The Question of Mysore, Part Two

It's a really, really big place.

When I first started practicing Ashtanga, Pattabhi Jois went on his last American tour. I didn’t go.

I know, I know. But I was new to the practice, and ignorant (still ignorant actually, but less new). I didn’t think I was “good” enough to go.

Now, I’ll never practice with Guruji. But, all the same, the question lingers–as Steve’s now asking it: Should we go to Mysore?

I search my self and the answer always comes back the same: No.

A lot of practitioners seem to be wrestling with the question from the point of view that going to Mysore at this point makes them feel like “Ashtanga tourists,” which, of course, is true. But “tourist” isn’t a dirty word. I’ve been a tourist frequently in my life. It’s one of the benefits of having disposable wealth. I live in Los Angeles. I see tourists all the time. It helps me to see my city as a destination, as something worth savoring. (It’s 80 degrees here today, by the way, and there are waves!)

So if I’m going to be a tourist, if I’m going to spend all those extra resources to go, what am I going to “tour”? I have studied closely with my guru, Tim Miller. He’s my teacher, and I trust him to teach me the right way, to dispel the darkness. To go to Mysore to practice, I’m afraid, has no appeal for me; my teacher isn’t there.

But to see the country where Sanskrit was born, the source of the Upanishads, the Mahabharata, and of course the Yoga Sutras–now that has great appeal. I’m a literary tourist, really. To see the land that gave rise to the philosophy that gave rise to the Buddha and the wrenchingly poetic Heart Sutra. That’s got pull.

A literary tourist. Not shocking, really. When I stood for the first time in Keats House, in a little neighborhood in Hamptead Heath, London, I wept. This was the room where “Ode to a Nightingale” was written, I thought. (John Keats is also a guru of mine.) Life-changing.

I’m sure that Mysore is a, as you so often hear, “life-changing experience” for those drawn to it. For me, so is the Ashtanga Yoga Center, every time I go.

So when the very different question is asked in our house, Should we go to India? the answer to that is, always, Yes! When?

Posted by Bobbie

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

2 thoughts on “The Question of Mysore, Part Two”

  1. I ask myself the same question so often as you have. Up to this point, I still have my doubts and now more than before since K. P. Jois passed away and Sharath is traveling more frecuently to the USA to teach.
    I have travel to India before and I agree with you about being a tourist in India. Is something totally worth it and if you happen to be close to the Shala then a few visits will be very valuable.
    At the same time, I feel very lucky to have awesome ashtanga teachers not that far away. It helps when you don’t have to plan so much and spend so much to benefit from this traditional practice.
    Anyways, be prepare, sooner or later, you might be unrolling your mat at the Shala in Mysore with a cool “yogi touristic smile”. Thanks for sharing!

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