01/10/08 More Limbs than a Nataraj: The Shala Opens in Mysore
I was expecting throngs here in Mysore, but it’s not bad at all. Registration on the weekend went smoothly, though Sharath seemed stressed. I walked out of the office thinking oh God, I hope we can all have some FUN around here. Guruji was there, but Saraswati is quite protective of his space. He wasn’t very talkative. Neither was Sharath. But first day lead primary (I was in the foyer, people were practicing in the changing rooms) Sharath was cracking jokes and smiling. He seems to be enjoying being here and teaching- after all so many of us have known him as the teacher for a while now. Things are running like clockwork (a big change!) in the Mysore room with everyone assigned a time in half-hour intervals, and people actually coming at their correct times. Sharath is doing an excellent job managing all these people. However, we are still under 200 and there are only two lead classes this Friday. I think some folks are still on their way. Lead intermediate won’t start until next week.
I went to speak with Sharath about my wrist story yesterday. I was surprised that he knew me by name after 2 years. I think it’s because I am, as he said, “like Nicki’s sister”. Can you imagine having hundreds of students all over the world? So, he said wear a wrist support. Like a good ashtangi, I ended up with an ace bandage migrating all over my arm during practice this morning and the clippy things ended up on my neighbor’s mat. I’ll have to work on that. Sharath and Sarawati are giving me plenty of space to practice the best I can, skipping anything that puts much pressure there. I told Sharath before backbending “it’s been a looong time.” He laughed and said, “you take anything.” I think his mellow vibe is an important shift that is keeping the scene here grounded and sweet. He watches a lot, getting to know us all again, adjusting sparingly. I move slowly and the crowd around me changes as everyone else finishes and I am… still…going. It’s fun to practice close to so many new people. Giggling when we stick our legs in each other’s armpits. I made a great friend when a guy smacked me while coming up from backbends. I used to be attached to getting my legs wide in Soopta Konasana and things like that, but now the pose looks like Ubaya Padangustasana and I have no qualms.
The vibe on this trip continues to be about family and community. I think there are enough of us now who have been on this path for a number of years that we stand on our own as yoga enthusiasts. Now there are too many students for everyone to have an intimate connection with certain teachers. As the Guru/disciple relationship is not the model for yoga asana in the west on the majority, it seems we are creating a learning community amongst ourselves. We support each other in a shared love for this practice, creating home and family as we travel and study. Then those of us who are teaching return to the communities of students we are supporting (and being supported by) at home. I come to Mysore to connect to this community of teachers. When I am in Boston, where I have few connections outside the yoga world in which I am holding teacher space (most of the time, and the crew there is great in giving me space to be me), it’s great to know all these others from all over who are in the same boat. Then we end up teaching at each other’s schools, subbing for each other, and the families knit together. Ashtanga yoga becomes a uniting force.
Coming out of the finishing room today, I stepped into the main practice space, which was still jamming at 7:30, two and half hours later. I don’t realize it when I am in there at 5, but WHOA. Talk about energy. Everyone in that room (maybe 60 at a time?) has come a Long Way to do this short practice every day and they are giving their all. The breath is deafening. The air is thick (we know about that in Boston). It smells. Faces are intense. To get from one side of the room to the exit is like an obstacle course. More limbs than a Nataraj in there. For me, I concentrate on slow, even breath. The last thing I need when I’ve moved by body through all sorts of realities in the last four months is to get more jazzed (Debatable, as I certainly like to get high). I love to experience this practice as grounding. Only Primary first week, we are all loving it. Backbending next week, oh yes, shit hitting the fan. Love it.