Archive for February, 2015

People you meet in Mysore

February 23, 2015

This trip to Mysore has been different in so many ways. A different teacher in a different space, except for led of course. A different place to live without so many facilities, no TV, no washing machine, no proper kitchen, intermittent Internet, but less than a 10 minute walk to the Shala and quieter at night which is why I chose it.

I haven’t been running around seeing things, I saw the ones worth seeing three years ago. This trip seems to have been about relaxing, settling in to the rhythm of life and meeting people. Some of the people are friends I practice with at AYL, some I’ve met in various places or last time I was here, others over the years I’ve been in touch with through cyberspace via this blog or their blog or in one case the old Yuku Ashtanga message board where we all had aliases. I seemed to have got to know them quite well despite never having met in person until this month in Mysore and in real life they are sweet people.

Nico Cooper an Aussie who lived in Mexico, has commented and emailed on this blog for a few years, I had no idea what he looked like, but luckily he recognised me in a small shop in Gokulam and came and said “hello”.

Karla Balani

Karla Balani was a real surprise, a Californian with whom I have one mutual friend on Facebook, Shari our friend, had emailed us both to say to look out for each other. There must be over 400 students here with different start times and the chances of randomly running in to someone is pretty slim. So what a surprise on a communal table at Santosha as we both ordered breakfast and gave our names to Magda the Waitress, looked at each other and had the same thought, “are you?”. Our random meeting has led to a trip to Bylekupe and the Banyan Tree.

Razieh delivering my cinnamon buns

I didn’t know Razieh Sarmad before I got here. She’s an Iranian living with her husband in Gokulam, who does baking on the side. When she bakes she posts on the Ashtanga community in Mysore Facebook page and anyone who wants some of whatever she is baking gets in touch to order. The first time I ordered she was making sweet breads, at which point I was hooked. I like the cafes here, but by and large they all offer the same menu, so the opportunity to be able to have something tasty and different is too good to miss. The sweet breads were delicious, but a couple of days later she was making cinnamon buns, I ordered four in case they weren’t very big, we met at 9am outside Tina’s. They were still warm from the oven, the smell was incredible, two were gone by the time I had walked the few minutes back home. I now have a standing order, 4 buns every couple of days. If anyone wants great bakery in Gokulam get in touch with Razieh.


Angela Jamison and I have “known” each other a good few years without realising, first on the old Yuku Ashtanga message board, where we were all mostly posting anonymously, then via her blog inside owl and lately by email and Facebook. I knew she would be in Mysore at the same time and hoped we would finally get to meet. Yesterday at 8:15 after led class I’m quietly quaffing my third chai at Amruth when a motorbike pulls up and off jumps Angela and introduces herself. She was exactly what I expected her to be like and this morning we had breakfast and got to chat.

Clint Griffiths

Clint Griffiths runs blogs, makes videos, sells cute t-shirts and sporadically sends out a newsletter, which is how we first got in touch a few months ago after he wrote a post about coming back from injury. I replied to the post about my last two years and how the practice has been an integral part of my recovery. We had arranged to get in touch once we both got to Mysore, to meet and have a chai. Clint got in touch and not only did we meet, he’s a really nice guy, he asked me if I would do an interview, as he found my recovery from injury through the practice inspiring. I was surprised, but delighted to be asked as he usually makes videos with people like Kino and Laruga. So last Friday we spent two hours filming and recording an interview, which will be edited when he gets back to Canada and online sometime there after.


I’ve saved the most special person I’ve finally met for last. Ani Semtan is an American Buddhist Nun who works at the Tibetan settlement at Bylekupe. Her duties at the settlement don’t allow her to get out much, it’s full time with teaching the monks, performing puja, domestic jobs and being PA to Rinpoche when he visits, as he is at the minute. Three years ago Ani had a few days off from her duties, it was her birthday and she decided to visit Mysore. She had not visited the city before and was googling for information when she came across my blog and the link to the ebook map I had just published at the time. Ani was one of the first people to download my book, it was to be the start of a very special friendship. Ani got in touch to ask for more specific information and we have had an email conversation in progress ever since. I’ve learnt so much about her life at the settlement. She amazing and has also been a great support over the last two years, sending me get well emails and sending good thoughts.

When I went to Bylekupe last week Ani was too heavily involved in all the preparations for Lhosar, it would have been a fleeting meeting at best, but luckily she had a couple of free(ish) days after Lhosar and made a trip to Mysore so we could meet properly. We met for lunch at The Green Hotel and spent nearly 4 delightful hours getting to know each other in person. Meeting Ani will be the highlight of this trip to Mysore.


Last Conference, buy an IC!

