“Doing headstands will give you ego,” Purnima says matter-of-factly, lighting up the joint. She inhales deeply, squinting her eyes as it burns. Then she blows the smoke out of the corner of her mouth and digs her heels deeper into the ground. We are squatting on a steep, slick hillside. “That’s why Sharat doesn’t teach them.”
I cock my head and look at her skeptically. “Head stands will give you ego?” I say. “How?”
“Because you’re standing on your head,” she says, slightly exasperated.
“Ego is all about your mind, about thinking too much. If you stand on your head, you bring all this energy to that area,” she says. “Too much energy in the head gives you ego.” She shrugs her shoulders as if this is the most logical thing in the world, and hands me the joint. Sometimes I buy this shit, sometimes I don’t.
Purnima can talk up a storm. She talks ceaselessly about everything, jumping from one topic to an entirely different one with fluidity and ease, so despite her meandering monologue, I enjoy listening to her speak. Her voice is very soothing. If I let her go, she’ll talk for hours.
We watch an Indian man slide and fall on the slippery mud trail below. We investigate a frail looking grey mushroom, and discover a small, empty snail shell next to it. Purnima talks about her jewelry business in Bombay, the health benefits of ghee, the difficulty of getting a teaching certificate out of Sharat, and a notorious young man who has been practicing yoga in these parts for years.
“He’s really good,” Purnima concedes, describing the young man. “He’s studied with all the masters.” She takes another long drag and continues. “But he has such an ego.” She looks at me with a very grave expression on her face. When she speaks next, she’s completely serious. “I really don’t think he should be doing headstands.”