02/17/08 Study at the Seat of Ashtanga Yoga
There is a vibration on the Indian sub-continent like no other. It hums. Its smells constantly waft through the days and nights, sounds tinkling and blaring at intervals. The sense of movement, of teeming life, is omnipresent. A woman in a sari weaves a motorbike around a cow, talking on her cell phone. Palm fronds clack, dogs bark, children beg for rupees. Before dawn, roosters crow, temple bells ring and chanting begins. Somewhere nearby a householder is seated on a thin mat, praying. Prayer is never far away, and this, I think, is the source of the hum. Whatever aspiration we send out is matched by the Divine and it comes beaming into our lives. It’s hard here, in a place where this simple exchange is a part of daily life, not to be infected by it. Open your heart and aspiration spills out.
In Mysore, the restaurant makes offerings at a small altar between shifts. The papaya guy comes through the streets around 9 AM yelling “Papaya! Seedless!” Around most corners comes a westerner with a fat mat bag slung over a shoulder, walking slowly.
I keep getting queries through the Back Bay web site about coming to India to study yoga, so let me address this here. It certainly makes sense to come to Mysore to study. Krishnamacharya, whose teaching of Pattabhi Jois, BKS Iyengar, and his own son Desikachar blossomed into much of the yoga we know in the west, was based in Mysore to teach the Maharaji. Mysore has long been a city, which supports academics, arts, and music. Many come from all over to study any variety of subjects. Recently the mayor passed a law requiring new buildings to follow guidelines of traditional architecture, in the interest of preserving Mysore’s history.
Mostly whom I am hearing from are new students to Ashtanga or yoga in general. There is a romance to learning yoga in India, perhaps a sense of heightened authenticity. While it isn’t necessary to learn in India to be “authentic,” there’s no question about it: it’s a great experience and it’s far easier to focus on your studies far away from home (though it still requires discipline as all manner of distraction are here). After college, I came to India for six months of study to return a “yoga teacher.” What I found was how far, how very far, from being a teacher I was. Which, in my experience, is better than coming back from a short period of study ready to impart what I am still integrating.
You needn’t be advanced to find appropriate classes here. The Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute isn’t the only place, either. At AYRI, they are very busy to be sure. New students will take class with Saraswati, later in the morning after she helps Sharath. She is wonderful, and the group is great. You will learn traditional method, the same way we teach at Back Bay- one thing at a time. Once you get here and talk to a few people, you hear about other teachers as well. I think Barath has a web site, he is teaching his own style of yoga. Shashadri and his son teach Ashtanga with lots of emphasis on hands-on adjustments. BNS Iyengar, a student of Krisnamacharya, teaches the Ashtanga system and afternoon pranayama. There’s dance, music, sutra chanting, philosophy- you name it. Just be sure not to overbook, as the India experience requires lots of rest.
Places to land, find them on-line: Green Hotel, Shakti House, Chez Joseph.
02/17/08 Yoga Politics
A friend from Vancouver who works in politics asks an American yoga student if his countrymen have voted in the Primaries yet.
“Primary Series?” he asks, in confusion what all the voting is about.
Yes, we are a bit in our own world out here.