Mysore, India July 2018. Relevant Reminders, Reflections, & Absolute Reverence

Posted by on July 28, 2018 in Empowerment, Events, Monthly Focus, Yoga | Comments Off on Mysore, India July 2018. Relevant Reminders, Reflections, & Absolute Reverence

There are few comfort zones in this experience and rarely do you get your preference.  Dropping into a deep state of joy & peace requires that you let go and surrender to the underlying current of sacred Mother India for she is surely more powerful than you. Sharathji (the ji is used as a suffix of endearment) asked us in our first July conference “Why did you come? Why did you come here… all the way to Mysore, India to study Ashtanga Yoga with me?  You have made great sacrifices in coming here- leaving your loved ones & friends, leaving work, spending money, traveling very far… so why?”  The answer is we have come to do our spiritual practice or sadhana… to practice yoga in it’s birthplace (India) and specifically the birthplace of Ashtanga Yoga (Mysore).   We are so fortunate to practice at the feet of an Acharya, someone who has walked along this path and knows its challenges, possibilities, depths, and grace.  Someone who has walked through it and come out the other side (while still doing his/her own continual sadhana) and who is now sacrificing his time and energy to share this most special, sacred, and truly valuable life wisdom with us.  Yogic wisdom, which is quite different from knowledge, has the power to deeply transform our lives as we are encouraged to look inward, not outward, and discover (usually in glimpses) who we really are.      

It’s 3:30am and my alarm goes off.  (Some mornings it chimes at 1:30am and others at 4am depending on which “Led Class” day it is or if it’s a Mysore practice day). First, I thank God for another day of waking and then I touch my feet to the earth and head to the kitchen for a large glass of water (Thank you DB!) and heat up the tea kettle to prepare my morning coffee.  This trip I gifted myself an apartment upgrade which features wifi, a french press, hot tea kettle, blender, Western toilet, shower, (as opposed to a spigot & a bucket) and a washing machine!!!   This is quite a step up from years past and this has been my ultimate comfort zone and healing retreat space this trip. It is here I have spent most of my (alone) time… reflecting,  journaling, processing, resting, and working.  There is a family of gecko’s that greets me in the morning… they are so cute! They scurry up the kitchen wall once I turn the light on, never to be seen again until the next morning.  I usually take care of a good portion of emails & business in the morning as I sip my water and coffee listening to peaceful music. I’ve actually had some beautiful phone conversations with friends and colleagues back at home at that  time as well due to the 9.5 hour time difference.   By 5:30am I am turning on the geyser to heat up the water for my shower and filling a glass full of UV filtered water to brush my teeth with.  (things we don’t have to think about at home).  “Apana tending to” follows and then a hot, short shower (the hot water runs out fast) and into my yoga clothes layered under jeans and a hoodie as the mornings are a bit chilly when I ride my scooter to the yoga shala.  My apartment is 4 stories up in a small apartment building and it’s dark when I leave my pad so I either use my phone flash light to safely get me down the stairs or search for the hallway lights.   Sometimes my scooter gives me a hard time starting so I have to pop the clutch or pull open some thinga majig (real word) 😉  to get the petrol into the engine.  The engine starts and I’m off!   The street dogs are waking up and some chai stalls are just opening but that’s about it.  I love the smell of the morning air as it hits my face….   (the smells are one of my most favorite things about magical India.  Onions & garlic cooking in ghee, jasmine flowers, incense, chai, cow poop, vehicle smoke, ripe mangos & papaya all wafting towards me within seconds of each other.)  But the morning air is crisp and clean at this early hour…. it’s different. It feels like it’s coming straight out of the trees that line the road on my ride. 

