[Mysore dispatch] Start of the work week and no time to practice?


It’s the start of the work week back home, and for many, it’s coming on the heels of a long holiday. (Not to mention that back in Michigan where I live, a polar vortex — that is not a joke — has hit. So, stressful conditions all around, and lots of time taken up with shoveling and trying to stay warm.)

In short, this week has the potential to really suck — the work will be piled up, and everyone will feel the need to make up for lost time. How to keep up your practice on the mat when time is such a rare commodity?

At Sunday afternoon’s conference session — a time when R. Sharath Jois, whom I came to India to study with, discusses a variety of topics and answers students’ questions — someone asked about how to deal with practice on days when there’s simply no time.

Sharath said, as he has in the past, that if you have time for Facebook, you have time for practice: “The best thing — as soon as you get up, 15 to 20 minutes, you do your practice.”

No matter what profession you’re in, he said, getting a little less sleep to get a short practice will give you more energy.

Earlier in the conference, as part of a longer discussion on the benefits of sarvangasana (shoulder stand) and sirsasana (head stand), Sharath had said that if you don’t have time to do your entire practice, do the surya namaskaras (sun salutations), then sarvangasana, sirsasana, and padmasana.

Very beneficial!

If you’re reading this and sighing over the kids’s practice schedule or your meeting calendar or whatever and thinking that it’s easy to say “practice a little each morning” if what you do is teach yoga in India, consider this: Sharath gets up at 1 a.m. every day to do his own practice before he starts teaching teaching in the pitch dark, going for hours until the last students are done. How long is that? I think that this week, the last group of students start their practice at 10:45 a.m., which means Sharath is probably teaching until about 12:30 p.m. or so.

That’s just the Mysore class portion of his day — he also has his office hours, not to mention his duties as a father and husband. Someone asked how much sleep Sharath gets. He hesitated and smiled and sheepishly admitted that he gets 3.5 or 4 hours of sleep a night. Looking around the standing-room-only shala space, he then said, “Maybe two hours [a night] this month, so many students.”

Good luck getting your practice in, wherever you are. I hope you find some inspiration in the simplicity and straightforwardness of Sharath’s advice.

P.S. I also liked another thing Sharath reminded everyone of yesterday. What is a good practice? It’s not doing the fullest expression of that pose that’s been challenging you. “Getting up and being on your mat and doing what you can — that is sufficient, he said. “That is good practice.”

(Graphic credit: “Clock Work Man” from Sean MacEntee’s Flickr Photostream via a Creative Commons license)

>>More Mysore dispatches:

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.


Goodnight, Way-Before-Breakfast Club for morning-challenged ashtangis

Goodnight, Moon

The Way-Before-Breakfast Club — the one for morning-challenged ashtangis — said its final goodnight with this week’s full moon.

The club was born when, on a beautiful whim last August, I received a blog reader’s email asking if I would be interested in essentially being her accountability buddy in getting up early, consistently, to practice. The who and the why went something like this:


Welcome to the Way-Before-Breakfast Club, a cheerleading squad/support group for those of us who have a deep-seated desire to wake up at brutally early hours to practice Ashtanga yoga.


  • Because we’re night owls.
  • Because we’re morning people when morning = 7 a.m. or something more sane like that.
  • Because we’re really busy.
  • Because we’re really, really busy.
  • Because we love to sleep.
  • Because we love to dream.
  • Because we live in cold regions of the world and it’s so damn cold at that hour.
  • Because we live in warm weather climates and even though it’s not cold at that hour, it’s still that hour, which is bad enough.
  • Because we don’t like to wake up when it’s pitch dark.

And the ground rules — such as they were — went something like this:

  • Prospective members need to be committed to practicing yoga six days a week, and earlier than they want to (so you may work nights, and maybe 10 a.m. is your early morning. The key is that doing this means sacrificing something important to you — e.g., sleep, time for other things, etc. — to make this work).

  • Yoga does not have to equal Ashtanga every day, but it should have a strong Ashtanga mix. It’s not that I don’t want other styles of yoga here — I just think it’s better for a community to stay focused on the common ground of this practice. This too is relative — maybe you really sort of hate Ashtanga, but you want to like it, and and practicing it twice a week would feel like a ridiculously strong mix to you. If you already <3 Ashtanga vinyasa yoga, well, that’s a five- or six-day-a-week practice, I’m afraid.

  • Members commit to either joining a calendar feed or deciding to skip the feed, but committing to posting a progress update on the page at least once a week.

  • Members must commit to keeping themselves accountable, but not beating up on themselves for the days they fall short. We all have to have positive motivation for this . . . .

  • . . . . that said . . . . So, life happens. And we fall off the wagon sometimes. But if there comes a point when a member has to give up trying and eight weeks have lapsed, that person will be asked to take a hiatus from the group. This would be done in the spirit of keeping the energy of the group a motivating and focused one.

For our virtual club, we used a pretty new platform called Mightybell (if you’re in the social media world, you would recognize the founder of this space, Gina Bianchini, as the founder of the groundbreaking Ning years ago). Mightybell was a fantastic space for us to use because we could make the space invite-only and comment on each others’ text, photos and documents.

All in all, there were about 18 members who passed through the club at one point another, along with a stellar coach/advisor/confidant/guide who has studied in Mysore and maintains a dedicated six-day-a-week home practice because there is no shala in her town. We hailed from seven countries and eight U.S. states.

By my recollection, for the first six months or so, the conversations ranged from fun and funny to juicy and even edging on transformative. Perspectives were changed, that I know for sure. Members were engaged, candid, supportive and resourceful. Here were yogis who had never met dedicating practices to one another. There were many practices that would not have happened had it not been for the encouragement of the group. And it wasn’t just about what was happening on the mat. There were some very intimate conversations about significant others and how that relates to practice; about our jobs; about how a sitting practice affects an asana practice; and on and on. Fascinating, and important, stuff.

Somewhere along the line, however, the momentum slowed. Members got quieter and quieter. Over time, everyone’s energies appeared to flow somewhere other than the humble breakfast club.

I suppose I could try to dissect what worked and what didn’t. If I’m ever involved in trying to start another virtual club of this kind, I will certainly do that. But for now, I’d rather approach the club — which one of our members dubbed the Ashtanga Fight Club, since what was discussed in the space stayed in the space — the way we approach our daily asana practices. When we roll out mats in the morning, we’re there to be in the moment. When the practice is done, when we roll up our mat, we’re done. No matter how the practice might have felt, we move on with our day knowing that we’ve got better energy coursing through us than we would have, had we not practiced that morning.

And so what started with a wonderful, spontaneous thought ended with the power of this week’s supermoon — the largest full moon of the year. Thank you to each of you who made the the Way-Before-Breakfast Club a reality. It was an honor to be part of this community.

(Illustration credit: Goodnight Moon via brillianthues’ photostream)

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