Friday, October 10, 2014

Sharath - By Susan Rowland

Today in practice, the girl next to me was having a hard time getting into supta kurmasana. I started to look around the room to see if any assistants were available, which is when I noticed Sharath on his chair on the stage. I looked up to him long enough to signal help! He didn’t come. The girl came out of supta kurmasana, and her finger was covered in blood. She went to the locker room briefly, then came back and tried supta kurmasana again. I looked for Sharath and didn’t see him, so I went back to my own practice. Then I heard his voice. I looked over to the left, and there he was with a band-aid for the girl. He gave it to her, and then walked away. I was in awe and wondering how he knew she needed a band-aid! Yet, he didn’t stay to help her in the pose. (One of the assistants ended up coming over to help!)

"For all of us in this world life is a continuous fight...Many a time comes when we want to interpret our weakness and cowardice as forgiveness and renunciation. There is no merit in the renunciation of a beggar." – Swami Vivekananda 
The right teacher, in my opinion, is there to help when you need it, in any sense of the word. Whether it’s asana, emotional, spiritual, or putting your ego in check, a good teacher knows what you need and where you should struggle a bit to find your own way.  

Some friends I have talked to are doubtful of the fullness of the Shala, and lack of attention they will get from Sharath, and use that as an excuse not to practice with him. And that is no problem! There are plenty of other teachers to choose from. But I think the best way to grow is by figuring a lot of these things on your own. If you practice daily and put in some time to read books, these questions that arise will over time answer themselves.

A while later, I heard him asking someone in the back if this is their first time practicing in the Shala. He told this person not to move on to intermediate. He added that one should be able to do drop-backs before moving on. Many people understand the reason behind this is to have a strong spine for intermediate, and Sharath added this. Even with this full room of students, Sharath seems to catch almost everything that everyone is doing! As I was coming to standing from my third drop-back, there was Sharath, standing right in front of me, waiting to assist my final one!

Once you find a teacher, I find it so conducive to the practice to have faith in that person; faith that this person is here to help guide you from the gross to the subtle. But you must find your own path. Finding faith in your teacher will give you a more solid foundation and faith in yourself. These smaller questions are to be answered by you. Just as there is not someone to hold your hand every step of the way through life, a teacher should not be expected to fill that role during one’s practice, diet, relationships, or any other smaller matter. The true knowledge you seek is already contained from within. A teacher is there to show you the light, and then step back to let you shine!
“Don’t Fear. You Come!”

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Mysore room etiquette

Lisa is coming back soon!  This is a good opportunity to share some thoughts on Mysore etiquette that have been collected from Mysore rooms around the world. Here are some tips for practice in the Mysore room, both with Lisa at our monthly sessions or when you visit a Mysore room for your daily practice:

o  Know where you are stuck and evaluate why you are waiting for an assist from the teacher.  Are you waiting because it is fun and feels good? Or because you are having a hard time and the posture is causing pain or anguish? 

§  It is the practitioners’ responsibility to figure out the principles of the pose and do what you can safely and correctly on your own.  For example, some students can’t do drop-backs by themselves.  But they may be able to bind a post without an assist.  Remember, that ultimately this is a self-practice.

§  Be patient!  It is important to wait with a good heart and avoid frustration.

§  Wait in a still position and look towards the teacher.  This will allow the teacher to recognize that you are waiting for an assist rather than just taking a break.

§  Look for activation and release, strength and serenity in your practice.  Ashtanga yoga is a very effective self-therapy for personal development – physically, mentally and spiritually. Always have a beginner’s mind.

o  On your first day of practice with a new teacher, consider practicing the primary series.  This gives the teacher the opportunity to learn you and your body limitations.

o  Please respect and follow the traditional Ashtanga method as taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. Do not add, skip or in other ways deviate from the traditional Ashtanga sequence of yoga asanas unless acknowledged or requested by your teacher. You do not need to have the sequence memorized.  Practice sheets are available to help guide you through.

o  The opening mantra will be chanted as a group.  The teacher will call the class to chant by stating “Samastitihi”.  When you hear “Samastitihi”, exit your posture properly and return mindfully to the top of your mat prepared to chant.  After the chant, resume the practice sequence where you left off.

o  Do not skip postures in the sequence.  Each posture creates an opening for the next posture.  Skipping postures demonstrates a lack of respect for the sequence and a lack of discipline.  You may modify postures as necessary until your body opens sufficiently to allow a fuller expression of the posture.

o  Each posture should be held for a minimum of five breaths but may be held longer as needed.  If a posture is particularly therapeutic for you, consider holding it for a minimum of 25 breaths.

o  Do not skip vinyasas.  The vinyasa is key to the sequence and will do the following:  build strength and stamina; maintain the internal heat that detoxifies and purifies the body and its organs; create a graceful dance with the breath; maintain rhythm and focus; erase the previous posture.

o  Please stay on your own mat and refrain from assisting other practitioners unless requested to do so by the teacher in the room, e.g. supta vajarasana.

o  Respect your limits. Acknowledge that your body and mind will feel different every day; listen to what your body tells you and practice in your own time following your own breath.

o  Practice with care and consideration towards yourself and others.

o  Please honor the practice room as you would any sacred space and refrain from unnecessary talking.  Necessary talking should be kept to a whisper.  If you need to have an extended conversation with the teacher or another practitioner, please do so outside the practice room.


o  Please leave your shoes in the lobby, your bag and clothes off to the sides inside the room. And, please turn off your mobile phone.  Please place your mat quietly in the space indicated by the teacher. Enter the studio in silence and maintain silence as you sign in.

o  Please do not unfurl your mat and create unnecessary noise or disruption to your fellow ashtangis.  If the room is very crowded please wait until the teacher gestures you forward after finding a spot for you.

o  Respect your fellow practitioners’ practice and avoid stepping on another’s yoga mat or disturbing another’s practice.

o  Refrain from eating at least 2 hours before and 30 minutes after your practice. Drink plenty of water after your practice.

o  Please ensure that you and your gear are clean. Ashtanga yoga consists of eight limbs of practice.  Familiarize yourself with the yamas and niyamas, the moral and ethical considerations of Ashtanga yoga.  Saucha, purity of the body, is the first niyama.  Many people have allergies and sensitivities; please refrain from the use of perfumes, colognes or other strong scents inside the studio.

o  If you feel emotionally upset during or after a yoga session (e.g., joy, sadness, irritation, etc.) then accept the feelings and bid them welcome. This is part of the practice.  If this feels difficult, you are welcome to speak to your teacher about it.  If you feel you must leave the room because you are disruptive, please do so quietly and respectfully.
"Yoga is an Internal Practice.  The rest is just a circus." - Sri K. Pattabhi Jois