A 5 minute ride lands me at the KPJ Ashtanga Yoga Shala parking my scooter among many others.  It’s hard to believe I’ve been coming here since 2004 and my love for this place only grows.  Clearly, I’m not alone. There must be well over 300 people here this July- people from all over the world- many from Asia, South America, Europe, and Australia. Some from the US as  well.  I wait on the steps of the shala for about an hour before getting called into the lobby area with the others whose practice time is the same as mine .  Waiting again, we get to silently observe the approx 90 people practicing and wait for our teacher to call “One More”.  After you finish your own drop backs and then assisted back bending, you pick up your mat and go into the changing/bathroom area to do your closing asanas (inversions & seated meditation postures) and the next person comes in, takes your spot, and begins their practice.  The energy of the people in this July group is very lovely and everyone seems quite happy.  Sharath is incredible. He is holding space for us (on every level) from 3:45am-11am 4 days a week and then teaches three back to back led classes on Saturdays and Mondays.  Sunday is our rest day in addition to 1 Full and 1 New Moon day during the month. (We cherish those Moon Days over here!) The practice, no matter how relaxed you are walking into the shala, is so intense! All these people practicing different series around you, the sound of 90 people breathing deeply, immense sweating, each of us giving it all of our focus, energy, and heart, not to mention having the teacher in the room watching us like a hawk,  it is like nothing else I have ever experienced in a practice setting.  I took it as an auspicious blessing that the first day I pulled up to Mysore practice I stepped in a big pile of fresh dung while parking my scooter!    

So let’s go back to my earlier statement about comfort zones and preferences.  When “One More (One more tall, one more small and sometimes one more medium ((based on your size and where space opens up in the room)) is called, you go.  Your practice space could be close to a “sweating” wall, it could be in between two individuals with the absolute worst body odor you have ever smelled, (one of whom could be me!) it could be under a literally dripping ceiling (with sweat/condensation), it could be up on the stage, and it could be close to the men’s or women’s bathroom.  There is no telling the weather as there are days when it is so warm and humid that I actually feel I will die of suffocation.  Other days I practice in the back of the room near all of the open windows where a very cool (border line cold) draft blows in upon me the entire time I’m practicing.  You cannot move your spot, and you cannot request to open or close the windows.   You simply have to accept it and deal with WHAT IS and adjust YOURSELF accordingly, not the circumstances (huge lesson here!).  This is all a part of the practice and you begin to realize there are practices within practices.  We also humbly and graciously surrender to and welcome the assists from a handful of Authorized teachers in the room, each with his or her own unique adjustment style.  I don’t actually receive many adjustments because I am still doing the same exact practice I have been doing here for the last 10 years.  I have not received one new posture.  That’s correct…. you heard me loud and clear.  Many of you are probably wondering why and the answer is I don’t know for sure but I can tell you that I do know I still have so much room for growth and depth in all the asanas I am working on so I am grateful to not add more but to instead go deeper.   I trust that when the day comes for the next posture, I will be very ready.  Some days my location in the room and how my practice goes are low on my list of concerns as some mornings prior to practice entail “loose motions”, vomiting, minor aches and pains, a very stiff body and/or hardly any sleep from dogs barking all night long.  I am happy to make it through the practice, focusing literally one breath at a time, and to not have to run to the ladies room or stop early because of exhaustion.  One breath at a time has been my mantra every single day….. and before I know it…. I’m in shavasana!  And all the “ailments” work themselves out usually within 1 practice…. almost like a miracle!!  The key is to get on the mat and take it one breath at a time… don’t push, be with what is, and move through it “mind-fully”.   I am able to watch the “push back” of my own mind many mornings as it tries to come up with the most convincing excuses as to why I should rest that day. But here you don’t have that option- you have to go… with whatever “story” you are telling yourself that day.  (unless it’s “ladies holiday” or if you have diarrhea) ((Sharath knows when we miss a practice and he will ask us in front of the room “why you not come yesterday?”))  Then, suddenly, “Ekam, Inhale”…. and the story just falls away.  It’s incredible. New stories will do their best to arise in the mind but again…. just like meditation, we go back to the breath, and the next thing you know you’re having one of the nicest practices ever. 

