If being a KPJAYI student were a ready-to-eat food (I’m imagining something like a power bar), I think it should include on the back its shiny plastic/foil packaging the following:
Daily Nutritional Value:
Hard Work 110%
Mental Stability 85%
…and, of course,
Daily, we are nourished by this dynamic practice. There are so many benefits to the body, mind and spirit.
There are also some side effects, however. There should likewise be in big red letters, a warning:
DANGER: ASHTANGA CAN BE AN OVERWHELMING EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE
The energy is so strong here in Mysore: the practice so deep, the people so interesting and diverse, the place so magical… On the best of days, I can do nothing more than thank my lucky stars. Then there are also “other” days—days when all this energy is just too much, everything and everyone buzzing at these too-high frequencies. No one does it on purpose. It just happens. And, quite suddenly, being here becomes extremely overwhelming.
It happened to me yesterday, and after an amazing day. It was a Sunday and we had led class at 4:15am. We met our new friend Richard for his lovely birthday brunch, complete with pressie, tons of food, quite an open and intimate conversation and, of course, birthday cake care of the waiters at Regalis Hotel (a.k.a. Southern Star). This was followed by lounging at the hotel pool, which we would have stayed at forever where it not for 4pm conference with Sharath. (More on this later!).
After conference, Claudia and I went to Anu’s—must’ve been a good idea, because many students also flocked there. I’d eaten already by the time the place filled up. So many were squeezed around the 3 tables. It would normally not phase me, coming from a country whose people know not the meaning of personal space. But somehow, I felt, out of sorts. The sound levels increased. I suddenly felt overpowered by this incredible white noise. I said my quick goodbyes, paid Ganesh and bolted. Halfway down the road, I could my emotions bubbling up. Two-thirds of the way to the flat, my eyes started to water. By the time I’d shut the door behind me, I was crying. Emotionally, I was overwhelmed.
Apparently having a good cry is quite normal hereabouts. Since my own breakdowns, I've heard of others. Some cry quietly at the shala in the middle of practice, some echo their grief in the marble-lined dressing room, some go home and have their weep in the privacy of their own homes. There are always different motivations for these emotional outbursts. The one unifying factor is that the depth of the practice here boils up the emotions. Back bends especially open the heart and unleash whatever is trapped there.
As for me, I was tired. We had class at 4:15. We’d had two and a half weeks of practice by then, each morning being so deep. Though it was really nice, excessive sunbathing might have added to the fatigue. It’s been non-stop activity since we arrived.
And the people! You meet new ones everyday. Everyone is so interesting, coming from so many different places and backgrounds. At first, it’s exciting like the first days of college. You meet, you chat, you make connections. You move one to the next stop, whether it’s at one of the fave breakfast haunts, waiting outside the shala, or having a drink at the coconut stand. And then process repeats itself. It’s fresh! It’s fun! But when overdone, it’s exhausting.
Sharath’s advice makes sense. Two weeks ago at Conference, he advised us to stop dawdling at the coconut stand after practice, “Go home and rest.” (Claudia's correction: "Go home and study." My subconscious must want it to be "rest")
I believe that meeting and connecting with fellow students is an important part of the process too. It’s just too easy to get caught up in this very social international atmosphere, however. It’s like a vacuum. It can suck you right up.
And how are we to successfully discover our selves through all this yoga, if I spend all my spare time enjoying ambling walks and lingering meals with new friends? Love those around you. Have space for yourself. Everything in moderation.