Merry Christmas from Mysore

Life if simple here in India. I am in a small town in Gokulam just outside the big city of Mysore, which isn’t so big, but there is a lot of activity there. I often go downtown by rickshaw for the adventure. Gokulam is sort of protected but it’s authentic as small towns come. I can get everything I need for the apartment from cleaning supplies to fresh fruit and flowers just a short walk away. You buy what you need. They ask if the bananas are for today or tomorrow just to be sure that they are just right. I love the chocolate man and the coconut stand and of course my favorite place to stop for nuts or juice is the little stand around the corner from the Shala called Guru & Sons. Sometimes they have fresh nut butters and even banana bread.

Practice at the Shala under Sharath’s watchful eye is focused. I feel like I am rebuilding my practice and finding it refreshing to see it change. I have to watch the breath as the Shala gets hot and you can heat up fairly quickly. By the time I am at the seated asanas, sweat is strong and even throughout my body. It feels good to get to the floor. It’s also a good time to reconnect and collect yourself, breathing freely with no movement, almost feeling effortless, connecting to those allusive bandhas. I’m enjoying all of the practices here and as usual we learn something new every time we come to the mat.

The day before the New Moon, Sharath made a comment that I was stiff and we can blame in on the moon. He knows I’m not one of the bendy people and I’m able to be amused at his comments. Today I felt more open for sure and he says to the assistant, “Have her catch.” He knows I’m not catching so it’s amusing when I am asked which side first. “He’s kidding”, I say and I try harder this time to deepen the backbend, which means; walk, walk, walk, the hands to the feet. It’s fun and after three weeks I feel more confident to keep trying.

I’m happy practicing here and I get the feeling that the people coming here become your big extended family after a while. After practice, I look forward to chanting sessions with Laksmisa and other classes. Breakfast spots are fun to connect and chat with other westerners. It can be as quiet or busy as you want it to be. Lunch is the main meal and you can tell by the practice the next day if you ate well the day before.

I’m noticing different things about myself. When I feel lonely or tired or sad, I know it will pass. One day I heard a dog crying and looked to see where he was in the small cage under the stairs of a house. Then I saw a woman with a baby begging and I keep seeing puppies looking for their mother everywhere. I love the cows and want to feed them. I love the dogs and want to give them some love. The goats make me smile. I close my eyes and wait for these feelings that get stirred up in me to pass.   I’m not sure I could do this if not for the practice.   The practice makes us sensitive and the practice also teaches us that you don’t have to be stuck in any emotion too long.

I try to stay in the present and breathe and feel and be grateful.   Tomorrow I will practice at the Shala on Christmas Day and remember the times hitting the slopes or waking up to waffles and ice cream, dedicating my practice to my three sons.  Maybe I’ll find some waffles!  Merry Christmas from Mysore!  – Deb

 

Tomorrow You Do

I got a new pose today but I didn’t do it today. I get to do it tomorrow. You have to be patient here and just practice. No expectations and do what is required. Hopefully he’s watching. He is watching. Nothing goes on in that Shala without him noticing. If he didn’t see you do a particular asana that you have been working on, you may have to do it again so he can. It’s a beautiful thing how the connection is made to Sharath for everyone.

Today I came up from the backbend and there he was right in front of me. I’m stalling as I have to drop back and he stays right there and says, “Go.” I proceed like he’s not even there and I come up continuing in my normal fashion. Finally he says Pashasana tomorrow. It is likely that he knows I am waiting for this day. This is not just any pose but the first pose of the Intermediate Series in Ashtanga yoga.  This gateway pose that I have been secretly longing to do here in Mysore.  Every time you have those desires that come up you have to try to settle and practice yoga.

I’ve struggled and had to figure out how to get there doing what is required. I see people struggle in the practice. I know where they have been and understand the journey that it takes. For me it took time and commitment to it. Kino calls it a project and these projects are supposed to turn into progress. She also helped me to pick one of two projects and leave it at that. The good news is that we want to be encouraged to come to the mat, we want to make it so that we enjoy the practice and we want to make it so that is just challenging enough.

