Thursday, October 28, 2010

Another Day of Surprises: the Shala and Finding Friends

Despite waking up tired from the loud noises from next-door; music, conversation and the cries of a particularly irate child went on till 11 to 12pm and sleeping lightly, a result also of the anxiety of the coming first day, I felt a heart full of excitement.

It would be a special day, our very first practice. We left the house early, taking into account that the shala clock is 15 minutes ahead, arriving a little before our start time. At the coconut stand in front of the shala we saw—incredibly—a familiar face: Ursula Scott, the friend who led us to make the decision to come to Mysore 10 months ago.

Ursh, who teaches in Osaka and who was my idol since my training with Alex Medin 2 and half years ago, was in Boracay last New Year to visit with friends. One morning, we had a breakfast that stretched out the span of half a day. I remember expressing to her my apprehension, the feeling that making the trip to Mysore felt too large, that my practice wasn’t as advanced as I wished it could be, that that… It seems I had a list of excuses that Claudia too shared. Her response: That’s silly, just go for it!
It’s funny how sometimes you just need someone to tell you off. We decided then and there that we would go before the year’s end. And now, there she was, the moment before our first practice at the shala. Crazy, amazing, and simply so nice to see her after all these months!

We rushed off to take our place. The lobby was tight with students stretched out on their mats finishing closing series and students waiting to be called in.

“One more,” Sharath calls. I turn to Claudia.

“One more,” I hear again from the shala.

Claudia whispers to me, “I think he’s calling you.”

I jump and scamper in through the doors. Suddenly, I am overwhelmed. The shala is packed, some 8-12 inches between mats. I look for a spot, finding one, I start to head to it.

I hear Sharath, “No, over there!”

I scan the room and see another free spot. I weave through the mats, nearly hitting some students and quite surely grazing others. I feel like an idiot. I put my mat down, along with my towels, and then run into the changing room, which was packed too with girls who were finishing. I take a breath, drop my bag in some corner and brave the shala.

Across the room, Claudia too was having her clumsy moment. She manages to quickly unroll her mat, thinks it’s upside down and flips it around, realizes that she was right in the first place and flips her mat right side up once again.

Together, halfway across the room we try to focus on our breath, on our suryas. But those first few moments, it was not so easy to focus. The shala is full—though some say it can be more maxed. The heat emanating from the early students, some already in more advanced poses made the room humid. The photos hung around the room make present Guruji’s spirit. The chair, Guruji’s chair, is still there on the stage. I wish I could have seen him in it—even asleep as he was apt to do in his later years.

I could not help but notice the two western women assisting Sharath in adjustments. This is proof that the shala under Sharath’s charge was changing. The night before our trip to India, the KPJAYI website was revamped as well. Having nothing to compare it to, I feel like the change is positive.

The energy in the shala is sweeping, and after some time, we both get into our own grooves. Though Sharath is busy around the room, I receive a fabulous adjustment from each of the two women, one in Kurmasana and another in back bending. My left hand is taken to my ankle, the moment is fleeting, but speaks of unending possibilities. My adjustor tells me, you can do it, you just have to believe in yourself.

In all, this first practice is surprising. I may have been exhausted from the trip, but it was a deep and pleasurable practice. I am loving it: being here, practicing at the shala, surrendering to the innumerable number of coincidences that continue to unfold even as I write this.

I know it’s early on. I know in time, I will be tired. But at this point, I am filled with so much gratitude. I am thankful for my Ursh telling us to just go already. I am thankful for the work that has made this trip possible. I am thankful for the support of my boyfriend who has made do without me in the mornings, 5-6 days a week and my crazy work schedule. I am thankful for my family who despite missing me have not given me a hard time about not visiting, so focused have I been for preparing for this first trip to Mysore. I am so very grateful to be here. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

On the way home, after having a coconut, we try an apartment on the way. We see it. It’s beautiful, though overpriced and too big for us. It is a 3-bedroom. Too bad we’ve lost track of Maria from yesterday. We tell the owner we have to think about it. By the time we have reached the front door, we turn to the landlord that we will take it. Maybe, we can find a third person later. Housing, check! We move in within a couple of hours.

Throughout the morning, we’ve been getting missed calls. I call back and it’s the shop owner who sold us our SIM cards. He needs us to return. Something is wrong with our application. I say, yes, yes, we will go back, but later. Not one minute later, Claudia gets a call. It’s our shop-keeper. She says, yes, yes, later.

We are directed to Anoukis by Ganesh, a breakfast place Leroi tells us about yesterday. We sit in the pretty garden setting and are joined by—coincidence or serendipity?—Ursh. And we finally catch up with her proper!

Our shop-keeper calls again. What is this, we start to wonder.

We eventually return to the shop. We refill out forms, resign, look through their selection of Hindu gods stickers when we hear an American girl asking about an internet café, something about the voice makes us turn.

Instantaneously Claudia and I look at each other, I call out as if instinct, “Jaime?”

Oh My God! It’s Jaime.

Some background: Jaime Hadfield found me on Yogafinder over a year ago, looking for yoga and kite boarding in Boracay. She joined classes at Boracay Yoga, and soon slipped comfortably into island society. Soon she was self-practicing with us as well. After less than a month, she was off and we were all sad to see her go.
We’d been in touch. I knew that her yoga journey had taken her to South America and soon to India. But she did not say that she was planning to go to Mysore. On her part, she thought I was going in early October.

We quickly took her to our place, showed her around, offered her the extra room if she decided to stay. By the end of our delicious and filling dinner at Tina’s Café (on Gorukulam Main Road, costing us each Pp100) she had decided to stay 10 days to study at Yoga India, another shala also offering intensive ashtanga classes. She should be moving in now! Again, coincidence or serendipity?!


  1. Loving every moment of it with your account...
    Hmmm soon, I hope it will be my turn. :-)
    More please!

  2. thanks for sharing! I am planning on going myself and found it real helpful to read your inspiring stories to build up to it;) Especially your artists visit was interesting to me (because I am an artist myself).
    Maybe you will like my "Alice's Adventures in Yogaland" drawings & quotes and will feel inspired in return?! I put it up on Facebook under:
    X Esther