Sunday, June 20, 2004

I was going to remark that it's easy to fall behind here, but then I thought, "'Fall behind' what?" It's not like any yoga student in Mysore has a schedule or time constraints.

Two Thoughts From the Train Ride to Bangalore:
---The Indian-style toilets on the train are essentially a stainless steel hole in the car floor. You can actually look through the hole while you're peeing and see the ground speeding past! It was one of the greatest guilty pleasures I have known.

---Dogs are onto something: it's a hypnotic and appealing danger to hang out of the open doors between cars, the wind blasting your face and verdant green countryside shuttling past.

More Random Yoga
I may have already posted this: About practicing yoga in Mysore, a Chilean woman remarked: "Guruji says, 'First month---tired. Second month---pain. Third month---flying!'"

Friday morning class headcount: 51.

In the end of May, when I first arrived, a student would finish backbending and leave the main room for one of two smaller "finishing" rooms. Guruji would shout "One more!" to indicate to the students waiting in the hall that they could enter and begin their practice. Only there weren't any students waiting. We're almost at that point again.

This morning, I looked at the guy a few spaces over from me and noticed two huge, red mosquito bites on his back. Itching the fresh ones I'd picked up over the night, I thought, "We're exhausted, dirty, some of us are wan and sickly, and all of us are covered in all manner of bites---mosquito, spider, ant, fly, and more. We must look a sorry sight!"

Sharath is Guruji's grandson, and is carrying on the heritage of his grandfather's teachings. He leads Sunday morning class while Guruji sits on his chair and watches and/or naps. The final pose before "taking rest" is uth pluthi, wherein you fold your legs in lotus and push yourself---including your butt---off the floor. You thereby hang suspended in the air.

It is at this point that Sharath's even, measured counting takes on the unbearable precision of the metronome as arms quake and butts hit the floor all over the room. "Up! Up! Pick it up!" Sharath will command. Fatigued students will struggle to obey.

My advice to those coming to Mysore: spend more time in uth pluthi. My trick for maintaining: I pick a number and start counting backward, timing my breath to my own count. If you start listening to Sharath's count---and anticipating it---you're lost.

As a footnote, today I got to hear Sharath say, "Hm! Big man, no strength!" to someone behind me.

Last week in conference, a slight modification of the usual formula: "Ninety-nine-and-a-half percent practice, half-percent theory!" says Guruji. There was much laughter.

Every conference I've attended thus far has included the following phrase from Guruji, often repeated many times during his talks: "Practice, practice, practice. One year, two year, three year? No. Five year, ten year? No. Lifetime! Practice, practice, practice."

Yet another reiteration of why I think this particular system is so effective: it's all about doing. Not speaking, thinking, philosophizing, or theorizing---although there is all that, too. But at the heart of ashtanga vinyasa lies practice itself.