Last night, I was talking with my friend Rose about a teacher here in Mysore.
“I don’t know for sure, but it all sounds a little culty,” I said.
And now, in loving detail, I’ll recount this morning’s practice with Sharath. The irony is not lost on me.
I woke this morning in a bit of a panic. There may be people who come here and don’t feel their nerves before their first practice at the Shala, but I’m not one of them, and I suspect no matter how many times I come, I’ll still wake on the first morning feeling scared. Dion and I spent a little time chatting via email, and then I was on my way.
The foyer was insanely crowded at 8:45. It’s almost impossible to explain the intricacies of how time works in the Shala, but suffice it to say that the clock is set at least fifteen minute early and you’re supposed to come 15 minutes before your assigned time.
What became clear pretty quickly was that the vast majority of people in the huge foyer had starting times after mine. They’re trying to sneak in early! Imagine my disapproval (seriously, I felt disapproval). Then one woman told me that we are supposed to go in according to who’s been there the longest, and not according to our assigned time. What?! That’s ridiculous! Grrrrrrrr. I spent some time thinking about whether people were just being greedy and/or if they are confused and/or if I should tell someone off. In the end, I just figured I’d wait and see what happened. And what happened was that Sharath came to the doorway and said, “9 o’clock? 9 o’clock?” And two of us raised our hands and he told us to come to the front.
(Okay, I have to share what just happened. I am sitting on the rooftop of the hotel, where breakfast is served. The woman who oversees the service came over with a tray to pick up the condiments & I asked what the stuff is that looks like lumpy brownish ketchup. She said something about bread and I said, “Oh,” and nodded my head and smiled. Now she’s brought me two slices of toasted white bread. I have to figure out how to hide it and bring it to the birds and dogs without her seeing me.)
So, practice. It was AWESOME to be back in the Shala. It is the BEST room to practice in. So many people, and yet you disappear into your own little world. The only difficulty was my nervous system, which seemed to be turned up a little too high. Actually, it was turned up a lot too high. Between jet lag, first practice of the season, morning coffee and probably not enough food yesterday, I was super jangly. It took almost a half an hour before I finally settled in and felt calm.
A lovely practice. The heat and humidity of India is extraordinary — a huge boost to flexibility. I lose perspective about how practicing in my chilly, dry room at home affects my physical practice — until I come here and everything feels so much easier.
We do primary series for the first week — which is a great way to settle in and prepare for subsequent weeks of more intensive work. So I did my primary poses, then my backbends. I stood up from the last backbend and there was Sharath, ready to assist me on the final backbend, where you walk in to your heels. Over I went and walked in to touch my right heel, and then with my left hand… his foot.
“My foot,” he said.
I walked my hand in more.
“Still my foot.”
Gah! I was trying to quickly sort out if his foot was to the inside or outside of mine so I could know where to shift my hand to get my left heel, but mostly my left hand was just flopping around.
He laughed and said, “You catch,” (translation: Okay, you get credit for getting your heels), and as I sat down for the final forward bend, he said, “Very good for first time.”
Here’s the thing I love about Sharath: he remembers that when I first came here three years ago, I was *just* managing to stand up from backbends, and he remembers that last year I struggled mightily with kapotasana and walking in to my heels. He knows where I’ve been and he sees where I am and he gives me credit for the work that he can see I’ve done. Coming here is about reporting in on where daily practice has gotten me over the past year, and to get direction about how I should proceed for the next year.
I’m not (by ANY stretch of the imagination) one of the bendiest or strongest people here, but I feel seen for who I am, which is someone who practices with dedication. I can’t even begin to say how gratifying it is to have that recognized and encouraged.
Enough asana talk! How about some India talk?
India is extraordinary. It is so nice to be back. The endless stream of car and scooter and animal and people noise felt reassuring and familiar last night. And the very best noise of all is the sweeping noise of people cleaning their stairs and walkways in the earliest morning, along with the yells of the vegetable hawkers who stroll up and down the streets, calling out their wares. Mysore is an early bird’s dream — bright and vibrant every morning.
I went to the phone stall today to get my Indian phone turned back on. I always wonder if I can get by without an Indian phone, but texting is definitely a way of life here — the only way, really, to keep in touch with friends. At the phone stall, the man turned my phone back on and gave me credit for a month. Cost: $8.
I’m going to do some work this afternoon, and relax a bit. I brought along a poetry manuscript I started when I was here last year, and I’d love to edit it — but I don’t want to rush it; there’s a certain kind of flow state that I want to wait for.
Okay, time to get a move on. I have my white bread toast hidden in a napkin and can smuggle it out of here. I think the dog who lives in the culvert on the corner might like it…