First-timers in Mysore: ‘Can hardly wait to go back’
One of the great things about Tim Miller’s annual retreat to Mt. Shasta — along with the obvious of all the time with Tim — is the people you meet and get to know.
Last summer, among the new people we met were Elizabeth and (good) Bill. (In deference to Bad Bill, and his absolutely wonderful wife, we won’t name names!) Both have wonderful practices, and both are wonderful people.
I’ll give you an example of their nature. We asked them — after following their first trip to Mysore via Facebook — if they would write us something about it. They did. But that’s not the illustration of their nature. This is:
We always try to offer the kind folks who write us something a little something in return; this being the Internet, that often comes in the form of a link to something of theirs or a cause or … you get it. So I asked Elizabeth if there was something along those lines they wanted, and this was her response:
We did become very close with a wonderful rickshaw driver in Mysore, named Shiva Shanka. He was a fantastic, helpful tour guide, and a safe and comfortable rickshaw driver (lovely family man, too). He may be contacted thru his website:Shiva’s cell phone number is:919886822409
My boyfriend (at the time) and I traveled to Mysore for a five-week trip beginning on December 7, 2011. Bill and I have been practicing Ashtanga in Denver with our teachers Joan Isbell and Eric Stauffer for a couple of years, and have also had the good fortune to practice with senior Western teachers Tim Miller, Richard Freeman, Annie Pace, David Swenson, Melanie Fawer and Kino MacGregor. Bill would celebrate a BIG birthday while we were in India, so we anticipated that our time together there would be especially memorable.
(We have 5 children between us, ranging from 8-13 years, so leaving them for such an extended period of time, during the holidays, required more than a small bit of maneuvering and negotiation, but it was well worth the effort.)
What we didn’t anticipate was HOW MUCH FUN we would have in Mysore. “Shala Time” was an eye-opener for us on our first day of practice (rookie mistake). We thought we might miss such comforts from home as: a taco stand (those cravings were quickly sated by savory dosas), hot showers (in 80 plus degree weather it wasn’t necessary), and our children (they were, in fact, having a blast in the States, and the handful of children at the shala willingly shared their smiles and effervescence, so we felt connected to the younger set through them).
Saraswathi absolutely glowed – what warmth and strength! (Probably a party foul, but I couldn’t help hugging her after she assisted me in an especially opening series of half bends.) And Sharath deftly embodied leadership, authenticity, thoughtfulness, and a sense of humor. Bill and I so enjoyed our 8:30 a.m. start time, as every morning we witnessed Sharath interact with his beautiful family (coffee was delivered to him, and his children came in sharing giggles and giving kisses to their father and grandmother before they headed off to school). Seeing these householders wearing dual hats instilled an even deeper respect for the tradition.
The practice itself felt lighter – more buoyant – in temperate Mysore. Our fellow practitioners were generous, inclusive and funny (Tim Feldmann gets a special shout-out there). We were thrilled to have been at the shala for the filming of Mysore Magic, the film which vibrantly captures a bit of the current KPJAYI landscape.
Regarding packing for our journey: we were comforted to have brought along our favorite coffee and peanut butter from home. On our next adventure, we will remember to add: Cetaphil and a loofah (the dermatologist here told me that I brought back half of India in my face!), along with our 5 children.
To summarize, Bill and I feel really lucky to have been encouraged by our teachers to go to Mysore, and we can hardly wait to go back. My then-boyfriend became my fiance during my most memorable Mysore practice … the twists in Marichyasana C and D allowed just enough time to see Bill mouth the question from several mats away, “Will you marry me?” I breathed, quickly processed, and on the next twist enthusiastically mouthed my answer, “Yes!”
Very special place, the shala is.