Question of the day: Mysore?

Last year (how fun is it to be able to say that about something from last week), I wrote this about the pull, or lack thereof, toward Mysore:

I recognize the spiritual home of the practice, and Guruji, and I’m certainly interested in the full immersion that a trip to Mysore offers. But — as we’ve written here before — we have Tim Miller, we have Jörgen Christiansson, and that sure seems like enough. It sure has been enough.

If Tim were to say, “You go,” though? Well, then all bets might change.

Well, Grimmly has gone one step further and really talked through the “go to Mysore, don’t go to Mysore” internal debate. It’s here, and he simply titled it, “Mysore?”

Now, Grimmly is a special case, which sounds somehow meaner or more pointed than I intend. I just mean that he’s a home practitioner, an unabashed one, without — as best as I know or can tell from just knowing him from his blog — a strong teacher / student relationship. So I can see why he wouldn’t be drawn into the Mysore environment. Still, I think he sums up the question well when it comes to asking, “Mysore?”:

The practice isn’t the same, the teacher isn’t the same, the room isn’t the same, Mysore certainly isn’t the same, hundreds of Ashtangi’s fill up the little town of Gokulum and an industry has built up around them.

Is it still a place for turning inwards, if we answer yes, then for how long, where’s the tipping point. Best to go perhaps before that tipping point is reached.

Strangely, one of his reasons for not going is my main draw: the hundreds of Ashtangis in town. Being surrounded by the practice, by talk of the practice, by finishing up your practice, getting something to eat and then going somewhere and stretching as you thumb through Patanjali — that’s what I crave. (Tim Miller’s trips to Mt. Shasta provide that, as did my week last year in Tulum with him. How I wish I were going again in a few weeks!)

It is why the Ashtanga Yoga Confluence is so, so attractive to me. I know I’ve written about this before: I want to be at the hotel, I want to be surrounded by the 348 other Ashtangis. All that is a sizable chunk of the reason I’m going.

And so the question: Mysore?

Here’s another answer. It’s from Kino MacGregor, who as we know is there now, but via the blog Yoga in the Dragon’s Den. Two key parts:

The decision to travel to Mysore to study Ashtanga Yoga with R. Sharath Jois at the K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute is something that marks a crucial turning point in an Ashtanga Yoga student’s journey into the heart of the method. It is not something that students should force themselves to do, but something that comes as a yearning from deep within. Anyone seeking to teach Ashtanga Yoga certainly would benefit from spending time in Mysore, the birthplace of Ashtanga Yoga.

That I get. I understand that. Kino further addresses, to an extent, the role of the certified and authorized teachers. They are the “them” in the following:

Yet practicing with them does not give you the experience of traveling to India, immersing yourself in the culture, the environment and the practice in the same way. Not only does the city of Mysore itself have a certain magic to it but there is also a deep connection to the lineage that happens when you practice in the home of Ashtanga Yoga at its source, at the K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute. It is hard to put into words what happens when give your heart to the experience of the practice here in Mysore under Sharath’s guidance, but it is precisely because of that slightly ineffable experience that I return. Not everyone needs to go to Mysore but anyone who feels an attraction to the experience and craves a deeper dimension of the Ashtanga Yoga method would do well to place their doubt aside, buy an airline ticket to India and come practice.

Again, what isn’t to understand?

Still… I hesitate, I pause, I hem, I haw. Until I get to this: Perhaps, really, my question is “What instead of Mysore?”

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

7 thoughts on “Question of the day: Mysore?”

  1. Just read another interesting take on this by Karen Breneman, blogging from Mysore and posted 10 minutes ago.

    ‘The deeper I go into this practice, the more personally compelled I am to engage with the roots, religion, the local culture, and folklore; yet I am also keenly aware of the contrivance. I am a white girl from Florida, raised on Cheetos and Gn’R. How can I preserve my authenticity, yet sincerely develop within the adopted culture of Ashtanga Yoga practice? Is it possible to be anything but a tourist here in Mysore now in 2012?’

    http://openyourfeet.tumblr.com/post/15338128955/refused-to-be-born

    I’m not so sure I’m such a ‘special case’, as Ashtanga grows, more and more books and DVD’s out the surely there are ever more home Ashtangi’s practicing alone and without the teacher/student relationship. I wonder if Mysore is more or less relevant to them, I suspect more. If your practicing alone and without the ashtanga community, being surrounded by other ashtangi’s might be attractive. That said, a lot of the dogma surrounding the practice, any practice, might not seem to apply to you personally.

    1. Thanks for keeping the convo going here and elsewhere.

      I do know other home practitioners, but they typically seem to be ones who wish they had some place to practice or the time or the money. I think your embracing of practicing on your own is a bit “special,” in the nicest sense of the word. 🙂

      I suspect the Confluence will act as a bit of a trial run for me when it comes to the gathering of Ashtangis — maybe it will feel like Club Mysore, and I won’t like that.

      It also does come down to having a “source” fairly near me in Tim Miller. Kino addresses that, but I think she may underplay how much of the intangibles of the practice teachers like Tim convey.

  2. Hullo Bobby & Steve ( thanks for the visit ),
    If you’ve never physically practiced with a great teacher , then you won’t know / experience / learn what receiving an incredible adjustment is like . That is only one reason to have a Primary Teacher.
    Any tradition has its locus of pilgrimage , Mysore being the source for Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga.
    This is the attraction of this practice for me , the tradition & parampara.
    Hari OM tat Sat.
    Pedro

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