Friday, January 29, 2010

On the Road Again... the new blog!

Hello All,

I have returned to India with a small group of students & the adventures have begun! Please subscribe to the new blog & stay in touch!

Sending love to all,
Jennifer Ellen

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Re-Entry & Re-Integration

After a long journey with some snags along the way, I made it back home.

It feels wonderful, and a bit weird. I am happy to be back with my community and my family. As I have visited the studio and seen some familiar faces, I am moved to gratitude once again, for all the love, support, friendship and community that we have co-created at Flow Yoga. I have re-connected with friends and am shifting slowly back into the rhythm of life here.

People have asked me what I learned in India, and I have to admit, it's hard to define in words. I feel deeper and broader. I feel like I have a bit more clarity and firmer roots. I have had some questions answered, and have a whole new garden of questions to explore. I feel physically and mentally stronger than ever before, and one thing I know for sure: I will go back.

This will be the last entry for this Kalari in Kerala blog, but I will start a new weekly blog with thoughts and ideas that continue to roll around as I continue on the path of learning and discovery. Here's the link: .

Oh and one more thing, I know many of you would like to see the photos of my trip, so I will be creating a Picasa web album with labeled photos of the journey. I'll publish the photo album on the new blog and at ... just give me a few more days to get my bearings.

Thanks to all of you who were interested in sharing this adventure with me, I have felt your encouragement and support the whole way through. To the adventures that lie ahead!

Sunday, March 8, 2009


We made it to Dubai, let the culture shock begin!

First, it is MUCH MUCH cooler here, closer to 70's & 80's rather than 95-100 plus humidity & mosquitoes. Second, I don't have to cover up as much, although I still do because 70 feels cold just now. Third, I can use a fork again, take a hot shower or even a bath, sleep in a bed without a mosquito net and even have cold cereal for breakfast. It all feel nice, but a little melancholy because although the creature comforts are nice, I know it really is the end of such an amazing and fulfilling journey.

Dubai itself is an interesting place. Aside from the famous explosion of architecture and infrastructure, 80% of the population is not from the UAE, so, to me, it feels a little like a place without a concrete identity. It is a place in rapid evolution and constantly shifting, people coming and going, making fortunes and some now losing them. It is also beautiful. White sand beaches, dining and shopping on the water, and almost everything you could want from anywhere in the world.

My long time friend, Brian, has been living here for 9 years and is the host and tour guide for Gerhard and I as we are teaching the 1st ever kalari workshop in Dubai. There is a small crew of friends of Brian and some ex-pat locals who were adventurous enough to sign up without much idea of what was to happen. They all did really well, and it was really nice to meet Alex and Adriane in particular. They are Australian and German respectively, and I am sure we will meet again somewhere on the path.

This is really the thing that I am learning through all of this: the world is vast and small. The more places we go, we more we know that we are all connected, and that we meet the people we need to meet when we need to meet them. Some call it karma, fate, destiny, even chance. I call it beautiful.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Yesterday, I was given permission to begin to teach Kalari from Sherifka. It is a big responsibility to be a part of an intact living lineage, I feel the gravity keeping me firmly on the ground, which is good.

Because I received permission yesterday, today I had to bring 3 beetle leaves and one arcanut with some rupees to the kalari for a ceremony. It was brief and not a lot of fanfare, just Sherifka and I while others were practicing.

It still feels great to be able to move a little, and to be with the others in the rhythm of practice. I am sad that there is only one more day, but feeling the mental shift beginning to pull me back home.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Back in the Saddle

I get to practice - HOOOORAY!!!

With only 5 days left, Sherifka saw that I was really really wanting to practice, and although it is not ideal after intense treatment, he allowed me to go to the kalari and to 10% of what I was before. I know it doesn't sound like much, but after 16 days of n-o-t-h-i-n-g, I was so happy to just be there, feel the clay, move a bit and reconnect.

I also am feeling some more of the benefit of the treatment. The normal aches and pains (what I thought was normal) have seemed to evaporate, and I feel more movement within the movement. A subtle shift in energy flow. One unexpected side effect is that because I basically had a 'master re-set' in my muscular system, my balance is a bit off during practice, and I have no real power. I can feel it coming, but it's not quite there yet.

It will be interesting to see what develops in the next few weeks, traveling to Dubai and finally home. I am wondering how my practice will change: what will be tighter and what will come together, what will be forgotten until I return again.

I can feel the pull of home beginning to take hold. Manuel is now gone, he is missed for sure - it is much quieter now... even the house knows it's the end. I am beginning to wonder what it feels like to have a new president (yup, I missed that whole thing), what the economic situation holds for me and for so many, to anticipate a different paradigm than the one I left.

We are all squeezing the last drops of the sun from this experience.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Unwinding

I can't believe that there are only 8 days before I leave for Dubai and 12 until I come home. In many ways, I feel that I am just getting into the groove. In many ways, I am ready to move into the next phase.

The house and the Kalari are reflections of this same energy. Janet, Dagmar, Margareta and Xenia have all left. Elise is packing to go even as I type. Manuel, Gerhard and I all leave India on the 4th, and are trying to figure out how to get all the last stuff in. Sam is applying for jobs in England for the 1st time after 3 years of traveling. We are all wondering what is awaiting us as we make the journey home.

