Sunday, 12 July 2015

UPDATED: New Rule - To study with Sharath in Mysore you have to have been with an Authorised teacher min. 2 months

People don't seem to see this as a big deal but it feels like the end of an era. Perhaps it was naive of me but I'd held on to the idea that the Mysore Shala and Sharath, as Pattabhi Jois' grandson, represented everyone who practiced Ashtanga, whatever period and with whomever they began their practice be that in a shala or in their bedrooms with Yoga Mala, as well as whatever form their practice happened to take. I'd hoped all would be welcome. I guess we still have Manju Pattabhi Jois​ for that and hopefully Saraswati. 

I can't help but feel that Sri K Pattabhi Jois would have been as saddened by this as I am. 


Home Ashtangi's may well feel a bit excluded by the new rule change.


Well, we all knew he would have to do something about the numbers visiting Mysore.... but this?


"4. Students who are applying for Sharath’s class must have studied at least 2 months with any of our Certified/Authorized teachers( mentioned in our teachers list) before coming to study with Sharath in Mysore Shala."

I'd heard sometime ago that this rule change was proposed and expected, I've held off until it became an actuality to comment on it. Although Mysore is not high on my own priorities writing this blog for so many years has exposed me to many stories of practitioners for whom this change will be of serious concern. 

Ashtanga tourism has been referred to as justification for supporting the rule change, a short while ago the same writers were insisting that visiting Mysore was a pilgrimage and that ever Ashtanga practitioner, if they considered themselves serious about their practice should make the effort to practice there, Sharath too from Conference notes seems to have been of that opinion (note: I stress several times in this post that's it's still currently possible to come practice with the excellent Saraswati as a beginner and without having practiced with an authorised instructor).

It's also been stated that Sharath just doesn't have the time to spend with beginners and yet, a short while ago when commenting on the numbers in the shala and how little attention students are able to receive from Sharath, considering the the trouble and expense of visiting the shala, many have glowingly referred to how Sharath will spend time with a beginner and besides, these authorised teachers will explain, it's about the experience rather than the adjustments, the pilgrimage argument.

Many who happen to fit this new criteria will no doubt welcome it as meaning less competition for places and thus improving their chances of being accepted into the shala for their preferred dates.



I'm not convinced this was the best response, surely there were other options (see links at the end of the post). 


“No one owns Yoga,” said Sharath Rangaswamy, the grandson of the late Ashtanga Yoga guru, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.
Sharath paused comfortably, sanguinely sitting in lotus. He looked around the room, and then continued, “You don’t own it. I don’t own it. No one owns it.” LA Yoga

"No one owns Yoga...."  and yet Ashtanga practice feels a little more controlled this morning, a little more corporate. Only those who visit Mysore and practice with Sharath for an extended period may become authorised and only those who have studied with an authorised teacher may practice with Sharath in Mysore.

Bit of a bugger of course if you have no authorised teacher near you but are a committed Ashtanga practitioner and have been dreaming of making the trip.

I know of several students who practice at home and travel down to London to practice at the weekends with authorised teachers, sure there are similar stories for all the major towns/cities with Ashtanga schools, people who visit when and where they can.

Does the odd weekend, when you can manage it, over a two month period count or do you need to show evidence of two, month long six-day a week passes, it's a little unclear, slightly vague.

How long before it becomes six months or a year or six months within the last year?

It's been mentioned that Sharath is considering asking for a letter of recommendation from an authorized or certified teacher, this however isn't currently in the new guidelines and may just be an option under consideration.

Some teachers may welcome this as they may prefer it to not knowing who is using their name. 

However, should the 'covering letter of recommendation' be introduced some time in the future we may find some teaches reluctant to give letters to students they feel may reflect poorly on their own teaching and reputation, some students progress more slowly than others, some have a more.... independent temperament, some may prefer to split their practice between home and the shala which some teachers may see as lack of commitment. Some might also end up charging for the letter or introducing policies where they only give letters to students who buy monthly passes, the letter could be promotional but we'll worry about this if and when it's introduced. 

Before his passing BKS Iyengar asked for students to have practiced with one of his authorised teachers for 8 years. 

Think mums juggling kids, work and home,....some can miraculously swing it if they have a shala nearby and a very understanding and helpful partner but then of course chances are they might not have the opportunity to visit Mysore till the kids are grown anyway. But then chances are they might not be able to swing a full month in Mysore, Saraswati is an option and who better to take you back to scratch.

Saraswati - see Bio at end of post

See the quotes from the end of the post lifted from Ashtangaparampara, recently authorised and certified teachers who went to Mysore without having practiced with authorised teachers.

