Saturday, February 27, 2010
The shala is NOT closing
The “special meeting” called by Sharath finally happened Friday morning, and the shala was full to bursting with students. In essence, Sharath said that there are some “serious” issues regarding yoga students in India. First, the national government has changed visa requirements such that it seems that a tourist visa is no longer sufficient for studying yoga. Instead, a yoga student visa is required. This latter is more difficult to get and requires verification and documentation from the institute at which the student will study (in this case KPJAYI). Of course, most of the students now in Mysore received tourist visas with no problem, because they were approved long before the new rules were passed. You would think that these tourist visas would be honored as they were issued before the new rules, but that is not necessarily the case. Read a little about this on kpjayi.org.
Second, Sharath said that on the local level, within Mysore and Gokulum, there have been complaints about yoga students. He had a student read aloud a local newspaper article which described the actions being taken by the police commissioner to essentially crack down on foreigners by enforcing the new student visa requirements. This would, of course, be a problem for us and everyone else who has come here under the “old rules” of tourist visas.
After working everyone up into quite a lather, Sharath addressed these problems. He said that there have been rumors flying in the ashtanga community that the shala would be closing (as a result of the new visa requirements), and that he would no longer be teaching. He denied this and directed everyone to watch kpjayi.org, as he will keep the most current information there. He also said that he has been in contact with the local and national government “trying to keep my students safe” and work out a way through these new regulations. It sounds as if the government has passed these new regulations essentially in response to terrorist acts, and only now are the full implications being understood as enforcement begins on the local level.
In the end, he asked that we trust him to resolve the situation. He has received a promise of a grace period of one month from the police commissioner of Mysore so he can organize the proper paperwork to satisfy the new regulations. He told us not to put any rumors about the shala closing or him leaving “in email or on your Facebook.” These are untrue and stir up many long-time students who then call or email the shala, panicked about it potentially closing. He said it is HIS problem to solve. At the same time, on the local level, he asked that we do our best to deal with the complaints in Gokulum by, well, not being a$$hole foreigners: NOT blocking the street outside the shala, supporting local, Indian businesses, avoiding the questionable restaurants set up by foreigners who are likely not here on a business visa and therefore operating illegally, etc.
It’s hard to tell if this is much ado about nothing or something truly serious. We believe Sharath when he says he has the situation under control, but also when he intentionally used the words “serious problems” a number of times. One indirect result of this meeting was a real sense of responsibility, protection, and affection from Sharath for the students. Daily interaction is usually in the vein of teacher admonishing student, but in the face of these problems, it was very clear that Sharath is workin very hard to protect all of these people who arrest and/or arrange their lives to come from all over the world to study with him.
In short, the shala is NOT closing and Sharath IS teaching as scheduled. It is not clear how the visa situation will shake out in the summer and fall, for the “special (teacher) training” scheduled, but it seems certain that Sharath will post this info ASAP on kpjayi.org.