It's my third trip to Mysore, India to practice Ashtanga Yoga with my teacher.
The street outside my window is noisy and busy. Not a minute goes by without someone honking the horn. A man selling herbs makes everyone on the street aware of his presence by yelling the same word over and over again in Kannada, the local language I haven’t manage to learn yet. The palm trees are dancing in the wind and the afternoon sun is slowly setting.
Another day in Mysore in the south of India is coming to an end. Another day of getting up at 2.30 in the morning, drinking hot water with cacao, taking a shower, sitting in silence and then grabbing my mat to walk down to the shala where I start to practice around 4am. It’s still dark outside when I leave, dogs are sleeping on the piles of sand along the street and the buzzing traffic hasn’t started yet.
The yoga shala of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, now run by his grandson R. Sharath Jois, is open six months a year and basically always full. The first thing I hear when I walk through the wooden doors is the sound of 80 people breathing. Everyone is focused on their own practice, working on different postures and struggling with different things. The energetic level is high and the room warms up quickly. We all follow the same system, the Ashtanga Yoga Method, even though we have our individual practices. Our differences form the dynamic in the room and our passion for this practice unites us every morning.
Today I felt tired, heavy and somewhat stiff, not as light and open as I did the day before. My mind wandered a few times and I had to remind myself to focus on the breath even more. Even though I do the same postures every day, it’s always changing. I know tomorrow will be different again. Without expecting anything, I am able to experience everything on my mat.
When I’m done with my practice the sun is just about to rise. The day is about to start when I walk out, still sweaty and sometimes a bit shaky from all the deep back bending. I drink a coconut or two outside and chat with my friends before I head back to my place. There is nothing better than coming back to a warm bed after practicing that early.
I have been traveling to Mysore to practice with my teacher at the source for the last three years. This is where his grandfather started teaching and this is where he’s keeping the tradition alive. The knowledge I receive here couldn’t be found in books or through videos on Internet. This is Parampara – knowledge based on direct and practical experience from teacher to student.
The asana practice here can be intense and the transformation many people go through even more intense. The ups and downs are all a part of the process; by doing a physical yoga practice you are facing your fears and struggles. For some it is more about dealing with their ego then anything else. By facing our struggles, acknowledging them, and working on them - we change - and we grow.
When I’m in Mysore I get up really early to practice, crazy early for a lot of people. I practice under the guidance of my teacher because it gives me something I don’t get elsewhere. Something deeper. When I am here I do my very best to stay present and soak in all this knowledge straight from the source.
Traveling to India is not only about the practice, soaking in the culture is also a big part of coming here. During my three trips I have been visiting temples and participated in beautiful ceremonies and prayers. I have chanted numerous of mantras with my fellow yoga practitioners and tried to learn Sanskrit. I have taken philosophy classes, one or two cooking classes and most important, I have been indulging in the colorful and tasty southern Indian food. The sunsets are magical, and if you learn how to live with the noisy traffic, life here is pretty amazing.
I wouldn’t change this experience for anything else right now. The man selling herbs is long gone, but the palm trees keep dancing outside my window. In a strange way the honking and the noises on the street below feels like home.