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