To say the first week here has been a roller coaster ride is a bit of an understatement.
After our death-journey getting to our hotel, we were greeted by the hotel security guard who didn't know about reservations, didn't have the room we had booked ready and spoke only minimal English. Still, he did his best to accommodate us, and gave us a room with a single bed. He told us the manager would be in soon, and we should check back in a few hours.
Below: our bed for nearly our entire first month!
Exhaustion taking over, we made do with what we had, jumped in bed beside one another and attempted to sleep... finally!
Unfortunately, it was already approaching 6am and the traffic starts good and early here. We spent the next couple of hours desperately attempting to sleep amidst an endless barrage of loud, backfiring engines, honking horns, and street vendors announcing their wares. All the excitement of beginning the journey that we had felt as we boarded our first flight had disappeared, replaced by the reality of being in a foreign land, far away from family, friends and almost anything familiar or comforting.
An hour or two later, not having been able to sleep, we went downstairs and spoke with the manager. He helped to sort out the situation, and explained that they didn't have any rooms with 2 beds left. We decided we could deal with 1 bed for the moment and asked him to let us know when a room with 2 beds opened up.
With a step in the right direction, we're finally able to relax a little and sleep... Which we proceeded to do for the entire rest of the day (off and on for almost 19 hours!), finally rising again around 5am on Tuesday.
Needing to fill our empty bellies, we went out and had a wonderful, cheap (though apparently rather expensive for the area) meal at nearby restaurant called "Sai Guru" or "Veg Family Restaurant", and felt our spirits lift. Leaving the restaurant we decided to walk and discover our surroundings.
As we travelled we noticed the area we were in is actually rather wealthy; beautiful, large houses, hotels and businesses lined the streets; each one unique in its architecture and many sporting bright, beautiful colours.
Rested, hydrated and with a good meal in us, we were in much better moods, as we approached the coconut stand, we decided to stop to get some fresh coconut water and maybe meet some of the students with some experience in the area. While we were there we were approached by a friendly student of the institute, named Rolf. As we got ourselves acquainted, we told him we were here to study with Sharath.
He responded by saying "I was with Sharath for one day. In the middle of practice he came over and started shouting at me 'Beginner! Beginner! Get out! Go to Saraswathi!'."
This is how we found out that Sharath teaches only to advanced students.
Needless to say, the news was very disappointing. Still, Saraswathi has decades of experience practicing and teaching Ashtanga. So, we went to the shala to register.
We'd read on the Internet that the price of classes was about 200-300$ a month. When we reached the Shala and spoke with a manager, we were told the price (which is not listed on the KPJAYI website, and when asked for in email, was not responded to) for the first month was 27800 rupees, which comes out to about $540 Canadian.
Our hearts sank slightly... Not only could we not study with the teacher we had intended to, the price was nearly double what was expected. Feeling dejected, we returned to our hotel.
Upon registering we were told our practice begins at 6am the next day. With that in mind, we both decided to do a small practice/stretch in the hotel. Keep in mind, we had been in transit for about a full day and a half prior to this. Then, spent another half day sleeping... We were a little stiff.
It was a hot day, and we both found ourselves unable to catch our breath, and almost completely immobile. Yet another kick in the teeth. We finished our practice thinking "what are we doing here?". The build up of disappointment, pressure and anxiety had finally overwhelmed us. Calling it quits, we headed out for dinner.
After another great meal and another nights sleep, we arose slightly refreshed, ready for our first day of practice. Saraswathi teaches not out of the main shala, but out of her home, just like her father (Pattabhi Jois) had done, once upon a time.
As we arrive, we take our sandals off and step into the practice area. The room is dimly lit with a soft orange glow and has a subtle smell of a nice incense. Quiet except for the sound of deep, full, ujjayi breathing (breathing with sound), and Saraswathi quietly calling instructions to students learning the primary series for the first time. She makes her way around the room, giving adjustments and making sure everyone knows and follows the proper sequence.. As we stepped inside we felt the warmth of the room, heated by the mass of students, all practicing various poses of the Ashtanga primary series. We begin to weave our way through the mass of shoulder to shoulder students, searching for a spot to begin our own practice.
Finding our spots, we roll out our mats and stand for a moment, preparing for the practice. Something about the room is deeply relaxing. For a moment, we breathe, and relax. All of our negative thoughts, our doubts, our disappointments - are swept away as our inner voice leads us into the practice... "Inhale..... Exhale".
Each pose in the series prepares you for the next. A certain level of proficiency is required in each pose in order to proceed. If you cannot continue, Saraswathi will tell you "you take back bending now, tomorrow try again". She's a wonderful woman who projects a real sense of compassion and care in her teaching. We each received multiple adjustments in the class. After our practice was finished, she took some time to get to know us, asking where we were from and who we had studied under.
We returned to the hotel, where they serve a free breakfast on the roof every morning. Enjoying our first breakfast, fresh papaya, idlys (steamed rice cakes), sambar (spicy chili soup), and coconut chutney (Sooo good). The food is excellent. After breakfast we enjoy a few cups of chai and look out at a beautiful view from te rooftop. As we relax, relief washes our stress way.
Below: our first breakfast in Mysore!
A good sleep, great practice, tasty food, and a beautiful view... all is well.
I think we could get used to this.
Below: a portion f the view from he rooftop of our hotel.