And what if your teacher is no longer on the list  ( I just checked somebody who was on and then off is back on again and somebody else now off, one can't keep up) or never on the list in the first place, or never bothered to become or seek authorisation ( Manju seems less concerned about authorisation, you learn the practice and then pass it along. I've never liked the idea of authorisation personally, my understanding was that it was not really Pattabhi Jois' idea/intention either but was somewhat pressed upon him by certain early teachers). And several very senior and long term Ashtanga teachers are not on that list although on the original Ashtanga.com list. Not naming names but it's ridiculous to think that somebody who has studied for years with a senior teacher who studied with Pattabhi Jois for decades isn't invited/welcome.

Is Manju on the KPJAYI List ? (Yes)

I've been asked many times over the years why I have never been to Mysore to study with Sharath, never quite sure why exactly so the answer has probably changed each time. Now at least I have an easy answer, I haven't studied with an Authorised teacher for the required two months so am not welcome in the big shala ( it's currently still possible to study with Saraswati however).

Typically, around this time of year I've been thinking about making the trip (it was Krishnamacharya's city after all), but to practice with Saraswati rather than Sharath ( no slight on Sharath but I'm unlikely to stay for the full month, prefer a small shala and from interviews and I have a soft spot for Saraswati) as far as I can tell this proscription only applies if you want to practice with Sharath (for now at least).

Saraswati

Unfortunately it may mean that demand to practice with Saraswati may go up and it might be harder to get into her shala, as demand increases we may lose the possibility of visiting her for less than a month.

We really must try and persuade Manju to stay in one place somewhere for a month.

No doubt the concern over this will lead to it being changed and more enlightened solution to the numbers applying will be sought, my preferred option is the visiting no more than once every two years idea.

Somebody needs to set up a petition perhaps.

Of course there are several other excellent options for practicing Ashtanga in Mysore, I've featured several here in the past and will ad some post links later.

I also strongly recommend you take one (or more) of Pattabhi Jois' son Manju's workshops/intensives/teacher trainings (http://www.manjujois.com/). I've been to two of his TTs and a workshop day and desperately wish I could make it to his Intermediate TT in Athens later this year too, as well as asana you'll get to practice pranayama with him and chanting too ( even if you sit next to somebody loud and just open and close your mouth - did that the first time but was into it by the 2nd). It's old school, just like his father taught him and Saraswati back in the 50s.

As well as attending one of Manju's workshops you could also 'Keep calm, grab a frappe and visit Greece).





Or go spend a month or two with Kristina Karitinou in her summer shala in Rethymno Crete and have her work your asana off.

http://www.yogapractice.gr/




The video below was filmed while I was visiting Kristina's shala for Manju's teacher training (that's me in the bandana) 2013, Hyon Gak Sunim, a monk in the Korean Zen tradition was also there and offering chanting in the morning at Kristina's house.

*

Just home from work, now that's out of my system I'm jumping on the mat for  my 1/2 primary 1/2 Intermediate.



Appendix


I'm reminded of a couple of the Ashtangaparampara interviews where some of the interviewees talk about being taken through the whole sequence from scratch by Sharath.....  here are just the first couple I found before I had to run out for dinner.

Feel free to add your own story of visiting the Mysore Shala with less than the new criteria in the comments.


"It wasn't until I made it to Mysore, India, in February of 2004, that I had the full experience of practicing in an actual “Mysore class.” So my first real Ashtanga teachers were Guruji and Sharath. I guess I’m one of the fortunate ones to have made my way to Mysore early on in my experience with the practice. I showed up in Mysore with very little prior teachings or influences, so it was easy for me to take in every little bit of detailed information I received from Guruji or Sharath without question." Ashtanga parampara - Harmony Lichty Certified Ashtanga teacher



"I decided to try an Ashtanga yoga class in my local gym in Dublin... I was very fortunate that I went straight to Mysore to learn the practice directly from Guruji and Sharath."
Ashtanga parampara Gillian Mooney. Authorised Ashtanga teacher.



"Going to Mysore as a complete beginner was the best decision I could have made." AshtangaParampara. Caroline Simpson Authorised.



"Did you learn the Mysore practice at KPJAYI when you visited India with your daughter? Can you please share that experience with us? 

