Monthly Archives

December 2015

Lifestyle Travel Yoga

Mysore Diaries – Day #8

December 7, 2015

The first day of the week should be easy and relaxed.  For me, the more intense the practice, the more relaxed the day.  As though all my latent energy gets pumped into the practice, leaving me with a pleasant ‘ease’ that I then carry along with myself for the rest of the day.  In this one week I’ve noticed that I feel taller and straighter somehow.  It could be the yoga, the sleep, the rest or a combination of all of these.  I would suggest two weeks like these once a year to everyone!

After yesterday’s ‘led’ class, I was excited to try the new asanas today.  So I actually practiced all the way up to the Archa Baddha Padmottanasana!  I felt a sense of major achievement.  And except for the Cakrasana, I did the entire closing sequence and then had an amazing Savasana.

Today we had the dreaded chanting class too.  Thankfully it’s only half an hour long.  I got through it somehow, chanting out of tune and turn sometimes because I wasn’t paying attention.  I wonder if I can skip these classes all together…no one takes attendance J.

Once the class was over I contemplated going to the Lalita Mahal Palace.  We stood around having our naariyal paanis and talking about it, but I was itching to get back to my book.  Today was a slow lazy day, the hot sun making it more so.  I came back, had a heavy lunch and then lost myself in my book until long after the sun had set.

Lifestyle Travel Yoga

Mysore Diaries – Day #7

December 6, 2015

POMELO_20151206215730_save[1]

Today was my first ‘led’ class.  A led class is basically one in which the teacher leads the entire class through the usual routine.  The class started promptly at 5 am.  As usual, by the time I got to class, most places were taken.  (And I get to class at least 15 minutes early!)  However, I was happy that I found place.  Some people end up practicing in the changing rooms!  The nice thing about a led class is that it allows you to explore asanas that you may not have done in your daily practice.  So I actually went beyond the Parsvaottanasana.  And also, while I haven’t done any of the finishing postures, in today’s class I did quite a few of the closing asanas as well.  I’m assuming that I will be able to practice all the ‘new’ asanas in tomorrow’s practice session.

Sharath and Saraswathi have different off days.  While mine was yesterday, a bunch of students had their off day today.  So a lot of people were in the weekend mood.  And where does that mood take you to in Mysore?  To the palace of course, to see the lights.  The last time I saw the palace lit up was 10 years ago.  Over the years I’ve tried to plan day trips form Bangalore to see the lights, but somehow the trips never materialized.  I was really eager to see the palace lit up (for some reason more eager to see it lit up, than during the day).  For some reason I had assumed that it would be really crowded and noisy.  I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t too crowded.  We were able to walk around without having to elbow through a crowd and were able to see the palace from different angles.  And we took the obligatory pictures.

After the palace we headed to Mylari, a dosa place which I’ve only just heard of, but which is very popular.  They only have plain and masala dosa on the menu (Rs. 35).  The dosas were fresh, soft and delicious.

POMELO_20151206211022_save[1]

Incidentally, Mylari closes at 8 pm, but our cab was on its way at about 8.10 pm.  When we suggested that we wait outside, the owner and the waiters told us that it’s ok if we wait inside.  We decided to find out a bit more about Mysore from the owner.  We found out that Mylari has been around for 75 years and is named after the man who started it.  Currently there are 2 Myalri hotels in Mysore.

Remembering my quest for RK Narayan’s house, I asked the young owner of Mylari if he knew where it was.  He seemed taken aback by the question and said he doesn’t know.  Well, at least he knew who RK Narayan was.  When I asked him if he knew who Shri Pattabhi Jois was he said he didn’t!

POMELO_20151206215746_save[1]

POMELO_20151206215801_save[1]

I simply love the colors in this photograph.

Lifestyle Travel Yoga

Mysore Diaries – Day #6

December 5, 2015
infosys_july252005

Can you spot me?

I came to Mysore for the first time on July 25th 2005 for the coveted Infosys training.  Little did I know that I would be back on Dec 1st 2015 to train at the prestigious KPJAYI.  In fact, in 2005 we were a bunch of trainee software engineers who thought Mysore was about masala dosa, the Mysore palace, Chamundi hills, and of course Infy.  It seems inconceivable to me now that I didn’t know that yogis from all over the world were converging to this sleepy town…and that Shri K Pattabhi Jois was also in the city!  I tell myself that everything happens in its own good time, but that’s small comfort.