February 21, 2015

Today was my last conference of the trip, this time next week I’ll be on my way home. This year I seem to have managed to get a good spot near the front each Saturday , so I can really hear what Sharath says. It feels almost like a press conference, there are a line of phones and recording devices placed along the edge of the stage. I think he comes with a theme in mind he wants to talk about, but goes off at tangents as thoughts occur to him, he talks often about Guruji, reminiscences about teaching in the old Shala in Laxmipuram.

Prakash guards the door

The Q&A was better this week, more pertinent questions, someone asked about backbends, his reply was along the lines that in normal life we spend so much time bending forward, picking things up etc, it’s important to equalise the body. He said Guruji always sat up straight, where as others his age would be hunched forward, backbends give you a better body for longer. He said he returned to Guruji’s funeral pyre the following day, the whole body was gone except for his Pelvis. Sharath said there’s no feeling like you get in backbends, you can’t buy that feeling even with 10 million. If you haven’t experienced the elation of “catching” or standing up you won’t know. He likened it to Masala Dosa, you have to taste it to know. I think he must like masala Dosa, he often mentions it! He asked the girl who asked the question if she got that feeling in backbends, I think like many of us she’s still at the stage of finding backbends a trial,


Someone asked about doing two practices a day, he said once is enough, come to the mat, be fully focused for the two hours or however long your practice takes, tame the monkey, be present, enjoy the practice.

I asked about Pasasana, whether it’s more important to bind or to get the heals down, being as his mother seems to be on a mission to kill my legs doing it every morning! He said catching is first, he said the best training for getting the heals down is an IC. (Quizzical look from me) he was talking about an Indian commode, squat toilet, he said everyone does that asana in India between 6:30-7:30 in the morning. He said I should get one sent home.

My last conference

Another question was about doing full vinyasa between postures, he said you shouldn’t do it as it takes too much energy and the body loses heat.

I really enjoyed this weeks conference, Sharath’s enthusiasm and humour shone out and good questions made it the best one I’ve been to. Conference is such an integral part of being here. People who are leaving line up to have their picture taken with him. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a picture with Saraswathi before I go as I’ve been practising with her this time.

I presume they are making another documentary, filming outside the Shala

The Kettle saga

February 15, 2015

Outside of the practice here in Mysore you still need to do stuff, Laundry mostly, along with eating and shopping. Things break and need replacing, but in India it’s not quite so easy as it is back home.

In the last two days the strap on my yoga mat bag gave up on me, but by far the biggest disaster was that my little travel kettle, that has been to every country I have in the last 30 years died spectacularly, it made a sizzling noise then flames started coming out of the base. Luckily I was nearby and pulled the plug before it could trip out anything else.

Rest day Saturday turned in to expedition Saturday afternoon to get replacements.

My new mat bag with pocket for my Shala pass and morning shawl

Getting the mat bag replaced was pretty simple, as you would expect in the world Ashtanga capital. I knew that my AYL bag had been made by Rashinkar down in the city, so I walked in there with my old mat bag and said “I know you made these a couple of years ago, have you got any more?” Well in just a couple of minutes I had a new one, the same design, size and strong straps with a slightly bigger pocket on the front, 300Rp. The problem with Rashinkar is they have nice stuff, so it’s hard to just get what you came for, you end up browsing. Despite the increasing daytime temperatures the mornings, though not cold, have a crispness to them that requires something extra over the shoulders while walking to practice at 4:30am and sitting at Amruth drinking my chai later. Another 20 minutes later and another 300Rp lighter I have a simple shawl to help keep the morning chill out.

Finding a new Kettle was obviously a much higher priority, no way can I exist on any part of this planet without tea on tap. Loyal World seemed a likely place to get one. Most of the goods in Loyal World are spread out on the floors over the three levels, but “expensive” electrical items like Kettles, Toasters, mixers and microwaves are held securely behind the counter, you have to tell the person what you want and they bring it to you. “I need a small kettle with a two pin European plug to fit the socket in my apartment please”, “for making coffee?” He replies grabbing one from the shelf. “For tea actually” I reply, at which point he puts the first one back and takes another one, “for making tea” he says. What the difference was I have no idea,only in India do you seem to need a special kettle for making tea. The 1745Rp kettle is metal and quite heavy for its size and comes with a 3 pin plug. Umm not quite what I was looking for, so I ask him to get the first one down, the one for making coffee. I ask him if this second one is ok for boiling water? “Yes for water and coffee” he replies enthusiastically. This one is plastic, only 900Rp and much lighter, but again comes with a 3 round pin plug, which I can’t use.

Nothing seems to be standard in India, power sockets are any combo of 3 pin Indian, 2 pin European or the fat South African pins, they all emit 240 volts luckily.

