[Mysore dispatch] My month in Mysore, by the numbers

Mysore by the numbers

Here’s a little overview of my time studying at the K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute in the city of Mysore, located in the southern Indian state of Karnataka.

Travel

  • Total miles flown: 17,678
  • Total hours on a plane: 36-plus (It wasn’t too bad, if you think about how far I traveled.)
  • Hours Mysore was ahead of the time back home: 10.5
  • Weight of my check-in suitcase going to India: 47 pounds
  • Weight of that same suitcase returning: 64 pounds(!) (Still working on the whole traveling light thing, but I am quite pleased that I at least came in under the weight limit on the way there — baby steps, people.)

Flight map

Dosas, upma, Mysore pak, chai and coffee

  • Days I ate Indian food: 33 out of 33
  • Days I took pictures of my food: Probably 33 out of 33 ☺
  • Number of those meals eaten in the home of the cook: 8
  • Times I craved something other than an Indian meal: 0 (Seriously — although I did have a hankering after a while for avocados and cranberry juice.)
  • Chaat dinners: 2 (My dad told me that he thought chaat dinners are sort of like Indian dim sum, and he was right. How awesome!)
  • Pieces of the special regional dessert called Mysore pak that I tried: 1/3 (couldn’t do any more of those – so sweet!)
  • Cooking classes I took: 2
  • Odds that I’ll be able to make the dishes covered in those classes for you: Nearly nil (Masala dosas, for instance, basically require 24 hours advance planning/prep – um, that is not gonna happen with my schedule…)
  • Times I thought, “I can resist this dosa”: 0
  • Times I got to try the perfectly prepared chai, dosas and idlies at the place known to ashtangis simply as “the secret breakfast place”: 1 (Thanks again, JC!)
  • Times I thought, “I can take or leave this South Indian/North Indian thali — now, where’s that dosa/idli/upma?”: Lots :-) (It’s all about the dosas, idlis, upma, bisi bele bath for me!)
  • Times Sharath said “No coffee, no prana” directly to me: 1
  • Cups of chai I drank (estimated): 75 (They’re itsy cups compared to U.S. cups. But still!)
  • Cups of chai I wanted to drink (estimated): 150 (Yes, I have a chai problem.)
  • Cups of coffee I drank: 3 (Proving that while it was hard to give up coffee last year, it would be much harder to give up chai if I lived in an area with easy access to good chai.)
Secret dosa

It’s hard to tell from this photos, but this was the absolutely perfect dosa — and from a place I could never find on my own.

Life in India in January (external)

  • New Year celebrations that fell in the month I was there (Jan. 1, Sankranti, Chinese New Year): 3
  • Christmas trees I saw still up in January: 2
  • Times I was head-butted by a cow: 1 (I was just minding my own business!)
  • Old friends in town while I was there: 7
  • News friends from all over the world I made while there: So many ☺
  • Times I thought, “India is way too hot for me.”: 0
  • Mornings I thought, “Man, it’s chilly here…”: 5 (Mornings were in the low- to mid-60s)
  • Times my husband, who was shoveling through the record-shattering polar vortex that brought wind chills of nearly -30 Fahrenheit, gently warned me not to complain to him about the chilly mornings: 1 (I did not need a second warning. But I did get around this by tweeting one other time about the cold.)
  • Temples visited: 8
  • Steps walked up for one of those temples: Nearly 700
  • Optional steps that I could have walked up for one of the other temples: 1,000 (I told the rickshaw driver to go straight up and skip the steps!)
  • Palaces visited: 1
  • Days I dealt with something worked-related: 13
  • Blog posts posted: 21 (I would have had at least one a day, but when work started up, blogging had to take a back seat.)
  • Blogs I would still like to post: At least 3 (We’ll see if I have time this week — I am looking at my work schedule and I won’t hold my breath.)
  • Times it took me on the back of a scooter to feel comfortable: 1 (This was a surprise to me! I thought it would take longer for me to feel safe.)
  • Times I missed driving: 0
  • Number of massages (though I was tempted!): 0
  • Visits to the pool (didn’t bring a bathing suit so that I would not be tempted): 0
  • Castor oil baths I took in my bathroom: 4
  • Graphic novels read: 1 (While everyone else was rocking out with heavy literature, I was finishing Daniel Ingram’s Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha: An Usually Hardcore Dharma Book and a graphic novel I round at Sapna Book House about a modern-day incarnation of the goddess.)
  • Times the Japanese author Haruki Murakami came up in conversation around Mysore: 3 or 4 (I get it, universe. I should read Murakami!)
  • Episodes of the new Sherlock season I watched: 3 out of 3 ((I have exactly one pop culture obsession, and Sherlock is it.) Happily, all the new episodes aired on a Friday night before a rest day — proving that India doesn’t always avoid cooperating with you. ☺
sankranti