"I can honestly say I learned the Mysore practice in depth. I was very green and stiff, so stiff I could not do Marychyasana D without assistance, the second day practice, I got tapped on the shoulder, and told to go upstairs, where we did finishing postures. I remember tossing and turning all night wondering if I should go home, my ego was bruised. I stayed. That was in 1999, when Guruji and Sharath were in the small shala, sometime after that Guruji would sit in front of me and take me through the rest of the postures of primary series, I was meant to stay a month, and stayed for 7 weeks, and have been back 11 times. It is something one never forgets, his consistency, compassion, love, and energy. What more can one say!" 
Ashtangaparampara . Lynne Pinette. Authorised


"I learned Ashtanga at a non-traditional studio, where we had one Mysore style class per week and all the other classes were taught as Led Primary. My initial trip to KPJAYI was literally my first foray into daily Mysore practice - what a way to start! But it was the getting there that I think really had the largest impact. When I went to Mysore I only knew one person who had gone before. She was incredibly helpful and got me connected so that I could set up accommodation and taxis, but otherwise, I was kind of flying blind. I had no idea what to expect".
Ashtangaparampara. Anna Muzzin Authorised


"I went to Mysore in 2004, where I met Guruji and my current Ayurvedic doctor (Anil Kumar). At that time, I was still not strong enough to practice the recommended 5-6 days a week. We decided I would practice 4 days a week. Guruji told me which days to practice and he and Sharath began teaching me second series within a week or two. They taught me the series pretty quickly. It was shocking, as I had only practiced primary up to that point."
Ashtangaparampara. Magnolia Zuniga Authorised


These are just relatively recent stories, revisiting the GURUJI book will remind us of many several stories of students coming to Pattabhi Jois either as complete beginners or from other disciplines and teachers. This is the history of the practice. 

Final thoughts

“No one owns Yoga,” said Sharath Rangaswamy, the grandson of the late Ashtanga Yoga guru, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.
Sharath paused comfortably, sanguinely sitting in lotus. He looked around the room, and then continued, “You don’t own it. I don’t own it. No one owns it.” LA Yoga


No one owns Yoga....  and yet Ashtanga practice feels a little more controlled this morning, a little more corporate. Only those who visit Mysore and practice with Sharath for an extended period may become authorised and only those who have studied with an authorised teacher may practice with Sharath in Mysore.




Some other viewpoints







Alternative solutions ?

My personal favourite solution to increased numbers applying to practice with Sharath in the big Shala in  Mysore is to restrict those visits  to once every two years, problem solved.



See also perhaps my earlier posts on the board of trustees and Ashtanga training centres idea (perhaps headed by certified teachers, why certify them otherwise).

Ashtanga Certification: Includes a list of Certified Ashtanga teachers* - Manju in Athens 2015 and a new Ashtanga Parampara interview

Turning Ashtanga's KPJYI into KPJYF, a charitable foundation?

Consistency and compatibility: A response to criticisms of Ashtanga Vinyasa PLUS a 'lost' photo and Surynamaskara and pranayama in puja


*


SARASWATI

Saraswathi was born in 1941 and practiced steadily under the guidance of her father Sri K. Pattabhi Jois from the age of 10-22.

She was the first girl ever to be permitted admission to the Sanskrit College in Mysore where she studied the basic Sanskrit works and learnt yoga from her father.

At the age of twenty-two her mother fell really sick and got admitted to hospital. Saraswati naturally took on all household responsibilities and cared for her mother as well as her younger brothers. Her asana practice suffered a little, but she grew strong in other areas of Yoga.

At the age of twenty-six she got married and then moved to Jamshedpur, close to Calcutta to be with her husband. Her husband was busy working and traveling around India, but she looked after his family as well and gave birth to hear daughter Shammi in 1969 and Sharath in 1971.

After moving back to Mysore in 1971 she started teaching yoga on a regular basis.

In 1975 she started teaching at the back portion of the Venkateshwara temple in Vantikopal. She was paid twenty fives rupees a month and a Yoga teacher in those days was treated no different than the cleaners and sweepers of the temple grounds. But Saraswathi persisted due to her love of Yoga and her experiences born out of the practice.


“In 1975, my father taught me to teach. I also took examinations with my father's guru Krishnamacharya, and received a certificate. When my family first went to America, I stayed home and cooked”.
http://www.yogacitynyc.com/articles/WeeklyDetails/255


For eleven years she would only teach ladies, but then in 1986 she allowed men and women to mix.

Many people were criticizing her for making such a radical change to the common norm in India of always keeping the two genders separate. But Saraswathi did not care and decided to teach Yoga in the best way she found proper.

In 1984 she constructed her own house in Gokulam and started teaching out of her own home to the locals.

When Guruji moved his Yoga Shala from Laxmipuram to Gokulam in 2002 Saraswati once again started teaching together with her father.

Now every morning she is the steady presence in the shala from 5am. After helping her father for two and a half hours she teaches her own class from 8 – 9.30 every day.

Saraswathi teaches her own class in Mysore.

Monday to Friday 5.30 – 8.00 Saturday 6.30 (led primary)

For details and registration, send a letter or call the number below between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m or 4 p.m and 8 p.m Indian time.