New Kettle with its adaptor

So back to the plastic kettle which is basically what I want , but can’t plug in. “You need adaptor?” He asks. “Well yes obviously”. “70 Rupees” he replies. Off he goes ferreting in a huge plastic tub full of hundreds of little boxes, he emerges after some time with a small box “adaptor” he announces triumphantly, we get it out, the outlet is 3 pins, which kind of defeats the object, 3 pin plug into an adaptor that has 3 pins the same coming out. “It won’t work” I tell him. “2 pin don’t have!” He says emphatically. So I tell him I’ll try Easy Day. I’m just about to walk away when he calls someone over, this person looks at me and says “we have two pin adaptor“, he disappears in to the same plastic bin of little boxes and quite some time later emerges with a smile and a different shaped little box. We all stare as he carefully opens the box, we have developed an audience by now for this kettle saga, and Lo and behold it’s a 3 pin in, two pin out, yay.

All three of us then transfer to the cash counter where the money gets taken, the receipt and guarantee card get official stamps. It’s taken nearly 45 minutes to buy a kettle in India with a plug on the end that will fit an Indian domestic socket.

Because I can’t do without it

Nothing in India is ever simple, you need to allot the amount of time you think something will take and then quadruple it. India is however a “can do” type of place and 9 times out of 10 you will get what you wanted, it just takes a lot more patience and perseverance than it does in Tesco.

My Mysore institutions

February 11, 2015

This my second trip to Mysore, it feels much more relaxed, I know where everything is, I’m not running around trying to visit the local attractions, I’m relaxing and only popping in to my favourite places, they are little landmarks in my day.
After practice the first is obviously Amruth, hot, sweet cups of chai, at least one, but usually after one after another, unlike last time around I’ve yet to find anyone who can keep up with the amount I can consume. They are all like ” I can’t possibly have more than 2 otherwise I’ll never sleep tonight” really! I take my last sip of tea about 10 seconds before I put the light out at night.

Anokhi Garden
Breakfast is usually one of two options, Anokhi Garden or Santosha, but the croissants at The Regallis down in the city are a big temptation.

Chocolate man

Later in the morning I visit my next institution, Trupti Coffee works, AKA The Chocolate Man, bars of chocolate of all kinds of flavours, dark, milk, white, caramel, cinnamon , hazelnut, cashew and ginger to name but a few. Like with the chai it’s almost impossible to stop at just one bar!

In the evening when the sun goes down and I venture out after my siesta I head down to Main Street, home of the “Hot chip” man, handmade hot potato chips, fried in a cauldron before your eyes, served in a bag you can barely keep hold of. OMG they are sooooooooo tasty not to mention cheap, you can have them flavoured or just as they are.

Hot chip man

I like my institutions, Im glad they are still here, unlike Nilgiri’s which has turned in to a motorcycle showroom.

Sugary chai, breakfasts, chocolate and chips, well you need something to fuel the practice and it’s doing the practice that allows it. Practice with Saraswathi is going well, week 2 I’m allowed to do the last posture I was given in Mysore last time Pasasana. An extra posture suddenly feels like a lot of extra work. Despite the diet I can still bind it, though unlike back home the rolling up the mat tactic under the heals isn’t allowed, so although I can bind I’m not stable, though I did get a “very good” today as she walked away.


February 8, 2015

I’m in there (photo by Nick)

My first conference since I got here, last Saturday there wasn’t one because of the amount of new students needing to register with Sharath.

Conference is the only time you really appreciate just how many students there are currently in Mysore studying predominantly with Sharath, but also with Saraswathi as I am. Considering that according to the sign at the entrance “chanting” is compulsory for all students you rarely see as many as 25% of the total who attend conference at chanting. Just to get in to conference you have to show your Shala pass to Prakash who guards the door.

View from the Lobby (photo Izzy Guest)

The room is beyond rammed full by the time Sharath arrives at 9:30, there are people standing at the back and out in the Lobby, luckily my house mate and I had gone early and actually got pretty much front row positions. Sharath is often very quietly spoken and I have to admit I don’t catch everything he has to say. He starts off by talking about the Bhagavad Gita and some of the other texts, he says we should go home and read them rather than chatting at the coconut stand!

Having spent three months here last time I notice the same kinds of questions always come up in the Q&A, new people asking the same questions.



Towards the end Shambav, Sharath’s son comes in, someone asks how old he is? “7” says Sharath, “8” says Shambav, he will be 8 later in the year, Sharath says “you can’t be 8 unless you sit in Padmasana ” Shambav jumps off his dad’s lap and sits in lotus, eyes closed as half the audience get their cameras out. Sharath corrects him “straight back”. Are we witnessing the new apprentice in action I wonder.

The next generation

A much better description of the conference was posted today by Julie Alagde-Carretas here.

Mysore, where does the time go?

