Learning from the source

As students at AIR may know, Neal & Vanessa were in Mysore, India over Jan & Feb studying at the Ashtanga Yoga Institute (KPJAYI). Pattabhi Jois, who is considered the father of the Mysore Ashtanga method, passed away some years ago, of course. But today the institute is run by his grandson, Sharath Jois.

Each year, thousands of Ashtanga practitioners stream to the city of Mysore to deepen their practice alongside well-known practioners. Many of these students are of course teachers themselves. Mysore is known as the birthplace of Ashtanga, and continues to be the source – the spring of inspiration and learning for Ashtanga yogis everywhere.

So, what is the experience of practising Mysore in Mysore like? Firstly, the energy is absolutely wonderful. People talk of that “Mysore magic”. Of course, this magic exists inside of you, and comes out wherever you lay down your mat, but the point is that here, in Mysore, you have the one dedicated student after the next laying mats down side by side. And there you are, surrounded by everyone, in a very crowded room, each person exuding his or her magic. It’s very powerful!

When you find yourself surrounded in this way by so many other practitioners, all at different levels, but each with the same intention of going deeper into the Ashtanga practice, it makes it possible for your body to get carried along on the energy. And the result is that you realise afresh how much you can accomplish. Apart from the intense inspirational aspect, in the Mysore room, it helps you to feel calmer, more clear-minded and better able to concentrate than anywhere else. In short this environment is uplifting, and you find yourself feeling stronger, which makes you work harder. And when you work harder, you are forced to go into your own areas of resistance. You are forced to confront and deal with your fears, which is both difficult and rewarding. As Sharath says – ‘No Fear, No Fun’

Then there is the matter of confronting attachment. As we know from the yoga sutras, Abhyasa & Vairagya – attachment is an obstacle in the path. Being away from familiar things and outside of your routine means you have to let go of many of the unnecessary attachments we cultivate in our daily life. We bring along sometimes unrealistic expectations of what Mysore is suppose to be, what will we get out of this. Also in the asana practice, Dvesha (Aversion) comes up regularly, when you practice six days a week you are more likely to feel discomfort. Who wants to be in pain? Why wouldn’t we want to move away from it? By learning to accept discomfort within the safe space where it is largely accepted that you learn to navigate discomfort rather than run away from it.

This is our second trip to Mysore and it’s been an inspiration. We were constantly reminded of what the practice of yoga actually means. There is also a freedom here just to practice wherever you’re at. After conference with Sharath on Sundays we all walk out refreshed, inspired to concentrate on what yoga is really all about, self transformation.

“What is a good practice? Getting up and being on your mat and doing what you can — that is sufficient. That is good practice.” – R. Sharath Jois

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