In 2005 I didn’t know about the Jaganmohan palace.  Why it caught my attention this time is its large collection of paintings and artefacts, including paintings by Raja Ravi Varma.  Also, the Wodeyars (the Mysore royals) used this palace while the Mysore Palace was being built (their old palace had burned down).

IMG-20151205-WA0015[1]

And strangely enough, there is a yoga connection too.  In the Yoga Makaranda I read that the Ashtanga yoga classes were conducted on the grounds of the Jaganmohan palace before moving to the Mysore Palace and then to the current location (Gokulam 3rd Stage).  While walking around the palace I tried visualizing how it would look without the commercial enterprises that have sprung up all around it (sari shops, food stalls, souvenir shops).  Basically trying to visualize how T. Krishnamacharya would have seen this place when he was teaching.  How a young Shri KP Jois and BKS Iyengar would have seen it.

20151205_134647[1]

The palace hasn’t been maintained very well, but I wasn’t expecting otherwise.  There seems to be no order in which the artefacts and paintings have been placed.  There is hardly any security and no security cameras.  In fact, if someone really wanted to, they could actually walk out with a small cup or dagger.  The brass and copper items such as ashtrays and decorative plates are in wooden display cases with cheap metal padlocks on them.  I’m sure these locks are easy to pick.  There are no metal detectors at the entrance of the art gallery.  They did ask us if we had cameras and asked us to deposit our phones only because they spotted them.  No one checked our bags.

On the ground floor there are old pictures of coronations and durbars, which I really liked.  I wish we could’ve had a better look at these photos.  Some photos are placed at an angle where you can hardly see them.  The first floor had paintings by several painters, including ‘Lady with the Lamp’ by Haldenkar.  This painting is definitely awesome, but I wish they had done something about the lighting.  The surface of the paintings reflected the light, making it difficult to see the details.  I crib for I was there only for the paintings!!! In fact, I had to squint a lot and walk back and forth in front of the Ravi Varma paintings until I was finally satisfied.

The Ravi Varma paintings that stand out in my mind are called ‘Draupathi’ (I think they meant ‘Draupadi’) and ‘Galaxy of Women’.  The woman in ‘Draupadi’ is depicted in a beautifully draped pink sari with a golden border.  Her hair is loose.  In one hand she holds a brass plate with a small jug on it, and with the other hand she appears to be wiping away her tears with her pallu.  She is climbing down the steps of a large stone structure (temple? palace?).  I love the way the sari seems to blaze forth in the largely muted background.

The ‘Galaxy of Women’ shows a bunch of women, every single one of them dressed differently.  Each is wearing different styles of jewelry (even their nose rings are different!), and different styles of clothing (there’s an English woman among them too!).  Some of them are playing instruments, some are standing and some are seated.  The detail that stands out in this painting for me is the rug.  You can actually see the folds and creases on the rug beneath the women.  This little detail seems to bring the women to life.

Once done with the palace, Alexa and I decided to walk around a bit to see if we could find a place to grab a bite.  I’ve been missing south Indian food a lot so I was looking forward to dosa.  A receptionist in one of the hotels pointed us to the Raj Bhavan hotel and we had a nice lunch there.

20151205_140443[1]

Now I’m wondering how to track down RK Narayan’s house ….

 

Lifestyle Travel Yoga

Mysore Diaries – Day #5

December 4, 2015

The irony of practicing here is that even though the asanas are the same every single day, every day is different from the one before.  So today was an exceptionally long practice session for me.  I started with the warm up and then started practicing the asanas.  It felt like it was a long time before Saraswati came to me and taught me the Utthita Hasta Padangushthasana.  And then she left me to practice for what again felt like a really really long time.  When she finally dismissed me for the Savasana, I was surprised to note that I didn’t feel tired.  Instead, despite the intense practice, I felt stronger.  Maybe now I’m getting attuned to the subtle changes happening in my body.

IMG-20151123-WA0015[1]

We had chanting class again today.  So far we’ve just practiced chanting from the same handouts.  Some of the shlokas are ones that I’ve done before in other classes/workshops, but for some reason I’m not too crazy about the slow sonorous pace at which we chant here. 

