Saturday, January 7, 2012

Mysore: Bees & Bananas, Wreckage & Light

Led class at 4:30 a.m. on Fridays and Sundays always seems a bit surreal. It's been too crowded for comfort for one, and there's already something quirky about waiting before dawn with 70+ other people to go through a gate and vie for a spot to practice. I'm never too excited about this part of the week. But because it's so early, it's always over before I've fully woken up, the yoga very much working on a subconscious level. Some days, I go home, get back in bed, and when I start the day again, I wonder if I dreamt it all.
Two hours after practice, I go out for chai and to stock up on fruit for the next couple of days. There are seemingly infinite varieties of bananas here (I read that India grows 16.8 million metric tonnes of bananas though few of those are exported).  And every time I go to the fruit stand, the selections is different: some days there are red bananas, other days there are Kerala bananas, there are fingerling bananas and green bananas. Sometimes, large plantains. More often than not, irregardless of variety, they are bruised and blackened on the outside. But they always taste sweet.
A recent article in the New York Times "How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body" has been circulating widely among yoga students. A fairly lengthy article regarding how serious injury can occur while doing yoga, it brings up many valid points about practice, or rather how practicing incorrectly or when driven by ego can end you up in the hospital...but it misses a whole other side of what practice is, how many varieties of yoga there are (and what passes as 'yoga' to some), doesn't draw on a number of potentially amazing sources nor discuss how teaching standards are uneven to put it mildly. The byline points out that the article is adapted from a soon to be released book, “The Science of Yoga: The Risks and Rewards,” by William J. Broad, which I hope will go into more detail about the various forms of yoga, the importance of tradition, lineage and highly skilled AND experienced teachers ('yoga teacher' comes off as a blanket term here), as well as how we humans are rarely different than all those bananas at the fruit stand: that is, infinitely varied, full of sweet promise but more often showing scars from the journey of what it took to mature. Likewise, the article points out how yoga's popularity is soaring, but it doesn't address exactly why that might be.
There are so many intangibles about why many of us are here practicing Ashtanga in Mysore. Back home in the US, I describe my connection to Mysore like an infection. Practice with teachers who came here long before me and my own repeated trips have inoculated me somehow, so that I feel like a bird who suddenly feels the need to take wing and migrate, some ineffable combination of light, constellations and barometric pressure signalling GO! That is, a craving for this place exists in me so strong, it overrides my doubts and personal attachments and I pick up and get here when I can. And even despite my own persistent resistance to change and sometimes grudging approach to aspects of practice such as getting up early for led classes, I somehow still get to them on my volition, a larger part of me knowing the benefits outweigh the cranky side of my monkey mind. 
"Somehow you are connected to this. That’s what brought you here. There was something you felt – that this is correct, that this is where you need to get connected...," Sharath opined when a student questioned who chooses whom in the yoga-student equation. "The Bhagavad Gita says that yoga is only possible if you were connected in your previous life. Something which has attracted you has brought you here."
The pull to yoga does feel something on that order, beyond me and my combination of earthly desires and aversions.
On Friday, more than a dozen of us practiced in the changing room as the main studio simply couldn't contain everyone. A bee had somehow become trapped in the room and it repeatedly flew up against the fluorescent light. Between the breathing and bending and sweating and sound of Sharath counting down and naming postures to an exacting vinyasa, the bee insistently buzzed and bashed. And I thought, I haven't been so different that that bee at times, throwing myself, my karma, my attitudes against the light. I've never been particularly graceful— I've often viewed the light as an escape route rather than a smooth, rolling walkway —and I've certainly practiced incorrectly. At times I've felt wrecked, but this has been mainly due to my own misguidance rather than the yoga itself.  
"Yoga isn't crazy," noted Sharath in today's conference, "People make yoga crazy."


Poppy said...


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Thanks and have a great day!

Bird in the Tree said...

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