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yoga in mysore

Lifestyle Travel Yoga

Mysore Diaries – Day #15

December 14, 2015

‘Twas my last class with Saraswati and I was super excited.  Because she’s a woman of few words, we have to glean whatever we can about her personality from the little interaction that our practice sessions afford us.  Saraswati is very equanimous.  She has never displayed ego.  She has never displayed displeasure.  Sometimes (rare and delightful occasions) I have seen her smiling.  And never have I heard her rebuke a student, until this morning.

When I walked into class this morning Saraswati was reading a book.  Very intently.  If I wasn’t a huge fan before, I was one now.  Who doesn’t love a person who can’t tear themselves away from a good book?  (Personally, I love all those who try to get in a few more paragraphs in the middle of a work day.)  Finally she shut her book walked into the main hall.  I was up to the seated postures when I heard her speaking to a student:

“Yooouuuu, you don’t want to pratice?!!!”

Student mumbles something.

“Yes yoooouuuu sleeping.  Don’t want to practice?!”

Student mumbles a bit more.

“Always missing from led class.  Sleeping sleeping all the time missing led class!!!”

Student giggles and mumbles something.

“LAZY BOY!!!”

Saraswati walks away and a bunch of us are trying hard to control our laughter.  Someone falls out of the Ardha Baddha Padma Padmottanasana, clearly unable to contain their laughter.

 

Saraswati is sweet like that.  Even when she’s strict and rebuking a student (I’ve been on the receiving end), she doesn’t lose that gentleness.  I get the sense that when she teaches us she does as she would her own children.

When she came to adjust me today, she told me that I now need to start raising my leg higher in the Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana.  She gently raised my leg to show me how much farther up I will be able to lift.

She was clearly in high spirits today.  She asked me how far I’ve gone and I said “uh marichyasana…” and tried to think of whether it was C or D.  “C” I said halfway between a statement and a question.

“I don’t teach Marichyasana C,” she said to me imitating my statement-question tone.  This time I didn’t bother controlling my laughter.  You’ll only know how cute Saraswati mimicking you is when she mimics you.

Then she sat down to help me with Marichyasana D and asked me, “Your last class?”  Yippiee!!!  Saraswati knows my last day!!!  She knows I exist!!! She may even know my name!!!!  I think I detected a slightly puzzled look in her eyes in response to the huge smile that broke across my face when I was contemplating that fact that Saraswati may actually know my name.

Her high spirits remained even when I was leaving.  She was chit chatting about the heat with some students who were standing outside the door waiting for their turn.  When I came out I thanked her.  She asked me if I was going back to Bombay.  I told her I’m going to Bangalore.  She told me her daughter is in Bangalore.  I told her yes I know.  She asked me where I am staying in Bangalore.  I told her and I also told her it’s close to Purple Lotus where Sharmila teaches.  I asked her if she comes to Bangalore.  She said many many times.  I told her I will see her in Bangalore.  She smiled.

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As I was leaving I heard her calling out to a guy standing near the naariyal paani wallah.  

“Where you from?”

“I live in Delhi,” said the guy who was originally from Manipur.

“Ooooooohhhhh I thought Chinese,” said Sarawati before heading back into her shala.

My journey with Asthanga yoga continues in tomorrow, in Bangalore at the Purple Lotus.

 

Lifestyle Travel Yoga

Mysore Diaries – Day #13

December 12, 2015

It never ceases to amaze me how old the legacy of yoga in Mysore is.  I’m a sucker for history anyways (the kind that you can see and not just read about) and stories.  A lot of people here have trained with internationally famous yoga teachers, some of who were the first ones to train under Shri Pattabhi Jois.  I am curious to know about the first foreigner who heard about the little man in Mysore who teaches yoga and came in search of him.  At the time Mysore was just Chamundi Hills and the Palace, which probably looked very different from what it is now.  People may have come in through trains and hailed autos.  Auto wallahs might have been surprised to see foreigners (who still seem to be a novelty here.  When we go out, random locals ask for photos.  I discreetly step out of the frame because I know the subject they are interested in.)

