Mysore Magic: A DVD for Ashtanga practitioners with desires and doubts

Mysore Magic screenshot

Mysore Magic: Yoga at the Source — Released 2012. Directed By R. Alexander Medin. Produced by R. Alexander Medin, James Kambeitz, Angie Swiec Kambeitz.

Yesterday was a treat — my personal Mysore Monday. Because I had the Labor Day holiday off, I was able to attend morning Mysore at Ashtanga Yoga: Ann Arbor (AY: A2), which I can’t attend on a normal workday because I live an hour away. I closed out the day by watching Mysore Magic: Yoga at the Source.

The film directed by certified teacher R. Alexander Medin, released early this year, clocks in at just 22 minutes and includes striking Mysore Magic:Yoga the Source filmfootage — taken inside the practice room of the K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Gokulam, Mysore — that’s woven into interviews with a range of compelling and articulate practitioners talking about why they were originally drawn to Mysore, and what the practice has done for them.

But the copy of the film I ordered a couple months ago indicates on the cover that this DVD is a new version, in that it includes six special features. The short film is quite well done — and, yes, it makes you want to book a ticket to India, stat — but for me, the gem of this 63-minute DVD can be found in the bonus features, which include segments on the following topics:

  • Guruji
  • Portraits
  • Family
  • History
  • Obstacles
  • Transformation

I was particularly drawn to the “Obstacles” section, in which you hear these oh-so-familiar thoughts spoken by different yogis:

  • “You are confronting your own shortcomings daily . . . “
  • “Some days are incredibly difficult to get up and go practice . . .”
  • “Whatever it is, it is guaranteed to come up in the practice  . . . “
  • “The moment you start your practice, it’s almost like a train — it’s a speeding train towards your obstacles.”

Sound familiar? I was wondering if perhaps they had actors reading from a script of thoughts that run through my head way too frequently. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about obstacles — and how to overcome them when you practice alone, at home, and don’t have the benefit of the energy of a Mysore room, much less the opportunity to travel to the source — thanks to the daily support I’ve been getting as part of a group of yogis, most of whom I’ve never met, who are part of the Way-Before-Breakfast Club for morning-challenged ashtangis. We meet in a little digital lounge where we can talk about our obstacles to practicing, help each other work through them, and generally cheer each other on.

Kino MacGregor’s struggles

In “Obstalces,” Kino MacGregor talks about her struggles in the practice. Yes, that Kino — the ubiquitous one who is all over social media, making everything look easy. The one who looks like she was born with a body made for this practice. The one who wears those trademark short shorts that make practicing things like arm balances even harder, because you don’t have fabric to use as friction.

Kino MacGregor

Kino MacGregor screenshot via

I’ll note one of MacGregor’s quote because I think she’s probably the most well-known of the yogis in this section, between her videos, blog posts, tweets, Pinterest boards, and all the rest. Sitting comfortably in a Led Zeppelin tee, she tells the filmmakers:

What does strength mean? Where does it come from?
For me, that’s been a really big journey, actually, because I wasn’t strong when I practiced — not mentally, not spiritually, not physically, not emotionally. So when I found this blockage in my practice — like, I couldn’t lift my butt off the ground — not at all in the beginning — I just remembered thinking, ‘What’s this about for me?’ And what does this say as a state of mind that I want to quit all the time? What does this say as a state of mind? Who is this person that can’t find any strength, that can’t, you know, accept this part of myself?

Fourth Estate

My first career was as a newspaper reporter, and I remember, early on, thinking that I was not fit for this field. I looked around at all these reporters who were tearing it up with A1 stories, investigative packages, beautiful long-form features. They seemed to me like they were born to do this — that they must wake up feeling confident every morning, that they have some uncanny ability to stroll into the newsroom around 10 a.m. and get their sources to spill by noon. Words seemed to flow out of their typing fingers as fast as coffee was streaming out of the newsroom coffee pot. Then I started to get to know people better. I started to learn about their sleepless nights. About the sacrifices they had made over the years to get their sources to trust them. I learned how some reporters would even get their doctors to prescribe Ativan when they were facing their toughest deadlines. Being part of the Fourth Estate — when done with integrity to ethics and dedication to the idea that citizens require information and truth to make informed decisions — can be hard. It was important to me to know I was not alone in feeling this way.

You are not alone, ashtangi

Back to Ashtanga yoga. It’s hard! This is not news. For some of us, it can be helpful to hear from people we think never had to work hard to achieve something, because it can make the endeavor seem more accessible. Some of us need to hear that nope, actually, these guys struggled too — and continue to struggle — just like the rest of us.