I have been thinking about what I have learned here, and in many ways I feel that the knowledge I have gained here has mostly been transmitted on an energetical level. An understanding, rather than a knowing in a scholarly way.

I have a new relationship with authenticity, especially in weakness. I feel gratitude for the many many times I have been challenged... and supported in those challenges. I am also deeply appreciative of the opportunities I have had to be still, to walk alone, to find new strength. I know I will leave some of this awareness here, and I am at peace with that.

I suppose many come to India seeking enlightenment, that is understandable, as there is so much deep, old wisdom here. In don't feel enlightened, just a little more familiar.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


The day finally arrived- Purging.

I admit to some fear and apprehension surrounding this whole process, and am happy to report that I am alive and well (mostly) today.

The day was supposed to start at 6am by drinking 20ml of castor oil, but I hardly slept the night before, so I started at 7am. I drank the oil (YUCKY!) gargled and waited. The process is to drink the oil, then half a glass of water. After that, one glass of water every 30 minutes until the purge is complete-which means 4-6 times pooping until only water comes out (I know it's not pleasant, but that's how it goes). Once that happens, you get rice water with a bit of rice at the bottom. This stops the purging so you can eat some rice and vegetables later in the afternoon. Then, if all goes well, you get to eat a regular dinner.

What happened to me was similar, but I had been cheating for the last few days & drinking milk chai. I thought it was fine, no problem, treatments going well enough, stomach feels okay, but my constitution really can't handle it, so the purge forced the stuff into my system & BAM... MIGRAINE!!! And the special bonus, BAM, MIGRAINE this morning as well.

After many massage treatments where I thought they might be taking my head completely off, we surrendered to the chemical fix of my western medicine. I had jacked up my system with the milk, and the only way out without suffering for two more days was the pills. I really appreciated that Sherifka suggested to take them, because I felt so guilty even asking. He told me that at a certain point, the pain is so taxing on the system, that it is worse to let it continue than to take the western pills.

After a half an hour rest I was like a new person. Hooray! I finally had that cleaned out and energized feeling. I now know what to expect and what to avoid and I feel how beneficial the purge was for my body. I am hooked, but glad it will be a long time before I do it again.

Later, I was even able to go to town to pick up some pants I had made (really great tailors & really inexpensive) and I even had a real dinner.

Lesson learned: listen to Sherifka, and don't drink milk!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Wedding Bells

Oooohhhh I am so glad that Janet let me put some of her pictures on my computer! AND affter 7 attempts to post them, and an hour and a half later...I had to skip it for now.

A couple of weeks ago, Sherifka started talking about how he may have found a match for his daughter, Jafria to marry. All kinds of meetings ensued and finally, we got the word that it was in fact a match and that the wedding would be sometime in July.

As it seems to be with all things Indian, this 1st understanding proved to be incorrect. Because of the astrological charts of the involved parties, the wedding was today. The big party to celebrate the wedding will be in July. The coolest thing was that I got to go! (sort of). The bride doesn't attend the wedding, just the men go to the mosque to do the business of the marriage.

We had a bunch of food, and everyone looked so beautiful- a nice change from oil, dirt and sweat. There was a lot of chatting, and an lot of picture taking. Mostly, I really enjoyed seeing this side of an arranged marriage.

Jafria is incredibly happy and she was thrilled with the match her father made. She was excited to show us pictures of him on her laptop, and was like a schoolgirl over a gift he had given her the day before. She did get to meet him, and if she had not felt it was a good match, the marriage would not have happened. It was sweet and very different from my pre-conceived notions of arranged marriage.

It really is something to experience a new idea every day here, and I am trying to soak as much of it up as possible.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Goodness, Gracious, Great Balls of Oil!

It's been a few days since I blogged, you can blame the treatment. Wow! It takes a bunch of energy & although I am inside for a big chunk of the day, I just haven't been able to even think about getting on the computer to write (well, I have thought about it, but that's as far as it's gotten...).

I wake up a little later than for practice (7am) and wash my face, feet & hands, brush teeth, take ayurvedic medicines & am ready to go. Lucky for me, it's just a few steps to the treatment room from my bedroom.

The only thing I wear during treatment is a piece of cloth hanging from (or tucked into) a string tied around my waist. This was an adjustment.

In the U.S., we're used to low lights, nice smelling oils, music & draping cloth. I am face down, up sitting or standing (that's right, standing in the altogether) on a tile floor covered by a palm-leaf mat in fluorescent lighting, right next to the kitchen, and the only music is the occasionally crackling loudspeaker from the temple across the way. This is not a spa.

I am receiving Marma treatment and Kyrie one right after the other. Jamsheer and Ramesh give me the Marma treatment massage and Annil, Somen and Adrika give me the Kyrie.

The marma treatment begins sitting. Oil is poured on the head, then rubbed in every which way (this is a real mess to comb out later). Each stroke has a specific direction and number of repetitions and they all are getting progressively more intense building to the purging day, which is Friday.

After they finish the head, I lay on my stomach and the full body work over begins. The most painful parts are the backs of my knees and my glutes. The common phrase around here is "when Ramesh gets out his thumbs..." I usually breathe deep into it, but oh my, oh my. This goes on & I flip like a pancake, back to sitting, then it finishes standing. I am learning a lot about being in my body and where I hold judgements about myself. It is hard on an emotional level, as well as a physical level, but I can see and feel a big difference in my body already, and know that it is healing on such a deep level.

