Friday, September 17, 2010


Nandi on Chamundi.
As of September 2010, it's been 5 years since we've returned to practice yoga in Mysore, India.

The decision to not return to Mysore hasn't been a negation; we as a family have instead chosen to pursue other interests.

For example, we've chosen to return to Encinitas more frequently, rather than make the increasingly larger, riskier, and complex choices we'd have to make to travel to Mysore for a month.

Still, my relationship with the place is a complex one, and from time to time I feel a small but noticeable pressure to return there.

The first time I traveled there, the decision was sparked in part by my first meeting with Pattabhi Jois in New York City. I had such a terrific time practicing in the Puck Building that I began to organize my life to spend an uncertain amount of time in India.

I sold, gave away, or threw out all my belongings beyond clothing, quit a great job, and virtually abandoned my car.

I never had a personal relationship with Pattabhi Jois, beyond that he vaguely recognized me as Tim's student, and maybe even thought my tattoos were vaguely humourous, but since his illness and passing, that gravitic pull to Mysore has lessened.

When I started practicing in Encinitas, a trip to Mysore was a steady if discrete current, because, “When are you going to Mysore?” was a topic of pre- and post-practice conversations.

The feel in Encinitas has changed somewhat during the last several years, of course, as Pattabhi Jois has passed. 

Ashtanga in Portland has a different feel, too, in that there's not as much social pressure to travel to Mysore, quite simply because it's not really a topic of conversation. Although I expect I may inadvertently encourage people to travel to India when I share India stories or pass along the aspects of this practice that I picked up in Mysore.

The occasional pang to return to Mysore, occurring less and less over the years, is sharpened by the fact that I'm not authorized by the Ashtanga Yoga Institute to teach. This in itself is the seed for small but nagging doubts about my own validity and legitimacy.

The idea of official recognition is tricky. I know I have the tendency to “collect,” and I know what that means for me — the pursuit of the recognition becomes a goal unto itself, a thing pursued for no other reason than to collect it.

The “Collector” mentality also gives the illusion of direction and meaning, but is another elaborate method of avoidance or disengagement with my life as it is now.

Getting authorized, or even certified — well, I guess it's something to do, right?


I am now hungry.
The ashtanga vinyasa community is also so dispersed and spread out these days that it'd be nice to see Sharath and old friends, as well as meet new members of the growing community.

The tours were a great opportunity for everyone to come together in one place and for one reason, which is one of the reasons that, even if they were in an air-conditioned gymnasium, they were very powerful.

Ashtanga vinyasa is a solitary practice — only you can do it. In a Mysore setting, though, the yoga is not practiced in solitude.

The in-breath brings a great many people into your life, and of course the out-breath takes them away again. They come, they go.

Part of the yoga practice is to acknowledge and work with the current situation of your life — not as you wish it to be one day in Mysore, and not as it once was, the last time you were in Mysore, but as it is today, right now. 

So a journey to Mysore can be a holiday, a pilgrimage, or a flight. It can be a luxury or an imperative. But we don't need to be there to honor this tradition — we do that every time we practice it.