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Akon and Crocodile Pose

Sure ways to distract yourself during meditation, even when you find yourself in the yoga epicenter of the world.

sunny 38 °C

Walking through Delhi last week, it was hard to ignore the multitude of people carrying cell phones with unusually loud speakers. The street vendors, passengers on the train, even people weaving through traffic jams played whatever music they felt like, whenever they felt like it. This isn't just an Indian thing-- the trend was also prevalent on the cargo boats I rode in the Brazilian Amazon, for instance-- but here in India this habit seemed notably rampant.

The little street outside the Ashram here in Rishikesh is no exception. Just to give you a bit of a visual, to get to the gates of Yoga Peeth you have to cross Ram Jhulla, the footbridge over the Ganga River, walk past a dozen street vendors, up a stone alleyway lined with dismembered beggars in colorful loincloths, past a school of monkeys, though a bunch of mango and watermelon stands, then turn down what looks like a dead-end street for a while until you see the sign for "Rishikesh Yoga Peeth".

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The sign points you down another alleyway that skirts a giant dirt lot filled with cows and strangely small horses (they are not ponies, I swear!). Then you dodge the cow shit on the cobblestones, pass a few more corner stores, and down a final residential back alleyway. The nondescript gate to the Ashram is about 100 meters on your left among a couple small houses and a paused construction site. My point is, we're not exactly in the city. And it's not exactly a high-traffic area. At best, you might catch a glimpse from your bedroom balcony of a woman in a bright pink sari ambling up the street, or a lean, dark-skinned man in a wife-beater carrying tools. There's also the vegetable seller who comes at least twice a day with his wheel barrel, yelling in Hindi the names of the vegetables for sale that day. Around 8pm, though, when we are in the meditation room finishing our evening class with a long shavasana (corpse pose), the alleyway is usually deserted.

Tonight's class was fairly strenuous; Manaj had us doing a series of leg lifts followed by exercises he calls "rowing the boat" and "churning the mill". Our abs were tired. Each of our muscles were happily stretched. And it was the end of the 5th day of our training. We felt a pleasant combination of exhaustion and relaxation, ideal for the meditation session that he had planned for the end of class. "Please lay down on your mats. Shavasana," he said almost in a whisper. We all laid back on our mats in silent excitement and let our feet and hands flop out to our sides. Then the unexpected: Justin Bieber's voice, accompanied by a horrendous R&B beat came on in the background. The cell phone concert in the alleyway below was on. I heard a couple of fellow American yogis around me chuckle, making me feel less guilty about cracking a smile. We were a bunch of amused corpses.

I figured the top-40 soundtrack to the meditation couldn't last for more than a few minutes. Usually with these impromptu concerts the owner of the cell phone is just trying to distract his/herself as they walk home. I was wrong. After Justin finished his tune, this one came on:

Yeah... try meditating to THAT. "Slowly move your fingers and toes," said Manaj after a few moments. Then, "I feel you creepin' I can see it from my shaaaadoooowww,".... Still smiling, I obeyed, and anticipating his next command bent my knees, rolled over on my right side, and slowly sat up. "Turn on your stomach, take your opposite elbows in your hands. Crocodile pose,". Again, I complied. Usually crocodile pose is one of the most relaxing--even more so than shavasana. In fact, when we did it yesterday I fell asleep for about ten minutes. Just as we settled into the pose, Eminem chimes in, "Oooooh looks like another club banger, they better hang on when they throw this thing on, get a little drink on!". Good thing it was 8 o'clock, it was time to throw in the towel.

Tomorrow's Saturday. Usually that means it's the weekend, but not at the Ashram. The only difference between Saturday and the rest of the week is that tomorrow we're watching a film in philosophy class. The day of rest will have to be Sunday, and it only begins after our usual 5am wake up call and cleansing process. At least we get a Sunday special: instead of the netti pot, we get to floss our nasal passageways!

Posted by pack_it_in 08:46 Archived in India

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