KPJAYI has spawned a lot of local industries.  The auto-wallahs who stand outside the Shala, who charge up to Rs. 300 for a trip to the main market while an Ola cab will charge you only Rs. 109.  The coconut guys who are swarmed with people post classes and usually in the middle of the afternoon.  The cafes where you can find avocado salads, vegan food and crepes!  It was a challenge for me to find food that would ‘satisfy’ me.  I went to Gokul Chaats.  It’s been reviewed on Trip Advisor, but I wouldn’t recommend it.  However, a small restaurant away from the main road called Sri Durga has the most satisfying and wholesome food.  Ever since I’ve discovered it, it’s become my go-to place for coffee.  The infrastructure isn’t great, but the food and service is awesome.

We went to another restaurant today that has been catering to the influx of yogis since the time of K Pattabhi Jois.  ‘Eat at Nagarathna’s’ is a small and cozy establishment with close links to the Pattabhi Jois empire.  It’s run by Nagarathna and her husband, in their house.  The old shala was close to this house, which is how the earliest students stumbled upon it.  Nagarathna told us that her father-in-law was friends with Pattabhi Jois.  When his student’s needed nourishment, Pattabhi Jois would send slips of paper with the dish the student needed (hot pepper soup, dosa, salad) and send the student to Nagarathna’s.  This is how some of the earliest students found their way to Nagarathna’s table.  And we found ourselves at the very same table.  Those of you who know me know that this is exactly the sort of priceless experience I look for during my travels.  Nagarathana told us stories about some of the earliest students.  I don’t know much about Ashtangis, but my friends were delighted about hearing the names of their teachers and also imagining them as young yogis in Mysore, much like what they are now.  Names that clearly stand out in my mind are Tim Miller and Richard Freeman and Eddie Stern.  Nagarathna talks about how all the old Ashtangis used to sit around and enjoy the food and a few also hooked up with each other (she was talking about a couple who were Jois disciples a few decades ago.  I don’t remember the names, but they are currently teaching and famous in the Ashtanga community.)

The food was great, your typical South Indian fare.  But what stunned us is Nagarathna’s albums of old photos of some of the earliest Ashtangis! She had black and white and colored photographs.  Some were taken in her kitchen, in front of the old shala, in the hotel now known as Regaalis (and was known as Southern Star then), in front of the Mysore Palace…etc.  The album kept us riveted for a long time.  We even took photos of photos!  The picture that enthralled me was an old photo of the guru actually posing for a portrait with his students.  He’s sitting on a chair with female students in the front row while the male students stand in the back.  The sides of the picture have been eaten away by age and neglect(?).  I love this picture because I imagine Shri K Pattabhi Jois just like this, surrounded by students he loves, students who perhaps did not even dream that they would travel the globe to spread his word.  The guru with his devoted shishyas.

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Over lunch we talked about the first foreigner who stepped into this hitherto uncharted territory.  Allegedly, the first foreign student found out through the grapevine that there is a man teaching yoga in Mysore.  He promptly came to Mysore and Pattabhi Jois (the Brahman) refused to touch, much less teach, a foreigner!  Not to be deterred (and with no idea that he was throwing the gates open for future generations of yogis) he sat on Pattabhi Jois’s front porch for 3 weeks until the great Guru finally relented.

Everyone decided to head to FabIndia post the lunch (I’m surprised we could lift a finger after the way we stuffed our faces.).  I had some unfinished sightseeing left.  I grabbed a cab to Yadavgiri.  I saw the house, and it’s being renovated.  There was a huge padlock on the gate, but there were workers inside.  So I stood on the boundary wall and shouted to the workers, asking them to let me in.  They did.

I read somewhere that RK Narayan’s study used to face a huge tree and that he used to stare at the tree when he had writer’s block.  There was no tree inside the boundary wall of his house, but there were two right outside.  Maybe, decades ago, when he was living in the house, there was no boundary wall.  Maybe there was no pukka road, but a dirt road running in front of the house.  If that is how it was, then it’s believable that he would stare deep into the branches and trunk of the tree for inspiration…

Seeing the house is great, but I still sort of wish I’d managed to see it when it was falling apart.  I would have been able to sense the real character of the house.  However, I will have to settle for coming back next year to see the finished house.

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I would also like to mention that I’ve asked a number of localites about RK Narayan even saying ‘Malgudi Days?’ in the hopes of a spark of recognition.  But surprisingly, no one has heard of him!  I feel like I’m the only one whose heard of both Shri K. Pattabhi Jois and RK Narayan!