Happy Sankranti!

Life in India in January (internal)

  • Times I thought, “What am I doing here? Why did I come?”: 0 (Everything felt so familiar, and as it should be.)
  • Times I thought, “I could live here!”: 0 (I am really grateful for my life in Michigan — even though it would have been easy for me to stay another month. :-) )
  • Nights I lost sleep to crying over love in the past: 1 (I am guessing one night of sleep lost to crying is a low number, if you were to talk to people. For so many people, part of this pilgrimage involves uncorking emotions — it makes sense, right?)
  • Mornings I woke up to terrible, heart-wrenching news about a friend back home: 1
  • Friends back home who took their own life over the holiday season: 2
  • Sacred places, and places made sacred, where I commemorated them: 2 (India is a good place to honor those who have passed.)
  • Times I thought, “Well, damn, this is awfully personal. Should I really blog it?”: 2 (And I went ahead and blogged anyway here and here — it’s India, where the boundaries between internal and external felt a little different to me. Or maybe that was the effects of the meditation practice. Or maybe I just overshared! :-) )
  • Vivid dreams: 32, maybe? (India is a good place for dreaming.)
  • Vivid dreams I remembered enough to write about: 15
  • Vivid instructive dreams that immediately, surface-level, taught me something: 1
  • Times it hit me like an air-conditioned train from Mysore to Bengaluru that so much of traveling to Mysore is not about the practice at all (though of course the practice is so important): 2
Chamundi

Chamundi Hill

Practice, practice

  • Led classes at the shala: 6
  • Led classes in the changing room: 1
  • Mysore practices: 13
  • Times I got a “small” spot (estimated): 8
  • Times I had to pinch myself that I was waiting in the foyer for my turn while getting to observe my teacher assist in The Shala: Quite a few :-)
  • Beginning practice start time: 9:45 a.m.
  • Ending practice start time: 8 a.m. (Not much movement over the month, given how busy it was. More on this record-breaking season in the note at the very bottom of this post.)
  • Practices in my room (days that fell before and after my registration period): 2
  • Moon days: 3
  • Times Sharath made me laugh: So many!
  • Extra number of weeks I feel I could have easily stayed (although it would have, admittedly, been hard to be away from my husband that long): 4
  • Items checked off my bucket list with this trip: 2 (To get to practice in this electric room, shown below, and to hear Sharath himself say — to me — “No coffee, no prana” 😉 )

Shala door

The details, if you want ’em:

  • I flew out of Detroit on Dec. 27, 2013 and arrived in Mysore two calendar days later, on Dec. 29. My first practice in the shala was Dec. 30 and my last was Jan. 29, 2014. I headed out of Mysore on Jan. 30, flew out from Bengaluru International Airport at 2:29 a.m. on Jan. 31, and, given the time difference, arrived back at home on the same day, seemingly just 12 hours later than I had left.
  • It was a record month at KPJAYI, with so many students that start times began at the normal 4:30 a.m. but went all the way until 11 a.m. I met a certified teacher my last day there who had the best attitude about how much has changed since he started coming in 2003. Yeah, it’s a little more crowded, he said. But it is what it is, and things haven’t changed that much. I heard him to basically be saying that the practice is still the practice; he wasn’t sweating the rest.
  • Acclimating to Mysore was no problem; returning to life in Michigan was a little harder. After arriving home on a Friday afternoon, I was very thankful to have the weekend to spend with my husband, with minimal time near a computer screen and nothing to force me to be out in the cold and snow. It’s now Monday morning – straight back to work!