Also, I’ve finally started to read ‘Yoga Makarand: The Nectar of Yoga’ by Tirumalai Krishnamacharya.  This book has been on my TBR list for so long and I finally pulled it out because what’s a better time to read it than when you’re immersed in Ashtanga yoga in his ashram.  The book has a forward by Shri BKS Iyengar!  And it has an interesting foreword (yes I read books cover to cover).  The foreword covers the history of how T. Krishnamacharya started to teach.  It mentions titbits about the attempts of translating his works by his students.  It has old pictures!!!  I have this book on my Kindle, but I think it’s worth getting a hard copy as well!

Saturday is a holiday at the shala so I think I’ll spend the rest of the day parked in front of the TV binge watching Bollywood movies!

IMG-20151124-WA0000[1]

 

Lifestyle Travel Yoga

Mysore Diaries – Day #4

December 3, 2015

I’ve been sleeping so much during the day that I’m unable to fall asleep in the night.  When I finally fell asleep last night it was after 12 and I only got 4 hours of sleep.  The funny thing is that I was still able to give a 100% during class.  I didn’t feel fatigued or tired.  Plus, I got there early enough to not have to place my mat right in front of the door!!!  I pushed myself through the 20 Surya Namaskars, practiced the Pada Hastasana (from yesterday).  As if on cue, Saraswati appeared to guide me through the Utthita Trikonasana (Triangle Pose), Utthita Parsvakonasana (Side Angle Pose), Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Legged Standing Forward Bend), and the Parsvottansana (Intense Side Stretch).  I’m glad we’re not doing more than an asana a day!    During the practice a lot of questions fill my mind.  The style of teaching here is very different from what I’m used to.  In my Iyengar class we pay minute attention to detail.  Here we focus on breath.  There we use props, here the most I’ve seen people use is a yoga towel.  There the teacher demonstrates, here the cues are all verbal.  There the instructions are detailed and very specific, here the cues are not even complete sentences.  The differences are more than I can verbalize, but the interesting thing is that these differences don’t dim my enthusiasm for the classes.  I’m still eager to learn and internalize and haven’t dismissed this style as ‘not for me’.  I’ve read in other blogs that there is an energy and a power in this place that transfixes you.  Maybe I’m under the spell?

And truth be told, I’m kind of surprised at my approach to this class.  I’m sort of a type A personality.  There are always a million books to be read and many more to be written.  There are 840,000 asanas to be learnt!  My practice barely scratches the surface.  However, here at ‘the source’ of Ashtanga yoga, I’m completely laid back.  I only practice once a day, I’m hardly reading about the practice and philosophy, and I’m not even badgering the teacher to teach me MORE.  I’m kind of allowing the teacher to set the pace for me.  And today, post the Savasana, when I heard another student asking Saraswati to teach him specific asanas he was interested in, I realized what was the matter with me.

I believe a yoga teacher is a yoga student too.  And a good student is a good teacher.  I’ve noticed that over the years I have become intensely selective about the yoga classes/workshops I attend.  If my heart is not in it, I won’t go.   The teacher may have a large following and might have a million publications.  The teacher may have huge hoardings all over the city and lots of endorsements.  However, I will only go to a teacher who I feel a sense of grounding with.  A sense of living in this world in spite of the problems, and not as a means of escaping from the problems that plague our world.  And over the years I feel I’ve managed to ‘hear’ such teachers out and I’ve tuned out the rest of the din.  And I’ve tried to cultivate a practice which rings true with me, under the tutelage of all the teachers who I resonate with.  After all, if you want to build something, the most important thing you need is a strong foundation.  So perhaps it is with this mind-set that I came here.  I know all these teachers are experienced and reputed.  I’ve read a lot about the lineage and the method (although I’ve discounted stories about how ‘power’ and the ‘energy’ and the ‘vibe’ because that’s purely subjective).  And when I finally applied to practice here, I came as a student would come to a guru.  For guidance.  Because I don’t ‘try’ teachers or ‘experiment’ with teachings, I feel that when I go to a teacher I’m open and receptive.  I feel that it is not for me to question the teacher or to tell the teacher what they should tell me.  As a student I listen a lot and I will do whatever the teacher asks of me.  As a thinking person I sift through what the teacher has imparted.  Some things I retain and incorporate into my personal practice, while others I retain as philosophies that also exist.  I’ve read somewhere that a student has to surrender completely to a guru.  I think that makes sense to me now.  When I go to Saraswati’s class I’m just a student awaiting guidance.  She has been teaching for long enough to be able to observe a student and guide her accordingly.