After class the beautiful, dedicated coconut man is outside waiting to open a fresh coconut for each of us, and always with a smile.  Some days I cannot drink it fast enough!  A few times a week I buy fresh jasmine flowers for my altar at home and at least once a week I stop at the Ganesha Temple on my way home to pray for those who are suffering.  Then back on the scoot towards home where the air on my face and still damp body is so refreshing.  I walk immediately up 4 flights to my apartment where I place my sweat drenched yoga clothes in the washer and hang my mat and yoga rug out to dry on the balcony so they will be fresh and dry for tomorrow.  I wash my face, hands, and feet, put on dry comfy clothes and get back into bed for a proper rest after practice.  (the yogic texts advise leaving the post-practice sweat on your body as it makes the body strong and light)  Sometimes I only lay for 20 minutes and other times I fall into a deep post-Mysore practice coma and wake up 2 hours later!!  These kinds of ‘shavasanas’ only happen to me when I’m here.  I wake up as if I’ve shed layers of myself and I’m usually starving!  I head to the kitchen to make a smoothie (almond milk, protein powder i brought from home, cadamom, raw honey,  and frozen bananas) and to cut up some fresh fruit (mango or papaya) and nuts (raw cashews, pecans, and almonds).  Other days (if the electricity is out let’s say)  I head out for a dosa and chutney or some idly in town… it just depends on what my body is asking for that morning and what the circumstances are.  I drink probably close to 3 gallons of water every day as it’s fairly hot and humid but also because we are losing so much fluid during practice.  The “hala-hala” is coming out through our pores that’s for sure! 

We have Vedic Chanting class on M,W,F from 11:15-11:45am with Lakshmish. It is really beautiful to chant with hundreds of others at the same time. I look forward to this so much! The chanting requires incredible mental focus and the vibration goes straight to my heart!  I am so grateful for my years of study of Vedic Chanting with Danielle T as she has taught me so well.  After chanting I usually run a few errands and then head to lunch around 2pm.  Most days I drop my bike off at home and walk across the street to Tina’s Cafe where I know I’ll always get delicious, clean, nourishing (North India) food with good spice!  I have known Tina and Sanjeev since my first trip to Mysore and they are true Karma Yogis as they have dedicated their lives to feeding the yoga students as well as the Indian locals now as well.  I take my lunch outside in the “fresh” air and enjoy it with gratitude in every bite.  Lunch usually consists of some type of dal (usually yellow split moong lentil), veggies, (potatoes, carrots, green beans, okra) and a fresh lime juice.  On days when I’m really hungry I order 2 portions of vegetables and sometimes I treat myself to a chick pea flour papadam. (I say treat b/c if you eat too many they cause a lot of vata/”wind” in the system)   Sometimes I’ll order a small coffee or tea and sit and read for awhile there at the cafe.  By 3:30pm I am either headed back home or to the majestic Kukkalhari Lake for an hour + long walk around the lake in what is truly fresh air.  It is so peaceful watching the cows grazing out in the fields and the herons sitting quietly on the rocks. I always walk with friends (for safety, although I feel extremely safe here in Mysore) so it’s also a lovely time to connect and share.

By 5:30/6pm I am back home for the night and start preparing for bed.  I will pack up my yoga mat and rug from outside and take another shower before I put on my pj’s.  Once I’m clean and comfy I will spend some quiet time reading, journaling, studying, checking emails, or doing work for Balance if needed.  I’m 9.5 hours ahead of NY so by 6pm India time most folks back at home are well into their morning so it’s a good time to get some things done.  Often times I just sit quietly outside on my terrace feeling the evening breeze.  I have a few cups of hot water (to help digest- they want us fasting at least 12 hours before practice so I usually end up around 15 which feels good & right for me) in the evening and by 7/7:30pm I am in bed.  It is still light out at this hour and the streets are bustling with traffic and people.  I use ear plugs and an eye mask to help but often times it takes longer than an hour to fall asleep.  (very unusual for me bc at home I fall asleep as soon as I hit the pillow!)  Sometimes I wake up at 1am thinking it’s time to get up and on Monday mornings 1:30am IS my wake up time as Led Class is at 4:15am.   I need to get in line (que) at the shala by 3:15am in order to get a spot in the shala itself.  My first led class here this trip I ended up practicing in the upstairs area of the ladies locker room under a low, somewhat moldy ceiling…. I swore I’d never let that happen again!  So the line starts around 90 min before class starts and it goes all the way up 8th Cross (the shala road).   We sit on the side of the street in silence in front of the locals’ homes.  The street dogs come up to us looking for love and of course we pet them and scratch their sweet heads.  There are so many homeless street dogs it’s kind of heart breaking but they are all being fed so that is heartwarming.  Again, there are 3 back to back Led classes on Mondays and Saturdays to accommodate the number of people here.  And again, on Mysore days Sharathji is in the yoga shala from 3:45am-11am.  Talk about dedication…. I don’t know how he does it! (well, actually I do know but it still leaves me extremely humbled and grateful. It is so much work!) 

