Day 5: Where are you now?

By on Jan 4, 2011 in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized

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How about an update on some logistics?

My address, for those of you dying to send me CCNO bars (holla cville) and chocolate covered espresso beans, is as follows:

Zoe Ward (KP Jois Savithri)
#251 2nd Main, Gokulum 3rd Stage
Mysore 570-002, Karnataka, India

…a mouthful, I know.

Well, here I am in Mysore.  Practicing Yoga and eating Masala Dosa and drinking coconut water like it’s my job.  Well, it’s as close to a job as I a get.

Practice is going well.  Surprisingly, Sharath and his assistants seem to be somehow mystically aware of my injuries and are not pushing me past what feels appropriate. From other Ashtanga teachers I have studied with I was prepared for my long standing back impairment to immediately flare up (as a result of forceful and/or inconsiderate adjustments) and be a chronic problem until my departure (condemning me to a diet of coconut water and pineapple). But this is not something that has yet come to pass. Sharath seems like a genuinely pleasant person.  Intimidating while teaching, he is cheerful and humble when not.  He seems to think there is something strange about my tendency to grin like an idiot all the time, but that can’t be helped.
I was thrilled to begin chanting class today, only feeling like a little bit of a jerk when I realized “shala time”  is 15 minutes fast of “India time” which is already vague to begin with.  Regardless of my tardiness, I was able to enjoy feeling clever during the chants I already knew and excited when presented with new ones.  As something of an informal Sanskrit junkie, I am also excited about the Sanskrit class that I will begin this afternoon with my roommate, Nicolas.

Nicolas is a Parisian angel, humble and soft spoken, but eager to see and experience all that the practice and Mysore have to offer.  We trolled the streets of Gokulum today in search of food, buckets (yes, buckets), and answers to his never ending questions about Indian culture.  He has an uncanny ability to ask aloud the questions forming in my head that I, for some unknown reason, do not consider actually posing to anyone.
Karen, whom I like to refer to as my adoptive stray Yogini, came to us yesterday morning. Having been unceremoniously dumped in front of the shala by a late night rikshaw driver, Karen was only somewhat stranded without a place to live, store her bags, or rest.  Since being dropped in front of the shala also means being dropped in front of my house (directly across from the shala), she took up residence in our central communal space for the last 2 days (2 days being a lifetime in India, we are now close friends).  Alas, she has now found an apartment of her own and we sent her off with an extra coffee maker from our kitchen as a housewarming gift.
Alyson, the oldest hand in the house, keeps mostly to herself.  She has been in India for the better part of the year and is the only one of us practicing led second series.  When I grow up, I want to be like Alyson.
As residents of Saraswati’s house, we have the privilege of shooting the proverbial shit with the shala lackies, men and boys who man the gate, clean the stairs, and apparently use our kitchen to make lunch and drink coffee. These men, most notably Nataraj, are extremely good natured and polite, but I am reasonably sure that they are always poking fun at me a little bit. Naturally, I give them ample ammunition.

As for all the other nameless Yogis and Yoginis?  A few have become less nameless (and then nameless again when I forgot what they call themselves).  Most appear to be friendly and polite, but as a newcomer it can be something of a challenge to break into the little cliques. There are obvious groupings of students, spanish or spanish speaking, asian, long termers (they hang around India during the required 6 months off per year), and then, of course, the super heroes who float through second like no one’s business, taking handstands between each pose and choosing their own coconuts from the coco vendor instead of accepting whatever nonsense he offers.  I am finding that a willingness to pay way too much for granola and soy milk at a western breakfast restaurant in a swedish couple’s basement is the best way to make new acquaintances (and to hear intimidating conversations about previous trips to Mysore, anecdotes about Guruji, and tales of exciting world travel). Although Facebook is an ever useful tool.  After giving my first name to the lovely girl I practiced next to this morning I returned home from breakfast to find a friend request. So I put the next link in the chain, looking up the first name of the woman I had breakfast with.  The world (of Ashtanga Yoga) is small enough that first names did the trick (since I have 17 and 75 friends in common with them, respectively).

Ashtanga Yogis appear to be something of a nomadic bunch. Not many seem to have stable jobs (unless you count teaching Yoga) or families (unless you count parents, siblings, and nieces and nephews).  I think I will fit in nicely. When asked where I was from this morning, I said I grew up in Virginia.  The Yogini followed up with “where are you now?”  to which I responded, “here.”  She smiled and nodded, that was enough of an answer for her.


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