Thursday, May 29, 2008

All about the yoga

Disclaimer: If you want more information about all the Ashtanga nonsense contained in this posting, please poke around here.

So, this is basically how it goes.

You show up in Mysore and register at the shala. You are given a time to show up for practice the next day, probably either 5, 615, or 630 (am). We're 630.

The room is packed at 5, maybe 50-60 people, maybe more. Hard to estimate. They all practice for about 90 minutes, give or take, and when we walk in it looks something like this. As they finish, those clustered in the waiting room outside go in one at a time. Sharath says "One more," and the group works out who goes. Sometimes he calls a person by name, for some mysterious reason. He's the only teacher there the whole time.

So, eventually, you go in and set down your mat, maybe 4-5 inches of space on either side. A change in the locker room and you go at it. Sun Salutations, Standing poses, know the jist of it. Sharath wanders around and adjusts this or that, or maybe tells a person to stop at this pose for the day. When he tells you to stop, that means one of two things: a) if it's a lead class (keep reading) you sit (or lie) there and wait until everybody gets to the finishing poses and then rejoin; b) if it's a self-practice you go straight into the finishing poses. Generally, once you get the go ahead to do the full series, that's not taken back - you do that each day, if you can.

Sundays are a lead class, Monday through Thursday is self-tort...ah, practice, Friday is another lead class, Saturday rest. The lead classes are not for the feeble hearted. India, 60 people in a room, 90 minutes - you do the math. It's a greenhouse in there. And he really does count slowly. "4" is a very long number in India. No pose modifications, either. I mean, you can make them if you dare, but he'll tell you "Hand down" in Parvritta Parsvokonasana, "Leg up" in Utthita Padangusthasana, and, worst of all, as he said to me, "Knees straight" in Navasana.


Oh, and don't even think about skipping a vinyasa or just lifting up or any of that business we do in the QC. You'll jump back, my friend. By the end of it all, you are jelly. So the week starts with a humbling lead class, then stretches out through four self-practices so that then on Friday, when your tank is empty, he's got you right where he wants you for another lead class.

All that said, we are doing pretty well, we think. On the second day of self-practice we both got the go-ahead to do the whole first series. Of course, that means we had to do it the next day, and the next day, and the next.

Some remarkable yogis here. Most everyone is doing the first series - which is no small feat, and some of them do it very well - but there are a few others who are doing far more. I think the process is that eventually you start adding poses on to the end of the first series, so you'd do the whole thing and then the first pose from the second series. After a while another, and another. All of this is at Sharath's say-so, of course. So there are people here who do the whole first series and then most of the second. Or, practically superhuman, those doing the second and then most of the third. If you haven't looked at that one, the third, you should. It's a doozy. Anyway, I don't know when you stop overlapping - at what point you switch over and drop the first series and start your practice with those poses you've been doing from the second series, but I bet that point is a relief.

Anyway, when you're done with your practice, you "take rest," Savasana, for as long as you like. Then gather your things, give Sharath a quick namaste and you're out of there.

We're still adjusting to the environment and the frequency of practice, but the body adapts quickly. You just get up, go, and do it. Somehow it's a much different experience because it's mostly self-practice. More on that later, I suppose.

Sharath cracks the whip during the lead classes, but he's very nice and funny. Toward the end of the morning he often has his kids there running around, bumping into people and "helping" him adjust. It's a good vibe, overall. We can see why people come back and back - everything is put aside and yoga comes first.

It's a good gig if you can get it.


Jen said...

Thanks for sharing your experience. It sounds transformative.

What are your fellow yogis like? Many Americans? What's the male-to-female ratio?

connie said...