To be sure, there is also a kind of inspiration from knowing that someone else like you is still keeping at it and trying their best, despite their doubts, anxieties, frustrations, fears and everything else. Sometimes we get so beholden to our challenges that we lose all perspective. I think this is one way in which connecting with one another — whether over social media or by watching a DVD like this one — can support practices.

Checking out the film

There are renting options and purchasing options with the film — follow this link. I don’t believe renting the film — streaming it online for $4.99 — offers you the bonus features. It looks to me as if the DVD option, for $24.99, is the best way to go — and you should know that 50 percent of revenues go to the Shri K. Pattabhi Jois Charitable Trust.

Here’s a sampling of some discussions of the film when it originally came out.

If you watch it, I would love to hear what you think.

(Photo credit: Screenshot from Mysore Magic: Yoga at the Source)

© and Rose Tantraphol, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.




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10 thoughts on “Mysore Magic: A DVD for Ashtanga practitioners with desires and doubts

  1. Thanks so much for posting this, Rose! I just ordered my copy and can’t wait to get it. I need all of the motivation I can get. I don’t know what I would do without the WBBC! It has been an immense support to me to hear about other peoples struggles and successes with the practice.

  2. Reading your blog is so interesting because you seem to have read my mind as I was watching and rewatching the film. Editing it was so inspiring…and yet so difficult because there was so much incredible footage and the words of so many dedicated and wise practitioners that I wanted to include everything and make it a 2 hour film. I had to keep resisting that temptation to make it really long and include everything. Sharath wanted it short and sweet, so we kept the original at 22 min. I felt very lucky to shoot and edit this film. It was a spiritual experience of beauty, which made the long hours and sleep deprivation blissful. Thanks for sharing your words.

    • Hi Jim — Thanks for heading this way to comment.

      As a journalist by training, I know that it’s much, much harder to write short — so I can only imagine the difficulty in editing down hours of interviews with such articulate ashtangis down to just 22 minutes.

      That said, I’m really happy your team decided to release a new version of the DVD with the extras — they are very powerful, and they shed important light on other aspects of the practice.

      As someone who is not sure she will ever get to Mysore (the types of jobs I have won’t allow for a couple months off — I’d have to quit my job outright to do that!), I think it’s so valuable to share a taste of the history, the lineage, and all that other good stuff that’s contained in the additional footage.

      • Thanks for the kind words on the Mysore Magic facebook page, Rose. And I like the invitation to post on your site…I’ll take you up on that offer right now.

        Here is a short film I made for Kino MacGregor…your section on her in your blog reminded me to share this film with you. After watching so many great interviews I was talking with Kino and told her we have so much good footage of her that we didn’t use in Mysore Magic…and she asked if I’d put together a short film for her, so I did after I got back to the States. It took a while, because I’m so busy at my day job, but I finally finished a few months ago. Here’s the link:

        If you click on the change quality button you can watch it in HD- 720p. Not sure what you will think of the film, but I was really inspired as I was editing it. Kino’s a really cool person and super nice to work with.


        • Looking forward to checking out your Kino video, Jim! So you do all these projects as labors of love? I know from trying to juggle this dedication to the practice — and all things related to it — with a day job. :-)

          • Yes and No. If a person is going into yoga DVD-making for the money, don’t do it. They’ll never survive. I have been making films for about 8 years because I love it…but I’ve always had a “day job” to pay the bills. We (my wife Angie and I) never really make any significant amount of money on our yoga DVDs or the films we make… But Kino’s video, she said she’d pay me for my time. It took a few months of work to finish it, so I did ask for money for that. And Kino was very cool to work with and flexible- no pun intended 😉 But for me, it’s not about the money….it’s about the yoga. As you can see, we’re giving 50% of the proceeds from Mysore Magic to the Sri K Pattabhi Jois Charitable Trust, so even though it’s selling well, it’s barely covering the costs to make it. But we don’t care, it’s about good karma and getting the messages out there :) If it inspires people to live better and transform their lives, then it’s worth it in my book.

    • Thanks, Kim. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it, once you’ve had a chance to see it. [Or, if you end up writing a post on it, please return here to share the link. :-) ]

      I’ve been really enjoying your blog, btw. Very happy you decided to start it.

      • Thanks, Rose. You’re sweet to say that about my blog. I enjoy reading yours, too. I’ll let you know one way or another about any insights DVD might open up for me… I just watched the Kino one —it’s wonderful.

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