See www.kpjayi.org for more information.


12 comments:

  1. Mysore is a lot of fun but damn it can be competitive.... and the rooms are SO crowded at times- you actually get can hit in the face by floating jump backs. It's more for the experience than for learning. It's a whole lot of tiny shorts and tattoos, to be honest. And great food by the local ladies. A great holiday surrounded by particularly beautiful people and their sweat.
    I loved it when there ( 12 years ago- before children ) but get more out of once-or-twice-yearly, in-depth teachings from other senior teachers. Or a 3 day vipassana - sans tiny shorts.
    I am also a home-style ( and slow moving ) Ashtangi, haven't had a regular senior teacher in years as I live rural- away from a major city. I've been practicing yoga for 25 years but my greatest teacher is teaching others. And just rolling out that mat, day in day out.
    I do workshops or courses every year with amazing teachers ( this year is Simon Borg Olivier's online course- half way through but way behind, I'll need an extension for sure )
    In recent years I've started learning from senior teachers OTHER than in the Ashtanga tradition, and with great delight my own practice has re-blossomed and become even more my own ( and far slower!)
    I'll never be authorised.
    I'm not likely to go back to Mysore.
    I'll never be famous :)
    I'm happy with that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep, same here, would much rather do Richard's intensive for a month.... come to think of it his criteria is stricter than Sharath's : )
      Thanks for commenting , good luck with getting back on Simon's course.

      Delete
  2. Manju's on the list. And Saraswati is available for all beginners (to the practice as taught at KPJAYI) who want "the Mysore experience."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I heard Manju was put on the list last year Karen.
      I wondered about Toronto actually, David Robson was famously taken off the list last year which would supposedly mean that nobody in the 'biggest Mysore program in the world' would fit the criteria, checked back while writing the post and noticed that he was put back on again. Oh and Kristina has now been taken off despite visiting Mysore last year, so i guess I'm no longer eligible after all for the big shala but then my inclination was always Saraswati if I ever did decide to visit.
      Would you have been eligible first time you went?

      This kind of thing and the flip flopping between people going on and off lists in response to tale telling on fb teacher boards is a BIG turn off for me.

      Delete
    2. Easy solution to this so called problem / issue. If there's no one near you authorised / certified go to Saraswati on first trip!!!!Sounds like it's never been an issue for you? You've never wanted to go ad study there - that's your reason, own it. Don't blame it on new rules. If it's not even a thing for you why on earth blog on about it?

      Delete
    3. I actually make the suggestion to study with Saraswati Unknown, I even include her biography at the end of the post as further recommendation. There have been several times in the first few years of the blog where I've posted about considering visiting, a couple of Mysore dream posts too. I've thought about going to Saraswati more recently because I'd probably only be able to make a token visit of a couple of weeks but visiting Mysore or studying with Sharath has never been a high priority for me, home practice has tended to feel sufficient and there are many excellent teachers other than Sharath closer to home or who visit, I've been to Manju's Weeklong workshop twice for example. Because this is a home practice blog I get a lot of mail and comments from other home practitioners for whom this is more of an issue than for me, several have become friends. I've read the post again, I think it's a fair treatment of the issues, we have many stories from the early and mid period teachers who just turned up to Mysore to practice with Pattabhi Jois, I can see why that may no longer be possible with Sharath given the numbers but it's still a shame and perhaps this solution wasn't the only one. On the subject of 'owning it', your comment is anonymous.

      Delete
  3. They added Guy too but not David Swenson or Nancy. I think this whole thing is just added layers to what was once much simpler - and is getting complicated and cultish for no reason.
    BTW-I am debating heading to Manju in Athens in September? You would say "go!" -right?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Manju in Athens is his Intermediate series TT this year but yes, I gained a lot from both Manju's TTs I've attended, here7s the link to my review of the first one http://grimmly2007.blogspot.jp/2013/08/manju-jois-tt-course-pt4c-of-4.html

      Delete
    2. Thanks. To me it does not really matter which series. Key thing is spending some time with Manju. just trying to figure out costs. Despite the crisis, Greece is not cheap!

      Delete
  4. Is David Williams on the list?

    ReplyDelete
  5. The whole "official" Ashtanga thing has been getting less and less appealing for the past several years. Wish I could say that it was all Sarath but…one of my teachers who went to Mysore a few times in the good old Guruji days said that the only thing he (Guruji) ever said to her in all the time she spent there was, "Did you pay?"

    My pilgrimage will be to KYM in Chennai.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I gave up on any thoughts of visiting KYM on account of the Kausthub connection.

      Delete

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A Reminder

from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi This blog included.

"So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them. Buddha - Kalama Sutta
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