Kate introduced us to Sharath a few days ago. We are the Boston crew, all here in Mysore together. Cara was introduced as her assistant; I was, “a very good student, coming every day.” Kate also added that Cara teaches when she is out of town. Sharath’s immediate reaction: “But not authorized, not eligible.” Then that warm smile and the characteristic head bob; in combination these seem to mean, ‘I am only teasing, but not really, because I am right. Okay.”
Not authorized, not eligible – to teach, he means.
Ha. Well, not yet! No one really knew what to say, so Kate and Cara emphasized again that it was, “only when Kate is gone!!!!” and we all chimed in with, “Kate is our teacher! She is a great teacher!” … then some awkward smiles and looking at the ground while Sharath walked away. Cara is definitely on Sharath’s radar. Teaching ‘the method” of Ashtanga without being authorized is a bigger deal than I realized. Or at least it seems to be once you have a relationship with the Jois family. I wonder what the coming years will bring?
The whole interaction was pretty funny, and just..real. Things are said without judgement, just as facts. Like everything in India: just real. No one goes out of their way to make it seem like serving you was the highlight of their day; if they are doing a job they do it; if they genuinely enjoy it – you can tell, but if not, why pretend? It’s comforting (at least it is for me), and this element of culture extends into the shala, as well.
The day after our brief meeting, Sharath came up to Cara and me both during our individual practices. Cara mentioned this in her blog, she is “Kat-e-leen’s” assistant. Kate informed us that Sharath must’ve looked us up, the Boston crew, otherwise he never would’ve called her “Kat-e-leen” (his phonetic pronunciation of Kathleen). He also knew my name, which was a shock; yep…definitely looked us up. Putting a face with the introductions, kind of nice that he followed-up. He was paying attention, but there was no need to prove it to everyone.
He called me, “Cyn-tee-a,” and helped me with half backs. His fingertips were almost imperceptible on my low back, and yet I felt completely supported as I fell towards the ground. The half backs were fast, inhale-exhale, one, two, three, and then time to do the last full back bend. Exhale back, hands touch. “Walk the hands.” I inch them forward. “Walk.” Again. “Walk.” Again. “Walk.” My fingers are only crawling now, but I feel calm and my breath is steady. “Bend your arms, Cyn-tee-a.” My elbows bend, I know my fingers are almost at my heels now. “Very good Cyn-tee-a. Very good. Walk.” I touch my heels. “Very good.” Five breaths.
Then the inhale – I fly up. I’ve never even remotely come close to touching my heels before. He chuckles. I’m sure I look surprised. I give him a “Wahoo!” look and he bobs his head saying, “Good. Okay. Okay,” before squishing me down in paschinmattanasana. It is a brief squish, and then he’s off to help some other sweaty Ashtanga devotee in the room.
That was the last day of Mysore-style practice for the week. Friday and Sunday are Led, and the latter I missed due to an inevitable occurrence of, “I ate something weird, and now my stomach hates me.” Thankfully, the worst of it is over now and I am ready for tomorrow.