I showered every morning with a dead cockroach.
For at least a night or two, a wasp became my third roommate. I narrowly missed the monkeys getting freaky outside my front door (perhaps the most action I ever came close to seeing in India). And, to date, I have no idea what apparition, insect, world’s tiniest woodpecker or incarnation of Voldemort peppered one of my earplugs with tiny holes, such that it now looked like a thimble. (Please, I beg you: I do not wish to know).
Need I mention that practice in the Shala was the most uninteresting part of my day?
Mysore practice days in India began as simply as Ekam: Wake. shower. coffee. walk. wait. “One More!” Practice. sweat. backbend. quick squish, finish. drink coconut. end scene.
Given this sanctuary of simple, ninety minutes of life how could I not be happy in that very magical Mysore room? One month free of husband, kid, and two dogs, dishes, cooking, poop clean-up, and in that muggy Shala, one hour free of stiffness, solo-ness, too much me-ness– not to mention cockroaches and strange creatures (as far as I know). Coming from a predominantly solo home practice in a dry, high altitude climate, to crash into the future closer to sea level, into a room undulating with swampy shakti, Sharathian-induced sweaty bodies, catching craziness, and man oh mat, glorious heat– let’s just say that for all there was that I didn’t want in India or didn’t have in India, this room had everything I wanted.
Until it didn’t.
“One more… short!” Bellows Sharath
(This means me: I qualify as “short” or very small” by KPJAYI standsrds, rendering me and my petite brethren particularly elgible for a few specific spots in the room including the “stage” where SHarare sometimes sits, where the ceiling is a bit lower). Greenlit, I bound in like a bloody golden retriever, all toothpaste commercial smiles, practically panting glittery love and light, only to find that and instead of my usual spots I am all the way –wait, where is the space? Oh it’s way over, I mean right over…. Oh.
Right next to the door to the men’s bathroom.
I magically transform from an enlightened yogi into a bitchy westerner: I didn’t pay for this sh*t! (Pun intended).
Put your visions of golden showers aside for the moment, and let me break perhaps the most anoying feature of this spot down for you. Thisroom is not just the men’s toilet and changing room; it doubles and triples as a locker room and finishing space (where you complete the finishing series of postures after backbends in the main room). This is a Mysore space; people come and go all the time, they start and finish practice at all different times, so the door opens and closes like an incessant revolving door — and that’s on top of all the people coming and going using the room just to change, spit, pee, snot release and let’s just end the list there, thank you.
Did mention that a men’s bathroom sits, bacteria and all, behind that door? As my head nears the floor in my first downward dog I can’t help but imagine cartoon mucus-green microbes slithering across the vast three inches from the ominous men’s room door to my mat’s edge. As courteous guys take care to squeeze in and out without opening the door all the way, I nonetheless imagine each door creak ushering super bacteria (not the good kind) into the the air — My air!
The noises don’t help. India rocks with sound: a car honk may as well be the country’s version of “aloha”. Id almost prefer car horns or cnn replaying Drumpf to …. Well, Nose blowing and spit hawking, that in my ears exhoes like a fog horn, an audible bat signal trying to reach the outermost corners of the Galaxy.
in my mind i do an uncanny impression of an entitled western woman losing her shit.
The phrase “Nobody puts baby in the corner” rolls becomes my inappropriate mantra.
Bloody hell, Jean get yourself together man! Breath, Bandhas, drisiti.
I sneak a glance around the room…no one looks off-put by anything. are they faking it?
But consider how common it is to feel the opposite of ease or natural in your asana’s, how easy it is to feel out of place, off balance, uncoordinated, frustrated, unnatural, inadequate, weak, tired, stiff or otherwise unsuited to what the asana is asking of you. This is where the Tom Sawyer effect comes in and insists that you keep your outer cool even when you are tested. One measure of asana mastery is how you look from the outside, your ability to maintain the Shiva half smile, to display proper tact and catlike agility in the most unlikely places. You want your pose to be alluring, audaciously confident, convincing, original, and best of all done with a mischevious wink that stirs pangs of envy in even those not inclined to such activities. When you look serene, natural, curious, absorbed, chances are you also feel that way. And when you look frustrated, strained, anxious…you make your choice.
If we think we are bound, we are bound. If we think we are liberated, we are liberated. . . . It is only when we transcend the mind that we are free from all these troubles. (117)
So as I unfurl my arms into triangle pose I let rip a smile like this is the best fucking spot ever. I am having the best fucking practice ever. let’s make this bathroom spot great again!I am not fucking bound by this fucking revolving locker room door! Smile! Shut the door this dude left open! Do a jump back like no ones watching! Dristi the shit out of this janu sirsasana! You’re a pro,’you’re an enlightened unicorn dipped in rainbow glitter! Pretend you aren’t thinking about all the shit going down behind that door, the foul air you are inhaling from it, and tom sawyer the fuck out of this heavenly spot!
The door opens. Snot releases. Bacteria dance.
Clearly Swami Sachtidananda never practiced next to a men’s toilet.
“Let it go” all the yoga teacher friends in my head insist.
Yes, things are most definitely being “let go” near my mat.
That brings me to the bright side of this sticky spot: Should I emit a stinky fart, no one and I mean no one is going to think it’s coming from me.
Nobody puts baby in a corner. Still, Patrick Swayze fails to bust through the door; Ryan Gosling doesn’t appear to do the final lift to get me in bed; I don’t get any assists from Sharath. Then again, as a really wonderful assistant helps me into a deep final backbend, Sharath, ably helping my neighbor bind in marichyasnana d, says (to me, I think) :
“Breathe. No breathing.”
It’s an order, an observation and a criticism all in one.
I’ve learned from practice by the bathroom door: that no spot or place in life is what it seems, that one man’s heaven is another’s hell, that you just gotta deal with what is thrown (or not thrown) at you. Not getting this or that spot, it’s like not getting sharath for your final backbend, it’s like not getting the poses you want, it’s like not getting water, not getting tequila, not getting really good coffee, not getting to leave your apartment, not getting any shower cause the water is dirt brown, not getting not getting not getting just so not getting so many things this month in India-
But I got this, a lifeline, a reminder that I have called upon several times this winter back at home that when I don’t get what I want I sometimes get what I need. A few days later I’m giddy to see I will not be next to the bathroom but, oh no–right next to entrance door.
I find myself looking nostalgically at the warm spot by the bathroom door, wanting it. And now at home, that entrance door spot– I miss that too.
Practice is still the most uninteresting part of my day. It’s life where things get interesting, where bathrooms and cold rooms and injuries and insects take flight off the mat: Sometimes you’re in the spot in life getting dumped on, the spot where everything is hot, the spot surfing through a cool breeze, the smashed in the doormat walk way, or starring on stage. Even while twisting someone into a pretzel, the advice remains: