Mysore India – Ashtanga Yoga’s Headquarters – Guest Post by Jennie Gorman

Helen has asked me to write a short guest blog about my trip to Mysore last December but keeping this short has proven to be something of a problem. To capture the magic of your first trip to India, with all its wonderful mix of smells and colours, spices and smiling faces, free roaming cows and honking horns, temples and palaces, is something of a challenge, especially as this is the first blog I’ve ever written.

 

Anyway at the end of last November I jumped on a plane bound for Bangalore to spend a month practicing at the Pattabhi Jois AYI in Mysore with Sharath. Some useful advice from Helen before I left was invaluable so I wasn’t completely taken completely by surprise when I arrived, only a little! After my first walk round Gokulum I did wonder where were all the western style cafe’s Helen had mentioned. However after a second tour round the streets by the shala with my trusty guide Kevin the delights of Gokulum were revealed, all the shops and cafe’s I hadn’t noticed before. All either part of houses or set back in gardens behind, the only giveaway was often only a small sign on the gate.

 

Having travelled all the way to India I was keen to get started practicing yoga so registered at the shala the afternoon I arrived. It was also a Sunday so had the opportunity to attend my first conference with Sharat. These are held every Sunday afternoon and provide many insights into the physical and spiritual practice of Ashtanga yoga not normally covered in a traditional class. This was also my first introduction to shala time. The clock in the shala is set 15 mins fast so this needs to be remembered for anything held at the shala, practice times, conference times, class times. It can become a little confusing when trying to convert from Indian time to British time to shala time, especially as none are in full hours.

 

After conference I filled in my registration form and waited in line to pay my fees and receive my registration card with start time. I was starting practice at 9 the next morning. After a good night’s sleep I made my way to the shala for 8.35, 10 mins early for my 8.45 start (9am shala time). I joined the queue in the hall and waited for a space to become available as those practicing finished one by one. Finally it was my turn and I entered the shala to Sharat’s call of ‘one more’. I laid my mat down in the newly opened space and went to the changing rooms to change. And so my first practice began. Adjustments were given by Sharat, his mother Saraswati and a few assistants at key poses such as hasta padangustasana, marichasana D and sputa kurmasana. Sharat stopped me at sputa kurmasana and so I went to straight to back bends followed by the finishing sequence. 2 days later my time had been changed to 8.45 shala time and I was completing the full primary with drop backs. Friday was led primary practice for everyone while Sunday was led intermediate for those at this stage with another led primary for everyone else. Another compulsory class was chanting at 10.30 three days a week. At first this involved chanting some Sanskrit prayers, counting and asana names. Optional additional classes were also available, including Sanskrit, yoga sutras, Bhagavad Gita and hatha yoga pradipika. All of these were run by Laksmish in the evening 3 times a week each.

 

As the month progressed the shala and Gokulum became busier and busier, soon it was becoming very difficult to find accommodation. This was slightly difficult to arrange from England. There are a few guest houses and a handful of hotels that can be booked from the UK but most rooms / home stays can only be arranged once you get there. There are a few fixers that can help you with this once you arrive. For me I went to Shiva just opposite the shala and got a room sharing with fellow yoga students within few days of arrival. It was also only 3 doors down from the shala, very handy for the early morning starts.

 

While a typical day can often involve not much more than getting up for practice, going for breakfast, attending some extra classes, going for chai, fresh coconuts, lunch and wondering round the streets of Gokulum or a trip to the pool there is certain plenty of things to do while staying in Mysore. A visit to Mysore palace, both during the day and again on a Sunday night when it’s all lit up. Sightseeing and shopping around the city. Chamundi hill is worth a wallk up / down for views across the city. A trip to Mysore zoo or just relax at the swimming pool at the Regalis hotel. For Saturdays and moon days it’s well worth making a trips further afield sush as to the hills of Ooty or Coorg, or the Tibetan settlement of Bylakupe.

 

Well while I could easily continue on I’ve probably made this blog long enough now so I’ll leave it there but if anyone is planning a trip or just interested in hearing any more I’d be happy to tell you more.

 

Om shanti, shanti, shanti

 

Thanks for sharing your experiences Jennie. I many people will find this interesting. Below is a brilliant video of of Mysore by Kino MacGreggor, so you can see it for yourself. Enjoy, Helen

 

 

About Helen Aldred

Helen Aldred practices and teaches ashtanga yoga in Liverpool. She loves to share and discuss yoga, as well as health and wellbeing. Follow her on twitter and join Ashtanga yoga Liverpool's Facebook community .

Comments

  1. Rosey here! Loved your description – I went to Kev’s talk a couple of weeks ago, it’s good getting different perspectives. Did you do any of the additional classes? The sanskrit sounds incredibly difficult, from what I’ve read on various blogs.

    • Hi Rosey, thanks for your comment. I’ve only just looked at this page since all the comments were posted so sorry for only replying now.

      Apart from the chanting classes which were compulsary the only other additional classes I attended were the yoga sutra classes. These were a brief overview of the sutras, with slightly more time spent on the books 1&2 than 3&4. They involved reading aloud the sutras in sanskrit then reading through the english explanations of different authors but didn’t go into any real depth on any of the sutras.

      I would have liked to have taken some of the sanskrit classes. Other students I spoke to who were taking these classes highly recommened them and found Laksmish to be a great teacher. I’ve had a little look at learning Sanskrit and it does seem pretty difficult, I struggle to get past learning the pronunciation of the different characters.

  2. I enjoyed being your guide, I found Mysore a wonderful experience, not just the practice, but also the great people like you I met in the course of my 3 months, and I am determined to go again.

    • Thanks Kevin, hopefully I’ll see you there again!

      Sorry I missed your talk on Mysore in Chester, we had some problems in work over the summer and last couple of months have just passed by without me noticing. I hope it well. Have you plans to give any more talks on Mysore?

  3. Thanks for this blog post. Did you find it hard to get in touch with the Shala in order to get your application to study there accepted? I filled in the application form a month ago, no answer, sent a follow-up email, no answer, rang the phone number on the shala website several times, no answer. Grateful for any advice!

    • Hi cathy, thanks for your comment. I am not sure if Jenny will see this as it is a guest post, written a while ago. I am not surprised you have not heard back yet and that you have found it challenging getting through. When are you planning to go? Everything happens in its own time in India. I appreciate that you would like conformation though! Hope you have a great time in Mysore.

      • Thanks Helen. I’m hoping to go in November. I’ll keep trying!

        • Hi Cathy, thanks for your comment. As a guest post I don’t get any notification of replies to this blog so I’ve only just seen all the replies now. I’m not sure why I looked at this today but lucky that isn’t too long since your post.

          I did have a little problem getting in touch with the shala. At first I sent an email enquiry but I never received a response to this so I went ahead and filled in the application form anyway. I did get an immediate automated response acknowledging receipt of the application, then it was a further 11 days before receiving a final confirmation email.

          I understand it can be frustrating waiting on a reply, especially as you try to organise travel plans, visa’s, etc but as Helen’s says everything in India happens in its own time, something I now only appreciate after having been there. I know you mentioned you have tried calling several times but have you tried calling at different times of the day? There is quite a regular routine at the shala and I would imagine phone calls are only answered at certain times of the day. Unfortunately though I don’t really have any idea when would be best to try.

          I hope you hear something soon though and if you have any other questions I’d be happy to try and answer them.

          • Thanks Jennie, I’ll keep trying. It’s been a month now since I sent off the online registration, and apart from the automated reply, I’ve heard nothing.

  4. Dear Helen and Jennie, thanks for your advice, I persisted and today I got through on the phone and they said “you can come.” Hurrah! Any tips on where to stay?

    • Hi Cathy

      That’s great news! I will let Jennie know about your comment and have added a subscribe to comment plugin so she can subscribe to any future comments. It is a while since I was in Mysore so I am sure Jenny can give you more up to date info. Generally people stay in a guest house for the first couple of days and then find a room in a local family house. Many of the locals have converted their property to house us yogis.

      Have you seen Claudia’s page on Mysore. She has put together an excellent online resource for people going to the Ashtanga homeland and it includes some information regarding accommodation.
      http://earthyogi.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/claudias-guide-to-mysore-india.html

    • Great news! It was well worth persisting, you’ll have an amazing time there.

      Claudia’s page on Mysore looks great. I didn’t see anything like this before I went but it gives a pretty comprehensive guide of what you need to know.

      There’s quite a wide range of accomodation available depending on what you would like.

      It’s worth booking somewhere for a few nights at least for when you first arrive. Then if you havent got somewhere longer term you can have a look at what’s available when you get there.

      I stayed at the Green Hotel which is lovely and serves lovely food but if I went again I think I’d stay at Urban Oasis, they have a place in Gokulum that is closer to the shala, there’s a link to their website on Claudia’s page. And they do long stay rates if you want to stay for your duration.

      One option would be to stay at one of the cafe’s / guest houses such as Anoki Gardens, Anu’s cafe or Santosha. Again these have both short stay and long stay rates and can be booked online, by email or by telephone from the UK. This looked like a good way of meeting lots of people.

      There are also lots of accomodation options available once you get there. It’s worth asking other yoga students in the Gokulum cafes what’s available or there are people around the Shala that help students find accomodation. I went to see Shiva, across the road from the Shala, who helped me find a room. Shiva helps by putting students in touch with local residents who have rooms available to rent.

      It’s possible to rent a room in an Indian family home, with or without home cooked meals included.
      You can rent a room in a house sharing with other Yoga students, with shared kitchen, etc.
      There are also quite a few Indian homes that have built separate ensuite rooms on their roof, with their own separate entrance, like a small bedsit. This way you have your own place and dont share any facilities but they don’t have any kitchen if you wanted to cook your own meals.
      You could also rent your own apartment but these don’t generally come furnished.
      It’s also worth thinking about how far from the Shala you want to stay. I think the further away you are the less expensive it is but you may need a scooter to go back and forth to Gokulum.

      Whatever it is you decide you’d like Shiva can usually help you find it but last year as it got further into December it got alot busier and accomodation became harder to find.

      Good luck with the rest of your planning.

  5. Thanks Jennie. Claudia has done a great job hasn’t she.

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