Conventional yoga wisdom, or be careful what you wish for

First off, apologies to those reading the blog who aren’t yoga nerds. Secondly, apologies to those reading the blog who are yoga nerds, and who think it’s sketchy to talk about asana. Here we go.

There are beliefs about practicing in Mysore that don’t necessarily square with reality. You don’t get much attention. New poses are tough to come by, or even purposely withheld. I’ve heard all of these things, and I’ve kind of hedged my bets by trying not to expect too much: no expectations around attention; no expectations around getting new poses.

When you come back to Mysore, you do primary series for the first week, then the second week you add on to the poses you got the previous year. What that meant was that for my second week I did primary plus pasasana. On Wednesday, as I was finishing, Sharath told me to go ahead and do three more poses (krounchasana, salabhasana and bhekasana) starting the following week (it was short week due to a moon day). Anyhow what that all added up to was that today I started my third week of practice with the intention of adding on, for the first time in the shala, those three poses. So I was kinda nervous. They’re poses I do at home all the time, but somehow being at the shala kind of upped the ante.

Anyhow, to add to my nervousness this morning, Sharath told me to practice up on the little stage at the front of the shala. It’s just a small raised stage where you can fit four yoga mats — and it’s where the chair is that Sharath perches on every so often as he oversees the room. The stage is kind of nice, because you are guaranteed a good bit of space around your mat compared to the regular shala floor, but it does feel a little exposed if you are feeling nervous about busting out some new poses. It is also an amusing place because when Sharath is calling for a new practitioner to fill an empty space on the stage, he usually calls out, “One more! Small one!”

So fine, I did my usual primary practice. I was a little concerned about utthita hasta padangusthasana (a balancing pose) because… well, because who wants to be flailing about up on a stage? But it went along just fine. Well, except for the added stress of having Sharath perched in the chair peeking at the sports page of the newspaper as I did the pose. I actually tried to pretend I was at home in the yoga room, with Daisy, but as I focused my gaze on my toes, I could see his hand and the newspaper just beyond my foot. Sharath is scarier yoga company than Daisy — there’s really no getting around it.

Just as I was finishing up pasasana and ready to do my newly assigned poses [here’s a link to the poses I’m talking about], he got up and headed out into the middle of the room. Oh well, I’d have a chance to do them without his observation. Kind of took the pressure off. I did my new poses, my urdhva dhanurasanas and my drop backs, and suddenly there he was, asking me, “What did you do?”

“Up to bhekasana,” I said.

“Dhanurasana, parsva dhanurasana,” he said quietly.

I nodded, thinking he meant to add them on tomorrow.

“Now,” he said, and sat down on his chair to watch. [Read “and sat down on his chair to watch” with a frozen lump of fear in your belly so you get the full effect.]

I did the two poses, struggling mightily with my breath because I was so freaked out about what was happening. It was like a pop quiz with the hardest-marking professor. Seriously, I was panting and trying not to show it. I was also telling myself not to listen to the inside of my head, lest I lie down and start crying. Or laughing. Hysterically, no matter which.

“Ustrasana,” he said as I finished parsva dhanurasana. [“What — pant! pant! — is happening here…???”]

“Laghu vajrasana,” he said next. God, it’s scary to practice with him SITTING RIGHT THERE.

I think I must have looked at him with a “You’re killing me” face, because he laughed a little, then said, “Wednesday, kapotasana.” (Wednesday, because there are no new poses given on Tuesdays.)

So: practice in Mysore: no attention, poses withheld.

I think not.

Be careful what you believe.

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27 thoughts on “Conventional yoga wisdom, or be careful what you wish for

    • Ha! Perhaps an “eject” button, Kevin. I found some nice black tea — Taj Mahal brand. Perhaps not up to your exacting standards, but fine for a yank. Heal up so you can come back here!

      • Taj Mahal brand was good, I used that too. Do you drink it black or with milk? So long as you don’t commit the sacrilege my Yank pal Laura was doing in Mysore and sticking ice cubes in it!

        Physio again tomorrow. Tell Susan it’s snowing here

  1. Hi Kev, I saw your picture of the snow… stay indoors! Though it is nothing like what I have been seeing from my Canadian friends lately…. be glad it’s just a dusting!

    I knew this would happen when Karen could walk in to her heels. Now we’ll get to hear kapo stories 😀

  2. PS it’s weird Karen, but I didn’t even know you were on the stage, but my only real moment of drishti loss today was when for some reason I looked up at the stage and you were there in dhanurasana with him standing over you 🙂

  3. Also, I should just state that I’ve been hanging out with Karen all day, and she is across the hall from me right now, but I am talking to her via blog…. lol.

    • I remember conversing with you by blog in Thailand LOL.

      thing is I’ve been living in sandals with Velcro straps because I can’t tie laces, with this snow I’m gonna have to try and work something out.

  4. They have Horlicks at Amruth! I never tried it till I got to England, and I think I kind of liked it, but I can’t really remember…. perhaps we should try it…

  5. Sitting in the library reading this, smile turned into a grin which got steadily wider ,finally a half supressed giggle…bit embarrasing.in a pubic library. Loved reading this, Hope you manage to catch an out of the way corner tomorrow. Excited for you!

  6. wow, Karen, now i realize you and Susan are there in Mysore at the same time. my tax holiday for a month away from China is next year. but i’m not sure if i will have an entire month’s time to go practice in Mysore because in my new job i may need to travel two weeks to the middle east during the month off. i may need to opt for two weeks of yoga somewhere. can one study with Saraswati for two weeks? i think she would allow that. cheers, Arturo

  7. OMG – so much pressure. I think they need to have a separate section for introverts to practice in. No stage, no spotlights, no newspaper rustling. It would unnerve me. On the other hand, you’re up to kapotasana – amazing!!!

  8. Oh my goodness – you did those 4 poses *after* dropping back and standing up? Right under his nose? Eeeek!!!

    When I was there last month I got the impression that he’s a lot more willing to give out poses once you meet his ‘asana milestones’, so perhaps the days of asana withholding are ending?

    Loving your updates by the way and this comment thread in particular!

  9. I don’t know from personal experience, but I’ve heard that the increase in pose giving has roughly coincided with the increase in new authorizations, say the past 3 years or so.

  10. WOW that was quite the experience….Glad there was no failing or hysterical crying/ laughing. Amazing what you are accomplishing you go girl.

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