After about 15 minutes of rest, I go to the treatment room outside the house where Adrika has been cooking round satchels of herbs in hot oil to make a paste to be pounded and then rubbed in to my skin by Annil and Somen. I have to admit, this is the most difficult thing for me to handle. The oil the first two days was really really hot and I was getting burned a little - nothing serious or even lasting, but painful nonetheless, and for some reason, this pain was also bringing the most difficult emotions with it. I thought I might have to quit the Kyrie, but after Jamsheer and Ramesh talked to Annil (thanks to Gerhard..India style communication), the oil was much cooler and I think I will survive after all.

Once I am finished with the Kyrie, I have to let the paste sit on my skin (and the oil in my hair & everywhere) for three hours before showering. I am sure that I will have that smell with me for the rest of my life!

I wrote before that I can't go outside during a big chunk of day, but there are exceptions if you're not in direct sunlight. I can't swim in the ocean, and only limited trips to the roof. Obviously, no practice, and the worst: no sleeping -except if I am REALLY tired, I can have a nap after lunch, which I do every day, because I am REALLY tired.

Everyone here is super supportive and very understanding, especially if I just need to sit in my room and be quite for a while. We all know the deal, and we give each other the respect and space to deal with the process without judgement and without making it a drama. Once again, I must mention my gratitude for all these experiences, and for the opportunity to really heal my body and my spirit.

These chances are rare and special. I know what a gift it is.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sam and the Well

I'll have many things to say about treatment in future entries, but the funniest thing happened today, so treatment chronicles will just have to wait.

The doors here are kinda funny. Most don't have knobs or levers, they just have sliding locks on both sides, which one can put a padlock through to secure the space once on the desired side of the door. When you leave, you slide the bar on the outside of the door an attach a lock. When you come back, you unlock the padlock, come inside & repeat the process, or use the bolt.

Sam and Peter moved to the little white house that Gerhard and & I just vacated, and they're learning all the quirks of the house. One of the most interesting features of that house is that you still use the well outside the kitchen for drinking water (boiled, of course). The well room has a mini barn door halfway up the wall just large enough to lower a bucket down and bring it back up full of water.

Today, Peter left for practice and shut the door behind him as usual. What he forgot was that Sam was still inside the house sleeping. When it was time for Sam to go for treatment, he found himself locked in the house!

The windows all have wooden bars from top to bottom, so no escape that way, and all the other doors had locks with no keys. After much thinking, Sam realized only one way out: the well. He had to climb out the well window and scuffle around the edge of the well to finally make it to the outside of the house.

When he finally arrived and told us the story, I almost wet myself laughing so hard. Of course, the best moment was when Ramesh found out & in his usual way in times like this, laughed his head off & immediately told everyone around him (in Malayalam-the language spoken here) what had happened, laughing wildy the whole time.

Sam took it all in great stride (as did poor Peter, despite our relentless teasing) and we all had great fun imagining what the neighbors must have thought about the whole ordeal. If Sam is late tomorrow, we'll know where to find him.

Silly westerners...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The End and the Beginning

Today marked the end of my training phase, and the end of the stay at the little white house.

I know, I said we wouldn't move again, but we did - to Lakshmiti's house, where Elise and Margarita are also staying. It is a good mix and Manuel stopped by as soon as he arrived, so I get the sense that we'll be a bit more social in the coming weeks, especially since I start treatment and that means no practice for me.

In Kalari, the healing side is just as important than the training side. The Gurukkal (Sherifka) is a master of working with the marma points and nadi channels to heal even deeply rooted physical (and mental/emotional) issues held in the body. There are various massages ranging from very gentle, to the deeper and more painful -also deeply healing treatments. Depending on what is to be achieved through treatment, there are times when the person must not train. This is the kind I'm getting to try to fix the migraines & a horseback riding injury from when I was 16.

Other treatments include: adhangal-manipulations, shirodhara-oil on the forehead (which began with kalari, and is now used widely in ayurveda), and kizhli (keeire) -which is herbs pressed into the skin. The type and length of treatment always depends on the needs of the individual.

So here's my understanding of what my treatment will look like-subject to change, of course:
  • Morning Massage, not the oohhh feels sooo good kind, the ohmygod, I need to breathe deeper kind...(Yikes!)
  • Resting
  • No going outside the house between the hours of 11am & 5pm (Double YIKES!)
  • No going up to the roof AT ALL...bummer- I think I'll fight them on this one!
  • Nasyam oil treatment in the afternoon (oil up the nose & in the sinuses)
  • More resting
  • After 7 days of this I get to drink Castor Oil for purging- HOORAY!
  • After one day of purging the whole thing starts again for 6 days, getting less and less intense until the last day
  • Rest for a few days (I hope no more than 3-5)
  • Practice for a few days
  • Assist Gerhard in a workshop in Dubai

We'll see how it all goes... stay tuned.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

New Arrivals

Our group has blossomed to 10 with Manuel set to arrive back from traveling this week to make it 11. It's fun, but the car rides are really crowded and SUPER hot.
The New Crew:
Elise from San Fransisco~ Yup, another American here, yay!
Peter from Hamburg- a techie and a student of Gerhard's
Margarita-a student of Manuel's who is an avid horseback rider
Xenia + her friend Steve, from Australia and is meeting her after studying yoga for three weeks in the jungle outside of Goa (India- a bit north of here, famous for beaches & markets & the Bourne Identity movie)
Dagmar, Janet, Sam, Gerhard and Me