So let’s bring this all together now and go back in time for a moment to February 2018 when it was announced that the Mysore Ashtanga Yoga shala would be opening for June, July, & Aug this Summer.  To apply for July you would have to register exactly 3 months to the day and MINUTE (India time) beforehand so April 1st 12midnight India time (2:30pm April 1st NY time).  I was in front of my laptop at 2:15pm NY time and I kept hitting the refresh button to make sure I wouldn’t miss the posting of the app.  At 2:18pm the application was posted and I had everything in a word document on my desktop ready to cut and paste into the app along with my properly sized VISA ( I purchased another 10 year VISA last year) and Passport photos. (timing is crucial here)  I hit send and immediately got a confirmation that my app was received.  One week later I received an acceptance emails saying I was officially registered for July!  Phew.. step one was complete.  Now I needed to upgrade my cell phone plan to call India and start making arrangements for a place to stay, scooter, taxi rides to and from Bangalore airport, etc.  I also called my travel agent to start looking for flights.   I was suppose to arrive by the 30th June the latest to register in person and pay but Microbiology didn’t finish until the 28th June so I was granted the “Ok” to arrive on July 2nd no problem.  I had to set up subs for 5 weeks of my classes- at Balance, the library, corporate as well as private classes I teach.  I had to pack properly for 1 month in India during Monsoon season. (yes it rains suddenly usually at least once a day) I took care of everything for the house (kitties, cleaning, bills, etc) and as of June 30th started off on the 32 hour door to door journey from Huntington, NY to Mysore, India.  ( taxi, 2 plane rides w/ lay over, another taxi)  It’s not easy to leave your loved ones behind for 1 month and it also requires their complete willingness to help out while you’re gone- whether it’s taking care of the pets, subbing classes, keeping the studio running smoothly or handling last minute things that come up.  Loved ones are absolutely instrumental in order for this to all happen. (Thank you Rick, Danielle G, and all the beautiful teachers subbing my classes!!) 

In this life my dharma is to practice and share yoga so that I may grow and transform to be a better person and hopefully encourage/inspire others to do the same. I come back to India to be reminded of what is so important to me in this life and to be under the guidance of a teacher who can really see me and show me where I may be stuck and help me through that place. (It’s the same reason I travel regularly to CO  to study with Richard & Mary)  Each Saturday morning for one and one half hours Sharathji gives a “conference” where all 300+ hundred of us gather in the shala and listen to him speak.  He talks about his own personal experiences on the path, his struggles, his family, his realizations and he often quotes the yogic texts to help guide us.   The messages are so aligned with what I know yoga to be in my heart…. true yoga…  the healing science from India.  I know why I sacrifice so much to come here and do this and I know why he is sacrificing so much to show up for us, as all good teachers do.  On this day of Guru Poornima I feel beyond blessed for all the amazing teachers I’ve had and still have in my life.  I have tremendous appreciation for the value of a true teacher and I would travel to the ends of the earth to study with her/him/them.  I have and will continue to sacrifice my time, energy, money, and comforts to be in their presence whenever possible and to transform in the healing fire of tapas that they provide.  

  • 4 pillars:  yama niyama asana pranayama  

  • many many years of diligence w the above 4 limbs and we begin to experience pratyahara, dharana, dhyanam, & (possibly) samadhi.

  • get off social media. go outside and plant trees. be in nature. get off our phones. only use these the phone and computer to do good things with. 

  • stop getting caught up in advanced postures or the aesthetics of the postures… it’s not the right path.  stop worrying about how many followers or likes you have on SM.  just do your work and if fame is meant to come it will come but it shouldn’t be sought after. That’s not yoga. 

  • don’t listen to other peoples drama on social media.  stay focused on YOUR OWN SADHANA. (spiritual journey/inner work)  

  • we are practicing yoga to attain moksha, to realize why we are here so that we don’t have to incarnate again.   so that we can see the divine in everything and our lives are peace-filled bc we have true INNER PEACE.  no one and nothing can take that from us. 

