Monthly Archives: September 2014

Day 1&2: Mysore and Breakfast at Santosha

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I had been planning to make this trip to India for the longest time. It was one of those things I knew I had to do as soon as my TTC in Vikasa was done in 2012. Since I am no longer bound by the rules of corporate annual leaves, the decision to go was made a tad bit easier without having to apply through the necessary approvals. Having dabbled with Ashtanga practice before, and participated in a few Ashtanga related workshops, it felt like a natural inclination to deepen my own practice and knowledge in this type of yoga. Many things, if you begin to pay attention to, happens to prepare you for your next experience. And the sequence to whatever I went through in the last year or so certainly conspired to help me get to this point right now – sitting in an apartment that is 2 minutes walk away from KPJAYI (Shri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute) with a whole month ahead of me intended to deepen and progress my own practice in the Primary Series with Saraswathi, who is the daughter to the late Shri K. Pattabhi Jois.

I would be lying to say the journey to finally arrive to this place is smooth sailing. The flight to Bangalore was a night flight, and I am generally a terrible sleeper in planes. That plus the back area of the entire plane felt like an orchestra of snoring people which would have been nice had I known how to appreciate such musical notes escaping from the throats of the passengers.

From Bangalore we made the 3.5 hour car trip down south to the town of Mysore. That was a nice change. It had been raining and the air outside was cool. So I nodded off in between little chats with H, my travel partner who had been here a year before. Once during the ride the driver stopped, and I thought we had arrived only to be told by the driver that he is stopping for a cup of chai as a brief break during the long ride. That was a first, but I certainly didn’t mind.

A lot of what I had encountered so far from the locals and the town itself reminds me of my time in Vietnam. Perhaps it was experiencing the town of Da Nang on my own and immersing myself with the locals there that made it feel like a natural transition into this town. It was a feeling of familiarity like returning to a warm embrace of a very dear friend. The driver who stopped for chai, it could easily be a Vietnamese driver stopping for a cup of drip coffee.

We arrived at 3 in the morning. It felt like a haze in between being woken up, the need to immediately reorientate myself of where I am, and the fact that I had to lug 23 kgs worth of luggage up 2 flight of stairs at such an ungodly hour with an existing injury on my shoulder. I remembered crawling into bed mumbling a sorry to H for not showering because I am just too tired to even think of anything else but sleep.

Monday was spent walking and riding the tuk tuk around town. And paying KPJAYI a visit only to find out registration time for both Saraswathi and Sharath was on that day. Earlier in May, I had the chance to practice a LED class with Saraswathi during one of her trips to KL. I loved her gentle motherly energy and decided soon after to make this trip to study with her for a month. During the application period in early August, I knew generally the differences between practicing with Saraswathi and with her son, Sharath based on my conversations with others but arriving here, it occurred to me each of them attracts their own specific types of students. It is only my first day practicing at the shala today, perhaps drawing my observations now could be a little premature, perhaps at the end of my one month here I would have a different perception, but at least for today this seems to be about right.

I walked out of the shala this morning from what seems to be the shortest and fastest Mysore practice I had ever done before. I saw a group of men and women huddled together next to a van with a man serving fresh coconut. “I saw you here yesterday! HI!” cried one girl to me. That was my initiation into the conversation. I walked over and introduced myself and was invited to Santosha for breakfast. A small house by the corner near to where I am staying. I thought to myself “it will be so easy to never forget my Yamas and Niyamas while I am here given how everything is named”.

It dawned on me this town, the mere fact that KPJAYI is here, attracts a number of people for a multitude of reasons. The searchers. The explorers. The avoiders (or those who are ‘escaping’ from something or someone). The curious. The loyals. The serious and committed practitioners. The new and searching students. There are old timers, people who make their annual visits here. They greet each other like old friends who have been apart for too long. There is a warmth in their encounters, yet a quiet reservation for those who are new.

H told me yesterday that I should come back to my real intentions why I am here as the month progresses, it would be so easy to lose sight of the main purpose she said. Indeed a good exercise to remember, even though the first 2 intentions were crystal clear to me. To deepen my practice with Saraswathi and to (erm..) buy all these cheap books I had been reading about on Amazon India and have them shipped back to KL. Now is a good time as ever to start practicing Aparigraha (non-possessiveness/ non-hoarding) don’t you think? 🙂

Doing to Let Go

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You know one of those golden moments when someone utters something so profound that it sticks with you throughout the day?

That happened to me today.

An authorized level I Ashtanga teacher is in town until October and I have been dropping in a few times since last week for Mysore practice. It was only yesterday I got to ask her for coffee this morning. I almost didn’t make it to practice this morning though. Woke up with a heavy head and spent a full minute in front of the bathroom mirror wondering why I am up at 5:45am on a public holiday AND on the only day I have successfully cleared out my classes since I first started to teach full time.

Knowing that traffic would be pretty much non-existent, I took my time and made a bowl of oats with cinnamon, apple and a dash of maca just in case I need it for all that jumpbacks later. Need it I did alright. By my 10th chaturanga (four-limbed staff pose) I am flat on the mat, puddles of sweat randomly forming where my chin hits the ground, and more threatening to trickle into my eyes and nose every time I’m turned upside down in a downward dog. The jumpbacks might as well be called crawlbacks.

My head was still swimming in a haze of heaviness. I lost count of the times I stood on my mat for a few full breaths wondering what I am suppose to do next. The haze of confusion eventually ended about 1.5 hours later when I was lying down in the final resting pose and realised I forgot to turn upside down and balance myself on my head before actually calling it a day and silently hoping the teacher won’t notice. Isn’t that sometimes the beauty of what Mysore practice can be on days like these? :p

Wishful thinking indeed. Because she did come up to me after I sat up and sweetly asked “did you do your headstand?” to which I sheepishly smiled and whispered as quietly as I could so the others won’t hear “crap! I forgotttt”

So breakfast happened. To which I could not be more thankful for that cup of steaming long black. It cleared some of the clouds in my head enough for me to have and absorbed some well meaning, intelligent conversations and useful tips for my upcoming Mysore (yes as in the place in India, not the practice) trip.

And we spoke about ageing and scaling back. Because of the intensity of the practice and the physical fitness that it demands, with age one is naturally expected to scale back his/her own practice. And we are talking about around the of 50 and above, when introspection of ones own life takes center stage.

I knew of this topic from some articles I ran into online previously but had never discussed about it extensively especially with someone as learned as this particular teacher. Naturally, the first question that popped in my head was “well what’s the point of ALL that hard work advancing through all that different series, and having to face your own self every single day 6 times a week on that mat only to have to let it go 20-30 years after you start??”

And before I could ask, she said midway through a sentence with another guy on our table “and that is it! Doing it to let go. Like life and death, because eventually we will need to let this, our practice, and eventually life all go anyway. Just like when you are given a sequence, and the minute you master that you let it go so you can focus on the next one, and the next one..”

Which obviously rang so many chimes in my head and the cogs began to kick into place.

How beautiful it is to lead your life with that in mind? In every decision that you make, and in every single moment that you experience, be it a happy, amazing moment, or the total opposite of these, it is so you can learn to let go. It encourages the mind to set itself in a place of non-attachment, to the outcome or to the sensations felt so that your attention is always in the present. Not in the past when things seemed better than the now, or in the future when things “could” be better than now.