Why Mysore?

I have been practicing yoga for fourteen years and teaching for twelve.  My teaching style is mixed but tends towards a basic power or flow mix class with western music.  Over the last handful of years, however, I have transitioned my personal practice back to the more traditional (and quiet) ashtanga practice.  


The ashtanga practice in the US is based on the teachings of S. Pattabi Jois from Mysore, affectionately know as Guruju.  Many people have asked me why I chose to travel to Mysore when there are so many good teachers who were trained by Guruju in the U.S., especially in California and Colorado.  But, I have always felt a need to "travel to the source."  Unfortunately, I didn't make the decision to come to Mysore before Guruji passed away.  However, his legacy has been carried on by his daughter Saraswathi and his grandson, Sharath, at his original yoga shala in Mysore.  I have felt this pull towards Mysore for many years and since I had accumulated the necessary airline points to get there, I thought "why not?"

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So here I am in Mysore.  Today I attended my first practice with Saraswathi and my first chanting class.  Each morning, I will rise at 6am at head to the practice room.  After my asana practice, I will either attend chanting class or yoga sutra classes.  On the weekends, there is one led practice and one day off.  And the shala is full so we have staggered start times.  There are close to 200 students here from all over the world.  Many are here for short stays like me.  But many are here for two to three months!  Usually, the typical commitment is at least a month to practice with Sharath.  But Saraswathi accepts students who are staying at least two weeks.  Both are incredible and offer different energies.  But once I met Saraswathi, I was excited to become one of her students.  She not only offers her experience from years of working with her father, she brings an amazingly calm, feminine energy to the practice.  


Many students coming to Mysore for the first time (like me!) will be disappointed to learn that you MUST start with the most basic poses in the primary series (no exceptions!).  I knew that before coming, but I was still harboring a sense of disappointment that I would most surely be stopped and not allowed to advance on to the more advanced poses.  After all, why did I come all the way to Mysore? However, after my first practice, I immediately understood the benefits of becoming a beginner all over again.  Practicing in Mysore is about much more than the physical asana.  It is the complete yoga experience.  It is yoga in its fullest form.


Practicing poses that I generally know quite well, allows me to not only refine these poses but to go deeper into the more subtle aspects of the practice.  I get the opportunity to work on creating and maintaining stability.  I can focus on controlling my breath, my mind and my emotions.  I can notice changes in my body and mind and take the opportunity to let go of anything that doesn't benefit me, so that my state of inner stillness can grow.  I can take the time to notice my thought patterns, how they affect each asana and my experience on my mat.  Am I generating loving, kindness and compassion through my practice, or ambition, frustration, and dissatisfaction? I can notice these things and take responsibility for them, not just for myself, but for the people that I am sharing space with.  


When working on challenging new asana, the focus is often on trying to work out the dynamics of the asana.   But when given the space to move calmly though familiar asana, there is far less striving and more space to BE.  This is what I find so valuable about practising yoga in Mysore.  The focus in Mysore is much less about asana and much more about yoga.  I felt this from others in the room.  No one was trying to outdo each other.  No one was trying to show off.  Everyone was quiet, peaceful and looking inward. It is this quiet, peaceful, calm energy emanating from so many yogis that makes Mysore so unique and special.  I am looking forward to the rest of my time here and hopefully coming back for a full month next year!

 © CommonFate 2015