Cringing over “Kriyas”

If there is one word that has, for the past 2 weeks, stricken fear into all the teacher trainees here it is “Kriyas”.

“Kriyas” are the cleansing techniques that are associated with the practice of Yoga. Given the Sivananda Ashram’s keen desire to ensure that we realize yoga is not just stretching, this is an integral part of the teaching course.

All that we had to go on were some blurred descriptions in the manuals, and some frightening descriptions of nasal tube insertion, stomach muscle churning, and forced vomiting.

The day of reckoning had originally been set for 10 days ago, but lack of equipment delayed the inevitable. (The specific missing pieces were 170 “Neti Pots”, used for pouring salt water into one nostril so that it runs out of the other. I am certain there is some entrepreneur lying on a beach somewhere having made a fortune out of manufacturing these small flowering-can-like canisters).

As the trainees gathered down by the lake at 8am, many of us kept ourselves to ourselves, occasionally exchanging nervous glances as we mentally prepared for the worst. Some of the boys however (who clearly felt this was a challenge that could only to be taken head-on), could be seen indulging in bravado-laden chest-puffing and stiff-upper-lipping.

Mani, our teacher, has commanded tremendous respect through his challenging Asanas (physical practice) classes, and his brilliant stories. It was a stroke of genius to have him lead the Kriyas – I’m not sure many other teachers could have made it all seem so natural. He proceeded to demonstrate the salt-water nasal cleaning with his Neti pot, making it look like he had been doing it since he was a babe in arms (which he probably has). He very wisely left the other exercises to his assistants. (A teacher has to maintain some kind of distance from his students, and frankly throwing up in front of your wards is probably taking it a little too far).

Now it was our turn. Broken into groups, we nervously went through the steps of the first challenge – the salt-water nasal cleaning. This in fact proved remarkably easy, and you could sense the relief spreading through the camp as we moved onto the second exercise – cleansing the nasal passage with a rubber tube. .

As we got underway, I paused to look around. The scene resembled m\nothing less than an Indian version of the MTV programme “Jackass”. Here were 170-odd perfectly sane people trying to insert a small rubber tube up one nostril and down the back of their throats, sticking two fingers into their mouths to grab the tube, and then moving it back and forth to clear the passage. It was too bizarre for words.

In fact many people managed it (your writer got the tube down into my mouth but try as I might, that darned tube just evaded my groping fingers), and some positively enjoyed it.

The third challenge was simple to explain, slightly harder to execute. Drink (at least) eight glasses of saline water as fast as you can, and repeat as necessary, until nature takes it’s course and forces it all back out. This time it looked like the streets of Edinburgh on the morning after a Scotland-England rugby game, with people doubled up with cramps and spewing forth their insides with gusto. Nice. I felt particularly sorry for Australian Benny who consumed 20 glasses with no effects. Too much Castlemaine XXXX I think. I’m not sure that he ever did throw up, which is slightly frightening.

The final technique was for only the bravest of the brave – swallowing a 2-foot long thin strip of saline-soaked gauze bit by bit until it is at least a foot down your throat before bringing it back up “gently”.

As Mani patiently explained the procedure to the increasingly beleaguered students, one of the Tamil boys sprang forward with only a small tab of gauze showing out of his mouth. “Yes, he will demonstrate” Mani said after getting over his surprise. The Tamil boy then proceeded to pull nearly a yard of gauze from his stomach. They’re proud of their inner cleanliness down here.

The foolhardy few completed this final exercise before we trooped back up to the gates of the Ashram. It had, in fact, been great fun – just another part of the experience here, which continues apace.

One more week to go before exams – and graduation next Sunday. I will post again then.

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Filed under 'mind the gap' journey 08-09, All posts, India '08-'09, South India

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