Wednesday, March 10, 2004
IT'S THE YOGA, STUPID
It occurred to me that I haven't been writing much about the yoga -- or at least the yoga that takes place inside of the Ashtanga Yoga Niyalam.....
We practice six days a week -- every day but Saturdays and full and new moons (and the occasional holiday). Women also take off three days for "ladies holiday" -- or at least we're supposed to (many don't, and hence defile the shala). Fridays and Sundays are led classes, which means that Guruji or Sharath calls out the poses and we practice together in unison. As in the old days everyone does primary series on Friday but this time it's led: there are two sessions -- at 5:30 and 6:30. The place has superhigh ceilings and marble floors covered with the most colorful rugs you could imagine (except for the last row, which is hard, cold marble); it fits 60-odd students and mat space is at a premium on Fridays. And the 5:30 class actually starts around 5:15 (Guruji's clock is fast). Most people find that out the hard way (I remember Lino and I sitting in the lobby at 5:20 early last month, looking at Guruji leading everyone through sun salutations, looking at our watches, and catching each other's eye and shrugging).
On Sundays there are two led primary classes -- at 5:15 and 6:30 -- and led intermediate series for the more advanced at 7:30-ish, so mat space is at less of a premium (ie you can come at 5 and not get yelled at by a senior practitioner for taking their spot). As on Fridays, Guruji leads the first class and Sharath leads the second (Guruji does the opening and closing chants for both). Sharath's count is a little more leisurely than Guruji's, which is rapidfire, and he busts us on bad habits ("Don't cheat" in Utplutitih, "Don't do halasana before shoulderstand," etc.). I've been going to him on Fridays and Guruji on Sunday's. It's a really nice mix.
The rest of the week is Mysore-style (duh) self-practice. On Monday I arrived a few minutes later than normal and did not recognize a single person waiting in the lobby. When a spot opens up they call "one more" and the next person -- often there's confusion about who's next -- goes in. I had just gotten there and Sharath called "one more" and looked at the person coming in and said, "No. Old student." (We're still not sure if this means someone who's been coming to Mysore for awhile, and they recognize, or someone who's been there a few weeks). Whatever the case I poked my head in and he said, "Cara, you come." I came and practiced and it went well and Sharath helped me in pasansana and then said, almost under his breath, "Kraunchasana" (2nd pose in intermediate series, sitting with one leg beside you and the other straight up, chin to shin). I did it on the right and he said, "Straight leg. Look up" and that was that. (I'm so lopsided -- the other side is a joke -- my leg goes way out to the side and won't straighten and my chin is nowhere near the shin). Then it was time for backbends and dropbacks, and this time around I came up with finesse (as opposed to like a Jack-in-the-Box) a couple of times, and saw the light at the tend of the tunnel.
Afterwards Sharath gave me his usual six-second foward bend adjustment (he doesn't have time for more as he's basically choreographing the whole thing until about 8 or so, when he and Saraswati leave to teach other classes and Guruji has the whole place to himself and, rather impressively for an 89 year old, does dropbacks and other adjustments on student after student....When Guruji does dropbacks, he usually gives you a *huge* -- if you're female -- hug after the final one, and it is a genuine and giving hug (sometimes followed by a nonsexual and somehow reassuring pat on the arse). Then HE says "Good, good" and "Thankyouverymuch" and helps you in the counterpose/forward bend. He puts his whole weight on you, and stays for some time -- wow. And while getting up he thanks you AGAIN).
So the self practice beings at 5:30 (not 4:30, as in the old place) and mats are just a few inches apart ........and can I just say not everyone washes theirs? How many times have I put my chin to the floor in Upavista Konasana (wide legged sitting forward bend) and smelled *some of the worst odors of my life*. Something like used toilet paper crossed with wet yoga clothes left in the back seat of the car all summer and a dirty window screen. HELLO! Wash the thing once in awhile! What else do you have to do all day??? Also you are always hitting or kicking or bumping into this or that person and usually the thing to do is say "Sorry" and/or "Are you OK?" depending on how hard you hit -- but not everyone seems to understand that. Maybe it's a cultural thing.
In any case there are always some guys on the stage, doing their closing sequence. For a couple of weeks I thought, wow, they want everyone to see their practice. Then I learned that there's very little space in the men's finishing/changing room -- a sort of locker-room-cum-bare-bones-yoga studio, where you go to do shoulderstand, headstand and padamasana after finishing your regular practice and the backbending sequence. Apparently the men's mats are rightnexttoeachother in that room. But people seem to think the ladies closing room, which is much bigger, is Montana during the Gold Rush -- everyone is homesteading, staking out the biggest parcel and making sure they get more space than everyone else, which means that not everyone fits. The other day I had to stand there panting and sweating after backbends, looking at the six inches of space between each mat and watching ladies snore in savasana. After about 15 minutes of this I had an idea. I went to the bathroom, opened the door and slammed it shut, hard. It worked. One of the homesteaders awakened from her slumber and oh-so-slowly moved her limbs, rolled onto her side, got up, and, in super slow motion, rolled up her mat into a perfect scroll. Finally, it was my turn to rest.