Also, at some level I feel that if you bring the ‘I’ to a teacher, then you are at some level obliterating the teacher.  And that’s a pretty valuable thing to obliterate.  Which is why I don’t go to teachers to tell them that I can do so and so asanas.  A good teacher can tell.  In fact, a good teacher will make you realize that you can do even that which you weren’t aware you already could.

Travel Yoga

Mysore Diaries – Day #3

December 2, 2015

I woke up today with the familiarity of routine.  The absence of the possibility of an unknown factor enables you to be a tad bit quicker and streamlines your movement.  As a result I was ready in a minutes and driving down the main road to my class.  Even before this trip started I had several misgivings.  Was I going to be able to get to Mysore OK?  What if something happened on the way to prevent me from getting there?  What if by some weird twist of fate I’m unable to register for the classes?  What if I get there and my What if I get there and my accommodation isn’t available?  In short, I would hyperventilate thinking that everything that could possibly go wrong will go wrong.  And my fears were well founded.  The room I had booked for the first night seemed a pretty amateurish

1399115_599822143418020_1653370038_o

The first pose Saraswati asked me to practice.

setup.  They never sent me a confirmation mail though I asked them repeatedly.  When I reached the main institute for registration I realized that I was supposed to bring a copy of the confirmation mail, a copy of my passport and a passport sized photograph.  I had a copy of my passport, but had missed the part about the photograph and copy of the confirmation mail.  I kept on affirming to myself that everything would work out.  And whad’ya know?  So far things have worked out.  The accomodation was clean and the staff was friendly.  I managed to find it with a little help from my GPS and phone calls.  I showed the insitute my confirmation mail on the phone and managed by a sheer stroke of luck to find many passport sized photographs in my wallet.  I was one of the first few in line for registration so didn’t have to wait for hours.  I managed to get acquainted with a few people while in line, so whatever little wait I had wasn’t boring.  I shared the one and only pen I have on this trip, and it miraculously did make its way back to me and didn’t get lost in the hordes that had to fill out their registration forms.  I actually managed to find Saraswati’s class on my first day and made it through.  I ate well and slept well.  It’s my third day in Mysore and there are a few people who I recognize and say hi to.  I feel my teacher also recognizes me and so I feel ‘connected’ to the class.  After a few hiccups, I’ve moved into the guesthouse that will be my home until the 14th of this month (see, everything is slowly working out!).  The room is clean, the staff is awesome.  I get to decide my meal times and what I want to eat.  Someone comes in regularly to clean the place.  It is safe and comfortable, and the best part is that it’s only 3 minutes from my class!  And I affirm: Things Work Out.

11200801_896916053708626_9218353628096780550_n

Being nostalgic about classes.

The shala was as usual full today when I walked in.  What’s more, the place I had yesterday was also taken.  I decided to at least change and see what Saraswati deemed I should do today.  As if on cue, I walked out of the changing room just as Saraswati was telling the girls in front of the door to scoot a bit to the sides to make space for one more mat.  And that is where I practiced toay, cramped between two other students who also had to duck whenever someone opened the door.  Just as I was about to start my practice, Saraswati came up to me and said ‘What I told yesterday? 20 Surya Namaskars no? Start.’  And I did virtual cartwheels in my head.  Saraswati remembered me, amongst the hordes of students that she meets daily!!!  Not only that, she remembered what she had said to me yesterday!!!!  I was in yoga student heaven.  Outwardly calm I started the Surya Namaskars.
The pose I learned today is the Padangushtasana.  I notice Saraswati tells me to do one pose a day, as though building up my pose arsenal.  And once she guides me through the pose twice she asks me to continue practicing the same pose for the remaining class.  And both days she’s only taught me one asana.  She focuses on the breath, asking me to breath with her counts.  She has me repeat the asana until she’s happy with the way I’m doing it, and then tells me to practice that for the rest of the class.  So far she’s been telling me when I’m done for the day and what to  do tomorrow.  Today she dismissed me with ‘Today this is enough.  Tomorrow you come and show everything correctly.’  I nodded, did the Savasana for some time and left.  Before gettting back to the guesthouse I had the obligatory nariyal paani.
1[1]

I was unaware that this was being taken.  One of my colleagues found it on Facebook!

