[Mysore dispatch] #235, 8th Cross, an eternity and a blink of eye from my first ashtanga practice

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Life is only two minutes long: one minute you are born, the next minute, you die. In between, only a flash of lightening.” — Pattabhi Jois

MYSORE, Karnataka — I never post datelines for my blog posts, but since I’m halfway around the world, I thought it might be a fine occasion to do so. Back in my journalism days, when I was working in New England, it was a treat to file stories from places like New York since it meant that I was somewhere reporting on something out of my ordinary pace.

And man, talk about pace. So here I am, Tuesday, Dec. 31, the last day of 2013, and I find myself in the midst of my third day in Mysore. For someone whose daily life works only if calendar appointments are precisely inputed and rigorously adhered to — as I juggle my full-time job, my six-day-a-week practice, my apprenticeship at Ashtanga Yoga: Ann Arbor, my yoga teaching schedule in Lansing, Mich., and carving out quality time with my husband — it’s a bit surreal being here, barely knowing what day and what time it is.

I started my journey from Michigan on a Friday and landed here on a Sunday, a place that is 10.5 hours off from home (9.5 hours without daylight savings). But that’s not the time that really matters, because the time that really matters is shala time, which is set 15 minutes ahead of local time. If your practice start time is 9:45 a.m., like mine is, that really means be at #235 8th Cross at 9:30 a.m. So ironically, for a place that on the surface seems much more chill — no Type-A vibes here! — I have, for the first time, had to override my iPhone date and time setting to set it to shala time.

Here’s the time travel that I am feeling most viscerally, though: A time that started somewhere around 1999, when I was a reporter living in Northampton, Mass., having discovered my love for this practice but, without having a teacher and without the tools to cultivate the discipline of daily practice, only having limited access to the potentially transformative effects of the endeavor. Fast forward to today, when I have a teacher I see each morning before the day starts to throw challenges my way, a teacher who holds space for my practice and holds me accountable.

I definitely feel like a different incarnation of the Rose circa 1999; so much of that Rose’s perspective and outlook and habits are unrecognizable to me — except for that love of the practice piece. I loved the practice even when I didn’t know which way to turn in marichyasana B and even when I couldn’t watch YouTube snippets of Sharath talking theory during Conference sessions.

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Yesterday, as I was on my mat doing my first set of sun salutations in the Shri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute — holy holy, the one and only KPJAYI, the place I never thought I’d be able to make a pilgrimage for a decade or more to come! And with Sharath! — I worked on tristhana.

Not too surpsingly, some thoughts leaked through, and I was surprised that one piece of internal monologue I caught was:

I am at The Shala! And. . .this feels like my normal practice.

Coordinates

This year, I’ve practiced plenty at the shala in Ann Arbor. I’ve practiced at home. I’ve practiced on retreat in lush Mexico. I’ve practiced in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in sub-zero weather, with stuffed snowmen watching over me. The practice has felt like the practice in all those places. I’m not saying the electricity of a place like KPJAYI doesn’t offer unique opportunities for learning and transforming, but it no longer feels like potential for insight is reliant on the coordinates of my mat.

So there, in the middle of the place I have longed to experience for so long, I felt a deep connection to all the home ashtanga yoga practitioners out there who struggle with finding consistency in the practice and who feel as lost as I did without a teacher. 1999 to 2013 is a long time, and at the same time, it’s gone by in a heartbeat. And faith in the practice eventually led me find a teacher.

Parampara

Here, under Sharath’s watchful gaze, here, with my teacher practicing in the same room, here, where the practice was started, here, where thousands have sweated through the years, and laughed, and cried, and made profound and not-so-profound observations, I can feel the transcendence of parampara. It was my journey — my karma, if like that language — to have to search for so long (and my karma, even now, to live an hour away from my home shala). But I am grateful for all of it, because it has made me that much more resonant with the vibration of teachers who have the boundless wealth of parampara to share.

Ordinary

It has been such a long journey to get here. I have such appreciation for everyone I’ve met along the way, and I’m looking forward to the people I have yet to meet. And after all those years of longing and searching for a teacher and a community, trying to figure out the password to the transformative effects of the practice that I had some sense, deep down, were there . . . after everything it has taken to get to the point, there was a glistening moment on my mat yesterday when I realized that all that effort can culminate in making each practice . . . simply ordinary.

And that is about as magical as anything.

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2 thoughts on “[Mysore dispatch] #235, 8th Cross, an eternity and a blink of eye from my first ashtanga practice

  1. I so feel you, I started this practice in early 2000, was up to part of third series when I left it in 2008, came back to it in 2012 and am now making my first trip there in a month. All of these years practicing at home, with only the occasional trip to study with an authorized or certified teacher here and there until this year when I did that five times. Then my visa came easily, my money is coming together easily ish and I got in to class in March, so it’s my time too.

    • It is such a specific challenge, years of practicing at home. I love Karen Kelley’s blog, Journey to Mysore, because she is such a devoted home practitioner, and it’s beautiful to see her insights into Mysore from that perspective.

      I’m so excited for you, that you’ll be coming in March! I’ll look forward to seeing your posts and pictures about your experience.

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