With all the new folks the one kalari just wasn't holding us all, so Sherifka took Gerhard and I to the newer kalari this morning. We arrived as the locals were wrapping up their practice, and WHAT A TREAT!
There was a group of about 12 boys ages 16-20 practicing together with two assistants whom I had not yet met. I was so humbled to be let in to watch as they ended their practice, which is not usually done.
Normally, a white woman with super blond hair would be a distraction to a group of boys this age in India. These young men were hardly fazed, and showed their deep respect for Kalari and for Sherifka by continuing on without losing focus, even as Gerhard (who looks like a giant here) and I with my practice clothes, looked on.

After the boys were dismissed, we began to practice with Sherifka and the two assistants. I felt a bit spoiled to be there at that time with just the two of us and the three of them. Each day, I learn so much and even more so when Sherifka leads the practice. I really connected to the lineage-the bigger picture of Kalari and how it is lived here.

Once again, I feel that I am so lucky to be a tiny part of it.

Me, Dagmar, Xenia & Janet inside the new Kalari (a different day)
The New Kalari

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Good Luck Driving School

Everyone who visits here (as far as I can tell) talks about the chaotic driving.

It's true; the whole thing seems like a big jumble of randomness and confusion. Cars driving on every side of the road, passing when there are giant busses coming head-on. Scooters, rickshaws and bikes weave in and out and around, all the horns beeping to somehow signal "hey, I'm making a move here, look out!".

I laughed out loud the 1st time I saw the car with "Good Luck Driving School" painted on the windows. I wondered if the good luck was for the poor fellow trying to learn to drive in the chaos, or for the rest of us on the road with an inexperienced driver on the loose.

In Kalari, the Shakti (feminine) form is great training for this: lots of movement-seeming random at first. Turns, weaves, lines of direction, and changes are all standard in each of the sequences. It is so hard to manage it all in the beginning. I sometimes feel like the poor guy in the Good Luck School...Good luck to you, just keep up and keep going, try not to crash!

What I have come to realize is the parallel in both Kalari and driving in India to the chaos of our lives. We are all trying to get somewhere, some of us on the same route, some of us in the opposite direction. Occasionally, we weave in and out and around each other. Sometimes we travel together, and rarely, we collide and have to make reparations. Everyone is doing their best to stay safe and to keep those around them safe, honking at each other when necessary, and smiling, waving and continuing on with it all.
The Ever-Absent Traffic Police

Follow your Nose (or your stomach)

Headed to Practice

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Rhythm and Variations

I'm officially staying put in the little white house. This is a good news/bad news scenario. Good news: no more packing & hauling my stuff to a new place + it's quiet all night + I get to eat Lakshmiti's AWESOME food. Bad news: although it is quiet at night, we are very close to the temple & they start playing prayer music on a loudspeaker at 5am + if we moved, it would have been to Lakshmiti's house, which is super nice & right on the beach.

It is like that here, settling but not quite settled, finding a flow & then changing it a little.

I have been reading Swami Vivikenananda, he talks about how we are constantly shedding our current truth for a higher truth, and that it doesn't lessen the value of the previous truth to evolve to a new higher one.

Kalari practice is a good mirror of this idea. You'll do something a certain way for a long time and everyone will say 'yes, good' . Then a while later, they'll make a correction to something you never knew was incorrect. They wait until you have a context for the new paradigm. As a westerner, I am always wanting to know NOW, set roots down, settle into the rhythm & feel secure in the perceived awareness of the next step. Kalari, and the wisdom of the teachers here, is teaching me that the best thing you can do is the thing right in front of you- stay present, willing to make a mistake, willing to correct one without attachment to the past, but mainly keep on truckin'.

I'm gonna keep on truckin'

Monday, February 2, 2009

Meeknunu Beach

We went on an excursion to a beach a little further up the road and a lot more remote today. It was incredibly beautiful, old and for sure special, but I'll let Gerhard's pictures do the talking.

I spent some time with my feet in the warm waters of the ocean and sunlight on my face. I stood there receiving the deep transmission of the earth and the sun and the water and asking the questions in the deepest part of my heart.

There is magic here.

The Beach through the jungle

Sun transmission

The Commie Beach

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sunday Sunday

Sunday is always the toughest training day, and today was no different. I have been put in a group with Dagmar and Xenia, who both have been practicing much longer than me, and have both been to India to train before. Today I had some trouble with fatigue, so struggled to keep up.

What I am learning is that although it is for sure physically challenging, the days that I struggle the most are the days that I am mentally fatigued. I make silly mistakes, forget patterns that I know well, add in movements that just don’t exist, and I talk too much to try to “figure it out”. All of this leads to frustration, and holding on or ‘trying’ which is the kiss of death in the kalari. When there is thinking, there is not doing, and everything becomes 10 times more difficult.

It is learning to let go on a whole new level.

On another note, I continue to be deeply moved by Sherifka, and the skill he has for teaching. Tonight, we were chatting about a fellow student who has many many physical difficulties due to some severe injures sustained over a period of time. I was very curious to know his approach to the student: balancing the physical needs and limitations while also maintaining a sense of empowerment, so as not to discourage. His answer was that it is for students like that we teach in the first place, so finding the right balance is crucial.

