a center of learning for more than two thousand years, one can study
music, language, yoga, history, and a host of other subjects.
I've chosen to study yoga with R.C. Yogacharya Seth at the Benares
School of Yoga (Benares is an older name for Varanasi).
out of bed, shake off the sleepies.
out of the hotel,
stairs past kids playing and cows ruminating or just staring,
on to a T-intersection of narrow streets in the old city.
often a policeman sleeping at that corner, leaning casually on his
rifle. Right turn, then left at a tea and curd shop. On down
the alley to the Benares School of Yoga.
lie down with eyes closed,
Isha, another student, seems unfocused from a sleepless night.
I slept well, but also feel unfocused. Isha leaves at 10, and
R.C. Yogacharya Seth and I continue until 11:45.
Yogacharya Seth, with the Ganges River in the background.
two weeks of daily classes, I feel I'm ready for neti, one of six
internal cleansings in yoga. As the water is being boiled for
neti, I decide to learn the stomach acid cleansing as well.
This surprises me, as I've always had a fear of vomiting.
into town in search of mineral water and come back with two bottles.
Seth brings out a metal pot of boiled tap water with less than a teaspoon
of salt in it. He fills the neti pot, a small copper pot with
a spout, with this mixture. I bend at the waist, facing right
with my left ear pointing to the ground. Seth inserts the spout
in my right nostril, and with a few subtle adjustments of the tilt
of my head, water begins to dribble out my left nostril.
a feeling -- concentrate on the mouth. Breathe only through
the mouth. It feels like my sinuses will explode if I tilt my
head the wrong way. After some water has made it in one nostril
and begins to flow out the other, the pot is removed and I blow out
forcefully through my nose. My insides push outwards, struggling
to escape through my eyes and ears. Neti is supposed to improve
your sense of smell, sight, hearing, and possibly taste. The
process continues É head turned left now, water entering the left
nostril and dribbling out the right. I blow out vigorously through
my nose onto the floor and feel clear-headed, tingling and awake.
time to learn an internal cleansing of a digestive nature. Seth
burns his finger when he touches the pot in which my two bottles of
mineral water have been boiled. The woman who boiled the water
thinks I'm wasting my money buying mineral water to boil.
deeply of the warm, salty water from the pot. I feel full ...
drink more ... very full ... even more ... then slightly nauseated.
I burp. Seth says this is my stomach acid beginning to rise.
Must drink more.
I feel I may burst.
bend 90 degrees at the hips, grab the wall for support, head over
a small hole in the corner of the cement floor. Now it's time
to fight instinct, conquer my fears and gag myself. Delicately
- three fingers rubbed on the tongue ...
and stop. Seth says I shouldn't stop! I rub my tongue
again, cough, spit out a bit of bilious substance. More rubbing.
A little warm water trickles out, then a cascade of salty water.
I pause. Seth says that when he does this, he rubs his tongue
without stopping and the water comes out all at once. He does
it every Sunday with SIX liters of water -- drink two liters, vomit,
drink two more, vomit, drink the last two, vomit.
is laden with semantics. The way Seth describes it, it's a smooth,
is slow because I always stop rubbing my tongue when I really start
to gag, partly because I feel as though I can't breathe.
gush of water.
... gargle ...
splash of water on cement. My hacking reminds me of the old
man who sounded like he was coughing up a lung every morning in that
hotel in Delhi.
has me drink more water, saying I need not be afraid, as a Master
(himself) is here. I finish off nearly all the water.
Warm heavy salty sickly feeling in my stomach. He pokes and
prods my bulging gut.
myself again. More water comes up. I no longer fear the
process as much as I did, although it's far from pleasant. Finally,
when my eruptions of salty water have become dry heaves, Seth feels
I am finished.
up. Seth rinses down the floor. I walk downstairs.
My thin blue long-sleeved cotton shirt I bought for 60 rupees back
in Jaisalmer, thinking it wouldn't last past Holi, is still lasting
and now soaked. I sheepishly smile at a woman and a girl downstairs
-- they stare at me with an expression of having heard everything.
paying 400 rupees for the cleansings, I retreat to my hotel room.
I feel empty, and interpret this emptiness as depressed. On
the surface, internal cleansings appear purely physical, but they
affect one's emotional state as well, for mind and body are deeply
connected. They have begun to draw some physical toxins out
of my system, along with some emotional toxins. I reflect that
neti is a process I could see myself repeating one day, but that this
business of guzzling warm salty water and self-induced vomiting is
best left to experienced yogis.
drives me out an hour later ... curd, plain rice, two chapatis and
an orange. A mild re-introduction to food. After a nap,
I still feel a bit depressed -- after all that exertion, what now?