Holy Lord Ganesha, the times are a changin’.
Today someones noticed that the KPJAYI has posted a new requirement for practicing with Sharath: You must have at least tried to study with someone who is in his lineage. Gasp. The horror. So many people won’t be able to go now! It’s the official policy that you can’t learn from youtube. How can he say that? That someone who tries each morning on their own, despite not having a teacher, is not ready to come to Mysore?! So many prospective exotic Indian adventures thwarted.
I am being sarcastic, in case that is lost in the reading. I have very little sympathy for the ‘home practitioner’ argument.
I think this step is long overdue, for all the obvious reasons of mysore-yoga-tourism and the sheer number of people who want to come just to say they’ve come, but also for that home practitioner who doesn’t have a teacher. I will now commence with wild speculation as to Sharath’s motivations for this change.
Having a teacher doesn’t mean seeing them every day. Studying with a teacher means you submit to their guidance and authority. This relationship shapes the development and progression of the practice and adds a whole dynamic of ego and authority confrontation. It can be rough. It is valuable because it is from this relationship that we learn about surrender and acceptance of suffering. It is necessary that we accept whatever emotional and physical suffering that comes from letting someone else determine what we should be focusing on (we’re the yoga of no, remember?). Just so, it is sometimes necessary to suffer through the travel and the cost (in time and money) necessary to have a teacher, because having a teacher is work. It takes effort and sacrifice.
Maybe it’s just a matter of getting up at the right time and driving across town. Maybe it’s more like saving for months to fly 1000 miles to Miami to see your teacher for a week at a time. No matter where you fall on that spectrum, that effort has to take place. The effort of simply trying to practice each day is a lot, I’ll grant that. The physical movements that make up the series are important, for sure. If someone gets themselves up and does all that work without any company or a pretty, warm, mandala decorated space, I salute you. But making the shapes is not the whole practice. Self guided (and preference based approaches to) asana can easily reinforce un-advantgeous ego patterns and create ill behaved practitioners who distract attention from students eager to surrender to Sharath’s guidance. Having a teacher, and truly confronting yourself through their observation of your effort, is really important work toward preparing oneself for Mysore.
Sharath is trying to make sure that everyone who comes to practice with him has at least begun this work and this seems pretty reasonable to me. He is not secretive about the importance he puts on Parampara and having a teacher. Whether or not you agree with him, this is his policy and it follows that he would want his students to be at least somewhat prepared for this work of surrendering to the judgment of the teacher (read: him).
There was a lot of speculation around why he authorized so many people in the last two years (‘vomiting up authorizations’ I would say or Oprah style: You get authorized! and You get authorized! Evvvvvverybody gets auuuuuthoriiiiiized!). He has given the nod to many of his newer students, myself included, so that there is a greater availability of authorized teachers in the world. He has been looking out for the community and preparing everyone for this new expectation. It is not arbitrary or excessive. He wants to work exclusively with students who are a direct part of his lineage, and that is his right. Sharath is no longer teaching students from scratch. This is a big gripe many people have about the Main Shala these days; you can’t show up as a beginner but realistically, he has hundreds of people he trusts to do this more beginner level teaching. That’s essentially what authorization is, his blessing to get the newbs started. These authorized students are his lineage holders and will best prepare others to practice with him.
But!!! (I hear people saying) I have six foster puppies and a lot of house plants to care for and I live in a town with only one authorized teacher and she looks like a bitch. I can’t possibly travel to another city, or drive and hour, or get up that early, or… whatever. Yes, I’ve heard these complaints of bad timing and bad location. What confuses me is that these people can’t make space or sacrifice in order to have a home teacher, but they would be able to jump ship and go all the way to India.
I get it, a trip to the motherland is much sexier that the 45 minute drive across town. It’s an adventure and seems like it’s worth the trouble. There’s magic there and it will change your life. Well, seems to me Sharath is now telling us all that getting to a daily teacher who is his student should be worth the trouble too.
So, here’s my unsolicited advice: If you think you want to go to Mysore and practice with Sharath it should be because you are considering being a part of his lineage. He is a busy man, so he has asked that if you think this is something you want, then do a trial run first. Find a teacher who he has taught, do the dismal work of long drives or early mornings or surrendering to the authority of someone you haven’t heard of in an attempt to trust Sharath’s judgement. If you still want to seek him out, then go for the glamour of practice in Mysore.
Because there is nothing glamorous about Mysore. It’s more about the work than the razzle dazzle and south India is not a particularly comfortable place to hang around. I can tell you, getting up early or driving an hour or taking a weekend each month out of your schedule to prioritize working with an authorized teacher is a LOT less trouble than practicing at the Main Shala. If you can’t see the value in this perpetual work, then maybe you should reconsider your reasons for wanting to go to Mysore in the first place.
…or maybe there are just too many people and this is a simple way to thin the herd. Even if that’s the case, I can find a lesson in it.
*note (for the sake of logistics): If you have an authorized or certified teacher, they will be able to judge appropriately if you qualify for the ‘2 month’ rule; their name is the one you will drop when you register. Another good example of not deciding for ourselves, but rather respecting the teacher’s judgement.