Now the days are starting to really whizz by.  I leave on Tuesday morning after my practice.  I’ll be back in Bangalore for lunch.  This morning I glanced through my class schedule for the rest of the year (tried to fit in the Ashtanga classes as well.  I think I will be able to figure something out.).

I’m looking forward to getting back to my classes.  I can already sense that these past two weeks have been incredibly unique and special.  I can feel a paradigm shift in my approach to yoga.  I can’t really put my finger on what.  I know these two weeks have given me lots of food for thought, new philosophies, new books…which is bound to change the way I practice and approach my classes.  I guess that’s only inevitable when you come to a place teeming with the energy of something so old and powerful.

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The picture had me transfixed.  I must’ve been in this position for 10 minutes.

Lifestyle Travel Yoga

Mysore Diaries – Day #12

December 11, 2015

In the Ashtanga style you are supposed to practice every day.  There is one day off in a week (mine is tomorrow) and on ‘Moon Days (which was today).  Moon days are days of the full or new moon and happen biweekly.  The practice is so intense, that I feel that it’s good to have more than one day off every once in a while.

Once a week, we have what is called a ‘conference’ where Sharath addresses all the yoga students.  I’m not sure if he has a fixed agenda; sometimes it sounds like he is just rambling and going off on a tangent.  The tone is light hearted and he keeps these ‘lectures’ very interactive.  For me it is a chance to listen to an eminent teacher and get insight into philosophy.  And for most of the people who have converged here from different parts of the world it is a chance to interact with a teacher who they highly revere.  I can feel that reverence spreading through the room whenever any of the teachers walk into the room.  It’s a very strong feeling that pervades the room, it’s very palpable.  I could feel it today as well as soon as Sharath walked into the room.  All heads turned to him and conversation died down.  All eyes followed him as he made his way to the stage to sit on a chair.  He adjusted the microphone and almost looked like a king addressing his subjects.  He wore a sparkling white kurta, and his ‘throne’ was an ornately carved chair.  He scanned the room and then started to speak.

He started talking about Moon days.  He began by saying that Moon days are crazy days with crazy energy.  Last week he spoke about how he had an oil bath on a moon day, and he was a bit under the weather for 4 days.  (An ‘oil bath’ is nothing but Abhiyangam.  So an oil self-massage before a shower.)  Today he told us that the reason we don’t practice during moon days is because moon days are days of elevated energy levels.  This extra energy makes you behave uncharacteristically.  People go crazy, they do crazy things, say crazy things.   He said we should make an extra effort to relax on moon days.  Keep the body and the mind calm.  He was expecting crazy questions and told us we can expect crazy answers.

As I said, the conference didn’t focus on any particular topic.  He spoke about various topics.  He discussed where we should practice yoga.  He told us that the quality of oxygen is really important.  So yoga in the mountains is great.  A lot of people want to close windows when they practice in the morning because they feel cold, but Sharath advises us to practice in a ventilated room so that our lungs have fresh oxygen available.  He says that you should generate heat in your body though the practice instead of cutting off fresh air.  He also said you shouldn’t practice out in the open, or in the forest.  Also, he said, do not practice where other people can see you.  The practice is private.

During the Q&A, two students asked about the bandhas.  Ashtanga yoga is a very physical style, the asana practice is intense 6 days a week.  However, the asanas are done with vinyasas (breath coordination), bandhas and drishti (where you rest your gaze).  Since I’ve just started the practice, I practicing asana and vinyasa.  A student asked Sharath that he has heard about and learned the bandhas from various teachers and he wanted to know how he can practice the bandhas in the asanas.  Sharath reiterated that you must stick to one style and teacher because mixing styles can confuse you.  He said he never went to another teacher to confirm if what his grandfather was saying is correct.  He then said that when we practice we must put in our best.  The bandhas will happen on their own.  Another student asked about how we can tell that we are doing the bandhas right.  Sharath once again said you will know.  Just practice.  I suppose this is along the lines of Shri K Pattabhi Jois’s famous quote: Practice and all is coming.

After the conference all of us got together and headed for a quick snack to a café nearby.  What was supposed to be a quick snack turned into a three-hour long conversation about our practice, our inspiration, our lives, our students, our teachers, India…

Lifestyle Travel Yoga

Mysore Diaries – Day #11

December 10, 2015

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This morning’s practice was a bit different.  Saraswati walked around adjusting people while loudly giving me instructions from her location.  So she was essentially shouting at me from wherever she was standing.  I didn’t know whether to be embarrassed about being picked on or whether I should feel ‘special’ that though she was adjusting others, I commanded her attention more than anyone else in the room!  She reiterated that we need to go step by step through the sequence instead of randomly doing asanas.  And she ended with telling me that in the ‘led’ class this Sunday I can take two more asanas.

