Since everyone is talking/writing/harumphing about the new rule in Mysore that one needs to have practiced with a certified or authorized teacher for two months before going there, I feel compelled to put in my two cents. More so, we continue to welcome yours.
Online, the reactions range from what I’d describe as “understanding” — based on the vast numbers, something that to be altered — to criticisms that this makes Ashtanga little more than a “pyramid” scheme: Mysore charges teachers to get authorized, those teachers send their students to Mysore, the system closes off. (You can see Bobbie’s thoughts here.)
Most seem to suggest a certain sadness. And mine is pretty much of that vein. It comes down to this:
This rule shuts the door, rather than swing it wide open.
That strikes me as wrong, and it strikes me — without knowing any of the exact rationale beyond being able to guess it has to do with the crowds — as opposite to how things were. I’ve heard stories of Western students showing up in Mysore and it being during a Hindu holiday. So Pattabhi Jois had to inform them the shala was closed two weeks. (I think this story was told at one of the first two Confluences.) When they returned the next day, things had been changed. The shala was just closed for a week. The next day, why, it turns out the shala just had to be closed for two days and it was time to practice.
And of course none of those students had practiced with an authorized teacher. There weren’t any.
I recognize the old days of maybe eight students and Pattabhi Jois’ being able to welcome any and all in are gone. But the spirit of that — of wanting more students to practice, to discover Ashtanga and what it teaches us about ourselves — thrives among the teachers I like and respect. This feels like it runs counter to that. (I know that new students apparently can still go to practice with Saraswati. That doesn’t change that the main draw, the one who can bestow authorizations, etc., is off limits to them.)
Perhaps my most construction response is: a fuller explanation from Mysore would be a smart thing. People guessing and wondering will only allow the most extreme ideas to fester. Those who have negative opinions about how Mysore is being run easily can find fodder in this rule.
I have one further reaction, too, which isn’t something I’ve seen yet. I have made it clear throughout our time having this blog that I have no intention of going to Mysore. Hunkering down in one part of India, surrounded by hundreds of other Westerners, just is not how I wanted to experience that country and explore the underpinnings of the yoga I practice. (See our two Yatras as an alternative way to do so.)
But I also never expected to go because I doubted seriously I’d get much out of it. My practice, physically, is always going to be limited. My practice is to seek out the depths in it I can and also to find in its resources that help keep me strong and healthy, both inside and out. It isn’t about Third, Fourth or Fifth series.
In my mind — and reinforced via social media and a circle of the authorized and certified teachers who are mostly younger than I am — Mysore wouldn’t welcome me. Six, seven years of practice and still difficulty in reaching my toes? Clearly, I’d just be taking up space better used by some bendy Third Series practitioner.
This new rule pretty much codifies that perspective for me. It is an unwelcome sign. Mysore now feels more like an exclusive place fit only for the advanced. We mere mortals need not apply.
The good news is, we mere mortals can continue going about our practices as we have been.
Posted by Steve