I had not felt so challenged here in Mysore doing the primary series, even though I know that I can always work on something. Always. Primary normally feels like coming home but this past week I have had enough. I caught myself having desires, expectations and was becoming impatient. As one would expect, this turned into disappointment.   However, grateful to this journey and to yoga, I managed to let it go, to continue to smile, forging ahead. I managed to continue to come back to practicing yoga. C-Ray says that you can’t control your thoughts but you do control your thinking. This relates to the understanding that we have a choice as to how we are going to react in any situation.   What happens on my mat and in the Shala is no different to situations in our lives. The tools are there for us.

Tomorrow I continue to do the Primary Series and I get to move into Intermediate! I have to admit I am very excited about this.   It’s perfect timing actually and now I get to “think”of something else beside Pashasana!

Yoga Rocks Summer 2011 081

Picture from a Yoga Rocks retreat in Greece in 2011

Led Ashtanga in Mysore

I looked at the clock after lunch today and it was 2:22.  Anyone who knows me well, knows that I smile inside and out when I see that.  Nothing crazy, just that things are going in a positive direction for me . . . today.    Then I quickly looked up and met a cow in the road who wanted me to pet her head all day.   But alas I was on my way to Sanscrit Class. It’s been good day and even though I can’t get the vowels right in Sanscrit, I’m not judging.

Today was led and although my apartment is around the corner and I could get over to the Shala in 2 minutes, I feel late.  You are not supposed to be too early and you can’t be late.  Then of course there is Shala time and the clock in the apartment is set to that which is helpful. I arrive at the gate minutes before the second wave of people and the steps are full, so I take a seat on the ground next to the bottom step. I feel pretty lucky when I see everyone coming up behind me. People will enter to the right and left of me and I will be right in the middle, which sort of means I will get squeezed out.  I know the drill as you have to keep moving and work your way up without a sound and no stopping.  No pushing as that would not be yogic.  There is nothing yogic about getting your spot for led class, as you are out for yourself and you only worry about yourself it seems.  I’m pretty friendly and let a woman know she should move those mats over and get in or someone else will.  There is literally 1/2 inch between mats so for anyone talking about not having enough room to practice at AYM, we have luxury right now.

I end up on the stage, in a spot where I will have to be careful not to fall.  Any mis step will have me toppling into the room.  Just so you are not in suspense, I don’t fall, remain very steady and keep my dristhi at my nose (very intently) in Chakransana or the backward roll as I seriously could roll off the stage.  Dristhi is so very important and I feel very connected to the elements of my practice keeping me steady.  Today’s practice felt like coming home with Sharath directly in front of me in his chair.  He stays there mostly, but gets up during the seated asanas to makes sure everyone is wrapping and this is where he has to tell some people to stop.  In the headstand, Sharath loves to say “don’t fall” and I say to myself no kidding I have to stay with it here.  My legs shake in Ardha Sirsasana, but i don’t fall.

It was a really nice practice and I’m loving primary again. There is always something to polish in the primary series and it’s fun because these days it does keeps changing for me. I’m riding the energy of this place. Sharath took my legs to cross in Supta Kurmasana and I probably should have sat up but still not sure of the protocol.  We have led again tomorrow as it is the first day of the week.  There is more people now as the first week of registration is done.  I’ll be early tomorrow!

My first week was fun.  I got right into the swing of things with practice, my apartment and touring.  I’m meeting fun people, stopping for coconuts and trying never to be in too much of a hurry most times except when we all shuffle into the Shala for Led Ashtanga

There's a cow in the road, always!

There’s a cow in the road, always!

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The Monkey Mind

I tried, I really did try to keep focused and practice today. I had a nice spot in the middle of the room and as I started to practice I noticed my mind wandering. I continued to bring it back to my breath and then I remembered to use the drishti, but my drishti keep going. I was not steady today. I even had weird thoughts like I wonder if he would notice if I stopped after Navasana? What if I just rolled up my mat right now? Then I had this conversation in my head that Sharath and I would have. So you see crazy monkey mind? I figured stopping at Navasanna was not an option for me anyway. It probably would only be to get his attention. Maybe that’s what students do? “Hey _______ , I’m going to stop after Navasana . . .” and the conversation continues just so the student can get to talk to the teacher. Could be?

