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Sundar Narayanan's Travelog

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Water bottles....

I spent 30 mintues yesterday trying to find my first Yoga waterbottle. It was a "get well soon" gift from Camino Medical group after my surgery. When I started doing yoga and was searching for a water bottle, it was the only bottle I had. That bottle was kept as a memorabilia of sorts and survived many spring clean up efforts from wife and the kids. Alas, it was not to be found yesterday. Not sure if it was thrown out when I was not looking.. Once I left it at BYSJ and got it back in lost and found. That actually made my day!

Initially, I would sip. Then my MIL started putting ice in her bottle and inspired by her, I started using ice cubes. Soon it was mostly ice cubes with a little water. We eagerly looked forward to Eagle pose and the end of it so we could rush to ice water. Water never tasted that good! Those were early days.. first few classes.

Then went from sipping to guzzling. Yes, I was a guzzler once! I was the Hummer among Yogis! The little bendy straw on that bottle was not enough. Started removing the cap and drinking from the bottle. Soon, one bottle wasn't enough the way things were going. At the end of a year of yoga, the pores had opened up nicely, sweat was flowing freely, I had moved to be a front row student and would start sweating even before class began because of the heat in that part of the room. So one bottle became a bottle and a Cup (which Jr. won in a raffle at BYSJ! ) 

The bottle was for water

the cup was for ice

by the time we hit the floor

it was a sight for sore eyes.. 

I am getting carried away here. Then another year goes by and the cup is replaced with a full size bottle. We are now at 2 Liters of water during a class. The rate at which water consumption was increasing, would have had to join or start Waterholics Anonymous. Then came the fancy hydroflasks. These thinks kept the water cold even in a hot room, even if you were a little careless in closing the bottle. So the plastic ones were ditched and replaced with one flask. Had colors to chose from! 

Then I met Mary Jarvis... It has been two months to the day I gave up drinking water during class. For the record, I still drink water till about 30 minutes before class. Go to class without any water bottle. After class I wait for almost 10-15 minutes till I am at the first Stop sign or light and then take a sip. The bottle is there in the car. Now I place water bottles everywhere.. at work, in my bedroom table, in the living room.. kind of reminds me of that Signs movie where Mel Gibson's kid leaves water everywhere. 

For me to pull off a yoga class without water, I have to constantly hydrate out of class. Now there are four bottles being used regularly instead of one! Not over compensating or anything. Still drink the same amount of water, but make it a point to remember to drink an hour before class. 

Now that it has been two months without water in class, I can stop counting and go do this going forwards. Kid crawls.. then kid takes first steps, then walks.. you take a picture or a video of the first steps but after that the kids walking is taken for granted. Every year or two when there is a chance, one goes back to look at those photos and videos of the baby's first steps.. this post is going to be like that for me. Look back fondly and reminisce about guzzling days..

Never thought that I could do this first.

Then thought I could not do this for more than a week.

Now got used to it.

If only locking that knee consistantly could be pulled off with the same enthusiasm!!!!! That would make my day, or week or months! 


You will be fine!

It has been 6 weeks since I stopped drinking water during Yoga class. When I started to give up water during class, thought that it was going to be incredibly difficult.

Over the last few weeks (did miss two weeks during travel) always thought that there will be that "one class" which would get me to run back to that water fountain outside the class. So far, so good.

Think my mind knows now that as long as there was a glass of water 30 minutes before class, everything will be fine a good 30 minutes after class is over. Like Mary Jarvis had predicted on the 18th of March..... "you will not die if you stop drinking water during class. you will be fine!"

This is like starting to drive a battery car for the first time. Initially you have range anxiety. You are not sure if you can go to a place and get back. There is always some variability on the mileage depending on how fast or slow you go locally, which in the Yoga room is equivalent to not giving every pose a 100% in a stupid attempt to "conserve sweating" which is actually counter productive. You know there is no "nearest gas tank" where you can fill up and continue on a battery car.. Eventually when you get the hang of the routes you travel and know your speed, you stop having range anxiety. You know you will be fine. 

What is the worse that can happen? you stop on the side of the road and have to call AAA? You are exhausted on the yoga mat and the teacher has to drag you out by your feet? (well, that has not happened to me yet... but a teacher did joke to a first timer that they should always have their feet towards the door during class and when asked why, replied "that is in case you die here and we have to drag your body out. it is easier feet first towards the door"... the teacher said it with a straight face and everyone burst out laughing)

It has been an interesting month. Two weeks in Asia. First week on business trip, followed by a quick Chennai visit for my nephews "upananayanam" or "Janeu" ceremony. It was a great experience. I was the only one representing the four of us. My sister came as well and after four years my parents got to be in the same roof with all three kids even if it was only for three days. 

