam onto the mangled limbs of an arthritis-afflicted patient. There was a massage room. The kitchen was a bit more encouraging. Two women stirred vast cauldrons of veg stews, which I tasted and can report were not half bad. It reminded me of cooking back-in-the-day at old hippie coop in College Park (where I spent the first two years of my life), The Beautiful Day Trading Company--kind of bland (the hospital doesn't use chilies), but hearty.

The yoga class... Well it started inauspiciously. Sitting cross legged we breathed in and out. Then a few more people straggled in. Yoga is prescribed to all patients at the hospital--along with a strict diet and various medieval tortures (from the looks of the instruments). So these folks were the old, sick, and the weary. I was the only one not wrapped in seven layers. We laid on the ground looking up--hmm, a different way to begin--then she began to speak in a slow, soothing voice--in Hindi. Every now and then she'd translate a word or two. "Shoulders relax... ghghghg." My toes and fingers were numb. "Close interior mind ghghg ... Pancreas soft... Large intestines... Interior mind bagaeggdssfdsdf... Toes..."

After the class I mentioned that I like the kind of yoga where you stretch. She replied that this was a class for patients’ lung and stomach ailments. I guess the idea is to visualize your lungs being healthy. She said the stretching classes are held before 7am daily. "So you come tomorrow at 6, yes?"

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