I jerked my head up. Me. Sharath was talking to me. Or, rather, yelling at me:
“Why you so impatient? Sit down. Relax!”
There I was, standing at attention in the foyer before the Shala practice room. My fellow 6:30am practice group sat transfixed by the vision of bodies working on the other side of the wide open door.
“Why you so impatient?”
Instantly a protest organized in my head, followed swiftly by a chitta vritti crew to protest my own protest: I’m standing up because I hate sitting down! Then again, Jean, you’re standing here like Usain bolt at the start of a race, your mat in tow like a baton to pass, dying to get in and practice this primary till you get to the good part (backbends!), always in the left lane, over the speed limit, born three weeks early, “put me in cold, I’m ready to play– today” …. so “impatient” is kind of a spot-on accurate assessment (if not an understatement).
I sat down.
Who is this guy Sharath– and who gave him my number?
Let me set the scene. When you come to Mysore you register and get assigned a practice time for led class (Monday and Saturday) and Mysore practice (Tuesday through Friday). I’m in the 6:30am mysore group, but we arrive “Shala time” i.e., early; I showed up around 6am. Then the 6:30’s would huddle together, waiting for Sharath to call “one more!” (Or, in my case, “one more, short!“)
Everyone practices primary series for at least the first week. If it’s your first trip, maybe for the entire month or more (correct me if wrong here, multiple trippers).
A few years ago I read a wonderful blog about a fourth series practitioner who came to Mysore and got stopped a fraction through second (at dwi pada). While I never heard “You stop there” at a pose (though many were stopped at supta kurmasana or somwehre in the marichyasanas) I still got stopped in the sense of being held from practicing as far along as I usually do. It seems that no matter who you are, when you come to Mysore you get stopped in some way or another.
And maybe, just maybe, you get saved.
Why you so impatient!!
Damn, was I ever. I felt impatient to get through led class to the end, to the backbends: please– just let me do something I’m good at! Impatient to show, while getting into supta kurmasana, that I had the goods for dwi pada — check it, I got second series in me, ya see? Impatient to see who was almost done inside the room and thus what spot was opening up… would I get the spot I wanted?? (No, almost never). Impatient for the led class part of the week to be over, for the mysore practice days where I could breathe on my own time! Impatient to “catch” in the final backbend in the first week, only to find that Sharath had directed we take it easy those first days (I cried). Impatient to get through that week with radical hope that maybe I’d get a glimmer of second series. Ok, fine: I’ll admit I felt impatient to be noticed and seen.
Why you so impatient?
It’s a fair question: One day in led class I moved into the next part of shoulder stand while we were still on halasana. “What you doing?”
I was already doing what came next.
In Mysore, then, you might say I got served. And so, confined to primary purgatory (and with no shortage of help from friends) I turned my attention to where I was instead of where I wanted to be:
I worked on my jump backs, cetwari’s and upward dogs (there are roughly 60 in primary). I worked the breath, using what I learned from Sharath’s ironclad led count. Similarly, I turned my attention to bhujapidasana, particularly after Sharath corrected me in my transition out. I couldn’t quite understand him, so I made sure to listen well during led class; indeed, I began to milk led class for this kind of information everywhere (thanks Chris McMullan for ruining my life with this). In that pose, I got my chin to the floor and cleaned up the transition. I began a newfound dialogue with my upper back in upward dog. Off the mat, I started showing up for mysore practice near the end of the window for my group, lazily sipping my carefully aero-pressed cup of coffee before ambling down the road with music in my ear.
My jump backs — and my attitude — got better.
But it wasn’t all sunshine and care bear stares. Practicing this way broke me down till I just resigned myself to what was. Beaten, I would let go, only to have expectations grow again– until I got beaten back again. Sharath is never going to do my final backbend so screw it all! So I’d practice without that expectation, and then you know what–he’d come and do my backbend. I’m never going to get any second so just get over it and do primary Jean! That’s the day, when in my final backbend I heard “Very good.” and “tomorrow, pasanasana. just pasasana. then, we’ll see.” I felt light as air, until… I’ve been doing pasasana for a century and no one cares and I get no adjustments and damn it all to hell. I walk out, feeling low, but as I’m crossing through the middle of the room, I hear “You do pasasana? tomorrow, and he mimics the motions for the next [ ] postures. I’m up, but never fear; I come down again– Jean, what now? It’s my last week and I’m not getting any anything and f*ck this I’ll just practice whatever! And then, during post-backbend lighting fast squish, he tells me– with that smile loaded in his voice– that next year I need to come for “three months.”
It’s as if Sharath could feel my impatience, and gave me something only when I sat down and relaxed with what was.
That’s something else Mysore gave me: The gift of whatever I got. For example, all this primary. I stopped rushing through the series like I usually do; now I milked each breath, ’cause it’s all I’m getting. I held onto correct vinyasa. I stayed in the parameters and there confined, I blossomed; indeed returning to my full practice at home I’ve surprised myself with a strength and ease in transitions I never knew before. I was so worried about what I would lose doing all this primary that I forgot to think about what I might gain. Like a glimpse of life in the present, well, at least a little bit. From my experience practicing in the Shala I wonder if there is more in the “right here, right now” than I will ever fully grasp. How much do I lose, focusing on what comes next, when that means missing what is here now? Back in my home, my comfort zone, I feel a twinge of regret for not fully letting myself be in India — and forget the poses, I mean particularly with people I wish I had gotten to know better.
“The Ashtanga practice is here to help us see where we are stuck. This can manifest on the physical, energetic, mental or emotional plane (or most likely all four at once). Stopping at the postures that force us to encounter where we are stuck is how we actually get to work through some of this, and this is how the practice transforms us as people – physically, energetically, emotionally, and mentally.”
I think the Magic of Mysore is the way India, the Shala and the practice work together to expose where you are stuck, to bring your klesha’s to the surface to battle it out against your breath — or in my case, the experience i had in India served to bring my future fantasies not backwards but to their present source.
But see, we already have what we are looking for, but not always see it and therefore, appreciate just yet.”
So, Why you so impatient? Sit down! Relax!