So I have just returned from my second visit to Mysore, to study Ashtanga at the birthplace, the K. Pattabi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Insititure, or KPJAYI for short, or just ‘the main shala’ to those who go.
This time I applied, and miraculously was accepted, to study with the big boss, Sharath Jois, Pattabi’s grandson. Sharath is now the direct lineage of this method and is continuing the work, by parampara, (knowledge that is passed in succession from teacher to student) that his grandfather started in 1927 when Pattabi was a student of the great Krishnamacharya.
After practicing with his mother, Saraswathi back in March (reflection here) I knew what to expect and how the shala works, but none the less I was so nervous on day one of practice – it was like your first day at school/new job magnified by 100!!!!
My main concern was that I was going there with my pre existing injury of a strain or tear (yet to be MRI scanned!) to the Lateral Collateral Ligament in my knee (sad face emoticon). I had come from practicing with the wonderful KPJAYI authorised teacher, Elise Greenspoon who was working wonders with me on opening out the hips to relieve the pressure on the outside of the knee when in half lotus. As Shakira says, the hips don’t lie, and having tightness in the hips can affect your practice BIG TIME.
‘Performing’ in front of Sharath in a room full of super advanced practitioners is nerve-racking, but there is an energy in the shala, and Mysore itself, that is hard to describe. It’s a pressure cooker as everyone is yearning for a bit of attention from him (and don’t let anyone fool you that they are not) but it is also an electric charged dynamic space to work in, and the energy in the room does help you deepen your practice.
Sharath is this small but powerful presence, he controls the room with dominance and a strictness that makes you break out in a sweat before your first vinyasa! Yet there are moments of laughter, his cheeky little sense of humour and of course his catchphrases that are infamous amongst the community that lighten the mood somewhat.
For me, it was a great experience, I found the waiting to get in the shala for self practice (Mysore style) monotonous, I preferred the order and regiment of the led classes, of which there are two per week, Saturday and Monday. Sharath never stopped me in the led classes meaning I could finish the series and practice my ‘favourite’ asana which are from Upavistha Konasana to Setu Bandhasana!
My practice did improve, I was told ‘you stop there’ in my nemesis, Marichyasana D until I could bind in half lotus (just!) without an assist, and then only got moved onto Bujupindasana. But I felt this let me really work deeply in all the asana up to that point and I came away feeling stronger and can walk now without knee pain! I’m only a novice Ashtanga practitioner, only having being practicing properly since March and I learnt back then to leave my ego out of it if I was ever going to progress (more on the ego in yoga in later posts!)
Don’t go to Mysore if you think you are going to get taught, as I have mentioned in previous posts you go there to take a journey to the self, to self practice in this amazing place, to meet other people from all over the world who share your passion for this crazy practice, and to look inwards on yourself, which in my opinion is the true nature of spirituality within yoga practice.
I’ll be back, (as often as I can afford it), to continue to deepen my knowledge of this wonderful practice, that has changed and shaped the way I now live my life.
I hope to share some of the knowledge I have accrued over these two visits with my students, to extend some kind of parampara with them, you, and hope to see you on the mat soon.
If you are planning to go to Mysore then you can read my Yogi’s guide of what to do when you’re not practicing here: Mysore Guide