February 4, 2015

Full moon in Mysore

Tuesday was Moon day in Mysore, a day of rest, they even cancel the extra carricular classes like chanting and Sanskrit. It makes the “Muggles” out there wonder what the hell we get up to all day. Some people go to the Pool, some people make day trips, some of us have a lie in, followed by a three hour breakfast which turns in to lunch, followed by maybe a siesta when the sun is hottest in the afternoon, early dinner, then of course it’s an early night, only “one day holiday” as Saraswathi said as we left her Shala on Monday.

Today it’s back with the program, 4:15 alarm, head for the Shala to arrive at the appointed time, bearing in mind “Shala time” and my watch have nothing in common, Shala clocks used to be set 15 minutes ahead (Guruji was a stickler for time keeping), but in the 3 years since I was last here the clock seems to have crept on to nearly 25 minutes ahead. There must have been some more new arrivals it seems or Saraswathi is bringing students start times forward, the Shala was already full and she told me to do my Surya’s in the finishing room, surprisingly, considering in theory that people had only begun to practice 30mins earlier, a few people were finishing and I didn’t wait long to hear my “one more”.

Practice just happens, there’s a nice, quiet energy. Suddenly I’m on backbends, S arrives to do my assisted dropbacks before I have a chance to play around on my own. My back is only just coming out of hibernation from the journey to get here and the stinking cold I’ve had the last few days. Back to the finishing room to close. It’s not until I open the Shala door back out on to the balcony that I realise it’s actually light, apart from the led class it’s still been pitch dark every time I’ve finished, I must be slowing down, that happened last time.

Coconut man outside the Shala

Outside the coconut man is chopping away, they are so over rated, I know where I’m heading.

Rangoli lady

Every morning you see people with their pots of chalky paste painting the intricate patterns outside their houses, it’s obviously something they have repeated hundreds if not thousands of times, they are so fast, they put down dots then join up the sets of dots with straight lines until the Mandala is made, to be rubbed out during the day by traffic, feet. Dogs or the weather.

Louise collecting the glasses ready for round 3

It’s Amruth for me, sweet, hot chai sitting on the steps of the still closed next door Pharmacy. Usually I have one or two and head home back to bed, but today I find my Philosophy class mate Louise and a few others already on the steps, so one glass turns in to another and another. Lou makes me laugh when she says she has had 3, a record! She has a lot of catching up to do, I well remember some mornings last time when me, Julia and the 2 Japanese would regularly get towards double figures before we went home. Mind you there has been chai inflation, it’s gone up from 10 to 14 Rupees a glass!

Chanting class filling up

As it’s Wednesday everyone heads back for the 11:30am (Shala time) chanting class with Lakshmish, sheets are handed out, the room fills up, he calls we repeat back, well some do, some mumble and some up the back…….

So what with practice, eating, chanting, socialising and sleeping the days in Mysore are amazingly busy. I’ve decided not to do Sanskrit or sanscrawl as mine became known last time in the afternoons. This afternoon I took the bus in to town for a wander, just wandering and looking.

Sweet shop with Dentist next door!

A very different led

February 2, 2015

The usual photo

I had never done a led class with Saraswathi, same practice, but completely different in many ways. To start with nobody was sitting outside the gates at 3am waking up the dogs and Prakash, no pushing and shoving when the gate opens, just an orderly walk up the steps as people discard their sandals. It certainly feels like a much less competitive atmosphere in so may ways.

Saraswathi has a few little surprises, 4 Surya B’s instead of 3 to begin with, though unlike Sharath she doesn’t seem to struggle with what comes after “trini”. Despite arriving just after the majority I ended up in the front row, I’ve never been there before. Saraswathi has a way of adjusting two people at the same time in UHP, she moved me nearer the person on my right and then used one hand for each of us, a nifty trick.

There seems to be much more assistance, even in a led class with no assistant, less of a feeling of bashing the practice out in order to get the next lot in, she allows people time to get in to Mari D and Supta K, though this was also the point that she started stopping people, not me though happily. I’m just happy to survive the cut as I’ve got a stinking cold from somewhere.

She gets the “Stopees” to return for Setu Bandhasana, backbends and closing. Just when you think the end is nigh, I looked at the clock and thought we may actually get a Savasana, she has, for me, some other little surprises, an extra posture after the two seated lotus postures, no idea what it’s called, you stay in lotus but put your hands flat on the ground behind you and do a mini backbend with straight arms pressing in to the ground. She certainly counts quicker than Sharath does in Uth Plutihi, even with my arms lack of strength I managed to stay up.

But it’s still not time for Savasana, she adds in some chanting and Pranayama alternate nostril breathing before we finally do the closing chant and get a two minute Savasana. It’s certainly a longer class than Sharath’s led, 1hr 50min.

I have this vision of them chopping up body’s

Chai at Amruth followed by breakfast at Anokhi, where I finally got to meet Katie, who sometimes comments here.