Sherifka looks at what this student can do, and doesn't focus on what they can not. Some things he fixes with practice, and some will only heal with treatment. He says someone like me needs kalari a lot less than this other student, and that giving someone relief from pain, and making their life more easeful is the most satisfying thing he does in his life and work.

It seems so simple, but to watch him in action is such a beautiful gift. I feel as though I am learning how to teach all over again.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

It Takes a Village

One of the absolutely fantastic things about being here is the realization of how much work goes in to the basics of life when 'technology' is absent. Without pre-packaged meals, dishwashers, washing machines and dryers, microwaves, and two cars for every person, arrangements and preparations are constantly being made on our behalves. And that's for life outside of training and treatment.

I could wax poetic about how the simplicity of life here is so beautiful, and that would be partly true. But it is also difficult, and I feel grateful that so many helpful and caring people surround me everyday.

Today, as I was watching Adrika apply a home-made paste to Gerhard's hurting knees, it occurred to me that he came over to the house where we eat Kanjana's delicious food to get some milk. Then he gathered the other ingredients from the market and went to Lakshmiti's house (were Sam stays) to make the paste & get cloths to wrap the knees. Finally, he came to our house to treat Gerhard. All of this he did on foot.
A small side note: Adrika is an Herb Collector, he knows every growing thing here, and a bunch of the medicinal application qualities for them, but mainly, he takes care of us.

So after he left, I really spent some time reviewing all the wonderful people here who make it possible for us to just be here:
Kanjana and Lakshmiti who cook and clean for us, three meals a day, tea all day, and LOADS and LOADS of laundry, which is done by hand on a washing stone.
Lakshmi, who lives next door, and keeps milk in her refrigerator so that we can have chai in the morning. Lakshmi also keeps the house key, which gets dropped off and picked up twice a day.
Adrika, who is constantly getting food and medicines and running from house to house to house for all of our needs.
Annil, who helps out with treatments in special cases, and it seems there are always special cases.
Rajif, Dinesh, and Ramesh, who train us every morning, and Ramesh trains and helps with
treatment in the afternoon as well. Ramesh and Rajf are also the airport taxi, which is no small job, as it is 3 hours away.
Shefirka's sons, Shahabas, Samil, Jamsheer, who are constantly shuffling scooters, bikes and cars around so we can get where we need to go. Jamsheer also helps with treatment.
And of course, Sherifka, who is limitless in knowledge, but is also EXTREMELY active in keeping us well fed, well stocked with ayurvedic medicines, and co-ordinates the crazy circus that is going on here every day.

All of these people remind me of all the people it takes to run the studio, and I am truly humbled and inspired by the village here and the village waiting for me at home.

Friday, January 30, 2009


Big news: I got some sleep! And today was a day off of training, so I got rest, too! And the heat broke this afternoon! I feel like it's Christmas (although much much hotter than the one I'm used to).

Today was really mellow, lots of chatting, a bit of reading and a nice long sit at the beach. I had intended to go swimming, but at the last minute a few boys decided to move their base of operation directly in front of me and it just isn't a good idea to give them any sort of show (a super-white chick with very blond hair in a bathing suit is a major show).

Much of the afternoon seemed like a dream, the breeze was so nice and finally cooling. The sun was shimmering on the water, and the birds seemed to be flying just for the sheer pleasure of free gliding.

After the beach and a shower Sherifka stopped by for a very quick chat and to see if we're staying at this house, or moving to the main house when it opens up on Monday. We decided to give it one more night to see if the noise is manageable. If I can sleep, I'd sure love to stay put.

I do have to admit to some apprehension about starting treatment in a week. Janet is getting hers now, and she thinks it's great, but we hear her moaning and groaning during the treatment. Yikes!

We'll see how it goes...

Thursday, January 29, 2009


I WAS beginning to write about how we're not getting any sleep here, dogs, fireworks, temple music at 5am etc etc etc ...& Sherifka stopped by.

I can't really explain what it is like to be around him. If you were to meet him on the street, perhaps you would think 'really nice man" and nothing more, but I am constantly astounded at his level of knowledge.

Tonight he was telling us more about the different forms and the way they are constructed, and which lineages do which forms, and why some don't. Also he was talking about some of his own teachers, how far he traveled to study very specific elements of the practice with them, and his efforts to write curriculum for all the styles of Kalari, so that they can be preserved as much as possible. This quest to find the most complete Kalari practice & treatment systems has been his life's work.

Skerifka has gone so far into this knowledge that he actually has palm leaves from hundreds of years ago with instructions written on them about how the forms should be, and the healing and fighting applications for them as well. For example, after receiving the traditional massage which is quite loosening, there is a danger of injury to the joints , so the palm leaves indicate stamping & jumping in a certain way to re-integrate. This is a technique he started using only after studying the texts for years & this Kalari is the only one currently using the technique. Since incorporating the stamping & jumping, the injuries he was seeing are totally gone.

All of this goes in to what we do here every day & I am so humbled by the opportunity to be here & just hang out on the porch with him, I know for sure that I have only begun to get the smallest idea of the amount of knowledge Sherifka has. I know that if spent the rest of my life studying with him, I could never know what he knows. These people are rare in the world today. I am so lucky.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Not Getting any Easier, BUT..

