Blank Space, Baby: Lessons from Led Class in Mysore

img_6348I just got back from Mysore, and as a predominantly self-practicing ashtangi I was really looking forward to led classes with Sharath  — I mean what a treat! — but as it turned out:

I hated led class.

I f*cking hated it.

I hated getting up at 3:45am for a class at 6am that technically starts at 5:40; hated the Hunger Games of musical chairs for a spot in the room; detested waiting in a scrum of people who were already all there, waiting– covering the stairs to the Shala– by 4:50am, hated the more waiting and sitting there for an hour needing to pee; hated feeling like a cog in a wheel, a zombie robot powering down for the rote choreography, the shedding of my individuality into a mysore mannequin, uniform and military-like in the count; hated waiting for the interminable led’s to filter into the oozy, sweet mysore “all about me!” self-practice section of the week.

I came to practice; why then, was I drawing upon my past experience in New York City subways at rush hour or that semester I played rugby (yes, it’s true).

I just don’t understand why anyone comes here, I wrote our local teacher at the end of my first week.

Now I want to go back. Even for led.

I miss it.

I miss the way I had to contend with my thoughts bashing around like a pinball inside the strict space of correct vinyasa. I miss the exacting, efficient breath to every jump back. I miss the room I found in led class to muck everything up– I fell out of utthita hasta pandangustasana whenever Sharath came within sniffing distance, I chakrasana’d between sides in supta padangustasana, I skipped ahead in the shoulder stand series, I got humbled by every. single. jumpback. I miss Sharath, the way he was so present, the way he helped the injured, the struggling, the ego-driven (ahem, me) and honored the parents and moms. (Indeed I learned that parents there with children could practice in any time slot or “anytime” and that if the twelve-hour time difference made it difficult to talk to my child at home, I could probably request a time change myself.) This touched me–the way Sharath made space for us all to practice– not just on the mat, but off.

My first led class I found myself standing in the middle of the room, clutching my rolled up mat like a life preserver, the entire floor flooded with mats before I could even register which way was Ekam– that is to say, I was “Out”: Dumbfounded, frozen in place and “disqualified” from a game I hadn’t realized had started. Sharath appeared, pointed to a six-inch swatch of floor between two mats and said, “put your mat there!”

The two people on either side swiftly moved over to make space for me.

One particularly crazy led class, Sharath made space in his office for a fellow on the tall side. A lovely woman in the front row stood up and switched places with him, because she could better fit in the smaller space.

Not all the space in the room was ideal but in the end, whatever I got was what I needed. I complained in my head about all the breezy air coming in when I practiced next to the entrance door, but now I miss the people who smiled at me through it (and lit a puja under my butt to focus). I ranted and raved (God there was so much space for that in my brain, wasn’t there?) the day I practiced next to the men’s changing room in a spot my friends and I dubbed “Baby’s Corner” only to miss it now, dearly, just about every day that followed including today, as I practiced here in my room, home alone (and without Shala heat).

I miss how whenever I felt dejected, whenever I felt no one gave a damn about what I was doing in that room, Sharath would invade the negative space in my head with a kind word or interaction in my final backbend or as I departed. I miss the support I got from everyone I met– everyone who made space for me at communal breakfast tables, on the backs of scooters, and in the giving of their time– from authorized teachers on their fourth trips to Insta stars to newbies like me to friendly rickshaw drivers. In Mysore I found ample room to cry on numerous shoulders about led class, and, well, everything (what didn’t I angst about, really?); I found people who made way for friendship even when I was at my worst,

—so they inspired me to make space to uncover my best.

Mysore did, too.

I miss the peaceful space that shone through the bright, colorful noise of India. I keep looking for that space here now, at home.

One day I was waiting outside with the huddled masses for 6am led class as Sharath taught the 4:30 group, when I heard it, loud. It wasn’t his voice, but —

“Got a long list of ex- lovers, they’ll tell you I’m insane” 

It was that viral mash-up of Taylor Swift’s “blank space”  blasting loud enough from MY phone for the people practicing inside the Shala to hear (a friend later confirmed this– oh and, for the record, my phone was muted, so this was something of a musical mysore miracle)

“I’ve got a blank space baby, and I’ll write your name.”

I fled from the huddled 6am yogis into the street trying to shake it off– the music and my mortification.

I just don’t understand why anyone comes here

From led class in Mysore — Sharath, and the people practicing in it — I learned how to make my jump back better but more than that: because of you I will move my mat over to make space for someone else. For you I will try to switch places if that helps out a taller person. For you I will endeavor to be cognizant of parents and those who spend a lot of time caring for others. I may think of you and try to bring forth a kind word when I come upon the dejected, an assist for someone who could use a hand, a shoulder for someone to cry on, and an open mind to make friends with people I encounter at their worst.

For all of you, I will always have a blank space.

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4 thoughts on “Blank Space, Baby: Lessons from Led Class in Mysore

  1. You did it again….Looooove this not only because I secretly like that song of #TSwift but for making this particular article about compassion/humanity.

  2. Thank you, an inspiration for those of us still attached and a bit overwhelmed.

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