  • importance of parampara (lineage)- we are all walking the same path we are just stepping in slightly different places on the path but it’s the same path. We need a guru as they have tread the path before us and they have an idea of all the obstacles that will arise.  BUT each of us experiences things differently and thru our own lens so we must honor that as well.

  • The 6 poisons we are all plagued by that yoga helps to remove: kama, krodha, moha, lobha, matsarya, and mada. These are desire, anger, delusion, greed, envy and sloth.

  • Ashtanga Yoga is not a “style”… it’s a method.  slowly slowly the body changes, mind changes, thoughts change, actions and reactions change.  practicing yama and niyama becomes easy and a part of our life if we are practicing correctly.  

  • be happy, joyful, sense of humor, be grateful for all we have in our lives.  don’t complain

  • yoga isn’t about bending your body. it’s about connecting to yourself.  

  • Drishti is so important- we are really looking within our Self. Focusing on looking within and not looking outside at anyone else. this develops a very focused mind for all that we do.

  • primary series very important- so much health benefit coming. so many good asanas.

  • dont look for more postures. all the postures we have teach us something valuable.  

  • it takes a long time for us to change, esp at a deep personality level.  many many years we are slowly changing.  Thoughts are becoming more loving and sattvic.  wishing good for ALL living beings.

  • we all deserve to live a good long life.  ALL sentient beings. 

  • go and practice in the mountains occasionally where the air is clean.

  • go out in nature with the trees and wild life as much as you can. 

  • get breaks from big city living

  • Respect and listen to your teacher. trust them… do what they tell you and don’t challenge it. Teacher can see many things about the student- body, mental state, energy, etc.   Many students in the West don’t respect the teacher- they challenge them.   They practice with someone for short time and then think they know more than their teacher.   They hop from teacher to teacher… they don’t trust and commit and build a relationship. 

  • teaching is a whole entirely different practice in and of itself. it requires so much energy.  Your personal practice won’t be the same if you are teaching a lot than it would if you weren’t.  everyone wants to be a yoga teacher…. ppl don’t realize how hard it is.    

  • the process of yoga should be happening in every pose- you are focusing all your attention on the pose itself and really paying attention. it’s not about how flexible you are, it’s about doing the work in the pose. people want more and more postures when the poses they do have still need so much “work”… really going in and reaping the benefits of those postures you are already doing. each posture has it’s own Chikitsa.(healing energy/qualities)

So how does all this tapas and sadhana translate into day to day life?  Well, I can only tell you from my experience thus far on this 20 year journey. There is so much personal detail that I could get into in answering this question but I’m going to sum it up as such- I have become incredibly aware as to when I’m constricted inside- whether it’s mentally, physically, and most importantly emotionally/energetically.  This is my first indication of my heart closing and therefore, suffering, and prompts me to look and feel deeper into these thoughts/sensations, etc to see how I can relax and shift things inside of me for more space, more peace, more love.  I am watching my hard judgements shift towards unconditional acceptance, I am watching my more rigid black and white ideas of right and wrong blur into shades of grey. I am questioning everything. I am watching myself become more generous, more patient, and more kind.  I am watching myself speak less and when I do, being extra careful of the words I choose as not to cause harm. I am watching my heart be able to hold those whom I never thought I could make room for. I am more forgiving. I am more open. I am bolder. I am stronger, I am softer and I am way more sensitive. I am listening more intently.  I am laughing more. I am loving more.  I really am starting to see the divine in all things… and I mean all things! Life is more enjoyable, more magical, less effortful, less drama filled, lighter, and definitely has a more exciting sense of mystery about it.  And I still have lots more work to do! 

Thank you Divine Mother India for all of the gifts you provide.  Thank you for your beauty, wonder, magic, pain, chaos, freedom, grace, kindness, humility, and love.  I love everything about you and I cherish my time here.  Never do I feel more fragile, more impermanent and yet never do I feel more alive and grateful for everything.  Thank you Tina & Sanjeev, Geetha & Shyam, Ganesh & Anu, Siddhu, Shiva, Lakshmish, Pushpir & family, Ramesh, Rajesh, Bhavan, Meena, Shantamma, Prakash, Usha, Saraswathima, & Sharathji.   Until next time….   

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