Mysore report: Surrounded by friends and teachers

For all our protests about not prioritizing asana while we are at the Confluence, it’s great being in the Mysore room with so many accomplished teachers (and, they would all emphasize, students — meaning them, not us, to be clear).

I think this is a complete list of the teachers who assisted us: Tim Miller, Leigha Nicole, Dena Kingsberg, Noah Williams, David Swenson, Dominic Corigliano, Johnny Smith and Jack Wiseman.

They were getting around, in other words. And this was the second of the two Mysore classes. (We were up front, so I did notice a few coffee breaks. But that’s traditional, if you know your Guruji stories.)

We practiced next to our friends, Thad and Frances (of LilaBlog), and my takeaway now — I’ll have to think through the change to updog that Dena kindly demonstrated for me, and I’m wondering if Tim’s adjustments are getting stronger because there’s been a teeny bit of additional flexibility in my practice or if he’s just over waiting for me to loosen up — is more on the emotional level.

Those who have practiced at home, alone (or along wherever), for lengthy periods of time know what that isolation of practice is like. It can either be the most introspective and focused, with no distractions, or it can be full of distractions — cell phones, Internet, knocks on the door. It is what it is.

And then there’s practicing in a Mysore room, but still with a certain aloneness. An interesting dynamic I’ve found at the shalas where we have practiced is there can be a degree of interaction with people that’s solely and only at 6 a.m. and is not much more than a “good morning.” You’re all there to do your practice. That, too, is what it is.

And then there’s practice with friends. It’s easier to gather energy and inspiration (I find), there can be moments of levity — Nancy Gilgoff did describe the earlier years of Ashtanga practice as seeming more fun than it may be now — and there can be a gathering together, even as each person walks their own practice path.

I imagine that the earlier years, the ’70s and early ’80s, when five or six students from the West were studying with Guruji, had that dynamic. (We’re witnessing it now, 30 years later.) That was part of the lightning in the bottle that those times captured and harnessed. It would be a wonder to take practice for a few months in such an environment, surrounded by good friends, under a knowledgeable and compassionate hand. (Mt. Shasta with Tim is like this. Oh, and I know that conflicts would arise at times. It wouldn’t all be sunshine and light.)

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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