My friend Michelle is in Mysore, part of a round the world Ashtanga trip, that started if I'm no mistaken in Portugal for an Ashtanga and surfing retreat, moved on to Mysore, she's there now for another week or two, next stop is the Bali conference and then I seem to remember it's on over to the States.
I've been enjoying Michelle's recent posts over on her blog Ashtangi Angel (http://ashtangiangel.blogspot.co.uk), about studying in Mysore at somewhere other than at KPJAI, I asked her if she would be interested in writing a guest post to highlight some of the other options available.
Thank you Michelle for sharing this post.
'Much More to Mysore' by Michelle
I pull up outside the unassuming house, park my scooter and enter through the garage door. I tentatively walk past tens of pairs of shoes and sandals scattered across the floor, enter the house, creep past a blanket draped body asleep on what can only be described as a coffee table and up the stairs to the shala. A few taps on the door and I'm greeted by Vijay, he puts his hand to his heart and welcomes me by name. I tip-toe around the 5:15am students and into to the changing room where I wait until the next session is called.
The room is hot and sweaty, the windows tightly closed and rolled up mats sit at the foot of the doors sealing the room from any undesirable cold air. I can see steam rising from the glistening bodies. Vijay kneels in front of us, inviting us to chant 'Vande Gurunam'. We begin.
There appears to be a misconception amongst some yoga practitioners that coming to Mysore means coming to study at KPJAYI (http://kpjayi.org), but that just isn't true. And unfortunately many people are put off coming to study in Mysore, worrying that their practice is somehow under-par. This makes me extremely sad! The truth is that there are tens of yoga teachers in Mysore, teaching all types of yoga. There's literally a style of yoga for everyone. In my group of friends one friend was studying classical hatha yoga at Yoga Dharshanam (http://www.yogadarshanam.org), another was a beginner studying with Saraswati, one at Mystic School (http://mysoreyoga.in), one at the Mandala (www.ashtanga.org) and one with Vinay Kumar (www.pranavashya.com). I study with Vinay's younger brother Vijay at Ashtanga Saadhana (www.ashtangasaadhana.com). Such a great mix of people and everyone has something great to say about their respective teachers.
This year saw an unprecedented number of applications to study at KPJAYI. Having planned this trip for 18 months I was pretty shocked when registration to study at KPJAYI was closed within just two days...and I was too late! I think every month now until February is already full (and the shala closes in March), which means that unless you plan strategically, you may be disappointed! So, fear not - you can study in Mysore! Thankfully it is not all about KPJAYI, although some people here do believe otherwise!
The Kumar brothers are Mysore's best kept secrets. Patient, supportive, encouraging, empathetic and extremely humble, you cannot help but love them. Vijay quietly pushes you but without you noticing, within a matter of weeks I've seen students transform their practices and progress from primary to second, second to third, drop back, stand up, jump back, jump through. There's no rushing in this class either, 5 As, 5 Bs (old-skool), 5 backbends, 5 drop-backs (and come-ups), enough to finish you off, but wait - then there's the 25 breaths in sarvangasana, 10 in the fish variations, 25 in headstand and 10 half way, 25 each in the 3 lotuses.... If you thought you had stamina, think again!
But be careful what you wish for, Vijay will have you catching your heels if you walk in too close and splitting your practice before you can say "eka pada sirs...."! There is also an element of 'tough love' involved, he'll crouch beside you and let you bump your head on the mat as you drop back to laghu vajrasana, only to then compassionately help you to come back up and hold your pelvis together while the rest of you falls apart! "You do" is the order of the day, if you can't do something on your own first off, he'll show you how and then help you until you can. I get 4 assists in primary - Paschi, Janu A, Marichi A, Bhuja and in second, Pasasana (I've eaten too many banana, cinnamon and chocolate pancakes), Laghu, Supta Vaj and Eka Pada. In just 7 weeks he knows my practice inside out...what I can do, what I can't do... to whit; what I say I can't do but can actually do. Sometimes I think he knows more about me from watching my practice than I know about myself...or care to know... my weaknesses, my short-cuts, my languor... and what to do to overcome these.
"Saadhana"loosely translated means a way to God... and Vijay, well he's a true sadhaka, one who skillfully applies mind and intelligence in practice towards a spiritual goal. Vijay can help illuminate the way, your path, but only if you give yourself completely.
I'm stirred from a restful savasana by Vijay's sweet voice "Slowly wake up..." I gaze at the clock, where have the past 2 hours gone? We chant the closing prayer and bow towards the floor. As we come up one by one Vijay catches our eye and nods, a humble and respectful acknowledgement, of gratitude and love to each of his students. I stumble out of the room, grab my bag and leave, but not without a final bow towards my teacher and a silent 'namaste'.
More posts on studying in Mysore from Michelle's blog Ashtangi Angel
NB: Another option is BNS Iyengar (http://bnsiyengar.org/home.html), who Michelle mentioned was out of the country when she arrived