My sister and me with parents, while my brother is performing the ceremony on stage in the background. The photo of the five of us was not taken on my camera! So I have to wait for it...

Did manage to take a shot of my mom with all her siblings. The last time I managed that shot was in 2005 when my Grandfather got married to my grandma all over again at the age of 80!

13 years later my uncle has lost a lot of weight and looks like a concentration camp survivor and my mom and aunts have all put on weight and have some kind of health issue or another. They are all smiling and going about their lives and while that makes me happy, wish they would all take up some form of regular exercise. Was giving them the "never too late, never too old, never too sick..." spiel but it did not go very well. 

My grandma is still around and tack sharp!

As soon as I got back home, San and the little one went to India to represent the family at her cousins wedding. There was  no time to catch up on social media or do anything other than manage to go through the routine while getting over jet lag. Made it to Yoga almost every night after coming back, even if it meant going very late in the night. Hats off to all those single parents who come to Yoga class. Now I know why they pick the late night class. 

We had a lot of discussion during the India trip on the impact of my deciding to settle in the US, how time and space can be hard barriers, but how family still holds together thanks to culture and tradition etc. The thread ceremony marks a boy's commitment to learning the scriptures. My brother and myself had our ceremony at the same time and it was a big experience for me. Somehow the meaning of the word "responsibility" came into consciousness after that ceremony. Till then I was happy playing cricket with the boys and I-spy with the boys and girls in Sambandham street without any awareness of the fact that I was not going to be a kid forever. Glad there was a ceremony like that to slap you into life!

There is no such thing for girls and my mother was telling me that the next big function for me was Jr's wedding...

It was great to watch my nephew go through this experience and suddenly tansform into a big boy and start to learn.. with the Gayathri mantra! He has excellent pronunciation and hopefully he gets to improve his memory by reciting things by heart over time. If he keeps up the breathing exercise that is half the yoga done already!

Clicked this one right at the end of the function. The Narayanan family has successfully passed on a male tradition to the next generation! Looks like the boy has the weight of the world on his shoulders and he might as well have. Passing on a quest for learning and questioning and understandign go a long way to the betterment of the world. The most important thing one needs to learn is "how to learn". Everything follows.

Next will be time to pass on female traditions a few years from now..

I had an amazing time paticipating in a function after so many years in India, taking pictures, chatting with relatives, catching up, and most importantly playing with my nephew and niece. 

Instagram filters were a big hit with my niece.. every 10 minutes she would come to me and go "Periappa, doggie ears photo pannalamaa?"  Think we exhausted every filter..

During the INdia trip, I avoided a lot of things that are usual. Said no to "ghee" for the most part, restricted myself to "small portions" of food (as small as my mom would allow) and avoiding a lot of fried stuff. That actually made life easier after coming back. 

All said and done "I am fine!" as is the family.


The end game..

A yoga post that was long coming.

2018 started with getting over the Flu. I was drinking Delsym at a minute before midnight on New Years eve. The last time I came back from Beijing, two days before X-mas, some bugs hitched a ride back with me or so I thought. So it took me till the 6th of January to go try Yoga again. Even on the 6th I was pretty weak and my plan was to go to anything but the front row and pace myself. There was a new teacher who keyed me in on the 6th and she had no idea it was my "come back class".

"A leopard cannot change its spots", or some such thing... Once I go through those double doors, I am like a new born that has been temporarily put back in the womb and I start kicking in my happy place. Put the mat in the last row and a second later move it to the third and after looking around the room and seeing there is a spot in the front row, moved it up to the mirror. My thoughts during those 90 or 100 seconds of mat moving cannot be summarized in this post. That could be a book in itself. You guys read this blog and you know I am good for it!

Came back the next day and my friend and teacher Jessica gave me a big hug and said "welcome back". She knew I was sick last two weeks but did not ask me anything more. That was probably her way of saying "you know what to do in the room, so I am not biasing you". At the end of the class, Jessica asks "60 day challenge?" like she was asking me if I would like some Gulab Jamun after a meal, and without giving it much thought, wrote my name on the sign up sheet. After that we didn't talk about it. I just came every day as usual, went to China as usual and did doubles on every weekend as usual, heard the sighs from wife and kids when they realized I was doing the challenge, as usual, and finished the Challenge.. and hopefully that becomes "as usual".

(there are better pics on BYSJ's Facebook page)

There was a Challenge party and we had some testimonials from folks who finished 60 classes in 60 days and they were all inspiring. We had to leave the party after an hour as the kids had to be taken to dinner.. as usual but this year we got to watch the other folks tell us about their journey on Facebook Live! I was telling the kids what Multiple Sclerosis was and after an inspiring story Jr. said she will come join me for classes again. Okay, she said "a class", but I am hoping it is going to be plural.