I decided to continue to try to focus.   I remember that the breath could help and although in the asana I could stop and focus and breathe, it was in the transitions that my mind took over. Supta was done properly (which means it felt just right) and then there I am hanging out in Bakasana. So there I am with my “Bakasana looking good” . . . BUT you don’t hold it there! Again I’m thinking jump back or no, step or go.   I’m hanging out for a breath or two or three too long . . . thinking. Long enough to get noticed. It’s important to be efficient here. I take time in backbends, too much time, so the rest has to be efficient. I’m trying.

So the mind continues to try and take over the practice and getting to backbends, I get to meet Sharath. My breath is not that great at this point. I do my three drop backs and he jumps off the stage. I’m sensing a system as assistants are mulling around. It’s actually in the timing maybe. He’s easy on me today and I do the walk, walk, walk with my hands and they don’t go too far toward my feet until I’m up.   It’s fun. I’m excited to keep doing the work and I’m up for that. I have heard that before in things I have set out to do. “Are you are up for that?” The mind has to help get you here and the breath will lead you to the tools to bring you to yoga.

Tomorrow is Led. I am not overly excited it’s led for the possibility of not getting a spot or better yet being in some far off corner, which may not even be in the main Shala. Therefore, with no expectations I will take what I get. I will take action, however, and try to get in just like everyone else.  When I face challenges, I’ll just remember to breathe before I take each action and smile when I gently move a mat or two to make a space for my mat.

Happy Moon Day!

Don't take my picture!

Don’t take my picture!

 

Been Here Before

I’m  glad that I’ve been here before.  When you have been somewhere before there is a level of fear that just goes away, disappears and it’s like you’ve never been fearful before.   I mean when you get to India and you don’t have the right address of where you are staying, you could start to panic.  Picture this, you’ve traveled for days, you ate so you aren’t hungry but you’re tired, not only are you tired, but you LOOK tired and just want to unpack but since you have the wrong address you . . . have a coconut.

Good thing I paused and had a coconut as I saw a friend come out of the Shala.  There are  lots of people coming out after practice but I call out his name and we chat. I tell him my story (at this point I just figured my driver was not all there and that I had a good address) He helps with internet access.  Long story short, I was around the corner from where I needed to be.   It’s a combination of not being fearful, having some trust in some people (Mahesh watched my bags – I took the rupees out), and being able to pause and stay in the moment.  To pause, to think and to breathe.

I spent some time settling in after this, which also means to pause.  Lots of things are different so you have to take your time, think and figure things out from light switches to locks to heating the water for the shower which seemed pretty important to me.  Communication is not always easy but everyone smiles and somehow you start to understand each other with gestures.  They are speaking their language and you are speaking your own, in sometimes a louder tone than normal, like they may understand you better.

The registration was uneventful which is good.  Sharath is busy with a big line forming and I’m glad he sees me here, takes my fee and gives me my start times.  I’ve been here before so I’ve got everything ready.  Checked my list and checked it twice.  I’ve been here before and it’s all pretty familiar.

Led class is at 6 am and now “Shala Time” is 15 minutes before the actual time (last time it was 20 but I can handle this).    I’ve never been able to figure out how to get into the room before the rush so of course there is no obvious spot.  So I pause, but not too long, and because I know the drill, I know that there is very little space between mats during the led class.   I see these mats in a row with some luxury space around them and make a move to “create” a space for my mat.  It would have been done anyway and I got a nice spot near the alter on the far side of the Shala.  So for now I avoided the changing room and the stage but I’ve got a few weeks left.  Once my arms went up for the first sun salutation, I had a sense of ease around the practice that’s been missing.  I held the counts and focused on breathing.  It was fun!

Today for practice you get called into the room and there is absolutely no reason to worry, everyone will get to practice.  I feel pretty relaxed about this BUT you can’t choose a spot, it’s chosen for you as people finish you become the “One More”.    So I’m the one more and he doesn’t ask for my card and I get to start my practice.  My only wish is that I feel good and that I continue to work on having some ease with the practice.   The pause I felt in the practice was in between the breaths and this makes practice just delightful.  I keep going and keep breathing and I take my time and get to the end feeling grateful. Grateful that I am able to move with ease, that I can hear my breath and that my breath is giving new energy and life to my practice . . . just for today.

My apt in Mysore-2nd floor

My apt in Mysore-2nd floor