Tuesday, January 09, 2007


There are so many people studying in Mysore right now that the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute has issued an ID card with a start time to each student.

Some background:

Students have different start times in Mysore-sytle classes because they practice a memorized sequence of poses at their own pace. The teacher adjusts them in the poses they find difficult and usually helps with backbending and dropbacks. In the new shala there are led classes on Fridays and Sundays, when everyone starts at the same time and is led through the sequence by one teacher, who stands in front and yells out the poses. It looks something like a massive synchronized cattle call-cum-drunken ballet. There is far less strain on the teachers in a led class because very little individual attention is given to the students.

When I first went to Mysore in 2002 there were no led classes. We did Mysore-style self-practice six days a week in a room that held just 12 people, and received loads of individual attention. We also walked a kilometer barefoot in the snow to get there, and made our own mats out of jute.

Now far more students are coming to Mysore. The new shala holds upwards of 80 people, yet the registration process is done the same way as before; there is no minimum requirement. Anyone who wants to come sends a letter announcing their decision a month before they plan to arrive. I don't think these letters are ever recorded, let alone opened. When the prospective student doesn't hear back, it means they can come.

Sometimes they arrive only to find that the family has embarked on a tour or safari or some such thing, and they learn their first India Lesson: expect the unexpected.

Sadly this usually must be learned over and over and over again.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:47 AM

    When an esoteric thing like this 'gotta go to Mysore to the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute' deal goes mainstream, it loses just about all of it's allure.

    It just isn't that special anymore.

    I don't care much for Bikram, but at least you know, up front, it's all about the $money.

    What would Ganesha have to say about this issue?