Friday, September 4, 2009

Ashtanga Holiday

The Ashtanga "work week" runs from Sunday to Friday, with Saturdays off. Additionally, the tradition has no practice on "moon days," meaning the days of the new and full moon. This adds up to about six days of rest per month for the orthodox/insane student.

You can imagine the build in excitement during the week looking forward to that Saturday rest. Or maybe you don't have to imagine, because you feel the same thing about your 9 to 5. Anyway, with most Ashtangis having psychological and behavioral polarities at least as wide as the average person, they have been known to limit all things indulgent (sex, a full meal, staying up until the time reaches double digits) to Friday nights.

Now just imagine: a few times a year, the new or full moon falls on a Friday or Sunday. (This is one such time, with the full moon today; the next new moon will be as well.) Are you seeing the implications here? Two consecutive days off. An Ashtanga Labor Day. Remarkable. Put away the herbal tea and break out the coffee—hell, make it half-caff!!

While a grueling pre-dawn practice regimen tends to foster good evening behavior (hangover + Primary Series = sadness), they really let 'er rip on one of these moon/off-day coincidences. We experienced one such event in Mysore, and the area around the shala resembled a college campus more than a suburb, with coeds mingling, prancing, and catwalking from party to party. Pretty safe to say even with no practice some new, er, positions are tried out on such a moon day.

We also spotted Sharath and his wife celebrating 48 hours of leisure by eating an elegant dinner. In their car. Which was parked on a secluded side street (they're the Brangelina of Mysore). It was obvious they didn't want to be disturbed but, then again, how could they have known we'd come by? So we knocked on the window and said Namaskara. But I digress…

PS A Google image search reveals that there are two famous Indians named Sharath. One teaches yoga, the other is a ping-pong—excuse me, table tennis—wizard. Can you tell the difference (or decide which looks sillier?)

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