Monday, January 19, 2015

foyer yoga

Coming into the shala in the morning is an experience in itself. Any time after the 4:30am start time, there is a process: stepping into the foyer, taking your place amongst the students that share the same start time, feeling the anticipation for practice, meditating, intention-making or watching those already moving inside, feeling inspired or anxious, and slowly/sometimes swiftly sliding towards the door, waiting for your "one more."

Mostly, when I look around at this time in the morning, I see how we all strive to be good students. How we come prepared, ready to get in there, in the shala proper, to "practice," to do our work, whatever that is--which is awesome and inspiring!

I realize that this is not a one-size-fits-all yoga practice, and everyone approaches practice in different ways--but I cannot help but notice (and yes, often over the last couple of weeks, get frustrated, admittedly an issue of my own ego) how, at times, our zeal to be such good students get the better of us. We get so fixated on wanting to practice ourselves that our vision narrows and we see only that bright tunnel between us and the door into the shala. Sometimes this happens quite by accident. Sadly, at times, quite on purpose, and we fail to see or be conscientious of the others around us.

I know this is a gross generalization--and for this, I apologize in advance to the innocent bystanders. Most students during my time are lovely and thoughtful. A precious few come in smiling. Many inquiring after each others time, making certain that folks with earlier time slots or those who arrived before them go in first, happily giving way to the mothers with children here with them; the moms are a beautiful exception to the waiting rules, they do not have to cue. There are some that appear calm throughout, non-plussed any aggression--and I so wish, I was one of them.

But the small number who push their way forwards before their turn, changes the energy of the room. And at times, the foyer is tense.

So, I take the liberty to use the pronoun "we" because we are not just individuals practicing alone on our mats, we share this room, this incredible collective prana and energy; we are a community. We should collectively preserve this community by respecting not just the sanctity of our personal sadhana but also by respecting each other's.

Sharath really drove this home for me last conference as he answered a question regarding ego. "First you stop. Avoiding 'I' 'I' 'I'... 'I know, I know', 'I don't know'..."I'm better than you"...action should always be humble action, inside it should be very humble, compassion, everything, this is what our life is."

When we fixate in the getting into the shala, doing our thing, how much of it that is the "I" that Sharath speaks of, I wonder.

In my growing frustration, I have also wondered, what my responsibility when I see someone behaving in a less than fair manner. I recognize, however, that my own reaction is also a form of I-ness, it is also ego, a representation of how much I also want to be in the room to do my thing.

Sharath, as usual, breaks it down for me, "Nobody can change the world, but you can change yourself. Your change, which happens within you. Then once you change yourself, the whole world will change. If you care for people, if you care for trees, if you care for animals, if you care for everything--caring is very important....once you care for others, that is the meaning of this life, you have to care for everyone then your practice will change. That is the purpose of your practice. Not only will you take, oh! ekapada, oh! kapotasana." He quips on, "You are so excited, everyday, you go here, oh I practice four times kapostasana...your purpose here is for kapotasana? Or to gain good knowledge, clarity within you? Kapotasna should help you get that. Not to grow your ego."

He concludes, "Whole practice is to change yourself." (Right, that's why he's the Boss.)

I cannot say that I will not call out the next person that cuts the morning line-up. But I will certainly look into my own frustrations, rather than attaching them to the actions of others. I will take responsibility that my defensiveness and ridiculous fear of loosing out adds to the negativity in the foyer. I will re-enter the waiting game after the moon day, not only refreshed from rest but also with the spirit of caring, not just for myself but for my fellow students as well. I will come into the space, not just prepared for practice, but practicing already. But enough about me. What if we were to do this together, how great would that be? How much quicker would we change the world?

(Aside: I hope that this article doesn't give any wrong ideas about ashtanga or yoga practice. What I am observing is not an issue of ashtanga yoga, it is an issue of the human condition. And moments like these are simply opportunities to deepen our practice. Ashtanga and Mysore often has a reputation for being extreme. Mostly, I feel both are extremely effective mirrors. What we choose to see, is wholly up to us.)

(27 January 2015)

It’s been a month, nearly. And I feel how overtime, things always find a balance. The change in the mood of the foyer at my time has noticeably shifted. More people seem conscious of the process and conscientious of each other. Some have stepped up to maintaining peace, others have chilled, and whoever else seems out for themselves each morning, well, the collective seem to bother little about them now. 

I feel much more chill about the whole thing, having aired out my issue and trying to come into the space myself with a lightheartedness and excitement for practice. I remind myself each time I enter the room that everyone is like everyone else, eager to do the work, trying our best to find the yoga in it all. This I feel is a testament to how yoga does work, that the "citta vrittis" calm eventually and everyone finds their place in this heaving movement of practice around the KPJAYI shala.

I know as the month ends, old friends will go, new friends will come, and the cycle somehow continues. I hope that the energy of yoga before and after “practice” prevails, that we continue to be conscious and mindful not only of ourselves but of each other. That we bring the steadiness of the asana practice into the patience of the wait, that as tight as it might get in there, there is always room for everyone.


  1. Just wanted to say thanks for sharing! I'm working on 2nd series and just recently had a medical issue which has be working way off my "normal" practice. I have been feeling like I'm missing out when I got to Mysore and see my fellow yogis working and moving on and I'm feeling left behind as I'm doing chaturanga on my knees. So I just really enjoyed this & reread it several times. Thank you.

  2. Dear Clarissa, I can totally understand. It's really hard work to scale back. And it's tough on the ego, which wants to just push forwards. I think if we can face that, here in Mysore of all places, where the bar for "excellence" is past high and into unbelievable, then we're really practicing yoga! The strength that is getting built now--which is willpower--I feel will really serve us as we return (when it's right) to the intermediate practice fully! Thank you for commenting! I am glad it is resonating!