Lately, I’ve become increasingly interested in the philosophy behind yoga.  Not just traditional philosophy, but also the views and opinions that contemporary (and I use this word very loosely) teachers.  Yoga has changed over time.  And over the years teachers have understood the need for yoga to evolve.  Whether it is T. Krshnamacharya or BKS Iyengar or Pattabhi Jois, everyone has contributed to ‘modernizing’ yoga.  So for instance, T. Krishnamacharya started to teach women.  Pattabhi Jois has also categorically stated that now women can do all the asanas because now women are strong.  BKS Iyengar himself personally taught his daughter and granddaughter to carry on his legacy.  During my time here I’ve had the chance to meet and interact with people who are very deeply immersed in the practice.  Many are advanced practitioners and have been through a fair amount of yoga theory and philosophy.  It’s interesting to listen to their ideas. Yoga is evolving and there are many rules and conventions which are now obsolete.  It’s interesting to see how these young yogis are thinking and evolving and finding how to live their lives within the confines of the philosophy, yet by applying thought to it.  Here I find that people are endeavouring to find a way to live the most authentic life consciously by questioning and reasoning to conclusions.

As the year draws to a close, I’m wondering what lesson exists here for me to carry into 2016 with me…

Lifestyle Travel Yoga

Mysore Diaries – Day #10

December 9, 2015

As a teacher I come across a lot of people who start to look for ‘results’ after only a couple of days of practice.  I think it’s always a good idea to practice yoga for at least a month before you start to look for ‘results’.  And in my experience, the changes come more as a realization, than as a tick on a list of goals.  Usually, when a student approaches yoga with a time bound goal, they get disappointed.  Truth is, you can’t put a deadline on when you will start to notice changes and how long it will take you to get a particular result.  The more effort you put into your practice, the better your practice will be.  But there is always room for improvement because it is a continuously evolving practice.  I’ve spoken to a lot of yogis here about what makes them converge here from all over the world, saving up holidays, leaving family and friends behind to come to practice in a small city in Karnataka where their classes are bursting at the seams, they have to acclimatize and they are not likely to get any personal attention from the super busy teachers.  If they want to ‘learn’ something, they could go to an exclusive workshop or practice with their teachers in smaller classes.  I’ve found that for a lot of people this is like Mecca.  This is where their guru’s guru taught.  They come to soak in the energy and practice with the most famous Ashtangis in the world.

I agree with these sentiments now.  But when I applied to practice here, I realize that I didn’t really think too much about what I was going to achieve and learn here.  At this point I can’t really define what drew me to Mysore, except for the fact that I wanted to try Ashtanga yoga and I reasoned that if ‘the’ school for Ashtanga was next door (in Mysore), then it only makes sense for me to drive down here.  I’m glad I had no expectations.  It allowed me to immerse myself in the classes with calmness and no sense of urgency.  My mind wasn’t constantly busy and noisy.  Although I felt that my body was made out of wood the first couple of days, gradually I started to feel that I could actually extend more.  Now, in forward folds I am able to make minor adjustments that make a great difference to the asana.  I have become better at the asanas, but I suspect another reason I’m able to make the minor adjustments is that I have a better connection to my body.  The intense focus on breath with movement ensures that you slow down and feel what the movement is trying to teach you.  Today Saraswati showed me the Tiryangamukha ekpada paschimattanasana.  It’s a slightly longer sequence but I think I’ll be able to repeat it tomorrow.

Even though I endured chanting class today, I went for a Yoga Sutras class today.  This class also involved a lot of chanting.  I’m coming to the conclusion that although I love yoga philosophy, I would rather it not be mixed with chanting Sanskrit.

Another thing I notice is the serious lack of Indian yoga students here!  There’s just a handful of us.  It would be worth finding out why there so few when the number of yoga teachers has grown exponentially all over the country.

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

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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.

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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!

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I simply love the colors in this photograph.

Lifestyle Travel Yoga

Mysore Diaries – Day #6

December 5, 2015
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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).

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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.

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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.

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

 

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

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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.

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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.
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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!