This year I am kicking out regularly in the standing head to knee pose and it is my new favorite pose.

There are alwasys graphs and charts for a 60 day challenge post..

There was a possibility of an earlier China trip, so I finished the challenge in 58 days and eventually did 61/60 when the trip was not pre-poned. If you think going to do Yoga more than 3 times a week is difficult think again. Coming back from a flu, going to Asia and back for a week in the middle of this, those were easy because I had done those before. One of the days, I had to drive past Sacramento area startign at 6AM, attend a meeting, come back at 5PM, chaired a meetign from 6 to 8 PM and still did yoga from 8:30PM-10PM just to keep challenge going. It is all doable. There are people who have debilitating issues who do the challenge and mine are nothing compared to those. Even if you don't do the challenge, it is okay. Come to the party to hear some really inspiring real life stories! 

Still tracking weight.. 

The excel file was started almost a year after starting Yoga and so far it has close to 2000 data points... (some of them blank)

Here is weight since 2012..

 If you notice the excel file there is a total class tracker. Have crossed 1500 classes and the best part is:

- Still suck at this

- Have not given up on it

- Even though my self assesment and self esteem take a beating in that mirror, the end result is positive because every day is usually better than the previous day

- this yoga keeps me grounded. Every now and then I get reminded that sooner or later gravity will win and I will be ashes, but till that day, going to fight gravity every day, every set.

- my teachers and fellow students seem to believe in me and root for me. they see more in me than I see myself and that is a blessing

- learn something new every day, be it class 1, 100, 1000 or 1506..always something new which brings me to class 1500

Have already posted about this special class with Yoga Professor Emeritus, Mary Jarvis. One class can sometimes change your view and attitude to things. This one definitely did for me.

It took me 4 classes after her talk, to give up water during Yoga class. The last one week have left the water bottle in the car. Sometimes I drink a sip or two on the way home. Mostly now I drink water a good 40 minutes after class is over. It is interesting.There is a sudden cool over my face and body and even on the insides while driving back after class. Kind of like what you feel when you drink regular water after chewing mint gum but it feels like ice water. Same thing except all over the body and this is new. Most likely has to do with the "no water during class".

Have also stopped fidgeting during class. No more subconscious wiping of sweat. No moving around mat with the bullshit excuse of trying to make it easy for people behind me who are also moving around, etc.

Currently trying to keep tummy sucked in from beginning of class till the first pose, and failing at it miserably. Confident that sooner or later that will change and can then go to other things that were taught.  

One funny thing Mary Jarvis mentioned during the special class which is replaying in my head?!

"the whole goal of doing this yoga is so you can sit in lotus pose without moving and meditate for long periods of time. This pose is almost a half lotus and this will eventually help you get to lotus!". She was telling the entire class that and I was thinking "What?! I can already sit in Lotus pose for long periods of time! Why am I doing this Yoga then? Shouldn't I do that instead?"

Maybe my Lotus sucks.. should make a bumper sticker that says "my lotus sucks" ? Maybe there is a market for it?  As a kid we used to sit in Lotus pose all the time. My kids here struggle because they are not used to sitting on the ground all the time. They have "criss cross applesauce" issues. Everytime we go visit the Livermore temple, I sit there for at least half an hour in silence before walking out. Used to do it at home also and manage to sit for 45 minutes. Two years ago I tried to time myself and made it once to 54 minutes. 

Maybe the key words were "long periods of time"! How long is long?!

After Mary's class, I wanted to try and see how long in lotus pose but with eyes closed and "no fidgeting". No movement "whatsoever".  Turns out it was 44 minutes 11 seconds as caught on timelapse video..

Technology is good. Daughter's iPhone for timelapse, my iPhone for timer, a clock in the background that catches the time "lapsing" and my legs that pretty much went blue after this time. Took me 3 minutes to be able to get up and walk again as the blood returned to my feet!

Doing 1500+ classes of 90 mintue Yoga and cannot even sit in one place without moving for one single hour! If that doesn't put things in perspective for you, don't know what will. There are folks who have stayed in the same place without moving for 1-3 days. I have been fortunate in this lifetime to meet multiple people who have done that and have heard from my grandpa that he has met people who have done the same. Folks who can slow down time... is how he put it.

Going to try doing this to see how long it takes to cross the one hour mark and eventually the 90 minute mark.

Yoga has helped me immensely this year. My stress at work is through the roof and if it were not for the Yoga to supplement the support from my wife and kids, I would not be functioning normally, or even functioning. 

A big heartfelt thanks to all my teachers at BYSJ for keeping me sane. You know who you are.. and if you don't know.. there is a graph for it also.