So I took the morning off of practice. With all the moving and intruders, I haven't really slept well & it all caught up with me today. It felt great to get some extra sleep, plus afternoon practices are supposed to be lighter, so I thought no big deal, just an easy day today. Wrong again...

Each day I have been learning a new technique, or a new form & I keep thinking "this is the hardest thing I have ever done, this is probably where I'll stop". The next day, somehow I have more energy & power & they give me the next hardest thing to do. It's amazing, but tough! Today's afternoon practice may have been the toughest yet (for the Kalari crew in Utah: we did Shakti forms 1, 3, 4 & 5 + two southern forms+ all the other stuff...INSANE!). I don't know how I made it.

I really think it's the magic of the clay, the oil & the power of the teachers here that keeps me able to sustain this level of training. Also, that the practice itself is so highly potent. The opportunity to study in a direct lineage, with an unbroken practice is so rare, I can feel the power of the practice itself being transmitted to me, and it is a truly awesome feeling.

As for Milton, we had a brief conversation about Snow & he's not that into it, so it's goodbye for now. I am going back to that house tomorrow (just to get a few things left behind, not moving), so hope to get a picture & as soon as I can post them, you can meet him too. It was sad, but I think it's for the best.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bye Bye Milton

It is late, and today was a big day.

We moved again hopefully for the last time, but there might be one more). The folks outside the windows just wouldn't give up & we weren't gettng much sleep. They're not dangerous, just curious. Nevertheless, I am exhausted & need to try to sleep in the new pace.

More tomorrow on the goodbye to Milton the cow...

Monday, January 26, 2009

Going Nuts~ Coconuts

Today was the "rest day" which means no practice. It also means (usually) going to town.

I had expected to be writing about that, since I knew we would be there longer than the 1st time & I had hoped to have some great stories to tell. In fact, town was just hot & tedious. Everything took three times as long as it should have, partly because we had too many people to coordinate & partly because that's just how it is here. Also, the staring is starting to get to me just a little. I'm sure I'll get over it again soon, but still - it's wearing on the nerves.

All is not lost!

This morning the COOLEST thing happened. The new house is on a coconut plot- they're everywhere here. Funny thing is, I can't seem to get a coconut to drink & eat to save my life..until today. We were just about to leave for breakfast when we heard noises outside. After investigating, it was clear that some folks had come to harvest the coconuts. Gerhard knew that I had been whining about no coconuts for days now & so went to see if they might let us pay for one or two. Before we knew it, we had 6 coconuts, two were opened & ready for eating & drinking & they wouldn't take a single rupee for them. We scrambled to figure out what to give them as a gift & settled on ginger candies I had brought from home. They looked puzzled, but amused that we were going nuts over the coconuts. The coconuts tasted sooooooo great. They are a cooling food & it is so hot here - I can't imagine anything tasting more satisfying.

Milton the cow & I are getting along very well, and I think he secretly wants to be my pet & ditch his heron for good. I'll keep you posted as the situation develops.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

It's Hot

Sundays are the hardest day- the teachers don't have their other jobs to go to, so we practice a lot longer in the morning, and yet still have afternoon practice. It's tough. Today was extra special because it also was the hottest day so far. There was a power cut for most of the afternoon which means no fans (already no air conditioning).
I took four cold showers & swam in the ocean to try to cool a bit. I can NOT imagine what it is like in March, when everyone says it gets really hot (what the heck? how is that even possible?!).

Even with this, today was another great day. Somehow, practices actually went well, though & tomorrow is our day off training, all will be well very soon. We had fun getting lost after the second practice & played Jenga (the Germans call it yenga) after dinner, which was really great- just to hang out & talk to each other not in practice mode.
Tomorrow: town going.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Less Doing, More Doing

Today was interesting.

The new group is settling into each other & we miss Manuel. Sam is practicing at a different Kalari, so we aren't seeing him. Gerhard & I are settling into the new house. We have a baby cow that grazes in our yard. I've named him Milton. I am trying to figure out how to get Milton on the plane, so he can come home with me. I think Buttercup would love a friend like Milton. I am re-learning how to be a non-wiggly passenger on the back of a scooter... it's been busy!

I didn't get much sleep due to some curious locals peeping around the house a couple of times in the night. I think I may have gotten 2-3 hours of sleep in total, & I was bummed. If you're tired, you can't train at the same level- no power. So I was already a bit out-of-sorts when we started morning practice, but much to my surprise, I had somehow had a breakthrough in the physical body. Things were flowing & strong, under good control & focused. I was really ready to tear it up.

Ramesh had another idea. (A side note: Ramesh is one of our teachers, who, incidentally, laughs HYSTERICALLY when anyone gets hurt & says "yes, it is like that, better tomorrow, hee hee hee".) Even though I was strong today, he had me do a short practice, nothing new, nothing twice, a lot of rest. I was a bit disappointed.

Now I know. I got my arse handed to me in the afternoon may have seen it coming, but I sure didn't.

I did these things called sitting turning kicks & sitting splits kicks. Yup, they are as bad as they sound & that was only a third of the practice. Thank goodness for the ocean. The swimming really loosens the muscles & it is so nice to get some of the dirt, sweat & oil off.