In the afternoon I attended my first chanting class.  During my teachers’ training we used to have this every day and it was called bhajan class.  To this day it remains my least favorite, and one that I bunk if I can help it.  We were handed printouts of a bunch of Sanskirt shlokas and asked to chant after a panditji.  It was hot, stuffy, and chanting isn’t my thing.  I lived through it.  I had considered registering for a Sanskrit and Hatha Yoga Pradipika class.  However, after the chanting class I decided that maybe I’m not ready for more Sanskrit just yet.

As usual, I came back to my room and spent the rest of my day reading and sleeping.  I could really get used to this life!

Lifestyle Travel Yoga

Mysore Diaries – Day 2

December 1, 2015

When it comes to classes with old and traditional Indian teachers, the first class is always a bit unexpected.  This morning I woke up at 3.59 am (thanks to my body clock).  I promptly got ready and drove off towards the direction of Saraswati’s class.  In the dark all the houses in Gokulam 3rd Stage look the same.  I asked a lone man on a walk about where #55 3rd main was, and he told me he had no clue.  Finally, I met two people on a moped carrying yoga mats, and I flagged them to help me out.  Seeing that I was new, somewhat flustered and utterly confused, they decided to take me there!  Grateful that they did because I would never have been able to find it. 

From the number of people I had seen at the registration, I had expected a large crowd converging to the institute.  But I only saw a couple of mopeds parked outside.  I climbed up to the 1st floor of the house and let myself in.  The room was full of A bunch of students were already there in various asanas.  I looked around for what to do next.  It didn’t look like these students had just started their practice, but I thought the first session started at 5 am.  Plus there was no space to place my mat.  The room was stuffed with people and reminded me a bit of the Bikram Yoga studio I went to a couple of months ago.  Not a pleasant feeling.  I spotted Saraswati in the centre of the room, busy helping a student.  Once she was done, I went up to her and told her that I’m new and had no clue what I should do.  She pointed to a room and said, ‘You wait there.’  I did as I was told.  After some time, she told me to place my mat in front of the door I had just walked in from.  I’m knew a lot of students were going to be coming in through that door, and I’d have to watch that the door didn’t slam into me every single time.  What can I say?  Yoga teachers and their eccentricities.  I did what I was told.

I sat on my mat and started stretching.  Finally Saraswati came over and asked me if ‘I knew anything.’  I told her no.  So she stared by teaching me a very basic Surya Namakar  which she asked me to do 5 times.  After a while she came to me again and taught me another version of the Surya Namaskar and asked me to do it 6 times.  After some time she came up to me again and asked me if I knew how to do the Padmasana.  I told her yes.  She explained a variation of the padmasana to me and told me to practice that.  After some more time she told me that this is it for me today.  Tomorrow I have to start the class by doing each Surya Namaskar variation 10 times.  I nodded my head.  She then pointed to a room on the other side of the main hall and said ‘Now you go there.’  I did a little Savasana and then left.  I saw some people that met yesterday.  Once I was done I came back to my room and for some reason slept for about 3 hours! 

My friends have booked me into a guesthouse here and I moved in today.  As it turns out, this new room is closer to Saraswati’s class, so it works well for me.  Once I checked into this room I slept again for a couple of hours and woke up to polish off every single thing that was placed before me during lunch.  So I basically woke up, did yoga, slept, woke up, slept some more, indulged in some more gluttony, read, slept, woke up, had coffee and now I’m blogging with a rerun of ‘Desperate Housewives’ in the background.  Before starting this break a student of mine gave me an article that talked about leisure for the sake of leisure.  According to the article, the art of leisure has been ignored over the ages to the point that now people don’t take vacations to indulge in leisure, but to ‘do’ something.  I think I pretty much nailed doing nothing today.