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yoga with saraswati

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 #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 #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 #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.

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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!

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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!