Sunday, November 7, 2010

Last Week's Conference

Sunday, 4pm, shala time—15 minutes earlier than ordinary Indian time—all the shala students gathered for conference with Sharath. This is my first conference. I have heard of stories: Guruji sitting with students, being asked questions, him dropping his trademark gems of wisdom that are now everyday sayings for the ashtangi.

We are all sitting in front of the stage. The red chair, the throne-like seat in which I imagine Guruji would normally sit on stays empty. In front, another chair is pulled up. Sharath walks slowly to it, sits, appears to think upon a list he’s prepared in his head.

First he shares some observations, reminders to the students in general on good asana practice: the importance of alignment, a demonstration of proper foot placement and length in trikonasana, the benefits of certain poses, ashtau as the state of an asana, the necessity of deep and steady breath, an endorsement for oil baths, particularly castor oil bath on day’s off—as lubrication for joints and bones, helping in better flexibility.

Then, he takes questions. There is some hesitation to ask, but they come eventually. There all sorts from the bandas to the shat karmas—which he says are unnecessary if you maintain a consistent asana practice, which is already detoxifying one daily.
One particular response struck me the most. One student asks, what makes a good teacher. Sharath answers: a good teacher must be a good student. He explains that it is important that a student has a teacher, that a lineage is important to the development of a student and thus creating a good teacher who can continue to share that lineage.

I feel that this answer is directed to me. I have come to be a student. Yes, to become a better teacher too. But beyond teaching at all, I am here at Mysore to be a student. I am registered at the shala to follow a lineage that those who have taught me ashtanga have followed before me. I am getting up every morning, laying down my mat at the shala to find my teacher…

He has good news: that Stanford University (my alma mater’s nemesis! Go Bears!) is launching an ashtanga program. Sharath is particularly proud of it. Despite my long-standing dislike for Stanford’s mascot "The Tree", the program is definitely something to be proud of, especially in a university of Stanford’s caliber. There is a light in Sharath’s eye as he says yoga should be taught to children!

He also has some bad news; there is a reminder for women to be diligent in appropriateness of dress due to cases of women being disrespectfully grabbed. Dangers lurking at night. Women to walk with friends. And a request to not loiter at the coconut stand, the students’ favorite hangout. Hmmm.

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