Tuesday evening, the end of our new moon day here in India. I’ve just had a rest day castor oil bath. Not a habit I make back home in Boston, but when in Rome (or Mysore, as it is), you know what they say. I bought the castor oil this morning from the coffee and chocolate man on the street running parallel to the Shala road (this is real time GPS navigation for Mysore yoga students). He poured 50 rupees worth for me into a repurposed Nutella jar.
From the coffee and chocolate man I also purchased some fancy french jam, pasta noodles and Prego spaghetti sauce. The Prego is not an item I would ordinarily stock in my kitchen, but these days the hot topic among the yoga students is diarrhea: ‘I have it’ or ‘I had it’ or ‘I haven’t had it, yet.’ My own small intestine has had bouts of questionable activity, and the pasta with Prego is the best ‘we can cook this with our one pot and propane burner’ simple, solid, not spicy food we can come up with should things decide to head down south. Plus, it tastes like my college days. And the jam? That’s just a treat.
A swarm of wasps has moved into the ladies’ changing room.
Cyndi pointed them out to me last week after led Primary series. We were gathering our things from the lockers, when Cyndi nodded her head upwards and said, ‘wasps.’ There they were, a dozen or so black wasps crawling all over each other, in hive formation. With one eye on our new friends, we pulled our kurtas on over our yoga clothes, and slipped down the stairs.
While waiting with a hundred other students on the steps outside the Shala at 5:15AM on a Sunday morning, I get that same sensation of hive behavior. Yoga students flying in from all points across the globe, swarming the shala and it’s teacher (and his dear mother). Little baby yoga bees eager to work for a queen who already has a colony bursting at the seams.
6AM and the shuffle begins. The 4:30 AM class is rolling up their mats and making for the exit. Elbows at the ready we shuffle into the practice room, barely making eye contact. At this single moment it’s every man for himself. It’s not that we want to be aggressive, it’s just that we have approximately 45 seconds to lay our mats out in the yoga room, check our accessories to a locker, and get back to our mats for vande gurunam. 10 seconds too late and you’ll be practicing in the foyer or worse, in the changing room with the wasps.
With so many students here, I cannot help but feel that I’m already too late. There are some who have made the yearly pilgrimage, who knew guruji, who have a relationship with this family, who learned in a very different fashion than we are today. And when they were full of the nectar that is this practice they set off into the world and shared it, with us. And now we are doing a sort of reverse swarming, returning to the origin. And although I am fortunate enough to have been given the nectar by these generous pilgrims I wonder, is there enough honey here to go around?
This is no doubt an interesting cultural experience, and a great luxury to be able to take the time to revolve my life around yoga for one month, away from householder duties, work deadlines, and winter. It is a magical yoga vacation, at the source of something I care very deeply about. But practicing in the city I call home, within the context of my daily life, with a teacher who knows me, my body, my life, this is how I learned this practice. I’ve come all this way to find that the yoga itself lies within. The yoga can do it’s work when it has the opportunity to take root in my whole life, and so I am thankful to be able to view this as a brief stop on a long continuum of whole life practice, not just asana. Nothing to prove, nothing to expect, just listening, breathing doing, one day after the next, Eastern or Western hemisphere.
9 AM, almost 5 hours into the morning Mysore practice at the Shala and still two hours to go, Sharath stood in the foyer looking out the window for a long time. Was he wishing to join the Japanese students at the coconut stand across the street? Perhaps longing to take a drive to the forest? Or to eat breakfast with his son? One of the things I find most endearing about this grandson of Guruji is how dutifully he has accepted his role, of how humbly he describes his role as teacher. I wonder, what is to come for the members of the Jois family and their precious charge?
I was standing outside with cyndi. She was not well. Sharath stepped away from the window, leaned out the door, and called out to Cyndi, ‘you have diarrhea?’ Cyndi confirmed his very direct assessment. ‘Welcome to India,’ he said with a smile, and then disappeared back inside the practice room.