Next time they tell me to rest, I think I'll just take a seat.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Bow to your neighbor, do-see-do

Moving day.
Up until today, there have been four of us staying here: Gerhard, me, Manuel & Janet (both from Munich~Janet is Manuel's student). It has been a great group dynamic & we all really like each other.

Manuel is a total maniac who likes to watch "VH1's 'Rock of Love' with Brett Michaels" and learn American dude lingo-also, he is an animal in the Kalari, really works hard, and breaks the short sticks every time he uses them.
Janet is absolutely lovely, takes a dunk in the ocean at least twice a day, goes to town for cookies every other day, & has a really strong long stick practice. I taught her how to play Gin & now she's hooked & kicking Manuel's arse.

But as goes life, change today. We now have met Dagmar (Hamburg), Xinia (Cologne), and Sam (England) ~all lovely & Manuel is off to travel for two weeks. He will be missed for sure, I am glad I get to see him before I leave.

Gerhard & I just moved in to a new place which is really nice & I even have my own bathroom with a real shower head! (still no hot water, but GREAT!) Now we have to go back to the other place for meals, but I really like it here. It is quiet & for some reason, a bit cooler & less mosquitoes. My poor legs really need a break from the little buggers.

With the Kerala shuffle going on + feeling just a little weak from yesterdays adventure with fruit it was really great to have a rest & a long soak in the ocean this afternoon. I felt so good that I even ate a full dinner tonight- a first!

Looking forward to practice tomorrow with the new crew.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Does this fruit taste kinda funny?

Uh oh..
SO- we eat unusually here. Because all life revolves around practice, we eat a big meal after practice in the morning, and only fruit for lunch.

This usually works well, BUT today something tasted a little off. I should have stopped after the 1st weird flavor, but this morning at practice, I was told to eat more to sustain strength. I felt okay after, but then got a tiny little fever, which went away just before 2nd practice, so I went. Not a good idea.

I stopped about halfway through & could only sit on the steps (cool clay on feet= good, moving= bad). We came home for showers & dinner & I knew it was bad when I looked at the food. Sherifka came over & took me to the Avurvedic Dr. right away (I think he was wondering exactly how white I could get). I felt like a jackass.

The unbelievable thing is that I am writing now.

That Dr. is my new best friend- although not when he was thrusting his fingers in my gut to feel the extent of the problem. I am learning that the Indian way is very direct & very efficient, no mamby pamby, 'how does this feel', just straight to it! The medicines here are also like little miracles (although not tasty, effective). I feel a little weak, but 100% better than just 2 hours ago. It simply is amazing.

No practice tomorrow, but looking forward to a new adventure, preferably one that is NOT gastro-intestinal.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009



Those who know me will smile, we did a bunch of drop-back backbends in second practice today & then some really fun flippy things from handstand to backbend & up...again & again & again. Then cartwheels up and back...I had no idea that these even existed within Kalari & boy, am I glad, so much fun!

After pactice, I swam in the ocean for the 1st time since I arrived here. The water is sooo warm & I didn't mind having to wear full clothes so much (bathing suits on women are not a good idea here).

This was the best day here so far!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Just Like Football

I love football- specifically college football (hook 'em Horns!). In football, you know it's getting serious & close to the opening of the season when the "two-a-days" begin. It's an exciting time, but tough for the players. bodies tire quickly & a whole new rhythm emerges, strengthening the players and pulling the team together .

Today we started "two-a-days". This means hard practice in the morning, and less hard practice in the afternoon. It was also my first day to practice with Sherifka. I was super nervous once again! I was so distracted that I slammed my foot down doing something easy & split my toe open (don't worry, nothing big, just mindless). Of course, Sherifka was unbelievable in practice ( I think he can jump as high as my head & move as fast as a cheetah- same goes for teaching.

He has that way of efficiency that only true masters have: communicating not only physical alignment, but also energetic alignment, history and purpose in one small sentence.

I also am learning that the teachers here move you with their energetic field. It is truly unbelievable to catch their gaze & know that they are steadying your balance, or firing up your center. I have never experienced anything like it. Once again, feeling incredibly grateful to be here, I am learning not only how to practice Kalari, but also how o be a better teacher.

We also practiced in the new Kalari today, it is so beautiful, the red clay is for sure my favorite surface to practice on. I can't quite explain how the literal connection to earth strengthens & energizes the practice. I have got to figure out a way to get a pit at the studio!

One last 1st: I started wearing the traditional uniform today: wrap-like pants that just cover the knee & open at the sides. It took a bit of finagling, but I finally figured out how to get them on my body for morning practice. In the afternoon, not so much. I had selected a pair that were WAAAAYYY too big & the other woman here, Janet, & I laughed & laughed -so hard that we couldn't dress & we delayed the afternoon practice at least 10 minutes. Oh well, live & learn!

Monday, January 19, 2009


Today was our day off of training, so after cleaning up & breakfast, we grabbed a rickshaw & went into town. I forgot to bring a hat, so was quite a spectacle with my blond hair & white skin. I don't mind the staring so much, I'm sure that if the shoe were on the other foot, I'd stare, too!

I didn't help myself by buying sarongs. You would think that this is a natural choice, given the heat, but women dont wear them, just men. I also bought some men' s t-shirts because they are thin & breezy & it is soooo hot (my feet look like piggy sausages!). After flummoxing the poor kid helping us, I redeemed myself by getting some shawls in the ladies department. We really do need to cover the shoulders & I only brought long sleeved wraps (see above).
When we arrived back at the house, I changed into some of the cooler clothing & Kanjala immediately made a sari out of what I had bought. The whole house giggled & giggled & my new nickname is "kerala lady".

