March 25, 2012

So You Want to Practice Ashtanga Yoga in Mysore. ~ Cara Brostrom


Photo credit: Cara Brostrom

Five reasons to go to Mysore & five reasons you’re better off staying at home

Considering a trip to India to practice ashtanga yoga at the Shri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute (KPJAYI) in Mysore?

Five signs you’re ready to go to Mysore:

 1. You love the practice.

Ashtanga yoga changed your life. Your body changed. Your mind changed. You stopped drinking. You began to eat better. Your relationships evolved. Your sex life improved. You were promoted. You got a book deal. You won the lottery. You don’t even know how all of this was possible, but when the alarm goes off at 5:00 a.m. you happily trundle off in the dark with your yoga mat to embark on what is often the most challenging two hours of your day. Because you love the practice. And love is a good enough reason to say yes to anything in your life.

2. You like to be told what to do.

Check your ego at the door, because you are about to be no big deal. You’ll be told what time to come to the yoga shala (from Sanskrit, house of yoga), which could be anywhere between 4:30 a.m and noon. When you arrive, you’ll be told when you may enter the practice room. Then you’ll be told where to put your mat. When you reach an asana (yoga pose) with which you demonstrate some level of difficulty, you’ll be told to stop. At which point you’ll roll up your yoga mat and head to the changing rooms to take your savasana, because that’s what you’ve been told to do. And all of this is just fine with you.

3. You’re ready to face up to some of the less desirable aspects of your ego.

Remember that ego you left at the door? Its still there. Even if you think you’ve got a pretty good handle on things in the ego-department, you’ll be tested. The yoga will challenge you. The culture will challenge you. People will challenge you. They’ll elbow you on your way into the shala for a packed six a.m led Primary Series. And you might surprise yourself and elbow them back.

4. You’re looking for a spiritual experience.

There’s nothing like a harrowing ride down a busy highway in the back of a rickshaw to convince you to utter your first prayer. And when you arrive at your destination in one piece, you might just consider that there is a god, and he or she is in India turning chaos into some sort of intelligent system. And if you’re still paying attention, some of this new found spirituality will find its way onto your yoga mat. It might just be a spiritual experience.

5. You can’t get enough coconut water. 

Photo credit: Cara Brostrom

This list would be incomplete without acknowledging the abundance of coconut water consumed by the average ashtangi practicing yoga in Mysore. You’ll pass by the coconut stand everyday, and if not they’ll come find you at the yoga shala. A machete-wielding entrepreneur will lob off the top of a young green coconut, stick a straw in it and hand it over. And for 12 rupees (about 25 cents) how could you resist?

Drinking straight from a coconut everyday after your yoga practice didn’t get you excited? Read on.

Five reasons you’re better off staying at home: 

1. You enjoy drinking water straight from the tap.

Its a germy world out there. Running your toothbrush under the faucet will give you second thoughts. The food you eat will have questionable effects on your digestive organs. It is likely you will have diarrhea for some or most of your time in Mysore. It will be unpleasant, but survivable.

2. You have a job. 

And you want to keep it. Spend a few months in Mysore, and you probably won’t want it anyways.

3. You love getting lots of attention from your yoga teacher.

With several hundreds of ashtangis flocking to the shala during teaching season, there just isn’t much personal attention to go around. Unless you’re willing to resort to some serious attention grabbing techniques (body paint? pom-poms?) you’ll be on your own for the most part. Which for the inquisitive student can be glorious. Or not, if you’re not into that sort of thing.

 4. You’re psyched to work on your six-pack.

If you’re psyched on getting a headstart on your bikini body, you’re missing the point. Stay home, save some time and money, and go to the gym.

5. You want to be authorized.

It is possible to be authorized by the Jois family to teach ashtanga yoga, though the process is vaguely defined and ever-evolving. You may be a long-time practitioner and teacher, but going to Mysore for the first time with the intention of getting authorized will only get in the way of what could be a subtle and personal transformational experience. If you go, go without expectations.

Cara Brostrom is a photographer, a blogger, a yoga teacher and an ashtangi. She’s convinced she can save the world by filling it with pretty pictures, and is grateful to fill her days photographing her three favorite things: yoga, food, and her cat. A self-professed ashtangi 4 life, she went to Mysore without any better reason than to practice ashtanga yoga, was not authorized, and returned home to continue teaching ashtanga out of a slightly obsessive but totally sincere love of the practice. Born in the Midwest, schooled in the United Kingdom, she now lives in beautiful Boston, Massachusetts where she practices the fine art of blissful living. You can view photos from India, yoga photography and yes even pictures of her cat at carabrostrom.com.


Editor Tanya L. Markul

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