This week my practice time changed twice (or was it three times? I can’t keep up!) AND I got 3 more postures. Phew, not used to so much activity in one week! There’s been a big transition of people leaving and arriving as well, so it’s all change at the moment. It can feel a bit unsettling at times but “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” – Alan Wilson Watts
Sharath seems to have got into the habit of standing at the front of my mat when I’m in Urdhva Dhanurasana so that when I come up he’s right there and I have to be careful not to bump noses with him! It’s a pretty good way to stop me over-shooting when coming up from dropbacks, as the last thing I want to do is hurl myself at him! Last week I almost did and he laughed and said “Too fast!” On Wednesday when he let me all the way down after halfbacks, he told me to walk in about 4 times but I was struggling on the last one, and when I came up he laughed and said “Stuck!”
This week I ate my best thali so far, at Sixth Main restaurant – a favourite eating spot. Most places offer both North and South Indian options and I went for the North Indian special. I can’t tell you exactly what was in it, I just know that everything was delicious! Especially the tomatoey soup, curdrice and buttered kulcha (a bit like a nan bread). Oh and the gulab jamun and ice cream for dessert of course -hence the “special”! While we were there I also saw my first monkeys of the trip. A whole gang of them climbed out of a tree on the other side of the road and ran down the street. Must have been lunch time…
Thursday marked the end of our sutra study classes, where we chanted all 4 padas (chapters) of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras across 10 sessions, and Lakshmish explained what they meant. He has a wonderful way of teaching, using examples from everyday life; often relating to his family, his strong desire for an iPhone or his passion for watching Hollywood action movies in his batchelor days. He even confessed to having dreams about flying in a helicopter and shooting people with a machine gun – quite surprising for a Brahmin priest! It was fascinating to gain a better insight into the sutras, which basically set out the principles and practices one should follow in order to become a true yogi. I’m not sure I’ll be mind reading, walking through walls or growing new limbs any time soon, but I certainly have a renewed respect for the yamas and niyamas and how to apply them to everyday life.
This week I visited Ranganathittu bird sanctuary with some friends and it was lovely just to get out of the city for a few hours, as we bumped along in a rickshaw past rice paddies, palm trees, simple villages and the most garishly painted houses I’ve ever seen. There are no cages or aviaries at the sanctuary, which is great, but it does make it very difficult to actually spot any of the birds listed on the signs. The best bit was the brief jaunt down the Cauvery River in a little rowing boat, where we saw lots of storks, pelicans, spoonbills, bats and…. wait for it…. crocodiles!
Ranganathittu has the largest freshwater crocodile population in Karnataka state, so sightings are very common and we weren’t disappointed. We watched them silently gliding through the water with just their eyes and nose above the surface; swimming slyly towards the birds preening themselves on the rocks as if about to pounce at any moment; and basking themselves in the sun so we could appreciate their full enormity. There was a slightly alarming moment when one croc we’d got particularly close to suddenly opened his jaws very wide, then slipped into the water beside our boat. But the boat man assured us it was perfectly safe as the crocodiles weren’t hungry right now!
After all this strenuous activity (well I did practice 6 days in a row…), I was knackered by Friday, so decided to have an indulgent me-day. I got a great back and shoulder massage for Rs400 (about £4), then chilled out on the roof terrace of Mystic School, using the sauna (biggest sauna I’ve ever seen), jacuzzi (again, huge but cold water – very refreshing!) and sun loungers. Gosh it’s hard work sometimes this yoga-travelling-malarkey! I also decided to book a Vipassana meditation for the 2 weeks I have spare after I leave Mysore. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and the only centre I could find with the exact dates I needed happened to be the same one a fellow traveller had recently been to. So I’m taking that as a sign from the Angels that it’s meant to be. Now I just have to wait for the acceptance confirmation… exciting but scary!
Sunday saw my first 4.30am practice. What an experience! There’s something very surreal about getting up at 3.30am when the only other creatures awake are rats, roosters, dogs and other crazy Westerners yawning their way to class. I got a lift on the back of a friend’s scooter: we arrived and joined the throng of sleepy-eyed yogis sitting patiently in the street outside the shala, waiting for the gate to open, like groupies waiting for their favourite band. As soon as the gate opened there was a silent stampede as everyone fought for a spot in the main room, or surrendered and graciously accepted their place in the entrance foyer or changing rooms. When we came out again it was still dark and still felt like the middle of the night. By Sunday evening the practice felt like a lifetime ago and as I crawled into bed at 10pm I realised my mega early practice was still 2-3 hours later than Sharath gets up every day. Now that’s dedication.