After 5 weeks I came to the conclusion than Ashtangis are a weird bunch. Mysore is full of ‘westerners’ who journey across the world to a dusty town where sickness and meltdowns are not uncommon. They then practice yoga whole heartedly and when they aren’t practicing, they’re talking about yoga and giving advice about yoga and swapping just a bit of yoga gossip (“She’s not practicing at the main shala”; “That guy smokes a lot of weed”; “He can’t bind in mari D”…). Yoga is supposed to beat down the ego, but there are certainly some ‘hot shit’ practitioners out there, with a whole bunch of Sanskrit bandied around.
There’s a definite divide between those who practice with Sharath and those who practice elsewhere (that would be me). Main shala is main shala people. I’d definitely like to experience Sharath’s energy, but as a first timer to Mysore (in peak season), Sheshadri and his potent adjustments (the man stood on my hips in a backbend for God’s sake) was just fine by me.
I think it happens with any collection of people who are passionate about something, be it runners or cyclists or golfers. There are levels of passion and levels of skill and it’s a club. I liked being part of the Mysore yoga thing (even if I wasn’t really, because I hadn’t had Sharath gaze upon me with his all-seeing eye), but crikey, at times I just wanted to get up and shout “It’s just yoga goddamnit!”.
And then I’d get on my mat and practice through some very limber days and very, very stiff days. My ‘yoga butt’ got beyond stretched by the teeny tiny man (but very big yoga crush) and I found myself hobbling around most days post practice.
Everyone’s asking me what India did for my practice and I’m not sure how to answer. It certainly loosened up my body, and I saw some inspiring practices, and managed to maybe-perhaps-almost get a jump back, and to drop back and stand up from backbends (oh, who am a I kidding? Every time I drop back I imagine plummeting into the floor, my arms unable to support me; and every time I think about standing up, my brain freezes and it seems entirely impossible).
I think what India and Ashtanga does is more subtle than core strength and muscled arms (although a little muscle flexing in the mirror never hurt anyone). It’s about seeing the absurdity of yoga politics and yoga obsession, laughing at it all, and knowing that standing on your head may just help you through some head-hurting dilemmas in years to come.
Here are some fab yoga blogs from Mysore. (I had every intention of blogging while there, but India had its way with me and sapped any energy I had for anything other than practicing, eating and laughing).