"Selfie? Please thanks!"

On posing with strangers, feasting from banana leaves, and who's got claim to yoga

In early November, I bought a ticket to southern India. I was headed for the next in a sequence of yoga teacher trainings, a month long 300hr course amounting to 500 total hours of certification and (hopefully) the sowing of some new seeds of a practice that first found me when I took my 200hr TT in Rishikesh in 2012. This post is part of a series documenting my journey to and through Mysore, India and AyurYoga Eco Ashram's teacher training program.

The market in Mysore is filled inside and out with bright fruits, veggies, and piles of colorful powders. I took a walk through its narrow halls and outer paths while I was in Mysore on our first Saturday off from yoga studies at the ashram.

Yesterday I graduated from my 300hr advanced yoga teacher training program.

This month was a challenge, a deep-inside parsing of things that still don’t feel quite ripe. Some have burst out of me as tears or joy or laughter or shouting, but most are still self-contained, quiet processes working away behind the curtains of me.

But before I indulge reflection on the course I’ve just finished (I'll get to that in the next post), I want to take you back to Mysore.

My favorite coconut stop. Despite his serious photoshoot face, this guy was the friendliest, smiliest man. For 20 rupees (about 30 cents) he'd chop a perfect drinking hole in the top of a coconut. When I finished guzzling the post-yoga delight, he'd machete a sliver from the coconut's side, cut the coconut in half, then use the husk sliver as a spoon to carve out the meat for me. YUM.

Two weeks ago, on our day off, the second free-time Saturday, I ventured back to the nearest big town. I spent the day eating unlimited delights by (right!) hand from banana leaves, smelling all the incense in the giant Mysore market, and trying not to fall down as I surfed a corner-whipping bus.

I joined three others--an American student, a Swedish volunteer and an Indian teacher--for the rickshaw-to-bus adventure from the ashram to Mysore. After a breakfast of pounded rice mixed with bananas and jaggery, we walked down the dirt path that leads left out of the ashram to the main asphalt road where we hailed a shared rickshaw to the nearest village of Hullahalli.

The dirt road that leads to the asphalt route to Hullahalli. I walked this road pretty much every day, sometimes more than once, for a brief reprieve from the confines of the ashram.

I rode in the backward-facing back seat, watching the asphalt as it spun out from under us and half listening to the conversation behind me about meditation and gender in India.

At Hullahalli’s small bus station we stopped at the public squat toilets, then boarded the unmarked red and white bus to Mysore, lucky/early enough to snag our own seats. Everyone, unsurprisingly, was either sneaking less-than-inconspicuous glances or flat out staring-not-blinking at our group, 75% white as we were, and 100% blabbering in English.

The backward-facing ride in the back of our rickshaw to Hullahalli, where we caught a bus to Mysore on our day off.

While I have moved through most days of my life without any awareness of what it means to stand out, in India I am a spectacle. I appreciate this, reflect on it. One friend, an Indian man I met at a restaurant, reminded me that I represent a gateway to what for many is a far-away shining Better Life. This is a weighty thing I hold as I travel through spaces that aren't mine.

Sometimes locals and Indian tourists put me to work: if I stand still for more than 30 seconds in a public place, at least one person (or an entire family) will approach me for a “selfie.” One selfie prompts others to join in—I’ve ended up in one place for 10+ selfies more than a few times. (“Me too!?” “Me too please.” “Please thanks.”)