We have a lot of teachers, some are new, some traveling and teaching us for a month or for just one special class and the regular teaching staff. Every teacher gives it a 100% when it comes to doing the right thing for folks in class and all teachers who knew me, showed me no mercy during the challenge!

Well, it is almost time to go to one more Yoga class or as my wife would say "Kazhudhai ketta kutti suvaru!" ("if he is not home, he will be in Yoga class" is the loose translation).

Writing this post made me cheer up. Hope is you read this and are inspired to try a 60 day challenge!


Maps and settings

Recently I was asked to install an upgrade on my bluetootch connection in Prius when I got the new iPhone X. So I waited to go through the motions.

Now everytime I get out of my car, there is a "parked car update". That was interesting.

Also given I am a creature of habit, the phone would tell me "14 minutes to Bikram Yoga San Jose" if I ever sat in my car and started to drive at certain times.. or it would say "45 mintues to Home" when I leave office.

Sometimes I would have to go do a drop or pickup for the kids and skip yoga for a late class and the app would give me this bitter reminder that not everything goes like clockwork. 

Last 5 days has been interesting. I had left work and suddenly my phone pops a reminder that says 30 minutes to Felix labs. I was worried for a second. So called my office promptly and said "did you guys book me for some meeting with someone at something called Felix labs or copy me on calendar?" I just got instructions to drive there.

My guys said "no we dont work with any Felix labs or have plans to. Maybe your phone or outlook is hacked?".

Came home and checked. It was not a calendar thing. It was a "maps" thing. Someone has marked Felix Labs on one of the houses near my house and the maps is picking up that as the location instead of my Home! 

The same thing happened the other day when I was trying to drive to another known location. It gave a different name! 

This is really weird. Thought this should be posted out there to see if others are seeing similar things and why?!


A new marker on the yoga journey

On Sunday, an experienced and expert Yoga teacher, Mary Jarvis was to visit Bikram Yoga San Jose and teach a class at 10AM followed by a special posture clinic class from Noon to 4 PM... at least that was the plan.

She did come and the regular 90 minute class at 10AM went till 1:15. Almost everyone in the room just stayed the entire time trying to grasp every little detail of what she said. She chose her words carefully and she gave us perspective on the Yoga practice itself. It was a window to what was possible and why. The how of it was secondary. It was personalized depending on the student and the day and time of class, a function of everything else in their mind and life.. but she was not going to judge us as long as we tried. 

We got a 15 minute break and continued. There have been a few special classes over the years as part of practicing Yoga that helped improve the practice and produce light bulb moments. This class was up there on that list.

At this point everything in class looks like "BM" and "AM" .. Before Mary and after Mary, which is why I call it a new marker on the Yoga journey. 

Since Sunday I have been in three classes including tonight and I started thinking of some little things first. 

1. No fidgeting in class. You stay still in the pose and in between poses. Apparently she ate flies that sat on her face just to avoid fidgeting. Her teacher(Bikram) threw her out of class for fidgeting in between poses.

2. No water during the class. If you breathe through the class, you don't need water (her words, not mine). Apparently there were no water bottles allowed in the days she learned yoga and in her studio she asks teachers to lead by example. However she doesn't insist on students giving it up but asks them to try. 

3. 4. 5. ... 655.. the rest can wait. I was going to try 1 and 2 first. 

First class AM, too much fidgeting but at least I was conscious of it. Also avoided water till half way point when we got to the floor series. 

Second class AM, 3 fidgets and they were pre-meditated. There were many that were subconcsious but didn't know it. Also almost made it without water for 80/90 minutes. Just before we went to the final stretching pose I caved. Went for the water bottle. 

Today was class 3. I did not fidget knowing it. There were 6 instances where subconsciously my hand was going to my forehead to clear sweat and every time my hand went up, brought the other hand up to do a Namaste in front of the mirror.  I am sure the folks around me were thinking "what a narcissistic asshole Namastaying himself after every third pose... but it doesn't matter. What was important is that I was in "eyes wide open" mode the entire 90 minutes. It is amazing to realize that there are points in the class where I had no idea what I was doing.. at least prior to this class, and I have been in Jesssica's class a gazillion times and I think I pay attention to her. Apparently not a 100%. It is not easy to be conscious of every little movement. 

One thing that was sacrified to be that conscious was my face had this intense stare throughout the class and I did not smile. Maybe that is the next step in the evolving process. Stay alert and smile.

As for the water bottle, didn't touch it today. It was there, inviting me all the time, taunting me, tempting me.. but made it through the class and all the way home. Drank water after a shower. Nothing bad happened by skipping water. So far so good..

Sometimes a special teacher can make a world of a difference. Mary Jarvis has made two small dents in my practice within a week. Will see how many of the rest of her words of wisdom sink in and make a difference over time.