When you register at the shala, you are given a time to come to practice. You are supposed to show up 10 minutes early, and then everyone in that time block sits in the foyer on the floor and slowly smooshes in toward the door as Sharath calls, “One more!” As the students in the shala finish their practices, they are helped with final backbends, then given a squish, and sent to the back to do their final poses. Then someone from the foyer takes their place.
So everyone has an assigned time (mine was 9:30), but Sharath tends to change people’s times as numbers for the earlier time blocks decrease (this happens when students finish their time at the shala and go back home). Like Indian driving, shala time assignment is a system that is mysterious and impossible to understand.
Yesterday Susan and I were sitting on the shala steps, waiting for our time to go into the foyer, when Sharath appeared at the door and said, waving his arm at I’m not exactly sure what, “Your time is 9:00.”
Um, okay. Did he mean everyone on the stairs? Was he looking at someone specifically? Who knows.
So this morning, we went over and took our place in the 9:00 time block, feeling a little nervous and wondering if he was going to look into the foyer and demand to know what we were doing there so early.
Sure enough, he came to the doorway and looked at me.
“What time?” he asked.
“9:00?” I replied, uncertainly.
“You?” he said to Susan.
“9:00?” she replied.
He stood there for a moment, then said, “Your hair is different.”
Uh, yeah. Last year it was lighter. And the humidity this year seems to be making it especially, um, big.
“Curly,” he said, and walked away.
So I guess 9:00 is okay.
Last year, I left my visit to the shala with very clear homework. I had to gain confidence in my drop backs and coming to standing. And I had to learn to grasp my feet in backbends.
So I worked on the drop backs and coming back to standing until my form was better and — most importantly — my anxiety about doing them went away. The toughest part of practice last year in the shala was how freaked out I’d feel as I tried to do a good drop back, and then come back up to standing without over- or undershooting the movement. Undershoot and you don’t get back up to standing; overshoot and you propel yourself into a crash with Sharath, who is standing there at the front of your mat.
Today, as soon as I got to backbends, he came over. I’d heard that he has an uncanny memory for what people are working on in their individual practices, and it seems to be more than a rumor. I did my drop backs and stand-ups, and then he helped me with walking in to my heels. And yay! today I managed to grab them. The homework that got started at this time last year came to fruition. “Good,” he said, with a warm smile.
Today we went over to Sandhya’s for lunch. Sandhya is regarded as the best cook in Mysore — and I certainly wouldn’t argue the point. Appu was happy to drive us over to Sandhya’s house, where we had lunch with a bunch of people we’d never met before. It was a pretty diverse group: Australian, New Yorker, Italian, Swiss, Mexican, French, Canadian, American.
The best dish is still the curried tomatoes. But she’s also added a pumpkin dish that is awesome. We topped it all off with some chai.
On the way home, Appu mentioned Sankranti, which is coming up on the 14th or 15th.
“Cows and fire,” he said. “Jumping.”
“Oh, is that the thing you went to last year?” Susan asked.
Indeed. Sankranti. Or, as I think of it, that time I wondered if I’d have to give my daughter an emergency tracheotomy with a nearby tree branch. I’m thinking I’ll take a pass this year.