Going to town is quite the big effort, so now time for resting..

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Settling in...I think

Today was actually my 4th day of practice. With the delay in internet access, I had to catch up. In the two days that followed the 1st practice, I got a migraine (surprise) & then sick to my stomach...BUT today was much better. I am finding that a slower rhythm allows me to sustain strength in the practice (big surprise) without getting sickie after. It is so amazing to contrast practice here with practice at home. Often, at home I can plow through even if I don't feel wonderful, but here, NO WAY! You'll just get super sick. What I've learned is that it all is no good, practicing when not well, just there it stores up & here you get instant feedback. Isn't this what we are working for in our yoga practice? Conscious awareness & balanced choices?

I can't quite find words to express the depth of experiential learning going here. Each day Sherifka "casually" stops by for lunch, or a chat on the porch & BAM! Download of the centuries.
I am beginning to believe that his knowledge of all styles of Kalari + healing techniques & modalities , yoga, and ayurveda PLUS other martial art forms is limitless. Today he was talking about Central Style Kalari & how much of the lineage is lost because it was kept so secret & the gurukkals started dying without passing the knowledge on. It is a beautiful, dance-like practice based on the movement of the vayus (energy patterns in the body). I kept thinking of the way Shiva ( Shiva Rea, my yoga teacher) teaches, and how similar the feel of the movement must be.

All in all, I feel a deep sense of gratitude for the path that has guided me here, to listen to the wisdom of my body, and the wisdom of those who have spent a lifetime collecting and gathering and practicing and passing it all on.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

1st Practice

Just one thing to say: WOW!
The Kalari is made of red clay, three steps down from "ground level". It is covered by a pitched roof covered in palm leaves. There are stations in three corners, and at the front, each a symbol essential to the practice. Needless to say, when I entered I felt a deep sense of reverence (and anxiety of anticipation) for the lineage that is thousands of years old.
First, we oiled: this was a bit tricky! Women wear more clothes than men in the training, so must 1st strip down to lube up & redress before the men enter. There are two oils: one for the head & one for the body & you pretty much dunk yourself in them. Note : the mosquitoes LOVE the oils! Hooray!
After oiling, new students like me are instructed on what to do while senior students begin practice on their own. I was SUPER nervous- I didn't know anyone & the instructors speak Malayalam mainly. So I had to trust that my practice in SLC was enough to prepare me to begin here. I kept thinking that Gerhard had told me not to worry because the 1st day they have you do almost nothing so just get through it & you'll be fine. WRONG!
I ended up doing everything that I had learned over the past year...don't ask me how.
After practice ended, I was so relieved, and soo happy, and COVERED in red clay & oil. I must have looked like a 4 year old child after a mud-pie contest.
Thanks goodness we have a wonderful woman - Kanjana, making juice & delicious & super-healthy food for us after practice.
After a bucket shower,I was off to the Ayurvedic doctor for a consultation to determine the curse of action for treatment & practice. I found out that healthy folks don't have migraines every 10-12 days! Weird! So three potions, 1 powder @ two pills later, i have my routine.
The bad news: I can't practice for THREE WEEKS once the marma treatment begins. Marma treatment usually means a rigorous set of massages done anywhere between 3 days- 21 days continuously with a purge in the middle to achieve a deep level of healing for the patient.
I am grateful for the opportunity to experience this amazing healing modality (if a bit disappointed with such a long break from practice) especially if the migraines get fixed once & for all!

Friday, January 16, 2009


I had intended to get the blog up and running three days ago, but USB sticks & trips to town all had to be arranged in order for this to happen. I was told that once you arrive in India you are on her time, so release all urgency & surrender. This is very good advice.
In order to post pictures, the same rule now applies, so that will appear when she is ready...
Now on to the story:
1st: I love it here.
I know it probably comes as no shock to those who know me, but the depth of feeling I experienced upon arrival surprised even me (though EXHAUSTED after two days of grueling travel).
Everyone had warned me about car travel & how scary it is in India; with cars driving on all sides of the road, avoiding buses, cows, and scooters at a break-neck pace, but I was calm & felt the flow within the seeming chaos to be affirming. We stopped for food & I had my forst experience eating with ONLY my right hand & with people staring at my skin & hair. We stopped for the train & I had my first experience of the community of humanity here- everyone together, out of their cars & scooters, too hot to wait in a vehicle, may as well walk & stretch- all together....nice.
When we finally made it to Kannur, a bed was moved in to a room with a bathroom/shower* for me & I decided to unpack & set up my mosquito net before going to bed at 3:30am. Whew!
*(This is one tiled enclosure with a toilet in a giant shower stall-which only has cold water unless you heat some on a stove & put in a bucket to be poured on yourself)
The next morning, we were told not to practice, and I was grateful. I met with Sherifka (the gurukkal of the Kalari) to determine when I would practice & when I would recieve treatment, both are very important to the study of Kalari. It seems that my migraine headaches every 3-12 days were a concern (of course!) so an appointment was set for a visit to the local Ayurvedic Dr. for the next day. In the meantime, I would practice the next morning.