>>More Mysore dispatches:

Etched

On engraved rings and Mysore marking you.

Lingua franca
The language of practice. And of sugar. And of awkward good-byes.

In due time
In the midst of the spicy masala mash of sounds that is India, I’ve been listening to Jack Kornfield’s soothing, raita-like voice read from his A Path with Heart, and I love this part: “Love in the past is simply memory, and love in the future is fantasy.”

Profiles of ashtangis telecommuting from Mysore
Need to work while enrolled at the K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute in India? These ashtanga yoga practitioners have done it, and they want you to know it can be done. See what tips they share for how to make it work while working from Mysore.

So you helped get an ashtangi to Mysore? Thank you, truly.
So, ashtangi with the “Mysore, Karnataka” Facebook location tag — who helped get you here? Perhaps you can send them a note of thanks if you haven’t done so in a while.

Temple tour to Belur, Halebid, Shravanabelagola
I didn’t come to Mysore, Karnataka to be a tourist. But it was wonderful to be one on this moon day, doing a 208-mile round-trip drive and hitting three ancient temple sites.

Happy Sankranti
Sankranti is one of the few Hindu harvest festivals celebrated in India that’s tied to the solar calendar. And it’s a new year of sorts! What an incredible month. I was in Mysore for the New Year’s Day holiday that I adore so much. Now we have Sankranti, with is promise of auspicious beginnings. And I didn’t realize until after I arrived that the day I fly home will be the Chinese New Year.

Thank you, interwebs and wifi
When I was playing my trip to Mysore, I kind of thought that the ideal way to experience this trip would be to unplug. Man, was I wrong about that one.

Castor oil baths and not (particularly) getting things done
Rest day + castor oil! I think when you’re studying yoga in India, my day so far would have been considered productive. At home, this should have all been done by noon.

And then there were four — led classes, that is
From healing to teaching, from deepening to escaping, everyone here obviously has a unique and personal story about whey they’re here right now. But is there something drawing us, collectively, at the dawn of 2014?

First breakfast, second shower, next electric practice
‘One more, 9 o’clock, small.’

How does Sharath know? And btw, where did my feet walk off to?
Since my first day at KPJAYI, I’ve found myself constantly wondering, “How does Sharath know?”

Pink kurta
One week into my month-long stay here, it seems obvious to me that a big part of coming here is not about the practice at all — it’s about seeing where our areas of density are in our life. It’s easy to spot when a tight shoulder is the obstacle to steady comfort in a pose. For some of us, it’s harder to spot our areas of density in our daily lives.

So familiar and yet . . . so familiar
In Mysore, it helps that even when I don’t know someone, I maybe know someone.

Rain down on me
No small part of what I hope to do in India is find a way to honor life and sit with loss. Back when I planned this trip, the most salient loss was my miscarriage from this summer. Having two friends take their own life in the past 30 days has amplified the grief.

Plugging my 120V self into this 220V space
When Sharath led my hands to my ankles in assisted dropbacks, I could feel my little 120V self had hit full charge.

#gratitude #possibilities
In my reflections today, I decided to try, in the spirit of noting arisings and passings in all things, to see if I can start each new day this year with the type of intention that I start New Year’s Day with each and every year. Toward that end, I’m quite grateful to get to start each day with the ashtanga yoga practice — that makes such a difference in being able to enter the rough and tumble with some equanimity.

Emptying the cup
‘It’s like water in a cup. If a cup is filled with dirty, stale water, it’s useless. Only when the old water is thrown out can the cup become useful. You must empty your minds of opinions — and then you will learn.’

#235, 8th Cross, an eternity and a blink of eye from my first ashtanga practice
This post is for all the home practitioners out there. Mysore 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.

Checked baggage for DTW –> CDG –> BLR
What I figuratively and literally packed, or didn’t, for my first journey to India.

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